No Place for Me, by Barthe DeClements

Copper’s mother has checked into an alcohol detox center. Again. And her stepfather is heading out for Portland, Oregon, with no intention of taking Copper with him. and indeed it’s unclear whether he intends to remain with Copper’s mother. Copper still has hopes of staying with her best friend, in Seattle, until her mother’s released from the program, but her stepfather kills that plan immediately; as the book opens, he’s calling her mother’s siblings to try to arrange a place for Copper. Stop one is Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Tom’s house. They have three daughters, thirteen, eleven and eight…and Copper gets stuck with the nasty tattletale bedwetting youngest. Or at least that’s how Copper sees the brat—er, her cousin. She can’t put posters up, because the walls have just been painted. She can’t wash the smelly quilt she gets stuck with because her aunt wants it dry cleaned. She has to start at a new school part way through the school year. And worst of all, she’s stuck in Hicksville1. Nowhere to go after school, except the skating rink. And Dorothy and Tom have so many rules! And they enforce them2! Finally, Copper talks the oldest daughter, Kim, into sneaking off to the roller skating rink; the parents have forbidden it because they think that’s where all the stoners go, but it’s also where the Cool Boy spends his time. The eight-year-old rats them out…

…and Copper’s off to home number two. This one seems at first to be a better home, at least from Copper’s perspective. No other kids, she gets a canopy bed because it’s Aunt Judith’s childhood fantasy3. and the condo has a pool. But Uncle Raymond is running for state senate and one night they have to go off to a fundraising dinner. But the babysitter’s got the flu! Copper says she’s old enough to stay home alone, and ordinarily she would be. But someone breaks into the condo. Copper, terrified, hides under her bed and calls the police from the extension in her room.

Brave of her, no? Certainly faster than I’d have thought, at age twelve, in a similar situation!

But all Uncle Raymond can think of is a) the liability of a child left alone while he’s off politicking4.and b) that this barely pubescent girl is standing in a sleep-t in front of a couple of strange men5. …and we’re off to home #3. The home of last resort. The home with (gasp) the sister of the biological father, whom we haven’t met, The sister who is a witch. And yes, she really is a witch, in the sense that she’s Wiccan, or pagan, and that in a fairly modern sense, given that the book was written almost thirty years ago. Also completely unlike Copper’s previous three families. She cooks for the entire week and freezes the meals for reheating later. She works outside the home. She takes an interest in Copper’s schooling–they go to the school together on Copper’s first day, and the aunt introduces her around, and the aunt agrees to let one teacher bring a field trip to her property to search for mushrooms. And she doesn’t put up with any of Copper’s bullshit. Despite Copper’s self-justifying’ behavior, in the end Maggie offers Copper a home for as long as she needs it, even after her own mother is released from the treatment program. Open with Copper at every turn, in the end Copper feels bad enough about lying to Maggie that she does seriously consider…well, growing up. And also considering the very real possibility that her own mother might not be able to provide her with a home. At least I get the feeling that Copper’s beginning to recognize that these aggravating rule-bearers are people in their own right. Not just her caretakers I’ll admit here that Copper at first comes across as being…what? Spoiled? Entitled? Self-centered? Twelve? Having grown up in a manipulative environment, raised by an alcoholic mother with no money-management skills and a stepfather who doesn’t regard her as his own child, in the sense of someone for whom you’re responsible?

Reading this as an adult, I can see that a lot of Copper’s problems do come back to that last issue. But this is an afterschool special type of book. A good one, perhaps, but I think it’s meant more to be enjoyable, and teach a lesson to kids about what constitutes a family, than provide an in-depth analysis of child rearing to adults. All standard disclaimers apply; I was given this book by someone else who reviewed it on WordPress, though with no obligation to review it at all, much less give it a good review. Just give this beloved book a Forever Home. Review by Nikki B.

  • 1having spent some time in Seattle, yeah: Copper’s right on the mark here, at least from a twelve-year-old’s perspective. Marysville is hicksville, if you’ve grown up in Seattle.
  • 2As an adult, reading between the lines, I can guess that Copper’s mother was simply drunk enough of the time that she couldn’t be bothered with Copper
  • 3see where this is leading?
  • 4never mind the liability of discarding said child simply because she might become a liability!
  • 5never mind that she’s just had the wits scared out of her and the two strange men are the police officers she’s had the presence of mind to call

Long Lankin by Lindsay Barraclough

Hello, children. All tucked in for the night? I’ve a lovely bedtime story for you. Too bad the storms have taken out the power lines and brought down the phone lines, but then I find that the flicker of a single candle’s light is so much more conducive to letting one’s imagination roam free.

