Marketed as a must-read for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Sophie Kinsella, Canadian author Carrie Mac's new YA novel about anxiety looks gorgeous. I've got an excerpt from 10 Things I Can See from Here for you to read below, so stay tuned, book nerds!
Maeve is just a normal teenage girl, living with unmedicated anxiety and struggling to find her place in a new housing arrangement. She's just gone to live in Vancouver with her father, stepmom, and twin kid brothers, and now Maeve and the boys are headed off to Gibsons to stay with their grandmother.
On the ferry ride over, Maeve meets Salix, a carefree girl with a violin case and a rainbow patch on her backpack. Can she work up the courage to talk to her, or will her anxiety get the better of her? The only way to find out is to read Carrie Mac's 10 Things I Can See from Here.
Good YA novels about mental illness and LGBTQIA heroines are rare, but 10 Things I Can See from Here appears to be both. Check out the beautiful cover below, and stay tuned after the jump for an excerpt from Carrie Mac's latest YA novel.
10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac, $17.99, Amazon
Sometimes distraction could take my mind off the worry, but sometimes it made it worse. Especially if it was Claire’s idea. Distraction was Claire’s favorite way of dealing with my varying degrees of weird. You just need to keep moving, Maeve. Move. Move your body and your brain and use up that nervous energy that clatters around in there, messing you up. Try new things! Meet new people! Get out there, honey. You think too much because you have too much time to think. When I was younger, she’d sign me up for things like circus camp, or kayak trips, or marimba lessons. That’s why she tried to teach me how to knit. It’s meditative, she said. You zone out and it’s just the yarn and the needles and you, making something beautiful.
But I did not work that way. I lasted half the week at circus camp. I was so worried about getting hurt that I actually could not move the required muscles it would take to participate. And furthermore, I was sure that one of the other kids was going to fall to their death, so I could only sit on the bench with my hands covering my face, muttering, “I can’t watch. I can’t watch. I can’t watch.” They asked me to leave, and not very nicely, considering I was only eleven. One of the instructors actually said that I was jinxing the whole class. Circus = watching someone fall to their death. Kayaking = drowning. Marimba = failure. Knitting = way too much time to think. Claire didn’t sign me up for that kind of thing anymore, but she was always pushing me: get out, go do something, find a friend.
Drawing worked, sometimes. Sometimes it could lift me out of myself. Sometimes figuring out the lines and curves and shapes of things around me was enough to stop the noise in my head for a while. But usually when the worrying about something stopped, it was because I’d moved on to worrying about something else.
Claire’s latest idea of distraction was to send the twins and me to our grandmother’s in Gibsons, on the Sunshine Coast, for a few days. We’d be going by ourselves. On a big ferryboat.
What if one of the boys fell overboard?
What if I couldn’t find them when it was time to walk off the ferry?
What if there was an engine fire?
What if the ferry couldn’t stop and it crashed into the wharf?
What if we got on the wrong ferry?
What if Grandma never came to pick us up?
What if the boys went into the men’s bathroom and there was some creep in there?
“Do you let them go into the men’s bathroom by themselves?” I asked Claire as she dropped us off at the terminal. “Sure.” “You don’t worry about them in there?” “She means pedophiles,” Corbin said. “We know about pedophiles,” Owen said. “I’m not worried about pedophiles,” Claire stage-whispered with a wink. “The boys know what to do if some-one flashes a penis at them in the washroom.” And then there’d be the trip home. Alone. So, so many things that could go wrong.
A few years before, a man was driving his minivan onto the ferry when the ramp suddenly went up and he drove right over the edge and into the water. He got out because he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, but his two children, his wife, and his mother all drowned, buckled securely into their seats. That’s why I never wore a seat belt when we drove onto the ferry. And I made everyone else take their seat belts off too. Because it would be way worse to be the only survivor than to die like that. They never protested. Maybe because they secretly agreed with me. Or maybe because it wasn’t a big deal to them and they’d rather just do it than have me nag them about it. Which I would. Because I wouldn’t want to be the sole survivor of an accident that left them trapped in the van underwater, slowly drowning, looking around through the churned- up murk and thinking they should’ve done what I said. This time we were walk-ons, but that just meant different things to worry about. Up in the waiting room I was going through all the things that could go wrong. Malfunctioning ramps. Or computer error, like when that ferry rammed into the dock last year. Or operator error, which happened more than anyone would admit. Up north, for example, when a ferry actually sank and everyone ended up in the water until they were rescued, except for the two people they never found. All because the captain was having sex with one of the stewards on the control deck while the ferry sailed straight into a big rock.
