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Double Negative by C. Lee McKenzie


Product Description

"My life was going, going, gone, and I hadn't been laid yet. I couldn't go into the slammer before that happened." Hutch McQueen. 


Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is a big time loser. Trapped in a dysfunctional family, his one thought is escape, but everything he does to get away lands him in trouble.   

Shackled by poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. When he shoplifts and lands in juvenile detention, the court sentences him to a county youth program. There he meets the priest and Maggie, a retired teacher. They’re determined to set Hutch on a path leading away from trouble. Hutch is determined not to cooperate.  

It isn’t until he’s facing serious charges that he confronts the truth—his own bad choices are trapping him. When he's offered the freedom he craves, all he has to do is take it.

14+ for adult situation and sexuality



Kranski’s office might as well be home. I spend more time with him than I do with Dee Dee, and for good reason: the principal’s friendlier than my mom.


I ease into the familiar hot seat across from him and face the shiny nameplate on his desk.


“See this?” he says, holding up the plate in front of my face. “It says, ‘Principal Noah Kranski.’ That means you’re supposed to follow my rules as long as you’re in this school.”


I roll my eyes.


“Dump the attitude, Hutch.”


I shrug.


He shakes his head and slams a thick file down in front of him. “This makes seven times this year you’ve cut Mr. Diakos’s class, and it’s only September.” He writes something at the bottom of a page. When he finishes, he looks up. “Did I miss any?”


“I’m not counting.” That ain’t true. I count every day I can escape that stupid class, just like I count every day I wake up in Larkston. But I’m not going to be trapped here much longer.


Kranski jabs his pen into a “World’s Best Dad” cup, and leans back with his hands behind his head. This is what he always does before he sentences me. “You get to think about changing your ways for the rest of the week. When you come back, you’re still responsible for all the class work and the tests, just like always.”


“Just like always.” I repeat the words so I got something to say that don’t sound like I’m a smart mouth. Last time I left saying, “Thanks,” and Kranski told me to cut the sarcasm. Who gives a rat’s ass about what Kranski says? I’m free, for four days.


I’m almost at the door when the secretary pops her head inside. “Sorry, Mr. Kranski, but there’s an emergency in the gym. They need you right away.”


He’s out before me, a gimpy old guy running on bad feet.


I plug into my iPod, pull up The Rockets’ newest hit, and strike out across campus. Blaze’ll be at the Smoking Tree. I follow the hard-packed foot trail that leads from the back of the school, around the curve of the hillside and up the slope. The tree’s just far enough away to keep under Kranski’s radar, yet near enough to drop in for a few tokes when I need them to get through Deek the Greek’s English class, or face going back to Palm Street and Dee Dee.


Blaze is there, talking on his cell and dealing with some kid with slicked-back hair. Blaze jerks around, pockets the phone, and then relaxes when he sees me. “Yo, thought you was the cops for a minute. You get suspended again?” 


“Rest of the week.” I take my ear bud out, drop my backpack and plop onto the shady ground. “I need a joint.”


“Where’d you get that?” He points to my iPod.


“Can’t remember. It sort of appeared.”


“Right.” He smirks and tosses me a joint along with a lighter.


The kid with the greased hair ducks under a limb, and walks in the direction of the school. “Hope you got cash, man. I’m outta credit here,” Blaze says.


I dig into my pocket and pull out a ten. 


He laughs. “With what you already owe me, for that ten,” he coughs, “you get a few”––another cough––“hits, man.” He holds out a roach clip with a smoking joint. “Give me that one back.”


I hand him the joint, settle against the tree trunk and roll my lips over the small brown tube. Closing my eyes, I suck the warm fog into my lungs and hold my breath. The weed winds its way through my blood and into my brain. Kranski turns into a cartoon of a cup with World’s Best Dad wrapped around his middle. Dee Dee stretches into a giant beer bottle and rolls across the kitchen linoleum. The sky turns soft and blue, with the Smoking Tree splashing crazy shapes over my jeans.


“So, how are you breaking the news to Dee Dee this time?” Blaze reaches out and grabs his joint. “She said she was bouncing your butt the next time Kranski suspended you.”


My mom don’t care what I do, but Kranski makes her life hell when he calls her in to see him. These trips to his office take away from her social life and shake her out of bed before noon. I laugh. “Guess I’ll have to move in with you, dude.”


“Anytime. I told you, man.” Blaze inhales, coughs, and then inhales again to replace the gray smoke he’s wasted in the air.


I plug back into some tunes and hang with Blaze under the Smoking Tree through three more sales. He rewards me with a few hits for acting as lookout, something I can do while I get a story together for why I’m bounced for four days. The weed and the Rockets take the edge off what’s going down later. I’m in for ‘Destruction by Dee Dee’ no matter what I say. I roll over on my right side and trace the white line from my wrist to my elbow—one of her nicer moves with a broken glass. 


