Like It: See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne

Series: Stand-alone
Format: eGalley
Release Date: January 7, 2013 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA – Contemporary Suspense
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & NobleKobo 

I know who you are.

When Riley first gets the postcard tucked into her bag, she thinks it’s a joke. Then she finds a birth certificate for a girl named Jane Elizabeth O’Leary hidden inside her baby book.

Riley’s parents have always been pretty overprotective. What if it wasn’t for her safety…but fear of her finding out their secret? What have they been hiding? The more Riley digs for answers, the more questions she has.

The only way to know the truth? Find out what happened to Jane O’Leary.

After I read Hannah Jayne’s debut YA thriller Truly, Madly, Deadly last year I became an instant fan. HJayne’s writing voice blew me away and I loved how simple and focused the plot of her debut is and SEE JANE RUN isn’t any different. 
SEE JANE RUN‘s plot is about false identities and a hidden past that should’ve been left alone. The proverbial can of worms was pried open when Riley Spencer found a birth certificate tucked in her baby album. After much teasing from her best friend, Riley started digging in the mysterious case of Jane Elizabeth O’Leary. Soon after Riley is running for her life after an attempted murder which led to kidnapping that all points to her parent’s history involving human trafficking. 
SEE JANE RUN‘s focal point is Riley and how she dealt with this life secret that totally turned her life upside down. Even if there are some procedural and criminal elements involved in the story, the details on that were left implied so don’t expect a CSI/SVU like novel. SEE JANE RUN is more on the “victim’s” Riley’s psyche during this time, suspecting everyone is out to get her, running away, doubting her parents and thinking they’re the enemy that sent her on a tailspin. Plus it doesn’t help that she has a crazy obsessed stalker terrorizing her at every turn, following her around, chasing her down the street and leaving notes here and there to taunt her.
The climax was exciting and terrifying. Being held captive by a madman isn’t good and as the novel is told in Riley’s POV, we know every panicked thought and fear that crossed her mind. It was so easy for me to put myself in her shoes and I had sweaty palms during the resolution. Riley is a great narrator and a strong and convincing heroine, I only wish the supporting characters were just as strong. 
To conclude, SEE JANE RUN is a quick read and another good YA suspense from HJayne. I loved how the execution of the plot was kept succinct despite its complex root. Riley Spencer will make you empathize with her and though the villain isn’t as crafty as the one in Truly, Madly, Deadly, he’s just as crazy and just as dangerous.

HANNAH’S SECRETS

I don’t know what it is about being a teenager but something happens between twelve and say, fifteen. All of the sudden your simple life is thrown into massive confusion, secret missions, and bizarre campaigns. It’s like you’ve been dropped into some James Bond movie and your job is to keep every secret ever.


That being said, I kept a lot of secrets as a teenager. Some were benign: my actual weight, the fact that Sara really did get perms to get her “signature” curls, the knowledge that Kevin and JC made out in the closet at that one party in October. And some that weren’t the kind of secrets I should have kept—like that that Pam kept vodka in the water bottle she sipped from at school, that Jess’s boyfriend thought she was eighteen (because he was twenty-nine), that my boyfriend was so jealous he called me every hour and freaked if I didn’t immediately answer.

The small secrets—weights, perms, crushes, whose kissing who—were silly and fun and a part of high school and being a teenager. Those are the cool spy secrets, the ones you tell late at night and pinkie swear never to repeat—“Omigod! They made out in the car in front of my house?! Those are the ones you’ll remember for twenty years and taunt your old high school friends with later—“Hey, remember when you swore that you and BJ were going to get married?!”

The other ones—the secrets that make you feel weird or anxious or scared—you’ll remember for twenty years, too but not for the same reasons. Those are the ones you’ll keep remembering and keep thinking, “I should have told someone,” or “I could have done something.” Those are the ones that if you did tell, or at least refuse to keep, can take you from super spy to super hero even if it means betraying a trust. Sometimes a secret isn’t meant to be kept. Sometimes that plaintive whisper in your ear could be someone screaming for help. Except for the one about my actual weight. That one I’m taking to the grave.


Hannah is the author of the UNDERWORLD DETECTION AGENCY CHRONICLES from Kensington books and the upcoming young adult thrillers TRULY, MADLY, DEADLY and SEE JANE RUN available from Sourcebooks, Inc. When she’s not battling the demons of the Underworld or tackling a murderer at Hawthorne High, Jayne kicks her feet up in her San Francisco bay area home and attempts to share couch space with two enormous cats.

Now that you’re here, kick up your feet and stay awhile…

Stalk Hannah

Like It: See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne

Series: Stand-alone
Format: eGalley
Release Date: January 7, 2013 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA – Contemporary Suspense
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & NobleKobo 

I know who you are.

When Riley first gets the postcard tucked into her bag, she thinks it’s a joke. Then she finds a birth certificate for a girl named Jane Elizabeth O’Leary hidden inside her baby book.

Riley’s parents have always been pretty overprotective. What if it wasn’t for her safety…but fear of her finding out their secret? What have they been hiding? The more Riley digs for answers, the more questions she has.

The only way to know the truth? Find out what happened to Jane O’Leary.

After I read Hannah Jayne’s debut YA thriller Truly, Madly, Deadly last year I became an instant fan. HJayne’s writing voice blew me away and I loved how simple and focused the plot of her debut is and SEE JANE RUN isn’t any different. 
SEE JANE RUN‘s plot is about false identities and a hidden past that should’ve been left alone. The proverbial can of worms was pried open when Riley Spencer found a birth certificate tucked in her baby album. After much teasing from her best friend, Riley started digging in the mysterious case of Jane Elizabeth O’Leary. Soon after Riley is running for her life after an attempted murder which led to kidnapping that all points to her parent’s history involving human trafficking. 
SEE JANE RUN‘s focal point is Riley and how she dealt with this life secret that totally turned her life upside down. Even if there are some procedural and criminal elements involved in the story, the details on that were left implied so don’t expect a CSI/SVU like novel. SEE JANE RUN is more on the “victim’s” Riley’s psyche during this time, suspecting everyone is out to get her, running away, doubting her parents and thinking they’re the enemy that sent her on a tailspin. Plus it doesn’t help that she has a crazy obsessed stalker terrorizing her at every turn, following her around, chasing her down the street and leaving notes here and there to taunt her.
The climax was exciting and terrifying. Being held captive by a madman isn’t good and as the novel is told in Riley’s POV, we know every panicked thought and fear that crossed her mind. It was so easy for me to put myself in her shoes and I had sweaty palms during the resolution. Riley is a great narrator and a strong and convincing heroine, I only wish the supporting characters were just as strong. 
To conclude, SEE JANE RUN is a quick read and another good YA suspense from HJayne. I loved how the execution of the plot was kept succinct despite its complex root. Riley Spencer will make you empathize with her and though the villain isn’t as crafty as the one in Truly, Madly, Deadly, he’s just as crazy and just as dangerous.

