This week’s passage of the week comes from Melissa Roske’s Kat Greene Comes Clean, a book that manages to be both deadly serious and seriously funny at the same time. Kat’s story is about many things, but the book’s central dilemma involves Kat’s relationship with her mother, who struggles with a severe case of OCD. Because of this, in Kat’s home, nothing is quite what it seems. A toothbrush isn’t necessarily used for brushing your teeth. The act of washing your hands isn’t always a healthy one. A minute usually lasts a lot longer than sixty seconds.
The passage below comes from the very beginning of the book, and that is what I want to talk about here: beginnings. A good beginning introduces readers to the world of your story — its peculiarities and main personalities — but must do so in an interesting and/or exciting way, compelling them to venture further and further into that world. Melissa does this expertly, seamlessly folding dramatic details into a gripping scene. And the writing only gets better from here. Readers won’t be able to help but continue turning the pages, and Kat’s funny, fascinating, and deeply important story will leave them glad they did.
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KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN, by Melissa Roske (pp. 1-2)
Sometimes it’s the little things that get to me. Like an electric toothbrush. Mom’s got one in her hand — but it’s not for her teeth. She’s using it on the kitchen floor. As if this is normal. As if this makes sense. I want to sneak back to my room and start the day over, but I can’t. Mom’s already spotted me. “Look, Kit-Kat,” she says, holding up the toothbrush. “The bristles are perfect for cleaning in between the floor tiles. I got the tip from Good Housekeeping. Cool, huh?”
That’s not the word I’d use.
I grab a blueberry muffin and plunk down at the breakfast bar.
“Wait!” Mom springs up like a jack-in-the-box. “Let me get you a plate.”
“That’s okay,” I say, hopping off my stool. “I’ll get it.”
“Don’t worry,” she says. “Just sit.”
I could argue, but what’s the point? The less I touch, the less Mom has to frantically clean up after me. I go back to my spot at the breakfast bar.
I watch as Mom yanks off her rubber gloves, places them on the counter, and goes over to the sink. She starts washing her hands, scrubbing each finger and around both thumbs, careful not to miss a spot. “I thought you were getting me a plate,” I remind her.
“I am,” Mom says, reaching for more soap. “Give me a minute.”
A minute? When Mom washes her hands, it could take all day. This is her new routine. She says it “calms” her, but I’m not so sure. She doesn’t look calm to me.
I pick a stray berry from my muffin and pop it in my mouth. “I did really well on my French quiz,” I say, hoping Mom will get the hint and stop washing. “Better than Sam Teitelbaum, even. Want to see it?”
Mom dries her hands on a clean dish towel and reaches into the cabinet for a plate. “I’ll look at it later, Kit-Kat,” she says, “after you leave for school. I promise.”
This is a promise Mom won’t keep. She’ll be cleaning every inch of our apartment — and washing her hands, over and over again — as soon as I’m gone. I finish my muffin and go to my room to get dressed.
. . .