Cover image for The wrong side of right
Title:
The wrong side of right
Author:
Thorne, Jenn Marie, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dial Books, [2015]
Physical Description:
390 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
After her mother dies, sixteen-year-old Kate Quinn meets the father she did not know she had, joins his presidential campaign, falls for a rebellious boy, and when what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign's talking points, Kate must decide what is best.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780803740570
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Fans of Huntley Fitzpatrick, Jenny Han, and Meg Cabot will adore this smart debut young adult novel, equal parts My Life Next Door  and  The Princess Diaries --plus a dash of The West Wing

Kate Quinn's mom died last year, leaving Kate parentless and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible--or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He's a powerful politician. And he's running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate's moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate's new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign's talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn't necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?

Set against a backdrop of politics, family, and first love, this is a story of personal responsibility, complicated romance, and trying to discover who you are even as everyone tells you who you should be.


Author Notes

Jenn Marie Thorne graduated from NYU-Tisch with a BFA in drama and quickly realized she was having more fun writing plays, short films, and superhero webisodes than actually performing in them. Then, when a flurry of political scandals hit the news, Jenn wondered what the kids at the center of the media's attention must be going through, and so began The Wrong Side of Right , her debut novel. Jen lives and writes in beautiful Gulfport, Florida, alongside her husband, two sons, and hound dog Molly.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Kate Quinn never knew her father. After her mother dies in a car accident, Kate moves from Los Angeles to live with the only relatives she knows her aunt and uncle in South Carolina. Her quiet life there is suddenly shattered when she, and the rest of the world, learn that Kate is the biological daughter of a presidential candidate, Senator Cooper. All of a sudden, Kate has a role to play in a high-stakes political contest where one false move could cost her father his chance at the presidency. If that weren't enough, there are a couple more complications. First, the current president has a rebellious (and attractive) teen son who has a thing for Kate. And second, as part of the campaign agenda, Kate needs to express viewpoints that are definitely not her own. Thorne's debut novel is both intelligent and heartfelt, as Kate finds unexpected love as well as unimagined courage. Readers will also get an education in the dark side of American politics, where lawmakers buy votes with careless promises to the upper class, heedless of the damage to less fortunate American families. Like Danny in Trent Reedy's Divided We Fall (2014), Kate faces timely conflicts that could affect thousands of people. Thorne not only gives readers a moving coming-of-age story but also casts a critical eye on the state of American politics.--Colson, Diane Copyright 2015 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

At the end of her junior year, Kate Quinn discovers that her recently deceased mother had an affair with Republican Senator Mark Cooper-who happens to be running for president-and that Kate was the result. Eager to make things right with his new daughter, his family, and voters, Senator Cooper invites Kate on the campaign trail with his wife and two children, who become Kate's new stepmother and stepsiblings. Kate soon finds herself at the center of the Republican political machine and a storm of scandal, eager to get to know her father and win over this new, unexpected family, while attempting to maintain her own identity. In a smart, fresh, and engaging debut, Thorne offers an enticing glimpse at what unfolds behind convention stages while exploring Kate's complicated family past, as well as what it's like to be thrust into a national spotlight that can be as cruel as it is welcoming. Add in a delicious, secret romance with the President's son, and readers will be hoping for a sequel to this political page-turner. Ages 12-up. Agent: Katelyn Detweiler, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-After her mother passed away in a sudden accident, 16-year-old Kate Quinn is left parentless and forced to move cross-country from Los Angeles to South Carolina to live with her uncle. Nearly a year later, while still in a haze of grief, she comes home to a yard full of reporters and the Republican candidate for president sitting in her living room-claiming to be her father. From that moment, she quickly finds herself in the national spotlight, living with a family that she has just met, and falling for a boy whom she can't entirely trust. When she realizes that she may be campaigning for someone who does not share her beliefs, she must figure out how to stay true to herself while preserving her new family and life. Thorne's debut novel is a smart and well-executed story that feels fresh and familiar. It is easy to like strong, intelligent Kate throughout, and the supporting cast of characters are fleshed out well. The relationship between the protagonist and the adults in her life are realistically complicated. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will appreciate this well-crafted story about love and family.-Amanda Augsburger, Moline Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 Tuesday, June 10 The Day the News Broke 147 DAYS UNTIL THE GENERAL ELECTION The moment my horrible yearbook photo first appeared on millions of televisions, sending jaws dropping, phones ringing, and joggers tumbling off their treadmills across America, I was in the middle of my AP US history final. The test room was silent, apart from the incessant click click click of the overhead clock, until the buzzer sounded and we rushed to hand off our best efforts and flee the building in relief. It was the last scheduled exam of the year, nothing waiting for us outside these halls but summer. Two seniors skipped past me along the linoleum. Even I felt myself smiling, really smiling, not just faking it. "What did you think?" Lily Hornsby caught up behind me, more dazed than giddy. She'd been my assigned study partner in US history, which was a lucky break--she'd turned out to be one of the friendliest people in my new school. "Mostly okay." At her wince, I backtracked. "What was with that Grover Cleveland question? We didn't go over that stuff at all!" "I know, right?" She sighed. "At least it's done. So what are you up to this summer?" Good question. I'd been so focused on schoolwork all year that I hadn't thought