Jenn Marie Thorne The Wrong Side of Right

ISBN 13: 9780803740570

The Wrong Side of Right

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9780803740570: The Wrong Side of Right

Fans of Huntley Fitzpatrick, Jenny Han, and Meg Cabot will adore this smart debut young adult novel, equal parts My Life Next Door and The Princess Diaries—plus a dash of The West Wing

Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?

Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.

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About the Author:

Jenn Marie Thorne graduated from NYU-Tisch with a BFA in drama and quickly realized she was having more fun writing plays, short films, and superhero webisodes than actually performing in them. Then, when a flurry of political scandals hit the news, Jenn wondered what the kids at the center of the media's attention must be going through, and so began The Wrong Side of Right, her debut novel. Jen lives and writes in beautiful Gulfport, Florida, alongside her husband, two sons, and hound dog Molly.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

Tuesday, June 10

The Day the News Broke

147 DAYS UNTIL THE GENERAL ELECTION

The moment my horrible yearbook photo first appeared on millions of televisions, sending jaws dropping, phones ringing, and joggers tumbling off their treadmills across America, I was in the middle of my AP US history final.

The test room was silent, apart from the incessant click click click of the overhead clock, until the buzzer sounded and we rushed to hand off our best efforts and flee the building in relief. It was the last scheduled exam of the year, nothing waiting for us outside these halls but summer. Two seniors skipped past me along the linoleum. Even I felt myself smiling, really smiling, not just faking it.

“What did you think?” Lily Hornsby caught up behind me, more dazed than giddy. She’d been my assigned study partner in US history, which was a lucky break—she’d turned out to be one of the friendliest people in my new school.

“Mostly okay.” At her wince, I backtracked. “What was with that Grover Cleveland question? We didn’t go over that stuff at all!”

“I know, right?” She sighed. “At least it’s done. So what are you up to this summer?”

Good question. I’d been so focused on schoolwork all year that I hadn’t thought ahead to the break. I should have been applying for summer jobs, pre-college programs, whatever it was that normal people did between junior and senior year. But until today, I’d been at my mental limit just studying for tests, thinking forward one day and then the next. Any further than that and the haze set in again, heavy and thick with sadness.

“I’m not sure yet,” I admitted.

We swung through the front doors, met by a blinding blue sky and a solid wall of Low Country humidity, plus the now familiar marsh smell that hugged my school on hot days. It was summer, all right. I needed to find a way to fill it.

“Whoa.” Lily pointed at the parking lot. “What’s up with that?”

Some sort of news event had sprung up in front of the school—three vans with satellite dishes on top, parked in a lazy triangle next to what looked like live reports being filmed.

Even in daylight, even on the opposite coast, the scene felt familiar. I wrapped my arms around myself, my skin prickling with dread.

“You all right?” Lily touched my shoulder.

“Yeah.” I forced myself to turn, glad that I’d parked on a side street and wouldn’t have to walk through that mess. “I just hope nobody’s hurt.”

“It’s probably a teachers’ strike.” Lily shrugged, but I felt her glance at me a second later. She knew about my mom, everyone did, which made her careful, sometimes painfully so. I forced a smile, embarrassed that I’d let myself get spooked.

A group of Lily’s friends was waiting for her on the corner. I gave an awkward wave and started to duck away, but Lily stopped me.

“A bunch of us are gonna go celebrate at Mario’s tonight,” she said, nodding in the direction of the James Island pizza place that was a magnet for most of my high school. “Like eight o’clock? You should totally come.”

She grinned and hurried away before I could conjure one of my usual excuses. One of her friends, a tall kid from my physics class, raised his hand in greeting and I called out to the back of Lily’s head, “Okay!”

This is fine, I pep-talked myself, stepping into the shade of ivy-strung trees. I’ll go out. Be normal. Or at least learn to imitate it better.

Just as I got to my old Buick, my cell phone buzzed.

My uncle Barry cut me off mid-greeting.

“Kate, honey, you need to get home right away.”

His voice was fake calm. Panicked. My feet planted themselves into the ground, my hand starting to tremble. “What’s going on?”

“I’ll tell you when you get here, but you gotta come straight home, and listen, honey, this is important. Don’t talk to any of the reporters. Okay?”

I glanced behind me, barely able to make out the crowd in the parking lot from here. “Okay. I’m on my way.”

I drove with both clammy hands clutching the wheel. The music on the radio sounded harsh, like the soundtrack to a horror movie, so I shut it off and listened to my short, sharp breaths and thudding heart.

Almost a year ago, I’d gotten a call just like this one. I was coming out of a movie theater with a bunch of friends, turning my phone on, laughing about how bad the movie was. I answered, even though I didn’t recognize the number. It was Marta, my mom’s best friend. Her voice was controlled too, like Barry’s, like she was fighting to keep a scream at bay.

