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Paradise Rules Paperback – July 12, 2011
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"Wickedly funny. Ballsy and bold. An authentic adolescent narrator who you can't help but love. I found myself thinking about Gates long after I finished the book. I think this will be Gleacher's breakthrough book."
-- James Frey
“PARADISE RULES is hilarious, disturbing, and stylish. Gleacher writes about the untapped subject of the gray area created when a teenage boy and an older woman enter a sexual relationship. Gleacher writes about this taboo sexuality in an adventurous fashion through a 17 year old narrator who bursts with heart even during his most mischievous moments."
-- Pittacus Lore, author of the New York Times bestseller, I AM NUMBER FOUR
"PARADISE RULES is alternately sweet and dark, exploring an older woman's sexual relationship with a teenage boy. We see the opposite all too often and Gleacher's take is unique, navigating all the confusion and destruction, yet there is humor woven into every beautiful page."
-- Jill Kargman, author of SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A NUT
"PARADISE RULES is one of the funniest and provocative coming of age novels I've ever read. Once again Jimmy Gleacher has managed to be simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious."
-- Carolyn Karasyov author of THE INFIDELITY PACT
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
i wish I could say I was a victim but I willingly played into the devil’s hands. My reasons weren’t always right and my justifications weren’t just, but my weaknesses were common. My name is Gates and I’ve been sexually deviant since the day I hit puberty. In the last week I almost killed one man and swindled a fortune from another but those are not my greatest sins. I’m seventeen years old and I may have just ruined my life.
I go to public school here in Boulder, Colorado, and just finished junior year. Everyone calls me Casper because I never hang out but people like me so I’m considered a friendly ghost. Nicknames are cool unless they’re stupid like mine. I also caddy at a country club and my nickname there is Fun Buns. Being a teenager can be a bitch like that but I’ve had it pretty easy. I don’t really look funny and I play a varsity sport so all I really need to do is keep my head down and do my time until I can go away to college.
I have two best friends. A girl named Melanie and a guy named Timmy Timmy Timmy. Timmy Timmy Timmy’s real name is just Timmy but his OCD makes him repeat the final word of every sentence three times so everyone calls him Timmy Timmy Timmy or 3T’s for short. Most kids would probably want to chug a bottle of drain cleaner if they had the same affliction but Timmy Timmy Timmy’s the best looking guy to have ever walked the halls of Boulder High. He’s literally a model and half the time he isn’t even in school because he’s working in New York or Los Angeles or Miami or anywhere else they need someone good-looking. He makes more money than our principal.
Not many kids want to hang out with Timmy Timmy Timmy. Speech impediments and high school go together like explosive diarrhea and international plane flights. But every month 3T’s picture is either in a fashion magazine or on the cover of a clothing catalogue so no one ever messes with him because if they did he’d steal their girlfriend faster than they could say Abercrombie & Fitch Fitch Fitch.
My other best friend is Melanie Vanleer and she’s the reason I’m sitting here today writing this all down. Until a few days ago Mel and I were a couple and for a while everything was perfect until she wanted to have sex. She’s two inches taller than me and can hit her driver two hundred and fifty yards. She’s a jock but not a tomboy because she likes to wear dresses and paint her nails. We started hanging out the spring of our sophomore year when we both made the varsity golf team. I was the number one player and she was the number five player, on the boy’s team. Some of the older guys kinda hated us for that so they ostracized us but we were outcasts by then anyway. She was an oversized jock in a world where girls were sticking toothbrushes down their throats to stay undersized and I was the loner who missed an entire year of school because his mom Chernobyled and got shipped off to the loony bin. But we had golf and the game was as much a diversion for Mel as it was for me and in each other we found a partner for our escape.
At first we didn’t kiss or flirt or even flirt with flirting but then I fell for her. She’d never be a cheerleader and she’d always be big boned but she was a beautiful athletic girl and more importantly had a soul worth loving. All the other girls in our school, even the smart and nice ones, still seemed like a work in progress while Mel carried herself like a finished product. There’s probably five hundred places I could start this story but I’ll begin from only twelve days ago when Mel and I were playing golf and she hit her ball in a sand trap. Mel was wearing a periwinkle skirt and a white sleeveless top and her arms and legs were already tan. Her shiny black hair was tied into pigtails with periwinkle ribbons. Periwinkle made her blue eyes brighter so she wore the color often. Mel was no dummy. When we got to the bunker we found her ball in a deep footprint that someone should have raked. Mel laughed at her bad luck when a lot of other people would have cussed. I picked up her ball, smoothed out the footprint and carefully placed it back in the original spot.
