I LOVED Claire Swinarski’s forthcoming sophomore middle grade novel, The Kate in Between. Kate’s voice is unique, realistic, and honest, and this story tackles so many timely themes, from going viral to bullying and a mother in an MLM scheme. I’m excited to share my review soon, as well as a lovely interview with the author. Today, however, Claire is sharing an excerpt of the book with my readers and providing the opportunity to receive a free copy of the book. Find out how to enter at the end of the post.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than being driven to school in a cop car.
I scooted down as far as possible in my seat. It wasn’t even one of those plain white, unmarked vehicles that hide around corners waiting for speeding teenagers to drive by. Nope, it was a good ol’-fashioned copper-mobile, with the words Madison Police Department in huge letters slapped across the side.
“This is humiliating,” I muttered.
Dad glanced over at me and shrugged. “Sorry, Bird. These are my only wheels.” Dad had a take-home car from the city of Madison so that he could be at work the minute he left his apartment. Just in case he had to pull over some speeding truck driver on the way to the station.
“I could have walked.”
“What kind of dad would I be if I let you hoof it a mile and a half?”
“Mom let me,” I muttered.
Dad sighed and pulled up to the school drop-off.
Okay, fine. It wasn’t his fault I was stuck in an apartment that was a full mile farther away from school than Mom’s rental had been. But it wasn’t mine either.
We’d had this exact same conversation almost every single day for the past month. Ever since I came home from school to find Mom packing our life, shoving things haphazardly into boxes, and found out that I’d be moving in with my dad.
My mom was a salesperson for True U Cosmetics. She sold lip liner and eyeshadow to other moms, convincing them to ditch their cubicles and offices for a life of #TrueFreedom. Sometimes, when things were going well, she’d get sweet perks: a cruise trip here, a bonus there, a FaceTime call with the company CEO, who praised Mom’s team-building skills.
But when things weren’t going well . . . we moved.
Key word: we.
We were always in search of a cheaper apartment farther away from the university’s campus, one without bats or loud undergrads raging the floor above us. But this time, she’d flown solo, dropping me at Dad’s apartment building with a Truly Ruby-colored kiss on my cheek. She said she had to go “step into her spotlight”—the True U motto, proclaimed in sparkly letters on her Toyota Camry’s bumper. She needed to go to Utah, where True U headquarters was expanding. More opportunity to recruit her downline, the women she taught to sell makeup and got bonuses from. There would be more opportunity for throwing home makeup parties where customers could be dazzled by the new deals on mascara, too, meaning more opportunity to Follow Her Dreams. Thanks to her hard work, she told me, there was a True Emerald on every block. Mom was a True Sapphire, the next rung up on the ladder. She was trying to get all the way to True Diamond, where you’re given a True Tesla and get recognized at all the national conferences.
But I couldn’t go. It was the middle of the school year and the basketball season, and besides, I didn’t want to move to Utah. I tried to convince her to stay, insisting that I didn’t care if she came to basketball games to sell mascara to other girls’ moms and sisters. But it didn’t work. She was moving out west, and I was moving in with Dad.
In one night, I had packed up my entire life. It’s not like I had a lot of stuff—when you move as much as we did, it’s easier not to haul tons of crap around. Dad lived on the sixth floor of an apartment building, the kind with ugly hotel carpeting. The Windy Willow Brook apartment complex had just gained a new resident: me. I didn’t even have a room, just a pullout bed in Dad’s office.
Mom liked sudden things. Changes of plans, spontaneous desserts, vacations taken without calling school to tell them I’d be gone. Schedules made her itchy—they weren’t quite as fun as dreams, which she liked to scrawl out on her #GirlBoss whiteboard. Dad liked order, plans, and bullet points. Reason #87 on my I’m Not Sure How They Were Ever In Love list, but they must have been at one point. I have an old photo I love: the two of them, after prom, Mom’s belly already big with yours truly, Dad’s eyes happy and bright, their arms flung around each other in the school parking lot. They just look . . . meant to be.
But I guess they weren’t. I wasn’t even a year old when they broke up.
My move happened four weeks ago, so you’d think I would have gotten used to riding to school in a police car. But it was still weird, every single morning.
I grabbed my backpack from the spot between my feet. I could have put it in the backseat if it hadn’t been for the window of bulletproof glass blocking it.
“I have basketball practice after school,” I reminded him. “Be home late.”
“Got it. You need a ride?”
“No. Houa’s mom can drive me.” I shut the door as hard as I could before he had a chance to say no. Getting a police escort around town made me feel ridiculous.
“Hey,” he said, rolling down the window as I bounded up the steps to school. “Have a good day. We can get ice cream from Ella’s Deli after dinner tonight, okay? I love you.”
“Are you bribing me with ice cream to try and put me in a good mood?”
“Is it working?”
I rolled my eyes. “Love you too.”
You can enter this giveaway using Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY and closes on May 18. I’ll email the winner the day after to get their details. You can also pre-order The Kate in Between on Amazon. Read my last interview with Claire and my review of her debut middle grade book here.a Rafflecopter giveaway