REVIEW and EXCERPT
(Breaking the Rules Book 1)
(Breaking the Rules Book 1)
by H. R. Hobbs
See Me is the first book in the Breaking the Rules series by H. R. Hobbs. The book is ON SALE for $0.99 (save $2.00) from 20 to 22 January. The author stops by to share an excerpt. You can also read my review.
Hannah follows the rules, always. The rules at school. The rules at home. But what people don't know is that Hannah has her own rules. They protect her. Keep her invisible.
And they work - until Chip Cavanagh arrives at her school. Chip doesn't have rules. Hannah soon learns that being friends with Chip means she can't be invisible any longer.
No! No! No! Not behind me. Anywhere but behind me, I thought to myself, keeping my eyes firmly on my desk, trying to be invisible. My shoulders lifted and I tucked my chin to my chest to make myself as small as possible. Disappear, I thought, don’t let them see you.
Mrs. Barkowski stood at the front of the room with what appeared to be our newest classmate. I quickly glanced over Brandon’s shoulder and saw him standing in front of Mrs. Barkowski’s desk, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as if he had to pee. His dirty blond hair was cut short on the sides, the top longer and hanging over one eye. He was dressed in worn jeans and a T-shirt with Darth Vader on it. Both had seen better days. Mrs. Barkowski’s hand crept like a claw around his shoulders, making him appear even more uncomfortable. His body stiffened like a board and he eyed her hand distastefully. I could tell he didn’t like people touching him. Strange.
Mrs. Barkowski appeared oblivious to his reaction as she introduced him to the class.
“Class, this is our newest member, Toby Cavanagh. Toby has just moved here from Leduc. Please be sure to show him around and make him feel welcome.”
Twenty-four sets of eyes stared at Toby—all but mine. I kept my eyes firmly planted on my math notebook in front of me, and I imagined myself sinking through the floor.
I heard Toby say to Mrs. Barkowski, “Call me Chip.”
“Why would I call you that?” Mrs. Barkowski said, and I looked up despite myself. Her fists sat on her ample hips and her eyebrowsdisappeared into her curly brown bangs.
“That’s what everyone calls me,” he replied, a look of determination on his face.
This wasn’t going to go well, I could tell.
Mrs. Barkowski’s face mirrored Toby’s, staring right back at him. “Well, Toby, in this class we go by our given names. You may take the seat behind Hannah.”
So much for being invisible.
“Awesome,” Toby mumbled, in a way that said he didn’t think it was awesome at all. He moved down the aisle with his hands in his pockets and his feet scuffing theworn linoleum floor. He sat down behind me and I knew he was slouched in his seat because I felt his feet make contact with mine underneath my desk. I immediately moved my own feet forward.
“All right, class, let’s turn to page forty-three of our textbooks and look at multiplication of decimals,” Mrs. Barkowski instructed.
A textbook suddenly appeared before me and I looked up to see the back of Brandon’s large, brown head with his hand behind it holding a textbook. He gave it a shake and I realized he wanted me to take it—it must have been for Toby. I took it and passed it to him.
“Thanks,” he muttered, opening it.
Mrs. Barkowski began her lesson on multiplying decimals, writing examples on the board that we diligently copied into our notebooks and solved. We were on the fourth example when I felt a finger poke between my shoulder blades. I didn’t move.
A few seconds later, there was another poke, harder this time, and a whispered “Hey.”
Still I faced forward and tried to concentrate on the next example—both basic tactics for staying invisible in the seventh grade.
The third poke to my back came with a “You got a pencil and a piece of paper?” from behind me. This was a little louder than the first “Hey,” and a couple of my classmates seated close to us sent disapproving glances in our direction.
As quietly as possible, I took a spare pencil from my pencil case and a piece of paper from my notebook and handed them back over my shoulder.
“Thanks,” Toby muttered again.
Five minutes later, Mrs. Barkowski gave us our assignment and the class began working quietly.
Again a poke to my back, this time with a pencil.
“What’s your name?” came from behind me.
I ignored it and continued working on question number four.
“Hey, tell me your name.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Trudy Hartford give us both a look that clearly said, “You’re disturbing me and my brilliance, quit talking so I can get my work done.” Her contemptuous look made me uncomfortable. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my face heated with a flush of red. She continued to stare for a moment and then flicked her brown, shiny hair over her shoulder and bent her head back to her book.
I quickly turned in my seat before he could poke me in the back or talk again and hissed, as quietly as possible, “It’s Hannah. Now do your work and leave me alone!”
“I’m done,” he replied.
I stared at him. His brown eyes met mine and he tilted his head at the same time, quirking up one eyebrow.
“What?” he said.
“You’re done? How is that possible? Mrs. Barkowski assigned us twenty questions barely five minutes ago,” I whispered incredulously.
“They were easy and math is kinda my thing, so it only took me a couple of minutes,” he said, louder yet, and shrugged his skinny shoulders.
“Look, I’m glad you’re done, but I’m not and Mrs. Barkowski doesn’t tolerate any talking during work time, so save us both from getting in trouble and be quiet!”
Toby looked down at his paper. I whirled around to face forward in my desk, hopeful that he’d take my advice. I didn’t hear another sound out of him for the rest of the class.
