in London, Radford’s teen fiction debut features an
especially likeable narrator with untapped extrasensory powers
. . . the novel shines when it focuses on Fiona’s struggle
to understand her ESP and her attempts to make contact with
her father. These elements are more than enough to capture
and sustain readers’ attention"
— Publishers Weekly
Not that I’m some kind of total Predictable Routine
Freak or anything, but I figure that with my mum moving us
every year or so until about three years ago I’ve had
enough change and chaos in my fourteen years of life to last
until I’m oh, at least a hundred and fifty.
Sadly, today when I climb out of bed at six to begin my
Predictable Routine I have no inkling, none whatsoever, that
Predictable is about to fly out of the window and my life
will never be the same again.
Just like every morning, I scan
the newspapers online, which is no more depressing than
usual since they’re always
full of either global warming, or murders, or natural disasters,
or drug barons and gangland wars, and then I switch to the
financial reports to cheer myself up, because these are the
parts I like best.
And if I find something that really interests
me, like this one about Funktech, an American company that
makes really cool electronic stuff, I print out the information
so that I can either add it to my information dossier or
research it later. I know. I’m not your usual fourteen-year-old.
But today I don’t put this
particular article away for later, I read it right now.
because I get a little prickle at the back of my neck.
Just a little tingly kind of feeling. And as I read that
Funktech has just expanded into Britain, in fact into London,
the tingly feeling gets even stronger. Like I should check
out Funktech’s website right
I get these little tingly kind of feelings from time to
time--you know--call it female intuition or something. Like
when Mr. Fenton, our math teacher, went on the school ski
trip--I just had that tingly feeling that he might break
his leg on the nursery slope if he went, and he did. Which
was a total disaster because we had to have Mr.
Sharpe for math the whole of the term and he made us study
boring stuff like geometry, which we’d already covered,
instead of interesting stuff like quadratic equations.
Or like sometimes I get that tingly feeling that I might
bump into Melissa Stevens, Queen Bee Popular Girl and local
menace, if I take my usual route to school on a certain day,
because that would be another total disaster, so
I leave home earlier and walk the long way instead. Or when
I’m actually at school, and Melissa is around, and
I’m wishing for her not to notice me. I mean, when
I keep a low profile (most of the time), the low-level fear
and the tingle seem to go together hand in hand.
But that tingly feeling can also be a good thing.
Like when I’m checking the financial pages, that tingly
feeling might mean that I’ve found a great company
to invest in, which is also quite unusual for someone of
fourteen, I suppose. Investing, I mean, not the intuition
thing. Although some people might think that the intuition
thing is a bit odd. Which is why I haven’t
told anyone about it.
So I follow my instincts and load
but then, when I click on the “About Us” page
the tingly feeling becomes a huge big prickle.
The CEO is called William Brown, which is my dad’s name.
Not that I have ever actually met my dad.
Mum lost him oh, about twelve hours after my conception.
When I say, “lost him,” I don’t mean he’s
dead, I mean lost him in a losing-someone-and-not-being-able-to-find-them-ever-again
kind of way.
Yes, that sounds a bit careless,
but it really wasn’t
Mum’s fault. See, she met him at this huge annual music
festival (which is held in a field at a place called Glastonbury),
and it was Love At First Sight. And because it was a music
festival and there was a lot of emotion running high, Mum
and my father got a bit carried away (which was how I came
Unfortunately, at the end of the
festival there was a huge riot (leading to 235 arrests
and fifty thousand pounds’ worth
of damage), and then Mum and my dad got separated in The
Chaos That Ensued.
Mum couldn’t find him again afterwards, because they
hadn’t gotten as far as swapping addresses, so wrapped
up in the music and so much in love were they. They did,
however, swap names, which is a relief, because it’s
important for a girl to have her father’s name on her
I don’t think Mum’s ever gotten over her William
Brown though, because sometimes, when she thinks I’m
not paying attention, she sighs and looks sad as she takes
out the old photo one of her friends took of her and my dad
at the festival. It’s a bit fuzzy and you can’t
really see him that clearly. But you can see that he’s
tall, and gangly, and handsome, and has long, dark hair.