Stretching out on the lawn, I stare up through the tree branches. How’d it be to fly straight into those clouds, poke my head inside and stay until I wind up on the other side of the world? Goodbye, Larkston. Goodbye, Dee Dee. 

I must doze off because when I open my eyes the shadows from the tree have shifted from my right side to my left. I squint at my watch. Its after three. My ride! Hope Eddie didnt take off without me. I hate that walk, halfway across town to Palm Street. I grab my books. “Im out of here.”


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Product Reviews

Showing reviews 1-10 of 28 | Next

  1. A powerful story of people who refused to give up on this child 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 28th Jun 2017

    When we meet Hutchinson "Hutch" McQueen in C. Lee McKenzie's Double Negative (Evernight Teen 2014), he seems like a typical hopeless juvenile delinquent. He cares nothing about school, hangs out with the wrong people, and is always in trouble. Good riddance--right? Then we find out his mother hates him whether she's drunk or not. She beats him, threatens him, and blames him for her problems. His truckdriver father is kind enough but never home. Besides two parents who barely have time for him, it's amazing that none of his teachers ever noticed he has a severe reading disability. I suppose that his reputation as a slaggard overcomes any thoughts that there might be a different reason. We also find out that despite his upbringing and his bad luck, he still cares.

    This is Hutch's story of out-of-control events, perceptions that belie reality, and a life poorly lived. It is highly recommended for all teens and all teachers of teens as a reminder that a helping hand may get bitten most of the time, but not always. Sometimes, it's worth it.

  2. 5 Stars 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 20th Jun 2017

    I read this book in two sittings because frankly, I didn’t want to put it down once I got going. Hutch’s story is written in such a believable way that I really felt as if I were in a teenage boy’s head.

    Hutch has a life that’s far from ideal, and even when things go his way, the good part doesn’t last long before he’s in trouble again for something he did—or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time so he’s assumed guilty even when he’s not.

    Fortunately, he ends up with a mentor in his life, though an unlikely one: a priest with a similar past to his, and who has a few tricks up his sleeve to reach him where he needs it most. The great part about the writing is that Hutch isn’t instantly “fine” and really isn’t even on board with most of what’s being done to help him. He’s still a typical teenage boy who’s had a life of struggle. He continues to struggle with what he wants to do, based on a lifetime of habit, and what he knows he should do to break those habits and patterns and succeed in life.

    The support characters were likable with side stories of their own that don’t bog down the main story. Each one had his or her own progression that made sense and didn’t seem forced. The writing was solid and the story could be that of any teen in any high school across the country. It’s not too tidy and it’s not far-fetched. It’s just real.

    As a middle-aged mama, I’m probably not the intended reading audience, but I would recommend Double Negative to anyone. It would definitely reach teens, and perhaps the characters might help someone to realize he’s not alone in a particular struggle. It’s also a good reminder to adults that our job is to mentor and encourage, rather than beat down, so that struggling young people have a positive path to aim for.

  3. Teenage Life, Mistakes, and Redemption 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 19th Sep 2016

    Hutch is always in the wrong place at the wrong time and making the wrong decisions time and time again. He is stuck with an abusive, neglectful mother while his dad is hauling a big rig from here to there. He struggles with school work, steals food because he's hungry, gets arrested, and receives second chances. Through this story we see him grow and decide to swim rather than sink. He learns from those around him and develops a sense of normalcy.

    My favorite characters were Nyla and Maggie. All of the characters, especially Hutch, reminded me of students I knew in middle and high school. I've always wondered what happened to them. Now I have hope that things turned out okay.

    *I won a copy of this book. This review is 100% honest.

  4. Verbosity Reviews 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 1st May 2016

    To be honest, it did take some time for me to become fully invested in this story, but once I did, I adored it. It delves into some pretty heavy stuff, especially if you’re more used to the lighter, romantic contemporary style, but it’s deep and intense without getting too dark, and the story itself was just incredible to see unfold. That ending though… frankly, I could just reread it again and again, because the journey these characters go through and the way things come out at the finish… in some ways, it hurts, but it’s still absolutely wonderful. <3

    Plot: 4 1/2 stars out of 5.


    Again, I didn’t begin the story adoring these characters, but by the time I was about halfway through, I was absolutely in love. Hutch is one of those charries where I spent the first half hating the decisions he felt forced to make, yet completely understanding why he felt forced to make them. Even when I wouldn’t say that I strictly loved him, I was still emotionally invested in his story, and I desperately wanted him to succeed.

    I may or may not be the one in the middle.