Walk-on passengers could slip on the outside deck in winter, if someone forgot to ice it. They could press the wrong button and retract the walkway and people would just topple overboard, smashing into the water or catching the edge of the ferry, bones cracking and heads nearly getting knocked off. Being crushed between the ferry and the dock.
The whole terminal would crumble, concrete and metal and cars and people and the wharf and the boats all thrown together into the deep harbor, shoved down by a gigantic overturned ferry.
No. Don’t think about that. Rewind. Reverse. Refuse. Nancy’s advice: If you get too far, stop in your tracks and rewind. Reverse the road to disaster. Refuse to go there.
Focus on the boys.
Stop thinking about catastrophic outcomes.
Think about something else.
I took out my book and sketched an old woman with a straw hat and bright blue eyeliner. Then a little girl playing with a yo-yo. A purple suitcase with the Eiffel Tower on it. The vending machine and Corbin standing in front of it, staring at all the things he would buy if he had any money.
Owen’s red-and-white sneakers with the sparkly laces. He was sitting beside me, reading out loud to Hibou from Owls in the Family.
Right that very moment, there was nothing to worry about other than how to make Owen’s laces look real. But I didn’t want to draw anymore. I pulled Mom’s scarf from my backpack and started worrying it, like it was some kind of silken rosary.
Don’t think about Haiti.
Don’t think about Raymond.
Don’t think about dead babies.
Don’t think about earthquakes.
Earthquakes. The Cascadia subduction zone was right underneath us, waiting to wreak havoc. Fifteen thousand people would die. We’d have fifteen minutes to get up to higher ground before the tsunami hit the shore.
Climb down, Maeve. Maybe it would be a small one, or medium.
Say it knocked the power out and the roads were jammed and the buses weren’t running. How would I get the boys home? We could walk, but it’d take so long. Did we have enough food and water? Or maybe we could beg someone to take us to Grandma’s in a boat. That might be easier than trying to walk back to the city from the ferry terminal. But what if there was a tsunami? Then we should run to high ground. Up to the highway. And start walking.
We should have a plan. A meeting place. Enough food and water for seventy-two hours.
I could smash the vending machine and take the contents for food. The drinks machine looked unbreakable, though. We’d have to find water somewhere else. Maybe we’d have to steal. But that would be okay, because life over death. Life wins.
Unless death gets you first. Unless we all died. Me, the boys. The old lady with the blue eye shadow. The little girl and her yo-yo.
The worst earthquake in recorded history claimed the lives of nearly twenty thousand people today, among them a teenage girl and her little brothers, innocently waiting for a ferry, which the resulting tsunami hurled upon the cracked and broken highway far above the terminal.
Heart pounding. Hands getting sweaty. I clutched Mom’s scarf until my fingers went numb.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5—
What if there was another earthquake in Haiti? I pulled out my phone.
Likelihood of earthquakes in Haiti? Do you have a safety plan?
Extra food and water?
Tell me that I’m fine and to take a deep breath.
Tell me to take a sip of water.
Tell me to think about something pleasant.
Still no reply.
Staying in touch by text will not work if you NEVER TEXT ME BACK.
But if I was about to die in an earthquake, that would be the last text my mom ever got from me.
I love you, Mom. I’m just being stupid. You’re probably on the plane.
And then I looked up information about earthquakes, because I just could not help myself.
Owen stopped reading. “What?”
I shoved the phone into my pocket. “Nothing.”
“Here.” He sat Hibou in my lap. “You can hold her. Sometimes that helps.”
“Thank you.” I clutched the stuffed owl tight. Like, white-knuckle tight. “Hey, Owen . . . do you have any of those little chew candies?”
“Yup.” He fished in his backpack and found the tin. “Blackberry.”
Stupid little herbal candies that were supposed to make you relax. Which was ever so slightly an improvement over the stupid herbal tincture that was supposed to do the same thing. Ruthie laughed at them. Bach Flower Remedies? They’re not even pretending to be something real, Maeve. Flowers?Where is the empirical evidence? How can they make these claims? Drug trials. Those are for real.
