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The Off Season


The Off Season Cover




Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether its to go to school or on a date, people dont venture out of their home. Theres really no need. For the most part, Maddies okay with the solitary, digital lifeuntil she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People arent meant to be alone, he tells her. Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside hera feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking. In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.
Katie Kacvinsky worked as a model and as a high school English teacher before deciding to write full time. She currently lives in Corvallis, Oregon. The trees in Oregon were the inspiration for her story.Awakenis her debut novel.

May 7, 2060

My mom gave me an old leather-bound journal for my seventeenth

birthday. At first the blank pages surprised me, as if the story inside

was lost or had slipped out. She explained sometimes the story is

supposed to be missing because its still waiting to be written. Leave

it to my mom to give me something from the past to use in the


 They dont make paper books anymoreits illegal to chop down

real trees. They still grow in some parts of the world, but Ive never

seen one. Most cities have switched to synthetic trees, and people

prefer them to the living ones. Synthetic trees come shipped to your

house in any size you want, so you dont have to wait fifteen years for

them to grow. Now you shop online and choose your desired size and

height, and in days you have a full-grown tree in your yard, cemented

into the ground and supported with steel beams anchored

into the base. Instant. Simple. No fuss.

 Synthetic trees never die. They dont wither in the fall. You dont

have a mess of leaves and needles to sweep up. Theyre fireproof. They

dont cause allergies. And theyre always perfectly green (constantlygreen

.com has the best synthetic tree selection, according to my mom). The

leaves can fade a little from the sun, but you just spray-paint them

green again. During Halloween, people spray-paint the leaves on

their trees yellow, orange, and red. Its the colors leaves used to turn

before they fell to the ground. My mom said she can remember seeing

the fall colors when she was young. She said it was the most beautiful

time of the year. Its hard to imagine anything becoming beautiful

as it dies. Then again, its hard to imagine much that Mom 

insists used to “be.”

 When trees were dying offin fires and overharvested, books were

the first to go. These days books are downloaded digitally and you

can order any book you want to be uploaded into your Bookbag in

seconds, which I convert onto my Zipfeed. It reads the words out

loud to me on my computer. Simple. Convenient. I know how to

read, of course. We learn it in Digital School 2. I still read my chat

messages on my phone. But it was proven that audio learning is a

faster way to retain information, according to some Ph.D. researchers

who studied rats in a cage. By observing rats they figured out the

best way for humans to learn. Some politician thought this theory

sounded glamorous, so they changed a law that changed the world.

Thats why I listen to almost all of my books.

 I didnt escape the chore of using my eyes to read. Mom still

enforces it. She saved all her old novels and stores them in these

wooden cabinets with glass doors called bookshelves. Every year she

hands down a few of her favorites to me. I have a collection slowly

building in my bedroom. I have to admit, I like the look of them. I

also like to escape inside their world, tucked behind their colorful

spines. It forces me to fully invest my mind into what Im doing, not

just my ears or my eyes. I think barricading them behind glass is a

little obsessive, but Mom says the paper in books will yellow if theyre

exposed to air. Just like the leaves on the trees that couldnt survive in

this world. Hey, if you cant acclimate, you disintegrate. I learned

that in Digital School 3.

 So, you can imagine my surprise when my mom gave me a blank

book. I rarely see a book with print in it, and now a blank onewhat

a waste. No wonder we killed all the trees. And Im supposed to

write in this thing. Longhand. Its this form of writing using ink on

paper. Its so slow! It makes me laugh watching people do it in old

movies. It hasnt been used in twenty years. We learn it in school, but

its simulated on our flipscreens. Only specialty online stores sell ink

pens, but leave it to my mom to invest in this historic item. “Madeline,”

she told me, “its good for you to write down your thoughts.

Its therapeutic because it forces you to slow down and think about


 I feel guilty writing on this paper, staining something with words

when maybe its their emptiness, the fact that theyre unscathed, thats

more interesting than anything I have to say. My life is far from

remarkable. Sadly, its the other extreme. It is predictable. Controlled.