ahead to the break. I should have been applying for summer jobs, pre-college programs, whatever it was that normal people did between junior and senior year. But until today, I'd been at my mental limit just studying for tests, thinking forward one day and then the next. Any further than that and the haze set in again, heavy and thick with sadness. "I'm not sure yet," I admitted. We swung through the front doors, met by a blinding blue sky and a solid wall of Low Country humidity, plus the now familiar marsh smell that hugged my school on hot days. It was summer, all right. I needed to find a way to fill it. "Whoa." Lily pointed at the parking lot. "What's up with that?" Some sort of news event had sprung up in front of the school--three vans with satellite dishes on top, parked in a lazy triangle next to what looked like live reports being filmed. Even in daylight, even on the opposite coast, the scene felt familiar. I wrapped my arms around myself, my skin prickling with dread. "You all right?" Lily touched my shoulder. "Yeah." I forced myself to turn, glad that I'd parked on a side street and wouldn't have to walk through that mess. "I just hope nobody's hurt." "It's probably a teachers' strike." Lily shrugged, but I felt her glance at me a second later. She knew about my mom, everyone did, which made her careful, sometimes painfully so. I forced a smile, embarrassed that I'd let myself get spooked. A group of Lily's friends was waiting for her on the corner. I gave an awkward wave and started to duck away, but Lily stopped me. "A bunch of us are gonna go celebrate at Mario's tonight," she said, nodding in the direction of the James Island pizza place that was a magnet for most of my high school. "Like eight o'clock? You should totally come." She grinned and hurried away before I could conjure one of my usual excuses. One of her friends, a tall kid from my physics class, raised his hand in greeting and I called out to the back of Lily's head, "Okay!" This is fine , I pep-talked myself, stepping into the shade of ivy-strung trees. I'll go out. Be normal . Or at least learn to imitate it better. Just as I got to my old Buick, my cell phone buzzed. My uncle Barry cut me off mid-greeting. "Kate, honey, you need to get home right away." His voice was fake calm. Panicked. My feet planted themselves into the ground, my hand starting to tremble. "What's going on?" "I'll tell you when you get here, but you gotta come straight home, and listen, honey, this is important. Don't talk to any of the reporters. Okay?" I glanced behind me, barely able to make out the crowd in the parking lot from here. "Okay. I'm on my way." I drove with both clammy hands clutching the wheel. The music on the radio sounded harsh, like the soundtrack to a horror movie, so I shut it off and listened to my short, sharp breaths and thudding heart. Almost a year ago, I'd gotten a call just like this one. I was coming out of a movie theater with a bunch of friends, turning my phone on, laughing about how bad the movie was. I answered, even though I didn't recognize the number. It was Marta, my mom's best friend. Her voice was controlled too, like Barry's, like she was fighting to keep a scream at bay. "You need to come home, Kate," she'd said. "Something's happened." It wasn't until I'd gotten to my house that fear set in, icy and creeping, frost on a field. Our LA bungalow was surrounded by local news crews, there to report my mother's death. Community hero, founder of the Cocina de Los Angeles Food Bank, dead at age thirty-five. "It was instant," Marta had told me, safe inside the living room and wrapped in a blanket like I was the one who'd been pulled from a car wreck. "She didn't feel any pain." As if anybody could know that. Marta had a quiet word with the news crews and they packed up and left. She stayed the night and I half slept for seventeen hours and when I woke up, my mom was still dead, but her brother, Barry, and his wife, Tess, had arrived. They were nice people whom I'd met a few times before. They had a grown son and a landscaping business in James Island, South Carolina. They were all I had in the way of family--no grandparents, no father, not even his name, and suddenly no mother. They were willing to take me. And now, nearly a year later, they were calling me, telling me to come home, to my new home, where this couldn't be happening, couldn't possibly be happening to us again. I pulled around our corner to find a gridlocked freeway where our house should be. My foot hit the brake. There were news vans in neighboring driveways and rows of cars penning in the tidy hedges all along the usually sleepy street. I recognized only a couple of the bumper stickers and window decals--parents, here to pick up their kids from the day care center Tess operated from our house. An agitated blonde came down the sidewalk, balancing her toddler on one hip while struggling to shove his cluttered bag over her shoulder. I rolled down my window and drifted closer to her SUV. "Mrs. Hanby!" Her taut face dropped when she saw me. She let her son into the car, glaring at the news vans. "You need to get in there fast, hon. They just keep coming--I barely managed to get Jonah out!" Behind the glass of the backseat, Jonah blinked at me, saucer-eyed. I probably looked just like him. I swallowed, had to ask. "Is it my aunt? Is Tess okay?" "Oh sweetie. You haven't seen the news." Mrs. Hanby came around to give my arm a squeeze, her eyes squinting with pity. "She's fine, but you need to go on home now and find out for yourself." She tapped my car twice, like she was spurring a horse and weirdly, it worked. I drove, holding my breath, past two gleaming black Town Cars, past my uncle's truck with the big sign on it advertising "Quinn Yards," past the first news van, dimly registering the letters CNN emblazoned on it. There weren't any cars in the driveway. But there were people--hordes of them, masses, carrying cell phones, microphones, cameras. I turned in slowly, hoping they'd move out of the way, praying I wouldn't have to call attention to myself by laying on the horn. I didn't need to. They parted, all right. They practically ran, flanking my car like the waves of the Red Sea before falling in behind me. I shut off the engine and heard an unnatural hush settle around the Buick. A camera was pressed against the passenger window. Its red light was on. I opened my door and the tide rushed in. They were a crash of voices, a wall of faces, something out of a zombie movie. "Excuse me," I cried, trying to politely shove a camera-man so I could shut my car door. The crowd pressed closer, howling. I couldn't make out words until a petite brunette with a peacock-branded microphone scrambled into my path and asked: "When did you first learn that Senator Cooper was your father?" "What?" The words weren't connecting. They were nonsense words. Magnetic poetry. I tried to push forward, but there were hands, microphones blocking me at every angle. Then there came a ripple in the wall and a large bald black man walked through, wrapped one arm around me, and ushered me past the crowd, onto the porch, and through my front door, saying, "You're all right, kid, you're all right." Aunt Tess was first to greet me. I coughed a sob and rushed to hug her, but she gently held me back. "Kate," she said, in an unnaturally singsong tone. "You have a visitor." And then, through the door to the living room, I saw him. He was slowly rising from my uncle's battered armchair, his hand shaking as he loosened a red silk tie. He stared at me, eyes wide, like I was a ghost, like I was covered in blood or wielding a gun, like I was terrifying. I knew exactly who he was. Everybody in the country did, especially juniors who'd just finished their AP US history exams. Senator Mark Cooper. Republican, Massachusetts. Candidate--President of the United States of America. 