“You need to come home, Kate,” she’d said. “Something’s happened.”

It wasn’t until I’d gotten to my house that fear set in, icy and creeping, frost on a field. Our LA bungalow was surrounded by local news crews, there to report my mother’s death.

Community hero, founder of the Cocina de Los Angeles Food Bank, dead at age thirty-five.

“It was instant,” Marta had told me, safe inside the living room and wrapped in a blanket like I was the one who’d been pulled from a car wreck. “She didn’t feel any pain.”

As if anybody could know that.

Marta had a quiet word with the news crews and they packed up and left. She stayed the night and I half slept for seventeen hours and when I woke up, my mom was still dead, but her brother, Barry, and his wife, Tess, had arrived.

They were nice people whom I’d met a few times before. They had a grown son and a landscaping business in James Island, South Carolina. They were all I had in the way of family—no grandparents, no father, not even his name, and suddenly no mother. They were willing to take me.

And now, nearly a year later, they were calling me, telling me to come home, to my new home, where this couldn’t be happening, couldn’t possibly be happening to us again.

I pulled around our corner to find a gridlocked freeway where our house should be. My foot hit the brake. There were news vans in neighboring driveways and rows of cars penning in the tidy hedges all along the usually sleepy street. I recognized only a couple of the bumper stickers and window decals—parents, here to pick up their kids from the day care center Tess operated from our house.

An agitated blonde came down the sidewalk, balancing her toddler on one hip while struggling to shove his cluttered bag over her shoulder. I rolled down my window and drifted closer to her SUV.

“Mrs. Hanby!”

Her taut face dropped when she saw me. She let her son into the car, glaring at the news vans. “You need to get in there fast, hon. They just keep coming—I barely managed to get Jonah out!”

Behind the glass of the backseat, Jonah blinked at me, saucer-eyed. I probably looked just like him. I swallowed, had to ask.

“Is it my aunt? Is Tess okay?”

“Oh sweetie. You haven’t seen the news.” Mrs. Hanby came around to give my arm a squeeze, her eyes squinting with pity. “She’s fine, but you need to go on home now and find out for yourself.”

She tapped my car twice, like she was spurring a horse and weirdly, it worked. I drove, holding my breath, past two gleaming black Town Cars, past my uncle’s truck with the big sign on it advertising “Quinn Yards,” past the first news van, dimly registering the letters CNN emblazoned on it. There weren’t any cars in the driveway. But there were people—hordes of them, masses, carrying cell phones, microphones, cameras.

I turned in slowly, hoping they’d move out of the way, praying I wouldn’t have to call attention to myself by laying on the horn.

I didn’t need to. They parted, all right. They practically ran, flanking my car like the waves of the Red Sea before falling in behind me. I shut off the engine and heard an unnatural hush settle around the Buick. A camera was pressed against the passenger window. Its red light was on.

I opened my door and the tide rushed in. They were a crash of voices, a wall of faces, something out of a zombie movie.

“Excuse me,” I cried, trying to politely shove a camera-man so I could shut my car door. The crowd pressed closer, howling. I couldn’t make out words until a petite brunette with a peacock-branded microphone scrambled into my path and asked:

“When did you first learn that Senator Cooper was your father?”

“What?”

The words weren’t connecting. They were nonsense words. Magnetic poetry.

I tried to push forward, but there were hands, microphones blocking me at every angle. Then there came a ripple in the wall and a large bald black man walked through, wrapped one arm around me, and ushered me past the crowd, onto the porch, and through my front door, saying, “You’re all right, kid, you’re all right.”

Aunt Tess was first to greet me. I coughed a sob and rushed to hug her, but she gently held me back.

“Kate,” she said, in an unnaturally singsong tone. “You have a visitor.”

And then, through the door to the living room, I saw him.

He was slowly rising from my uncle’s battered armchair, his hand shaking as he loosened a red silk tie. He stared at me, eyes wide, like I was a ghost, like I was covered in blood or wielding a gun, like I was terrifying.

I knew exactly who he was. Everybody in the country did, especially juniors who’d just finished their AP US history exams.

Senator Mark Cooper. Republican, Massachusetts.

Candidate—President of the United States of America.

2

He took two steps and stopped, and as he froze, everyone else did too, watching the space between us. And by everyone, I mean the everyone-in-the-world who was in my tiny living room.

Two men in suits flanked the senator from a deferential distance. The shorter man beamed at me like a happy leprechaun, eyes crinkling and bald head shining. The other scowled down at his phone, his dark hair and heavy brow giving him the hooded look of a bird of prey. A sharply dressed redhead was leaning against the love seat, lips parted as though she was dying to say something but didn’t dare. I glanced over my shoulder, spotting my huge rescuer blocking the front door. His stance was familiar from action movies. Security. Secret Service? My aunt stared up at him in polite terror, as if it might be against the rules to walk away. And just as I was wondering where my uncle was, he swung through the kitchen door with a glass of iced tea.