What’s that you say? Someone’s coming up the stairs? Nonsense. It’s just the wind blowing across the marshes. This house always creaks, in calm and in storm…let me lock the door, just to make you more comfortable. Here, let me tuck up your comforter a bit higher, for protection against the phantoms of the night…er, drafts.

All set? Then let me begin. Barraclough’s novel Long Lankin is based on a ballad by the same name, in which a departing husband warns his wife to beware Long Lankin, who lives in the (depending on which version you’re singing) hay, moss, moors or marsh, and to fasten the doors and windows firmly against Lankin while the husband’s away…of course Lankin gets in anyway, or we wouldn’t have much of a ballad or story. He kills the baby, with the assistance of the erstwhile nurse. Lankin is hung, the nurse burned. There’s some question in regards the original ballad as to whether Lankin’s a living human being, or something more supernatural. Barraclough chooses option B.

Barraclough follows this basic trope and elaborates on it, in the process channeling every single nocturnal phantasm of my childhood; I challenge anyone to read this book on a dark and stormy night while alone in a house apart from any other human dwelling. Heck, I had trouble reading it myself in broad daylight—but then it’s hard to see the text when you’re hiding behind the sofa from the book.

The year is 1958, and Cora and her younger sister Mimi have been sent to live with their (great)Aunt Ida, in a small village caught between the tidal marshes and the deserted moors. (Yep. Exactly what you’re thinking.) Ida clearly does not want them, though she doesn’t specify why; the children simply assume it’s because she’s a crotchety, eccentric old lady who prefers to live alone. Ida insists on a number of peculiar restrictions: keep all the doors locked and the windows nailed shut, don’t go down to the near-derelict old church, don’t go near the creek or the tidal flats and so on. The children do their best, but soon rebel against remaining in the musty stuffy overheated house.

Needless to say, the kids disobey her the first chance they get, as who wouldn’t given the lack of explanations. Needless to say, the kids trigger the supernatural events of the book thereby. We progress from Mimi restarting wetting the bed because she’s too afraid to pass the creepy portrait hanging over the bathroom door to sightings of figures from nightmare associated with the derelict church and barred lychgate…to Lankin himself pursuing the four children and Aunt Ida through a long-forgotten crypt. We do find out more about who Lankin and the other ghosts are and their connection to the children narrating the story through the children’s research…but I’ll leave that for the readers to discover. Just remember to read this during the bright daylight.

The story is told in first person narrative, shifting primarily between Cora and Roger, with occasional forays into Ida’s perspective, and those of the historical figures. It might help if readers are familiar with the Long Lankin ballad, and American readers with English1 history of the past four hundred years, but not obligatory.

Steeleye Span’s version of the ballad, reasonably accurate.
Things I’ve learned from British folksongs, for those of us who can stand a joke.

1Hush now. That’s where the story takes place.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Sometimes the worst thing to have happen to you isn’t your mother coercing you into attending your father’s wedding to a woman you (and she) have never met.

As the book begins, Our Protagonist Hadley is rushing through JFK to catch a plane to London to be a bridesmaid in her father’s1 wedding to a woman2 Hadley’s never met, for whom her father left her mother after a semester’s sabbatical in Oxford. She misses the plane’s boarding window by four minutes; while the airline can at least get her on the next flight out to London, at ten o’clock that night, the delay means she’ll arrive in London a mere two hours before the wedding is to take place.

She ends up meeting The Love Interest3 in the gate area’s waiting zone, when she decides to go for something to eat but the woman sitting next to her refuses to look after Hadley’s carryon luggage while she’s in the food court. Oliver, being a reasonably gentlemanly sort, comes with her to assist with her baggage, and divert himself. As luck, or rather an author with an eye to foreshadowing, would have it, the two sit next to one another on the flight, and alternate between falling asleep on one another’s shoulders and sharing secrets and pretzels.