2 He took two steps and stopped, and as he froze, everyone else did too, watching the space between us. And by everyone, I mean the everyone-in-the-world who was in my tiny living room. Two men in suits flanked the senator from a deferential distance. The shorter man beamed at me like a happy leprechaun, eyes crinkling and bald head shining. The other scowled down at his phone, his dark hair and heavy brow giving him the hooded look of a bird of prey. A sharply dressed redhead was leaning against the love seat, lips parted as though she was dying to say something but didn't dare. I glanced over my shoulder, spotting my huge rescuer blocking the front door. His stance was familiar from action movies. Security. Secret Service? My aunt stared up at him in polite terror, as if it might be against the rules to walk away. And just as I was wondering where my uncle was, he swung through the kitchen door with a glass of iced tea. "Here you go, sir." Uncle Barry held out the drink with his eyes fixed on the carpet. He looked like a servant in his own home, but who could blame him? He was offering a beverage to the man in line for the most powerful position in the world. For his part, Senator Cooper looked less and less terrified, more and more weary the longer he stood there. Then he broke, taking the glass from my uncle with a thank-you, and the words I'd heard outside echoed faintly in my head, finally forming a coherent sentence. Him. Father. He is my . . . His eyes returned to mine, freezing me to the spot. He extended his hand with a smile that didn't reach them. "I'm Mark Cooper," he said, sounding exactly, freakishly like his campaign ad. "I'm Kate." I shook. "Kate Quinn." He looked so lost that I said what he was supposed to say. "It's very nice to meet you." It was as though I'd put down a loaded gun. The whole room let out its breath in one big huff. But then Senator Cooper opened his mouth--and closed it. Downed the tea and handed the glass to my uncle, who was sweating through his Gamecocks T-shirt. The room was too quiet. I didn't know how to fill the silence. The red-haired woman pulled away from the love seat, smoothed her sweater set, and peered at me with something like sympathy. "Kate, I'm sure you've got a lot of questions, and the truth is--we do too." The senator turned away, his suit wrinkling as his shoulders collapsed. "There's no question, Nancy. I mean, come on. Look at her." Redhead Nancy's smile faltered, her eyes flicking back to him. "Sir, we need to be sure. This is too big a--" "I know what this is." He stopped moving. Just stood there, staring at the ground. Bird of Prey peered down at Leprechaun, and by some silent agreement, Leprechaun stepped forward. "Should we go ahead?" Go ahead with what? At the senator's weary nod, he disappeared through the swinging door. Bird of Prey scanned the room. When his eyes met mine, they stayed there. There was something clinical in his stare, like he was adding up my face, my clothes, my expression. His phone buzzed. He lifted it without breaking eye contact, then barked a greeting, "Webb," and turned to follow the small man into the kitchen. I had to stop myself from racing after them, dragging them back. Instead of this tableau settling into place, I felt it spinning off, disintegrating like I was on a carnival ride. I glanced, desperate, at my aunt and uncle, but they were united in paralysis. "I'm sorry--" I had to say something. "What is this? What's going on?" The men's voices in the back room got louder, one-sided conversations into cell phones. Yelling about me? About this famous man, settling into my uncle's chair with his head in his hands? I drew in a breath, but my voice still came out shaky. "Are you my father?" His head shot up, eyes alert and very blue. Blue like mine. "I think I am." The defeat in his voice muffled any thrill I might have felt from those words. Nancy let out a cocktail-party laugh and started rubbing my back like she was trying to get dirt off of it. "Let's just make sure, sir." As if on cue, a woman in scrubs came in from the kitchen, looking at least as dazed as me, holding a medical bag, rubber gloves, a syringe. Nancy pressed past me. "Did you sign?" The woman nodded. "And you understand that means you cannot speak to anyone , not your husband . . ." "I understand." The woman turned to me and visibly softened. "Kate, is it?" I nodded, numb. "We're gonna draw some blood. Not a whole lot." I perched on the sofa and let her tie a band around my arm, trying not to wince at the pinch of the needle in front of all these strangers. "For a paternity test?" I asked, and everyone ignored me. The senator waved one hand in my general direction, the other raking through his thick hair. "This is a foregone conclusion. We need an action plan. Where's Elliott?" Nancy motioned to the kitchen with a dramatic sigh and the senator rose from the armchair and strode from the room. As soon as he was out of sight, my body went pins and needles in one big rush, and not just from the blood that the nurse, doctor, whoever she was, was tamping down with a cotton ball. "This isn't possible," I said. My aunt and uncle shook their heads, mouths agape in helpless agreement. "I don't understand how this is possible." Nancy crouched in front of me, her skirt stretching across her knees. "Seventeen years ago, your mom worked on a state senate campaign for Senator Cooper. That's how they met . . . ?" She paused, head cocked, as though she were hoping I'd continue the story myself. "A . . . campaign?" I shook my head, starting to squirm with pretty, red-haired Nancy squinting at me, with the voices of the press roaring low outside the front windows. "I'm sorry--that's not right. My mom hated politics. It's not her, there's some confusion, or . . ." Nancy pressed her lips together, rocking onto her heels. "So you didn't know. She never told you who your dad was." I opened my mouth but no sound came out, just this hiss like white noise. I swallowed hard. "No." "There might have been a reason for that, Kate." Her voice was bedtime-story soft. "You see . . ." She glanced at the door to the kitchen before continuing. "Senator Cooper was married at the time." Married. For one hazy second, I thought she meant to my mother. But why would she keep that from . . . ? Oh. "No." I clamped my hand over my mouth, shocked by the sound I'd made, the sound my brain was making, and stood up, away from her, away from this. "That's not my mom. It isn't possible--there's been some misunderstanding." My uncle had his head bowed. "That is not my mother." I let out a shrill laugh. "Barry, tell--" Tess sighed. "Tell her. Or I will." My uncle stepped forward, hands clenched in his pockets and shoulders stuck in a shrug. "Your mom did work on that campaign, Kate, when she was in college, in Massachusetts. I remember our folks were so glad she was helping the Republicans. And then one day she quit, just like that. Said she was going out to California, didn't tell us a thing else. We lost touch with her for a couple months and then she told us she was pregnant with you. We asked and asked, but we never could get out of her who the daddy was." Neither could I. She'd told me so much about her childhood in the South, about going off to college. How she fell in love with California. But never why she'd moved there. And never, ever, would she speak a word about my father. Deep down, I'd always assumed he was dead, that one day she'd admit it to me. She was so moral, so focused on how she treated others, on the impact she made in the world. The thought had never for a second crossed my mind that my father might be out there. That my mother would have ever been "the other woman." She'd always said she'd tell me one day, when she felt I was ready. But that day never came. I don't know what happened around me or how much time passed, but the next thing I noticed was Nancy taking a call and the senator and his entourage heading for the front door. "We'll have a statement for you tomorrow, Tom . . ." Nancy followed the group as if pulled by the tide, phone still pressed to her ear. "That's all I can tell you, and you're lucky I even answered on a day like this. My first call tomorrow. Yes." Bird of Prey was murmuring into the senator's ear, just loud enough for me to make out. "Don't say a thing. Look confident. This is great news. Non -news. A wave, a smile, nothing guilty, and don't engage." The nice bodyguard had his hand on the front doorknob. "Wait!" Everyone turned to look at me. "You're leaving?" And then, it cracked. All the numbness, the strangeness, the sheer lunacy of this day shattered like a frozen pipe, and out came the waterworks. I covered my face with my hands. I was not supposed to be bawling. Not in front of these strangers, not rocking back and forth, saying, "I don't understand this, I don't . . ." And then an arm was around me, a silk tie brushing against my cheek. Not Uncle , went my brain. I blinked up into the senator's face. He wasn't looking at me, just holding me up, patting me like I was a baby, saying, "Shhh . . . there, there. We'll be back tomorrow, and we'll figure this thing out." He smelled like cedar. Was this what fathers smelled like? Across the room, Leprechaun shot me a cheery thumbs-up, and I was so confused by the gesture that I stopped crying long enough for all of them to get out the door. "Well!" Barry clapped his hands. "Pasta for dinner?" 3 Wednesday, June 11 This Is Actually Happening 146 DAYS UNTIL THE GENERAL ELECTION I woke with the usual litany of realizations. I'm awake. I'm in South Carolina. My mom is dead. But now, a new one--an oh yeah that made me bolt upright, nearly capsizing my twin mattress into the frame. My father. I have a father. Maybe. Probably. Oh my God. Outside my window, I could hear voices, the whirring of generators. And something else--a piped-in announcement, muffled by bad speakers. I pulled back the yellowed lace curtains. The police were here. They'd put a partial blockade around our house, but the press still lined the block, waiting. For me. I closed the curtain with a sigh. At least with the cops here, no one could climb the oak tree in the side yard to get a shot of me in the bathroom. The light was faint outside. Streetlamps still lit. I turned on my ancient flip phone. 6:07 A.M. and wow--twenty-seven missed calls and texts. Spotting Lily's number, I flinched, remembering that I'd blown off last night's invitation, but her text didn't even mention it. "Saw the news! Call me if you need ANYTHING." Most of the other texts were from my best friend Penny back in California, increasing in freakedoutedness from "Kate? Anything you care to tell me?" to "Turn your phone on I'm DYYYYYING" to a simple, elegant "ARGGGGGHHHDEADcallme." My fingers ached to push that call button and wake her up immediately, if only to hear her reassuringly brassy voice on the other end of the line. But no--not now. Later. When I knew what on earth to say. In the dingy light of the bathroom, I brushed my teeth, trying to conjure the senator's face while analyzing my own. His eyes--those were probably the closest match. My mother's were hazel, long and narrow like a cat's, while mine were blue and round. I'd inherited Mom's tiny stature, that was for sure, what nice people called "petite," my doctor called five-two, and Penny called "at least a quarter hobbit." My mouth wasn't quite Mom's, though. My hair was dirt brown where hers was sunset auburn. My nose was smaller, stubbier. Mom used to call it a ski-jump nose. When I was little, she would slide her finger down its bridge, and when it hit air, she'd let out a yodel, like an out-of-control skier. My vision blurred. I swiped at my eyes and blinked hard to refocus, on the faucet, the cracked grout, anything but Mom. Thinking about her sent my brain along the wrong track, the down track, the track that pulled like quicksand, stronger and stronger the deeper I sank. I didn't have time for quicksand. It was 6:22 A.M. I had to hurry. I dug through my closet for something nice, something I'd wear to a college interview maybe. Everyone was so dressed up yesterday, the men in suits, Nancy in her silk sweater set and skirt. The best I could find was a plain blue cotton dress that my mom had bought me last year and I'd never worn. I slipped it on, yanked off the tag, and hurried downstairs to my uncle's office, where I curled up in his swivel chair and clicked the computer to life. Barry's homepage was a news feed. My name was in the headlines. My cursor hovered--and dashed away. Not yet. Focus. Google. Senator Cooper. I started with the Wiki. Age forty-seven. Born and raised in Massachusetts. Harvard undergrad, Yale Law. Worked as a public defender, then switched to the district attorney's office in Newton. He left to pursue a seat in state government. His campaign was based in Boston's Kenmore Square neighborhood, near the Boston University campus. That was where my mom went to college. An image floated up: Mom as a young woman, auburn hair pulled into a ponytail, a backpack across one shoulder as she strolled the campus, spotted a sign for campaign volunteers, stopped to take a look. But then another image drove that one out--the real one on the screen. There was a woman standing next to Senator Cooper in most of his campaign pictures. Her name was Margaret Abbott Cooper. They'd been married for nineteen years. The photos showed a tall and elegant woman, her hair a smooth, ash-blond helmet that just grazed her shoulders. There was a chilliness to everything about her--except for her eyes. In every photo, I saw a spark of humor in them, like someone had told a good joke just before the click. I read on quickly, reeling from each new tidbit. Especially this one: They had two children. Twins. Eight years old. Their names were Grace and Gabriel. A brother and sister? It was possible. Suddenly the world had cracked open and everything was possible. I couldn't tell whether they looked like me. I stared at their pictures until a ray of sunlight on the computer screen reminded me to hurry up. Today would not be like yesterday. Today, I would be prepared. Click. Google: Cooper for America. The official campaign website was so crammed with slogans, it was impossible to find actual information. I gave up and found a blog with a list of political staff members. The friendly redhead was Nancy Oneida, Senator Cooper's communications chief, in charge of "crafting his message," whatever that meant. The Chief Strategist for the campaign was that tall, groomed guy--Bird of Prey--the one who'd glared at me. Elliott Webb. The blog called him a " Machiavellian wunderkind ." It sounded appropriately pretentious to me. Louis Mankowitz was the crinkly-eyed leprechaun. He and Senator Cooper had been roommates at Harvard. He'd worked on all of the senator's campaigns, starting with his run for state congress. That was the one my mom worked on. He must have known her. He might even have known about . . . whatever there was to know. I still wasn't ready to think about that. The blog highlighted other staff members, but I didn't recognize them from yesterday. Those three must have been the senator's core team, then. Nancy, Louis, Elliott. The ones he trusted most--or as the blog put it, his "inner circle." The doorbell rang. Voices filled the house. The invasion had begun. In the kitchen, Barry was overloading a tray with coffee mugs, putting sugar in some, milk in others. I heard the front door opening and shutting, more people spilling into the living room, others back in the den where the TV was blasting. This was a bigger group than yesterday. Barry winced at the just-emptied coffeemaker. "They have such specific orders," he muttered. "This one's two-thirds a Splenda packet?" "Let me help," I said, hoisting the tray. As I ducked into the hall, I glanced back. "I'm sorry about all this." He looked too confused to reply. There were ten people in the TV room. The senator wasn't one of them. I spotted Nancy, though, casually gorgeous in khakis, pointing to something on the TV screen as she chattered into her phone. Then I followed her finger--and nearly dropped the tray. I was on TV. My picture was, anyway. And not just any picture--my most recent yearbook photo. They'd taken that shot a few weeks into the school year, only two months after Mom died. I'd barely been able to get out of bed that day, hadn't remembered to primp for a photo shoot, and wouldn't have cared anyway. I should have cared. Because there I was, looking half homeless, dirty hair thrown into a ponytail, dead eyes, splotchy skin, strained smile. On national television. " How did they get that photo?" Everyone in the room stopped talking. Nancy leaped from the sofa. "She should not be doing that!" At first, I thought she meant I wasn't allowed to come in, but then I saw her waving wildly to staff members and felt hands gently prying the tray from my fingers. Leprechaun winked over the coffee mugs at me. "I got this, kiddo." Louis , I remembered. Campaign Manager . As he circled the room distributing drinks, Nancy hurried over with an indulgent smile. "Early riser!" She put her hands on her hips. "I'm impressed--my kids don't get out of bed at this hour for anything less than a trip to Disney World." It surprised me somehow that Nancy had kids. She seemed to exist in a different sphere, free from such messy things as families and theme parks. She pinched the fabric of my sleeve appraisingly. "And don't you look nice ? Elliott!" Her voice hardened, and I glanced behind me to see Bird of Prey in the doorway, surveying the room as if searching for a mouse to pick off. "Doesn't Kate look nice ?" She seemed to be proving some kind of point, like they'd made a bet and she'd just won. Instead of answering, Elliott blinked once and said, "Leave." Instantly, most of the room hurried out the door, still chattering, jotting notes, until only Nancy, Louis, and Elliott remained. The inner circle. It was a neat trick. Elliott must have learned it at Evil Political Power-Player School, along with "Grooming for Maximum Intimidation." "She does look nice," Elliott said, shutting the door. "Better than yesterday, anyway. And a hell of a lot better than that photo they keep showing." I felt my cheeks flush. It wasn't like I'd planned to look like crap in my yearbook shot--and yesterday I'd been dressed to take a test, not to meet a firing squad of reporters. "I'm on that," Nancy said. "We've got a couple of family shots leaking to the press right now." "Did Mark approve them?" "Are you joking?" I followed their conversation like a Ping-Pong match. There was a strange energy between them, like if one wrong word was said, somebody might start chucking ninja stars. Nancy smiled, eyes narrowed. "I'm keeping him above the fray." "And where is he now?" Louis the Leprechaun blinked, startled, as both of his colleagues turned to him. "Talking to Meg! He'll be here soon." Meg. His wife. My skin prickling, I turned away from their conversation. On TV, thankfully, my photo had vanished, replaced by footage of President Mitchell Lawrence and his family at an event for his reelection campaign. The president's blond son was waving from the center of the screen. He was probably about my age, with a lopsided smile and a funny look in his eye, like he was searching the crowd for an escape route. Good-looking, if you were into that golden boy sort of thing. Lily Hornsby had a photo of him in her locker. I felt a chill, and sure enough, Elliott was staring at me. "We need to decide what to advise," he said. " I've decided." Nancy laughed mirthlessly. "I'm just waiting for you to agree with me. As usual." "Can't hear myself think . . ." Elliott grabbed the remote and muted the TV. I glanced over to see my photo back up, and now stats scrolling on the screen: my age, my mom's name, my . . . GPA? I collapsed onto the sofa. "How do they know so much about me?" Louis shrugged affably. "Most of it was in the New York Times article." I stood up again. "There was a New York TIMES article?" "That's what started all this." Nancy sighed. "We got an early tip-off, but they rushed to publication. We beat the press here by less than twenty minutes." "So . . ." I held on to the sofa. "Is that how he found out? The article?" Louis patted my back. "If you're asking whether your dad knew about you before the article, the answer is