HANNAH’S SECRETS

I don’t know what it is about being a teenager but something happens between twelve and say, fifteen. All of the sudden your simple life is thrown into massive confusion, secret missions, and bizarre campaigns. It’s like you’ve been dropped into some James Bond movie and your job is to keep every secret ever.


That being said, I kept a lot of secrets as a teenager. Some were benign: my actual weight, the fact that Sara really did get perms to get her “signature” curls, the knowledge that Kevin and JC made out in the closet at that one party in October. And some that weren’t the kind of secrets I should have kept—like that that Pam kept vodka in the water bottle she sipped from at school, that Jess’s boyfriend thought she was eighteen (because he was twenty-nine), that my boyfriend was so jealous he called me every hour and freaked if I didn’t immediately answer.

The small secrets—weights, perms, crushes, whose kissing who—were silly and fun and a part of high school and being a teenager. Those are the cool spy secrets, the ones you tell late at night and pinkie swear never to repeat—“Omigod! They made out in the car in front of my house?! Those are the ones you’ll remember for twenty years and taunt your old high school friends with later—“Hey, remember when you swore that you and BJ were going to get married?!”

The other ones—the secrets that make you feel weird or anxious or scared—you’ll remember for twenty years, too but not for the same reasons. Those are the ones you’ll keep remembering and keep thinking, “I should have told someone,” or “I could have done something.” Those are the ones that if you did tell, or at least refuse to keep, can take you from super spy to super hero even if it means betraying a trust. Sometimes a secret isn’t meant to be kept. Sometimes that plaintive whisper in your ear could be someone screaming for help. Except for the one about my actual weight. That one I’m taking to the grave.


Hannah is the author of the UNDERWORLD DETECTION AGENCY CHRONICLES from Kensington books and the upcoming young adult thrillers TRULY, MADLY, DEADLY and SEE JANE RUN available from Sourcebooks, Inc. When she’s not battling the demons of the Underworld or tackling a murderer at Hawthorne High, Jayne kicks her feet up in her San Francisco bay area home and attempts to share couch space with two enormous cats.

Now that you’re here, kick up your feet and stay awhile…

Stalk Hannah

Tour Stop + Giveaway: The Offering by Kimberly Derting

offering
The Offering 
The Pledge 3
Kimberly Derting 
Margaret K. McElderry Books
December 31, 2013

True love—and world war—is at stake in the conclusion to The Pledge trilogy, a dark and romantic blend of dystopia and fantasy. Charlie, otherwise known as Queen Charlaina of Ludania, has become comfortable as a leader and a ruler. She’s done admirable work to restore Ludania’s broken communications systems with other Queendoms, and she’s mastered the art of ignoring Sabara, the evil former queen whose Essence is alive within Charlie. Or so she thinks. When the negotiation of a peace agreement with the Queendom of Astonia goes awry, Charlie receives a brutal message that threatens Ludania, and it seems her only option is to sacrifice herself in exchange for Ludanian freedom. But things aren’t always as they seem. Charlie is walking into a trap—one set by Sabara, who is determined to reclaim the Queendoms at any cost.

The two guards dragged Xander toward a small, round opening in the stone floor, a hole through which blood could easily drain away to the sewers. They, along with two others who’d appeared, pinned him to the ground while he continued to writhe and scream. They waited until he was too weary to fight any longer. Until he had no other option but to accept this fate he’d been handed.

Then the executioner raised his blade.

Niko would have closed his eyes, if Elena wasn’t observing him so keenly. Unlike Niko, she had no interest in turning away. She seemed to relish the moment.

When the axe fell and the sharp crack of metal struck stone beneath, he felt the slightest jerk from beside him. But when he turned his gaze on her, he saw that she was frowning at the hem of her gown, rather than at the grisly view at her feet.

“Will you look at that,” she clucked, craning her neck to get a better look, and ignoring everything else going on around her. “He got blood on my new dress.”



Praise for The Offering 


“This was a truly epic ending to the series.” –Crystal Perkins, Goodreads Review 

“The final book in Kimberly Derting’s Pledge trilogy is a thrilling conclusion. I was immediately swept up into it and powered right through. It was pretty much what I wanted with a few surprises along the way.” –Krys at Bibliopunkk Reads

Pledge Trilogy


Purchase The Offering

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository


 

Kimberly Derting is the author of the BODY FINDER series, THE PLEDGE trilogy, and THE TAKING (coming April 2014 from HarperTeen). She lives in the Seattle area, with her husband and three children, who often find the outrageous things they say either in the pages of her books or posted on Twitter or Facebook for the entire world to see.    

Link up!

Website | Blog | Facebook | @kimberlydertingPinterest | Goodreads | Google+

  Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash 
Ends Jan. 21

Tour Stop + Giveaway: The Offering by Kimberly Derting

offering
The Offering 
The Pledge 3
Kimberly Derting 
Margaret K. McElderry Books
December 31, 2013

True love—and world war—is at stake in the conclusion to The Pledge trilogy, a dark and romantic blend of dystopia and fantasy. Charlie, otherwise known as Queen Charlaina of Ludania, has become comfortable as a leader and a ruler. She’s done admirable work to restore Ludania’s broken communications systems with other Queendoms, and she’s mastered the art of ignoring Sabara, the evil former queen whose Essence is alive within Charlie. Or so she thinks. When the negotiation of a peace agreement with the Queendom of Astonia goes awry, Charlie receives a brutal message that threatens Ludania, and it seems her only option is to sacrifice herself in exchange for Ludanian freedom. But things aren’t always as they seem. Charlie is walking into a trap—one set by Sabara, who is determined to reclaim the Queendoms at any cost.

The two guards dragged Xander toward a small, round opening in the stone floor, a hole through which blood could easily drain away to the sewers. They, along with two others who’d appeared, pinned him to the ground while he continued to writhe and scream. They waited until he was too weary to fight any longer. Until he had no other option but to accept this fate he’d been handed.

Then the executioner raised his blade.

Niko would have closed his eyes, if Elena wasn’t observing him so keenly. Unlike Niko, she had no interest in turning away. She seemed to relish the moment.

When the axe fell and the sharp crack of metal struck stone beneath, he felt the slightest jerk from beside him. But when he turned his gaze on her, he saw that she was frowning at the hem of her gown, rather than at the grisly view at her feet.

“Will you look at that,” she clucked, craning her neck to get a better look, and ignoring everything else going on around her. “He got blood on my new dress.”



Praise for The Offering 


“This was a truly epic ending to the series.” –Crystal Perkins, Goodreads Review 

“The final book in Kimberly Derting’s Pledge trilogy is a thrilling conclusion. I was immediately swept up into it and powered right through. It was pretty much what I wanted with a few surprises along the way.” –Krys at Bibliopunkk Reads

Pledge Trilogy


Purchase The Offering

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository


 

Kimberly Derting is the author of the BODY FINDER series, THE PLEDGE trilogy, and THE TAKING (coming April 2014 from HarperTeen). She lives in the Seattle area, with her husband and three children, who often find the outrageous things they say either in the pages of her books or posted on Twitter or Facebook for the entire world to see.    

