Chapter Two

One week earlier…

Makayla pushed the closet door open with too much force, and it slammed against the wall.


“Hey, babe. Cool it.” Jared mumbled and rolled over in bed.

“Sorry,” Makayla said through a yawn. She hated packing even more than she hated getting up early. “I’m not used to this new place yet. Closet doors, shower heads, the deadbolt sticking. And I can’t fucking find anything in here. You think you could do some unpacking while I’m gone?”

“Yeah. Sure. Maybe.”

Makayla rolled her eyes and unearthed her suitcase from under a pile of dirty clothes she hadn’t had time to wash. As she stood up, she felt a dull ache at the base of her skull.

Great. I really can’t afford a migraine today, of all days.

Why she had waited so long to pack for this work trip, she didn’t know. It wasn’t like her to put something off that would end up causing her more anxiety. She was constantly worried she’d forget something important. Wait, yes she did know. She’d been so wrapped up in the move and wedding planning and looking perfect at work that she’d barely had enough time for sleep, let alone anything else.

At least all of her work clothes were in the same wardrobe moving box, all freshly dry cleaned and still in their plastic bags. She grabbed three suits – two pants and one skit suit – and folded them into her case as neatly as she could. Toiletries, hand sanitizer, extra face masks. Makayla rummaged through her toiletry bag, found two Tylenol, and popped them in her mouth. After slurping down some water from the bathroom sink, she added her laptop and charging chords and some flats for walking around the city. She had never been to Seattle before and she was hoping she’d have some time between meetings to go enjoy some coffee and maybe see the fish market.

I wonder if they’ll still be out throwing fish? Is that still a thing? Shit, I really should’ve looked at out of state regulations before today. I was so focused on being prepared for my presentation that I forgot to check. Ugh. I’ll just have to see when I get there.

Makayla tugged on her favorite pair of yoga pants made to look like work pants with a button down and a navy blazer, hit the button on the coffee machine – the lone appliance unpacked and out on the counter – and flicked on the TV before sticking her head inside the fridge to search for edible breakfast items.

The TV’s volume was barely audible above the grinding of the automatic espresso machine: We interrupt your regularly scheduled programing to bring you this special report-

Makayla’s phone rang, blaring the theme song to the long-since canceled show The OC: We’ve been on the run, driving in the sun, looking out for-

“Hey Mom, I’m kinda in a rush right now. I’ve gotta catch my flight to Seattle today, remember?”

“Honey, are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“It’s going to be fine, Mom. People have been flying safely for over six months now.”

“Have you seen the news this morning? How close is your new place to that hospital?”

“The hospital is a few miles away. What news? Look, I have to go soon.” Makayla put her phone on speaker, grabbed her now full cup of coffee, and turned toward the TV.

“There’s some kind of security problem. They don’t know if it’s a shooting or what. What if the shooter is still on the loose?!”

Makayla spoke through a mouthful of gluten-free English muffin. “What? My Uber will be here in ten minutes and the airport is the opposite direction from the hospital. I’ll be ok. Wish me luck on my presentation!”

“Oh, you’ll do great, I know you will. I don’t know why you had to move to the sickest state in the country!”

“That’s old news, Mom. In fact, it’s probably safer here now as a result. You can call me again tonight if you need to, I just can’t talk right now. Love you!”

“I just might. Love you, sweetie. Safe flight! Wear your mask!”

Makayla hung up and switched the TV off. An image of the local hospital building surrounded by hazmat suits and law enforcement with weapons drawn was replaced with darkness.

Makayla wrenched her heels on mid-stride, stomped into the bedroom, and bent over to kiss Jared on the part of his head not covered by bedsheets.

“I’ll be back in a few days. Don’t you have work today? Anyway, I gotta go. Please stock the fridge while I’m gone! Love!”

“Mmmrph.” The reply came muffled from under the covers.

Okay, let’s see…purse, keys, phone, mask, rain jacket…good.

Makayla turned the doorknob and yanked before remembering the deadbolt. Several jiggles and shimmies and fucks later, the lock popped open.

Ugh! Reminder to grease that lock.

She fumbled for her mask as she walked down the hallway at full speed, stopping to pick up her suitcase before the stairs. In front of the building her Uber was already waiting, but she had to jog around a college age kid who knelt doubled over on the sidewalk, puking up the previous night’s regrets.

