When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pullout off the highway, so maybe someone snatched him. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it may be true. So as long as Tommy's whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.
Told in a series of first-person narratives from people who knew Tommy, Evidence of Things Not Seen by award-winning author Lindsey Lane explores themes of loneliness, connectedness, and the role we play in creating our own realities.
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Lindsey Lane received her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the award-winning picture book Snuggle Mountain (Clarion, 2003). A playwright, Lindsey lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
MAY 7 . THREE DAYS MISSING
Really? I might be the last person who saw Tommy Smythe?
I didn’t hardly even see him, Sheriff. It was Friday afternoon. I was heading back to Fred. You know, Fred Johnson High, because of the Cinco de Mayo dress rehearsal. I had to—um, I had to go home right after school because, well, it was that time of the month and I had to change—anyway, I was driving back to Fred and I saw Tommy coming toward me on that red motorbike of his. Ruby. I heard he calls it Ruby. Isn’t that the weirdest? I mean, I named my dolls but that was like in kindergarten. Is that something boys do in high school—name their vehicles?
No, he didn’t look any different, Sheriff. He was wearing his lab goggles, so he looked like this nerd scientist on a scooter. But that was how he always looked. Tall, skinny, kind of goofy looking. He would have been cute if he tried a little. He only had acne on his forehead but that’s because his hair always hung in front of his face. If you want good skin, you have to take care of it. You know, wash your face and drink a lot of water. For being such a science nerd, you’d think he’d understand that stuff.
I’m sorry, Sheriff. Tommy was driving away from school. I was going toward school. It was a little ways down the road from here. I hadn’t passed the entrance to the Stillwell Ranch yet. I’d just gone by this place. You know, the pull-out. I really wish people would call it something else. Like the dirt patch. That’s all it is. Do you know that guys at Fred joke about girls putting out at the pull-out and not pulling out at the pull-out? So gross.
Oh, yeah, Tommy. He was coming toward me on his motorbike. It was ten to four. I know because I looked at my watch and knew I’d probably be fifteen minutes late to the dress rehearsal even though I was already speeding. Oops, I probably shouldn’t say that to you. Ms. Flores, the ballet folklórico teacher, knew I might be a little late and she was cool with it. I knew my part cold. We were doing a couple of traditional Mexican dances in the center of town on Saturday for Cinco de Mayo. Most people don’t believe I’m Mexican until I tell them my whole name: Kimberly Josefina Garcia. That’s where Kimmie Jo comes from. Josefina. I look like my dad but with my mom’s German coloring.
Did I wave to Tommy? No way. I mean, we’re both juniors but we’re really different. Like on two different planets. No, we’re farther apart than that. He’s like a gas molecule and I’m like a tree. Well, I don’t know what we are. I am so not a science nerd. We’re different. You don’t hang out with people who are different than you. 4-H’ers hang with 4-H’ers. Cheerleaders with cheerleaders. Geeks with geeks. There’s a whole group of supersmart science kids in the junior class.
It may not look so separated to you, Sheriff, because everyone from Fred High is here looking for Tommy. But that’s because this is a small town and we all show up when something bad happens, but I bet people are grouped up out there. You know, walking the Stillwell Ranch with their same group of friends.
It’s not a bad thing. People sticking with their same interest group. It’s more peaceful. People are happier. Even new kids know that. Like there was this new girl. Leann something. A senior. Can you imagine transferring someplace new your senior year? Anyway, you could tell right away she was this kind of loner person. Like she didn’t fit in. Well, guess who she is hanging out with? The only senior going to an art school. Mary Louise. See? Even the loners stick with loners.
I’m really sorry, Sheriff Caldwell. I talk a lot when I’m nervous and I guess talking to you and being the last person to see Tommy makes me nervous.
Unhappy? Tommy? I don’t think so. Why would he be unhappy about being in the science nerd group if that’s who he was? He seemed like a regular nerd. Always reading. Or writing in that notebook. Probably about his scientific discoveries. Isn’t that how nerds act? All kind of preoccupied with things they’re thinking about?
