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© 2020 Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard Irrevocable Special Needs Trust

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, ­Shadow ­Mountain®, at ­permissions@shadowmountain.com. The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of ­Shadow ­Mountain.

Visit us at ShadowMountain.com

Characters and events in this book were inspired by the life of Peyton Goddard but are represented fictitiously.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Cujec, Carol, author. | Goddard, Peyton, author.

Title: Real / Carol Cujec, Peyton Goddard.

Description: Salt Lake City : Shadow Mountain, [2020] | Audience: Grades 7–9. | Summary: Sometimes Charity cannot control her body and because she has low-functioning autism, Charity cannot communicate her thoughts to anyone else, even though she feels all of the frustrations, fears, and doubts of a typical thirteen-year-old.

Identifiers: LCCN 2020033163 | ISBN 9781629727899 (hardback) | eISBN 978-1-62973-964-9

Subjects: CYAC: Autism—Fiction. | Selective mutism—Fiction. | People with disabilities—Fiction. | Interpersonal relations—Fiction. | Schools—Fiction. | LCGFT: Fiction. | Bildungsromans.

Classification: LCC PZ7.1.C827 Re 2020 | DDC [Fic]—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020033163

Printed in the United States of America

Lake Book Manufacturing, Inc., Melrose Park, IL

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Cover art: Archv / iStock / Getty Images

Book design: © Shadow Mountain

Art direction: Richard Erickson

Design: Heather G. Ward

To all teachers who see their students

with possibilities instead of limitations.

—Carol Cujec

To all awed by feeling you are nothings,

know you are pertinent to the whole of creation.

Know you are real to God and me.

—Peyton Goddard

Real is being loved. It is the quest of all.

—Peyton Goddard


The R-Word

Charity Case

Bert and Ernie

Boredom Academy

Long Walk off a Short Pier

Flavor of the Week: Freedom


The Interview

Chance of Snow in Mexico

Humiliation Served Fresh

A Warm Hornet Welcome

Breathe in Hope

Down the Rabbit Hole

My Rebirth Day

First Words

Pandora’s Box

Coming Out Party

This Is Only a Test

Slam Dunk

Cool Genes

Homework Help

Operation Isabella

The Welcome Table

Mission Improbable

Pep Rally Princess

Diagnosis: Delusional

Math Knights

Least Valuable Player

Hornet Sting to the Head

Basketball Savant

A Place Pity-Free

Principal Pointless

Voice Thief

Attack of the Purple Elephants

Breadcrumbs of Truth

Sounds like Torture

Disco Drama Queen

Godzilla’s Revenge

Over and Out

Final Words

Mission Possible

Afterword by Carol Cujec


Discussion Questions

About the Authors

The R-Word

My name is Charity. I am thirteen years old plus eighty-seven days. I love sour gummies and pepperoni pizza. That last part no one knows because I have not spoken a sentence since I was born. Each dawning day, I live in terror of my unpredictable body that no one understands.


“Little surfer, little one . . .” Dad’s music echoed from the bathroom. I watched steam escape under the door.

“Scrub all the sand out from between your toes!” Mom yelled to him from my bedroom across the hall. Then she stood me in front of the full-length mirror with a see-how-pretty-you-look grin. Her white teeth smiled for both of us. Her green eyes opened wide, hoping I would agree.

I did not.

My own face, minus expression, stared back at me. My mouth hung open like a sea bass. Some people think if I do not show emotion that means I do not feel any.

That is like saying if someone is asleep, they are dead.

Page 254: Giant sea bass can change color to warn members of their group about potential danger.

If I were a sea bass, my body would be blinking bright red now.

Mom smoothed my mousy-brown hair, braided into pigtails, and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. “Beautiful. My precious girl.”

People besides my mom have called me beautiful. Except they say it with a frown, so that “beautiful” sounds like “what a pity.”

I begged for words to yell at Mom.

What are you thinking? I look like a prissy pink cupcake clown in this dress! Itchy lace is strangling my neck. And a giant bow at my waist . . . Really? You think I am still five?

Thoughts flooded my head, oozed from every pore. But all that escaped my lips were noises with no meaning. I could not complain like other teenagers. Only grunt like a horse. My tongue stuck out of my mouth, my palms slapped my hips, and my knees swayed apart-together, apart-together in those pink, ridiculous knee socks. Mom planted a silk flower in my hair—the cherry on top of a dog-poop sundae.

You think if I look cute, people will forgive my weird behavior?

My knees swayed apart-together, apart-together.

Probability: low.

My whole life, I have lived with this brain/body disconnect. The Thinkers—the people with fancy initials after their names—have examined, poked, analyzed me a million times. After all the tests, I am labeled, like a strange species of toad they have discovered. Most people see me only as that label, not as a real person.

If they stuck a nametag on my shirt, it would say: “Hello, my name is Autism.”

My official diagnosis: low-functioning autistic. Nothing like setting high expectations.

Some call me special. Is that supposed to make me feel good?

And do not get me started on the R-word. I mean, think of a really disgusting food. For me, that’s oatmeal. Hello? A lukewarm cereal that looks like barf? Even if Mom stirs in chopped apples and walnuts, then it’s just chunky barf. Anyhow, that R-word, every time I hear it, tastes like oatmeal to my ears.

After taking so long to tug on my clothes and torture my hair, Mom had to get herself dressed in a flash. Not so hard, since her one and only dressy dress was a baggy peach thing that reminded me of a nightgown. Mom is so pretty and graceful she managed to look beautiful in it anyway.

Dad shuffled into the room, stiff as a soldier, wearing his cream-colored suit and sky-blue tie. He hated wearing long pants any day of the year. Since he owned a surf shop on the pier, he did not have to suffer too often.

One look at my ridiculous outfit and he said, “Gadzooks, Gail! What have you done to her?”

That’s why I love my dad.

I wish people could see inside my head. It’s amazing in here. First of all, my memory is infinite. Scenes

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