You can see his eyes, too, and they look kind and twinkly.
Mum says that I have his eyes. Which is nice, because I don’t
take after him at all in the tall, handsome department. I
don’t take after Mum in the beautiful department, either.
Perhaps I’ll add this William Brown to my William
Brown File, which currently has 463 people in it, winnowed
down from some of the 17.9 million pages you get on Google
when you search “William Brown.” (Why does my
dad have to have such a common name?!) I’ve never done
anything with the file because none of the William Browns
seem like they could be our William Brown – it’s
just comforting to keep ruling out the wrong ones. My years
of William Brown research have proven that the chances of
this William Brown being my William Brown are totally
improbable but there is a “Meet Our CEO” page
on the Funktech website, so I might as well go ahead and
meet him. And when I do go ahead and Meet Our CEO, there
is a photo of him, and the huge big prickle becomes a loud,
deafening roar like so much radio static buzzing in
The first thing I notice is that
his hair is dark brown. But not long, so if he is my William
Brown then he obviously had a haircut. That’s to
be expected in fifteen years.
The second thing I notice are his kind, brown twinkly eyes.
The third thing I notice really freaks me out.
As I watch, the photo on my screen solidifies into a 3D
image, which gives me a shock, but I
haven’t seen the real party trick yet.
Just as I am thinking, Wow, those people at Funktech
are really out there with technology, the 3D image
becomes REAL. Not like someone on TV being real, but REALLY
REAL almost as if William Brown has suddenly pushed his
head through the computer screen and is IN MY BEDROOM.
And what’s more, William Brown’s mouth curves
into a smile, and then his lips move as if he is going
to SPEAK TO ME. And then he DOES SPEAK TO ME.
“Don’t be afraid,” William
Brown tells me.
But even though he has a nice baritone voice, and a nice
American accent, this is just too freaky.
Before William Brown Talking Head can speak to me anymore,
I click the box marked X and close down my Internet connection.
And then I shut down my laptop and put it in the closet,
to be on the safe side.
By the time I have showered
and dressed, just like I normally do, my hands have stopped
“What would you do?” I ask the Albert Einstein
poster on my bedroom wall. (Fortunately, it doesn’t
Talking Head William Brown can’t
be my William Brown, I tell myself. Although my voice of reason
is not listening because it is telling me that (a) he was
the right kind of age, and (b) he had the right kind of
general look. Especially the kind, twinkly eyes. But (c),
Mum never mentioned him being some sort of magician.
I can hear Mum singing as she gets
such a perfect da--ay,” she belts out in her deep,
scratchy voice. “A perfect day to fall in lo--ove.
To fall in love with you--oo.” She’s been singing
a lot of songs from her Bliss Babes days (the pop group she
used to be in) recently. She sings them a lot when she’s
happy, so why upset her? What if it’s not her William
Brown? And what if I’m going insane?
By the time I reach the bottom of
the stairs, I decide that I will put this William Brown
thing to the back of my mind and think about it later.
And by the time I reach the kitchen, I decide that the
whole talking head thing was just really, really great
technology. That’s all. Because, truly,
the only other explanation is that I am going insane. Or
have a brain tumor. Or possibly both!
Deep breaths, deep breaths.
If I can just switch back to my nice Predictable Routine, all
will be well.
Just as usual, Daphne Kat is dying of starvation and rubs
herself against my legs, so I feed her a can of something
that smells vile but is apparently delicious to cats, and
nine out of ten of them prefer it to any other cat food according
to the can. Which always gives me an instant vision of a
scientist in a white coat asking ten kitties which do they
prefer, Horrible Brand A, or Yummy Brand B, and nine out
of ten kitties nodding their heads solemnly when he says
Yummy Brand B.
