Far from Fair
Far from Fair
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Annotation: Odette Zyskowski is concerned that her parents have sold their home, bought an RV, and given her a small dog, but she soon becomes aware of an even more frightening problem, that her parents may be on the verge of a divorce.
Catalog Number: #119532
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition Date: 2016
Pages: 229 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-544-60227-7
ISBN 13: 978-0-544-60227-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2015013893
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
No one asked 12-year-old Odette if she wanted to sell her stuff and move into an old RV. Yet here she is, along with her parents, little brother, a ferret, and her new dog tiny wiry-haired thing, not the Lab she wanted aveling to Grandma Sissy's on Washington's Orca Islands. Nothing about this is fair. In such tight quarters, tensions run high, and Odette fumes over the injustice of having her life turned upside down. This falls away, however, when they arrive at Sissy's and Odette can barely recognize the frail, sickly woman before her as her grandmother. Arnold explores the Death with Dignity Act as well as the strain of having an autistic sibling and parents whose marriage is on the rocks. These complex issues surround Odette as she struggles with personal losses iends, home, cell phone at feel trivial in comparison but are vital to middle-schoolers. Arnold (The Question of Miracles, 2015) deals with the many bumps in the road honestly, yet maintains an onward-and-upward outlook on life.
Word Count: 37,346
Reading Level: 5.2
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.2 / points: 6.0 / quiz: 181295 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.6 / points:10.0 / quiz:Q66772
Lexile: 860L

The Ugliest Thing

IT WAS THE ugliest thing she had ever seen. Obnoxiously ugly. Embarrassingly ugly. Epically ugly. And it was sitting in her family's driveway.
     Actually, no. It was sitting in the Waldmans' driveway--or, at least, what would shortly become the Waldmans' driveway when escrow closed in a few days and the house Odette Zyskowski grew up in wouldn't be her home anymore. That thing would be her home. That run-down, beat-up brown-and-brown RV that Mom and Dad had just pulled up in, honking what was intended to be a cheerful beep, but instead sounded like the mournful death cry of a desperate whale.
     Odette looked behind herself at the house, trying to ignore the SOLD banner splashed across the FOR SALE sign stuck in the front lawn. She had never given the house much thought. It was just a house. But now she saw the brick path winding through the grass from the sidewalk, uneven and tipsy, and it occurred to Odette that she knew every brick on that path--which ones were chipped, which listed slightly to the side, which were stamped with the bricklayer's name, Steinberg & Sons.
     She saw the bright red front door, the door she slammed through every afternoon at 3:14 P.M. Behind that door, Odette knew, was the mud bench where she ditched her backpack and shoes. She saw the wide, bright windows, the shutters that framed them. She took in the dark shingle roof that her parents had been talking about replacing for years but would soon become the Waldmans' problem.
     It was a beautiful home.
     Mom cut the engine of the RV, and Dad threw open the metal door on the side and a set of two steps popped out.
     Rex stood next to Odette, rocking up onto the balls of his feet, the way he did when he got excited. "Awesome, awesome, awesome," he chanted to himself, and when Dad called, "So, what do you guys think?" Rex shouted "Awesome!" and ran full speed into Dad, butting his head into Dad's stomach and grinding it against him.
     Dad said "Oof!" and laughed, and Mom, coming out of the RV, said, "Careful, buddy," and then she asked Odette, "So, honey, what do you think?" but Odette was already heading back into the Waldmans' house, slamming the red door shut behind her.