no. He had no clue, kiddo. I can promise you that." Your dad, he said . Just like that. So it must be true. "And he was dying to meet you!" The two men stared at Nancy until her grin dropped away. Elliott cleared his throat and motioned to the sofa. "Have a seat, Kate. I want to ask you a couple of questions." He sat opposite me in Uncle Barry's La-Z-Boy. I felt suddenly defensive of this room, glad that Barry and Tess weren't in here to see Elliott perched on the edge of the recliner like he didn't want his suit to touch it. "Do you follow politics?" I hesitated. Did I know about the Electoral College, the executive branch, the names, political parties, and dates of office for every US president? Yep. Did I know the first thing about anyone running for office right now? Um . . . "Not much," I admitted. Elliott's face seemed to brighten. "What do you think of the president? You a fan?" "Elliott," Nancy groaned. He shushed her and she stomped away. "I . . ." I wasn't sure what he was looking for. "I don't really know enough to form an opinion." To my shock, he smiled. "Are you pro-choice? Pro-life?" "Elliott!" Both Nancy and Louis cried out this time. I most certainly did have an opinion about this one, but by now I'd caught on to what he wanted. I gave him my blankest expression. "I haven't really thought about it." Elliott nodded and rose from the chair. "Okay, Nancy. But this is your play. I want to make that crystal clear. If she gets out of line, you rein her in. If she crashes and burns--" "I've got it," Nancy snapped. Me. Crashing and burning? Outside, there was a roar of voices. The TV switched to live footage. A mob of reporters, an overcast sky, a house with white siding, the big bodyguard from yesterday, and right behind him, the senator, making his way to my front door. • • • The sky had become heavy, threatening to unload at any moment. I warily scanned the senator's suit, hoping it wasn't some kind of rare material that would disintegrate at a drop of rain. He looked stiffly around the backyard, opting finally to lean-sit on the plastic slide of the jungle gym. I stood gripping the swing chain, bracing myself. I had a working theory, developed during the maddening eons that the senator and his advisors had just spent speaking privately behind the closed doors of the TV room. He's going to tell you to deny it. He's going to explain that he can't possibly ever see you again. This is an election year. I could ruin his life. I really don't blame him. He took a deep breath and began. "I want you on my side, Kate." He smiled, palms in the air, a practiced pose. I nodded. "Of course." Here's where he says "after the election," or whatever he's going to say. Keep your mouth shut and do. Not. Cry. I watched him, trying to soak in details while I could, his thick salt-and-pepper hair with my shade of brown underneath, the way he swirled his hand into the air when he was talking. "The cat's out of the bag, as Elliott so eloquently put it." He was struggling, blinking a lot, smiling like his cheeks were frozen in that position. A raindrop hit the top of my head. "We . . . My . . ." He started over. "Seventeen years ago, your mother and I made a mistake." The chain of the swing held me up. Here goes. I knew this wouldn't be pretty, but . . . don't cry. "No, Kate, I'm . . ." He stood upright, stumbling over the bottom of the slide. "I'm trying to say that it wasn't a mistake. Not all of it. I mean--here you are!" "I am indeed." Stupid response, but all I could muster. A flicker of amusement crossed his face, but it was short-lived. He flinched from the rain and glanced at his watch. "Let me get right to the point. I'd like you to come up to Maryland, to my home there outside DC. I'd like you to meet Meg. Gracie and Gabe." The jungle gym started spinning. "Now, I'm going to leave today--go up and explain things to the twins. They know a little, but if you could come up tomorrow, I think it would be good. It would . . . it would be the right thing." He looked like he was trying to convince himself. His eyes were focused past me, scanning some mental horizon. "I'll leave it to you to decide." He pushed off from the play set and started quickly away. "Are you happy?" My hand closed tight around the chain. He turned back, confused by my question. It was an important one, so I asked again, louder. "Are you happy to find out about me? Is this good news?" I knew how desperate my face must look, but I couldn't wipe it clear. He grinned. It slumped at the corners and then fell off his face until he was blinking down at his shoes. "It is good news. Of course." He spoke like he was searching for words out of a grab bag. "But it's . . . a difficult time to find out such good news." Suddenly, I saw him. He looked exhausted and sad, and just for one second, when he glanced up at me, hopeful. But then the smile came back, and it was like he was in 2-D on my TV screen, saying "A New Day for America!" I recognized that smile, and not just from campaign ads. It was my stock smile. The one I'd worn all year. "Take your time," he said. Once he was inside, I sat on the swing, immune to the drizzle. It was a pleasant feeling and a strange one to be alone but not, like when I was little, in bed while Mom's dinner guests stayed on laughing and clinking glasses. I could see no one but hear them everywhere, surrounding this house. All of them here because of me. And my father. And he was my father. I didn't need the mirror or even the blood test for confirmation. There were ways he moved that seemed familiar, from life, not television. By now I felt like an idiot for never having recognized him on the news, for not hitting PAUSE and saying, "Wait a minute--it's him !" And if he was my father, then there was a whole family out there that I'd never known about. Sitting on the swing, I felt the same pang of longing I'd had when I first clicked on the photo with the twins in it. And on the heels of longing came a pang of guilt. What about Uncle Barry and Aunt Tess? They'd taken me in, given me love. Wasn't that enough? They were wonderful people, and they did their very best for me. Even so, they had to be counting the days until my graduation. Their teen-parenting days had ended eight years ago when my cousin went off to college. The last thing they'd expected was to be saddled with me. Of course, the same thing could be said of the senator--and then some. But here he was, inviting me to meet the family, risking political fallout. I stared at the house. A curtain moved in the back window. Someone in the TV room was watching. One of the staffers. And as the curtain shifted back into place, it all became clear. I planted my feet. Steadied the swing. This wasn't a risk. It was a campaign strategy. Invite her home, bring her on board. That's what they'd been talking about all morning behind closed doors. Damage control. They were trying to use me, salvage some bit of his reputation, make a last-ditch effort to rescue his campaign, to quiet those newscasters who had been droning on all day long, asking, "Will he quit?" This isn't about me at all. But did it matter? I didn't know the senator well enough to trust him--that was a fact. But if I said no now, would I ever get the chance again? Past the fence, the press chattered to their cameras, and inside, the masses of staffers placed calls, made plans. But out here, all I could hear was the quiet tapping of rain on plastic. I closed my eyes and listened. 