Argh! Makayla winced as pain shot up her right ankle. Although she had technically been cleared by her doctor to wear heels again after spraining her ankle, she still wasn’t at 100%.

Security through the airport wasn’t so bad, but times had changed since before the pandemic. The new normal included temperature checks, a vaccine passport, mask mandates, and dogs able to sniff out the virus even in the most asymptomatic. Any physiological deviation from standard CDC health metrics, or failure to follow safety protocol landed passengers in a holding cell, no exceptions. Oregon officials were extremely keen to avoid additional outbreaks, or the appearance of them, ever since Portland was deemed ground zero three years prior.

It had been hellish for Makayla to experience the effects of the rapidly unfolding pandemic before it technically was a pandemic. With a whopping fatality rate of 4-5%, city-wide lockdown in Portland was swift and long lasting. Within a few weeks of the initial reported cases and subsequent deaths, streets emptied, businesses shuttered, and Makayla’s classes at Portland State moved exclusively online. Makayla was never able to go back to campus as a student; she completed the last year and a half of her undergraduate business degree in her tiny shared apartment, even attending her graduation ceremony virtually.

Makayla stepped into the end of the TSA line and paused for them to take her temperature. The thermometer gave a chirp and the masked agent waved her through. While maneuvering her clunky suitcase around the bend in the line, she heard a shrill beep behind her.

“No! Try it again, please.” The man in the middle aged couple behind Makayla had been stopped. The TSA agent holding the thermometer was blocking the entrance to the line through security. By the looks of it, the man’s wife had already been screened and passed, as she was behind the agent, already in line.

The TSA agent raised the infrared thermometer and hit the button. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. This time, two agents materialized immediately and grabbed the man’s arms.

“NO! PLEASE! I feel fine, really! I’m vaccinated!” The man began to twist and struggle as the agents muscled him out of line. “HELENA! They can’t do this!”

The woman screamed and pushed past the temperature-taking TSA agent to run after her husband, leaving her luggage behind. Everyone’s eyes tracked the commotion until they disappeared through a heavy door next to the bathrooms.

That hasn’t happened in quite some time. Makayla shuddered and rifled through her purse. She extracted her travel size hand sanitizer and administered some liquid peace of mind, a ritual that had become automatic and obsessive.

Thankfully, the rest of the security line went smoothly, although folks seemed to be more on edge after the forced quarantine incident, and Makayla arrived at her gate and began scanning the rows of seats for her coworker, Jessica. Not hard to spot in her bright purple suit and mass of springy, wild curls, Jessica was several years older than Makayla and had become something of a mentor to her during their time at Nike. Where Makayla was new and unsure of herself, Jessica knew the ropes, didn’t take any shit from anyone, and took pride in helping to lift up other women, especially at work. Makayla was incredibly grateful and over the past year had come to view Jessica as more of a big sister she never had.

“Heeey, lady!” Jessica squealed through her sequined mask. “I saved you a seat. I even got you a coffee cuz the line was super long. You can thank me later.”

“Oh my god, you’re a lifesaver.” Makayla perched on the edge of the chair next to Jessica and pulled down her mask to take a quick sip.

“So, are you ready?! What am I saying, of course you’re ready. You’re gonna knock ’em dead, and you’ll be a shoo-in for a promotion this coming year.”

Makayla’s eyes grew wide. “You really think so?”

“Of course I do. And I’ll put a good word in, too. You have fresh perspective, and those old fogies at the top need to wake up and pay attention if they’re going to keep profit margins up. Trust me.” Jessica took a sip of her own double shot flat white.

Makayla let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. “Thanks for the confidence, Jess. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’d do just fine. You’d just have less free coffee.” Jessica winked.

An announcement sounded: It’s now time to begin boarding for flight 5995 to Seattle. Half the people surrounding Makayla and Jessica gathered their things and went to crowd the general vicinity of the entrance to the gate. An older woman across from them was using a cane and struggling to stand, as she was allowed to board first. Her limbs were shaking so violently that the cane was useless and she fell back down to her seat. Jessica jumped up, ready to help her to the gate, but just as she leaned over and extended a hand, the older woman projectile vomited all down the front of Jessica’s gorgeous new suit.