But my mom bought the stuff in bulk anyway. And even though I had at least one little bottle of it in my backpack, I was so sick of the bitter, boozy taste and the whole idea of it that I could only just maybe stand one of the candies. Owen called them his “worry buttons,” and he genuinely believed that they worked. He handed me the tin, and I took one.
Really, I wanted drugs. I wanted one of those little pillboxes that had a section for each day of the week, with little happy pills in each one. Not some herbal hocus-pocus. But my parents actually agreed on a lot of things, and one of them was that they wouldn’t let me take prescription drugs for my anxiety until I was an adult. Your brain is still developing, Maeve. You might grow out of it. It’s too soon, they said. I disagreed. My brain was hardwired differently. What was the point of trying to put out a wildfire by pissing on it? Because that was what it felt like. If they actually realized how bad it was—if they truly understood—they’d let me have pills. If a leg is broken, puta cast on it. If you have cancer, do the chemo. If your head is messed up, take the pills.
“What’s the matter?” Owen said.
“I’m just thinking too hard.”
“I know what that feels like.”
“I wish you didn’t.” I hated that he was a worrier too. It was my fault for always being a mess in front of him. I was a bad person for demonstrating what crazy looks like. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and never on my sweet little brother. Never. “It sucks, right?”
Corbin was back now, emptying his bag onto the floor.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“I think there’s a quarter in here somewhere.” He pawed through themess. “I went around and got four more, but I need a dollar seventy-five to get the chips.”
“What do you mean, you ‘went around’?” I straightened. “You got money from strangers?”
“Yeah.” Two gnomes, his pocketknife, a rubber alien mask. “I do it all the time.”
“What do you mean, ‘all the time’?”
“He’s good at it,” Owen said. “He usually gets enough for us both to get something.”
“I’m not sure if I’m more surprised that you share it with Owen or that you’re panhandling in the first place.”
“Mom says it’s a job,” Corbin said. “Like any other job.”
“For bums, sure.” I scooped the quarters out of his hand. “You’re going to give these back. Who gave them to you?”
“I’m not telling.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not!”
“Listen, Corbin, I’ll give you money for the damn chips. But you can’t go around begging off people.”
“It’s not begging!” he yelled. “Even Mom and Dad let me.”
“They let you? Or you’ve heard them say that panhandling is an acceptable profession.”
“I don’t know.”
“Do they even know about it?”
“Not really, I guess.”
“Well, you can’t say that they let you if they don’t even know what you’re doing! This is a perfect example of why six-year-olds should not be traveling by themselves.” I grabbed his shoulders and spun him around. “Now, who gave it to you?”
“She did.” Corbin pointed to a girl on the other side of the room.
“Go give it back.”
“Fine, then I will.” I closed the quarters into my fist and walked over there with Corbin bouncing beside me, trying to pry my fingers apart. Halfway there I recognized her. The girl from the bus station. The one with the violin. The one who’d smiled at me. I stopped in my tracks.
“Maeve?” Corbin said. “What are we doing?”
She was reading a book and hadn’t looked up yet. My panic attack shifted; it was about her now. About talking to her. Would she recognize me? Was it weird that I remembered her so clearly? Standing at the edge of that park, playing the violin with her eyes closed. Was that weird?
The PA system announced that the ferry would be loading soon, and with that news my resolve came back. Corbin would do the right thing, nevermind how nervous I was feeling. “We’re giving them back, and now you’re not getting the chips at all. You’re being a total brat, Corbin.”
“And you’re being a bitch!”
I tightened my grip on his arm. “What did you just say to me?”
“Hey, kid!” The girl stood up, and in two strides she was leaning over Corbin, glaring down at him. She was tall, and cute, and mad. “You do not talk to your mom that way. That is not cool.”
“She’s not my mom,” Corbin sneered. “Just my stupid half sister.”
“Whatever,” the girl said. “You never call a woman a bitch.”
“She’s not a woman.”
“Sure she is.”
“She’s just a girl.”
“Corbin, give the quarters back.” I could not stand them arguing about whether I was a woman or a girl. “Now.”
“No!” Corbin hollered. “She gave them to me fair and square!”
“Begging off people is not ‘fair and square.’ ”
“He didn’t beg.”
