Today we’re delighted to reveal the cover and an exclusive excerpt for You Only Live Once, David Bravo by Mark Oshiro! The cover was illustrated by Helder Oliveira and designed by Jessie Gang. The book will be released on September 20, 2022 by Harpercollins. Preorder it here.
Middle school is the worst, especially for David Bravo. He doesn’t have a single class with his best (and only) friend, Antoine. He has to give a presentation about his heritage, but he’s not sure how—or even if—he wants to explain to his new classmates that he’s adopted. And after he freezes up at his first cross-country race, causing an accident that leaves Antoine with a busted ankle, he’s 100 percent sure he’s cursed.
David wishes he could do it all over. He doesn’t expect his wish to summon a pushy, annoying talking dog who claims to be his new timeline guide. According to Fea, somewhere in his past, David made a choice that put his life on the wrong track. And she can take him back to fix it.
David knows exactly what he wants to undo: the accident that hurt Antoine. But when his first try (and the second, and the third) is a total disaster, he and Fea are left scrambling through timeline after timeline, trying to figure out what she’s really here to fix—a quest that may lead them to answers in the most unexpected places.
Tuesday, September 12
Today was six hundred Davids.
For what it’s worth, I actually feel fine after Phuong and Caitlin (not reciting the alphabet at the time) help me to my feet. I start apologizing to Antoine, but his dad and Coach Williams lift him from under his arms, and he limps off toward the locker rooms between the two of them.
I really, really messed up, didn’t I?
Coach Williams only returns to tell me that I’ve got the rest of practice off. “Take care of yourself, Bravo,” he says. “I don’t want you infecting the other students.”
With spinach? I think. But I don’t say that; I nod and head straight for the locker rooms, avoiding the looks from my fellow teammates. None of them chase after me either, and I’m thankful for that. What exactly am I supposed to say?
I stand under the shower for a long time, letting the hot water fall over me. Eventually, I realize I have to get dressed and go wait for Mom to pick me up. All I hope for is Antoine to come through the door, his ankle totally fine, and maybe we’ll hug and joke with each other, and I won’t have hurt him (and possibly ruined his season) at all.
But that doesn’t happen.
When Mom’s small black car pulls up, I get inside and immediately thump my forehead against the window after closing the door. She knows that means I’m not really up for conversation, so it’s quiet on the way home. In fact, she doesn’t say anything to me until I’m facedown on the cold tile just inside the front door of our house.
“David,” she says, reaching down to pick up my backpack, which I let fall to the floor as soon as I got inside. “Please get up, honey.”
“No,” I mutter into the tile. “This is where I live now.”
“I am the floor now.”
“Sorry, I can’t hear you. Floors don’t have ears, Mom.”
“If you don’t have ears, how can you respond to me?”
I clench my eyes shut. I don’t like it when Mom uses logic. That seems deeply unfair.
After a few seconds, she sits next to me on the tile, then grabs my hand and rubs it with her other one. This is her secret weapon; it’s her way of calming me down when I’m upset. Even though I try to resist, I’m soon relaxing under her touch.
“You had a bad day, didn’t you?” she says.
“It was the worst, Mom,” I say.
“The worst? Like, the absolute worst?”
I finally lift my head and gaze at her. “They will measure all bad days based on this one.”
“Really?” She cocks her head and brushes her long black hair out of her face. “That bad?”
I roll over and stare at the ceiling. “We learned about measurement systems yesterday in Mrs. Hall’s class,” I say. “Like meters and grams and pounds, that sorta stuff. And I think next year, the David will be used to measure human misery.”
When I glance over at Mom, it’s clear she’s trying to hold back a laugh. “You mean like, ‘Hey, Barbara, did you feel seven Davids today?’”
I nod at her. “Exactly. And today was six hundred Davids.”
She smiles. “So. You wanna tell me about it?”
“Not really,” I say softly.
“Are you sure about that?” she says. “I promise to listen to whatever you have to say.”
“I’m sure,” I say. “Just bury me here.”
“I’m sure you could pay someone to come build a little bridge over my body.”
