approx. 50,000 words
A 79-mile road trip on a riding mower could scare any twelve-year-old. But for Cole, a boy whose Autism Spectrum Disorder makes him hate leaving his own house, even the thought is terrifying.
The one thing Cole fears more, however, is losing his best friend Lace. Maybe Cole's only met her through video chats, but Lace is the one person who treats him like a hero instead of a freak. So when she announces that her step dad plans to send her to a mental hospital, Cole sets off on his speed-enhanced riding mower to meet up with Lace and get her safely to her grandma's home in Nevada. Cole is sure rescuing Lace is also the perfect way to prove he's not only ordinary, but brave. They outrun a search helicopter, angry truckers, and the highway patrol, but Cole's growing Fear List is harder to shake.
Cole fights his phobias with an arsenal of ingenious solutions from hidden ATV trails to a fizzing root beer fire extinguisher, but getting back on the mower is easy compared to getting stuck between giving Lace the rescue she wants or the one she really needs. Cole started his journey hoping to find somewhere to finally feel normal. Instead, Cole uncovers the brilliance hidden inside being different.
Leaving Reason, #1. Mom thinks I’m stupid enough to run over my second-best friend.
The rope tied to the chassis pulls Brock across the grass. My friend thinks we're just lawn sledding, but I have a better plan. First the wheels hit the pressure switch I hid under some leaves. Then the sprinkler next to Brock spurts into action.
“You got me good this time.” He laughs and runs out of the spraying water.
“Perfect timing.” I check the video and smile. My newest invention worked.
Brock watches the replay over my shoulder. “It looks like I peed my pants. Delete that part, okay?”
“Fine. But it’s your turn to drive.” I grab the foot sled I welded out of cookie sheets.
Then I see Mom. She must have walked off the porch just as the sprinklers turned on. Now she’s soaked. “Sorry.” I cringe.
Mom wipes her wet glasses, then points at me with the pen she chews when she pays bills. “We’ll forget the sprinklers for now. But mowers have blades, Cole. What if you ran over Brock’s foot?”
The lawnmower’s off, but Mom’s words buzz louder than engine noise. Going barefoot always felt good. Until now.
Mom chews her pen, probably adding stuff to her “Fix Cole Plan.”
But maybe I can make her smile. “We’re recording a video.” I hold up the camera. “It’s called, ‘Don’t Try this at Home.’”
Mom doesn’t. “You can’t try it at our home either. Sorry.”