Link up!

Website | Blog | Facebook | @kimberlydertingPinterest | Goodreads | Google+

  Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash 
Ends Jan. 21

A Shot of YA: Poison Dance by Livia Blackburne

Series: Midnight Thief 0.5
Format: Mobi
Release Date: September 12, 2013
Publisher: Lion’s Quill Press
Source: Author
Genre: YA-Fantasy

James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison. Poison dance is approximately 14,000 words, or 54 printed pages.

POISON DANCE is the prequel novella to Livia Blackburne’s Midnight Thief, a YA fantasy series about assassins. POISON DANCE is a primer and a good taste test of the series amd LBlackburne’s writing voice. This novella is plot driven with the characters taking a backseat to make way for the world building. My impression of this fictional place is medieval, magical and a bit lawless, the perfect backdrop for LBlackburne’s Assassins Guild to spread their notoriety amongst the people, noble and commoner alike. As for the characters, the lead is James, a young and budding assassin who found himself helping an orphan girl exact revenge on a noble who killed her sister. I’m unsure if we’ll see more of James in book 1 but he did a great job in getting us acquainted with his world.
I will hold off any speculations for the series itself although I’m hoping that Midnight Thief will be character driven filled with more action and adventure. POISON DANCE is told from the male POV and I’m hoping that the tone will continue to have a masculine voice for the sake of variation. This genre is flooded with badass females and a little switcheroo won’t hurt. 
Book 1 will hit the shelves July 4, 2014
published by Disney-Hyperion
Purchase Poison Dance
Paperback: Amazon

From December 11-14th, the Poison Dance ebook is on sale for .99 cents as part of the Fantasy Romance Holiday Promotion.  Check out eleven other fantasy romance books also on sale for .99 cents here
 

I sarted a blog when I was a neuroscience graduate student at MIT, conducting research on the neural correlates of reading, where I took the analytical approach I used for my experiments and applied it towards the process of writing and publishing. After earning my doctorate, I’ve switched to full time writing. My debut YA fantasy novel MIDNIGHT THIEF will be coming out with Disney-Hyperion in 2014. The goal of this blog remains the same though: study pieces of writing, break it down into component pieces, and try to see what makes it work.

Link up!
Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. 

A Shot of YA: Poison Dance by Livia Blackburne

Series: Midnight Thief 0.5
Format: Mobi
Release Date: September 12, 2013
Publisher: Lion’s Quill Press
Source: Author
Genre: YA-Fantasy

James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison. Poison dance is approximately 14,000 words, or 54 printed pages.

POISON DANCE is the prequel novella to Livia Blackburne’s Midnight Thief, a YA fantasy series about assassins. POISON DANCE is a primer and a good taste test of the series amd LBlackburne’s writing voice. This novella is plot driven with the characters taking a backseat to make way for the world building. My impression of this fictional place is medieval, magical and a bit lawless, the perfect backdrop for LBlackburne’s Assassins Guild to spread their notoriety amongst the people, noble and commoner alike. As for the characters, the lead is James, a young and budding assassin who found himself helping an orphan girl exact revenge on a noble who killed her sister. I’m unsure if we’ll see more of James in book 1 but he did a great job in getting us acquainted with his world.
I will hold off any speculations for the series itself although I’m hoping that Midnight Thief will be character driven filled with more action and adventure. POISON DANCE is told from the male POV and I’m hoping that the tone will continue to have a masculine voice for the sake of variation. This genre is flooded with badass females and a little switcheroo won’t hurt. 
Book 1 will hit the shelves July 4, 2014
published by Disney-Hyperion
Purchase Poison Dance
Paperback: Amazon

From December 11-14th, the Poison Dance ebook is on sale for .99 cents as part of the Fantasy Romance Holiday Promotion.  Check out eleven other fantasy romance books also on sale for .99 cents here
 

I sarted a blog when I was a neuroscience graduate student at MIT, conducting research on the neural correlates of reading, where I took the analytical approach I used for my experiments and applied it towards the process of writing and publishing. After earning my doctorate, I’ve switched to full time writing. My debut YA fantasy novel MIDNIGHT THIEF will be coming out with Disney-Hyperion in 2014. The goal of this blog remains the same though: study pieces of writing, break it down into component pieces, and try to see what makes it work.

Link up!
Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. 

A Shot of YA: Lovely Vicious by Sara Wolf

Series: Lovely Vicious 1
Format: Mobi
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Self
Source: Author
Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to the Buttcrack-of-Nowhere Ohio to help her mom escape a bad relationship.

All the girls in her new school want one thing – Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.

Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.

The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.

The game board: East Summit High.

The reward: Something neither of them expected.

Annnd we got another winner here, folks! I did nothing but laugh over Sara Wolf’s LOVELY VICIOUS. The song, One Week by Bare Naked Ladies, was playing in my head the entire time I was reading. It’s kinda old but the beat encapsulates the tone of LOVELY VICIOUS perfectly in my head. LOVELY VICIOUS is a contemporary YA novel that’s snarky, ballsy and wickedly funny with a dash of serious “adult” themes like escorting, domestic abuse to provide contrast. Isis Blake and Jack Hunter will have you rolling with laughter in the first chapter and I seriously wish someone turns this into a movie. 
LOVELY VICIOUS to me felt like an inverted version of that oldish movie, 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) and by extension, Shakespeare’s Taming of The Shrew. Except the shrew in this story is a boy, our drop-dead-gorgeous-Abercrombie-model-like hero, Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Jack is unreachable, a snob, mysterious and a jerk. Isis Blake in contrast is a troublemaker, an instigator and a rebel. One of the characters perfectly described Isis and Jack’s chemistry, if I can call it that, she said they are both so alike they repel each other. Both are stubborn, fiercely independent, outspoken, intimidating in their unique way, witty and overall brilliant. And they are at war because Isis is out to punish Jack in behalf of the female population of East Summit High. Apparently, Jack has humiliated a lot of girls to tears by rejecting their adoration and other advances to get him to like them. Obviously this war is just foreplay and the ultimate ending is Jack’s frozen heart is melted by Isis while Isis falls for her arch nemesis.
But behind the brave facade and hilarious interludes, Isis and Jack are two suffering souls. Isis suffered from extreme bullying from an ex-boyfriend in her former school while her mom goes through therapy due to domestic violence. Now SWolf didn’t overly dramatize those instances where Isis has to be the parent instead of the child, rather she gave us enough powerful scenarios to leave a strong impression that Isis’ personal life is challenging. As for Jack, his backstory took a while to come out and a big part of the story is hinged on that so I’ll just let it remain mysterious for now. All’s I can tell you is he’s a loyal friend and his means of demonstrating that loyalty is unconventional and even questionable but it’s noble nonetheless. 
Aside from the colorful main characters, the secondary ones are just as entertaining. They fall under certain archetypes but I didn’t really mind because SWolf did a spectacular job with the story and presenting each personality. The plot of the series as a whole runs deep pertaining to Isis and Jack’s backstories. The conflict came a little late resulting to a cliffhanger ending which did not sit well with me. During the last few pages of LOVELY VICIOUS things got ugly and dark and I hope book 2 won’t be too dark because I really love SWolf’s sense of humor so I wish she won’t abandon the series’ playful edge in Savage Delight. Things are coming to a head in Jack’s world and I have a feeling the sequel will be more about him than Isis. 
Overall, this is a Suped Up shot of YA. We all know it’s much harder to make people laugh than cry so any book that has me laughing the entire time deserves a great rating from me. So if you’d rather giggle than weep, join the giveaway below or get a copy of LOVELY VICIOUS, it’s worth adding to your already extensive library.
Purchase Lovely Vicious
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

“I paid the fee, if that’s what you’re here about,” Madison starts. Jack looks to her, smile flashing on for a moment.
“Let me talk to her. Give me one second.”
“Okay,” Madison giggles. He grabs my elbow and pulls me in the other direction.
“Is that how you kissed me?” I ask, nearly tripping as he pulls me along. “Golly gee, it looks kind of mildly fucking embarrassing! No wonder up my appointments – ”
“Whoa, I think you overestimate me, shitlord. Last time I checked all I did was be in the wrong place at the right time. I saw you and had to – ”
“Stalk me.”
“ – delicately approach you. In a sideways manner. From behind. Without being seen at all. For ten minutes.”
“Why are you even out? I thought you were sick.”
“I was. See, it’s this thing called an immune system -”
He holds up his hand and rubs his eyes. “Okay, stop. Shut all systems down and just. Stop. Talking.”
“Why?”
“It’s annoying.”
“That’s never stopped me before!”
“Why did you follow me?”
“I was…curious?”
He looks down at the jar of frosting I clutch in my hands. “Are you eating that out of the can?”
“Are you the king of stupid questions?” I fire back. “Of course I am! Frosting is the ambrosia of the gods. God, if you’re into that religious thing. Are you religious? Somehow I get the feeling the only church you’d join is the church of self-worship. Your body is your temple. Work it, boy.”
“What are you saying?” He snarls.
“You’re blabbering!”
“At least I’m not whoring!”
“I’m working right now, okay? I’m getting paid. So you need to just piss off and go to whatever immature party you were going to in the first place.”
“How’d you know I’m going to a party?”
“The receipt for red plastic cups sticking out of your jacket. Your eyeliner. Girls don’t make eyeliner wings that big unless they plan on drinking.”
“Touché. You’re smarter than I gave you credit for.”
“And you’re far more annoying than I first suspected. If I’d known you’d stalk me like all the others, I never would’ve kissed you, even as payback.”
“Seriously, you kiss everyone like that though! It was nothing special.”
“Exactly. It was nothing special. So back off and leave me alone.”


Sara Wolf is the author of ARRANGED, a college-aged romance series centered on an arranged marriage. She’s currently working on her next New Adult romance series. She’s addicted to the Vampire Diaries, loves chocolate and romantic angst, and can’t get enough of damaged heroes.

Stalk Sarah
Website | Facebook | @Sara_Wolf1 | Goodreads



I hope one of you wins!

A Shot of YA: Lovely Vicious by Sara Wolf

Series: Lovely Vicious 1
Format: Mobi
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Self
Source: Author
Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to the Buttcrack-of-Nowhere Ohio to help her mom escape a bad relationship.

All the girls in her new school want one thing – Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.

Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.

The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.

The game board: East Summit High.

The reward: Something neither of them expected.

Annnd we got another winner here, folks! I did nothing but laugh over Sara Wolf’s LOVELY VICIOUS. The song, One Week by Bare Naked Ladies, was playing in my head the entire time I was reading. It’s kinda old but the beat encapsulates the tone of LOVELY VICIOUS perfectly in my head. LOVELY VICIOUS is a contemporary YA novel that’s snarky, ballsy and wickedly funny with a dash of serious “adult” themes like escorting, domestic abuse to provide contrast. Isis Blake and Jack Hunter will have you rolling with laughter in the first chapter and I seriously wish someone turns this into a movie. 
LOVELY VICIOUS to me felt like an inverted version of that oldish movie, 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) and by extension, Shakespeare’s Taming of The Shrew. Except the shrew in this story is a boy, our drop-dead-gorgeous-Abercrombie-model-like hero, Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Jack is unreachable, a snob, mysterious and a jerk. Isis Blake in contrast is a troublemaker, an instigator and a rebel. One of the characters perfectly described Isis and Jack’s chemistry, if I can call it that, she said they are both so alike they repel each other. Both are stubborn, fiercely independent, outspoken, intimidating in their unique way, witty and overall brilliant. And they are at war because Isis is out to punish Jack in behalf of the female population of East Summit High. Apparently, Jack has humiliated a lot of girls to tears by rejecting their adoration and other advances to get him to like them. Obviously this war is just foreplay and the ultimate ending is Jack’s frozen heart is melted by Isis while Isis falls for her arch nemesis.
But behind the brave facade and hilarious interludes, Isis and Jack are two suffering souls. Isis suffered from extreme bullying from an ex-boyfriend in her former school while her mom goes through therapy due to domestic violence. Now SWolf didn’t overly dramatize those instances where Isis has to be the parent instead of the child, rather she gave us enough powerful scenarios to leave a strong impression that Isis’ personal life is challenging. As for Jack, his backstory took a while to come out and a big part of the story is hinged on that so I’ll just let it remain mysterious for now. All’s I can tell you is he’s a loyal friend and his means of demonstrating that loyalty is unconventional and even questionable but it’s noble nonetheless. 
Aside from the colorful main characters, the secondary ones are just as entertaining. They fall under certain archetypes but I didn’t really mind because SWolf did a spectacular job with the story and presenting each personality. The plot of the series as a whole runs deep pertaining to Isis and Jack’s backstories. The conflict came a little late resulting to a cliffhanger ending which did not sit well with me. During the last few pages of LOVELY VICIOUS things got ugly and dark and I hope book 2 won’t be too dark because I really love SWolf’s sense of humor so I wish she won’t abandon the series’ playful edge in Savage Delight. Things are coming to a head in Jack’s world and I have a feeling the sequel will be more about him than Isis. 
Overall, this is a Suped Up shot of YA. We all know it’s much harder to make people laugh than cry so any book that has me laughing the entire time deserves a great rating from me. So if you’d rather giggle than weep, join the giveaway below or get a copy of LOVELY VICIOUS, it’s worth adding to your already extensive library.
Purchase Lovely Vicious
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

“I paid the fee, if that’s what you’re here about,” Madison starts. Jack looks to her, smile flashing on for a moment.
“Let me talk to her. Give me one second.”
“Okay,” Madison giggles. He grabs my elbow and pulls me in the other direction.
“Is that how you kissed me?” I ask, nearly tripping as he pulls me along. “Golly gee, it looks kind of mildly fucking embarrassing! No wonder up my appointments – ”
“Whoa, I think you overestimate me, shitlord. Last time I checked all I did was be in the wrong place at the right time. I saw you and had to – ”
“Stalk me.”
“ – delicately approach you. In a sideways manner. From behind. Without being seen at all. For ten minutes.”
“Why are you even out? I thought you were sick.”
“I was. See, it’s this thing called an immune system -”
He holds up his hand and rubs his eyes. “Okay, stop. Shut all systems down and just. Stop. Talking.”
“Why?”
“It’s annoying.”
“That’s never stopped me before!”
“Why did you follow me?”
“I was…curious?”
He looks down at the jar of frosting I clutch in my hands. “Are you eating that out of the can?”
“Are you the king of stupid questions?” I fire back. “Of course I am! Frosting is the ambrosia of the gods. God, if you’re into that religious thing. Are you religious? Somehow I get the feeling the only church you’d join is the church of self-worship. Your body is your temple. Work it, boy.”
“What are you saying?” He snarls.
“You’re blabbering!”
“At least I’m not whoring!”
“I’m working right now, okay? I’m getting paid. So you need to just piss off and go to whatever immature party you were going to in the first place.”
“How’d you know I’m going to a party?”
“The receipt for red plastic cups sticking out of your jacket. Your eyeliner. Girls don’t make eyeliner wings that big unless they plan on drinking.”
“Touché. You’re smarter than I gave you credit for.”
“And you’re far more annoying than I first suspected. If I’d known you’d stalk me like all the others, I never would’ve kissed you, even as payback.”
“Seriously, you kiss everyone like that though! It was nothing special.”
“Exactly. It was nothing special. So back off and leave me alone.”


Sara Wolf is the author of ARRANGED, a college-aged romance series centered on an arranged marriage. She’s currently working on her next New Adult romance series. She’s addicted to the Vampire Diaries, loves chocolate and romantic angst, and can’t get enough of damaged heroes.

Stalk Sarah
Website | Facebook | @Sara_Wolf1 | Goodreads



I hope one of you wins!

Chapter Preview: Fat Boy versus The Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

Fat Boy versus The Cheerleaders
Geoff Herback
June 10, 2014
Sourcebooks Fire
Young Adult

Gabe Johnson is waging war against the in-crowd to prove that he is not just some fat boy, but theleader of a revolution. Geoff Herbach is the author of the hilarious novels STUPID FAST and I’M WITH STUPID, which YALSA calls “One of the most real, honest, and still funny male voices to come around in a while.”

Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders
by Geoff Herbach
Sourcebooks Fire
MEMORANDUM
From: Henry P. Rodriguez, Attorney at Law
Submitted To: Seventh District Court, Otter County
Re: Case No. 1745321—Gardener et al v. MLA Independent School District

SHORTLY BEFORE MIDNIGHT ON JUNE 15, GABRIEL JOHNSON, A SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD FROM MINNEKOTA, MN, WAS APPREHENDED OUTSIDE CUB FOODS BY OFFICER REX McCOY. JOHNSON POSSESSED $17.75 IN SMALL BILLS AND CHANGE, WHICH HE CONFIRMED HAD BEEN REMOVED FROM THE VENDING MACHINE AT MINNEKOTA LAKE AREA HIGH SCHOOL.
POLICE SUGGESTED THE ALLEGED ROBBERY WAS RELATED TO A LARGER CONFLICT INVOLVING ASSAULT, VANDALISM, AND DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER THAT HAS COME TO BE KNOWN AS THE SPUNK RIVER WAR.
THE FOLLOWING TRANSCRIPT IS GABRIEL’S VERBATIM ACCOUNT, RECORDED IN A CONFERENCE ROOM AT THE MINNEKOTA POLICE DEPARTMENT BETWEEN 10 A.M. AND 5:40 P.M. ON JUNE 16.
WE SUBMIT THIS DOCUMENT AS CONTEXT FOR THE ABOVE NOTED CASE. THERE IS A SPECIFIC HUMAN COST WHEN THOSE IN POWER WIELD POWER ARROGANTLY. THIS CASE SUPPORTS A TEENAGER’S FIGHT FOR DIGNITY, OPPORTUNITY, AND FAIRNESS.
Chapter 1
Ripping off the pop machine last night wasn’t meant to be funny. It was my duty to all the geeks, burners and oddballs in school, because that machine sucks. Robbing it was serious business, okay?
Why are you laughing, Mr. Rodriguez?
I did it myself. I robbed the machine all by myself.
There were sheep in the school this morning? Real sheep?
How—? Oh, wait, I remember now. I must’ve let them in there by accident. Whoops. Like, left the door open after I robbed the machine and all those sheep wandered in by themselves.
No, it’s not funny, sir. Really.
I’m telling you, I’m the one who stole the money. It was eighteen dollars, but I lost a quarter when Officer McCoy roughed me up. Look at my chin! I have scrapes all over my stomach and knees, too.
That stupid pop machine. Stupid pop! It all started with that stupid…
Yeah I hate that machine! For so many reasons.
For instance, in May, me, Justin Cornell and Camille Gardener did this pop study for health class. The study was Camille’s idea, because she turned into a health nut when her dad started organic farming last year (they grew like two tomatoes and a one giant zucchini—they’re not the best farmers). Anyway, out of Camille’s concern for student health, she got us to study usage of the pop machine, her theory being that unhealthy kids would be the heaviest users.
Big, bad study, sir. Mr. Luken, our Health teacher, gave us passes to hang out in the cafeteria all day. We made a chart of jocks, brains, music geeks, gamers, burners, and “others” (sad sacks who are hard to categorize because they have no social connections to anyone) and we took note of who purchased a product from the pop machine and what specific product they purchased.
Almost nobody paid attention to us while we took notes. Only a couple said stuff like, “What are you staring at, dorks?” Seth Sellers, a jock, made fart sounds when he saw me.
This pop project was eye-opening, sir.
After school that day, me, Camille and Justin went to Bitterroot Coffee Shop down on Main Street to tally things up.
“Nick, Gamer, purchased three Pepsis in four hours,” Justin said.
“Kendra, Burner, four different pops in five hours,” Camille said.
“She’s pretty overweight,” Justin said.
“Not as big as Tiff, Other, who bought four bottles of Sierra Mist,” Camille said.
“Oh Lord Mother of all Balls,” I said.
Camille plugged the data into a spreadsheet, squinting.
Justin shook his head, sucked his latte and was all like, “Whoa.”
Then Camille sat back, sipped her green tea and was all like, “Just as I suspected.”
I smiled and said, “Holy Mother of all Balls, right?” I drank a mocha with whipped cream, which has a million calories, by the way.
Here’s the scoop, sir: Purchasers of pop at Minnekota Lake Area High School are fat asses, trailer park kids, addicted gamers, and burner chicks who eat cigarettes for breakfast. Dozens and dozens of these kids. Most of them went for second rounds later in the day. Some for thirds. A couple, fourths (me, for instance). Very few jocks purchased pop from the machine. (Seth Sellers bought one bottle of Pepsi late in the afternoon, so he was able to greet me with the aforementioned fart sounds.) Two cheerleaders purchased from the machine, but they both bought diet. That diet stuff will kill you, but not make you fat on the calories.
What does that tell you, Mr. Rodriguez?
I tried not to show my concern, but Justin and Camille were clearly concerned.
“You drink a lot of pop, Chunk,” Justin said. “Could be part of the problem,”
“Oh, is there a problem?” I said. “I wasn’t aware of a problem!” I smiled big and raised my fat mocha like I was making a toast.
“There’s a problem, Chunk,” Camille said. “A big problem.” She didn’t smile. She didn’t toast me.
“I’m just sayin’,” Justin said.
Yeah. Really. A problem. I drank a hell-ton of Code Red Mountain Dew every day—four bottles, five bottles—and the only pants that fit me were stretchy pants (elastic waistband, sir).
I knew it, too, knew pop was part of my issue. But, see, I also thought it was part of my success! I was winning by buying all that pop! All the vending machine money went to fund the band! I’m a trombone player, you know? That’s one badass, hilarious instrument, right? Trombone! Awesome instrument. I love band so much so I figured I was paying myself by drinking all that pop. Winning it huge.
No. Stupid.
The truth is, I’ve gained a load of weight in the last couple of years. Kids call me fat ass, sausages, fudge balls, butter balls, cake balls, lard ass, 8 Butt Johnson. All kinds of names. I laugh and go along with it, but those names hurt my feelings.
Even my stupid gym teacher calls me names!
The day after our pop study, I was depressed, so it took me a long time to get to school, so I was late to gym class, so Mr. McCartney ordered me to “orbit,” which means run laps. I didn’t want to get detention (McCartney had been threatening me with detention, because I make jokes and I’m quote unquote mouthy). So I did what I was told.
While I was jogging around the gym, Seth Sellers shouted, “Planet turd in orbit!”
I smiled. “Yeah, watch out, planet earth. This shit ball might crash out of the night sky!” I faked being out of control and weaved off course like I was crashing.
McCartney got pissed. “This isn’t a joke, Chunk,” he said. “This is a punishment.”
“Okay,” I said. “Sorry.” I jogged on, but when I got to the far end of the gym, Janessa Rogers, this nasty cheerleader, said, “Shake it, Chunk! Shake it!”
I puckered my lips duck-face style and started shaking my ass while I jogged.
Everybody laughed.
