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It's Elementary

Read by Aure Nash
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A fast-paced, completely delightful new mystery about what happens when parents get a little too involved in their kids' schools, from NAACP Image Award nominee Elise Bryant.

Mavis Miller is not a PTA mom. She has enough on her plate with her feisty seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, an exhausting job at a nonprofit, and the complexities of a multigenerational household. So no one is more surprised than Mavis when she caves to Trisha Holbrook, the long-reigning, slightly terrifying PTA president, and finds herself in charge of the school’s brand-new DEI committee.

As one of the few Black parents at this California elementary school, Mavis tries to convince herself this is an opportunity for real change. But things go off the rails at the very first meeting, when the new principal's plans leave Trisha absolutely furious. Later that night, when Mavis spies Trisha in yellow rubber gloves and booties, lugging cleaning supplies and giant black trash bags to her waiting minivan, it’s only natural that her mind jumps to somewhere it surely wouldn’t in the light of day.

Except Principal Smith fails to show up for work the next morning, and has been MIA since the meeting. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Mavis, along with the school psychologist with the great forearms (look, it’s worth noting), launches an investigation that will challenge her views on parenting, friendship, and elementary school politics.

Brilliantly written, It's Elementary is a quick-witted, escapist romp that perfectly captures just how far parents will go to give their kids the very best, all wrapped in a mystery that will leave you guessing to the very end.
One

I don't see her coming.

If I had been on top of my game, if I had been alert, there's no way she would've got me. I've mastered the swift, no-small-talk drop-off in the years that Pearl has gone to Knoll Elementary. Head on a swivel, sunglasses on, don't make eye contact, keep it moving. I can do it in my sleep. (And, well, I actually do sometimes, in this recurring stress dream, which is why my only nighttime companions are a mouth guard and a double dose of magnesium and melatonin.)

But today, I sleep through my alarm. And when I do get up, thirty minutes past the time when I should have gotten up, I immediately step into a fresh pile of puppy poop, left there by Polly-our Shar-Pei-pit bull mix-who sits a few feet away at my bedroom door, with her head cocked to the side, all self-righteous like, You didn't hold up your end of the social contract. What did you expect me to do? My screech wakes up Pearl, who runs into my room and slides through a separate, secret pile of poop. And though we speed through feet cleaning and toothbrushing and backpack packing, all the time we've gained is lost when I can't find Pearl's favorite silver-and-black-striped knee socks, just her other silver-and-black-striped knee socks. So I have no choice but to break several traffic laws on the drive to the school, basically drifting in on two wheels, while Pearl stares resentfully at the impostor socks in the back seat. And when I finally do get my child to the side gate, because it's closer than the front gate, and muster my most cheerful "Have a good day!" she raises her chin and says with complete certainty, "I will not," before swishing her way to her class's line, like she didn't just throw a mom-guilt grenade over her shoulder.

I'm sweaty. I'm exhausted. I'm trying to figure out how many more cups of coffee I'll need to drink to make it through the eight hours of work before me when it's only 7:56 a.m. and I've already lived an entire day.

So of course this is the morning she manages to sneak up on me.

"Hey, Mavis! Just the woman I was looking for!"

Her voice is like a tinkling bell, bright and beguiling, but if you don't know better, it'll suck you in, like those sirens making a snack out of Odysseus's homeboys. I know better. I start looking for the exit points, formulating my strategy. A horde of cooing, crying kindergarten parents are to my left, waving goodbye through the chain-link fence just one more time and blocking the goddamn sidewalk. And a gang of kids on Micro scooters is rolling up on my right, so if I take off that way, I might be risking a maimed toe or two. Which would be inconvenient, but . . .

"Mavis! Yoo-hoo!"

I don't see a way out-or at least a way out that doesn't involve me sprinting or somersaulting or some other wild move that'll definitely get me posted up on the parents' Facebook group.

Trisha Holbrook, Knoll Elementary's PTA president and mother of Pearl's bestie Anabella, is standing right behind me. And I have been yoo-hoo'd.