Mel said, “Um… I may not be the high school state champion for the third consecutive year but I’m pretty sure that’s a no-no.”
“Paradise Rules, baby.”
“Baby?” She laughed. “That’s pretty racy talk for such a prude. What the hell is Paradise Rules?”
“Paradise Rules. If you don’t like your lie you can fix it with no penalty.”
“Oh, you mean cheating.” Mel picked up her ball and dug her foot into the sand to make a new, deeper print and then put the ball back. I loved her for doing that. She opened up the face of her wedge and swung straight down at the ball and it popped onto the green and rolled right past the hole. It was a good shot and I loved her for that too. I loved her for calling me Prude and for wearing periwinkle and for using the word hell. I loved her for everything that made her who she was.
We walked up on the green and Mel squatted behind her ball and tried to determine which direction the grain would break her putt. She made a good roll at it but missed the cup on the low side by a couple of inches and she shook her head as she flipped the ball up with the back of her putter and caught it in midair. Something came over me and I blurted out, “You don’t know me, Mel. Not the real me.”
“I don’t?” Mel held the flagstick a few feet from the cup and casually stood with a hand on her hip and one foot crossed behind her ankle. I placed my ball on my mark and my hand was shaking but Mel didn’t notice because she was staring west at a long horizontal cloud covering the foothills nearby. She smiled but wanted me to putt so we could move on to the next hole. The girl loved to play fast and I loved her for that. She glanced at my ball as a signal for me to hurry up and wasn’t taking my attempted confession seriously.
I relaxed, sank the putt and we started walking to the next tee but Mel stopped short and turned on her heels and grabbed the front of my shirt. “You got three seconds to say whatever the hell it is you’re trying to tell me.”
I tried to make her let go but she was really strong. “Jesus, Mel. Calm down.”
“The fuck I will. You’ve been beating around the bush for the past three months that you want to tell me something, so tell me.” She caught me completely off guard and that had been her plan, playing it cool on the green with her hand on her hip as she stared into space all the while waiting to pounce. She’d make a great hustler, another reason to love her. All I was getting was reason after reason after reason to love her so I decided if she gave me one more reason I would tell her the whole sordid truth.
“It’s nothing, alright?”
“Pussy,” she said, and let me go. And that was the last reason I needed to love her: my girlfriend called me a pussy.
So I had to tell her, I wanted to tell her, I’d been dying to tell her but it didn’t seem realistic to tap her on the shoulder and just lay it all out. So I guess that’s what this story is all about: how I was finally able to spill my rotten guts.
We finished the round in peace and I got on my bike and rode to Harmony’s Rest, a retirement home where I read to senior citizens. Phyllis, the woman who gave me the volunteer job, was waiting with a copy of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. She was seventy-five and not too many years away from living in the home herself but she was pissed at me and any woman who’s angry, young or old, is a force to be reckoned with.
Phyllis greeted me with a scowl and a pointed finger. “What made you think you could read them a book about the mafia and I wouldn’t find out? These people are fragile. You can’t fill their heads with hit men and pistols. Mrs. Green woke up the entire floor screaming in the middle of the night because she thought a man named Carlo was trying to lock her in the trunk of his car.” She crossed her arms, lowered her chin and stared me down, but then in a friendlier tone added, “If you’re not going to follow my rules, this won’t work.”
I felt badly about Mrs. Green but everyone hated The Awakening and asked me to sneak in “racier” material. “Can I at least read them something from this century?”
Phyllis handed me The Awakening and said, “My way or the highway… Carlo.”
I headed to the dining hall where an elderly group eagerly awaited the finale of Mob Slob, a shoot-’em-up comedy about the bumbling son (Carlo) of a mafia kingpin who botched hits on purpose because he didn’t want to murder anyone. We had one chapter left and the crowd wanted to know if Carlo was gonna flip to the feds but instead they got The Awakening.
