Water Balloon

by Audrey Vernick

A warm debut novel about friendship and first love.

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780547595542
  • ISBN-10: 0547595549
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication Date: 09/06/2011
  • Carton Quantity: 24

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About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book

    Marley’s life is as precarious as an overfull water balloon—one false move and everything will burst. Her best friends are pulling away from her, and her parents, newly separated, have decided she should spend the summer with her dad in his new house, with a job she didn’t ask for and certainly doesn’t want. On the upside is a cute boy who loves dogs as much as Marley does . . . but young love has lots of opportunity for humiliation and misinterpreted signals. Luckily Marley is a girl who trusts her instincts and knows the truth when she sees it, making her an immensely appealing character and her story funny, heartfelt, and emotionally true.

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    Brightly Colored Happiness
    The blitzing began five years ago, in second grade, on one of those amazing spring days that remind you how hot summer can be. I was sitting outside, waiting for my best friends to come over. I knew we’d spend the day outside—the weather was the kind of gorgeous that makes you feel stupid if you spend a minute indoors.
       I have no idea why I had a bag of balloons in the garage, but I did. Before Leah and Jane arrived, I blew up a ton with the hose and filled this big planter behind my dad’s grill with water balloons.
       Whenever we hung out, we played Monopoly. We were inventing our own rules, our own way to play. Whoever bought Park Place had to get drinks for all players. If you landed on Marvin Gardens, the other players had to quickly come up with a new hairstyle for you. That kind of thing. These days, there’s an action associated with every space. (Except Baltic. If you land on Baltic, you can just relax.) But on that day, we were still making it up.
       So there we were, playing our evolving version of Monopoly on the wooden picnic table in the backyard. Leah was leaning back to get some sun on her face. Jane was focused on the game, like me. She had a pad next to her, keeping track of the random action we applied to each space.
       I landed on B&O Railroad, which, according to our rules, meant I had to go get pretzels for them. Instead, I went to the planter.
       Was there a minute, a pause, before I started throwing the balloons? A second when I realized that something way beyond awesome was about to take place? I wish I could remember.
       What I do remember is the identical look on their faces. I managed to hit Jane and Leah within seconds of each other, and it was as if they had no idea what had happened. Did the sky just fall? Did a bird crap on them? Did their heads explode? How could they suddenly be wet, sitting outside on a hot spring day? Almost before it was humanly possible, they were right there beside me, pulling balloons out and attacking me right back. There was water everywhere, wet everything, balloons flying, breaking apart, arms throwing and trying to deflect, voices squealing, screaming, laughing. We were running, trying to get away, running back, getting more balloons from the planter. It was wet and brightly colored happiness of the splatted, splattered water balloon variety.
       Rig raced out barking, running circles around us. My parents ran out of the house too; all the noise must have set off their Parent Alerts. Mom and Dad took it all in: how wet we were, how hard we were laughing, the red and yellow and blue and purple balloon splats everywhere. Instead of yelling at us to clean it all up, or did we realize we had nearly drenched a perfectly good Monopoly game, or even What the hell is going on out here?, my mom found one balloon that had landed unbroken and smashed it directly on my dad’s head.
       She looked so happy! Almost proud, in a goofy way. Dad had that look of wonder he always got—as if he couldn’t believe how great she was. Or how lucky he was. A look I haven’t seen in so long.
       First Water Balloon Blitz. Quite possibly the best water balloon fight in the history of mankind.