“Oh shit! Oh, it’s okay, it’s okay!” Jessica hurriedly tried to sweep multicolored vomit off her suit but only managed to smear it around. Makayla, suppressing the urge to gag, immediately began rummaging in her purse for some tissue or napkins, anything to help clean up.

“Ack!” Jessica yelped. Makayla looked up. The older woman had slid from her chair and was now on the floor, seemingly unconscious. “Help! She needs medical help!”

This time, Makayla jumped up. She knelt down beside the woman and began checking for responsiveness, a pulse, breathing. “Are you okay? Can you hear me?” Makayla got no response from the woman and she was vaguely aware of some commotion over at the check-in desk. Pulse was faint, breathing shallow. Makayla’s shaking hands were about to tilt the woman’s chin up to help open her airway when she was violently pushed aside by two EMTs in bulky yellow hazmat suits. The EMTs lifted the woman into a wheelchair that was pushed by a young woman in a flight attendant uniform.

The EMTs yelled muffled commands as they worked. “Clear the area please! Give her some room!”

The older woman’s head rolled around on her neck as the EMTs attempted to sit her up in the chair. She was moaning now, and some kind of froth was still dribbling from her maskless mouth. One EMT had to hold the woman’s head in place as they began to wheel her from the gate and down the hall.

“OUCH! HEY!” The EMT’s gloved hand shot up in the air, gushing blood. “SHE FUCKING BIT ME!”

At that moment, the older woman fell forward from the wheelchair and face planted on the cold tile with a sick thwap, where her body began violently convulsing.

Makayla, Jessica, and the rest of the people in the waiting area stood transfixed, unable to look away from the unfolding trauma, although many were unconsciously backing away towards the entrance to the gate. For a split second, Makaya’s eyes instinctively shot over to the right to look out the window. The plane was still there, attached to the jetway.

Now law enforcement and more medical personnel in full PPE were pouring into the hallway. The older woman’s body was still shaking uncontrollably and the EMTs were struggling to get her onto a stretcher that had just arrived. Makayla’s left arm floated up and grabbed the hem of Jessica’s now ruined suit jacket. She tugged twice. Jessica’s eyes caught hers and she motioned her head towards the gate. Jessica’s head gave the tiniest of nods and her hand reached back to find Makayla’s and give it a squeeze.

With one hand on each of their suitcases and the remaining two clutching each other, they began nudging through the stunned crowd. People began to notice the movement and made to follow. Just as the ladies reached the flight attendant still scanning tickets, they heard a sound like a cornered animal.

Makayla turned around to see the older woman still on the ground, but now moving with purpose. The woman growled and groped and pawed at the medical workers around her, reminding Makayla of the childhood cat she’d once had to give a bath. The woman’s jaws were snapping and finally found purchase on the bicep of a male EMT. Yellow plastic, muscle, and sinew were ripped away from bone, followed by a flood of bright red blood that quickly pooled on the floor.

Screams erupted that broke the waiting passengers from their collective stupor. Makayla and Jessica were pushed from behind and had to stagger on their heels to keep from falling over their suitcases. The flight attendant abandoned her desk and ran down the jetway. The ladies took the cue and broke into a run. Their heels and suitcase wheels thundered down the jetway, closely followed by scared businessmen and screaming moms dragging crying children.

Jessica threw herself through the door of the plane and down the aisle, not letting go of Makayla’s hand. They crammed into the first two seats they found, shoving their suitcases under the seats in front of them.

From their seats, they could hear the flight attendant yelling at the front of the plane. “Seal the cockpit door and get ready to taxi! We need to get away from the gate!”

Screams echoed from inside the jetway.

Jessica moved to undo her seatbelt. “Shit. They’d better close that door and get us out of here.”

“What are you doing?!” Makayla hissed. “Sit down!”

“I’m making sure the job gets done. As always.”

Jessica slipped off her heels and bent forward, coming up with one in her right hand. “Just in case the flight marshal hasn’t shown up yet.” She winked, and fought past a stream of moving bodies to get back to the door.

Just as Jessica’s body became obscured by everyone else’s, a low growl ripped through the jetway and rumbled up into Makayla’s chest.

“JESSICA!” Makayla screamed, still buckled to her seat.

The plane’s engine suddenly rumbled to life and Makayla could hear screaming and scuffling over the captain’s announcement.

“This is your Captain speaking. Due to an emergency of unknown nature, we will depart immediately. Please take your seats and prepare for takeoff.”

