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13 by Jason Robert Brown
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13 Things to Know About 13

1. This book is about a guy named Evan.

2. Three months before his 13th birthday, he has to move from New York City 3. to Appleton, Indiana,

4. where nobody knows him.

5. He's not very happy about it.

6. His mom is kind of nuts.

7. His dad is kind of nuts too.

8. Evan's not nuts, but he keeps ending up in nutty situations.

9. One of them involves a movie called The Bloodmaster.

10. Another involves a girl named Patrice.

11. But the nuttiest situation of all is his bar mitzvah—

12. which it's possible no one will come to.

13. Unless Evan can make some new friends really fast.

HarperCollins; June 2009
208 pages; ISBN 9780061957253
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: 13
Author: Jason Robert Brown; Dan Elish


I Guess it started with Angelina, the flight attendant my father met on a flight from New York to L.A. last year. I don't know the whole story. Maybe he caught her eye while she was handing out pretzels? Pretty much all I know is that on July 15 at 5:45 p.m., I left Central Park and came home to our apartment to find Mom bawling on the sofa and Dad looking sheepish by the terrace—sort of like he had just cut in front of an old lady to snag a cab.

"Evan. Your father has some news." Dad drew in a sharp breath. "It's really very sad." I knew it: My grandmother had died. No, grandfather. Wait, definitely my aunt, oh my god, my aunt Elaine, it was going to be horrible.

"Your mother and I can't live together anymore." I sat—more like collapsed—on our old blue easy chair, like I had taken a giant cannonball to my gut.

"What?" I said. It was all sort of hard to believe.

My folks fought every once in a while, but it was a "Why can't you put dinner on the table for once?" kind of a thing, not "I hate you and don't want to be married to you anymore."

Anyway, the next thing I knew, we were all crying and hugging. Then, before I could catch my breath, my dad was heading to the door with his suitcase.

"I'll pick you up for dinner tomorrow at six," he said. "We'll talk, okay, buddy?"

And just like that I became one of those kids you see on those after-school specials: a guy who sees his dad once a week for dinner and every other weekend. Except I wasn't on TV. And by the time my dad had one foot in the hall, I was crying all over again.

And my mom? Well, she tried to be good, but it took only an hour before the bathroom door was closed, and I could hear her screaming from inside: "A STEWARDESS! IS HE KIDDING?"

My dad had made it sound mutual, like something they had agreed on together over their morning latte. But listening to my mom, I realized that it had been a one-sided decision—my dad had decided he couldn't live with my mom. And it began to sink in that, by extension, my father also wouldn't be living withme—not ever again. That night before bed, I punched out my pillow. Then I kicked in my closet door. You might say I was angry. You might say I was a lot of things—none of them good.

The next night at dinner, my dad said all the stuff you would expect. He never meant for it to happen. Life throws you strange curves. He loved me more than anything. I could see he was trying, but by the end of the meal I had tuned him out. Sure, each one of his so-called explanations sounded reasonable, but to my ears he was just spinning lines, desperate to get my forgiveness. Bottom line: My father was ditching me for some woman in polyester who dispensed peanuts across the friendly skies of America. It didn't matter that she turned out to be nice when I met her a few days later. By that point I had already made my decision. I hated her. And to tell the truth, I was starting to hate him.

"But you can't really hate him."

That's what Steve said. He was my best buddy. It was hard talking to him about the miseries of my home life, because he and my other best friend, Bill, were in a much more celebratory mood: Three days before all this happened, I had made contact with Nina Handelman's upper lip at Peter Kramer's birthday party.

"How was her breath?" Bill said. "I bet her breath smells like candy."

"Whatever," I muttered.

"Evan, you can't really hate your own father," Steve repeated.

"Oh, yeah?" I said. "Sure I can." "It's not biologically possible," Bill said. "He's your dad."

"I know he's my dad," I said. "But he took off. I mean, you should see my mom."

It was ugly. For the first few days after Dad left, she pretty much lived in her bathrobe, staring vacantly into space, wandering around the apartment, crying. On the fifth day, while she was halfheartedly attempting to make dinner, still in her bathrobe, I heard her mutter, "I've gotta get us out of here—we're not safe."

"Huh?" I said. She forced a huge, fake smile.

"Never mind me, just talking to myself," she said. "More spaghetti?"

Later that night, I caught her crying again, this time on the phone to my aunt Pam. I didn't really listen much to what she was saying; I just heard the emotional roller coaster in the next room. Suddenly Mom's head popped into my doorway. "Hey, kiddo, guess what we're going to do?" It was the happiest she had sounded since Dad left. "We're moving to Indiana!"

She was grinning, ear to ear, like Dr. Teeth, even though her cheeks were still damp with tears.

"That's great, Mom," I said, and made a mental note to talk to Steve's mom about all of this. She was a shrink.

"Pam offered me a job!" Aunt Pam had an antiques store. She sold about achair a week. My mother had a doctoral degree in anthropology. Nothing was adding up.

"Mom, we can't go to Indiana. I've got school. And friends."

She looked at me, still cheerful, perky almost. "They've got schools in Indiana."

I went on, making my case. It was only five weeks before my first year in junior high. A few months before my thirteenth birthday.

But my mother would not be swayed; we were moving to Indiana! To be with Pam! Wasn't that great? I argued with her, but it was like talking to a boulder. An insane, grinning boulder. She wanted as far away from my dad as she could get. And I'm guessing she wanted to punish him a little bit, too. You know—if he didn't want her, he wasn't going to get me, either.

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