After a few pages everyone was asleep except for an old blind man named Cliff who wore big black boxy sunglasses that hid half his face. Cliff always sat right next to me and we were pals. He covered his ears and said, “Stop! What happened to Carlo?”
“The gig is up, Cliff.”
He grimaced. “It was Greeny, wasn’t it? I knew she was a weak link.” One thing about retirement homes, the people move slowly but the gossip doesn’t. “Bring in something saucy tomorrow. I’ll handle Greeny.”
I looked around the room. Two of the napping seniors had drool dripping down their chins. “I can’t, Cliff. I promised Phyllis I wouldn’t.”
Cliff patted my knee and said, “There’s no honor in honesty if it’s destructive.”
I thought about my relationship with Mel and said, “That’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past two years.”
Cliff growled, “Mmm, I wish you wouldn’t make comments like that.”
“I know, but I gotta be honest with somebody.”
I left the sleepy group of seniors and rode my bike back to the golf course. The Boulder Golf Club is a private membership where I worked as a caddy and through a special arrangement with the owner, Lu, was allowed to play and practice. None of the other caddies were permitted to use the facilities. Lu told them I was special because I was a scratch golfer and won the state tourney three years in a row but he didn’t really care about any of that. Lu only cared about one thing: money.
When I got to the course I decided to work on my putting and soon enough Lu and a fellow caddy and teammate named Wade came to watch. Wade was in my class and had a side business selling drugs. He was tall and wiry and had a mop of blond hair and his eyes were always hidden beneath a visor he wore low over his face. He was the kind of kid that mothers didn’t want their sons hanging out with. Wade’s parents are former celebrities. His dad is Ike Peterson, the bassist for Goner, a popular eighties band whose songs still play on the radio. Wade’s mom is Sara Peters, a B actress from that same decade who was famous in a cult kind of way because she played Hope Woebegone in the slasher flicks Dead Duck, Dead Duck 2 and Dead Duck 3. Dead Duck was about a duck-hunting retreat where hunters visited and were never seen again. It was so bad it was good and so they made three, each one worse and thus better than the next. There were pictures of Sara Peters nude on the internet. The photos were from the eighties. In one she sunbathed nude in front of a pool boy who wore a white uniform and licked a dripping ice-cream cone. In another she wore fingerless gloves and fishnets on her arms and had such a huge bush between her legs it was hard to tell where her crotch ended and her thighs began. The joke on Wade was to crowbar the word hair into every conversation with him.
Lu was a short, plump Chinese man in his fifties who dressed like a teenage Beverly Hills prepster in pastel-colored shirts with starched collars. Whenever Lu got nervous he’d say phony Confucius quotes in an exaggerated Chinese accent like, “Man who go through airport turnstile sideways going to Bangkok.” Converting the BGC from a public course into a private club was his idea. He hired Rees Jones, the world’s greatest golf course architect, to redesign the course and he renovated the clubhouse. After all the improvements there still weren’t many members though, so the place was hurting for cash.
Wade and Lu made quite a pair. Wade was half a foot taller than Lu and looked like a scarecrow in his baggy clothes and stringy hair. Lu wore a bright pink shirt that was too tight and pushed out by his belly. He looked like an Easter egg. They were standing on the fringe of the green in front of the cup I was aimed at. My first ball went in, then my second, and before I hit my third I asked, “How much you guys got on this?”
“A hundy,” Wade answered.
“Who bet against me?”
Wade raised his hand and said, “Whodaya think, Fun Buns?”
“What if I only miss by a hair?”
“I don’t know. What if your girlfriend wasn’t built like a linebacker, then no one would think you’re gay.”
“I’m just saying it’s kind of a hairy putt.” I pointed at the grass in front of me and said, “That break is like a hairpin turn.”
“Just hit it already, Fun Buns.”
I made the putt and Wade handed over his money to Lu and stormed off. Once we were alone Lu said, “Got a game for you tomorrow.”
I shook my head. “Sorry but I’m out.”
“You’re out?” He laughed. “You’re not out, there is no out. Besides, I thought you liked our agreement.”
“I do. But…”
“There’s nothing to feel guilty about.”
“Sure there is.”