Makayla could then hear the whirring mechanism of the closing door, and she craned her neck to see if Jessica was still on board. She saw the hair first, before the stained purple suit came limping back. Jessica had cuts and scratches on her face, and now her suit was also torn in places. Her mask must have gotten clawed off.

“What happened?! Are you okay?” Makaya’s eyes swept over Jessica, looking for injuries.

Jessica lowered her voice and ducked her head before answering. “That EMT, the one whose hand had gotten bit, he came running down the tunnel and fucking attacked some guy. Like, full-on body slam. And then we had to shove people back so they could close the door. The fuck is going on? I thought I’d seen it all. And those were my lucky work shoes, too.”

Jessica leaned her head back on the headrest and closed her eyes. Makayla took out her phone and was about to put it in airplane mode, but decided to try and make a quick call just as the plane lifted off the ground.


NaNoWriMo – where I boldly attempt to write a novel in 30 days with zero experience and minimal planning

2798 words

Chapter One

Think, dumbass, think. Where are they?

She tore through the stacked boxes, unable to read the neatly printed labels written in purple Sharpie through tears sloshing across her field of vision.

Makayla Burke frantically wiped the back of her hand across her face.

What’s this one? Shit, dishes.

A blue ceramic salad plate fell and shattered in her haste to shove the heavy box aside and she had to fight back a fresh wave of emotion. Those were an early wedding present. More like a housewarming, really.

She hadn’t had any time to unpack, save for her work clothes and some makeup. Like she’d be needing those now.

Shoes…..shoes…..YES!

The box labeled “Workout Gear” had been underneath piles of Jared’s stuff – video game cartridges, tools, home brewing supplies. Makayla made a mental note to check the fridge before she left. Maybe there were a few bottles still in there.

At the bottom of the box she finally found her coral pink Nike running shoes and a wad of bunched up athletic socks. She kicked off the muddy men’s sneakers she’d been wearing, quickly shedding her drenched, ripped pantsuit, and tugged on her musty running outfit before looking for her rain gear. Since moving to the Portland, Oregon area five years ago, she’d learned the hard way that you didn’t get very far without waterproof clothing in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s a good thing Jared got me into backpacking, ugh.

Makayla found the camping and outdoor gear shoved in a corner and located her backpacking pack, already halfway full of supplies she usually needed on weekend trips in the wilderness.

A scream ripped through the building, and Makayla froze, listening. She could still hear some sirens in the distance and now there was some shouting out on the street, but nothing too close. Just to be sure, she got up and tip-toed to the front door to make sure the deadbolt was still in place. She peeked through the peephole and could see nothing new. Only the apartment door across the hall, a fresh red stain smeared around the doorknob.

With renewed urgency, Makayla set to work looking for things that she might need once she left. Clothes, a hat, an extra pair of running shoes strapped to the outside of the pack (she knew one day all those shoes from Nike would actually come in handy). She placed a few stray water bottles down inside along the sides.

Goddamnit. I can’t count on you to go grocery shopping, ever!

Upon opening the fridge, Makayla was greeted by a half-eaten pizza and one last bottle of Jared’s home brew, complete with the little homemade labels she’d designed for him: a little white bunny under the words Hoppy Ending IPA.

Fucking Portlanders and their fucking obsession with pinesol-tasting beer. I guess it’ll have to do, one for the road.

She wasn’t sure if she should laugh or continue crying, so she did neither and gingerly wrapped the bottle in a sweatshirt and stuffed it into her pack. The pizza she shoved into her mouth before she did a final sweep of the apartment.

Makayla walked over to the big flatscreen TV, one of the few things Jared had unpacked, along with his now vintage Xbox, grabbed the remote and hit the power button. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to see, or rather, what she was afraid she’d see, but she still wanted whatever information was available about the state of the world. At the very least, she wanted to see if the TV would turn on at all.

Static. Not a good sign.

She flicked it off and shook her head in an effort to block out the questions bubbling up about what it meant. There were way too many unknowns right now and no way to be prepared for them all.

Heading into the bedroom, Makayla shielded her eyes from the shredded, bloodstained sheets, which were pristine and full of hope the last time she saw them. They were meant for a life she’d never have. She made a beeline for the dresser. While it didn’t have clothes in it yet, and now never would, it supported her jewelry box – a gift from her parents once upon a time. Not one for wearing much jewelry, Makayla selected a gold locket that her parents had given her on her tenth birthday. She zipped it into the front pocket of her rain pants. As she turned to leave the room she caught sight of a lone item on Jared’s bedside table – the swiss army knife he usually wore everywhere.

