About the Book
Addie Coleburn, fresh out of the sixth grade, is spending the summer at her grandmother’s house in Syracuse with her mother and brother. Kimi Takahashi, a girl who lives up the street, invites Addie to go to the park and play lacrosse. Addie hasn’t the first clue what lacrosse is and would rather sit on Grandma’s front porch eating potato chips, drinking sodas, and reading books. But then again, spending the summer dealing with her younger brother isn’t that appealing, either, so she goes to the park with Kimi. Within a week, she’s hooked on lacrosse. She’s overweight and can’t keep up with the faster stronger girls. She has to find a way to lose her excess weight and lose it fast or risk getting cut from the team.
Addie sat down in Grandma’s chair on the screened-in front porch. Grandma called it a glider because it rocked front to back, not like a rocking chair which lifted you up and back. Grandma’s gardening junk sat in a pile in one dark corner, but the rest of the porch was open and airy. Steps led off the porch to the gravel driveway where her grandma’s blue four-door car sat in front of her mother’s awesomely uncool green minivan.
Most of the screens on the porch were torn and flapping in the light breeze, but Addie didn’t care. She’d finally found peace. She pushed the full ashtray away and put her book down on the grimy side table. She munched on a few chips and then popped the top to her soda and took a long swig.
“Ahh.” She sighed. “That’s more like it.”
The stink of the overflowing ashtray ruined the mood a little, so she pushed it further away. It still wasn’t better, but she didn’t feel like getting up to move it to the other side of the porch.
She dug heartily into the chips and scooped up the few that fell in her lap. “Mustn’t waste food,” Grandma always said. As far as Addie was concerned, that included potato chips. With another swig of soda and a satisfying burp, she rolled the top of the crinkly chip bag closed and clipped it shut. She tossed it on the table and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Then she rubbed her greasy hands on her cutoff denim shorts. Another quick chug of soda and she was ready to find out how Captain Janeway and her crew were going to get out of the mess they were in.
She dug into her book and was deeply mesmerized by the battle with the Kazon when her spider senses tingled. The music. It had stopped. The jerk was probably sneaking up on her. He had recently decided to be a ninja assassin. Fifth graders were so immature. She would have rolled her eyes, but couldn’t. She needed to stay focused. She held the book out in front of her as if she were still reading, and used her side vision to see if she could spot movement. Yep, there he was. Near the stairs to the driveway. She could see the top of his head, covered with a ridiculous black ski cap.
With a yell, Troy leaped up the stairs at her. Addie lunged for the ashtray and flung it at him. Score! It hit him right in the chest, ashes poofing up everywhere.
“Pfft,” he sputtered, spitting ashes from his mouth. He smacked at his Metallica shirt, trying to get the residue off. “What’d you do that for?”
“’Cuz you’re a jerk.” She didn’t tell him that his whole face was covered with ash.
“You’re such a lardo, you fatty fatso.”
“Hey! Mom said you’re not supposed to call me that.”
“I’m telling.” Troy flung open the kitchen door and ran inside. “Mom!”
“Oh, no,” Addie muttered and leaped up.
Sometimes she didn’t think about the consequences of the things she did. She frantically kicked the cigarette butts under the glider. Then she spotted a broom and dustpan in the dark corner too late. It was just like the one they had at home.
Home. Addie forgot to be afraid of her mother at that moment. Where was her home? Here in stupid Syracuse or back home with Daddy? She sat down hard on the glider. Her chest tightened as her heart broke for the millionth time. Were her parents going to get a divorce? Maybe if she hadn’t fought with the jerk so much, maybe if she’d cleaned her room when her mother told her to, maybe if she had done a thousand other things . . . maybe they could be a family again.
“That was good,” a voice said from the sidewalk. “I think you won that round.”
Addie wiped at her tears and looked up. A girl about her age, wearing running shorts and a tank top, smiled at her from the sidewalk. She recognized the girl. She was one of the neighborhood kids who played down the street. The girl’s long black hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. She held a sports bag in one hand and two weird stick things in the other.
“You saw that?” Addie said with a laugh, although she didn’t really feel like laughing. Her mother might come storming out to yell at her any second.
“Little brothers can be a pain, huh?” The girl smiled. She was kind of exotic looking, like she was Chinese or something.
“No kidding,” Addie said. “Do you have one? A jerk brother?”
“Nah. But my friend Brooke does. I don’t know if he’s a jerk, but he can be a pain sometimes.”
Addie was about to ask the girl about the weird-looking sticks when she heard Grandma yell, “Troy, go upstairs and get cleaned up. You know not to bother us when we’re watching TV.”
Troy started to protest, but her mother interrupted. “Troy, listen to Grandma. Go upstairs and stop picking on your sister. I can’t hear myself think around here.”
“See,” the girl said, “you won.”
“I think you’re right.”
“Hey,” the girl lifted the sticks, “do you play?”
The girl’s jaw dropped open as if Addie had said the dumbest thing in the world. “Lax.”
Addie still didn’t know what the girl was talking about.
“Lacrosse,” the girl said slowly as if talking to an idiot.
“Oh, I’ve heard of that.” Addie hopped down the steps toward the girl.
“It’s a great game.” The girl held her sticks up. “Lacrosse—softball’s bigger, meaner, tougher older sister.”
Addie laughed. She knew only a tiny bit more about softball than she did lacrosse.
“Do you want to come to the park and play with us?” the girl asked. “I have an extra stick you can borrow.” She lifted the sticks higher.
Addie hesitated. She didn’t know this girl standing in front of her grandmother’s house. She didn’t even know where the park was. And she didn’t know if she wanted to play a sport. It was a beautiful June afternoon for reading science fiction. She looked at her book and then at the kitchen door. Crud, why not? It beat hanging around waiting for another ninja attack.
“Let me tell my mom.” Addie turned toward the porch, but then turned back. “Wait, what’s your name?”
“Akimi Takahashi.” The girl held her head high as if proud of her name.
“Is that Chinese or something?”
“Japanese. My father’s Japanese and my mother’s, uh, white. Most people just call me Kimi.”
“That’s cool. I’m Addison Coleburn. Most people call me Addie.”
“Nice to meet you, Addie. So do you want to play?” Kimi turned toward the sidewalk. She was obviously in hurry.
“Okay.” Addie raced up the porch steps and called into the kitchen screen door, “Mom, I’m going to the park with Kimi. I’ll be back for dinner.”
“Okay,” came her mom’s quick reply from the couch.
“That was easy,” Addie muttered and headed back down the steps.
“You’ll like lacrosse.” Kimi linked arms with Addie. “It’s the best game on the planet.”