Lu was wearing red, white and blue boating shoes. He looked at them a minute and then asked, “What about boarding school? How you gonna pay for tuition if you jump off the gravy train?”
“There’s other ways to make money.”
Lu punched my arm playfully and said, “Lighten up, Chawlie.” He thought a moment and said, “You want some advice? Because I’ll give you some real advice if you promise to listen.”
He sounded sincere so I replied. “Please.”
Lu switched to his Confucius voice and said, “Panties not best thing on earth, but next to best thing on earth,” and walked away.
I went straight from the BGC to the library and studied until it closed. Then I had to go home. I thought about crashing at Harmony’s Rest but I was starving and wanted food. I didn’t like going home because my godmother Alicia lived with us. She’s a child psychologist and Mom’s security blanket. She moved in two years ago after Mom had a nervous breakdown and tried to kill herself. Alicia checked Mom into a “hospital” in Arizona for nine months and took me out of school so we could live full-time at her weekend house in Aspen. When Mom finally made it back to Boulder it had been decided Alicia would move in with us. She had her own bedroom and set of keys and she spent more time in the house than Mom who buried herself in her real estate company. Mom was a stunningly beautiful woman and I guess a lot of people out there think a pretty face can sell a house because she had listings throughout Denver and Boulder and her smiling face beamed from FOR SALE signs planted in front yards everywhere. Sometimes it felt like I could never escape her but that’s what a guilty conscience will do.
When I got home from the library Alicia’s BMW was in the driveway where it always was. The woman never went out. She was never married, had no children and didn’t once have a serious boyfriend. One time I asked Mom why this was and she replied, “Because maybe that’s how she wants it.” Alicia could get a guy if she wanted. She’s no centerfold but she’s not a troll either. She’s got big fake boobs that are totally hypnotic but when she goes out in public she dresses like a nun and doesn’t put on any makeup or do anything to try and look good. Most women do all kinds of crap to get a man to notice them but Alicia did the opposite.
When I walked in the house I wanted to sneak into the kitchen and grab something to eat but Alicia was sitting in the living room facing the front door reading one of her shrink magazines and drinking a glass of red wine. She smiled and said, “He’s home.” Alicia had really high cheekbones that made her look like a chipmunk and when she smiled her eyes pretty much disappeared. I waved and headed for the stairs but she called out, “Not so fast,” and hopped out of her chair. She was wearing a slinky blue silk camisole and a short white miniskirt, clothes she only wore around the house. “I made dinner if you’re hungry.”
“Thanks. I’m good. Where’s Mom?”
“She’s entertaining a client in Denver and is staying down there. Probably because she doesn’t want to drive back too late.”
“Too late, or too drunk?”
Alicia gave me a disapproving look and crossed her arms beneath her boobs, which made them stick out even more. “Don’t be so hard on her.”
“I like it better when she’s here,” I said.
“So do I.” She frowned and added, “But at least we have the house to ourselves.”
I tried not to look at her or stare at her tits and fall under their spell. She was a voluptuous woman and even though she had a few extra pounds they were in all the right places. About a month ago Wade dropped me off after a golf match and he came in to use the bathroom. Alicia thought I was alone and sauntered down the stairs wearing nothing but a towel on her head and white lingerie. She was fresh out of the shower and pretended to be looking for the iron. When Wade came out of the bathroom they both froze and then Alicia sprinted up the stairs.
Wade and I watched her run all the way to her room and then he turned to me and said, “Dude…”
“My godmother,” I explained
He nodded and remarked, “G-MILF.”
The next day at school Wade came up to me and said, “I thought about your godmother last night when I was holding my sausage hostage. She’s the new star of my spank bank.” This became his running joke and in front of the entire golf team including Melanie he’d talk about how Alicia had a butter-face but that he’d still like to “titty-bang her until her implants popped.” This went on and on until I stole a pair of Alicia’s underwear, covered them with itching powder and put them in a Ziploc bag and gave them to Wade. I told him Alicia had a crush on him and he was cocky enough to believe it. That night he sent me a text message that said UR DEAD! Wade’s dick burned so bad his mom had to drive him to the emergency room. The next day he brought me a pair of his dad’s boxers and said, “I thought you’d get off on these since you only date boys.” He was at least nice enough not to say it in front of Mel. That was the thing about Wade, he was a prick but he had flashes of decency. Growing up with Mom taught me how to soak in people’s briefest glimpses of good so I actually liked Wade more than most people did.
