“Sweet, taut, and terrifying... Teens [will] ponder its meanings.” – Booklist, starred review

“Powerful... likely to linger in readers’ minds.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Will resonate with teen readers.” – Horn Book

“Hard to put down.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Let the sadness out, Caitie,” Dad said. “Let the feelings come out. Cry yourself a story.” So I did, and here it is.

Sometimes life is like a rollercoaster, all peaks and dips, unexpected turns that catch you off guard, speeding relentlessly, out of control, and all you can do is hang on and wait for it to be over. The summer I was fifteen, life was like that, and more. I even know when it started, when the ride began slow and easy, when my life changed forever. It was toward the end of July, the day my brother Dominic called to ask for a ride from the train station. We were driving back, Dom yammering at Dad, Dad just listening, with me and Deeter, my dog, in the back seat. I was feeling kind of sick, seeing how different Dom was after a year away from home at university. He smoked and cursed and seemed to be looking down on everything and everyone, and especially me. I began to remember why I’d been wary of his coming back, the way he needled me, mocked me, and in general made me feel like a stupid little girl.

We were driving across the Strand, the bridge between the mainland and Hale Island where we live, when I saw Lucas for the first time. He was walking along the side of the road, heading for the island, a figure all in green. Loose fitting drab green t-shirt, baggy green pants, green army jacket tied around his waist, and a green canvas bag slung over his shoulder. As we passed him, he turned his head and looked at me. I’ll never forget that moment. It wasn’t just that he was beautiful, although he was, but there was something about his face that was more than that, more than pale blue eyes, tousled sandy hair, sad smile, something beyond all that, something.... And then the car whizzed by him, and I was left to wonder what had just happened. I felt a funny, buzzy feeling, anticipation and sadness and excitement all mixed up, as if even then I knew what was going to happen.

I’ve thought over the past year about that moment, and what would have happened if I hadn’t seen Lucas that day. If we’d been ten minutes earlier or later crossing the Strand, if Dom’s train had been late, so we’d had to wait at the station. What would have happened? Would I be a different person, happier, sadder? And what would have happened to Lucas if I hadn’t seen him that day? How would his life have changed?

But what-ifs are pointless. They don’t change a thing. Reality is, and doesn’t change because we’d like it to. The fact is, I saw him that day, and he saw me. And I stepped onto the rollercoaster.

This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart