I’ve been looking forward to Leah Thomas’ 2015 middle grade debut, Because You’ll Never Meet Me, ever since Erica first introduced me to the book back in January 2015. So, when Bloomsbury approached me and asked if I would like to participate in the blog tour, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. An epistolary novel told entirely through letters and in dual points of view, Because You’ll Never Meet Me tells the story of Ollie and Moritz, two boys who form an unlikely friendship despite distance and circumstance. Today, Leah has been kind enough to share with us a letter she wrote to Ollie, one of the two main protagonists, and in doing so provides a touching and fascinating glimpse into this promising debut.
About Leah Thomas
Leah Thomas once wrote from a house in the woods, and now an apartment more or less by the sea (well, less). Her debut novel, Because You’ll Never Meet Me is available now from Bloomsbury. A graduate of Clarion 2010, her short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Black Static, Ideomancer, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye, among others. She’s mostly a dork and always feels uncomfortable about author bios.
Write a letter to Ollie and/or Moritz, in any time of their lives. What would you say and why would you choose that time period to write to them?
Dearest Ollie, Aged Six:
We need to talk about what happened with the babysitter, because you’re bound to forget. We need to talk about the first time your mother let an outsider into your life, and how badly it went, and why she’ll be so reluctant to let new people into your life again.
Here is the story of your first and only babysitter. There was a funeral. Your mother had to leave for two days. She had no choice. The babysitter parked in the distant garage. Your mother was careful, obsessive, and told her the rules over a forty minute period – how to use the oil lanterns and the woodstove, how you might try to sneak away if she didn’t keep her eye on you. The babysitter smiled at your mother, your mother smiled back, but it was the sort of smile, Ollie, that pains other people to see. (You’ll see these more and more as you grow older.)
“And he isn’t allowed to go outside. At all. Understood?”
Ollie, you’ve been allowed a few visitors over the years: old college friends of your mother’s, a physician or two, the local wildlife guy. But you never see young people, and this babysitter was younger than twenty. Her shorts were very short, her halter-top likewise, her blonde hair in the strangest bunch in the center of her head. You didn’t know what to make of her. She was a whole new world.
Your mother held you tight for many minutes before she left.
The babysitter pulled a box of macaroni from her purse and cooked it over the woodstove, going on about the oaky flavor it gave the noodles, and how cool it was to be using a stove that was “so freakin’ retro.” She went out to the icebox in the off-limits garage and brought back a bottle of ketchup.
“No shit? You haven’t lived until you’ve had freakin’ mac-and-cheese with ketchup, kid. I mean it.”
(And thus, “freakin'” was irrevocably added to your vocabulary, Oliver.)
The salty tomato and processed cheese powder combination almost lived up to her promises. She watched you eat it with a grin on her face for a full thirty seconds before she turned and walked into the living room. You thought she was showing you a world that would welcome you.
But here’s what you’ll forget, and what you’ll feel resentful for later: the babysitter turned on her phone, against all your mother’s admonitions. And Ollie, you are young and sensitive, and you could feel the phone’s electricity before you even heard the chiming of the startup screen! You could see green light seeping through the wood like fog, could feel a sneeze coming on.
You dropped your fork and fell face-first into the macaroni, like you wanted to muffle your pain in cheese sauce. And the babysitter came in and screamed. She was too shocked to remember to shut her phone off; she shook your shoulder while it vibrated in her pocket – was she receiving a joke? A bill? A winky face?
She called for an ambulance. An ambulance is a ball of electricity, just like a fire truck, even though you’ve never seen one, Ollie. Sending an ambulance might be like sending you a hearse. Luckily, when she gave the address to the dispatch office, a man named Duncan got the call and probably pumped his fist in the air or did a jig. You are legendary there, little Ollie, and they had waited five years to get a call from the cabin. They’ve got your name tacked on the wall in big bold letters: “OLIVER PAULOT: NO EMS.” You loom over them all on the board next to pictures of their pets and kids. Your mother harangued them with warnings from the time you were toddling to call Dr. Auburn-Stache first. She had plans in place to keep you safe.
And the babysitter? The babysitter will never be forgiven, but maybe she would have been paid had it not been for one thing: She didn’t go to the garage to call your mother and explain herself after Auburn-Stache got you medicated and sleeping.
She sent your mother a text. From right next to you, Oliver. Cue: another seizure.
Your mother walked out of that funeral and won’t go to another, Oliver. And she rented a car and drove to you because there were no flights, drove through the night and found you in bed with your doctor beside you.
There is a method to your mother’s madness, Oliver Paulot! There will be times when you hate her or fail to understand. She will seem cruel and possessive. Or, to talk on the level of six year olds: She will seem like a big meanie.
But she believes, Oliver, that you don’t need the kind of brand new world that’ll make you suffocate on macaroni noodles. She wants you to keep breathing air instead. Remember that, when you feel trapped. It may or may not help.
Omniscient writer of your life
Title Because You’ll Never Meet Me
Author Leah Thomas
Pages 344 Pages
Genre Middle Grade, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ
Publisher Bloomsbury USA Childrens
To Be Published June 2nd, 2015
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
In a stunning literary debut, two boys on opposite ends of the world begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever.
Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times — as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.
A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.
Don’t forget to visit all the wonderful stops along the Because You’ll Never Meet Me blog tour for a variety of excerpts, guest posts, and much, much more!
June 29 – Pen To Paper
June 30 – Writing My Own Fairytale
July 01 – Booknerdigans
July 02 – Bart’s Bookshelf
July 03 – Pop! Goes the Reader (You are here – Hi!)
July 06 – Diva Book Nerd
July 07 – Luna’s Little Library
July 08 – Bookish Broads
July 09 – Books For A Delicate Eternity