I fix my face into a tight, plastic smile so my resting expression can't be misread as unfriendly-or, even worse, aggressive.

Deep breath. Let's get this over with.

"Oh, hi, Trisha!" I say, turning around. "Were you calling me?"

"Yes, I was! Today and yesterday." Trisha reaches up to pat down her hair, even though not a single strand of her flawless brown bob is out of place. "Actually, I've been trying to find you since the first day of school, but you sure are a hard one to flag down!"

It's quick, but a single wrinkle erupts on her forehead, which is usually porcelain-smooth and so pale it must be a part-time job to maintain in the Southern California sun. And I swear there's a flash of something-could it be annoyance?-in her eyes. But it's gone before I can fully clock it. Because annoyance doesn't fit in with the perfect persona that's led her to win every PTA presidential election by a landslide since Pearl started kindergarten at Knoll. Perfect Trisha with the perfect kids and perfect Theory wardrobe doesn't get annoyed-and definitely didn't step in puppy poop this morning.

"Sorry, I've probably just been running out of here to get to work." I take a few steps in the direction of my car so she remembers I have to head there now.

"Yes, work." Her blue eyes go wide and she shakes her head, like I've just mentioned some fatal affliction. "I don't know how you do it!"

I do it because I have to, I think. No one else is going to pay my bills for me. But I just press my lips into an even tighter smile to fight against the massive eye roll my face wants to let loose.

"So strong," she murmurs, and then claps her hands together, getting us back on track. "Well, I have some PTA business to discuss with you!"

"I paid my annual dues," I spit out, sounding more defensive than I mean to. But I still haven't recovered from the membership drive last year, when the first-grade room mom went rogue and listed all the nonmembers in one of her email blasts. I mean, nobody yelled, Shame! Shame! at me during drop-off, but they basically did with their judgy eyes. I put the thing on auto-pay after that.

"Oh, I know you did," Trisha says with such firmness that I'm certain she has the entire membership roster memorized. "It's not that. I just have a really fun, really exciting opportunity for you!"

Okay, now that's unexpected. What kind of opportunity could Trisha, reigning queen of all the Knoll Elementary moms who don't sleep through their alarms and know where the right socks are and not only make small talk at the gate but also continue it at coffee dates after . . . well, what could she have for me?

"You see, I met with Debra at Beachwood Council PTA this week," she continues, as if I should know who the hell that is. "And she told me about this new committee requirement, passed all the way down from the state level. She was apologizing for asking so much of us, especially in the middle of such a busy time. You know how these membership drives go." She pauses and smiles at me, but I know what that smile means. Shame! Shame! "I told her, though, no problem at all! Because I know just the woman for the job! In fact, I can't think of anyone else who would do it better."

I have no idea what this is, but I already know I don't want it.

"Well, I appreciate you thinking of me, Trisha. But I already have a job, one that I'm actually going to be late for right now, so . . ." I turn to walk down the block back to my car, but Trisha leaps to the side, nimbly dodging a kid with a rolling backpack, all the while holding eye contact with me.

"Oh, don't you worry about that! You can still volunteer with the PTA even if you have a-a . . . job." Her whole body shudders when she says the word. "Felicia, our VP of Ways and Means, has a job, too!"

I take a few more tentative steps. "I really don't think-"

"Please just let me tell you more about it, Mavis," she cuts me off. "If you're in a hurry, I can walk you to your car, maybe? Or can I call you on your lunch break?" My lunch break? I know my smile front drops, and this lady gets the side-eye that she deserves at that. Why is she so desperate to talk to me of all people about this?

"And like I said, I really don't want you to miss out on this great opportunity. I think you'd be just the DEI chair that our school needs."

Oh.

Ooooooooooooooh.

Now I get it.

"DEI, huh? Hmmmm." The smile is securely back in place. And I'm no actress, but I can make my voice sound believably inquisitive and kind after years of navigating conversations like this. "Why do you think I would be perfect for that?"

I know why. It is now abundantly clear why she wants me to head this new DEI committee mandated by the PTA powers that be. But I'm gonna make her say it.

"Well," she starts, hesitant. "DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion."

My cheeks are going to hurt the rest of the day from smiling like this. "Yes, I know what DEI stands for."

As does every Black woman in the workforce since 2020, when seemingly every industry discovered this magic combination of words.

DEI means diversity, equity, and inclusion, sure.

But it also means free labor to be given willingly to fix problems that we didn't create. It means a box checked with no real change made.

For years I've successfully dodged the DEI bullet at Project Window, the teen mentoring nonprofit where I work, only to be caught unawares by Trisha Holbrook at drop-off?!

You really do gotta stay vigilant at all times.

"So . . ." Trisha nods her head, waiting for me to finish the sentence. But I'm not going to finish the sentence. Trisha's gonna need to tell me herself it's because I'm one of the few Black moms at Knoll Elementary-definitely the only one she talks to, and even then it's just because our daughters made that decision for us.

I raise my eyebrows expectantly.

"Well, you know . . ." she tries again. "It's because you-you . . ."

I cross my arms and try to hold in the laugh that's bubbling behind my lips. I know seeing Trisha squirm as she tries to navigate this conversation shouldn't bring me so much joy . . . but it's bringing me a lot of joy.

"It's because of what you said at the book fair."

I blink at her, confused, because I was expecting a lot of things-stilted, awkward phrasing; an explanation to me of all people why diversity is important; maybe even a little microaggression thrown in there, just for fun. But not that.

"Say what now?"

"At the book fair," she says, recovering her composure. "You complained about the selections of books we had available. Do you remember that?"

"Well, yes, because it was so hard for Pearl to find something with a character who looked like her . . ." And after thirty minutes of watching her flip through all the books with white kids or animals, only to spend a small fortune on erasers and light-up gel pens, I may have made a snarky comment to the mom at the register.

"Well, we tried to pick books that would be universal." Another small wrinkle appears on her forehead, but it's quickly eclipsed by her blindingly bright smile. "But yes, such necessary feedback for the program! You were so very helpful! As you also were at last year's Thanksgiving pageant."

My body tenses at the memory. "Trisha, Ms. Bellevue had those kindergartners wearing headdresses and face paint-"

"And I forwarded her the several articles that you sent us afterward. Along with that extremely informative BuzzFeed video and, um-what was it? A Change.org petition?"

Okay, maybe the petition was overkill, but I just wanted to make sure the point got across and we didn't have, like, casual blackface on deck for February.

"So . . ." Trisha starts. Any sign of floundering I saw before is gone, and it's unnerving. She knows she's got me and my big ol' mouth-and now she's just taking her time, a lion circling her prey. "It seems like you have a lot of insight to offer our PTA in order to improve our school programs."

"I do, but, Trisha-"

"You're busy," she finishes for me. "I know you're busy. But it's important work."

God, of course it's important work. But it's also work-exhausting work-trying to prove to everyone else that you and your kids belong. That you deserve respect, deserve everything. There doesn't have to be a special committee to make this happen for the white kids.

"And I also know," she continues before I can think of the polite way to explain this, "that you, like me, would do anything for your child. Aren't you so excited for the chance to make things the way you want them to be for Pearl? For all our children? I don't think we can do it without you, Mavis."

And she strikes. I'm gobbled-up gazelle, my guts strewn across the savanna-a goner before I even see her coming.

I got too cocky. I thought Trisha, like so many white people I know, would be so uncomfortable having to even recognize the concept of race that she might give this up and self-reject for me.

But now I'm going to agree to this because there's no way I can say no without forever cementing myself as a Bad Mom. I know I'm not a Bad Mom, but I also need them to know I'm not a Bad Mom.

And even if there wasn't the risk of getting the scarlet BM stitched onto my Old Navy clearance blouse, I'd do anything for Pearl if it meant she'd grow up happy and feeling like she belonged. Run into a burning building, lift a semitruck . . . run a PTA committee.