When the bell rang, Toby followed me out of the classroom. I turned right and headed down the hallway to the stairs. I could sense him behind me and I quickened my steps, my sneakers slapping the floor, to avoid any more conversation. I liked to be invisible at school and having the new boy in class talk to me would draw attention that I didn’t want—no one here saw me and that was how I wanted it to stay. He didn’t know this, but right now I didn’t have the time or patience to fill him in. I nearly made it to the stairs when a hand touched my arm. I froze.
“Hannah, my next class is Science. Can you tell me where the lab is?”
I looked at Chip’s fingers on my arm and weighed the pros and cons of helping him. On the pro side, he might leave me alone once I helped him. On the con side, he might see it as encouraging—and then I’d never get rid of him. I sighed. The lesser of two evils was to help him now and ditch him at the first opportunity.
“I’m headed there. Follow me,” I said without looking at him.
As we made our way down the stairway to the next floor, Toby walked beside me calling out and waving to various students: “Hey, how’s it goin’?” or “Hi!” I kept my head down and powerwalked to the end of the hallway, turning left into the science lab.
As I passed Trudy filing her nails at the front bench I heard her stage-whisper to Anne, her lab partner, “Looks like Hannah has a new friend.”
Anne snorted and said, “Well, at least she has one,” and they both collapsed into giggles.
Toby heard the comment and quickly replied: “Yep, and that’s all she needs.”
As I made my way to the bench at the back of the room, Toby followed me and plopped himself down beside me.
“Thanks,” I said, “but you didn’t have to do that.”
“Oh, yes, I did.”
“Well, I know I need a friend if I’m going to make it here, and it looks like you do, too.” He stuck out his hand. “Let’s start over,” he said. “I’m Chip. Nice to meet you.”
I studied his hand in front of me and then slowly reached up and grasped it.
“Hi, Chip. I’m Hannah.” As our hands moved up and down, I glanced up to find a goofy grin pasted on Chip’s face.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]
Praise for the Book
"This was a touching story about a girl named Hannah. In Heather Hobbs first book we follow Hannah as she navigates, school, home, a new friendship, and her budding autonomy. This well written book has a good message about finding an inner strength that you didn't know was there." ~ James F. Boley
"Many middle years kids (ages 11-14 and beyond) will make connections to the school scenarios and characters and there are plenty of opportunities for readers' reactions, class discussions, and personal reflections and writing. Students will be hooked! Bravo HR Hobbs on your premiere novel in a highly anticipated series!!" ~ Grant Marit
"See Me is the start to a great series for children. I believe that having children's literature that deals with such important topics as bullying, self-esteem, alcohol, abuse, and friendship is vital to help teach kids how to handle issues in their personal lives. And Hannah and Chip, the two main characters of this series, do exactly that. This is an incredible debut by new author H.R. Hobbs, and I look forward to future installments. Do yourself a favor and pick See Me up! This is a wonderful read for both children and adults." ~ Spencer Borup
"I thoroughly enjoyed this novel aimed at middle years readers. With its very relatable characters mixed in with my own personal memories of those sometimes confusing and difficult years, I wish I had been given a book to read like this back then! It was fast-paced just enough to keep me hooked and looking forward to picking up where I left off the day before. I felt I was pulled into Hannah's world by the author's knack for good story telling. Ultimately this is a story of triumph over one's self that we experience through Hannah, which makes for quite a powerful read. The few loose ends will undoubtedly be resolved in book two of the series, which I am looking forward to reading already." ~ G dos Anjos
By Lynda Dickson
Afraid of angering her father ever since an incident when she was only four years old, Hannah tries to be the perfect child and follow all the rules, but she sometimes fails. One such failure leads to burn scars on her legs which, in turn, lead to her being branded as "different" by Brady on her first day of school. Ever since that day, Hannah is subjected to his bullying. Now in seventh grade, Hannah has made an art of being invisible in order to protect herself from being hurt. But that all changes when Chip starts at her school and latches onto her.
While the story mostly follows Hannah through the seventh grade, we are also given glimpses of her childhood memories, showing us exactly how Hannah came to make her rules. While Hannah's story is heartbreaking, her "voice" is a bit old for her age, making us forget at times just how young and vulnerable she really is.
Hannah finds her refuge in writing, but she never shares that writing with anyone, not even us. Perhaps it's the author's intention to illustrate just how private Hannah's writing is, but I think seeing some of Hannah's actual writing (e.g., handwritten pages from her notebook, some of her poetry) throughout the book would allow us to empathize with her a bit more.
Chip's and Hannah's differing reactions to bullying highlight the importance of the reaction of the person being bullied to the continuation of the bullying cycle. While I'm not blaming the victims or condoning bullying, children need to be taught both not to bully and how not to be victims. It's sad to see the children in the book so unwilling to communicate with and seek help from their parents, teachers, and other adults. This book is a useful resource for both parents and teachers to open up a dialogue with those at risk.
See Me provides us with a touching look at child abuse and bullying, but the outcome is ultimately hopeful. I look forward to reading more books in this series.
About the Author
See Me is the debut novel of H. R. Hobbs. An educator for nearly thirty years, she began teaching with the goal of sharing her love of books with her students. A mother to three grown sons and grandmother to two little darlings, she resides with her husband in the small prairie town where she was born and raised.