Title: WHAT COUNTS
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary/Magical Realism
Word Count: 70,000 words
When the panther that’s been haunting her dreams slips into her waking life, fifteen-year-old Katie McKaid realizes she is being hunted. Not only is the panther stalking her, but it’s also after her seven-year-old brother, Shawn. As if this summer isn’t already a nightmare, her father left to live with his new girlfriend and her mother has fallen into a downward alcoholic spiral. Now, Shawn has just pitched a bright, orange tent in the middle of the living room, and refuses to take it down.
When Katie’s new neighbor, sixteen-year-old skateboarder, Tim, begins to suspect something, he starts poking around inside Katie’s world, unraveling the truth about her mother’s drinking and her father’s infidelity. He also discovers that the only thing hunting Katie is the damaging, psychological effect of a parent’s addiction, a secret Katie is willing to bend reality to hide. , but it is WHAT COUNTS.
WHAT COUNTS takes a unique look at love, family, addiction, and the fears that bind us. With a careful blend of magical realism and contemporary romance, WHAT COUNTS will interest readers of Laurie Halse Anderson’s WINTERGIRLS and Sara Zarr’s STORY OF A GIRL.
I could always hear them arguing. They would talk in spitted whispers, like they were trying to spare us. But eventually, the sounds worked their way up through the maze of the heat duct, slamming and clanking against the metal walls and exploded from the vent in my room. Tonight they just gave up, and even though I never knew how it started, I always remembered how it ended.
I’m not sure what was said to grab my attention, but I couldn’t tune it out any longer. Pushing my battered math book aside, I slid off the edge of my bed to press my ear to the ground. The metal grated vent was cool against my cheek and a few moments later, I heard a click. Shawn, my seven-year-old brother closed my bedroom door behind him and crawled along the floor toward me. His shaggy, sandy blonde hair wagged in front of his eyes, like a dog that was overdue for a trip to the groomers. He dropped to his belly, inches away from my face, and leaned over the vent.
“Katie, they’re fighting,” he whispered. His breath smelled like peanut butter.
“He’s going to leave, isn’t he?”
“No.” I lied. I was a good liar. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell when I was lying. It wasn’t even a conscious decision anymore. Instead, a lie was just a knee-jerk reaction, a survival mechanism. Something that had to be done to save myself from the truth.
“Maybe it will make Mom get better,” he said before popping his thumb into his mouth.