A dark figure of the past threatens to return in this powerful excerpt from Laura Sibson’s new YA novel, The Art of Breaking Things.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault take many forms and, in the age of #MeToo, so do the victims’ stories. The Art of Breaking Things is based on author Laura Sibson’s own experiences and tells the story of a young woman fighting to protect herself and her younger sister from a man who preys on the innocent and vulnerable. But it’s also a story of resilience and love.
All of these elements, from the trauma of sexual assault to the love between sisters, are present in this exclusive excerpt from the novel. It’s the perfect first taste of what to expect from The Art of Breaking Things, which will be available everywhere on June 18.
After reading this short passage from the book, you won’t be able to walk away from this story.
Check out this exclusive excerpt from ‘The Art of Breaking Things’ by Laura Sibson
When we walk in, Mom is curled up on our worn, red couch reading a magazine. She’s alone. My shoulders drop in relief. Her long hair is pulled back, and she’s wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. At this moment, I’d call her Whirligig at Rest. Mom is always moving, and even when sitting, she’s usually on her email or going through bills or folding clothes. Seeing her sitting and reading is like witnessing the sun stop its movement across the sky.
“There are my girls!” she says with a big smile. I can’t help but smile back. Mom’s smile does that to people.
“Hi, Mom.” Emma flops on the couch and starts thumbing her phone. Their heads nearly touch, the same dark brown hair as mine, though Mom’s color comes from a bottle now.
Mom hugs her. “How was your sleepover, honey?”
Emma eyes me and then looks at Mom. “It was great. Julia was super happy and we all had a lot of fun.”
Emma smoothly censors what she’s sharing. She’s not telling Mom how I let her down by being late and she’s not saying how much she loves Julia’s family, because she knows it will hurt Mom’s feelings. I make a mental note to create something for Emma. Mom squeezes Emma like she’s still a little kid, not an almost twelve-year-old girl. I get that, though. I like to think of Emma as little too, even though I can see that she’s not.
“Did you have fun with Luisa?” Mom asks me.
“Yeah, I did,” I say, suddenly all too aware of my lack of a bra and hungover eyes. “I’m going to take a shower.”
“Okay, but I wanted to share something with you girls.”
My Spidey-senses start tingling.
Mom takes a deep breath and smiles at both of us. “Whew! This is harder than I expected,” she says. She takes another breath. “You know that Dan and I parted ways a while back, but we reconnected, and we have been seeing each other.” She pauses to let that settle in.
“You’ve been seeing each other for how long?” I ask, dread snaking down my spine.
Mom rubs her lips together. “Five months.”
The cold shock of betrayal washes over me. “Five months? And you haven’t said anything?”
Mom worries the magazine between her fingers and then raises her eyes to mine. “I wanted to be sure that we were serious before I told you girls.”
“So it’s serious then,” I say.
“Yes,” Mom says. “He was here last night, in fact. We were talking over our next steps together.”
So that’s why he was here. Worst fears confirmed.
“But you . . .” I glance at Emma, wondering how much she remembers from those days. “You ended it. So long ago.”
Mom nods and swallows, like she’s expected my statement. “I know five years seems long to you, but it’s not that long for us.”
She’s right, it seems like a very long time to me. Long enough to shut that door for good.
“And like I said, we’ve been seeing each other.”
“When?” I scoff. “At Mac and Judy’s annual pig roasts?” I remember the first one after Dan and Mom broke up. He showed up with some skinny woman who smoked and didn’t eat anything. Mom wept for days after that. Judy came by with food for us and to rub Mom’s back and tell her that everyone was on “Team Beth.” Mac took us to school for a couple days when Mom couldn’t get out of bed.
“I have a life outside of work and my time with you girls, you know.”
I thought back to nights she asked me to watch Emma or afternoons when she said she was going out for a few hours.
“I didn’t want him back in your lives until it felt right. And now it does. In fact, he’ll be here for dinner this week. He’s anxious to see you girls again.”
“I’m happy for you!” Emma says.
“Do you even remember Dan?” I say to Emma. My tone cuts in a way that I didn’t intend.
“Of course she does,” Mom says, but the way she glances at Emma shows me that she’s not certain.
“You don’t have to speak for me, Mom,” Emma chimes in. “Yes, Skye, I remember Dan. I was in first grade when he left. I remember all that fun stuff he would do with us. Those hikes we did and the baseball game and camping.” Her tone drifts off.
Hiking, the baseball game, and camping. Three things over the four or so years that Mom and Dan were mostly together. I used to think that way about Dan. How smart he was and how fun too. He always wanted to teach us something new, and he’d do it in his wacky way. But then he fractured that perfect image and I could never see him the same way again.
“I need to take a shower,” I say again.
Mom’s eyes flick over me. “Good idea.”
I head down the steps into the basement, which is pretty much mine. At the bottom of the steps is an open area with a couch and a chair, but most of the space is taken up by my drafting table and art supplies. The washer and dryer are tucked behind folding doors along one wall. Opposite that are my bedroom and my own bathroom. Mac had built it all when I turned thirteen, and it was pretty much the best birthday gift ever.
In my room, each wall painted in different colors and patterns, I sit heavily on my bed. My fingers trail the bookshelf we’d snagged from a curb one day. We’d painted that too, me and Mom. Teal green with purple polka dots. All of this was after Dan was gone. There’s nothing of him left in my life. At least that’s what I’d assumed. I kick off my boots and head for the bathroom.
After locking the bathroom door, I do my morning stuff—brushing my teeth, taking my birth control, and washing my face. I strip down to step into the shower, and as I let the hot water rush over me, I try to wash off the guilt from not remembering what happened last night and the confusion about Dan returning. Five months she’s been seeing him. How could I not have realized it? I’ve got to get that scholarship to MICA and get out of this place.
About ‘The Art of Breaking Things’ by Laura Sibson
In the tradition of Laurie Halse Anderson and Sara Zarr, one girl embraces the power of her voice: rules are meant to be broken and she won’t stay silent.
Weekends are for partying with friends while trying to survive the mindnumbingness that is high school. The countdown to graduation is on, and Skye has her sights set on escaping to art school and not looking back.
But her party-first-ask-questions-later lifestyle starts to crumble when her mom rekindles her romance with the man who betrayed Skye’s boundaries when he was supposed to be protecting her. She was too young to understand what was happening at the time, but now she doesn’t know whether to run as far away from him as possible or give up her dreams to save her little sister. The only problem is that no one knows what he did to her. How can she reveal the secret she’s guarded for so long?
With the help of her best friend and the only boy she’s ever trusted, Skye might just find the courage she needs to let her art speak for her when she’s out of words. After years of hiding her past, she must become her own best ally.
The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson is set to hit shelves on June 18, 2019. You can preorder your copy now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or Indiebound. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!