Mandated. Paved out for me in a trail Im forced to follow.

 Why should I take the time to write down my thoughts when no

one else can even read them? Im used to millions of people having

access to everything about me. Im used to a fountain of feedback

and comments trailing every entry I type, every thought I expose.

That makes me feel justified. It shows that people genuinely care

about me. It reminds me that Im real and I exist. Why try to hide it

all in a book? Besides, there are no secrets. Sooner or later, the truth

always leaks out. Thats one thing Ive learned in this life.


Chapter one

I pulled a sweatshirt over my head, and just as I opened my bedroom

door, I was distracted by a red light flashing on my computer.

I was running late, but the glow of the light caught my

attention and held me in place like a net. I programmed my screen

to flash different colors depending on who was calling. I knew red

could only mean one person. I sat down and tapped the light with

my finger and a single white sentence dissolved on the screen.

 Are you going to be there tonight?

 I read Justins question and bit my lips together. My mind told

me to say no. That answer would please my father. He trained me

to squeeze my thoughts through a filter so my decisions came out

acceptable and obedient. But lately it was making me feel weak,

like my mind wasnt reallymine

anymore, just a program to manipulate.

Thats why this time, I was tempted to say yes.

 I met Justin two months ago on TutorPageits

a live chatroom

for students to get help on homework assignments. We were both

stuck on writing a thesis sentence for our literary analysis paper, a

requirement in Digital School 4. Since the tutor was being swarmed

with questions and Justin and I had the same problem, we figured

it out together. I remember him writing the oddest comment that

day. He wrote, “Two brains are better than one.” It was strange

because you can go through all of DS-4 without even looking at

another person, let alone working with someone. One of the perks

to a digital life is it forces you to be independent.

 Justin and I coordinated to study two days a week together and

then he started sending me invites to face-to-face tutor sessions

held in downtown Corvallis. When he assured me the groups were

small, but could be helpful, I still dreaded the idea of meeting him

in public. Im used to the security of living behind my online profiles

and the clip art advertisements I create to define me. I can be

whoever I want to be in that world. I can be funny, deep, pensive,

eccentric. I can be the best version of myself. Better yet, an exaggeration

of the best version of myself. I can make all the right decisions.

I can delete my flaws by pressing a button.

 In the real world anything can happen. Its like stepping onto

an icy surfaceyou have to adjust your footing or youll slip and

fall. Your movements become rigid and unsure because behind all

the fancy gadgets and all that digital armor, you realize youre

just flesh and bones.

 I stared back at the screen where his words floated patiently

and a strange feeling, like a shot of adrenaline, pushed through

my blood. I knew I had to meet him tonight. Intuition works

closely alongside fate, like theyre business partners working together

to alter the course of your life.

 I spoke my answer out loud and my voice was automatically

converted into a digital message.

 I decided maybe was the best response, just in case I lost my

nerve. I hit send and a second later he responded.

 Life is too short to say maybe.

 I narrowed my eyes at the screen. Why was he pushing this? Why

couldnt he let me be noncommittal and leave me alone about it?

 Why are you going out of your way to meet me? I asked.

 Why are you going out of your way to avoid it?

 Ive been grounded for a while. I hesitated before I hit send. Id

never opened up to Justin about my personal life. We always kept

our relationship safebobbing just on the surface.

 A while? As in a few weeks? he asked.

 I laughed, but it came out sounding flat and humorless. Try

two and a half years, I thought. I decided he didnt need to know

this detail. Its easy to delete the truth when you live behind your

own permanent censor.

 Something like that, I said.

 What did you do?

 I have a rebellious streak.

 Thats a little vague, he said.

 I frowned at the screen. Im not going to dish out my life story to

an online stranger.

 Then I think its about time we meet, he said.

 I bit my nails when this sentence appeared. I focused on the

words. They sounded so simple. But just when I believed something

was simple, there was always more lurking underneath.

 Ill be there, I said, and hit send before I could change my mind.

