12-year-old Peony is keeping a big secret from her best friends: her parents lost their jobs, and the house is next. When she’s given a magical book that could hold the key to her family’s happiness, she’ll need to read between its lines or risk losing not only her home, but her friendships, too.
Hollyfield Middle School’s morning announcements crackled to life on the TV in homeroom, but I barely looked up from my book, Lois Lowry’s The Giver.
I’d been reading even more than usual these days. Anything to block out the tendrils of worry and sighs and hushed whispers rising to my bedroom from the kitchen below.
“Listen up,” sang Ms. Delaney, my homeroom teacher, tapping her coffee cup with a red acrylic nail. “Time for the announcements.” She lifted the steaming mug to her ruby lips and peered over the rim, her eyes scanning homeroom. She paused on me.
“Even you, Miss Peony,” she said after taking a sip, winking.
I nodded, closed my book and tightened my ponytail, then made a bridge with my hands and rested my chin on it, turning my gaze forward.
It’d been six months since my twelfth birthday, six months since Mom and Dad interrupted our Afternoon Reading, a daily ritual for the three of us, books open, tea steaming, blankets unfolded. Dad had stopped our reading to have a Talk, which is not part of the ritual.
But I kind of knew something was coming, because I know Mom and Dad like stars know planets.
Dad is my sun and Mom is my moon, and the tides in my heart have always swelled by them. But last year, gradually, like waves fading into the distant sea without being noticed, something in Mom and Dad faded, too.