Title: Double Negative
Author: C. Lee McKenzie
Genre: Young Adult Crossover
"My life was going, going, gone, and I hadn't been laid yet. I couldn't go into the slammer before that happened." Hutch McQueen.
Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is a big time loser. Trapped in a dysfunctional family, his one thought is escape, but everything he does to get away lands him in trouble.
Shackled by poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. When he shoplifts and lands in juvenile detention, the court sentences him to a county youth program. There he meets the priest and Maggie, a retired teacher. They’re determined to set Hutch on a path leading away from trouble. Hutch is determined not to cooperate.
It isn’t until he’s facing serious charges that he confronts the truth—his own bad choices are trapping him. When he's offered the freedom he craves, all he has to do is take it.
14+ for adult situation and sexuality
Monday I find Nyla at her table in the cafeteria and scoot across the bench seat. “Yo, Nyla. You talking to me yet?”
She takes her time before she says, “I heard you got busted. Is that true?”
“Yep. Who’s the narc? Meeker?” I don’t wait for her answer because it’s always Meeker. “So what did he tell you?”
“You were arrested for stealing a chicken?” She raises her eyebrows as if she hopes they hauled me off for something more important than that.
I shrug. “Gotta eat, you know, and chicken’s supposed to be healthy.”
“Guess it’s true then, I mean about the meth house.”
Meeker’s been busy. “Sorta true, but right now I haz a question.”
“You always haz questions. Fortunately, I haz answers. What is your question du jour?”
She’s back. I can tell. “There’s this thing called a double negative. You heard of it?”
“Every time we talk.”
Nyla sighs and waves the back of her hand at me, like she’s brushing off that last comment of hers.
“Okay, what is it?”
She takes out a pencil and a piece of paper from her backpack and writes across one line. Then she pushes the paper at me.
I cover my right eye and read. “Don’t = negative and nothing = negative.” I push the paper back at her. “Yeah, so what?”
“Think math. When they’re together in a sentence you’re saying something positive, not negative. Ergo, ‘I don’t have no money’ means you have money. If you mean you’re broke, then you have to say, ‘I don’t have any money.’”
“Where’s it say that?”
She rubs both eyes. “Your English grammar book. Where is it?”
“My locker? I don’t know. I ain’t seen it since school started.”
I never take that one out. It’s somewhere on the bottom under the candy wrappers and the two All Woman mags I keep for when I need cheering up.
“Well, that’s the problem, you see. Look up negatives. The rule’s there.”
“Okay. I gotta think about this.” I fold the paper and shove it into my pocket. “Now here’s something else. What’s it mean when you’re mad as the Queen of Hearts and want to chop off heads?”
She laughs real hard and her boobs do a dance. I’m kind of not thinking right then because I stare and get this sort of wild picture of what’s going on inside that blouse. Before I know it, standing is not a good idea and my face is hot. I reach under the bench with both hands and pull.
“The Queen of Hearts is from Alice in Wonderland. She’s always angry about something and she’s always yelling: ‘Off with their heads!’ It’s a book, but you can see the movie. It’s back in town.”
“Uh, great. Thanks.” I get up slow and easy. As I head out of the cafeteria I remember that something’s different about Nyla. She wasn’t eating nothing. Outside I unfold the paper and read what she wrote again.
“She wasn’t eating. . . anything?”
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From my reviews:
This is an inspirational story about how someone can change, how they can rise above the circumstances that seem certain to condemn then to a future as bleak as their present. Hutch’s transformation is an inspiration for teens and adults as well.
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Runs September 7 – September 15, 2021.
Winner will be drawn on September 16, 2021.
It’s all about what’s real and happening in C. Lee McKenzie’s novels. Her young adult- crossover books take on modern issues everyone faces in their daily lives. Her story about illiteracy, Double Negative, was voted as one of the best top ten Young Adult books in 2019. Her other books, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Sudden Secrets and Not Guilty are out to four and five star reviews.
She’s a traveler, someone who loves to eat her garden-grown produce and has never met a dog or cat she can resist.
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