“Here you go, sir.” Uncle Barry held out the drink with his eyes fixed on the carpet. He looked like a servant in his own home, but who could blame him? He was offering a beverage to the man in line for the most powerful position in the world. For his part, Senator Cooper looked less and less terrified, more and more weary the longer he stood there. Then he broke, taking the glass from my uncle with a thank-you, and the words I’d heard outside echoed faintly in my head, finally forming a coherent sentence. Him. Father. He is my . . .

His eyes returned to mine, freezing me to the spot. He extended his hand with a smile that didn’t reach them. “I’m Mark Cooper,” he said, sounding exactly, freakishly like his campaign ad.

“I’m Kate.” I shook. “Kate Quinn.” He looked so lost that I said what he was supposed to say. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

It was as though I’d put down a loaded gun. The whole room let out its breath in one big huff.

But then Senator Cooper opened his mouth—and closed it. Downed the tea and handed the glass to my uncle, who was sweating through his Gamecocks T-shirt. The room was too quiet. I didn’t know how to fill the silence.

The red-haired woman pulled away from the love seat, smoothed her sweater set, and peered at me with something like sympathy. “Kate, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of questions, and the truth is—we do too.”

The senator turned away, his suit wrinkling as his shoulders collapsed. “There’s no question, Nancy. I mean, come on. Look at her.”

Redhead Nancy’s smile faltered, her eyes flicking back to him. “Sir, we need to be sure. This is too big a—”

“I know what this is.” He stopped moving. Just stood there, staring at the ground.

Bird of Prey peered down at Leprechaun, and by some silent agreement, Leprechaun stepped forward. “Should we go ahead?”

Go ahead with what?

At the senator’s weary nod, he disappeared through the swinging door.

Bird of Prey scanned the room. When his eyes met mine, they stayed there. There was something clinical in his stare, like he was adding up my face, my clothes, my expression. His phone buzzed. He lifted it without breaking eye contact, then barked a greeting, “Webb,” and turned to follow the small man into the kitchen.

I had to stop myself from racing after them, dragging them back. Instead of this tableau settling into place, I felt it spinning off, disintegrating like I was on a carnival ride. I glanced, desperate, at my aunt and uncle, but they were united in paralysis.

“I’m sorry—” I had to say something. “What is this? What’s going on?”

The men’s voices in the back room got louder, one-sided conversations into cell phones. Yelling about me? About this famous man, settling into my uncle’s chair with his head in his hands?

I drew in a breath, but my voice still came out shaky. “Are you my father?”

His head shot up, eyes alert and very blue. Blue like mine.

“I think I am.”

The defeat in his voice muffled any thrill I might have felt from those words.

Nancy let out a cocktail-party laugh and started rubbing my back like she was trying to get dirt off of it. “Let’s just make sure, sir.”

As if on cue, a woman in scrubs came in from the kitchen, looking at least as dazed as me, holding a medical bag, rubber gloves, a syringe.

Nancy pressed past me. “Did you sign?”

The woman nodded.

“And you understand that means you cannot speak to anyone, not your husband . . .”

“I understand.” The woman turned to me and visibly softened. “Kate, is it?”

I nodded, numb.

“We’re gonna draw some blood. Not a whole lot.”

I perched on the sofa and let her tie a band around my arm, trying not to wince at the pinch of the needle in front of all these strangers.

“For a paternity test?” I asked, and everyone ignored me.

The senator waved one hand in my general direction, the other raking through his thick hair. “This is a foregone conclusion. We need an action plan. Where’s Elliott?”

Nancy motioned to the kitchen with a dramatic sigh and the senator rose from the armchair and strode from the room. As soon as he was out of sight, my body went pins and needles in one big rush, and not just from the blood that the nurse, doctor, whoever she was, was tamping down with a cotton ball.

“This isn’t possible,” I said. My aunt and uncle shook their heads, mouths agape in helpless agreement. “I don’t understand how this is possible.”

Nancy crouched in front of me, her skirt stretching across her knees.

“Seventeen years ago, your mom worked on a state senate campaign for Senator Cooper. That’s how they met . . . ?”

She paused, head cocked, as though she were hoping I’d continue the story myself.

“A . . . campaign?” I shook my head, starting to squirm with pretty, red-haired Nancy squinting at me, with the voices of the press roaring low outside the front windows. “I’m sorry—that’s not right. My mom hated politics. It’s not her, there’s some confusion, or . . .”

Nancy pressed her lips together, rocking onto her heels. “So you didn’t know. She never told you who your dad was.”

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