Well, she does. He’s a bit cagy, and clearly there’s something about his father that’s not quite right; he looks at her oddly and changes the subject whenever she presses him for details. It isn’t until the marriage ceremony is over—Hadley makes it in the squeak of time and even serves as bridesmaid with a bid of emergency touching up from the bride’s family—and someone mentions needing to leave to attend a funeral for a friend, another Oxford don, in Paddington at two pm that Hadley realizes that it is Oliver’s father4.

She rushes away from her father, attempting to assemble everyone for the post-ceremony photo shoot, and rushes off through a strange city to seek Oliver. Ordinarily, she’d have no chance…but hey, this is a ‘love at first sight’ book. She finds him, and in enough time to have a word of apology before he has to go into his church session. She thinks that’s the end of it; they’ve known each other for less than twenty-four hours, right? No, he gate-crashes her father’s reception, having had little more idea of where she’ll be than she did him.

Now before anyone starts getting dizzy from rolling their eyes, it’s not quite as ghastly as I’ve made it out to be; certainly, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is no less implausible than a lot of the YA, new adult and full-on adult chicklit I’ve read. It’s decently written. It’s decently edited. The characterization’s reasonable for such a short book. Smith didn’t attempt to squeeze more of a plot into the book than would fit; we’re talking a timespan of twenty-four hours with just enough backstory to fill in the details.

There are a few hiccups, other than the basic one of whether you really can fall in love at first sight. Airlines are pissy enough when you miss a connection for reasons that aren’t their fault—blizzards in Denver, say—but missing a flight for any personal reason whatsoever means you’re out of luck. There are a couple of hackneyed plot devices, for which see the footnote. However, and this is a huge caveat, I appreciate the fact that Andrew and Hadley begin to make up, after two years of minimal interaction after he left her mother. Also, that Charlotte is being friendly without any intimation of “becoming Hadley’s mother”, or even suggesting that Hadley will have a life with them rather than with her biological mother. Hadley’s there for the wedding and she’s going back to the States afterward; if they’re on speaking terms, that’s as good as could be hoped right then.

Oh, and Hadley has a nice time dancing with Oliver.

4yes, I know, I know: London’s a huge city and there will inevitably be a number of funerals going on at any given time, just as there are at least several weddings. This, however, isn’t quite as implausible a plot device as it sounds, though, if you think about it. Trust me; there won’t be many Oxford professors getting buried in a specific neighborhood at the time when Our Boi had to attend a mandatory family gathering

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Jill MacSweeney is a teenager mourning the loss of her father. She lives in a wealthy neighborhood in Denver, Colorado.

Mandy Kalinowski is a teenager, pregnant and desperate to escape her mother’s household. She lives in the decidedly downmarket town of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The two meet when Mandy contacts Jill’s mother in order to arrange a private adoption. The catch is that Mandy needs to come to Denver to have the baby, and to have her expenses paid. Robin agrees, and Mandy sneaks out of her mother’s house to take the train from Omaha to Denver.

The two girls don’t exactly hit it off. Jill remains suspicious of Mandy and wary of her mother’s determination to adopt a baby so soon after her own husband’s death; she asks an acquaintance to investigate this intruder into the home she regards as her own. Mandy finds Jill and Robin almost incomprehensible in their insistence on clean living and nutritious eating; she desperately keeps her secrets hidden–the stolen watch, her mother’s threats, and ultimately who the father of her child is. It is only when Jill answers the phone when Mandy’s mother calls, that she realizes the extent and depth of seediness that Mandy was attempting to conceal that her resolve flipflops.

In the end, there’s a happy ending: Robin adopts…not Mandy’s baby, but Mandy herself1.

The book alternates between Jill and Mandy’s perspectives. On the plus side, this allows the author to present each girl’s hidden thoughts and motivations; without that additional background, each girl seems decidedly unpleasant to the other when they first meet, and indeed both continue to get on one another’s nerves until the denouement of the book. I do appreciate the skill with which Zarr turned the two girls’ (and many of the readers’) initial impressions of one another upside down during the course of the book as we learn more about their perspectives.

