Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Discover "a.k.a Genius" by Marilee Haynes

Thirteen-year-old Gabe Carpenter is just like any other middle-school boy at St. Jude Academy...well, except for the fact that based on his scores on some seventh grade test, he is considered a "genius" and is placed in an enrichment class with other gifted students. But he sure doesn't seem like a genius-after all, he can't even open his own locker and his brain stops functioning when Becca, his sister's best friend, comes around. 
As if these problems aren't enough to deal with, he is convinced that one of his arms is longer than the other, he's still waiting for signs of puberty, and his second best friend is mad at him. Even worse, his nervousness causes some pretty embarrassing bodily functions. And at home, his dad expects him to be some kind of basketball star athlete instead of a science nerd who predicts the weather. 

Join Gabe as he navigates the trying times of middle-school, wonders what it means to have brains, and learns what it truly means to be himself. 

Themes include: self-acceptance, giftedness, and humor.

Read an Excerpt
I clomp up the steps and through the front door,
thinking about the squeak that followed me home.
Well, followed me home because it’s coming from
the wheels of the backpack I was pulling behind
me. The fact that it’s definitely a squeak and not a
squeal and that it happens at regular intervals—once
per rotation—makes me sure I can take care of it with a
little oil.
Once inside, I kick off my shoes and place them neatly
in the basket by the front door, because that’s what you
do in my house. My mom has a “no-shoes-in-the-house”
rule that you don’t mess with. She also has a “don’t-eatcookies-
in-your-bedroom” rule, but I think of that one as
more of a suggestion. My plan is to snag a couple cookies
and head to my room.
I’ve only taken 2¾ steps toward the kitchen when
an itchy feeling like somebody’s watching me starts
between my shoulder blades. I swivel my head to the
right and look into the dining room—nothing—then to
the left. And there, sitting on the living room couch, are
my parents.
This is weird for a couple reasons. First, it’s the middle
of the afternoon, and my dad should be at work.
And second, no one sits on the living room couch. Heck,
no one ever even goes into the living room. But there
they are. In the living room. Sitting on the couch. Looking
at me.
“Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad.” If I act natural and just keep walking,
maybe whatever the weird thing is can’t touch me.
“Gabe, honey, come sit down,” says my mom. The line
between her eyebrows doesn’t go with the smile on her
face. “We need to talk to you about something.” It looks
like the weird thing is coming my way.
I search around in my brain and try to figure out what
I did wrong or how I messed up. I come up blank. Nothing
out of the ordinary has happened the last few days,
my room is kind of picked up, and I did my homework
last night. I don’t even think I’ve been too rotten to my
sister lately.
“What’s going on?” I flop into the chair that’s the only
other place to sit. Too late, I remember this is not a chair
for flopping. I wince and rub the spot on my butt that
hit first.
“Well, Champ, Mr. Dooley called today and told your
mom something interesting,” says my dad.
Everyone knows that nothing good has ever happened
to a kid after a call from the principal. My stomach
clenches up like a fist. I hold myself perfectly still and
wait for more.
“Do you remember those tests that you took at the
beginning of the year?” my mom asks.
“Yeah, the whole seventh grade took them. It was two
days of boring. What about them? Did I do something
wrong?” They seemed pretty easy, but maybe I used the
wrong kind of pencil or filled in the wrong bubbles.
“No,” says my mom. “Just the opposite. It seems that
you did exceptionally well.” She stops and looks at my
dad. My dad jerks his chin toward me, which I guess
means he wants my mom to tell me.
“It seems that the tests showed that you have a very
high IQ.” My mom smoothes her already-smooth blonde
hair. “Actually your IQ is so high that you’re—”
“A genius! A real genius,” my dad blurts. “What do you
think about that?” He looks excited, like he thinks I won
something. Any minute he’s going to jump up and try to
high five me.
What do I think about that? A genius? That can’t be
right. I mean I’ve always been pretty smart. I get good
grades, and I like learning new things, especially science
things. But a genius?
“I don’t understand. I’m a genius? Really?” I don’t understand
what’s happening. Which is funny, because if
I’m a genius, I probably should understand.
A choking sound from around the corner makes us all
“Sabrina?” says my mom. “Is that you? Are you all
My sister comes out of her hiding place. Usually a
champion eavesdropper, her cover is blown. She’s coughing,
and her eyes are watering.
“A bite of cookie went down the wrong way. What
did you say, Dad? Gabe’s a genius?” Sabrina looks at me
and snorts. More coughing and watering. “No way is the
shrimp a genius.”
Sabrina is one year and four days younger but two
inches taller than me. It’s the taller part she never lets
me forget.
“Sabrina, this doesn’t concern you. You are not to tell
anyone,” says my mom.
“Please, Sabrina. Don’t say anything,” I say. She turns
and studies me. “Please.”
“Okay, okay, I won’t.” And I almost believe her. But
before she leaves the room, she smirks a smirk that lets
me know that is not what’s going to happen. No way is
she keeping this a secret.
“Do you have any questions?” my dad asks. “About
what it means to be a genius?” He can’t seem to stop
saying the word. Or smiling.
Questions? Yeah, I have questions. Is this going to
change anything? Is this going to change everything? Is
it going to be better? Or will it make things even worse?
But none of these are questions I can ask my mom and
I chew on my lip and pull at a loose thread on my sock.
Just that word, “genius,” makes me feel different, like I’m
not me anymore. The top of my head starts tingling, and
my stomach goes queasy. The kind of queasy like when
you’re not sure if you want to get on the tallest, fastest
roller coaster at the amusement park. Because if you do,
you might get the ride of your life. Or you might throw
up all over the person in front of you. It feels like that.