4 Thursday, June 12 Visiting My Long-Lost Family 145 DAYS UNTIL THE GENERAL ELECTION If the flight attendant recognized me, she did a good job of pretending not to. "Beverage before takeoff?" she offered. "Thank you!" I reached across my seatmate for a cup of orange juice. Tim, the aide that the campaign had assigned me, held his newspaper way back like he was terrified I'd spill something on it. I hazarded a smile. "I've never flown first class before." Sighing, Tim crammed away the newspaper and pulled out an e-reader. He was probably mid-twenties, awkwardly skinny, with a giant Adam's apple bobbing above the collar of his boxy suit. "Do you live in DC too?" I asked, by way of, you know, friendly conversation . "Yeah." He stuck on a giant pair of noise-canceling headphones. I snuck a look at his screen, spotting something about "jellybeans" and the "INF Treaty." My AP brain whirred. A biography of Ronald Reagan? Okey dokey. Tim and I were clearly not going to be pals. He hadn't for one second warmed to me since he'd piloted me out of the house, through the backyard, over the fence, past my neighbors' houses, and down the block to a waiting Town Car in the 4:00 A.M. darkness to keep the press from noticing. At first I'd interpreted his silence as grogginess, but after the fourth "Thank you!/ grunt " exchange, it occurred to me that Tim was sulking. He probably blamed me for derailing the senator's campaign, like I was some dastardly mastermind, plotting to destroy his beloved Republican Party. Step One of Evil Plan: Birth. If only I were plotting all this. Then I'd know what to do now, exactly what to say when I met Margaret Cooper--the one person who had a legitimate reason to despise me. My stepmother. Officially. Nancy had called late last night as I was packing for the weekend. "The tests came back." I held my breath, in some weird way clinging to that last moment of ambiguity. "Congrats, Kate. He's your dad!" I wasn't sure congrats was the right sentiment, but I appreciated her attempt, and kind of wished that she were waiting for me in Maryland instead of the senator and three strangers. Not strangers , I reminded myself. My family. • • • The Coopers' Maryland home was sprawling and grand, surrounded by a high iron fence and acres of green lawn, old oaks dotting the property as if they were keeping guard. It was built in a style that I guessed was Colonial--the wooden exterior was painted a clean, crisp white, but you got the sense that this house had been here for hundreds of years. When we pulled into the circular front drive, I saw the senator waiting on the porch, a huge oak door ajar behind him. Beside me, Tim perked up like he'd been poked with a cattle prod. He smoothed his suit, and as soon as the car stopped, leaped out to open the door for me and carry my little bag to the house. I shot him a sidelong glare, remembering what little help he'd been this morning as I'd clambered over wooden fences with it slung across my shoulder. As I reached the top of the brick stairs, the senator gave my arm an awkward pat, then turned brightly to Tim, hand extended. "Thank you for your help today, son." "It was my pleasure, sir. Your daughter is delightful." Tim shot me what I'm sure he thought was a million-dollar grin as he trotted back to the car. Delightful. Whatever, Tim. The senator coughed. "Come on in." Stock smile in place, I stepped into the house and prepared to greet the family, but the only person in the gleaming front foyer was the security guy from back in South Carolina, the one who'd pulled me from the mob of reporters. "Oh, hi again!" I grinned. "I'm Kate, by the way." "I know." He winked. "James." "Nice to meet you." The senator hesitated at the far end of the room, apparently perplexed by the exchange. "Meg's out back. Come say hello." We passed room after lovely room, a bright parlor, a dining area, a wood-paneled library, plodding along in heavy silence. It was fine with me, despite the awkwardness. I had too many questions to know where to start, and besides, I'd have the whole weekend to get to know him. At the thought of it, I glanced over, but the senator was frowning into his phone. Past a set of tinted glass doors, the garden erupted into light, and there at the bottom was Margaret Cooper. At least, I assumed it was. She looked nothing like the woman from the campaign photos. This woman wore rolled-up jeans and a stained T-shirt, a pair of gardening gloves next to her on an iron patio table. Her blond hair was knotted in a spiky bun on top of her head. My steps faltered. I'd mentally prepared to meet the campaign wife--not this new person I knew absolutely nothing about. She stood quickly from her patio chair when she saw us, then sat again, as if thinking better of it--and with that gesture, her outfit transformed before my eyes. She'd dressed down on purpose. I wasn't sure why, but I could see it, just as I could now pick out moving figures along the edges of the property--security guards silently patrolling the perimeter. The senator hung back as we approached, until I was reluctantly walking ahead of him. His wife smiled at us, a pinched, almost ironic expression. As I reached her, my brain scrambled for what I'd mentally rehearsed on the plane. "Hello, Mrs. Cooper. It's very nice to meet you." I'd hoped it would sound respectful. It came out petrified. Her eyes softened, crinkling with momentary pity. Then she stood. "Call me Meg." And she walked past, dusting her gardening gloves off against her hip as she glided into the house. Behind me, the senator looked like somebody had hit him with a freeze ray. He didn't know what to do either. Meg shouted from one of the back windows, "Come on then, Kate, let me show you your room." As soon as we got into the house, the senator ducked down the hall and into a study, shutting the door behind him. I hovered alone in what had to be a family room--although it was way too clean to actually be used as one--not sure where to walk, what to do, what to say, if anything, fighting the twitching in my fingers and toes, the trembling in my jaw, the sudden urge to hide under the sofa. This is okay. It's exciting. Not scary. This is your family. "This way." Meg squinted at me from the hall. She led me to a room on the second floor, across a broad corridor from two kids' rooms that to my relief were complete pigsties. My room was a guest room. Of course it was, what else would it be? It had some pretty oil paintings, antique furniture, and a window that overlooked the front lawn. "Do you need to rest?" "No, I'm fine." As I turned, I saw disappointment flash across Meg's face. She nodded, burying it. "The kids will be home soon. They're