On the minus, there was rather a lot of hidden motivations; that strikes me as a potential pitfall as the relationship between the three continued past the end of the book. Shouldn’t they have come clean before the adoption process was completed? Unfortunately, the split perspective allowed only half a book to develop each of the main characters, and I’m left wondering a great deal more about the two girls. Especially Mandy: while it’s possible she could be explained away by “abusive stepfather, neglectful mother, impoverished (culturally and financially) upbringing” but she struck me as being mentally ill/disabled in some way, and I wish Zarr had delved into this aspect a bit more.

I have to confess that I didn’t particularly like any of the three main characters, although they did develop during the course of the book. Mandy seemed to be a not terribly bright bit of poor white trash with a personality disorder that turned daydreams into obsessions, fantasies into stalking. Jill and her mother seemed like pretentious upper-crust do-gooders. (Doesn’t help that Jill has an after-school job at a chain bookstore called “Margins”. Twee coy, much?)

This is another agenda-driven book, and in that regard, reminded me of These Things Hidden. Not because they both concern teen pregnancy, but rather because they’re both written about a real-life issue—How to Save a Life about adult adoption and These Things Hidden about the Safe Haven child welfare laws—and in that regard, seem a bit awkward. While the underlying plot point in How to Save a Life was a bit subtler, the fact that the author did conceal it that long made the denouement seem almost like a shaggy dog plot twist.

1yes: there are laws allowing the adoption of people who are over eighteen, for situations just such as this, when the biological parents refuse to relinquish their parental rights, their child cannot be adopted while a minor.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Taylor Edwards is a fairly typical high-ambition seventeen-year-old, despite being the ‘talentless’ middle child; her older brother is determined to be a lawyer like their father while her younger sister is similarly determined to be a ballet dancer, while she spends her summers in language immersion courses and oceanography internships.

Or at least she has for the past five years, since she did A Terrible Thing to her BFF, Lucy, and the boy they both had a crush on, the summer that they were all twelve. Tragically, her father has been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer on the day of Taylor’s birthday in May; the family decides that they will spend one last summer together in their summer home in the Poconos.

…which means that Taylor must confront both Lucy and Henry, in addition to being tossed into the deep end of her first summer job, all in addition to spending as much time with her father as she can in his last few weeks of life. (This is the ‘second chance’ of the title: making up with her friends, whom she dissed five years previously when they were all twelve: she fell in crush with the cute boy with whom her BFF had already decided she was going to fall in love that summer…but didn’t tell either of them about BFF’s feelings for Cute Boy.) Oh, and take in the dog left behind by the long-term renters who’d departed only a week or so before the family arrives.

The novel ends, as it inevitably must, with the death of the father, but the children have grown and developed personally; Taylor has made up with Lucy and Henry, Warren has branched out from his studies to court a girl who is herself studying to be a veterinarian and Gelsey learns how to make friends and have sleepovers.

Overall, it’s a good straightforward ‘teen angst’ book for kids who’ve outgrown Judy Blume; it has no fantasy elements, no supernatural characters, no magic. Just a family facing the death of the father/husband, told from the perspective of the middle girl. It does have a certain degree of “rich white girl” problems, set as it is in a town of largely summer residents escaping the heat of The Big City, but dealing with the death of a parent is fairly universal. In that regard, it’s appropriate for a range of readers. In some ways, I wish Matson had chosen to concentrate on either the father’s illness or the children’s maturation during the summer, as she has to split the book between the two processes, and I’m left feeling a bit like she gave them both short shrift. That said, they would not have had the opportunity had their father NOT had pancreatic cancer, as that’s why they’ve all come together back to the Poconos. Otherwise, they would have just continued on their paths of separation.

What to read next? If it’s the “death of a parent” aspect, I’d suggest Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light, for kids who liked the straightforwardness of this book plus elements of friendship/boys, or Patrick Ness/Siobhan Dowd’s A Monster Calls, for kids who prefer books with a supernatural element.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

For those who’ve somehow missed four books, five movies and quite a lot of hoopla—perhaps you’re living under the rock next door to the rock where all the people who missed Harry Potter have congregated—here’s the plot summary: Bella Swan is moving from the greater Phoenix area up to Fork, a bitty little town on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Her parents are divorced, and her mother is now remarried to a minor-league baseball player who’s considering shifting over to a team in Florida; it therefore makes sense for Bella to live with her father in Washington until things settle down for/with her mother.