ODETTE'S ROOM WAS at the end of the hall, just before the turn to her parents' bedroom. The hall was stacked with boxes, piled three high and labeled in thick black Sharpie ink: REX'S ROOM (STORAGE); LINENS AND BEDDING (STORAGE); BATHROOM MISC. (YARD SALE); BOOKS (LIBRARY GIVEAWAY); BATHROOM ESSENTIALS (COACH).
     That was what Mom was calling the RV: the "Coach." The word brought a few things to Odette's mind--baseball, for one, a sport she found endlessly boring but still somehow comforting; Mr. Santiago, the track-and-field coach at Odette's middle school, who after he'd seen her run the mile in PE had spent most of Odette's sixth grade year trying to recruit her to the team; and Cinderella's pumpkin-turned-coach that she took to the ball.
     None of these images had anything to do with Mom's use of the word in sentences like "When we pick up the Coach, the first thing we'll do is fix up your private space, Detters" (which was what she liked to call Odette), and "It might not look like much in the pictures, kids, but the Coach has under twenty thousand miles on it and is as snug as a bug inside."
     The Coach. Sitting in the driveway. Odette couldn't get far enough away, no matter how good a runner she was. So she had to content herself with slamming her bedroom door--hard enough to make the windows rattle--and throwing herself face-down onto the bed.
     Her sheets smelled like home. The same detergent her mom had been using as long as Odette had been aware of detergent smell. Probably before that. And even with her eyes closed and her face pressed into her bedspread, Odette could perfectly picture her room. The pale blue walls. The light pink ceiling, a gently whirling fan just above her bed. The windows, looking out over the backyard, with their gossamer-thin ballooning white curtains.
     And more: the seven pillows she arranged each morning after making her bed, and then restacked each night on the carpet before climbing between her sheets. Two yellow, one pink, one green, two blue, one red.
     There wouldn't be room for her seven throw pillows in the Coach. "You can bring one," Mom had told her.
     One. Absolutely ridiculous.
     When the knock came at her door, Odette ignored it. She knew it was Dad from the way he knocked--always a little pattern, a little song, not just straight across with all his knuckles.
     She heard him open the door anyway, even though she hadn't said "Come in," and that bothered her too, that lack of respect, that lack of privacy, and the mean little voice in her head taunted, You'd better get used to it, Odette. There won't be much privacy in the Coach.
     Her dad cleared his throat. Odette could tell that he was still lurking just inside the doorway. That was her dad--a lurker. He was always ho-ing and hum-ing about decisions, weighing the costs and benefits. Mom sometimes said, "You're going to drive me crazy, Simon! Just do something!"
     But he didn't usually do anything--at least, not anything important. He'd ho and hum until Odette's mom got tired of waiting and just did it herself--whatever it was that needed doing. Choosing which car to buy. Picking the toppings for the pizza.
     And then, three months ago, Odette's dad had done something. Something big. Something crazy.
     "They were going to lay off three guys," she heard Dad telling Mom. "Three guys who actually like their jobs. And with Sissy being so sick, not to mention the trouble we've been having with us . . . with each other . . . I thought, well, I guess I thought it couldn't make things any worse."
     It was late at night, and Dad hadn't gotten home from the office in time for dinner, which wasn't that unusual. Odette was supposed to be asleep, like Rex was in his room (dark blue with deep-sea ocean fish painted on the walls and a jellyfish diorama on his bookcase), but she wasn't. She was sneaking out to the kitchen for a cookie. And there were her parents, sitting at the table, with only the small sink light turned on. They were holding hands.
     It looked so strange, their hands. Fingers interwoven, like the kids at school, like they were announcing to the world that they were a couple. It wasn't something Odette was used to seeing between her parents. Usually, if anyone was holding anyone's hand, it was Mom and Rex. Sometimes Dad and Rex. But never Mom and Dad.
     Odette had backed slowly down the hall toward her room. What did that mean, to lay someone off? And what did Dad mean, that whatever he had done couldn't make things any worse?
     Odette knew Grandma Sissy wasn't healthy. Not that Mom and Dad had told her all the details, but Odette knew. She'd heard Mom on the phone with Grandma Sissy, asking about doctor appointments and pain medication and nausea. But that other thing that Dad had said, about trouble between him and Mom . . . Odette didn't know what to think about that.
     When she woke up the next morning, she had forgotten all about the night before, the table, the handholding. And she walked into the kitchen ready to find what she always found: Rex expounding about something that fascinated him--queer ocean life, or rare types of pygmy animals that were legal to own as pets, or the best way to make applesauce--and her mother nodding and pretending to listen while making their breakfast and packing their lunches.
     Instead she found them--her parents--sitting again at the table, holding hands. Holding hands, again. For a minute she thought they hadn't moved, but then she saw that Mom was dressed, not in her robe, and that Dad was wearing his weekend clothes instead of the rumpled suit he'd been in last night, even though this was a Thursday. And Rex was with them, eating oatmeal and whacking his feet against the bottom of the table in a rhythmic thumping beat that sounded to Odette the way a zombie might sound dragging a non-working leg behind himself.
     And then Dad had smiled--something else she hadn't seen much of lately, come to think of it, and Mom said, "Good morning, Detters," and then they proceeded to ruin her life.

Excerpted from Far from Fair by Elana K. Arnold
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Odette Zyskowski has a list: Things That Aren't Fair. At the top of the list is her parents' decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they've nicknamed the Coach. There's nothing fair about leaving California and living in the cramped Coach with her par­ents and exasperating younger brother, sharing one stupid cell phone among the four of them. And there's definitely nothing fair about what they find when they reach Grandma Sissy's house, hundreds of miles later. Most days it seems as if everything in Odette's life is far from fair. Is there a way for her to make things right? With warmth and sensitivity, Elana K. Arnold makes the difficult topics of terminal illness and the right to die accessible to young readers.

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