A lot of good it did him today.

She grabbed it and gingerly brought it to her lips for a brief moment before stuffing it down the side of her sock.

After going pee one last time and making a concerted effort not to throw up the pizza she had just gorged (she was going to need the calories), she heaved her now full and heavy pack onto her back and clicked the straps closed, yanked them tight across her body like one of those anxiety-reducing straightjackets. She closed her eyes and said a silent goodbye to the apartment. It was a goodbye to a place that was barely hers, a goodbye to a life that she wasn’t meant to have, a goodbye to a person who didn’t deserve her.

Makayla took a deep breath in through her nose, and turned the doorknob open as she breathed out through her mouth. After glancing down the hall in both directions and seeing no movement, she turned around and pulled the door shut as quietly as possible. Brandishing the streak knife she had pulled from the kitchen drawer, she power walked down the hall, down the stairs, and out the heavy metal side door to the complex.

There had been a break in the clouds and rain. Makayla took a step out into the blinding sun.


NaNoWriMo Day 1

997 words

Rage. fear. desperation.

My little girl was almost hit by a car today. Almost.

We were on our way home, crossing a busy street. My son was on his bike, my daughter on her scooter and I was on foot. We looked left, we looked right. No cars. We were in a crosswalk. We did everything right.

To the right of the crosswalk is a traffic circle, and I saw a car whip around and it wasn’t slowing down. By this time, I was halfway across, my son was behind me, and my daughter was ahead of me.

I screamed, STOP, [HER NAME], STOP!!!

My girl started to slow down and I lurched forward, groping for her, even though she was still out of reach. I later told my husband that we’d both have been hit if the driver hadn’t slammed on her brakes.

If there was ever a time when I felt like a crazed, full-blown Mama Bear, this was it.

JESUS CHRIST!! I screamed at the car.

SLOW DOWN!!! I bellowed as I threw my arms wide in rage, fear, and desperation. I’m sure my eyes were red and smoke puffed out of my ears. Certainly, adrenaline was pumping through my system.

The driver gave a gesture that I interpreted as apologetic, but it all happened so fast. I just wanted to get back home where we’re safe.

This is several hours later, and I’m still trying to shake the rage. fear. desperation.

A similar incident happened a few months ago, but I was able to shake that one off much sooner. The differences: we weren’t in a pandemic, and I didn’t feel so constantly vulnerable, thinking about health and loved ones and safety and loss. That time, I was close enough to her that I grabbed her hood and yanked her back. Even if the car had continued to run the stop sign, I had successfully pulled her out of the way. Lastly, everyone was moving slower: me, my daughter, the car. It was far less scary, in a far less scary time.

Also a contributing factor: I’m currently experimenting with different cold brew ratios/recipes/techniques and dear baby jesus, I think I made this last batch way too freaking strong. Today I’ve been jittery and strung out. My husband says I’ve been talking a mile a minute today, buthowisthatpossibleIdon’tknowwhatyou’retalkingabout.

Not to mention that I’ve had two nightmares in the past week, one of which was technically a nightmare within a fucking nightmare (so I guess that makes it three nightmares in all). I shit you not, I had a nightmare and in the dream I went to sleep, had yet another nightmare, “woke up,” BUT WAS STILL IN A NIGHTMARE. When I woke up for realsies, you’d better believe it took me a hot minute to be quite certain that I was conscious and the world before me was indeed real. I think it’s high time I made myself a totem, BECAUSE HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT BEING INCEPTED?! Leo?! JGL???

As a surprise to absolutely no one, I’m also knee-deep in a violent dystopian novel. My choices amaze even myself.

Soooooooo there you have it. Too much, too often I feel like the world is burning and I have a front row seat. I can feel the warm glow on my face and I can see the ash falling from the sky.

Everyone, just please do me a favor and SLOW DOWN when you drive. Check the crosswalks. Then check them again. Thanks.

And go easy on the cold brew.

 

I read some books last year

This post is a bit overdue, but better late than never.

