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    Interviews | August 31, 2015

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    Bill CleggIn January of this year, eight months before its release date, the buzz was already starting to build for Bill Clegg's Did You Ever Have a Family.... Continue »
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      Did You Ever Have a Family

      Bill Clegg 9781476798172

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4 Local Warehouse Children's- Health Stories- Diseases
17 Remote Warehouse Children's- Health Stories- Diseases

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PROLOGUE "If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up or Fight Like Hell." —Lance Armstrong You know how you always think theres something . . . more? Like theres something else you can be doing? A way you can put yourself out there more. An effort that will plant you in the spotlight and make people finally recognize that, "Hey, youre special." Sure, your parents tell you that all the time. Theyre supposed to. Its, like, in the parents handbook they get when they take you home from the hospital. Still, its not the same as acceptance from the general public, and more specifically, your peers. Not that Im narcissistic and need to be told this every hour of the day like Chloe Bradenton in my class does. But right there, who or what decided that Chloe Bradenton and others like her get to be special while people like me . . . just exist? Chloes a cheerleader; she dated the quarterback off and on; shes been on the homecoming court all three years of high school and will probably be voted queen our senior year. Total cliché; then again clichés are clichés for a reason. She thinks everyones pea-green with envy of her and her lot in life. Im not jealous of her—seriously, Im not. I just want the same opportunities, you know? Is that too much to ask? For my three years in high school, Ive semi-anonymously played my trumpet in the Polk High School marching band. Not even my own trumpet, but one handed down from my big sister, Gretchen, whos ten years older than me. She gave it up way back when she was in tenth grade and lost interest and started hanging with kids Mom called "the rogue element." I wanted to play something delicate and beautiful like the flute. However, my parents said I should take a shot at the trumpet since we already owned one. I made the best of it, took lessons, and excelled with my lipping and fingering. Im pretty damn good, if I must say so myself. Got the "Best Brass" trophy two years in a row. (Please . . . no comments.) And bands been fun. What can I say? Ive got an itch, though. I want to expand my horizons and get the full high school experience however I can. Wheres the rule that says I cant take my own stab at something . . . more? Okay, I want to be popular. Ill admit it. What teenager doesnt? Im not a social leper at all . . . but again, I just feel like theres something else I can be doing. I want to be seen and not just blend into the other hundred who are dressed in red and blue polyester uniforms. I dont want to be part of one cohesive, marching unit. I want to march to my own drum. So, one Saturday afternoon while watching Bring It On on DVD for like the kajillionth time, I thought of the craziest thing I could do, the one thing that no one in his or her right mind would expect out of me. I tried out for varsity cheerleader. And I made it. Me. Hayley Matthews. A virtual no one to a well-known. I got my wish. I got popularity. And that . . . desired more. In fact, I got a hell of a lot more than I ever bargained for—something that stopped me in my tracks. A diagnosis that would change my present and bring into question my future. A challenge of epic proportions to overcome. The need to find hope when everything seemed hopeless. This is a story of how cheerleading saved my life. CHAPTER ONE "Everyone has inside him a piece of good news. The good news is that you dont know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!" —Anne Frank I nailed it! That was the best damn round-off back handspring Ive ever done! Beads of sweat roll down my back as I pump my fists in the air in time with the adrenaline coursing through my limbs. Nothing can stop me. Across the gym, at the long table ahead of me, I can see that the judges are impressed with my efforts, as well. Pencils move furiously over score sheets, and I beam from ear to ear as I quickly move into a perfectly executed herkie. It should be perfect . . . Ive been practicing for weeks on end. I stretch my fingers out to meet up with my pointed right toe before landing back on the gyms shiny parquet. My Nikes hit the floor with a firm thwack, and I move into my next jump. With the agility of a jaguar leaping through the jungle, I wind up and hurdle myself into the air, elongating my legs in front of me in the pike position. My arms parallel in the air with my legs until the tips of my fingers again touch my outstretched sneakered toes. My tryout partner, Shelly Kingsford, slips behind me and plants her Reebok in the middle of my back as she climbs up onto my shoulders. I grip her calves and adjust into a tall, straight position, balancing her hundred and eighteen pounds just so. Looking up, I watch as she pulls her left foot to her right knee to strike the star pose. I dont swerve or teeter as all of her weight goes to my right side. I just smile that eye-squinting grin of mine and yell out along with Shelly, "Go, Polk, Go!" She jumps forward to dismount and lands flawlessly with me catching her around the waist for stability. Again, the judges nod their approval and continue to make notes on the score sheets. I stand at attention with my hands fisted on my hips while Shelly does her tumbling run. Cartwheel. Cartwheel. Cartwheel. Ugh . . . what is she doing? She was supposed to do a cartwheel into two back handsprings. Wed practiced it for weeks. What is she thinking? You totally have to show the judges more agility than just a cartwheel, which you learn, like, in kindergarten. Poor Shelly. I hope they wont deduct points because of her lackluster tumbling. She didnt even do them that well, hesitating between each one. Cant think about it, though. I have to finish our routine. I have to make sure I do everything right. The music begins and blares out a Techno beat. We snap into performing the dance weve both spent hours rehearsing. I pop. I snap. I crunk. Moves Ive honed in front of my bedroom mirror in the late-evening hours, much to Moms chagrin—especially when the chandelier in the dining room started shaking. I laugh. I smile. I wink. But most of all, I have fun. The groove of the music pumps through my veins, fueling me on. After our dance routine, we barely have time to catch our breath before Shelly and I line up together to execute a formal school cheer. This part is about the precision of our moves, our silent clapping with cupped hands, and the ability to project our voices throughout the gym. I have no problem with the latter. My dad has always called me "the Mouth of the South." He took me to an Alabama vs. Auburn game once (Roll Tide!), and he said I was the loudest out of more than a hundred thousand people. Today, its going to play to my favor. I clap my hands together. "Our team. Ready?" "Okay," Shelly says with me. Pop. "Our team . . . is great"—arms tight; fingers straight—"and, we just cant wait"—legs locked—"to show"—left hand fisted on hip; right arm forward, pointing—you . . . just how"—spin; slap arms to side—"we rate." Knee to chest; arms pumped out front. "Were"—step forward—"Number"— index finger pointed to the sky—"One!" Another herkie into a spread eagle. And more cheering as I advance on the judges, urging them to root, root, root for the Patriots with me, my voice carrying much farther and louder than Shellys meeker one. Two of the three judges clap along while the third nods