    ***

    The next year, Jane ambushed Leah and me at the park. She had her brother and father help her hide a stash in this big bin behind the playground, and she just totally blindsided us with a water balloon attack of pure excellence.
       What impressed me most was not the total shock factor, or the way Jane made an annual tradition out of what we all had thought of as the greatest ever onetime event. I just loved the Jane way she went about it. It was so well planned. I mean, she brought the full water balloons to the park in a bucket half filled with water so they wouldn’t break. Seriously—that was taking it to a whole other level.
       Over the years, rules evolved. We came up with a points system.
       The Water Balloon Blitz can only be after school ends, and there can be only one blitz per year. Points are given in the following categories:
       Number of witnesses to water balloon blitzing.
       Number of days since last day of school—in other words, the longer you wait, the more points you get. Of course, there’s also a greater the chance of someone else bombing you first.
       Bonus points for courage—it’s a lot easier to launch a surprise balloon attack on your best friends when it’s just the three of you in a backyard than it is in a public place or when your friend’s parents might kill you.
       Which is why Leah is reigning champion. Her attack at Jane’s sister’s birthday party two years ago was a thing of great beauty. And utter surprise. Leah wasn’t exactly a follower, but she sure wasn’t a leader. She mostly went along with what Jane and I did. So for her to come up with this blitz, this most incredibly courageous blitz, well, Jane and I were nearly speechless for days. And Leah was never the same herself.
       All these older neighbors were there, not to mention Jane’s mega-uptight mother and grandmother, but Leah went all out, bombing Jane and me. Most of the other guests, too. Jane and I kneeled down before her at the end of that party. Literally.
       The weird thing is that last summer, there was no blitz. All through August, I was sure I’d score with a ton of points by waiting so long, but the days slipped by, and Jane and Leah were so busy all the time. I never blitzed them. They never blitzed me. Then seventh grade started. And life went on.
       Well, life didn’t exactly go on. My life got a little stopped for a while. Or it felt like it did, when Dad moved out. Brightly Colored Happiness
       The blitzing began five years ago, in second grade, on one of those amazing spring days that remind you how hot summer can be. I was sitting outside, waiting for my best friends to come over. I knew we’d spend the day outside—the weather was the kind of gorgeous that makes you feel stupid if you spend a minute indoors.
       I have no idea why I had a bag of balloons in the garage, but I did. Before Leah and Jane arrived, I blew up a ton with the hose and filled this big planter behind my dad’s grill with water balloons.
       Whenever we hung out, we played Monopoly. We were inventing our own rules, our own way to play. Whoever bought Park Place had to get drinks for all players. If you landed on Marvin Gardens, the other players had to quickly come up with a new hairstyle for you. That kind of thing. These days, there’s an action associated with every space. (Except Baltic. If you land on Baltic, you can just relax.) But on that day, we were still making it up.
       So there we were, playing our evolving version of Monopoly on the wooden picnic table in the backyard. Leah was leaning back to get some sun on her face. Jane was focused on the game, like me. She had a pad next to her, keeping track of the random action we applied to each space.
       I landed on B&O Railroad, which, according to our rules, meant I had to go get pretzels for them. Instead, I went to the planter.
       Was there a minute, a pause, before I started throwing the balloons? A second when I realized that something way beyond awesome was about to take place? I wish I could remember.
       What I do remember is the identical look on their faces. I managed to h...

  • Reviews
    * "Kids struggling with the challenges of identifying what changes are necessary and paying the price for those thrust upon them will be glad to see an author who gets it." —Bulletin, starred review
     
    “An achingly honest story about love, family, friends, and non-friends. (Spoiler alert: There's also an adorable boy with sky blue eyes . . . )”—Lauren Myracle, New York Times best-selling author of ttyl and Shine

    “Vernick's writing is beautiful, her characters well-rounded and believable, and the coming of age situations and emotions are spot on.”—Kathryn Erskine, author of the National Book Award winner Mockingbird
     
    “Tender and true, anchored by heartbreak and buoyed by love, Water Balloon is a sweet summertime celebration of the unforgettable moments that change everything. ”—Cynthia Leitich Smith, New York Times bestselling-author of Tantalize, Eternal, and Blessed
     
    “A funny, poignant, beautifully written story about family, first love, and the joy and pain of girls’ friendships, reminiscent of Lynne Rae Perkins’ All Alone in the Universe. I was really caught up in the world Vernick created; in Marley's own words, ‘it is amazingly, fantastically real.’ I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!”—Joanne Rocklin, author of One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street
     
    “Tweens will relate to this heartfelt story of a girl who is struggling to navigate the many changes in her life that seem to greet her at every turn.”—Lisa Schroeder, author of It’s Raining Cupcakes
     
    “Marley Baird is a lovely protagonist with an engaging voice, and readers will wish they could be her best friend and help her cope with all of life’s uncertainty, aggravation, and heartache.  They will recognize their own struggles in Marley’s and cheer her on as she finds her way.”—Gina Willner-Pardo, author of  The Hard Kind of Promise
     
    Water Balloon is breathtakingly luminous. From the start, readers will root for Marley, an unforgettable and authentic heroine; we *know* this girl, our heart breaks with hers, we laugh with her, and we want to be her friend for life. Vernick's lyrical and astonishingly perceptive prose tells this captivating story of friendship, love, and resilience with honesty, grace, and power. This book is the real thing—I want to hug it daily!”—Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of 8th Grade Superzero
     
    “Vernick makes a very auspicious fiction debut here with her breezy, briskly paced tale, well-portrayed characters, authentic relationships and keen ear for realistic dialogue. . . . preteen female readers will eat this up and learn a wise and wistful thing or two about friendships, including when and how to walk away and start new ones. . . . a harbinger of more good novels to come from this author.” —Kirkus Reviews

    "Put this book on your "must-have" list. It won’t stay on the shelves long."—School Library Journal, starred review

    "Vernick conveys Marley's uncertain navigation of new experiences and conflicting emotions with sincerity and keen perception."—Publishers Weekly

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