I keep a list of just about every book I have ever read since the age of 8 (first book on the list is Little House on the Prairie).  I find it fascinating to look back on the years of books that I chose to read, and my choices really reflect where I was at emotionally, personally, professionally in my life.  These books trigger memories and tell a story all their own.

I wrote a post last year around this time summarizing the books I read during 2011 and the story they told, and in this post I am doing the same for the books I read in 2012, in the order I read them.

First of all, I only read 15 16 (apparently I forgot one – which is now #10 on the list) books in 2012 (compared to 21 in 2011), which is the least number since 2005, and that makes me sad.  Looking over the list, I think the reason for the small number was because I was trying to get through books that didn’t fully capture my fascination, and that means the process took much longer.  For 2013, I plan to spend time choosing books that are more pleasurable to me – I’ve already started World War Z, so I think I’m on the right track.

(all pictures are from Wikipedia)

1.  Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

This book was recommended to me by Brian, and it was fairly interesting, but took me a long time to finish for whatever reason.  If I remember correctly, this book is set in the future, and I describe it as being like The Matrix, even though it was published in 1992.  The main character is named Hiro Protagonist, and he’s a high-speed pizza delivery man and professional hacker.  We’re introduced to this whole virtual world that has its own set of rules and ethics.  Hiro’s good friend is basically turned into a vegetable by this virus/drug called Snow Crash that affects a person’s nervous system in the real world when that person’s avatar is infected in the virtual world.  Hiro is then launched into this adventure with a sassy, scrappy young woman named Y.T. that involves murder, samurai sword fighting, cults, drugs, and the giant mass of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean.

2.  *The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

The asterisk means that I had read this book before, and I was reading this book a second time in preparation for seeing the movie.  I lurve this book.  I love dystopian fiction, and I love a good fight-for-survival story, especially one where the main character is a strong female.  I admired Katniss for her strength, for her competence, and for her courage.  I also admired Effie’s outfits.

3.  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

I had been waiting to read this book for a while, and I was definitely not disappointed.  Jenny Lawson is The Bloggess, aka one of the reasons I started blogging.  This book is a mostly true autobiography that was laugh-out-loud and pee-your-pants hilarious, blunt, vulnerable, and endearing.  I feel like I know her now, better than I ever did before, so maybe I can take a break from some of my weekend stalking escapades.

4.  Dune – Frank Herbert

I read this book because Brian and I struck a deal.  I really wanted Brian to read Half The Sky because it changed my life, and in exchange I told him I would read a book of his choosing, and he chose Dune.  This book was exciting during the action scenes, but it really dragged for me during the downtimes.  From what I remember, this book took place on two distant planets, where a ruling family moved from their home planet to rule over a foreign planet where water was a very scarce resource and sand dunes covered the land.  The family is plunged into turmoil when the husband and father is murdered, and son and heir Paul is forced to flee with his mother into the dunes.  There, they work to earn the trust and learn the way of life of the sand people who have entirely blue eyes (what would normally be the whites of the eyes are blue as well) due to consumption of Spice, which is the main valuable resource on the planet.  The story basically reminded me of Star Wars – picture Paul as a young Luke on his home planet.  One of my favorite parts was Paul’s struggle to learn the coming-of-age task of riding the humongous and highly dangerous sand worms.  Yee-haw!

5.  Politically Correct Bedtime Stories – James Finn Garner

This short, fast read was absolutely hilarious.  Ever wanted to shake the traditional damsels in distress and tell them to take control of their own lives?  Ever thought they should open up a bank account and run for congress instead of fretting about a lost shoe and caring selflessly for 7 little people?  Read this book.

6.  Night – Elie Wiesel

This book is Elie’s true account of surviving the holocaust, including the harrowing death marches right before the liberation.  I cannot even begin to describe how horrifying, powerful, and moving this memoir was for me.  This is the type of book that I am constantly drawn to (I have a problem picking “fun media,” which you’ll see gets worse as the year goes on), and I think it’s because of my thirst to read about human resilience in the face of pure evil.  This book definitely satisfied that need for me.

7.  The Tenth Circle – Jodi Picoult

After Night, I needed a much easier read, and Jodi Picoult was just the answer.  I’ve read a few of her books in the past, and they are all the same, so I knew exactly what to expect for this one…or so I thought.  This book hit a little closer to home than I thought it might since it dealt with rape and the after-effects of it.  Throw in some infidelity, murder mystery, and running away from home for good measure.

