I’m not sure what spring break will look like for schools this year, but I imagine many families who normally go on vacation during that week will be sticking closer to home. It might be a good idea to stock up on books for young readers. Following this month’s theme of “Spring Break,” today I’m featuring Violet, a middle-grade contemporary book by Renée Lichetenhan.
Inspiration behind the book:
My “I Am Girl” collection of middle-grade books is inspired by a desire to help parents cultivate faith and virtue in their kids. Honesty is at the root of my most recent release, VIOLET. I chose to spotlight honesty, because — let’s face it, lots of teenagers lie to their parents. That’s what VIOLET chooses to do, and as you’d expect, her choice ends up getting her into a heap of trouble. But, what happens when she comes clean is a surprise even to Violet.
About the book:
Thirteen-year-old Violet Windsor is obsessed with the rush and thrill of skateboarding through a dangerous, gang-ridden part of New York City. Certain that her high-society parents wouldn’t approve of the rough-and-tumble sport or the sketchy neighborhood, she and her best friend, Sloane, hide her secret adventures in a thick veil of lies.
When Violet’s autistic, non-verbal brother, Oliver, begins drawing pictures that reveal a mysterious knowledge of her secrets, Violet is rattled to the core. Intrigued by peculiar clues in Oliver’s drawings, she follows them down a reckless path toward redemption and truth.
Sloane rode her bike beside Violet down the hectic, congested sidewalks. When they reached the riverfront greenway, Violet threaded a jump rope around Sloane’s bike seat and held on tight as Sloane pedaled fast, pulling Violet along at exhilarating speeds.
Violet couldn’t help but let out a whoop and raise an arm triumphantly in the air. Free at last!
When they were almost to Harlem, they passed another skateboarder, who shot by in a blur. Sloane slowed down and looked backwards. “He called your name.”
“Who? The skateboarder?” Violet slowed herself with one foot, stopped and turned around.
The guy on the skateboard turned around and raced toward them. As he got closer, she recognized Maria’s son, Emilio. A look of fear in his eyes sent an icy chill down Violet’s spine. “Emilio? What’s wrong?”
He dragged one foot on the pavement until he came to a stop. Oddly, he carried a second skateboard under one of his arms. “Actually, I was heading over to your place to get you.”
“To get me?” Violet asked. Weird.
“Yeah.” He kept looking at the pavement, uncomfortable with eye contact, as usual.
“Why?” Violet asked.
“Rex’s in trouble.” Emilio said. He shivered, wearing only short sleeves.
“Okaaaay? What does that have to do with me? He’s always in trouble.” Violet said, annoyed.
“Who’s Rex?” Sloane asked.
“Trust me, you don’t want to know,” Violet answered. Turning back to Emilio, she asked. “How do you know him, anyway?”
The question seemed to make him tense, impatient maybe. “School.”
“Really?” Violet frowned. Considering she’d known Emilio all of her life, she didn’t know that much about him. How could she when he kept to himself all the time?
“Yep. Since kindergarten.” Emilio said. He shifted his weight and drummed his fingers impatiently against the board he carried.
Violet shook her head in pity. “Dude. That’s too bad for you. Glad he doesn’t go to my school.”
Emilio lifted his chin, and a defensive fire burned in his eyes. “Who would wanna go to your stuck-up school anyway?”
Violet placed her foot on her board. “Okay, I’m outta here. See ya.”
Before she could push off, Emilio touched her shoulder. “No. Wait.”
Remorse filled his eyes as he held out the skateboard he carried. “I brought this for you. Guess you don’t need it though.”
Was that supposed to be some kind of lame peace offering? And anyway, how had he known Violet didn’t have a board?
“I don’t want to get mixed up in Rex’s trouble,” Violet said. She turned toward Sloane and gestured to keep going.
He kept pace with them, riding alongside. “He needs help. It’s bad!”
“Yeah, so what? I don’t care,” Violet said.
“You’re the only one I can think of to help him,” Emilio said.
“Better think harder, then,” she replied. After catching sight of the skate park bathed in overhead lights, she dropped their conversation, zeroed in on the half-pipe, and sped up.
Finding the park empty except for one novice skate boarder taking the small ramps, she raced to the half-pipe, breathing hard, anticipating the electrifying charge of the drop. Screaming down it at dizzying speeds, she launched herself up the other side. She sailed high, gripping her board. After she smacked into a perfect landing, she threw her head back, laughed, and pumped her arms high in the air. “That was awesome!” She yelled out to no one in particular.
Sloane skidded to a stop near her. “What the—?! Violet, how did you do that? You scared me to death, but it was so cool!”
Trey rode up on his bike, his big smile lighting up his whole face, “Vy! You’re back!”
Violet jumped off her board and ran to hug him. Over Trey’s shoulder, Violet caught Sloane’s amused look, her eyebrows lifting several times. Violet stepped back and said, “Trey, this is my friend, Sloane.”
He assessed Sloane’s fifteen-speed road bike. “Hey.”
“Hey,” she said back, sizing up his shabby clothes. After he turned his back to Sloane, she gave Violet a look that clearly implied she didn’t approve of this guy. He wasn’t the polo-and-kaki type they were used to.
Trey’s eyes held the same shadow of worry that Emilio’s had. Where was Emilio, anyway? Violet spotted him hanging around the far edges of the park turning his attention from her, back to the street as if deciding whether to stay or go.
“You hear ‘bout Rex?” he asked.
“No, what happened?” she replied.
“Got the livin’—” Trey glanced over at Sloane and apparently decided not to cuss. “He got beat up bad.”
A satisfying bit of glee started to pull Violet’s face into a grin. Rex finally got what he deserved. Out of nowhere, her conscience got all prickly and erased her grin. She shivered. “Who did it?”
“I dunno.” He regarded Emilio. “That guy came here lookin’ for you. Told me Rex got beat up bad, but that’s all. You know him?”
“Yeah, that’s Emilio. His mom—” She started to say that his mom worked for her family, but she quickly reconsidered. She didn’t want to make a show of her family’s money. “Our families know each other.”
Violet motioned for Emilio to come over, and he rushed toward them on his board. His wheels scraped to a hurried halt an inch from Violet’s board.
“You have to come see him. He needs help now,” Emilio blurted out.
“I came to skate,” Violet said. She started to push herself away on her board, and Emilio grabbed her arm to stop her. His grip wasn’t mean; it was more urgent and desperate. Violet felt the difference, but Trey yanked Emilio’s grip off of her.
“Back off!” Trey warned, pushing his face close to Emilio’s.
“Man, you back off. What’s your problem?” Emilio retorted, squaring his shoulders.
Violet stepped between them, placing a hand on each of their chests, pushing them away from each other. “Hey, hey. Settle down,” she said, her voice stern. “It’s okay Trey. I think he’s just a little… scared, maybe?” She looked to Emilio who stuck out his chin defiantly, but she saw the chill of fear in his eyes.
“Why do you want me to help him?” Violet asked. “We’re not even friends.”
“Just— please. Come with me, you’ll see what I mean,” Emilio begged.
Uncertain what to do, Violet looked to Sloane for help.
Sloane hesitated as if weighing the pros and cons in her mind. Finally, she said, “Let’s go.”
About the Author:
Renée Lichtenhan’s “I Am Girl” novels grew out of years of working with children. Renée loves their open minds, hearts,and souls. She wanted to write engaging books that might encourage faith and virtue to take shape within that openness. She lives with her husband in Mississippi, where they raised their three grown children.