Everybody except McCartney. He freaked. Way out of control. His face turned dark red and sweat streamed down his forehead. He started yelling, “You wanna be a clown, Chunk? You wanna disrupt my class? Oh, you’re real hilarious!”
I stopped my ass shaking,
“God, I’m sick of it,” McCartney shouted.
I stopped jogging all together. Stared at him, because he was screaming. Everyone else stopped whacking their birds (we were in a badminton unit).
McCartney walked toward me fast. “I’m so sick of your baloney. Sick of your face.”
“My face?” I asked, because I was surprised, because I always thought McCartney sort of liked me, even if I annoyed him.
“Your fat face! Get out of my gym, you sack of shit. Get your fat ass out of here.”
Everybody stared. Everybody’s mouth hung open.
I swallowed hard. Stared at McCartney for a second. Then said, “Okay.” I put my head down and bumbled out of there as fast as my fat legs could carry me.
Terrible. Teacher verbally assaults you like that?
Hey. Why are we talking about this, Mr. Rodriguez? Shouldn’t we be talking about how…how you’re going to keep me from going to jail or something? I’m a little nervous about my crime.
The whole story, huh? Okay. You asked for it. I can talk forever.
Pop. The night after I was kicked out of gym, I pulled five empty bottles of Code Red Mountain Dew out of my backpack (there isn’t recycling at school, so I bring my empties home). One bottle didn’t have a cap on it. A little Code Red dribbled out onto my bedroom rug. It made a little stain. I squinted at it and my heart beat hard.
This stain reminded me of Doris our cleaning lady back when Dad was trying to pick up the pieces after Mom hit the road (Mom ran away to Japan while I was in eighth grade, by the way).
Doris was a tiny old lady. She spilled dirty mop water on the carpet. She said, “Better laugh than cry.” She broke a lamp when she whacked it off a side table with the duster. “Better laugh than cry.”
Poor Doris! She was terrible. She could barely lift a broom, she was so old. Dad had to fire her, which made him cry (serious sobbing breakdown, which he did a lot back then), but what was he going to do? She plugged the toilet with Clorox wipes. She broke a whole set of plates. She fell off a stool and ripped down our shower curtain. Dad had no choice. But when the taxi dropped her off at our place on the day he actually fired her, he broke down like a weak-ass baby. “I’m sorry,” he cried. “I’m so sorry, Doris.”
Doris shrugged and smiled and put her coat back on. I was so nervous about how she would react. What if Doris cried about getting fired? What would we do then? But she didn’t seem to care at all. “Better laugh than cry,” she said. Then Dad drove her home.
And I exhaled. I relaxed. And I thought: Doris has it right, right? Better laugh than cry. I don’t want to be a fool sobbing mess like my dumb dad, who can’t deal with his wife leaving him (my mom left me, too, and I wanted to cry, but seriously, better laugh than cry). That became my whole way of dealing.
A couple years later, there I was, ass dancing in the high school hallway while Seth Sellers mocked me with fart sounds. Laughing all the way, man.
But I stared at that Code Red stain on my rug and my heart beat and I thought, that’s not funny. For the first time, sir, it occurred to me that my total lack of dignity is not remotely funny.
That feeling continued into the night.
Grandpa, who you met this morning, moved in with me and Dad last summer to help us out. He cooks really well and sort of cleans—better than Doris, I guess. After he got too old to be a professional body builder, Grandpa ran a diner in town and the dude can make comfort food like nobody’s business.
Yes, you heard me right, body-builder.
Why are you laughing?
Everybody in town knows about Grandpa. He was Mr. Minnesota 1977, Mr. Rodriguez. I’m serious. The ladies loved him. Grandpa was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s main competition back in the day.
That’s what he told me and I believe him.
Long story short, sir, that night Grandpa cooked up some steaks and a bunch of mushrooms in butter sauce and mashed potatoes and green beans and fixed us salads. The deal is I never ate the green beans or the salad part. I doubled up on mashed potatoes, because oh balls, yes, do I love the awesome flavor of my grandpa’s cream cheese infused mashed potatoes.
While I was sucking down the potatoes, Grandpa stared at me. He said, “Boy, the lack of roughage in your diet accounts for that big gut of yours.”
I looked up, stared back at Grandpa’s pinched face. I remembered Mr. McCartney calling me a fat ass in gym. My heart sank. My chin quivered. “Big gut?” I asked.
“You heard me,” he said.
I swallowed hard, thought I might cry, because all these names… But then my Doris philosophy kicked in. I said, “I’m out of here!” I put the rest of the potatoes in my mouth—a giant wad—jumped up from my chair and ass-danced out of the dining room.
“Sure love the spuds, don’t ya, ya Chunk,” Grandpa called after me.
“Ha ha ha!” my dad laughed.
Back downstairs in my room, I stared at the stain again. What the hell is so funny? Am I really just a joke? I pictured Doris’s quivery arms and unsteady gaze and her wrinkled old face.
Then it hit me! Oh man, I thought. Crap! You’re not Doris, you idiot.
Total realization, sir. Doris couldn’t help it that she was so old. What was she going to do? Cry about living so long she no longer had control of her body? Better laugh than cry makes sense for her. I, on the other hand, have a choice. I’m a powerful young buck. Ass dancing isn’t the only option, right?
Don’t get me wrong, sir, I like being funny. But I don’t like…
You asked for it! The whole story! This totally has to do with the pop machine.
See, I was already pretty crabby that last week of school. Because I tried to limit my Code Red intake to three bottles a day, because I didn’t want to be a victim anymore, didn’t want to just laugh it all off. I wanted to do something for myself. I’d become dependent on the sugar and caffeine in the freaking pop, okay?
 Justin and Camille both commented on my bad mood.
“Why so sad?” Justin asked while driving me to school.
“Someone hit you with the sad stick?” Camille asked during chemistry.
“Bah,” I replied to both of them. “Screw everything.”
See? I was already evolving the attitude that caused me to become the criminal I am today.
Then, Wednesday that last week of school we had the first tiny event of what has since come to be known as the Spunk River War.
What a stupid name. Spunk. That’s a bonehead name.
Sure thing, sir. Go ahead and get coffee. I’ll be here when you get back. Not like I can go anywhere.
 

