Seventeen-year-old Gabe Hunter is devastated when his half-brother Josh kills four family members in a drunk driving accident and leaves sixteen-year-old Sophie an orphan. When Gabe realizes that he will be tutoring the very same Sophie for his senior service project, he vows to help Sophie and make amends for Josh, without revealing that his brother is the one who killed her family. What Gabe doesn’t count on is falling in love.
You ever heard of the monkey mind? I learned about it in my Advanced Psych class last year. It’s the deepest, most primal part of the brain, and it dwells on fear. I assume it’s a leftover from our caveman days when we were as much prey as predators. Nowadays, we don’t have to worry about being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger. But our monkey minds are still there. Racing around like monkeys in a cage.
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I never do anything halfway. So it’s not a shock that I don’t have the same boring monkeys in my head that everyone else does. Nope, not me. I have full-grown chimpanzees. Obnoxious, bug-eating, skank-eyed chimpanzees. Every night, they swing from vines and poke each other with sticks. The only method I’ve found that gets them to sleep is to shoot them with imaginary tranquilizer darts. That hasn’t been working out so well lately.
Thanks to the chimps, I’m ten minutes late climbing into the passenger seat of our Toyota RAV this morning. Mom’s tapping her fingers on the steering wheel, and as I buckle my seatbelt she throws me one of her “You’re late again” looks. I ignore her and prop my head against the window so I can get in fifteen minutes of Zs before school. But Mom clears her throat as soon as we back down the driveway. Which means she wants to “have a conversation.” We rarely have them anymore, but I know the signs.
Two sentences in, she drops the news that she’s going to visit my brother Josh in prison on Thanksgiving Day (which is only a week away) and get this—she expects me to tag along. Which means I’m screwed. Chimps or no chimps, I will never be able to sleep again.
“Gabe, did you hear a word I said?” Mom darts a glance at me.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that she thinks it’s okay to blow off my favorite holiday—a whole day that glorifies food—to hang out with inmate number 2143, currently incarcerated at Willowbend Correctional Center in Loserville, West Virginia. Has there ever been a lamer name for a prison? To be honest, I would rather be attacked by rabid raccoons. Or get karate chopped in the balls.
“Yeah, I heard you.” Complete snark, but I’m in no mood to play along with what has to be the absolute worst idea in the world.
“I was hoping for some kind of response,” she says, ignoring the snark.
“I thought we were going to Gran and Gramps’ for Thanksgiving.” Deflect. That’s always a good strategy.
“Visiting hours are ten to twelve. We’ll go to Gran and Gramps’ afterward.”
Nuts. Mom has all the answers. Which is the opposite of me. I’m like Jeopardy!, nothing but questions. I constantly play the “What if?” game in my head. What if Josh had driven straight home that night instead of stopping in a bar? What if, after stopping at said bar, he went back to his apartment to sleep it off and driven home in the morning? What if I was an only child?
After Josh went to prison, I did a little research. There are over two million men incarcerated in prisons across the United States. If only a quarter of them have brothers (I’m just guessing here—it might be a low estimate), that means there could be five hundred thousand people in the same sinking life raft as me right now.
Then why does it feel like I’m the only one?