"Or I guess I could give the position to Angela. She seemed very eager when I brought it up at the board meeting last week."

Angela? The mom who still wears her pilled and faded pink pussy hat on the rare morning it dips below seventy degrees here, and has a lawn covered in variations of that we believe sign?

Oh, absolutely fucking not.

"Okay, Trisha."

She nods like that was the only possible outcome. And you know what? It probably was. I didn't stand a chance against the woman who successfully campaigned for her own lounge right next to the teachers', convinced Principal Brennan to reschedule open house when it conflicted with her family's spring European vacation, and (if whispers are to be believed) got Mr. Richardson put on administrative leave when he didn't admit her son Cayden into the advanced robotics program. This conversation has just been a formality since I was ensnared by the yoo-hoo.

"When's the first meeting?" I sigh, resigned to my fate.

And maybe it won't even be so bad. I mean, I'll just be giving my opinions-which, apparently, I can't help but do anyway. And Trisha's already made it abundantly clear that she's just trying to fulfill some mandatory PTA requirement. I'll be like that bag of mixed greens you pick up at Trader Joe's every week but never actually use, just there to make you feel good about yourself.
An Amazon Best Mystery of the Month Pick!

“It's Elementary
is the coziest of cozy mysteries. With the intrigue and drama of Big Little Lies and the warmth and humor of Abbott Elementary, Elise Bryant's first foray into the genre is a delight. A perfect next read for anyone looking for a charming cast, clever writing, and a hint of romance alongside their whodunit.”—Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Funny Story


“Sassy and spirited, Elise Bryant’s It’s Elementary is the perfect puzzle to unravel under the covers. This cozy mystery isn’t just about finding out who did it- it’s about finding yourself along the way.” —Christina Lauren, NYT bestselling authors of The True Love Experiment

"Mavis’s first-person-present narration evinces a razor-sharp wit, complementing the clever, twist-riddled plot of YA author Bryant’s effervescent adult debut. Myriad mysteries and an enchanting will-they-or-won’t-they romance work in tandem to maintain tension throughout, while boldly drawn characters help spotlight issues such as racism, gentrification, and the devaluation of female labor...A smart, funny novel that’s certain to make a splash."—Kirkus (starred review)

"Filled with snappy dialogue, laugh-out-loud scenes, quirky characters, a solid mystery, and a dash of romance, here’s hoping there’ll be more stories about Mavis." —Library Journal

"In It’s Elementary, [Bryant] mixes parental insanity with a sly mystery about a missing school principal. Bryant raises excellent questions about access to education while delivering a novel with hefty portions of both suspense and satire."—The Washington Post

"Mavis’s razor-sharp wit and the chemistry between the two sleuths will leave readers hoping for a sequel to this twisty mystery."—Arlington Magazine

"Beautifully written and well-paced, this delightful novel explores the many friends and family who surround Mavis, the struggles she experiences, and the love that flows throughout."—First Clue Reviews

"A fast-paced, completely delightful new mystery."—NerdDaily

"An utterly delightful mystery...a fast-paced, smart, and hilarious entry into the cozy mystery genre."—Culturess

"This fun mystery with a bit of romance is a perfect read for a balmy, breezy day at the beach!"—BookRiot

“Filled with school drama, competitive moms, a disappearance, missing books, and a budding romance, It's Elementary is a thoroughly entertaining mystery that earns an A+.”—Fresh Fiction

“Bryant tackles big issues—racism, the complexities of co-parenting, gentrification, bullying and even the difficulties of making friends as an adult—with humor and heart, expertly threading these topics through an entertaining story full of genuinely funny observations.” —BookPage
© Joseph Sebastia Photography
Elise Bryant is the NAACP Image Award-nominated author of Happily Ever AftersOne True Loves, and Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling. For many years, Elise had the joy of working as a special education teacher, and now she spends her days reading, writing, and eating dessert. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Long Beach, California. You can visit her online at www.elisebryant.com. View titles by Elise Bryant

Discussion Guide for It's Elementary

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About

A fast-paced, completely delightful new mystery about what happens when parents get a little too involved in their kids' schools, from NAACP Image Award nominee Elise Bryant.