his head and smiles. All three of them are from the squad across town at Maxwell State University. They totally know their stuff. Theyve finaled in the college nationals the last three years in a row. Perspiration moistens my skin in an exhilarating sheen of accomplishment. Shelly and I embrace, stoked that we got through the tryout and relieved that its over. We grab hands and run back to the locker room where the other girls are waiting—those whove gone before us and the two teams still left to go. Ashlee Grimes hands me an iced bottle of Aquafina from the cooler at the end of the bench. "Howd it go?" she asks. Gulping the delicious water, I wipe my mouth and say, "That was the hardest thing Ive ever done in my life." Ashlee giggles. Weve been good friends since fifth grade. And, even though she was a cheerleader last year and I was in the band, weve managed to stay tight. Shes been so helpful since I shocked her with my idea to quit band and do something . . . more. Shes even been mentoring me through the whole practice sessions leading up to tryouts. "If you make the squad, tryouts will look like a piece of piss compared to actually being a varsity cheerleader," she says with a nod. "How did you like it?" "I loved it!" I say without hesitation. Its no lie. Its a high like nothing Ive ever felt. Belting out the school fight song on my horn never gave me this feeling. This is so much better than cheering up in the stands in my band uniform while the short-skirted girls on the field perform gymnastic stunts, pyramids, and dances that get the whole crowd into the game. The next team of Melanie Otto and Lora Russell gather their things and head out to face the judges. It seems like a year and a half before they return, exhausted and sweaty. When they collapse on the bench, the last pair to try out vanishes out the door. A quiet Shelly fingers the label on her water bottle. "I dont think Im going to make it." My head snaps. "Why do you say that?" Her orangy curls are starting to escape her high ponytail. "I think the band is more my speed. I dont know why I let you talk me into this. Marching and formations arent nearly this exhausting. You know, I quit gymnastics freshman year because of the bruises and muscle ache. I swear, Hayley, Ive never been so tired . . . ever. My heart is still racing from all that exertion." I didnt exactly talk her into this. When I told her I was going to try out, she thought it would be "fun." Now I frown at her. "You know cheerleadings hard work. Its one of the toughest sports out there," I say passionately. "Its gymnastics, dance, cheers, pyramids—you have to be in top shape." "I know," she says with a nod. "I dont think Im up to spending my entire summer working out and practicing all the time instead of hanging by the pool. Band camp lasts only two weeks. Besides"—she pauses dramatically and drains her water bottle—"I totally botched my tumbling run." "You did not," I lie. Her blue eyes lack confidence. "Well see." The adrenaline rush from my routine still surges through me, and I cant sit still. I tap my left foot up and down impatiently, waiting for the last team to return to the locker room. The tension is so thick in here, you could butcher it into a dozen prime steaks and serve it at the football banquet. Everyone is a nervous wreck. Everyone except Chloe Bradenton. Yeah, her. Shes sitting on the bench by the back wall with her legs stretched out in front of her. Shes got her iPhone and is busy texting as if she hasnt a care in the world. Then again, she probably doesnt. Her dad is the president of the bank, and her house on Parrot Peak is the most expensive one in Maxwell, Alabama. I dont hate her or anything—I barely speak to her—but everything just seems to come easily to her. She didnt even break a sweat in her tryouts. Her makeup wouldnt dare run, and her thick black hair wouldnt think of coming out of that slicked-back ponytail. Suddenly, she lifts her ice green eyes and steadies them on me. For a second, its as if Im going to burst into flames from the hatred shes throwing at Shelly and me. I know perfectly well how she thinks us "band types" should "stay in our place." She made that perfectly clear during tryout practice when she was teaching the cheers to everyone. The odds are totally against us in this day and age when newbies rarely make a cheerleading squad. But thanks to graduating seniors, there are spots available. I believe in beating the odds. Being a good Christian girl, and hearing my mother in my head saying to "love thy enemies," I smile back at Chloe. Not that Im any threat to her or consider her an enemy. Funny thing is, we used to be friends back in elementary school when we were both in Brownies. And in seventh grade, we spent our spring break together at Dauphin Island at her parents place, cooking barbecued shrimp and floating in the Gulf of Mexico on noodles. Our grandmothers were best friends growing up—and still are—but Chloe and I just slid into different cliques when we reached high school. The closest weve been to interacting with each other was last year when I got the chickenpox from her. Her little brother had the chickenpox and then gave them to her. While she was out, I dropped off some homework from our computer class at her house. That had to have been how I got the nasty skin rash. Id never contracted the childhood disease in, well, childhood, so, at sixteen, I was sick as a dog. The pox were everywhere—in my eyelids, in my nose, in my mouth, in my stomach—everywhere. I couldnt eat or even keep liquids down. It was nasty as all get-out. I missed two weeks of school because of it. The door opens and Janine Ingram, one of the schools librarians and the cheerleader sponsor, pokes her head in. "Theyre ready for yall." My heart skips like five beats at her announcement. This is it. No matter what, I tried, right? I worked hard and put my best foot forward. But I want this soooo badly. I want to spend my summer practicing cheers and building pyramids and learning how to split to the left (cause I can only split to the right). I want to wake up early and go for a jog to stay in shape. I want to work out on the schools weight equipment to bulk up my strength. That way, I can lift my partner, whoever she may turn out to be, like she weighs nothing at all. I dont want to report to band camp and march in the three-thousand-degree heat, getting a farmers tan, marking time, and standing at attention while the gnats land on my face. I dont want to memorize formations, commands, and music. I dont want to be hidden under a band hat—not in my senior year. I want everyone to know who Hayley Matthews is—and that Im here to make my mark! Okay, in my head, I talk a good game, but on the outside, my palms are sweating, my hands are shaking, and I feel like I could totally throw up the half a grilled cheese and six Cheetos I managed to nibble down at lunchtime. My heart is slamming inside my chest, and nausea bubbles in my tummy and up into my throat. Mrs. Ingram claps her hands. "Come, come, girls! The judges are waiting!" We all scurry out into the gym and stand in two lines, no order to the mayhem. I wonder if the girls who were cheerleaders last year are as nervous as I am. Does confidence zip through their system or is there worry? If Chloe Bradenton is any indication, they all know its in the bag. Its very unlikely that a former squad member wont repeat in making the team. That makes the chances of me snagging a spot even smaller. I stand next to Shelly, taking the end spot of the first row. The three cheerleaders from Maxwell State University hand over a sheet of paper to Mrs. Ingram. Its done. The decision is final. These judges have tallied their scores and made their choices. Mrs. Ingram steps to the microphone, and I tense up to wait and hear how Ill be spending my senior year. Will it be back in the marching band? Or will there be something more for me . . . ?