“It’ll look really neat. You can even name it after me.”
She sighs loudly. “I’m sorry you had a bad day, David. Maybe you can go over to Antoine’s, see if he can—”
I don’t even let her finish before I let out the loudest groan that’s ever come out of my body. She actually flinches.
“David! Don’t be rude!”
“The bad day involves Antoine,” I whine. “I don’t know if he’ll want to see me ever again.”
She is quiet for a moment, enough so that I hear the car pull up into the driveway. “Papi is here,” she says, but she doesn’t stand up. “Do you maybe want to get up so that he doesn’t trip over you?”
“Nah,” I say, still staring at the ceiling. “He needs to get used to me being here. You know, since I’m never moving again.”
Before Mom can say anything, the front door opens, and I see the shadow of my dad over the ceiling. He stops. I am sure he is looking down at his son and wondering a million things, but I remain silent.
“Hi, David,” he says, then steps forward so he can close the door behind him. He raises his bushy eyebrows at me, and I notice that there’s paint on his army-green overalls. He works in construction, mainly building homes, so he is always covered in whatever project he is working on.
Dad smiles. “Having a good time down there?”
“The worst,” I say. “Would you like to join me?”
He casts a glance at Mom, then he shrugs.
Soon, Dad is on the other side of me. We don’t talk for a while, and the silence becomes really uncomfortable.
“I think I’m cursed,” I say.
“Cursed,” says Dad. “Like . . . a pirate who found haunted treasure?”
“It’s like you can read my mind,” I say. “But no, not that awesome.”
“Why do you think you’re cursed, David?” Mom asks.
I can feel the indecision mounting in me, so I blurt it all out before I’m unable to say anything: I tell them about the presentation. About being unsure of what or who I am. About the spinach and the upset stomach and the collision and Antoine. The one thing I leave out is Tommy’s question. That doesn’t feel like something I am ready to share.
Once I’m done, I realize how ridiculous the story sounds, but it’s real. It actually happened. Mom and Dad are silent, but not for long. Dad rubs my scalp with his fingers.
“You know, David, that sounds like a really hard day,” he says.
“Now I know why you said it was The Worst,” adds Mom.
“It was a full David of a day,” I say.
“So how’s this feeling?” Mom asks, placing her hand on my stomach.
“Ugh!” I groan and sit up. “Now it feels perfectly fine. Of course!”
“Maybe you got it all out of your system,” she says. “Bodies can be very efficient like that.” When I frown at her, she raises a finger. “I know the timing was terrible, David, but I don’t think you’re cursed.”
“Well, Antoine probably hates me, and I’m sure the rest of the team does, too.”
“David,” says Dad, a warning in his tone. “What have we told you about saying negative things like that about yourself?”
“You’ve both said a lot of things,” I mutter.
“Please, honey,” says Mom.
I sigh. “It’s okay to be frustrated or disappointed, but I don’t have to take everything out on myself.”
Mom nods, and it’s times like these that it’s impossible to forget that she’s a therapist. She’s really good at this kind of stuff.
“Most of this was just bad luck and coincidence,” says Dad. “And those things don’t make you a bad person.”
“Well, I could have listened to Norma, and then I wouldn’t have hurt Antoine.”
“Then you learned an important lesson,” says Mom as she stands up. Dad follows after her, and then he sticks his hand out to me.
“No, sorry, I can’t,” I say.
“Up, David,” Dad says.
“This is my new home,” I explain. “You weren’t here for that part. Better call your construction buddies to build a bridge over me.”
Dad thinks for a bit. “Will it have running water underneath it?” he asks.
“Uh, duh. Absolutely. Maybe we can build a whole pond like those ones we saw in Waimea when we visited Auntie Kai. Fill it with koi fish and everything.”
“Fernando, don’t humor him,” says Mom from the kitchen.
“Sue, think of all the money we could make!” he calls out. “We could charge admission. ‘Come see the boy at the bottom of the koi pond!’ People pay for stuff like that.”
“I suppose you’re right,” she says, coming back to us. “You think we could get ten dollars a pop?”