Mavis Miller is not a PTA mom. She has enough on her plate with her feisty seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, an exhausting job at a nonprofit, and the complexities of a multigenerational household. So no one is more surprised than Mavis when she caves to Trisha Holbrook, the long-reigning, slightly terrifying PTA president, and finds herself in charge of the school’s brand-new DEI committee.

As one of the few Black parents at this California elementary school, Mavis tries to convince herself this is an opportunity for real change. But things go off the rails at the very first meeting, when the new principal's plans leave Trisha absolutely furious. Later that night, when Mavis spies Trisha in yellow rubber gloves and booties, lugging cleaning supplies and giant black trash bags to her waiting minivan, it’s only natural that her mind jumps to somewhere it surely wouldn’t in the light of day.

Except Principal Smith fails to show up for work the next morning, and has been MIA since the meeting. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Mavis, along with the school psychologist with the great forearms (look, it’s worth noting), launches an investigation that will challenge her views on parenting, friendship, and elementary school politics.

Brilliantly written, It's Elementary is a quick-witted, escapist romp that perfectly captures just how far parents will go to give their kids the very best, all wrapped in a mystery that will leave you guessing to the very end.

Excerpt

One

I don't see her coming.

If I had been on top of my game, if I had been alert, there's no way she would've got me. I've mastered the swift, no-small-talk drop-off in the years that Pearl has gone to Knoll Elementary. Head on a swivel, sunglasses on, don't make eye contact, keep it moving. I can do it in my sleep. (And, well, I actually do sometimes, in this recurring stress dream, which is why my only nighttime companions are a mouth guard and a double dose of magnesium and melatonin.)

But today, I sleep through my alarm. And when I do get up, thirty minutes past the time when I should have gotten up, I immediately step into a fresh pile of puppy poop, left there by Polly-our Shar-Pei-pit bull mix-who sits a few feet away at my bedroom door, with her head cocked to the side, all self-righteous like, You didn't hold up your end of the social contract. What did you expect me to do? My screech wakes up Pearl, who runs into my room and slides through a separate, secret pile of poop. And though we speed through feet cleaning and toothbrushing and backpack packing, all the time we've gained is lost when I can't find Pearl's favorite silver-and-black-striped knee socks, just her other silver-and-black-striped knee socks. So I have no choice but to break several traffic laws on the drive to the school, basically drifting in on two wheels, while Pearl stares resentfully at the impostor socks in the back seat. And when I finally do get my child to the side gate, because it's closer than the front gate, and muster my most cheerful "Have a good day!" she raises her chin and says with complete certainty, "I will not," before swishing her way to her class's line, like she didn't just throw a mom-guilt grenade over her shoulder.

I'm sweaty. I'm exhausted. I'm trying to figure out how many more cups of coffee I'll need to drink to make it through the eight hours of work before me when it's only 7:56 a.m. and I've already lived an entire day.

So of course this is the morning she manages to sneak up on me.

"Hey, Mavis! Just the woman I was looking for!"

Her voice is like a tinkling bell, bright and beguiling, but if you don't know better, it'll suck you in, like those sirens making a snack out of Odysseus's homeboys. I know better. I start looking for the exit points, formulating my strategy. A horde of cooing, crying kindergarten parents are to my left, waving goodbye through the chain-link fence just one more time and blocking the goddamn sidewalk. And a gang of kids on Micro scooters is rolling up on my right, so if I take off that way, I might be risking a maimed toe or two. Which would be inconvenient, but . . .

"Mavis! Yoo-hoo!"

I don't see a way out-or at least a way out that doesn't involve me sprinting or somersaulting or some other wild move that'll definitely get me posted up on the parents' Facebook group.

Trisha Holbrook, Knoll Elementary's PTA president and mother of Pearl's bestie Anabella, is standing right behind me. And I have been yoo-hoo'd.

I fix my face into a tight, plastic smile so my resting expression can't be misread as unfriendly-or, even worse, aggressive.

Deep breath. Let's get this over with.

"Oh, hi, Trisha!" I say, turning around. "Were you calling me?"

"Yes, I was! Today and yesterday." Trisha reaches up to pat down her hair, even though not a single strand of her flawless brown bob is out of place. "Actually, I've been trying to find you since the first day of school, but you sure are a hard one to flag down!"

It's quick, but a single wrinkle erupts on her forehead, which is usually porcelain-smooth and so pale it must be a part-time job to maintain in the Southern California sun. And I swear there's a flash of something-could it be annoyance?-in her eyes. But it's gone before I can fully clock it. Because annoyance doesn't fit in with the perfect persona that's led her to win every PTA presidential election by a landslide since Pearl started kindergarten at Knoll. Perfect Trisha with the perfect kids and perfect Theory wardrobe doesn't get annoyed-and definitely didn't step in puppy poop this morning.

"Sorry, I've probably just been running out of here to get to work." I take a few steps in the direction of my car so she remembers I have to head there now.

"Yes, work." Her blue eyes go wide and she shakes her head, like I've just mentioned some fatal affliction. "I don't know how you do it!"

I do it because I have to, I think. No one else is going to pay my bills for me. But I just press my lips into an even tighter smile to fight against the massive eye roll my face wants to let loose.

"So strong," she murmurs, and then claps her hands together, getting us back on track. "Well, I have some PTA business to discuss with you!"

"I paid my annual dues," I spit out, sounding more defensive than I mean to. But I still haven't recovered from the membership drive last year, when the first-grade room mom went rogue and listed all the nonmembers in one of her email blasts. I mean, nobody yelled, Shame! Shame! at me during drop-off, but they basically did with their judgy eyes. I put the thing on auto-pay after that.

"Oh, I know you did," Trisha says with such firmness that I'm certain she has the entire membership roster memorized. "It's not that. I just have a really fun, really exciting opportunity for you!"

Okay, now that's unexpected. What kind of opportunity could Trisha, reigning queen of all the Knoll Elementary moms who don't sleep through their alarms and know where the right socks are and not only make small talk at the gate but also continue it at coffee dates after . . . well, what could she have for me?

"You see, I met with Debra at Beachwood Council PTA this week," she continues, as if I should know who the hell that is. "And she told me about this new committee requirement, passed all the way down from the state level. She was apologizing for asking so much of us, especially in the middle of such a busy time. You know how these membership drives go." She pauses and smiles at me, but I know what that smile means. Shame! Shame! "I told her, though, no problem at all! Because I know just the woman for the job! In fact, I can't think of anyone else who would do it better."

I have no idea what this is, but I already know I don't want it.

"Well, I appreciate you thinking of me, Trisha. But I already have a job, one that I'm actually going to be late for right now, so . . ." I turn to walk down the block back to my car, but Trisha leaps to the side, nimbly dodging a kid with a rolling backpack, all the while holding eye contact with me.

"Oh, don't you worry about that! You can still volunteer with the PTA even if you have a-a . . . job." Her whole body shudders when she says the word. "Felicia, our VP of Ways and Means, has a job, too!"

I take a few more tentative steps. "I really don't think-"

"Please just let me tell you more about it, Mavis," she cuts me off. "If you're in a hurry, I can walk you to your car, maybe? Or can I call you on your lunch break?" My lunch break? I know my smile front drops, and this lady gets the side-eye that she deserves at that. Why is she so desperate to talk to me of all people about this?

"And like I said, I really don't want you to miss out on this great opportunity. I think you'd be just the DEI chair that our school needs."

Oh.

Ooooooooooooooh.

Now I get it.

"DEI, huh? Hmmmm." The smile is securely back in place. And I'm no actress, but I can make my voice sound believably inquisitive and kind after years of navigating conversations like this. "Why do you think I would be perfect for that?"

I know why. It is now abundantly clear why she wants me to head this new DEI committee mandated by the PTA powers that be. But I'm gonna make her say it.

