Love contemporary YA? Then you need to check out Kat Spears’ new novel Breakaway!
In Breakaway, Jason Marshall lost his younger sister, but he knows his best friends will be there for him. When Mario starts hanging with a different group and Jordie finds a girlfriend, Jason is left with only quiet Chick. Then he meets Raine, the girl of his dreams. Can he find a new relationship, his friendships, and grieving for his sister?
Breakaway released on September 14 from St. Martin’s Press.
Though it bothered Chick to see Mario and me argue, the truth was Mario and I had been arguing like that since ﬁrst grade. We had traded bloody noses and black eyes, insulted each other’s mothers, and made comments about the inferior size of each other’s dicks for a long time now. Sometimes I thought about apologizing after the fact or, if we had a particularly bad ﬁght, it might occur to me to bring it up again to talk about it, though I never did. But usually, the insult or injury was for- gotten within a few hours.
So it didn’t surprise me the next day when Mario showed up at my door with a soccer ball tucked under one arm, an unlit cigarette behind his ear. “You up?” he called through the screen of the open window above the sofa bed.
Mom had left early that morning to open the store. She was the assistant manager of the Dollar General, a thirty- minute commute by bus. I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to decide if there was any reason to get up and start the day.
“Yeah,” I said, then sat up and shifted to the end of the bed where I could reach the lock to let Mario in.
“Mama sent this,” Mario said as he tossed a package wrapped in tinfoil at the end of my bed.
I knew without opening it what it was. The package was warm in my hands, heavy for its size, and smelled of cornmeal and braised pork. Mario’s mom’s version of the breakfast burrito, with a homemade corn tortilla, beans, and pork. My mouth started to water just thinking about it.
Mario sat at the small table Mom and I used sometimes for eating, but mostly used to hold piles of crap we didn’t have anywhere else to store. Since our apartment was small, most of the clutter generated by life didn’t get saved and would end up in the trash eventually. Things just sat on the table until we came to terms with the idea of discarding them for good.
Since Syl died we had been unable to throw out anything that bore some relationship to her. Mail, even junk mail, that had her name on it, items from her locker at school, like the tattered paperback copy of Lord of the Flies she had been reading when she died, and extra copies of the church program from her funeral service, were all arranged in an uncertain heap on the round table. I couldn’t look at them, but couldn’t throw them in the trash either. So, instead of joining Mario at the table, I sat on the end of my bed in just my underwear and unwrapped the gift of a breakfast that would keep me going most of the day.
Mario’s eyes passed over the collection of items on the table with some interest, but he just absently rolled the soccer ball under his foot as if he didn’t notice the accidental shrine to Sylvia. “Jordie’s going to pick up Chick and meet us at the Metro. Head down to the Mall and try to ﬁnd a good pickup game.”
Mario was referring to the National Mall, the open green space between the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol where, on any given weekend, you could ﬁnd twenty pickup games of soccer if you knew the right places to look. Some of the players were young guys like us, but more often they were aged-out athletes who were just looking to stay in shape. Some- times we played alongside Hispanic or African guys who spoke almost no English.
When Mario and I arrived at the Metro, the subway system that could get us from our Virginia suburban neighborhood into D.C. in less than ten minutes, Chick and Jordie were already waiting for us.
We stood in the subway car even though there were seats available, the kid in us still able to enjoy the thrill of standing in the moving train. We talked loudly, joking around and oblivious of the people around us. We got off at the Smithsonian station and walked toward the Washington Monument, gravel crunching under our shoes. Jordie and I both carried our rubber cleats slung over one shoulder, but Mario only had his street shoes. Jordie mentioned it as we strolled along.
“You’re going to be playing like shit in those Chuck Taylors,” Jordie said to Mario. “Where are your cleats?”
“I left them under your mama’s bed last night,” Mario said.
“Fuck you,” Jordie said but with a smile in appreciation of Mario’s joke.
Chick was the only one not laughing. “Why do you guys do that?” Chick asked. “Talk shit about each other’s moms.”
“Because it’s hilarious,” Mario said.
“You never talk shit about my mom,” Chick said almost defensively, as if he wished we would say shit to imply his mother was a whore too.
“Of course not,” Mario said. “You can’t talk shit about some- body’s mom if their mom is dead or really sick or something. That would be twisted.”
“What?” Chick asked. “Like you’re showing some kind of respect for my mom? Just because she’s dead?”
“It’s an unspoken rule,” Jordie said with a nod. “A dead mom is off-limits.”
“Bro code,” Mario said in agreement.
“That’s ridiculous,” Chick said, his voice rising with exasperation as he stopped in the middle of the gravel path. “None of you ever even met my mom. Shit, I never even met her. But you know each other’s moms. See them all the time. Christ, they cook for you. How is it okay for you to talk shit about each other’s moms but not someone you’ve never met?” When he ﬁnished this little tirade, Chick was breath- in heavily, his chest rising and falling quickly. Genuinely upset.
The three of us just stood watching him for a minute, un- sure what he was so worked up about? Mario’s comment about Jordie’s mom was actually pretty mild compared to some of the ringers we had used in the past. I reacted ﬁrst, putting my hand on Chick’s shoulder and giving him a squeeze. The muscle was tight under my hand, trembling. “Chick, man, calm down,” I said. “It’s just a joke. Nobody means anything by it.”
“It’s just fucked up is what I’m saying,” Chick said as he rubbed at his eyes with irritation, as if trying to keep from crying.
“We won’t do it anymore,” I said as I turned to look back over my shoulder at Jordie and Mario, asking for their agreement. “Okay?” I asked. “No more jokes about anybody’s mom.”
“In front of Chick,” Mario amended.
I stepped away from Chick so I could slap Mario on the back of the head.
“Ow!” Mario said with a scowl as he rubbed at his head, and then smoothed his hair.
“Or unless somebody sets it up perfectly in conversation, in which case you have to do it,’ ” Jordie said. “You gotta give us that. Right, Chick? If it’s a perfect setup then we still get to go straight for the ‘your mama.’ Okay?”
“You guys are such assholes,” I said in a growl. “Can you be serious for two minutes?”
“Yeah, sure,” Chick said with a shrug. “If it’s the perfect setup, you can’t just leave it hanging there. Of course.” I could tell he was trying to make light of the situation, blow it off as Mario and Jordie made jokes, but he still seemed bothered by the whole thing. It was weird, this sudden problem he had with the way we spoke to each other, had always spoken to each other.
“Come on,” I said, and put a hand at the base of Chick’s neck to move him along.
“I was just thinking,” Chick said as he dragged his feet and kicked at the gravel, stirring dust up with his already ﬁlthy high-tops. “What with Sylvia dying and all. We should be more careful. About saying things you can’t take back later.”
“Sure, Chick. I get it,” I said. From the angle of Mario’s head I knew he was listening to our conversation, had heard what Chick said about Sylvia, but he didn’t give any other indication he was listening.
We walked in awkward silence after that. Maybe afraid that anything we said might set Chick off again. Maybe thinking about Sylvia for a minute like I was. Maybe all of us unsure what to say to each other if we couldn’t talk shit about each other’s moms.
Copyright © 2015 by Kat Spears and published by St. Martin’s Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.