8.  Room – Emma Donoghue

This book marked my profound descent into the world of trauma and choosing traumatic books for pleasure that I manage to do every year.  This book was also unlike any book I have ever read in a way that’s hard to describe – I think because we get to see the world through the eyes of 5 year old Jack who has never been outside a 12×12 room.  The narration reminded me of the blunt starkness of Push, but the remarkable similarities to Jaycee Dugard’s real-life account of her 19 year imprisonment freaked me out.  Let me back up: Jack is narrating this story where we find that he and his mother are being held captive by a sick kidnapper who fathered Jack by rape.  Jack describes the normal-as-possible routines that his mom has created for him that involve mealtimes, reading, TV, bathtime, exercise, games – including one “game” that involves screaming at the top of their lungs towards the one skylight they have in Room.  I won’t ruin any more of the book for y’all, but it was exciting and an interesting look into PTSD from the confused and scared eyes of a very isolated, yet hopeful 5 year old.

9.  Fear – Michael Grant

This book is the 5th in a series of 6 books called the Gone novels.  My friend originally recommended Gone to me by saying that it was a young adult series where everyone over the age of 15 suddenly disappears.  My interest was more than peaked.  Basically, these books turned into Lord of the Flies on steroids pretty quick, with a hint of sci-fi in there because some kids realize they have powers.  Sam, the main character, can create balls of burning light with the palms of his hands.  A struggle for power and order ensues, good kids and bad kids emerge, leaders and followers are identified…and they are all trying to figure out where the hell all the adults went and how they’re supposed to survive without them.

I almost didn’t keep reading this series because it started to feel all crazy like Lost did in the second season.  When Gone introduced talking coyotes I figured I was done.  But, something lured me back to this series…it’s fun, they are fast reads, and I like the characters.  The plot is unpredictable and exciting.  I’ll be waiting for all the answers to be revealed in April when the final book comes out.

10. We Thought You Would Be Prettier – Laurie Notaro

So, in the first published draft of this post, I totally forgot this book.  I read it during my vacation to Puerto Rico because it was easy, fun, and it was paperback.  It was recommended to me by a friend because this author was like The Bloggess – and it was, in that it was absolutely hysterical.  I suppose I forgot it because of all those rum punches…

11.  Black and Blue – Anna Quindlan

Sigh, here I went again.  I dove back into trauma land and I kind of regretted it.  I had this book for a long time and just never read it.  It’s fiction, and it’s about a woman and her son fleeing a very abusive husband and dad who also happens to be a cop.  This woman basically goes into hiding, gets a new name for herself and her son, and tries to start over.  While you’re reading this, you’re fucking scared the whole time.  You’re just like the main character – at every moment you’re waiting for her husband to turn up.  This book had a sucky ending and it made me sad.  I usually like to keep books I read but I am planning to give this one away.

12.  Tomorrow When the War Began – John Marsden

Since I liked the Gone books so much, I decided to try this other young adult series that came highly recommended by Brian.  This one is written by an Australian teacher and is about a group of teen Aussie friends.  They go camping in the Australian bush and come back to find that their country has been invaded by a foreign country and all their families have been taken hostage.  What I love about these books is that the kids do what they can to fight back as guerrilla warriors rather than just waiting it out.  Also, all the cool Aussie slang is really great.  Did you know that “chooks” means “chickens”?!  Amazing, mate!

13.  The Dead of the Night – John Marsden

14.  A Killing Frost – John Marsden

There are 7 books in this series and I began to lose interest after the 3rd book.  The books had bursts of action, but really dragged when they were dealing with angst and squabbles amongst themselves.  The young adult books that I like are written as if they were written for adults, and these books are written in a way that talks down slightly to teens and seems to trivialize their inner struggles.  My waning interest directly influenced my next book pick.

15.  *Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer

I’ve read the Twilight books before, and I have a love/hate relationship with them.  Eclipse was my favorite book in the series, and I find myself going back to these mindless reads when I feel like I need to escape life for a while and live in the land of vampires, talking wolves, and annoying powerless females.

16.  Darkness Be My Friend – John Marsden

I tried one last time to get through this series, and I decided that this would be my last Tomorrow book.  Sorry, Mr. Marsden.  I gave it a good try…onto bigger and better books for 2013.

My fellow psychos – what was your favorite book you read in 2012?