Up close to her now, I could see that the stamped letters on her belt said shift happens, and her eyes were apple green. On one hand I wanted to stare at her until I could draw her with my eyes closed,but on the other I would rather have become one with the dirty floor than behaving this conversation. Or, no. I would rather be having an entirely different conversation. With the girl.
“He sold me jokes,” the girl said. “A quarter each.”
“Seriously?” I gripped Corbin’s arm even harder. “You neglected to mention that part, Corbin.”
“He did work for it. Fair and square.” She stared at me. “I’ve seen you before.”
“Right.” She blushed a little. Did she? Or was I imagining it? I was blushing, definitely. That much was for sure. “The truck on the sidewalk.”
“My dad. Rock-star parking.”
“Did he pay the ticket?”
“You didn’t see him crumple it up and throw it away?”
“What do you call a dinosaur who crashes his car?” Corbin said.
“A Tyrannosaurus wreck,” she said.
“Oh,” I said.
“Yeah, oh.” The girl grinned. “All good?”
She looked at me. I looked at her. Corbin yanked his arm away.
“Meanie,” he said.
“Ferry’s boarding,” the girl said.
“Yeah.” The wonderful thing was that at that precise moment I was not thinking of earthquakes. Not one bit. “We’ve got to go.”
“Bye,” I said. “Sorry about the misunderstanding.”
“It’s already boarding!” Owen said when I got back and began gathering our things. “You took so long, and I was going to come get you, but I couldn’t carry all the backpacks and I thought you weren’t going to be that long.”
“Sorry.” We lined up to board. The girl was ahead of us. She carried a beat-up violin case and had an equally beat-up backpack slung over one shoulder. There was a famous dead composer’s profile silk-screened on a pinned-on patch. I didn’t know which one, but it didn’t matter. Because just below the dead composer was a rainbow patch.
Bingo. She was a friend of Dorothy.
After the thing with Jessica started, and before I came out to my parents, and when Ruthie still wasn’t talking to me, I went to Dan’s almost every day after school. He was supposed to be teaching me how to cook so that I could help with suppers at home. But mostly I overcooked chicken breasts and burned scones and put way too much salt into stews. I was so nervous that Dan might guess, just by looking at me. As if I’d changed when I came out to myself, and he could tell. As if gaydar was a real thing, which it might be and it might not be.
And then one day I was so nervous that I dropped a dozen eggs and they all smashed on the tiles. I followed Dan out to his chicken coop to look for two new ones to use for the cake I was making for Mom’s birthday, and when I found one nestled in the straw, I handed it to him.
“I’m gay,” I said, when I’d meant to say, “Here’s an egg.”
“Well, my recruitment quota is now full.” Dan gave me a big hug and made the cake for me while I fidgeted and stuttered and told him all about Jessica.
Jessica Elena Elliston-Haywood, who was as beautiful and stuck-up asher name, and such a good kisser.
I didn’t tell him about Ruthie, because I wasn’t sure what to say about her. And then later, after what happened, I didn’t want to tell him at all. But that first afternoon, when I told him about Jessica, I felt buoyant and light. I kept holding on to the stool because it felt like if I let go, I’d drift up to the clouds, beaming and feeling ridiculously wonderful. It was so good to tell someone. And easier than I’d thought.
When the cake was cooled and decorated, Dan packed it into a box forme to carry home.
“Just a minute, sweetie.” He disappeared into his bedroom and came back with a ratty old T-shirt. It had a rainbow on it, with friend of dorothy printed underneath in faded bubble letters.
“I get the rainbow,” I said. “But who’s Dorothy?”
“People used to say that as a way to tell each other that they were gay without actually having to say the word,” Dan said. “Because it was so dangerous back then. So they had a code. Friend of Dorothy. Say I wanted to hook up with a handsome married businessman at a vacuum-salesman conference in Oklahoma in 1952. I’d sidle up to him and ask him if he was a friend of Dorothy.”
“I don’t get it,” I said.
“As in Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz,” he explained. “Which is the gayest movie ever. Somewhere over the rainbow? There’s no place like home? Those fabulous red shoes?”
So the girl with the violin case and the rainbow patch was a friend of Dorothy. And I had a forty-minute ferry ride to let her know that I was too, if my nerves would let me.
10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac, $17.99, Amazon