It’s obvious that Daphne Kat likes it because she
always gobbles it down and licks the dish clean like it’s
going to be the last meal she’ll ever get, and after
the life of Abandonment and Neglect she had before we adopted
her from Rescued Pets she deserves the tastiest cat food
money can buy. Although you’d think that after three
years of regular meals she’d kind of realize that there
would be, you know, a next meal.
Daphne Kat’s mind is a mystery
Then, also just like usual, I make
breakfast for Mum and me, which consists of a bowl each
of bran cereal with skim milk and banana slices, and two
cups of decaffeinated tea. See, that’s healthy, and in view of the fact that she’s
my only parent, I need to take care of her heart. After all,
if something happened to her what would happen to me?
I’d probably have to go and live with Grandmother Elizabeth.
Which would be a disaster.
Although perhaps I’ve just
found a father to add to the equation?
“Good morning, darling.” Mum breezes in through
the kitchen door and kisses the top of my head. “Isn’t
it a beyoodiful day?” She pirouettes around our cheerful
cream, yellow and green kitchen, and I laugh. “A perfect
day to fall in lo-ove,” she sings, patting Daphne Kat
on the head, before sitting down opposite me.
I squash that father thought as we sit and chat over breakfast.
We do this every morning. I tell her what my plans are--which
on Monday and Wednesday (today) involve class, followed by
studying with Gina at her house, followed by home. But on
Tuesday and Thursday involve class, followed by studying
with Gina at my house, and on Friday involve just going to
school then coming home, because Gina plays poker with her
grandfather on Fridays. And then Mum tells me what her plans
are, usually which CD she is producing and why Band A is
a joy to work with, unlike Artist B who--just between the
two of us--is a complete prima donna.
Except she doesn’t say that today. Because Mum isn’t
producing any CDs today. No, today she is working on a charity
concert full of big-name pop stars and some fairly unknown
pop stars (to showcase their talent) to raise money for grants
to help young musicians.
This is great, this is fantastic,
and I am supportive, I really am, because helping others
is really important, and Mum knows everyone in the music
industry, and she’ll
work really hard behind the scenes to put the project together.
But then I start to get another inkling that today might
not be a normal kind of day.
“Fabulous Fiona, I have something exciting to tell
you,” Mum says, getting serious.
Only Mum calls me Fabulous Fiona.
It’s a nickname
she gave to me when I was a baby. Because, apparently, I
walked before most of the other babies, and talked in full
sentences before most of the other babies, and learned to
read when I was four. Also, I eat a lot (I have a high metabolism),
and I’m still skinny. Mum says it must be all the energy
I spend thinking about things.
But I must have peaked early because
now I am simply boring, normal, nondescript Fiona. Apart
from the high IQ thing. Apart from the fact that because
I am so literal--too literal sometimes--and don’t
like change one doctor thought I was autistic (which I
am not). But calling me Fabulous Fiona gives Mum pleasure,
so why protest?
“I want you to know that this is just a one-off thing,” she
continues, looking at me a bit cautiously over her bran and
banana slices, then pauses and tilts her head to one side.
She always does this when she’s got bad news to tell
me, like, “You’re going to stay with your grandmother
for a few days,” because my grandmother is not a nice
person and disapproves of oh, just about Everyone in the
Entire World--she especially disapproves of my mother, and
therefore of me by association--and given a choice of staying
with her or running naked down our road, it would be a hard
one to call.
“What one-off thing?” I prompt Mum, because
she’s chewing on the bottom corner of her lip, and
this is also a Sign of Bad News. So now I’m just a
bit (actually a lot) anxious.
“The thing is. The thing is The Bliss Babes are reuniting--you
know--just for this one concert. We are definitely not going
to get some idiotic idea in our heads that we should re-form
for good and start cutting CDs in Hamburg, or exploring the
music scene in Paris, or touring the world or anything, so
don’t start worrying about moving away and upheaval.
She says the last part really quickly,
and I feel all the air whoosh out of my lungs, and I can’t help it, I
just can’t help thinking, Oh, no, here we go again,
but instead I try for an encouraging smile and say, “That
will be great. It will be just like the old days.” (But
hopefully not too much like the old days, I think, but
do not say aloud.)
