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Closer to Nowhere

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#1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins's poignant middle grade novel in verse about coming to terms with indelible truths of family and belonging--now in paperback!

For the most part, Hannah's life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she's popular at school, and she's been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.

For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn't let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.

Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.
Ellen Hopkins is a poet, a former journalist, and the award-winning author of twenty nonfiction books for young readers, fourteen bestselling young-adult novels, two middle grade novels and four novels for adult readers. Sync is her fifteenth YA novel-in-verse. After six decades in the west, Ellen recently moved with her extended family and two German shepherds to a lovely log home on five acres of Missouri woods. View titles by Ellen Hopkins
Definition of Resent:
Feel Bothered By

Cal moved in
a little more than a year ago.
He wasn’t exactly a stranger.

Aunt Caryn was his mom,
and she and my mom were more than sisters.
They were identical twins.

Two halves of a whole,
Mom called them.

They were close, but they
didn’t live near each other.
Aunt Caryn moved to Arizona
before Cal was born.

She visited once in a while
and came to a couple of family
reunions. Talk about trouble!

I guess when Aunt Caryn met
Cal’s dad and dropped out
of college, it made Grandma mad.

They hardly talk at all anymore,
Mom told me once. And when
they do, they end up shouting.

“So why does Aunt Caryn
go to the reunions?” I asked.
“Grandma’s always there.

Caryn still wants to be part
of the family, and she wants
Cal to know his relatives.
“I think Grandma should
forgive her,” I said.

I think so, too. But my mother
has a hard time with forgiveness.
She thinks it’s a sign of weakness.


Grandma still hadn’t forgiven
her when Aunt Caryn died.

I’ll never forget that day.
Mom cried and cried.
When she finally stopped,
her face was so puffed up,
I could barely see her eyes.

I lost a piece of myself, she said.

Maybe Cal living with us
is like getting that piece back.

Maybe that’s why Mom lets him
get away with everything,
from pranks to meltdowns to lies.
I’m sorry, but I resent that.

Try to find a little sympathy,
Mom urges. After Caryn passed,
things got pretty rough for Cal.


His dad took him after
the funeral, but the details
of the next two years are a mystery.
And no one’s giving out clues.

You’ll have to wait for Cal to tell
you,
Mom says. It’s not up to me.

Whatever happened, I feel sorry
for Cal. If my mom died, I’d be lost.
Cal must feel lost sometimes, too.
So, yeah, I want to forgive his quirks.

Discussion Guide for Closer to Nowhere

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Praise for Closer to Nowhere:
A 2022-2023 Truman Readers Book Award Nominee (MO)
A 2022-2023 South Carolina Book Award Nominee
A 2021 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
A 2021 NCTE Notable Novel in Verse
An Amazon Best Book of the Month


★ “Readers will root for these realistic characters, and will cheer for the growth they experience. Highly recommended.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“Hopkins’ use of free verse provides a canvas for sure-handed, brush-stroke development of the backstory and plot and emotional investment and identification with the characters. . . Compassionate and compelling.” —Kirkus Reviews

“There’s a new crowd of Ellen Hopkins fans on the horizon! Hopkins tackles tough subjects with honesty and compassion, woven in brilliant verse as always, now in a novel for younger readers. This beautifully written book about the strength of family shows us that even someone who doesn’t feel at home anywhere can find a place to belong.” —Lynne Kelly, author of the Schneider Family Book Award–winning Song for a Whale

“Hopkins uses her familiar verse to take readers on an emotional rollercoaster. . . The author’s note about her own family experiences with addiction and behavioral challenges is almost as poignant as the text, and the quick pace makes it easy to devour, enticing fans to check out the rest of Hopkins’ oeuvre.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Hopkins creates realistic portrayals of two kids trying to do their best even when it’s not easy.” —Publishers Weekly

“One of the biggest challenges a middle-grade author faces is the middle-grade reader. This is the age when childhood and young adulthood so violently clash within you, even YOU aren’t sure how to find your voice. With Cal and Hannah, Ellen Hopkins tells middle-grade readers: I see you. I hear you. And your voice is powerful . . . even as it evolves. Closer to Nowhere is raw, but real. It’s love, but tough. It IS middle grade, and it is a gift for readers everywhere.” —K. A. Holt, award-winning author of House Arrest

“The queen of gritty YA novels-in-verse enters the realm of middle-grade literature with this story of a family fracturing under myriad pressures yet refusing to be broken . . . Hopkins paints a realistic picture of a family undergoing upheaval and learning to better care for one another.” —Booklist

About

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins's poignant middle grade novel in verse about coming to terms with indelible truths of family and belonging--now in paperback!

