What do you like about people?

Because I’m on the quiet side, people always assume I’m nice. I mean, I guess I’m nice, compared some kids. I don’t mouth off my teachers or anything. Mostly I do what I’m supposed to. But I definitely have a wild side. Me and my friend Holly like to prank people, for instance. You know, on the phone. We say dumb stuff, like we’re calling from the IRS or something. It’s so funny. Adults get all fired up when they hear ‘IRS.’  They can’t tell we’re kids? For real? Neither of us sounds like a grownup.

Sometimes I yell at my mom, especially when she criticizes my sister. I feel bad. My mom gets so upset. But I can’t help it. It makes me crazy when she says stuff about Leah. My sister bends the rules, but it doesn’t make her a bad person. She wants to be independent. I don’t always agree with how she behaves, but I respect her. My parents should respect her, too. They shouldn’t always be jumping all over her.

Anyway, my point is, I’m not always nice. I don’t like everyone, either. But I do give people a chance. Usually, I’m pretty accepting. I mean, I don’t make fun of other kids or anything. There’s this kid in my bio class. He picks his nose and wipes his finger on his pants. It so gross! The other kids all pick on him. One time, they were teasing him so bad, he started to cry. That just made it worse. At lunch, I sat with him. I’m not looking for a medal or anything. I mean, it was sort of cool, sitting with him. He’s really interesting. His dad’s a pilot and their family has traveled all over the world.

One thing I won’t tolerate, though – people talking trash about my family. When I hear people saying things about my sister, judging her, I want to punch them out. KIA-AH. Left, right, uppercut. Pow, pow! Ha! Knock some sense into their peanut-size brain.

She has a big heart, my sister. A few months ago, this boy at school called me a monkey. I had the hugest crush on him. One afternoon, he sat next to me on the bus. He likes me, I thought. He likes me. All of a sudden, he points at my arm and starts saying how hairy I am. ‘You look like a monkey,’ he said. I wanted to die. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have my sister. She just listened and she rubbed my back and she said he probably did like me. ‘That’s how boys your age act,’ she said. ‘They’re just immature.’

Same with that boy, Mike, who picks his nose. He ended up being a really great friend. For midterms, he made this intense study booklet, with all the important information we’d learned so far. I’m sure it took him hours to put it together. And he gave me a copy.

If you give people a chance, you might be surprised to find that under their weirdness or rebellion there’s a really good person. When that happens, it’s like the coolest thing ever.

People surprise you. Looks are often deceiving. The worst person in the world, or the person you think the worst, turns out to have a good side. That’s what I like about people.

About Justine: Justine Tyler, 12, is an eighth grader at Cortland Middle School. A straight-A student, she has won town-wide awards in science and math. She’s currently working on a project on planetary movement for her school’s science fair. She loves karate, vampire slaying, chocolate chip cookies and Dog, her yellow Labrador Retriever.

About In Leah’s Wake

The Tylers have a perfect life-beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine, more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years, just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly together kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until everything goes wrong.

As Leah’s parents fight to save their daughter from a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties, their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Justine observes her sister’s rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family-leaving her to question whether anyone loves her and if God even knows she exists.

Can this family survive in Leah’s wake? What happens when love just isn’t enough?


Margot Livesey, award-winning author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, calls In Leah’s Wake, “A beautifully written and absorbing novel.”

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