"Well," she starts, hesitant. "DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion."

My cheeks are going to hurt the rest of the day from smiling like this. "Yes, I know what DEI stands for."

As does every Black woman in the workforce since 2020, when seemingly every industry discovered this magic combination of words.

DEI means diversity, equity, and inclusion, sure.

But it also means free labor to be given willingly to fix problems that we didn't create. It means a box checked with no real change made.

For years I've successfully dodged the DEI bullet at Project Window, the teen mentoring nonprofit where I work, only to be caught unawares by Trisha Holbrook at drop-off?!

You really do gotta stay vigilant at all times.

"So . . ." Trisha nods her head, waiting for me to finish the sentence. But I'm not going to finish the sentence. Trisha's gonna need to tell me herself it's because I'm one of the few Black moms at Knoll Elementary-definitely the only one she talks to, and even then it's just because our daughters made that decision for us.

I raise my eyebrows expectantly.

"Well, you know . . ." she tries again. "It's because you-you . . ."

I cross my arms and try to hold in the laugh that's bubbling behind my lips. I know seeing Trisha squirm as she tries to navigate this conversation shouldn't bring me so much joy . . . but it's bringing me a lot of joy.

"It's because of what you said at the book fair."

I blink at her, confused, because I was expecting a lot of things-stilted, awkward phrasing; an explanation to me of all people why diversity is important; maybe even a little microaggression thrown in there, just for fun. But not that.

"Say what now?"

"At the book fair," she says, recovering her composure. "You complained about the selections of books we had available. Do you remember that?"

"Well, yes, because it was so hard for Pearl to find something with a character who looked like her . . ." And after thirty minutes of watching her flip through all the books with white kids or animals, only to spend a small fortune on erasers and light-up gel pens, I may have made a snarky comment to the mom at the register.

"Well, we tried to pick books that would be universal." Another small wrinkle appears on her forehead, but it's quickly eclipsed by her blindingly bright smile. "But yes, such necessary feedback for the program! You were so very helpful! As you also were at last year's Thanksgiving pageant."

My body tenses at the memory. "Trisha, Ms. Bellevue had those kindergartners wearing headdresses and face paint-"

"And I forwarded her the several articles that you sent us afterward. Along with that extremely informative BuzzFeed video and, um-what was it? A Change.org petition?"

Okay, maybe the petition was overkill, but I just wanted to make sure the point got across and we didn't have, like, casual blackface on deck for February.

"So . . ." Trisha starts. Any sign of floundering I saw before is gone, and it's unnerving. She knows she's got me and my big ol' mouth-and now she's just taking her time, a lion circling her prey. "It seems like you have a lot of insight to offer our PTA in order to improve our school programs."

"I do, but, Trisha-"

"You're busy," she finishes for me. "I know you're busy. But it's important work."

God, of course it's important work. But it's also work-exhausting work-trying to prove to everyone else that you and your kids belong. That you deserve respect, deserve everything. There doesn't have to be a special committee to make this happen for the white kids.

"And I also know," she continues before I can think of the polite way to explain this, "that you, like me, would do anything for your child. Aren't you so excited for the chance to make things the way you want them to be for Pearl? For all our children? I don't think we can do it without you, Mavis."

And she strikes. I'm gobbled-up gazelle, my guts strewn across the savanna-a goner before I even see her coming.

I got too cocky. I thought Trisha, like so many white people I know, would be so uncomfortable having to even recognize the concept of race that she might give this up and self-reject for me.

But now I'm going to agree to this because there's no way I can say no without forever cementing myself as a Bad Mom. I know I'm not a Bad Mom, but I also need them to know I'm not a Bad Mom.

And even if there wasn't the risk of getting the scarlet BM stitched onto my Old Navy clearance blouse, I'd do anything for Pearl if it meant she'd grow up happy and feeling like she belonged. Run into a burning building, lift a semitruck . . . run a PTA committee.