Needless to say, moving from a large city in Arizona to a small town in rural Washington comes as something of a shock to our protagonist. Issues range from the continually dampish weather to the public library being so small. The fact that the high school has fewer students in its entirety than her own grade in the Phoenix high school is particularly worrisome…until she sees the hypnotically beautiful Cullens. Graceful and gorgeous as models, the five kids draw attention to themselves merely by breathing.

Other students warn her that they’re standoffish, and indeed Edward seems actively repulsed by her initially to the point of trying to switch out of the science lab class they have together. Until he flip-flops and begins following her intently. Unable to resist, Bella is sucked into his sphere of influence irretrievably, despite warnings from the Native American kid, Jacob, whose father has warned him about the dangerous Cullens.

In the course of this book, we find out many things about the vampires’ society; they’re physically superhuman, they sparkle in daylight, they never sleep, and more specifically, the Cullen coven is a bit unusual in that they refuse to drink human blood. Instead, they make do with animals. Their refusal to hunt humans makes them something of an outcast group among their own kinds, but being moral beings, they take the high road and remain isolated. Oh, and Bella smells absolutely amazing to Edward; to him, she has the One Perfect Scent Source of which all vampires dream. This means that she is destined to become his soul mate and life partner…at least for the short span allotted humans relative to vampires. She cannot bear aging faster than the One True Love of Her Life. He lusts for her scent. Therefore she concludes that he must make her One Of Them.

…and we’re set up for another three books.

As a budding editor, I spotted more than a few factual errors, of varying degrees of (un)factuality.
     1) Travel times mentioned in the book perplex me. Bella mentions a four-hour flight from Phoenix to Seattle; in my experience, it’s four hours between Chicago and Seattle by air, and Phoenix to Seattle is more like three hours, according to American Airlines. Later in the book, Bella is surprised that the Cullens manage to drive from Forks to Phoenix in less that 24 hours. Well, if you’re a normal human being, sure: of course it will take three days to drive that distance, what with pit stops and eating and sleeping and what have you. If, however, you’re a speed freak supernatural being who doesn’t need to eat or sleep or pee, Seattle to Phoenix overnight is perfectly doable.
     2) The Cullens have moved to this part of Washington because it’s raining or cloudy all year ’round. Possibly, but only if the Olympic Peninsula has drastically different weather patterns from the rest of Western Washington and northern Oregon. The general weather pattern is, as I recall, permacloud for most of the winter and much drier weather during the summer.
     3) There are typos of the sort that a human can catch but a computer won’t; there are a lot of homonyms that are real words, but not the one the author intended (‘naval’ piercing, e.g.). In this case, in order to limit the word count, the one I’m going to mention is moat/mote. The first one is a channel dug around a castle as a protective measure. The second is a minuscule fleck. Those little specks you see dancing around in rays of sunshine? They’re the latter.

…and so on.

Additionally as an adult who reads a lot, I can spot several developmental editing issues, such as the flat characterization and lack of backstory suggested herein. I have to wonder a bit about Meyer’s presentation of the vampires; she’s not the first to suggest that they can go out in daylight, but remains a bit foggy on the details of why vampires aren’t entirely nice to be around. Instead, her vampires come out being more superhuman than frighteningly supernatural, with no real drawbacks.

Others have touched on Edward’s possible pedophilic behavior—he may look seventeen but he’s actually over ninety, and unless vampires are frozen mentally and psychologically at the age they were when “changed” in addition to physically, he’s considerably older than she. I’d add to that the fact that at even half Edward’s putative age, the idea of returning to high school is a repellent one to me. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back! In fairness to Meyer, I don’t remember any other authors mentioning practicalities that she leaves out: wouldn’t the kids need transcripts and immunization records from their previous “school”? how do you explain to the DMV that you look 28 but were born in 1640? and for that matter, how about Social Security numbers?

…and so on.

What to read next? If Twilight was just right (and I know there are a lot of people who think so!), try Maggie Stievater’s books in the “Shiver” sequence, especially if you’re a ‘Team Jacob’ kind of girl. For those who want something from the adult section, Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches (and its sequel) might be a good place to start; they’re similar in many regards, though Harkness’ book is a bit more complex, being intended for adults. If you still like vampires after reading this (or any of the books in the series) but find the language a bit simplistic and the characterization flat, try Anne Rice’s “Vampire” books”. Another possibility, if you find these too SRZ, are S.P. Somtow’s The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter (a stand-alone) and his Timmy Valentine books.