 I hopped out of the chair, grabbed my soccer cleats, and ran

downstairs to the kitchen. Dad glanced at me from the table where

he was reading the news on our wall screen. My mom sat next to

him, reading a magazineshe insists on having the hard copy,

printed on plastic paper. Shes the only person I know who complains

that computer screens hurt her eyes.

 Dad examined the shoes I was holding with disapproval.

 “I thought your season was over,” he said.

 I felt my hands tighten around the shoes and I kept my eyes

focused steadily on his. We had the same large, penetrating eyes,

the color of swirling gray clouds with flecks of green floating

near the pupils. When my dad was angry, his eyes turned as

dark as storm clouds just before they erupt into a downpour.

He could use his eyes to intimidate, to persuade, or to demand

respect. I hadnt mastered those traits; my eyes only seemed to give

me away.

 “The league goes year-round,” Mom pointed out to him.

 He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

 “Did we talk about you playing soccer year-round, Maddie? I

thought you were just playing fall and winter leagues.”

 I kept my eyes locked on his. He tried too often to make me

duck under his discipline. Baley, our chocolate Lab, wagged her

tail next to me and I bent down to scratch her ears.

 “The spring league just started,” I said. “Its only once a week.

I didnt think it was a big deal.”

 “Its a little expensive,” he said.

 I tried not to roll my eyes since I knew my dad made more

money than ten families would know what to do with, being the

director of Digital School, Inc. The curriculum, medium, and

content of what I learnedand where and when I learned itwas

overseen and instituted by the signature of my fathers hand.

It was also his power and connections that got me in trouble two

and a half years ago and created the constant rift of distrust in our

relationship. Half of the time he didnt seem like a father to me,

more like security enforcement.

 “Shes seventeen, Kevin,” Mom said. “Didnt we agree to let

her socialize more often?” I stared between them and tightened

my lips. I hated it when they talked about me like I wasnt standing

in the same room, like Im a piece of clay they have to mold in

order to hold a shape.

 “I guess youre right,” he finally agreed.

 I nodded once and thanked him. I raced out the front door and

ran down the sidewalk to try and catch the train. The air was warm

and the sun was finally making its spring entrance, after a long

winter of hibernation. Rays of light peered through the branches

above me and painted a splattering of bright and dull colors on the

turf grass below. The tower of green leaves crinkled in the breeze as

I passed. I met the train just as it pulled to a stop on Hamersley

Street. I jumped on and scanned my fingerprint against a tiny

screen as the doors beeped shut behind me.

 Erin sat by the window in the back of the compartment. She

was watching something on her phone and nodding her head to

the music floating out of the speakers.

 “Hey,” I said, and plopped down in the seat next to her. I took

my phone out of my pocket to check a message.

 “You almost missed the train,” she said without looking up.

“Thats not like you.”

 I was distracted by a digital advertisement playing on a screen

inside the compartment. A middle-aged man dressed in khaki

shorts and a white T-shirt promised me I could transform my entire

lawn into a colorful flower garden in five easy steps. I watched

him roll out a thick carpeting of plastic grass speckled with fake

flowers and staple it into the ground.

 “Why were you late?” Erin asked.

 “My dad wanted to have a little chat,” I said.

 She smirked and pressed a few buttons on her keypad.

“What now?”

 I tapped my foot restlessly against the rubber floor mat. “Oh,

he just needs reassurance hes in complete control of every facet of

my life.”

 Erin creased her eyebrows and continued to type. “He doesnt

trust you to play soccer?” she asked.

 I shrugged. “Its unsupervised, its liberating,” I reminded her.

“He hates that.”

 When the train slowed to our stop, we jumped offand crossed

the sidewalk to the turf soccer fields. I heard whistling in the distance

and Erin and I looked up to see a small school of black birds

soaring overhead. Their small inky bodies formed a moving arrow

in the sky, like a kite with no strings attached to reel it back down

to the ground. Seeing birds in the city was rare, since all the trees

and gardens were synthetic, but once in a while they passed through

and I always took it as a sign that something exceptional was about

to happen.

