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Better Than All Right

Better Than All Right

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Better Than All Right

2.5/5 (2 évaluations)
105 pages
1 heure
Jan 6, 2015


The darker the truth, the deeper you hide it—but  what happens when you can’t hide anymore?

Innocence, I guess, is not my image. 

Sixteen-year-old Iris knows that between her bohemian playwright father who lives off the grid in the New Mexican desert and her mother, to whom getting married (but not staying married) is a full-time job, she’s led an unorthodox life, which hasn’t left with her with a lot of childhood illusions. So it’s no surprise when her mom sends her to spend the summer with her aunt, uncle, and cousin.

Iris’s younger cousin Caryn is different. She’s only fourteen, and much more sheltered. Aunt Elaine hopes that Iris will be good company for Caryn, and when the girls meet an appealing young man at the pool and all three become friends, it seems her plan just might be working. But for Iris, making things work means keeping secrets from Caryn. If Iris can’t pretend to be someone she isn’t all summer long, will she still be all right?
Jan 6, 2015

À propos de l'auteur

Susan Beth Pfeffer is the author of many books for teens, including the New York Times best-selling novel Life As We Knew It, which was nominated for several state awards, and its companion books, The Dead and the Gone, This World We Live In, and The Shade of the Moon. She lives in Middletown, New York.

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Better Than All Right - Susan Beth Pfeffer



All my life I’ve read books with talking trains in them. You know the kind I mean: they go, Seneca Falls, Seneca Falls or He loves me, he loves me to the heroine as she races to her destiny. So naturally I expected the train I was on to make sounds other than rasps and growls. I wasn’t sure what I expected it to say and would have been pleasantly surprised by almost anything. It chose not to speak. The conductor was a disappointment too. I thought he’d be paternal and concerned; I was, after all, a fairly young girl making a fairly long trip by herself. Innocence, I guess, is not my image, and the conductor I got was thirty-five and somewhat lecherous. He told me about his ex-wife for a few minutes. They’d gotten divorced the year before. She got custody of their two kids and the cocker spaniel, but he had visitation rights. The alimony was going to kill him, he said. Union or no union, conductors were grossly underpaid. And job security was non-existent, since the railroad was still running only because the government was making it. The board of directors wanted to declare bankruptcy, or maybe they already had. He wasn’t too sure of the details, but he did know there was no future in it. He’d had ambitions too, he was telling me, when we pulled into one of the many stops we made, and he had to check other people’s tickets. I beat a hasty retreat to the washroom, and hid there for a few minutes, smoking the remains of a joint. After that, I felt better, and returned to my seat. The train still wasn’t singing, but I was, inside my head. Then I tried to read the book I’d bought at the station for reading on the train—Jane Eyre I think it was. I know I took Jane Eyre with me that summer, and two or three volumes of Dickens. I was feeling very nineteenth century when I packed and took only those books that went with my mood.

Not that my situation was, in the strictest sense, nineteenth century. True, I was spending the summer as a poor relation, but with the economy being what it was, there was every chance that my uncle (Moneybags Mike as my mother was fond of calling him) would lose his job. At least so my aunt had hinted when she told Ma that it would be all right for me to come up and spend the summer as a companion for Caryn. That’s their daughter, Caryn, age fourteen, which made her two years younger than me. Caryn I had met, but we’d never said much of anything to each other. Her mother and mine are sisters, but they’re not very close. Still, I had to spend the summer somewhere, and I absolutely refused to go to New Mexico and stay with my father. Not that I have anything against him, or Evie, his wife, or even their three kids, aged eight and younger, but it gets fiercely hot in New Mexico in the summer, as I had discovered when I spent the year there, a couple of years earlier. It had all of a sudden been decided I was going to spend the year there, and so Ma called Pa up, and plans were made. Actually Ma called Evie, since Pa refuses to have a telephone, which is another reason I didn’t want to spend the summer there. I don’t use the phone much, but it’s good to know there is one, in case of an emergency. That was the reason my parents got divorced, after years of shouting. Because Pa decided he wanted the artistic life, complete with the deserts, the mesas. My mother said no thank you, she favored civilization, and telephones, and running water. My mother doubts that any place west of Chicago has running water. Evie works as a nurse, so she has more access to telephones. Pa doesn’t work, in the strict sense of the word. He’s a playwright, of very little renown. His work is very popular in New Mexico, and Arizona, and Colorado, but that’s about it. He had a play of his produced off Broadway once, after it broke all records in some theatrically discerning city in New Mexico, but the critics panned it unmercifully, and it closed its third night. I saw it the second night, and thought it was pretty good. Anyway, that was why I was in no mood to go to New Mexico. And I couldn’t spend the summer with Ma, since she was going to be in Bermuda, trying to convince Marshall to become her fourth husband. Well, third and a half. Ma’s marital record isn’t the best in the world, but it does have certain disarming features. Her first marriage was annulled by the boy’s irate mother. Ma was just a kid (each time she tells it, she gets younger), and the guy wasn’t much older, and he’d just been drafted into the Korean war, so they got drunk at a party, and ran off and got married. His mother, as I just said, was not pleased by this development in her son’s life and, as soon as it could be done, had the marriage annulled. The lady offered to buy Ma off, but she said it wasn’t necessary, thereby setting a pattern she hasn’t been able to break. Three marriages and not a cent of alimony. Then Ma went to college, and then she dropped out and joined the early fifties artsy crowd. She claims she was an original beat, which may very well be. Somewhere along the way, she met my father, and they began their long, complicated relationship, which ended in me. Pa was not too thrilled when he learned he was going to be a father, and he postponed marrying Ma for a few months, but eventually one of his friends persuaded him I was entitled to his last name, which is Levin. I could live without the last name, but they didn’t know that, so Pa married her at a very jolly wedding ceremony, with Ma in her seventh month, and me kicking throughout the service.

Ma developed a taste for domesticity that marriage, and so did Pa, but not with each other. They fought a lot. I don’t remember very much about it, except the screaming. I was astounded when I realized that my friends’ parents didn’t scream at each other over everything. I thought that was the way adults talked. Anyway, one day Pa screamed about how he was going to New Mexico, and Ma screamed back that he should feel free to go, just as long as he stopped in Nevada on the way over. Which is why Pa sued Ma for divorce, instead of vice versa. Pa found Evie within a matter of months, and he married her the straight way, and they proceeded to have three children and a few plays. Ma,

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2 évaluations / 1 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (2/5)
    Not horrible, despite what the other reviewers say. There are some interesting ideas about how one's family influences one's ability to empathize with others. And it was cleverly done, almost entirely in dialog - even if the dialog was a bit clumsy. If people think it's cool to read about Holden Caulfield's despair & angst, they should certainly consider reading this concise exploration of Iris, Shelly, and Caryn. That said, I hated Catcher in the Rye and will not say I enjoyed this enough to give it three stars.