Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 12 to 15
- Grade: 7 to 10
- Reading age: 12 to 15
Annika Dietty thinks her future is with Dylan Sopick — until they run away together.
One day, after weeks of secret planning, seventeen-year-old Annika Dietty leaves home at dawn to run away with her boyfriend, the charming and popular Dylan Sopick. She tried telling her friends and family how amazing Dylan is, but seeing as they all seem set against the relationship, she’s decided their only chance is to run away together.
But not everything goes according to plan, and Dylan seems to be having more and more trouble dealing with every obstacle they encounter. At first Annika is sympathetic, knowing that he’s had a harder life than she has, but very soon Dylan’s behaviour becomes unsettling, and Annika realizes that her safety is at stake. She finally admits to herself that Dylan needs support that she can’t provide. She wants to get him help — if she’ll get the chance.
About the author
Kristine Scarrow has worked with the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association and now teaches writing and journaling as a healing art. She is the author of Throwaway Girl, which the Winnipeg Free Press called a “darkly realistic” story of the failings of the foster child system. Kristine lives in Saskatoon.
- Commended, Dewey Divas and the Dudes Winter 2018 Pick
Excerpt: The 11th Hour (by (author) Kristine Scarrow)
The clock’s large red numbers glow 6:02 a.m. I must’ve missed the alarm. It was set for five thirty; sometimes I sleep through it and it beeps for ten minutes straight before giving up on me and going silent again. Any other day this would be fine, but this morning the rest of my family must still be asleep, oblivious to the plans for my day.
I listen for any signs of life in the house but hear nothing. My terrier, Roxy, is nestled in bed with me as usual. I ruffle the top of her head and her ears. She rests her head against my rib cage and my throat gets thick at the thought of leaving her behind. I can’t take her with me though. The plan is for Dylan to pick me up after I let Roxy outside, that way she won’t bark and try to follow me out of the house. When I let her out in the morning, she quickly pees and then stretches out on the patio, enjoying the morning sun. We usually leave her out there until she barks to come in, which is at least a half-hour later, and by then I should be long gone.
I went to bed at ten last night. Way earlier than normal for a Friday night — especially since it’s family movie night and we usually don’t get started until late in the evening, but the plans for the day had me restless and I couldn’t seem to focus on anything but what we were going to do.
“You feeling okay, sweetie?” my mom had asked. “You’re still coughing.” I’d had this cough and cold for a couple of weeks now. Although I wasn’t feeling great, I was thankful for the diversion. I could just say I was sick and head to my room to finish all the last-minute preparations.
“Yeah, I’m good,” I assured her. “Just tired. I think I’m going to head to bed early.”
Dad entered the room with a large bowl of popcorn and a stack of napkins. My twelve-year-old brother Mark was waiting for us to join him, his hand on the remote control. The opening credits of a movie were on the TV screen and everyone was about to settle in to watch it together.
“Annika, you’re not going to watch the movie with us?” Disappointment washed over him. I rolled my eyes a bit. I was seventeen years old and Dad still wanted me to be his little girl, joining in excitedly on any family activity. He’d be happy if I was still coming over for movie night at forty. Mom came toward me and kissed me on the forehead.
“You feel a bit warm, honey,” she said.
“Nah, I’m good,” I assured her. “I just need some sleep.”
Mom stared at me for a moment. “Maybe we should check your temperature?”
“I’m sure it’s fine,” I said, brushing her off.
“Okay, well, get some sleep and if you need anything …”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks, Mom.”
“See you in the morning.” I’d already left the room, and her parting words cut through me. I wouldn’t see her in the morning. Little did she know that if everything went as planned, I’d be long gone before the rest of my family woke for the day. The truth was I didn’t know when I’d see them again. Although I was excited for the adventure before Dylan and me, leaving my family behind made me ache.
The last few months had gotten really rocky between us though, and I knew they wouldn’t understand. They wanted to keep me from the very thing I wanted the most — a future with Dylan.
When I got to my room, I quickly shut the door behind me and got down on my hands and knees to pull the backpack out from under my bed. It was bulging, the zipper barely able to close. How do you know what to pack when you’re about to walk out of your life as you know it? What do you take when you’re making a new life with someone you love, but when doing so means leaving everything you’ve ever known behind?