"Or I guess I could give the position to Angela. She seemed very eager when I brought it up at the board meeting last week."

Angela? The mom who still wears her pilled and faded pink pussy hat on the rare morning it dips below seventy degrees here, and has a lawn covered in variations of that we believe sign?

Oh, absolutely fucking not.

"Okay, Trisha."

She nods like that was the only possible outcome. And you know what? It probably was. I didn't stand a chance against the woman who successfully campaigned for her own lounge right next to the teachers', convinced Principal Brennan to reschedule open house when it conflicted with her family's spring European vacation, and (if whispers are to be believed) got Mr. Richardson put on administrative leave when he didn't admit her son Cayden into the advanced robotics program. This conversation has just been a formality since I was ensnared by the yoo-hoo.

"When's the first meeting?" I sigh, resigned to my fate.

And maybe it won't even be so bad. I mean, I'll just be giving my opinions-which, apparently, I can't help but do anyway. And Trisha's already made it abundantly clear that she's just trying to fulfill some mandatory PTA requirement. I'll be like that bag of mixed greens you pick up at Trader Joe's every week but never actually use, just there to make you feel good about yourself.

Reviews

An Amazon Best Mystery of the Month Pick!

“It's Elementary
is the coziest of cozy mysteries. With the intrigue and drama of Big Little Lies and the warmth and humor of Abbott Elementary, Elise Bryant's first foray into the genre is a delight. A perfect next read for anyone looking for a charming cast, clever writing, and a hint of romance alongside their whodunit.”—Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Funny Story


“Sassy and spirited, Elise Bryant’s It’s Elementary is the perfect puzzle to unravel under the covers. This cozy mystery isn’t just about finding out who did it- it’s about finding yourself along the way.” —Christina Lauren, NYT bestselling authors of The True Love Experiment

"Mavis’s first-person-present narration evinces a razor-sharp wit, complementing the clever, twist-riddled plot of YA author Bryant’s effervescent adult debut. Myriad mysteries and an enchanting will-they-or-won’t-they romance work in tandem to maintain tension throughout, while boldly drawn characters help spotlight issues such as racism, gentrification, and the devaluation of female labor...A smart, funny novel that’s certain to make a splash."—Kirkus (starred review)

"Filled with snappy dialogue, laugh-out-loud scenes, quirky characters, a solid mystery, and a dash of romance, here’s hoping there’ll be more stories about Mavis." —Library Journal

"In It’s Elementary, [Bryant] mixes parental insanity with a sly mystery about a missing school principal. Bryant raises excellent questions about access to education while delivering a novel with hefty portions of both suspense and satire."—The Washington Post

"Mavis’s razor-sharp wit and the chemistry between the two sleuths will leave readers hoping for a sequel to this twisty mystery."—Arlington Magazine

"Beautifully written and well-paced, this delightful novel explores the many friends and family who surround Mavis, the struggles she experiences, and the love that flows throughout."—First Clue Reviews

"A fast-paced, completely delightful new mystery."—NerdDaily

"An utterly delightful mystery...a fast-paced, smart, and hilarious entry into the cozy mystery genre."—Culturess

"This fun mystery with a bit of romance is a perfect read for a balmy, breezy day at the beach!"—BookRiot

“Filled with school drama, competitive moms, a disappearance, missing books, and a budding romance, It's Elementary is a thoroughly entertaining mystery that earns an A+.”—Fresh Fiction

“Bryant tackles big issues—racism, the complexities of co-parenting, gentrification, bullying and even the difficulties of making friends as an adult—with humor and heart, expertly threading these topics through an entertaining story full of genuinely funny observations.” —BookPage

Author

© Joseph Sebastia Photography
Elise Bryant is the NAACP Image Award-nominated author of Happily Ever AftersOne True Loves, and Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling. For many years, Elise had the joy of working as a special education teacher, and now she spends her days reading, writing, and eating dessert. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Long Beach, California. You can visit her online at www.elisebryant.com. View titles by Elise Bryant

Guides

Discussion Guide for It's Elementary

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