As for the Team Edward/Team Jacob split, frankly I’m neither. I’m Team Constantine.

I love vampires

Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis

Luther T. Farrell, fifteen years old and in ninth grade, wants to be a Famous American Philosopher by the time he’s twenty-one. He studies hard, and is aiming to win the middle school1 science fair for the third year in a row.

The catch? His mother, whom he calls “the Sarge” for very good reason. The Sarge is, to put it bluntly, a slum landlord, a loan shark, and the operator of several group homes of the sort that get written up for criminal violations…or they would if she didn’t get advance warning from her friends who owe her significant debts about when the state inspectors are coming around. Luther’s been working for his mother since he was old enough to manage a mop. He began simply enough, helping her clean the rentals she owns after the tenants leave2. When he was thirteen, his mother set him up as the live-in staff member for one of her group homes, complete with a driver’s license created by the manager of a DMV branch who owed her a lot of money, so that he could drive the residents to their appointments. For the past two and a half years, he’s been working full-time and then some for his mother, between the group home and helping Darnell, the Sarge’s chief go-to employee, “renovate” his mother’s properties between tenants; he believes that his mother’s been setting his pay aside for him in a savings account so that he can attend college when the time comes.

No. She hasn’t…but that’s the main plot point of the book.

His best friend, Sparky, spends most of the book trying to come up with get-rich quick schemes, usually involving faking a lawsuit up. His chief rival for the science fair prizes, Shayla Patrick, disses him at every turn; she is not only brighter than he, and a better scientist, but is the girl on whom he’s had a crush since the first day of kindergarten3. Good role models, at least from the non-Flint perspective4, are a bit thin on the ground for Luther when the book begins; he is clearly expecting to follow into his mother’s business when he gets older, though at fifteen he is beginning to realize just what his mother is, and that he does not have to be she, though he is her son.

It is not until Luther is deep in the middle of the hoopla surrounding his tie for first prize with Shayla for the science fair that he realizes just what he’s uncovered: his own mother has been using lead-based paints between tenants in her properties…paint that the state presumed safely disposed of, but which The Sarge regarded as a free source of supplies for her own personal gain. And unfortunately, it’s at the medal ceremony that The Sarge herself also realized what her son’s uncovered. She gives him four days to clear out, while she is in Washington D.C. on business, but in the course of making deposits at the bank in her absence, Luther finds out the extent of her business dealings. He does his best to set things right before taking off for Florida with the elderly roommate she’s lumbered him with at the beginning of the book.

As with several of Curtis’s previous books, this one’s set in Flint, Michigan; Bucking the Sarge is, however, more or less contemporaneous with the time of its writing. For those who don’t particularly care for Curtis’s books (and I know you’re out there), don’t worry. I think I’ve read all of his books that are currently available to me in libraries, and so won’t be blogging about (many) more of them. For those who have read and enjoyed his children’s books, keep in mind that this is different from the others, to say the least. It’s written for an older audience, and is often categorized as a YA/teen book for reasons starting with “the protagonist’s a teenager himself”. It’s darker than many of his other books, not least because it is set now–no glossing over the darker aspects of the book by saying “Well, it’s set in the past; things are better now!” Curtis does keep a lighthearted tone through this book as well, but as with The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963, that brightness just highlighted the social aspects for me.

Overall, I’d recommend it wholeheartedly, though, for African-American kids who can’t see the point of facing a society dominated by people unlike them5, but more importantly for that larger society! I appreciate authors who are willing to stand up and say “Hey guys, look! There’s an elephant in the room!” and I appreciate authors who can create kids who are clearly bright but who are also kids; none of the pollyannaish

1school districts’ divisions between elementary, middle, and high schools vary a bit. Don’t let that throw you.
2get evicted
3Shayla’s mother tells Luther, as he stops by to say goodbye on his way out of town at the end, that Shayla’s had a major crush on him since that very same first day of kindergarten
4yes, that’s a euphemism in the extreme, but I’ll let readers figure that out for themselves, if they’re not familiar with southeast Michigan.
5sorry, yes: that’s another euphemism