    One thing I really loved about the side characters in this novel is that they each have their own stories that are intertwined with Hutch’s, but also branch off into their own lives. So even though they’re technically only there for the help they provide to Hutch’s journey, there’s also a lot much more to them—stuff he sometimes doesn’t even realize—and I could clearly tell that each of them had their own stories as well. That kind of authenticity in the entire cast isn’t something I’ve seen in every book, and I thought it was really neat that she gave each of them their own lives so realistically without taking away from Hutch’s story at all.

    Also, I really loved Nyla and Maggie. They’re very different, but both brilliant and—in Maggie’s case—hysterical, and I am literally sitting here at my computer grinning just thinking about them <3

    Also, the boys’ team dynamic. Can’t give any spoilers for that, but I had feelings and it was beautiful. <3

    I’m gonna stop now.

    Characters: 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

    Writing Style/Setting:

    The first thing that I actually loved about this book was the voice. It’s just the sort of writing that puts you right inside Hutch’s head from sentence one: very personal, very powerful, just really real. From the beginning, Hutch is a genuine character with a straightforward voice and the style of the writing expertly portrays that.

    Writing Style/Setting: 5 stars out of 5.

    Overall, we come in right around 4 1/2 stars out of 5. Double Negative was a truly compelling read. It definitely has its intense and hard-hitting moments, but they’re very well balanced with hope and lighter times, and watching Hutch and his friends grow was just an excellent experience

  5. YA Insider 4 Star Review

    Posted by on 29th Feb 2016

    "A perfect example of struggle and aid, loss and love."

    This novel focuses on the despair of a teenager running in the same circles his parents did. Although he wants to break free from their failures, he finds himself joining them in a slow descent.

    Hutch, the protagonist, has an inability to read or seek help for any of his problems. He prefers being on his own and letting the pieces fall as they may, until he gets into some serious trouble. Now, he has to attend a meeting with other troubled students and a Priest who shared the same path as them at one point. As Hutch learns the true value of friendship and kindness, his other relationships begin to change. His only friend, which he dubbed 'Fat Nyla', is bullied for being smart and overweight. However, when Hutch begins to learn his true worth and reflect it upon the people in his life, she begins to learn hers too, and reach out for what she truly wants.

    This book had me gripped from beginning to end. Each character was fascinating, from the Spanish girl who would make oddly sexual comments in class to the boy who had to leave town because his father was getting out of jail. These tiny side characters had so much to offer! The language was spot on, which meant the reader would understand the kind of barriers Hutch had to overcome.

    This book is worth the buy! It shows an accurate display of struggling kids in the modern era and sends a message that sometimes all you need to do is listen to the people around you.

  6. Heartwarming Story 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 14th Apr 2015

    I really enjoyed this story. At first Hutch seems like the typical bad boy, troubled teen. But as we get to know him, he’s just trying to survive the only way he knows how. The kid has dreams and hope, I think he’s just a little misguided. Once we get through the tough exterior, Hutch becomes a totally different person. You really start to feel for the poor guy once you get to know his real problems. I loved watching him mature as a person while facing such hard circumstances. I was so proud of him during several moments in the second half of the book.

    Maggie is another incredible character. She is so funny! Whether she was correcting someone’s grammar or scolding someone for their behavior, she had me cracking up several times. She is just so witty and spunky. Maggie also has her own problems that she must face. I really like how Maggie and Hutch end up both needing each other. It was so sweet and unexpected.

  7. Job Well done 4 Star Review

    Posted by on 14th Apr 2015

    Double Negative by C Lee McKenzie is a story about a sixteen year old boy, Hutch McQueen, who's growing up with parents who are apart. His dad is a trucker and his mom is a drunk and possibly a whore. He cannot read well so he has a fellow student that he relies on to read the chapters to him so that he can memorize them for tests. He's also a very good listener. He just wants to pass, nothing over the top. Just to get his parents off of his back.

    He has made some bad choices in school. I think the choices he made are the choices he was given being raised the way he is. When the parents don't partake in their kids lives, they kind of have to figure it out on their own. And besides, if the parent doesn't care why should he? It engrains them with a different outlook on life and not a good one unfortunately.

    He leaves his home because he's sick of his mom and there never being any food and only beer in the fridge. So he relies on a good friend of his to stay with which goes sour real fast and he finds himself in even more trouble. He is required to attend a new program called the Youth Intervention Program after hours at his school. The school he can't stand to be at for the eight hours he's supposed to be there. He must go for a period of six months. If he fails to attend, he will be sent to court and suffer the system.

    What I enjoyed about the story the most is that even though his parents weren't there to help him the anything he had others that come into his life like Father Kerry. He's the leader of the Youth Prevention Program and wants to take Hutch under his wing and let him know that he too had problems when he was a youth. There's also Nyla who also has had a tough life for being bullied for her weight and has no other friends but Hutch. The pivotal moment is when he meets Maggie.