 I looked down at the dark outline of a bird tattooed on the

inside of my wrist, where the skin is delicate and the veins are

thick. I ran my finger along its outstretched wings and smiled.

Every time I looked at my tattoo I was reminded of the person I

wanted to be. Someone thats free to move. Someone thats too

spirited to be caged in.

 Erin and I sat down on the grass to stretch. We were the only

two players that showed up early for practice every week.

 “So, are you meeting Justin tonight?” she asked me with a grin.

I frowned to show her, for the tenth time, it was not a date.

 “Its just a study group,” I reminded her.

 Her phone beeped and she started typing a message. “Do you

know what he looks like?”

 I shook my head and told her we both used face-free chatting.

I never revealed my real picture online. Now that I thought about

it, most of my contacts (or friends as some people refer to them)

didnt even know what I looked like. They saw cartoons, photographs,

and clip art images that illustrated the idea of me.

 “We never get personal,” I told her. “I dont know anything

about him except he has trouble writing thesis statements and conclusion

paragraphs. He doesnt even know my real name,” I added

with a grin.

 Erin set her phone down and met my eyes for the first time

today. “You created a fake profile for a tutor site? Why bother?”

 I shrugged and stretched my legs. “I want privacy,” I told her.

“My dads practically a celebrity, but I dont want people to assume

just because Im his daughter I agree with everything hes

doing. Besides, I never expected to meet Justin in person. I figured

wed study for a few classes and be done.”

 She shook her head with amusement. “Does he even know

youre a girl?” she asked.

 I couldnt help but smile. “I guess well find out.”

Product Details

Murdock, Catherine Gilbert
Graphia Books
Kacvinsky, Katie
Murdock, Catherine
Gilbert, Catherine
Girls & Women
Sports & Recreation - Football
Farm life
Family - General
Teenage girls
Love & Romance
Children s-General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 7 to 12
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 12

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Related Subjects

Children's » General
Children's » Situations » General
Children's » Sports and Outdoors » Sports Fiction » Football
Young Adult » General

The Off Season Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.99 Backorder
Product details 300 pages Graphia Books - English 9780618934935 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Life is looking up for D. J. Schwenk, star of Dairy Queen. Shes made it to eleventh grade, shes reconnecting with her best friend, and shes got a thing going with Brian Nelson. But best of all, shes playing for the Red Bend High School football team—as the first female linebacker in northern Wisconsin.

But then the season goes suddenly, horribly wrong: her brother Win is put into the hospital after getting a devastating injury during a game. Once again, D.J. is forced to step up and be there for her family. Its a heavy burden, even for D.J.s strong shoulders. Shell have to dig deeper than shes ever had to before.

"Synopsis" by , Life is looking up for D.J. Schwenk. Shes in eleventh grade, finally. After a rocky summer, shes reconnecting in a big way with her best friend, Amber. Shes got kind of a thing going with Brian Nelson, whos cute and popular and smart but seems to like her anyway. And then theres the fact shes starting for the Red Bend High School football team—the first girl linebacker in northern Wisconsin, probably. Which just shows you cant predict the future. As autumn progresses, D.J. struggles to understand Amber, Schwenk Farm, her relationship with Brian, and most of all her family. As a whole herd of trouble comes her way, she discovers shes a lot stronger than she—or anyone—ever thought.

   This hilarious, heartbreaking and triumphant sequel to the critically acclaimed Dairy Queen takes D.J. and all the Schwenks from Labor Day to a Thanksgiving football game that you will never forget.

"Synopsis" by ,
D. J. Schwenk has made it to eleventh grade and become the first female linebacker in northern Wisconsin. But when the season goes suddenly, horribly wrong, shell have to dig deeper than shes ever had to before.
"Synopsis" by ,
Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether its to go to school or on a date, people dont venture out of their home. Theres really no need. For the most part, Maddies okay with the solitary, digital lifeuntil she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People arent meant to be alone, he tells her. Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside hera feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking. In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.
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