Excerpt from 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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100 Sideways Miles

by Andrew Smith

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2015, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Print Excerpt

Part 1
Perigee Moon
The Quit Mission

Look: I do not know where I actually came from. I wonder, I suspect, but I do not know.

I am not the only one who sometimes thinks I came from the pages of a book my father wrote. Maybe it's like that for all boys of a certain—or uncertain—age: We feel as though there are no choices we'd made through all those miles and miles behind us that hadn't been scripted by our fathers, and that our futures are only a matter of flipping the next page that was written ahead of us.

I am not the only one who's ever been trapped inside a book. A story involving alien visitors from outer space, an epileptic kid who doesn't really know where he came from, knackeries and dead horses falling a hundred sideways miles, abandoned prisons, a shadow play, moons and stars, and jumping from a bridge into a flood should probably begin with a big explosion in the sky about fourteen billion years ago. After all, the whole story is rather biblical, isn't it?

Poof!

But it doesn't.

It begins at a high school in Burnt Mill Creek, California. It begins before the summer Cade Hernandez and I went on a fact-finding expedition to visit a college in Oklahoma.

We didn't quite make it to the college. I'm not sure if we found any facts, either.

Mr. Nossik hung motivational posters on the walls of his classroom—things about perseverance, integrity, and shit like that.

One of them said this:

OPPORTUNITY: WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES,
ANOTHER ONE OPENS.

The first time we saw that one, Cade Hernandez, my best friend, said, "Sounds like he lives in a fucking haunted house."

I suppose it was a year for opening doors in more ways than I ever imagined.

At Burnt Mill Creek High School, the people in charge were constantly on some kind of pointless mission to get us kids to quit doing shit. All schools everywhere are like that, I think. Quit Chewing Gum flopped in ninth grade. Quit Using Cell Phones was dead before it started. And, now, during the second semester of our junior year, the quit mission involved "fuck."

Not doing it, saying it.

It was destined to fail.

More than a century of public education that aimed its pedagogical crosshairs at getting teenagers to quit having sex, quit drinking, quit driving so fast, quit taking drugs, never had the slightest behavior-altering effect on kids.

Not that I did any of those things. Well, some of them.

Now we were caught up in the Burnt Mill Creek High School mission to make us quit saying "fuck," which is more or less a comma—a punctuation mark—to most teenagers when they speak.

The teachers and administrators at Burnt Mill Creek High School might just as well have focused their energies on getting tectonic plates to quit making so many fucking earthquakes.

The brains behind the Quit Saying "Fuck" mission was our history teacher, Mr. Nossik. He and the staff at the school painted signs with slogans that said things like NO F-BOMBS, PLEASE! (the kids called them "fuck posters"), and teachers even wore specially printed WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE, O PIONEERS! T-shirts. The kids called them "fuck shirts."

The campaign only made things worse.

By May, Mr. Nossik was about to explode.

We were all about to witness a Nazi having a stroke.

Here is what happened: Our teacher, Mr. Nossik, believed in making history "come alive." So, naturally, on May 7, which was the anniversary of the German surrender in World War II, Mr. Nossik dressed himself up as a Gestapo kommissar

. Naturally.

What a nice scene: a Nazi at the front of a public-school classroom filled with sixteen-year-old boys and girls.

Excerpted from 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith. Copyright © 2014 by Andrew Smith. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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