    Sometimes meeting the right people can change your life! I appreciated how C Lee McKenzie told the story, it felt so real and it's was easy to relate to the characters especially Hutch. Job well done! 4 stars

  8. Pleasantly Pleased 5 Star Review

    Posted by on 14th Apr 2015

    I wouldn't call Hutch a troubled boy, then rather say he's drowning. A drunk mom who doesn't want him, a dad who's always on the road and teachers who have no clue how to reach him. Hutch just knows that he wants out, but doesn't see the purpose of a high school diploma or doing his best. So far he's been cruising along by listening to the smart people around him and with the help of his friend Nyla.

    When his friends and his home situation put him in trouble with the law, it seems his streak is over. Given a second and even third chance, Hutch needs to participate in an after school program to get him back on the right track. Not an easy for for a guy who just doesn't care. Still jail is not a place he wants to be, so he goes to the meetings.

    It's almost strange for Hutch that he slowly gathers people around him that he can rely on and actually demand that he takes responsibility for his future. I really liked the fact that there was no epiphany moment for Hutch. Multiple bad things happen to and around him throughout the book, and it's a slow learning process for him.

    The fact why he has trouble with school is almost ridiculous. It's something the average person takes for granted, and shows me how effed up reality can be. For the rest is Hutch a regular sixteen-year-old boy, who has no clue when it comes to women. Mostly though I liked how he actually deep down wanted to improve and did care. It just wasn't easy to get to that point.

    I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book and Hutch, a young character with real struggles. Romance certainly takes a backseat, but I didn't mind one bit. The focus on his personal struggles and the troubles around him, were almost refreshing. A story for when you need a break from lovey-dovey romance, with very loveable characters and great depth on all levels.

    *I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review*

  9. Great Read 4 Star Review

    Posted by on 14th Apr 2015

    I found this book really touched me since I use to work with kids such as Hutch. Those that don’t come from supportive and nurturing homes have never been taught social skills nor had their confidence built. Just like Hutch, they come from families where the father is absent and the mother is abusive. The only thing they learn at home is survival.

    Hutch was a high school student who faces this kind of home life every day and then goes to high school and struggles with his school work. You see he also has issues with his sight and inability to read. His choices that he makes are usually bad one, landing him in court sessions and risking more than he can afford to lose. At one point his future really only appears to be death or prison but then three angels come to his aid.

    Father Kerry who used to be a hell raiser in his own youth, is now a reformed man and active priest. He sees what Hutch could become if he would allow someone to guide him and love him. Maggie used to teach school but now deals with her own Alzheimer’s. She wants to teach him to read, to better himself and show him that there is more to him than what he has been told. Then we have Nyla, a girl who is terribly bullied in school. She can help him learn and make good choices if he will protect her from the harm the bullies dish out to her.
    This is his second chance, but really with the life this kid has been handed, it is more like his first chance. The author writes Hutch’s character in a way that you really feel you are dealing with a teenager, an angry, ignorant, hopeless teenager. It is heartbreaking to see where he is heading especially after realizing he does have people to help. I have to state though, I could never hate him for not trusting these three right away. He comes from an environment that is anything but trustworthy. He is vulnerable to danger due to his eye sight. His knowledge of the world comes from the trials of surviving since his reading is limited. How can we fault him for his mistakes when life set him up to fail?

    This was a powerful read; one that I really felt connected to and had emotions flowing. I commend the author for bringing such topics to life as she did in this book. Make sure you pay close attention to the scenes discussing the “hushes”, so endearing. The ending was beautiful, yet sad for me. You have to read it to understand but the evolution that the author takes Hutch and each of the characters on is brilliant. They all change and grow in the process of this book. This is one I would recommend to readers but be prepared to feel emotions that will be all over the place and I hope it sparks some desire to reach out to kids like Hutch. Every community has them, each need a Father Kerry, Maggie and Nyla in their corner.

  10. Great Uplifting Read 4 Star Review

    Posted by on 5th Dec 2014

    This was a book that was uncomfortable to read. It was uncomfortable because the book tells the story of many teens, but who may not have the opportunities Hutch does. In this book, McKenzie touches on learning disabilities, eating disorders, alcoholism, drugs and more. Despite heavy topics touched on, the story is uplifting.

    Hutch is going through the normal teenage struggles and feels alone. And just as he reaches his lowest point, he finds the opportunities to make friends and find mentors, albeit begrudgingly. It’s as through these relationships he realizes that the lasting impact his choices on himself and those around him.

    Please note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange of an honest review courtesy of Xpresso Book Tours.

    Who should read it? Folks looking for a realistic glimpse into the experiences of many underachieving high school students.

Showing reviews 1-10 of 28 | Next

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