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Tommy Wallach's 'Thanks for the Trouble' excerpt and cover

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Tommy Wallach, author of We All Looked Up, is back with his next book, Thanks for the Trouble, out Feb. 23, 2016.

Thanks for the Trouble follows Parker Santé, a boy who hasn’t spoken in five years after suffering an awful tragedy. His will to live is shrinking — but then he meets a mysterious, silver-haired girl who intrigues him enough to consider sticking around. EW has your exclusive first look at the stunning cover, and an excerpt that will have you counting down the days until February.

Excerpt from THANKS FOR THE TROUBLE by Tommy Wallach

“You can’t speak?” the silver-haired girl asked.

I shook my head.

“So you just write in this, I suppose.” She flipped my journal open to the first page: Journal #105. Return to Parker Santé, parkersante@gmail.com. Do not read. And yes, I realize that probably only makes you want to read it more, but don’t. Seriously.

“Does this mean you’ve filled out a hundred and four other journals?”

I nodded, and I wondered if she could tell that I was proud of that fact. Sure, I was a freak, but at least I was a super-freak. And I loved the way they looked, all those journals lined up on a single bookshelf in my room, carving a path through time that you could follow, like a trail of bread crumbs, from that first day in Dr. Milton’s office right up to the present. It was as if I’d archived myself inside them—my own private horcruxes.

“I suppose you don’t have much of a choice, do you?” the girl said. “We all have things we need to get off our chests. Most people just talk and talk until there’s no one left to listen. You talk to your journals. It’s practically poetic.”

I have “Practically a Poet” printed on all my business cards, I wrote.

The girl smiled. It was the first time she’d done that, and for some reason it made me think of that smile-shaped banana painting in Dr. Milton’s office, the one that had made me cry. “How old are you, Parker Santé?”

I held up ten fingers, then seven.

“Seventeen? What a horrible age. I bet you spend most of your free time playing computer games and watching pornography on the Internet.”

People who can speak don’t know this, but it’s much harder to lie when you don’t have access to words. The mind might be treacherous, but the body is a Boy Scout—it’s always trying to give away your secrets. I put on an expression that I hoped conveyed offense and denial simultaneously. The girl didn’t buy it for a second.

“Grubby little seventeen-year-old-boy hands. Disgusting.”

Are you older than me?

“Time flows differently for girls,” she said dismissively, then flagged down a passing waiter. “Garçon? Two more coffees, if you would, and make it snappy.”

I gave her a funny look, because really, who said shit like that? It reminded me of this one time that Mr. Bear, my American history teacher, called a paper I’d written “anachronistic,” which meant that it didn’t correctly describe the time period it was supposed to (in his defense, I had written a fictional version of the Civil War that involved a lot of Confederate androids with laser muskets and almost no reading of the assigned textbooks). That word seemed like a perfect fit for the silver-haired girl. She didn’t seem like a normal teenager—more like something between a space alien and a homeschooled kid. Or maybe she was just a lot older than she looked. There was this girl in my chemistry class named Laura who was half Dutch and half Native American, and she had these hands that I swear could have belonged to an old woman: weather-beaten, tanned like old leather, crosshatched with wrinkles. Basically, a palm reader’s wet dream. The silver-haired girl was a little like that, except instead of her hands seeming too old, it was her whole personality.

“So tell me, Parker Santé, what has inspired you to fill up a hundred and four and a half journals in your short and sordid seventeen years on this planet?”

I didn’t usually answer that question honestly, but I wanted to throw something in the girl’s way, something to shake her seemingly unshakable composure, and in this case, the truth was the most efficient way to get that done.

I stopped talking after my dad died, I wrote, then prepared myself for the usual things people said after I told them that.

“What a remarkably asinine thing to do.”

That was not the usual things.

“I’m sorry if that sounds rude, Parker, but I hardly see what your father dying has to do with what sounds like—and you’ll have to excuse me again if this comes across harshly—an almost deranged sort of graphomania. My father died, and I never wrote a single word about it.”

My therapist said it might help, at least until my voice came back. But my voice never came back, because I wouldn’t go to speech therapy.

“Why ever not?”

Before I could answer, the waiter returned with two fresh cups of coffee. The girl poured cream and dropped a big boulder of brown sugar into her cup. She went to do the same to mine, but I put my hand over it just in time.

“Really?” she said. “I’ve never understood people who take their coffee black. Isn’t life already bitter enough?”

That’s what I like about it. Life isn’t sugarcoated. Why should coffee be?

“The first reasonable point you’ve made, Parker Santé. Cheers.” We toasted coffee mugs. “But we were talking about your strange condition. You refuse to go to speech therapy, and instead you rob innocent strangers in hotels. Do I have that about right?”

Innocent people don’t usually have fat stacks of hundreds in their purse.

“Then I am the exception that proves the rule. This money is everything I have left in the world.”

For real?

The girl nodded.

Then you should probably go put that in a bank or something.

“But I just took it out.”

Why?

The girl stared at me for a few seconds, as if weighing her options. Then she opened up her purse and took out a cell phone. She placed it between us on the white tablecloth. “I am waiting for a phone call. And when it comes, I’m going to give this money to the first needy person I see. Then I’ll take the trolley to the Golden Gate Bridge and jump off it.”