“Easily,” says Dad. “You and I could go visit your family again after just a week of business.”
I know they’re joking, but it’s like a spike in my chest when Dad says that. Without me? I think. Suddenly, this joke doesn’t feel so funny.
I stand up quickly. “Hey, I can hear you, you know!”
They both look at me, and Mom smiles. “Oh, so you do have ears,” she says.
Mom and her logic! She is too good at this! I grimace. “Yes, I do.”
“Good,” she says. “So you can definitely take the garbage out, since you’re fine.”
“What? That’s not fair! You cheated.”
“I don’t think that’s cheating,” says Dad, grinning from ear to ear.
There’s no winning with them. Mom’s got a little smirk on her face, and I want to joke back with her because that’s what I always do, but Dad’s comment about the two of them leaving to visit family still stings a little. I mean . . . they wouldn’t actually leave me behind, would they?
Like my birth parents did.
I wipe at my face once that thought fills my head. No, no, David, stop thinking these things! It’s just Tommy getting under your skin again.
The thing is, the more you tell yourself to not think something?
The more you do.
As I burst out the back door with the trash bag, I release a breath of air, then shut my eyes tight. “I wish I could do this day over again,” I say.
Like that ever happens.
Tuesday, September 12
I meet the creepiest dog of all time.
When I open my eyes, there, sitting at the bottom of the steps, is a dog.
At least, I think it’s a dog. It’s got black . . . skin? I don’t know how to describe it. It has no fur at all, except for a small tuft on the top of its head. It’s got a black collar on, and there’s a small tag hanging from it, which looks like . . . like the number eight?
“Hi,” I say.
It’s a dog, so it doesn’t say anything back. It just sits there, staring at me. I don’t get a sense that it’s dangerous, so I take a few slow steps toward it.
The dog does not move.
At the bottom of the steps, I put the trash bag on the ground, then crouch so I’m on the dog’s level. I reach out, careful not to make any sudden moves, and pet the top of its head.
The little tuft of fur there is soft. It’s kind of an ugly-looking dog, but at least it’s nice.
It doesn’t move until I scratch it under the ears.
“Oh, that’s the spot,” a voice says.
In my head.
I jerk away so fast I nearly trip over the bottom step behind me.
No. No, that didn’t just happen.
The dog is definitely not talking, because dogs don’t talk.
I pick up the trash bag and make a beeline for the bins, and just as I’m pitching it toward the brown one for garbage, I hear the voice again.
“Well, that’s rude. Are you going to keep ignoring me?”
I’m so shocked by this that the bag doesn’t make it all the way into the bin, meaning a bunch of garbage spills over the side and onto the ground.
“I’m flattered, really,” says the voice, which sounds like an older woman. “But I don’t eat garbage.”
It’s in my head! I don’t get it! It’s like my own thoughts, but someone else’s voice is in there.
I turn, slowly, to the right.
The weird dog is standing there at the end of the little alley next to my house.
“No,” I say.
“Yes,” it says.
“No, this is not happening.”
“You can keep saying that, but it’s definitely happening.”
The dog saunters up to me, and I yelp. I kick an old bag of carrots in their direction. They dodge it easily because I’m not exactly a good shot. I don’t play soccer. I’m barely any good at track.
“Is that you in my head?”
“Is there anyone else around here?”
I actually look around, and . . . no, we’re alone in the alley.
“So, can we move past this point, David?” The dog scratches at the ground. “We got a lotta work to do. The sooner we start, the better.”
“Wait, you know my name?” I ask, my jaw practically hitting the ground.
“Excellent, we’re now past the point where you realize that you’re talking to a dog,” the dog says. “And yes, I know your name, David Bravo.”
“Hold on, I’m not past any point,” I say. Then I put my palm to my forehead. “What am I doing? Why am I talking to a dog?”
“Because I started talking to you first?” The dog licks their paw. “That’s generally how conversation works.”
I’m talking to a dog who is also a jerk. Great. Today is fantastic.
I do my best to pick up the trash on the ground, but it’s gross and slimy. This day truly can’t get worse.