My phone vibrated. It was Dylan, texting me.
can’t wait for tomorrow. love u babe. 9:52 p.m.
Love you too. 9:53 p.m.
My heart surged at his words. I could feel his excitement through the phone. Dylan is such a passionate guy, always wearing his heart on his sleeve and coming up with grand ideas for our life together. He gives so much to everything he wants to do that his enthusiasm is contagious.
I know we’ll have a good life together — that he loves me more than anything.
I pressed my hand to my forehead — I supposed I did feel a bit warm. Maybe trying to get a good night’s sleep would be the best thing for me, so I could wake feeling energetic and ready for the day. I shoved my backpack back under my bed and did a last-minute swoop of my room for anything I might want to bring. I shivered as I studied my room and drank in all of its contents. I rubbed my arms, my heart heavy. This nine-by-ten-foot room that had been my haven for all of my seventeen years, with its pale yellow walls and flowery bedspread. The lace curtain panels on either side of my window, which I had requested from my grandmother’s house after she passed. Bits of scotch tape remained on my walls from when I had posters hung up. I still had posters of Adam Levine (my celebrity crush) and Bruno Mars (my favourite singer) but I’d long removed the others, thinking I was getting too old to have posters tacked on my walls, covering them like wallpaper. My bulletin board had ticket stubs from the concerts I’d been to, a photo of me holding car keys in the air (the day I got my licence), and the honour roll certificates I’d received for grades nine, ten, and eleven. The shelves above my desk held my soccer trophies going back to when I was little, and my two favourite stuffies — LuLu, a honey-coloured bear with only one eye and half of the stuffing missing that I’d had since I was two, and a plush neon-pink smiley face with dangly arms and legs that Dylan had won for me at the fair.
I’d miss this room. Maybe we’d get settled somewhere and Mom and Dad would warm to the idea of Dylan again, see that we really loved each other and that we’d be staying together for good. Then we could visit and I’d get to see my other things again.
I settled into my bed, cuddled into my comforter, and wiped a tear from my cheek. Although I couldn’t wait to start a life with Dylan, I couldn’t help but feel sad at what I was leaving behind. If only my parents had a different opinion of Dylan. If only they supported us being together, then we wouldn’t have felt like we had to run away.
My phone vibrates at 6:05 a.m. Another text from Dylan. This time it’s a photo of the two of us that Dylan took on the Ferris wheel at the fair. My long dark hair is blowing softly in the breeze, the lights of the amusement park and the city glowing behind us. Dylan has his other arm around me, pulling me close, and he’s kissing my cheek. I’m smiling from ear to ear, feeling every ounce of his love in that moment. This is why I’m leaving. Because Dylan makes me feel like no one else. Because Dylan loves me. Because Dylan is my future.
This novel presents important issues through effective and suspenseful narrative choices.
An honest and unflinching look at what it might be like to date someone suffering from untreated mental illness.
A tremendous, eloquently written cautionary tale … heartbreaking and thought-provoking.
Memoirs of a Bookwyrm
A gripping page-turner. The 11th Hour plummets readers into a crucible of teen love, angst and attitude, untreated mental illness, and the misguided faith that love will conquer all. This challenging novel builds layer upon layer, ever increasing the stakes right up to its shattering end.
Alison Lohans, award-winning author of No Place for Kids and Picturing Alyssa
Paints a realistic picture of a person suffering from untreated mental illness … [A] suspenseful, realistic, and relatable read.
Scarrow’s novel captures the intensity of first love, and heightens that intensity by adding the impact of mental illness.
Canadian Children’s Book News (Canada), review, Summer 2018 issue
The 11th Hour takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster from the opening page. The book is fluid and fast-paced as it cuts to the heart of what it means to be in love and yet to be lost. Told from alternating perspectives, the novel deepens our understanding of how terror slips like a thief into our ordinary lives. This riveting and dramatic read shows how we grapple with passion, freedom, fear and terrible, devastating choices.
Alice Kuipers, author of Me (and) Me and Life on the Refrigerator Door
A dark and harrowing read that examines the wildly passionate, wholly tedious, naive and often terrifying consequences of teen love, told at a bristling pace with honesty and heart.