When Nate Chance arrives home from school, he sees two police cars and an ambulance in his yard. Before his mother can get him and his little sister, Junie, inside, Nate and Junie witness their father, blood pouring down his face, being led by two police officers into an ambulance. He has tried to kill himself.
Home quickly becomes a different place. Junie stays curled up in front of the TV; Nate's mom retreats inside herself; and the rumor of mental illness makes Nate a social pariah at school. Only the promise of winning the science fair holds any hope of happiness for Nate. He's building a cloud chamber, the project that he and his dad dreamed of working on together. Maybe if he can build it, Nate can give his father something that will help him feel better and finally come home.
Joyce Maynard started her writing career when she was fourteen. Her books include the memoirs At Home in the World and Looking Back and the novels To Die For (which was made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman) and, most recently, The Usual Rules (an ALA Best Book for Young Adults). The mother of three grown children, she lives in northern California. Visit her Web site at www.joycemaynard.com.