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Written by Marthe JocelynAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Marthe Jocelyn


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On Sale: November 30, 2011
Pages: 176 | ISBN: 978-0-307-80569-0
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On Sale: May 08, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-77049-022-2

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A summer night. A Saturday. For Claire, this summer feels fantastic because she’ll be zooming off to college in the fall. For her younger sister, Natalie, it’s an okay time with her friends: summer jobs, then hanging out. Fun mostly, but nothing special.

A summer night. An accident. Life changes in a heartbeat.

In Would You, Marthe Jocelyn tells a haunting story of tragedy and loss, of how one day can shape the next and at the same time emphasize the magnitude of life.

From the Hardcover edition.


A Question
Would you rather know what's going to happen? Or not know?

Getting Ready
"When did you become so sunny?" I ask. "You're in this perpetual good mood. Have you seen my other green flip-flop?"
Claire laughs. "I feel like . . . I feel like there's promise." She kicks my flip-flop out from under a heap of clothes on the floor. "It's summer. But that isn't even the best of it. I'm going to college in what, seven weeks?"
"Don't remind me. Abandoning me to face eleventh grade without your protection. Stranding me with Mom and Dad."
"Aw, Nat, don't worry." She comes over and slides her arm across my back. "You'll come for weekends sometimes. It'll be great."
"Great for you." When I think about Claire leaving,
I want to throw up. We've been sharing a room since I was born. How can our life be reduced to occasional weekends?
"I have this roar in my head," she says. "Of . . . of anticipation. That it's all just starting. Stuff I don't even know about."
"Could you be any more corny?"
She ignores me, putting on mascara. They should use her eyelashes to advertise mascara.
"Where are you going tonight?" I ask.
"Movies. With Joe-boy and Kate and Mark."
"Did you fix things with Kate?"
"As long as I ignore her massive flirtation with Joe, and her relentless need to be more attractive than I am, she's the best and we're tight. Where are you going tonight?"
"Nowhere," I say. "There's nothing to do here. Summer just started and it's already boring. And so effing hot. I'll just meet everybody, I guess."
"Mwa," she says, kissing air as she grabs her bag.
"Mwa back."

They're already there when I get to the Ding-Dong, except Zack, who doesn't finish at the DQ till nine. Audrey looks pissed off, but she's still on duty. It bites to wait on your friends.
"French fries," I tell her. "Gravy on the side."
Leila is scrunched in the corner of the booth with her feet up on the seat, no matter how many times Audrey tells her, Get your stinking feet off the seat, I'll get fired if my friends mess up in here.
I slide in next to Carson. He's building a log cabin out of toothpicks. "Hey."
"Hey," they say.
Leila is filing her thumbnail with her teeth. Audrey sets down the fries, gravy poured over.
"Does the phrase on the side mean anything to you?"
"He wasn't listening. Just eat them, okay? Really."
"I hate using a fork for French fries," I remind her. "I like dipping."
"Get over it," says Audrey.
"They're good tonight." Carson pinches a fry. "They don't taste like cigarette butts."
"Would you rather have French fries swimming in gravy or no gravy again for the rest of your life?" says Leila, picking up her fork.
"Lame," says Carson.
"You do better." Leila flicks a crumb at his toothpick masterpiece.
"Mmmm, the point is to have options that are not options. The point is to repulse."
"Not necessarily," I say. "Moral challenge is good."
"Gravy counts as moral challenge?"

Some Good Ones from Before
Would you rather eat a rat with the fur still on or eat sewage straight from the pipe?
Would you rather have your father sing at the supermarket or your mother fart in the principal's office?
Would you rather be a murderer who gets away with it and has to live with the guilt or someone who is kidnapped by a wacko and doesn't have the courage to kill the kidnapper?
Would you rather lose all your hair or all your teeth?
Would you rather have a piece of rice permanently attached to your lip or a fly always buzzing around your head?
Would you rather be so fat you need a wheelchair to get around or so skinny your bones snap if someone bumps into you?
Would you rather die or have everyone else die?

From the Hardcover edition.
Marthe Jocelyn

About Marthe Jocelyn

Marthe Jocelyn - Would You

Photo © Tom Slaughter

When I was a child, I liked to read books about ordinary children who stumbled across enchantment. I really thought that if I looked hard enough, I might find a magic nickel or a secret room behind the bookcase or a gnarled gnome whom only I could see. As I grew older, I felt the same thrill of seeing mysteries unveiled when I went to the theatre or read a book. In my childhood activities, I played with dolls way past the normal age, made dioramas out of junk scraps, directed backyard plays with casts of neighborhood kids, and was always, always reading–only as an adult can I clearly see my pursuit of illusion.
When I was 14, I spent a year in a Quaker boarding school in England, encountering a world utterly different from my own, no magic necessary. I learned the advantage of being a stranger; I created a new character for myself, far from my family and not dependent on anyone’s preconceptions. This later fed my approach to fiction: My heroines are small part “me” and large part invention of who I’d like to be, or to have been.
My earliest chapter books (the Invisible trilogy) were about an ordinary child who stumbles across enchantment. My next several books were historical novels (Earthly Astonishments, Mable Riley, and How It Happened in Peach Hill), set in worlds utterly different from my own. It’s easy to see in retrospect that exploring alternate realities began as a game in childhood and eventually became a consuming pastime, otherwise known as research. I love doing research. I depend on what I learn not only for flavor and accuracy of details, but also for the occasional serendipitous discovery that alters the plot of a story.
But then we come to my most recent novel, Would You. It is a complete departure from any of my other stories, because its inception was in the accident that gravely injured my sister when I was 20 years old and she was 27. Paula was hit by a car and remained comatose for several weeks. When she emerged, she was severely brain-damaged and a paraplegic. Ten years later, she was again hit by a car–in her wheelchair–and killed.
Friends were concerned that Would You would be too difficult to write. In fact, it was the easiest book I’ve tackled yet. I didn’t have to worry about plot! The characters are teenagers and the main challenge was to capture their irreverence and humor alongside the tragedy.
The friendship between the sisters, Natalie and Claire, is inspired by that of my own two daughters. As a mother, I delight in the love they have for each other. It is impossible not to think about my own sister and what I have lost. But here I am, 30 years later, having a fine life, and surrounded with the alternate reality that only teenagers can provide. I hope that I have written an elegy for my sister and an homage to my children.


"It is difficult to overstate the brilliance of Would You...."
The Globe and Mail

"...[an] exquisitely honed novel...."
— Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

"The narrative's strength is in its candor.... A realistic and very credible account of how one family's life is inexplicably and unexpectedly shattered."
— Kirkus Review

From the Hardcover edition.

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