“Stop ignoring me, David.”
I ignore them.
“I can literally do this forever,” the dog says, and when I glance at them, I discover they’ve come a lot closer to me.
“How are you in my head? How is that possible?”
“It just is,” they say. “Accept it, and let’s get going. We need to figure out where your timeline diverted down the wrong path so I can retroactively grant you the agency needed to repair your stream.”
“Those sound like words, and yet I understand none of them,” I say as I walk over to the bag of soggy carrots and pick them up. I toss them in the bin and slam the lid shut. “Also, none of this is happening.”
“Is this where I should sigh dramatically, David?” the dog says, coming up to me. “Will that convince you to get over this?”
“Why are you like this?” I say. “Is this how you talk to everyone?” I hesitate for a moment. “Wait, do you talk to other people?” I hesitate again. “No, no, I can’t do this.”
I run for the back door of the house, but before I make it there, the voice rings out real loud in my head.
“David Bravo, don’t take another step.”
I don’t take another step. I spin around, and the dog is right there again, staring at me.
“Just stop and listen to me,” they say.
“You’re a weird-looking dog,” I say, crossing my arms over my chest.
“You’re a weird-looking boy.”
“Fea?” The dog sits down and lifts their head. “That’s all you can come up with? I am a gorgeous and grown woman, thank you very much.”
“You look like a dog,” I say. “Not in a mean way! Like . . . you look like an actual dog.”
“Right now, sure,” she says. “I can change if it’ll make this easier for you.”
“Kind of an ugly dog, actually.”
“Yes, I figured that out when you gave me a name that literally means ‘ugly’ in Spanish.”
“Tell me what you are,” I say. “I’ve never seen a dog like you.”
“A xoloitzcuintli,” she says.
I frown deeply. “That’s . . . that’s not a word.”
Fea starts panting in exasperation. “I just said it.”
“You can say a lot of things. Doesn’t make ’em real.”
“You’re going to be a difficult one, aren’t you?” she says. “Are you ready to go yet?”
“No,” I say. “Give it to me again.”
She sighs. (In my head!) “In English, we’re called Mexican hairless dogs. But one of our original names is xoloitzcuintli, and it was my favorite breed of dog.”
“That’s a mouthful.”
“Say it after me,” she says. “Sho.”
“Sho,” I repeat.
I grimace. “Queent?”
“Now say it real fast,” Fea says. “I believe in you, David!”
I practice it a few times, and my tongue trips up near the end a bunch before I can pull it off. But as I say it with a growing smile—“Xoloitzcuintli! Xoloitzcuintli!”—reality comes crashing down on me.
“What am I doing?” I back away from her, right up against the door to the house. “This isn’t happening. It’s a joke, right?”
Fea twists her head to the side. “It’s not a very funny joke. Where’s the punch line?”
“Because dogs don’t talk, so this isn’t real,” I say for what feels like the millionth time.
“Honey, who are you talking to out there?” Mom calls out from in the kitchen.
I glare at Fea. “Absolutely no one,” I say, directing the words at her.
“I’m here to fix your life,” says Fea. “And I won’t leave you alone until it’s fixed. So you can try to ignore me, but pretty soon, you won’t be able to.”
“Dogs don’t talk,” I whisper, giving her a sarcastic smile. “You aren’t here.”
“Fine,” she says. “If this isn’t happening, then you won’t mind if I pay a little visit to your wonderful, neatly organized home.”
And before I can do anything, Fea darts between my legs, up the steps, and into my house.
Seconds later, there’s a crash.
“David?!” Mom’s voice calls out in alarm from somewhere in the house. “David, what’s going on?”
This actually is happening.
Mark Oshiro is the award-winning author of the young adult books ANGER IS A GIFT (2019 Schneider Family Book Award) and EACH OF US A DESERT, as well as the middle grade book THE INSIDERS. They are also the co-author (with Rick Riordan) of the upcoming PERCY JACKSON spin-off novel centered on Nico di Angelo and Will Solace. When not writing, they are trying to pet every dog in the world.