For the most part, Hannah's life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she's popular at school, and she's been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.

For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn't let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.

Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.

Author

Ellen Hopkins is a poet, a former journalist, and the award-winning author of twenty nonfiction books for young readers, fourteen bestselling young-adult novels, two middle grade novels and four novels for adult readers. Sync is her fifteenth YA novel-in-verse. After six decades in the west, Ellen recently moved with her extended family and two German shepherds to a lovely log home on five acres of Missouri woods. View titles by Ellen Hopkins

Excerpt

Definition of Resent:
Feel Bothered By

Cal moved in
a little more than a year ago.
He wasn’t exactly a stranger.

Aunt Caryn was his mom,
and she and my mom were more than sisters.
They were identical twins.

Two halves of a whole,
Mom called them.

They were close, but they
didn’t live near each other.
Aunt Caryn moved to Arizona
before Cal was born.

She visited once in a while
and came to a couple of family
reunions. Talk about trouble!

I guess when Aunt Caryn met
Cal’s dad and dropped out
of college, it made Grandma mad.

They hardly talk at all anymore,
Mom told me once. And when
they do, they end up shouting.

“So why does Aunt Caryn
go to the reunions?” I asked.
“Grandma’s always there.

Caryn still wants to be part
of the family, and she wants
Cal to know his relatives.
“I think Grandma should
forgive her,” I said.

I think so, too. But my mother
has a hard time with forgiveness.
She thinks it’s a sign of weakness.


Grandma still hadn’t forgiven
her when Aunt Caryn died.

I’ll never forget that day.
Mom cried and cried.
When she finally stopped,
her face was so puffed up,
I could barely see her eyes.

I lost a piece of myself, she said.

Maybe Cal living with us
is like getting that piece back.

Maybe that’s why Mom lets him
get away with everything,
from pranks to meltdowns to lies.
I’m sorry, but I resent that.

Try to find a little sympathy,
Mom urges. After Caryn passed,
things got pretty rough for Cal.


His dad took him after
the funeral, but the details
of the next two years are a mystery.
And no one’s giving out clues.

You’ll have to wait for Cal to tell
you,
Mom says. It’s not up to me.

Whatever happened, I feel sorry
for Cal. If my mom died, I’d be lost.
Cal must feel lost sometimes, too.
So, yeah, I want to forgive his quirks.

Guides

Discussion Guide for Closer to Nowhere

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Praise

Praise for Closer to Nowhere:
A 2022-2023 Truman Readers Book Award Nominee (MO)
A 2022-2023 South Carolina Book Award Nominee
A 2021 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
A 2021 NCTE Notable Novel in Verse
An Amazon Best Book of the Month


★ “Readers will root for these realistic characters, and will cheer for the growth they experience. Highly recommended.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“Hopkins’ use of free verse provides a canvas for sure-handed, brush-stroke development of the backstory and plot and emotional investment and identification with the characters. . . Compassionate and compelling.” —Kirkus Reviews

“There’s a new crowd of Ellen Hopkins fans on the horizon! Hopkins tackles tough subjects with honesty and compassion, woven in brilliant verse as always, now in a novel for younger readers. This beautifully written book about the strength of family shows us that even someone who doesn’t feel at home anywhere can find a place to belong.” —Lynne Kelly, author of the Schneider Family Book Award–winning Song for a Whale

“Hopkins uses her familiar verse to take readers on an emotional rollercoaster. . . The author’s note about her own family experiences with addiction and behavioral challenges is almost as poignant as the text, and the quick pace makes it easy to devour, enticing fans to check out the rest of Hopkins’ oeuvre.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Hopkins creates realistic portrayals of two kids trying to do their best even when it’s not easy.” —Publishers Weekly

“One of the biggest challenges a middle-grade author faces is the middle-grade reader. This is the age when childhood and young adulthood so violently clash within you, even YOU aren’t sure how to find your voice. With Cal and Hannah, Ellen Hopkins tells middle-grade readers: I see you. I hear you. And your voice is powerful . . . even as it evolves. Closer to Nowhere is raw, but real. It’s love, but tough. It IS middle grade, and it is a gift for readers everywhere.” —K. A. Holt, award-winning author of House Arrest

“The queen of gritty YA novels-in-verse enters the realm of middle-grade literature with this story of a family fracturing under myriad pressures yet refusing to be broken . . . Hopkins paints a realistic picture of a family undergoing upheaval and learning to better care for one another.” —Booklist

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