Read a Guest Post by Marilee!

I am a children’s author. Since my debut novel was released just this month, it is still incredibly thrilling to write those words.
But before I am an author – or anything else – I am a wife and mother. I have three young children who are my greatest joys and greatest challenges, often at the same time! My approach to raising three human beings to be good, honest, faith-filled, loving, responsible people (and wow does that seem overwhelming at times) can be boiled down to four words:
·         Faith
·         Love
·         Fun
·         Learning
I do my best to approach each new mommy-day with those four principles in mind. Sometimes my best is pretty good, and other times it sends me to the freezer for a bowl of ice cream or to my knees praying for patience and wisdom.
When I started to write novels for children – for those wonderfully awkward, hopelessly self-conscious and adorable middle-graders – I just wrote. I didn’t plan or think too hard about what I was doing. A character would come to me and I would take that character on a journey. Or rather that character would take me. And it wasn’t until I sat back and looked at what I had written, at both the journey and the destination of my characters, that I saw it.
My writing is guided by those same four principles. In any story I write, you will find faith, love, fun and learning. It probably shouldn’t have surprised me to discover this, but it did.
If I tried to write about any one of these principles without the others, my story would be incomplete. For me, writing about faith without incorporating love and learning and fun – yes, fun, lots of it – wouldn’t work. Faith and love and learning bring joy, and joy means fun! And laughter. Lots of laughter.
The humor in my writing comes from honesty. A character’s honest reaction to an incident or mishap. Another character’s view of the world he inhabits and the things in it that seem askew. I have a great appreciation for the absurd, and am fortunate that the world of middle school is positively rich with material.
Just as I couldn’t write a character who didn’t appreciate and experience humor, I also couldn’t write one who didn’t value and appreciate his faith. Faith, love, fun and learning. For me – and for the characters in my stories – all are essential.       Twitter * Pinterest * Blog 


  1. Thanks for the blog post about Marilee's debut book. The book sounds like one a middle grade student would love.

    Congratulations Marilee on a book well done.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words, Linda. I was thrilled to be featured on Lisa's blog and hope readers enjoy reading my book as much as I enjoyed writing it!


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