Okay, so that came out sounding
just a bit lame, but I’m
doing my best here. Especially after my shock with the William
Brown Talking Head. Which I am definitely not going to think
Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
“So you’re really okay
“Absolutely,” I lie,
and smile even harder.
Although I’m trying to look happy and normal, Mum,
in that sixth-sense sort of way that mothers have says, “You
sure you’re okay? Really, I know you like to worry,
but don’t. Cotch down a bit.”
Cotch down a bit?
Mum definitely spends too much time
listening to my best friend Gina, who currently says things
down” all the time, because Gina’s trying to
be up on what she deems “uberly cool slang.”
But mothers definitely shouldn’t use such phrases
as “cotch down.” Mother’s should say “chill
out” instead, because that’s the slang from their
own era. Although Gina’s mum says, “Don’t
worry, dear,” because she’s ancient.
On the other hand, I guess Mum has to keep up with all the,
you know, current phrases, on account of working with all
those young musicians.
It’s kind of cool that my mother is a successful music
producer and also writes songs, and wears interesting clothes
such as tight leather pants, and black leather biker jackets,
because a lot of the other mothers are old and wear boring,
shapeless dresses and skirts with flowers on them. At least,
Gina’s mother wear’s dresses and skirts with
flowers on them, but it has to be said--Gina’s mum
is in her fifties, which is really ancient, so therefore
boring clothes are okay. And she’s nice, in a very
motherly kind of way.
Mum’s only thirty-five (which
is still quite old)
and some people think she’s pretty hot--at least, Mr.
Fenton (my teacher) obviously thinks she’s hot (as
has every other male teacher I’ve had). I definitely
do not want to think of my mother and “hot” in
the same sentence, but at least it is distracting me from
the real issues.
I am trying very hard not to panic here so am thinking of
other things to distract me, rather than the fact that William
Brown might possibly be my William Brown, and how
did he do that thing with his head? Or the implications of
The Bliss Babes reunion--which will probably have a disastrous
impact on Mum’s only child’s life because it
will probably completely ruin my Predictable Routine.
I don’t say any of this to Mum because of not wanting
to hurt her feelings and because of not wanting to make her
feel lacking and because of trying not to be selfish. As
mothers go mine’s fantastic; she’s fun, and she
loves me, and tries really hard. Especially because I strongly
suspect that she gave up the band, and touring, for me. Plus,
I know that she feels guilty that she lost my dad before
I was born.
I feel instantly guilty.
In view of all that Mum’s
lost in her life, or given up for my sake, the least I can
do is be happy for her now.
Although she might not have lost
my father in the first place if she’d only told him that her parents were
the Baron and Baroness de Plessi, instead of giving her last
name as Blount (which is not a lie but is not the whole truth).
He could have tracked her down no problem at the de Plessi
Country Estate because it’s listed in all the books
about the peerage.
But Mum wasn’t speaking to Grandmother Elizabeth in
those days, because of Mum’s Rebel Years (which is
a whole different complicated story, and involves her running
off to join a band, which turned out pretty well for her
eventually). Mum didn’t even tell me about
her family until three years ago, and frankly, our lives
were a lot less fraught before Mum patched things up with
So when Mum tells me about all the
famous stars who have already agreed to give up their time,
and she asks me, “Are
you worried because the concert’s taking place at the
Sound Garden and a lot of your school friends will probably
be there?” I say, “No, I’m definitely not
worried.” Even though I definitely am.
What if everyone finds out that
my mother is in a band and in a concert with many famous
people like The Arctic Monkeys, and Sting, and Madonna,
and on TV? I will never be Anonymous Fiona again, which
will be very bad indeed. Especially as I’ve spent
years perfecting Total Anonymity, the only way to survive
countless new schools and protect myself against Local
Menaces like Melissa Stevens.
Especially as my neck begins to tingle.
END OF EXCERPT. LIKE IT? ORDER