Alicia walked toward me so I headed up the stairs before she could get too close. When I got to my room I reached under my bed to grab a Tupperware container where I stashed peanut butter, bread, bottled water and potato chips for nights just like this one but it was gone. Alicia opened my door without knocking and said, “If you’re looking for your food it’s in the kitchen.”
I went to bed hungry and thought about Melanie and her periwinkle ribbons, how she liked to call me Prude and the way she grabbed my shirt; but the thing I thought about most was her footprint in the sand.
© 2011 Jimmy Gleacher
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Gates is a self-described sexual deviant, 17 years old, working as a caddy at a country club. His mother had a nervous breakdown two years ago, and he was molested by his godmother Alicia, a child psychologist and his mom's best friend. Since they still live with Alicia, the molestation continues, and it's causing Gates problems with his girlfriend, who would like to sleep with him.
I know that many readers would find this book hilarious. I'm not one of them. Most of the adults here do nothing but take advantage of and/or ignore the teens, with the clubhouse owner using Gates to win illegal bets, a clubhouse patron who gives Gates the nickname of "Fun Buns" because he can't keep his hands off his bum, and more.
Gates is likeable (he even volunteers to read to seniors at the local retirement home); his bestie named Timmy is a model with OCD who repeats the final word of every sentence three times; and his girlfriend Melanie is a jock and his best friend. Unfortunately, almost every single adult in the novel is eminently unlikeable or at best, definitely not in the realm of "normal".
I've seen this one described as "irreverent", "provocative", and "bold", but for this reader, molestation is not a funny subject. Here is a teen whose life is in the crapper, and there is really no one there to help pull him out. There's a bit of a surprise at the end, but it wasn't enough to redeem the rest. If it were billed as an adult book, I might give some of it a pass, but it's billed as YA. In my opinion, this is an adult novel written about a teen, and is definitely not one I'd encourage for the younger YA set. Again, my disclaimer is that certain readers will LOVE this - it IS different. I never felt a connection to the characters, and much of what happens was not funny or even interesting to me.
QUOTES (from an eGalley; may be different in final copy):
Anyway, I was actually very attracted to Melanie but I couldn't sleep with her until she knew the real me but the only problem was as soon as she knew the real me she wouldn't want to sleep with me anymore.
Mom spoke the words in a way that suggested she knew but I convinced myself this wasn't possible because I didn't want to believe Mom would ignore her best friend molesting me.
Sensitive Reader: This one is not for you. Profanity and sexuality abound.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Characters: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion: 2.5 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 3 out of 5 stars
about my comments. Paradise Rules is exceptionally sensitive without being preachy.
I read Paradise Rules last night straight through. Gates, who was sexually groomed at age fifteen by his much older godmother, is now a high school junior in love with a girl his age. His messy, barely-supportive world becomes even more unbalanced as he struggles to grow up.
Gleacher did an excellent job of leading me into this boy's world of golf-hustler, a missing father, crazy mother, colorful friends, a gambling-addicted boss, uncountable challenges and genuine love for a girl amid continued exploitation by his godmother.
The book IS wickedly funny. It pulled me gently into Gates' life without causing me to pity him. Captivated, I tumbled along with each situation that pushed and pulled him in unnerving directions.
I suggest it as a great read for YA, and also people like me who are many decades older than Gates.
Jimmy Gleacher has written a book that makes me feel like I've already seen the movie, and I will never forget it. When can I see it on the big screen?
The reader can't stop hoping for, even rooting for Gates to win; in life, like he consistently does on the golf course. Cleverly crafted, like an errant shot that gets a good bounce off the fringe, our main character narrowly escapes hazardous traps that could sink not only him, but multiple players in his life's overly-complicated foursome including his mother, his lover and HS girlfriend; not to mention his girlfriend's dysfunctional family, his friends and his hustling caddymaster/boss with a gambling problem.
Like grinding out a 72 hole tournament when you're off your game, Gates makes the turn and his journey takes him from the caddyshack to the clubhouse, from victim to victor and from a child to a champion...and throughout course of it all, Gleacher never misses a stroke!