Product Details

Gibson, Marley
Graphia Books
Children s-Health Stories-Diseases
Horror & Ghost Stories
Love & Romance
cancer;cheerleading;high school;gymnastics;dance;true story;romance;family;teen
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 7
8.25 x 5.5 in 0.51 lb
Age Level:
from 12

Related Subjects

Children's » General
Children's » Health » Diseases
Children's » Religion » Christian » Family
Children's » Religion » Christian » Health and Daily Living
Children's » Religion » Christian » Sports and Recreation
Children's » Sports and Outdoors » Sports Fiction » Miscellaneous
Young Adult » General

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Product details 416 pages Graphia Books - English 9780547617282 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Hayley Matthews draws strength and focus from her dream of cheerleading, her family, and her Christian faith, as she battles cancer in a story of romance, adversity, and friendship, by the author of the Ghost Huntress series.
"Synopsis" by ,

The third and final book in a trilogy about a girl who discovers she has psychic powers.

"Synopsis" by ,

Kendall has just discovered who Emily really is, lost her boyfriend, and nearly died doing the thing she loves most--ghost hunting. It's time to take a break and try to reconcile all the changes she's going through. So Kendall heads to the Sierra Mountains, where there's a camp especially for young people with gifts such as hers. It's a time for reflection and self-discovery.

But when she gets to California, she once again finds restless spirits--and the boy in her last vision. It may be the end of one chapter of her life and the beginning of a new one.

"Synopsis" by ,
After some time off, Kendalls ready to begin ghost hunting again. But her life is still in flux. She misses Patrick, her new love. She needs to find a photographer to replace Taylor. Plus, she may have discovered who her real father is, but to be sure, she has to convince his family shes not a fake. And then theres a certain doll that seems to be out to get her and her friends. A doll? How could that be? Unless, perhaps, its not just a doll. Maybe its a vessel containing the soul of a man so evil in life, not even death could stop his reign of terror. This could be Kendalls most terrifying and deadliest encounter yet.
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