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Copyright © 2021 by Casie Bazay

Cover illustration copyright © 2021 by Monica Garwood

Cover copyright © 2021 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

Running Press Teens

Hachette Book Group

1290 Avenue of the Americas,

New York, NY 10104

www.runningpress.com/rpkids

@RP_Kids

First Edition: May 2021

Published by Running Press Teens, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Running Press Teens name and logo is a trademark of the Hachette Book Group.

The Hachette Speakers Bureau provides a wide range of authors for speaking events. To find out more, go to www.hachettespeakersbureau.com or call (866) 376-6591.

The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

Print book cover and interior design by Marissa Raybuck.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.

ISBNs: 978-0-7624-7229-1 (hardcover), 978-0-7624-7228-4 (ebook)

E3-20210403-JV-NF-ORI

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter 1: K. J.

Chapter 2: Becka

Chapter 3: Eli

Chapter 4: K. J.

Chapter 5: Becka

Chapter 6: K. J.

Chapter 7: Becka

Chapter 8: K. J.

Chapter 9: Eli

Chapter 10: Becka

Chapter 11: K. J.

Chapter 12: Becka

Chapter 13: K. J.

Chapter 14: Eli

Chapter 15: Becka

Chapter 16: K. J.

Chapter 17: Eli

Chapter 18: Becka

Chapter 19: K. J.

Chapter 20: Becka

Chapter 21: K. J.

Chapter 22: Eli

Chapter 23: Becka

Chapter 24: K. J.

Chapter 25: Becka

Chapter 26: K. J.

Chapter 27: Becka

Chapter 28: Eli

Chapter 29: K. J.

Chapter 30: Becka

Chapter 31: K. J.

Chapter 32: Becka

Chapter 33: Eli

Acknowledgments

For Summer,

Thank you for so many years of friendship

and for believing in me

CHAPTER 1K. J.

WHERE DOES SOMEONE EVEN GET A BRIGHT GREEN casket like that?

The question hasn’t stopped rattling through my brain since Mom and I snuck into the chapel and slid into the very last pew. There are a lot more important things to be worried about at the moment, but all I can think is, What. The. Hell? Grandpa was a weird duck—everyone knew that—but I definitely never saw this coming. The wood creaks as Mom shifts in her seat and pushes a strand of hair behind her ear for the hundredth time. It’s a nervous tic of hers, but I get it. Being here is beyond awkward for both of us.

Two rows ahead, an old lady with painted-on eyebrows turns to squint at us. She’s probably trying to figure out why we’re sitting in the back of the chapel instead of up front with the rest of our family. Maybe she doesn’t know the story. Or maybe she does and thinks my grandpa’s death is reason enough to move past it, but fact is, the rift in my family has held strong for practically two decades now—since before my birth, anyway. Things won’t be changing anytime soon. I give her a “whatcha gonna do old lady” look, and she turns back around.

Another hymn begins, and along with it, a chorus of off-key voices. Mom and I keep our mouths clamped shut—not that we know the words anyway. I stare at my shoes, questioning if gray Converse and black jeans were the wrong choice for today. It’s not like I own anything nicer, and my closet has definitely never seen a dress.

Mom leans in close, her breath reeking of strong coffee. “As soon as they start lining up for the walk-by, we’re out of here.”

I give a subtle nod. I have no desire to see my grandpa inside that grasshopper-green death box. I’d rather remember him the way he was. Well, the way he was the last time I saw him, anyway. Was it really three years ago?

The music fades, soon replaced by the sounds of sniffling and Great Aunt Velda’s babbling. It’s really sad and all, but I have bigger worries at the moment. Right now, I just want to pay my respects and get out of here without my witchy Aunt RaeLynn or my equally horrid cousin Becka trying to start something with me and my mom. That’s about the only thing that would make today worse than it’s already been.

The reverend steps to the front again, and it takes everything I’ve got to pry my eyes away from the casket and focus on him.

“Elijah Walker was a unique man,” he says with the air of someone who knew my grandpa well. I doubt they ever met. He’s just repeating what someone else has told him. RaeLynn, if I had to guess. “He had a special appreciation for insects and spent countless hours on his collections. They were a sight to behold, from what I hear.”

Yep, that confirms my suspicion. If he’d met my grandpa, then he definitely would have seen the bug collections. The reverend continues, telling a story from Grandpa’s childhood. “Elijah got a pony for Christmas one year. He named her Penny, and she stayed at his grandparents’ farm. He rode Penny every time he went to visit his grandparents.”

I’ve never heard this story before, but then again, there’s probably a lot I don’t know about Grandpa. Of course, there’s no mention of his condition—the one that kept him homebound for the past thirty years. He rarely ever left his eleven-acre property.

I glance at Mom, who’s staring straight ahead, her poker face still on. There’s no telling what’s going through her brain right now. Maybe she’s thinking about all the holidays we didn’t spend with Grandpa. We should have gone around more. What happened with Mom and RaeLynn wasn’t his fault. He just got caught in the middle of it all.

The reverend leads us in prayer and a final hymn begins. Mom’s bony elbow pushes into my side. “Let’s go,” she whispers, and before I know it, she’s practically

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