WHY THIS SUMMER WILL BE THE MOST TERRIBLE OF MY LIFE
• I will be spending the entire summer at Hart House with my estranged grandparents. (estranged: nine-letter word for “kept at a distance”)
■ My cousins will be there too, off and on. That’s what Mom and Dad tell me. “Oh, they pop in and out, Grandma says.”
♦ I hate when people “pop in and out.” Popping in and out is not very list-friendly behavior.
• Mom and Dad are taking me to Hart House because they are “having problems” and “need some space to work it out.”
■ This, I assume, is a euphemism for divorce. Or at least something leading up to divorce. (euphemism: nine-letter word for “term or phrase, seemingly innocuous”)
• I will be far away from my bedroom at home, which is the only place where I can be entirely myself.
• There is a heaviness pressing down on me that makes it difficult to breathe.
IT’S TRUE: I AM FINDING it difficult to breathe. A heavy feeling inside my chest squeezes and pulls.
I rest my head against the car window and watch the world outside race by. Pale green prairie grass and the wide blue sky. Old barns with peeling paint and lonely houses surrounded by cows instead of neighborhoods.
I imagine I am running through the tall grass alongside the car—no, I am on a horse: a white horse with a tail like a banner.
A horse from the Everwood.
Nothing is fast enough to touch us.
Mom is obsessively switching radio stations. I think she probably has ADHD, which is a term I have learned from listening to kids at school. Mom has a hard time sitting still and is never satisfied with a radio station for longer than the duration of one song. Her work as an interior designer is perfect for her; it keeps her hands busy.
Dad is talking about things that don’t matter:
“I wonder if this summer will be hotter than last summer.”
“What’s a seven-letter word for sidesplitting?”
“I’m not sure I can get behind the new tone of this station.”
They like to pretend I don’t sense the stiffness between them, that I don’t notice how much more they’ve been working lately, even more than usual.
They like to pretend I don’t notice things. I think it makes them feel better, to lie to themselves and to me.
Which is kind of insulting. I may be a lot of things, but I am not stupid.
For example, I recognize how strange it is that I have never met my grandparents. I do know Mom’s parents, and her brother, though they live so far away that I hardly ever see them and they might as well be strangers.
But when I ask about Dad’s parents—Grandma and Grandpa Hart—Mom and Dad fumble with their words, offering explanations that don’t explain anything much:
“Well, Grandma and Grandpa are always so busy. It’s a matter of scheduling.”
“We’re always so busy, your dad and I. You know that, Finley.”
“I don’t know, Fin,” Dad often tells me. “Your grandparents and I . . . we’ve never been close.”
Through my observation of the world, I have concluded it is not normal for a girl to be kept away from her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her cousins, as if they could hurt her.
Testing myself, I inhale slowly. The heaviness inside me has faded.
I can breathe again.
I glance at the back of Dad’s head, at Mom’s eyes in the rearview mirror. She must be nervous; she has never met Dad’s family either. She is staring hard at the road, sitting perfectly straight, not paying attention to me.
So she and Dad didn’t notice a thing. Good.
I am safe. For now.
(I will not think about Hart House, or about how my cousins will stare at me, or about pretending it isn’t weird to spend a summer with my grandparents after years of not knowing them.)
(No, it isn’t weird at all.)
I cannot keep thinking about these things. That is a recipe for disaster.
I check the reflection of Mom’s eyes. Still glaring at the road, Mom?
I am safe.
I flip past my pages of lists and to the portion of my notebook reserved for stories about the Everwood.
I don’t know what I will write about today.
Perhaps about the Everwood’s evil cousin forest, the Neverwood, and their terrible, thousand-year war. Or maybe about the various Everwood witch clans, and how people say you can tell them apart by the smell of their magic.
Rhonda, my next-door neighbor, and probably the closest thing I will ever have to a best friend, says I am a huge nerd.
She is probably right.
Given my father’s love of crossword puzzles, his job as a literature professor at the university, and my preference for books over people, I’ve acquired an impressive vocabulary for an eleven-year-old.
But when my parents sat me down to explain where I’d be going this summer, and why, all the words seemed to fly right out of my head.
I hope I can find them again soon.
My notebook—the latest in a series of twelve—has loads of blank pages in it, waiting to be filled.
And if I’m going to keep my grandparents from discovering my secret, I will need to write.
Some Kind of Happiness
Things Finley Hart doesn’t want to talk about:
-Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
-Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
-Never having met said grandparents.
-Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)
Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real—and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.
With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.
- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers |
- 384 pages |
- ISBN 9781442466012 |
- May 2016 |
- Grades 3 - 7
Read an Excerpt
Reading Group Guide
Some Kind of Happiness
By Claire Legrand
About the Book
Eleven-year-old Finley Hart knows this summer will be the most terrible one of her life. And why wouldn’t it be? Her parents are shipping her off to live with grandparents she has never met, surrounded by cousins she doesn’t know, while her parents will be home deciding if they will stay together or get a divorce. At the same time, her blue days are getting worse—the times where she feels she is so heavy that she can’t get out of bed—where her sadness sticks in her like a sword. Her only escape is the Everwood, the forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. When she realizes that her grandparents’ house borders a lush and mysterious forest, her reality and fantasy begin to collide. Setting out to uncover a family secret, Finley enlists the help of her cousins and a trio of forbidden brothers to uncover the dark past of the forest. What is revealed will force Finley to not only confront her family, but her greatest fear.
1. Consider the book’s title: Some Kind of Happiness. Does happiness have kinds? Discuss what happiness means to you. Are there different ways to be happy? As you read the text, think about the concept of happiness as it pertains to Finley and the other members of the Hart family. After reading the story see more