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 X
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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About this Book

Print Excerpt


Although I don't remember it, the story went like this: My mother and I were walking along the creek beneath the bridge when a truck from a knackery, which is what some people call a rendering plant, overturned on the span above us.

Look: A dead horse fell from the bridge. Nobody thought to lash bungee cords to the animal's legs, or maybe equip it with a parachute.

That would have been something to see.

Things like that turn men into writers and other, worse things.

I don't remember it.

After all, it happened more than five billion miles ago.

The knackery truck was on its way to the plant after pick¬ing up a twenty-two-year-old Percheron gelding. The horse was dead, set to be rendered, to have its atoms turned into pet food and stuff like shampoos, lubricants on condoms, rubber tires, and explosives.

Did you know they put dead animals into bombs?

My father told me once, If that doesn't make you a poet, Finn, nothing will.

I would rather be a poet than end up inside a bomb or a bottle of shampoo.

There is something important in running a knackery.

When you think about it, the universe is nothing but this vast knackery of churning black holes and exploding stars, constantly freeing atoms that collect together and become something else, and something else again.

Here is what I think about that horse falling on us: I figure it took a little more than four seconds for the horse to travel from the span of the bridge, over three hundred feet above, to where my mother and I stood on the bank of Salmon Creek. During that fall, the earth moved approximately one hundred miles. If you were to walk a straight line for a hundred miles and drop a total of three hundred feet, you wouldn't even realize you were descending in elevation at all.

That horse fell one hundred sideways miles.


Look: There are scars along my back where they put pins in me to heal the vertebrae. They look like colon, vertical slash, colon. Like this:

:|:

I am fine now.

In baseball, I have a good arm and a bat, and I can field, but I am not interested in playing it after high school. My natural talent, I think, is in being fine—no matter what is actually going on inside me.

I am fine.

Nobody ever thinks otherwise.

Five Euros in Dollars

There is no creek in Burnt Mill Creek. I don't know if there was a creek here at one time, or if the people who named our town were attempting to fool settlers into populating this barren valley at the bottom of San Francisquito Canyon.

False advertising.

There's no mill here either.

Maybe it burned.

Atoms will be freed, after all, and names are misleading and can constantly change. And people hide themselves in costumes.

That's what I believe, at least, and so far it has pretty much been the story of my life.


Cade Hernandez was like a god.

When we were in tenth grade, he orchestrated a plan to standardize our entire class—make every tenth-grader exactly the same. He called it our Quit Being Individuals mission. With only about two hundred kids in our class, it wasn't a difficult task to manage, and like I said, Cade Hernandez had the ability to make anyone do whatever he wanted.

After all, Cade explained, it was exactly what the school sys¬tem had been trying to do to us for our entire lives: make us all the same. So at the end of our sophomore year as the week for the State of California Basic Educational Standards Test (they called it the BEST Test) neared and hundreds of number two pencils were being sharpened in preparation for hours of mind¬less bubble filling by the kids at Burnt Mill Creek High School, Cade Hernandez came up with a wicked idea; one that he got every tenth-grader in our school to play along with too.

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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