really . . . anxious to meet you." "Oh good! Me too." Meg leaned against the door frame. I hesitated, not sure how to word my next question without bursting the dam of politeness holding this conversation in check. "Um . . ." She raised her eyebrows. "What did you tell the kids? Do they know--?" "That you're their sister?" She crossed her arms. "Yes. We told them the truth. It was not a pleasant conversation, but we got through it and the upshot was . . ." She smiled wryly, as if at some private joke. "They are very excited to have a big sister." With that, she blinked hard and started down the hall, calling behind her, "Make yourself at home!" A woman in a ball gown glared at me from an oil painting above the bed. "Wait! Mrs. . . . um, Meg?" She turned with such obvious reluctance that I almost mumbled "Never mind," but planted my feet instead. This needed to come out now. "I want you to know . . ." My breath came shaky. "That I'm really sorry about this. I know it can't be easy for you, and I appreciate--" "I knew about your mother, you know," she cut in, so softly that I had to strain to hear. "I knew it was happening at the time. I confronted him. We worked through it. Got past it." She made a sharp sound, an empty laugh. "Oh." In the silence, I heard a car door slam. Meg straightened. "Come meet the twins." The two of them were waiting in the foyer when we got there, lined up side by side wearing school uniforms. If there had been five more, they would have looked like the Von Trapp children. Grace was a shade taller than her brother, with bright blond hair and a confident tilt to her chin. As soon as her eyes caught mine, they locked in place with open curiosity. Gabriel, on the other hand, made a show of staring at the ground, stealing furtive glances until he caught me looking and blanched. He had brown hair, like the senator. Like me. "I'm Gracie and this is Gabe," Grace said. "And you're our sister. We already know." She raised her eyebrows, expecting me to be impressed. "I'm really excited to meet you." I grinned and came closer. "I've always wanted a brother and sister, so this is great." "We're excited too," said Gracie. Gabe muttered something that I couldn't hear. "Hey." Their mom snapped her fingers and crouched. "What was that? Apologize to Kate." He scowled, but when he finally peered up at me, he looked genuinely abashed. "Sorry." "It's okay." Whatever he'd said, it was okay. If I could do cartwheels, I might have. They were shoulder-height to me. Gracie had my blue eyes, and Gabe the same slouch. My little brother and sister. This was amazing. The front door opened, Elliott Webb walked in, and it was like a cold wind blew in behind him. "Oh good," he said, passing us with barely a nod to Meg. "I need to have a word with you," she said, trailing him angrily down the hall. "I've been hearing that a lot lately. Hey Mark, you ready?" The door to the study swung open and Gabe's face lit up. As the senator strode through the foyer, the twins sprinted to give him a hug. He stooped to embrace them, setting something down on the floor. A bag. A big one. I glanced outside. A car was idling in the front drive, James poised by the back door. The senator stood and I asked as lightly as I could, "Are you heading out?" "Campaign visits." He ruffled Gabe's hair. "Ohio and Michigan." "When are you back?" Gracie asked, hands on her hips. The senator mimicked her pose, down to the indignant squint. "Sunday." Sunday? But today was Thursday. I was only here for the weekend. Why invite me up and then leave? Before I could form words, let alone questions, Elliott was leading him out the door, and he was calling playfully to the twins: "Be nice to your sister!" When he turned to wave at me the light went out of his eyes. "The campaign never stops," Meg said softly. I barely noticed her shutting and locking the door, barely even remembered where I was, until Gracie grabbed my arm and said, in a voice that brooked no argument, "Let's go play." • • • We ate a dinner that one of the campaign staffers brought us from an Italian restaurant in DC. The senator had arranged for it in advance, the staffer said, so Meg wouldn't feel like she needed to cook. I had a hunch that cooking was the least of Meg's worries this weekend. The twins did most of the talking, Gracie asking me a million questions, like "What's your favorite color?" and "Did you read Divergent ?" that were easy enough to respond to. Gabe's questions were more direct, harder to answer, like "Why didn't we ever know about you?" Meg shushed him for most of the meal. He kept trying. "When did your mom die?" he asked, and I almost choked on my eggplant Parmesan. "Gabe--" Meg cut in. "It's okay." I put down my fork. He was watching me with his jaw set, daring me to answer. "She died last August." Predicting his next question, I added, "She was in a car accident." His big eyes sunk down to his plate. "I'm sorry." He said it so sincerely and sadly that I wanted to comfort him rather than the other way around. Meg poured herself more wine and cheerily changed the subject. " I've got a question. What is . . . your favorite class in school? Everybody can answer this one." Gracie sat up straighter, liking this game. "English," Gabe said. "Um . . ." Gracie thought. "English too." "No fair!" Gabe was obviously not into the whole twins-do-everything-alike concept. "Fine, science. Kate's turn." "I think . . . history's my favorite." Meg leaned forward, slid her wineglass away. "Really." "Yeah. I mean, it's a lot of memorization." I smiled, remembering the AP prep I'd been embroiled in just a week back. "But in between all the facts and dates . . . there are lives. I feel like that's what history really is, a collection of decisions, things people did because of . . . I don't know. What they were afraid of or what they hoped for. I like the human side of it. It's amazing how much one person can change the world, even if they don't know they're doing it." All three of them stared at me, and I realized that that must have been the most I'd said in one go since I met them. Gabe broke the silence. "History's Mom's favorite too." "Really?" Meg didn't answer, just kept squinting like she was trying to think where she remembered me from. "Yep, she was a history perfessor." "PROfessor," Gracie corrected. "In a college." "At Harvard ," Grace corrected again, rolling her eyes. Meg got up to clear the table and I rose to help her, half expecting her to wave me off. She didn't. I met her in the kitchen, where she hand-washed and I dried while the twins wiped the table clean. It was nice the way everybody pitched in. It was . . . normal. "I think I read somewhere that you're a straight-A student?" Meg asked. I didn't know what she meant at first, and then I remembered--the New York Times profile. "I got a B in pre-calc," I admitted. "And two APs this past semester?" She dried her hands and turned to face me. "Three," I said. "Good." Excerpted from The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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