We mostly crossed paths in the library. That’s where I had my Latinitas meetings. It’s a group I started for all the Mexican girls at Fred. Like a support group. Anyway, whenever we sat near Tommy, he was always by himself writing or studying. As soon as we sat down, he jumped up and walked away really fast, stuffing his books and notebook and pencils in his backpack as he went. We weren’t being loud or talking about dumb stuff. I don’t know. Maybe he was late for something. Or maybe he didn’t like being too near us. Whatever. My point is it looked like he’d rather be alone.
Withdrawn? Maybe. But I don’t really know, right? Cuz I don’t hang out with the science nerds. Not even the girl nerds. Two of the nerdiest ones are in my class. Izzy and Rachel. They’re part of the whole junior nerd squad. Like they’re already in AP physics B, which is a senior class. Izzy seems nice. She tutors in my pre-AP physics class. She’s hitting on one of the guys. Tim. He’s a total jock. Talk about mismatched.
I don’t know if Tommy had a girlfriend. I doubt it. I saw Rachel get on the back of his bike once or twice. She wasn’t with him on Friday though. It didn’t look like a girlfriend thing. I mean, he didn’t smile at her or have his arm around her. But I don’t know. Maybe nerd boyfriends act like that. Which is why I wouldn’t be interested in any of the science nerds as boyfriends. Even the illustrious James Houghton. Total eye candy. But really snobby.
James thinks we should be in separate groups because he doesn’t want to dilute his gene pool. I’m serious. He’s a total segregationist. He wrote about it in the Fred newspaper. He says his IQ is a 140 and he won’t go out with anyone less than a 120. James thinks cheerleaders and football players are holding back evolution. As if. Cheerleaders are not stupid. I told James he sounded like a Nazi. You know, very Final Solution. I think he was surprised I got up in his face, like there’s more to me than pom-poms.
That’s why I started Latinitas. I want to be a cheerleader. I want to go to college. I want to study history and political science and economics. I want to do a lot of things. But sometimes when you’re Hispanic, people think all you can do is have babies. Especially Mexicans. You know, we’re the house cleaners, the ditch diggers, and the crop pickers. I used to say that I was Hispanic. But after I went online and read about other Latinitas groups, I started thinking about how I didn’t say I was Mexican. Like I didn’t want to claim it. Now I do. Not a lot of girls have joined, but maybe when I’m a senior next year more girls will. Like I’ll be more of a role model. I don’t know. It’s hard to break out of a stereotype and be different. I guess that’s why people hide out in groups, you know?
Tommy was definitely weird. Not in a creepy way. In a really awkward way. Like he was tuned into another frequency. I mean, I’ve been in school with him since middle grade and he was always the weird nerdy kid. But not like an outcast. Just awkward, really awkward. Like one time I was ahead of him in the lunch line and I dropped my spork. It landed right near his foot and all he did was stare at it like it fell from some other planet. I finally picked it up and all he said was, “I wonder if that fell through a wormhole.”
That’s how he was. Or is. Like you couldn’t have a conversation with him because he was thinking about esoteric stuff all the time. Or I couldn’t. I mean, I talk a lot, right? My best friend Tara says that I sound a little ditzy because of the way I talk about everything all over the place. But I’m not ditzy, right? I’m smart. I have a 3.98 GPA and my IQ meets the James Houghton standard, but like I never talked with Tommy because he didn’t talk like I talk. You know?
I probably shouldn’t refer to him in the past tense. I mean, he’s only been missing for three days. Do you think Tommy could be dead? Wouldn’t that be creepy awful if I was the last person to see Tommy alive? Like maybe if I’d waved or stopped or talked to him, you wouldn’t be interviewing me about Tommy. Like something might have changed if we’d done one thing different before. You know?
All possibilities exist.
When I make an observation, all possibilities collapse into one. The other possibilities don’t disappear. Instead, their probability of existence is transferred from them to the only remaining possibility.
If we can only observe this universe, it doesn’t mean that other universes don’t exist. They do. But our observation disrupts the possibility of multiple universes so that they collapse into the only one we can observe.
So, is it our observation that limits possibility?
What about imagination? If I can imagine parallel universes, why can’t I observe them?
Maybe imagination is a less disruptive form of observation.
Maybe if we really imagine what’s possible, then stepping into another dimension or a parallel universe will be like crossing the street.
Copyright © 2014 by Lindsey Lane
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