Geoff Herbach is the author of the award winning Stupid Fast YA series. His books have been given the 2011 Cybils Award for best YA novel, selected for the Junior Library Guild, listed in the year’s best by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association and many state library associations. In the past, he wrote the literary novel, The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg, produced radio comedy shows and toured rock clubs telling weird stories. Geoff teaches creative writing at Minnesota State, Mankato. He lives in a log cabin with a tall wife.

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Chapter Preview: Fat Boy versus The Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

Fat Boy versus The Cheerleaders
Geoff Herback
June 10, 2014
Sourcebooks Fire
Young Adult

Gabe Johnson is waging war against the in-crowd to prove that he is not just some fat boy, but theleader of a revolution. Geoff Herbach is the author of the hilarious novels STUPID FAST and I’M WITH STUPID, which YALSA calls “One of the most real, honest, and still funny male voices to come around in a while.”

Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders
by Geoff Herbach
Sourcebooks Fire
MEMORANDUM
From: Henry P. Rodriguez, Attorney at Law
Submitted To: Seventh District Court, Otter County
Re: Case No. 1745321—Gardener et al v. MLA Independent School District

SHORTLY BEFORE MIDNIGHT ON JUNE 15, GABRIEL JOHNSON, A SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD FROM MINNEKOTA, MN, WAS APPREHENDED OUTSIDE CUB FOODS BY OFFICER REX McCOY. JOHNSON POSSESSED $17.75 IN SMALL BILLS AND CHANGE, WHICH HE CONFIRMED HAD BEEN REMOVED FROM THE VENDING MACHINE AT MINNEKOTA LAKE AREA HIGH SCHOOL.
POLICE SUGGESTED THE ALLEGED ROBBERY WAS RELATED TO A LARGER CONFLICT INVOLVING ASSAULT, VANDALISM, AND DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER THAT HAS COME TO BE KNOWN AS THE SPUNK RIVER WAR.
THE FOLLOWING TRANSCRIPT IS GABRIEL’S VERBATIM ACCOUNT, RECORDED IN A CONFERENCE ROOM AT THE MINNEKOTA POLICE DEPARTMENT BETWEEN 10 A.M. AND 5:40 P.M. ON JUNE 16.
WE SUBMIT THIS DOCUMENT AS CONTEXT FOR THE ABOVE NOTED CASE. THERE IS A SPECIFIC HUMAN COST WHEN THOSE IN POWER WIELD POWER ARROGANTLY. THIS CASE SUPPORTS A TEENAGER’S FIGHT FOR DIGNITY, OPPORTUNITY, AND FAIRNESS.
Chapter 1
Ripping off the pop machine last night wasn’t meant to be funny. It was my duty to all the geeks, burners and oddballs in school, because that machine sucks. Robbing it was serious business, okay?
Why are you laughing, Mr. Rodriguez?
I did it myself. I robbed the machine all by myself.
There were sheep in the school this morning? Real sheep?
How—? Oh, wait, I remember now. I must’ve let them in there by accident. Whoops. Like, left the door open after I robbed the machine and all those sheep wandered in by themselves.
No, it’s not funny, sir. Really.
I’m telling you, I’m the one who stole the money. It was eighteen dollars, but I lost a quarter when Officer McCoy roughed me up. Look at my chin! I have scrapes all over my stomach and knees, too.
That stupid pop machine. Stupid pop! It all started with that stupid…
Yeah I hate that machine! For so many reasons.
For instance, in May, me, Justin Cornell and Camille Gardener did this pop study for health class. The study was Camille’s idea, because she turned into a health nut when her dad started organic farming last year (they grew like two tomatoes and a one giant zucchini—they’re not the best farmers). Anyway, out of Camille’s concern for student health, she got us to study usage of the pop machine, her theory being that unhealthy kids would be the heaviest users.
Big, bad study, sir. Mr. Luken, our Health teacher, gave us passes to hang out in the cafeteria all day. We made a chart of jocks, brains, music geeks, gamers, burners, and “others” (sad sacks who are hard to categorize because they have no social connections to anyone) and we took note of who purchased a product from the pop machine and what specific product they purchased.
Almost nobody paid attention to us while we took notes. Only a couple said stuff like, “What are you staring at, dorks?” Seth Sellers, a jock, made fart sounds when he saw me.
This pop project was eye-opening, sir.
After school that day, me, Camille and Justin went to Bitterroot Coffee Shop down on Main Street to tally things up.
“Nick, Gamer, purchased three Pepsis in four hours,” Justin said.
“Kendra, Burner, four different pops in five hours,” Camille said.
“She’s pretty overweight,” Justin said.
“Not as big as Tiff, Other, who bought four bottles of Sierra Mist,” Camille said.
“Oh Lord Mother of all Balls,” I said.
Camille plugged the data into a spreadsheet, squinting.
Justin shook his head, sucked his latte and was all like, “Whoa.”
Then Camille sat back, sipped her green tea and was all like, “Just as I suspected.”
I smiled and said, “Holy Mother of all Balls, right?” I drank a mocha with whipped cream, which has a million calories, by the way.
Here’s the scoop, sir: Purchasers of pop at Minnekota Lake Area High School are fat asses, trailer park kids, addicted gamers, and burner chicks who eat cigarettes for breakfast. Dozens and dozens of these kids. Most of them went for second rounds later in the day. Some for thirds. A couple, fourths (me, for instance). Very few jocks purchased pop from the machine. (Seth Sellers bought one bottle of Pepsi late in the afternoon, so he was able to greet me with the aforementioned fart sounds.) Two cheerleaders purchased from the machine, but they both bought diet. That diet stuff will kill you, but not make you fat on the calories.
What does that tell you, Mr. Rodriguez?
I tried not to show my concern, but Justin and Camille were clearly concerned.
“You drink a lot of pop, Chunk,” Justin said. “Could be part of the problem,”
“Oh, is there a problem?” I said. “I wasn’t aware of a problem!” I smiled big and raised my fat mocha like I was making a toast.
“There’s a problem, Chunk,” Camille said. “A big problem.” She didn’t smile. She didn’t toast me.
“I’m just sayin’,” Justin said.
Yeah. Really. A problem. I drank a hell-ton of Code Red Mountain Dew every day—four bottles, five bottles—and the only pants that fit me were stretchy pants (elastic waistband, sir).
I knew it, too, knew pop was part of my issue. But, see, I also thought it was part of my success! I was winning by buying all that pop! All the vending machine money went to fund the band! I’m a trombone player, you know? That’s one badass, hilarious instrument, right? Trombone! Awesome instrument. I love band so much so I figured I was paying myself by drinking all that pop. Winning it huge.
No. Stupid.
The truth is, I’ve gained a load of weight in the last couple of years. Kids call me fat ass, sausages, fudge balls, butter balls, cake balls, lard ass, 8 Butt Johnson. All kinds of names. I laugh and go along with it, but those names hurt my feelings.
Even my stupid gym teacher calls me names!
The day after our pop study, I was depressed, so it took me a long time to get to school, so I was late to gym class, so Mr. McCartney ordered me to “orbit,” which means run laps. I didn’t want to get detention (McCartney had been threatening me with detention, because I make jokes and I’m quote unquote mouthy). So I did what I was told.
While I was jogging around the gym, Seth Sellers shouted, “Planet turd in orbit!”
I smiled. “Yeah, watch out, planet earth. This shit ball might crash out of the night sky!” I faked being out of control and weaved off course like I was crashing.
McCartney got pissed. “This isn’t a joke, Chunk,” he said. “This is a punishment.”
“Okay,” I said. “Sorry.” I jogged on, but when I got to the far end of the gym, Janessa Rogers, this nasty cheerleader, said, “Shake it, Chunk! Shake it!”
I puckered my lips duck-face style and started shaking my ass while I jogged.
Everybody laughed.
Everybody except McCartney. He freaked. Way out of control. His face turned dark red and sweat streamed down his forehead. He started yelling, “You wanna be a clown, Chunk? You wanna disrupt my class? Oh, you’re real hilarious!”
I stopped my ass shaking,
“God, I’m sick of it,” McCartney shouted.
I stopped jogging all together. Stared at him, because he was screaming. Everyone else stopped whacking their birds (we were in a badminton unit).
McCartney walked toward me fast. “I’m so sick of your baloney. Sick of your face.”
“My face?” I asked, because I was surprised, because I always thought McCartney sort of liked me, even if I annoyed him.
“Your fat face! Get out of my gym, you sack of shit. Get your fat ass out of here.”
Everybody stared. Everybody’s mouth hung open.
I swallowed hard. Stared at McCartney for a second. Then said, “Okay.” I put my head down and bumbled out of there as fast as my fat legs could carry me.
Terrible. Teacher verbally assaults you like that?
Hey. Why are we talking about this, Mr. Rodriguez? Shouldn’t we be talking about how…how you’re going to keep me from going to jail or something? I’m a little nervous about my crime.
The whole story, huh? Okay. You asked for it. I can talk forever.
Pop. The night after I was kicked out of gym, I pulled five empty bottles of Code Red Mountain Dew out of my backpack (there isn’t recycling at school, so I bring my empties home). One bottle didn’t have a cap on it. A little Code Red dribbled out onto my bedroom rug. It made a little stain. I squinted at it and my heart beat hard.
This stain reminded me of Doris our cleaning lady back when Dad was trying to pick up the pieces after Mom hit the road (Mom ran away to Japan while I was in eighth grade, by the way).
Doris was a tiny old lady. She spilled dirty mop water on the carpet. She said, “Better laugh than cry.” She broke a lamp when she whacked it off a side table with the duster. “Better laugh than cry.”
Poor Doris! She was terrible. She could barely lift a broom, she was so old. Dad had to fire her, which made him cry (serious sobbing breakdown, which he did a lot back then), but what was he going to do? She plugged the toilet with Clorox wipes. She broke a whole set of plates. She fell off a stool and ripped down our shower curtain. Dad had no choice. But when the taxi dropped her off at our place on the day he actually fired her, he broke down like a weak-ass baby. “I’m sorry,” he cried. “I’m so sorry, Doris.”
Doris shrugged and smiled and put her coat back on. I was so nervous about how she would react. What if Doris cried about getting fired? What would we do then? But she didn’t seem to care at all. “Better laugh than cry,” she said. Then Dad drove her home.
And I exhaled. I relaxed. And I thought: Doris has it right, right? Better laugh than cry. I don’t want to be a fool sobbing mess like my dumb dad, who can’t deal with his wife leaving him (my mom left me, too, and I wanted to cry, but seriously, better laugh than cry). That became my whole way of dealing.
A couple years later, there I was, ass dancing in the high school hallway while Seth Sellers mocked me with fart sounds. Laughing all the way, man.
But I stared at that Code Red stain on my rug and my heart beat and I thought, that’s not funny. For the first time, sir, it occurred to me that my total lack of dignity is not remotely funny.
That feeling continued into the night.
Grandpa, who you met this morning, moved in with me and Dad last summer to help us out. He cooks really well and sort of cleans—better than Doris, I guess. After he got too old to be a professional body builder, Grandpa ran a diner in town and the dude can make comfort food like nobody’s business.
Yes, you heard me right, body-builder.
Why are you laughing?
Everybody in town knows about Grandpa. He was Mr. Minnesota 1977, Mr. Rodriguez. I’m serious. The ladies loved him. Grandpa was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s main competition back in the day.
That’s what he told me and I believe him.
Long story short, sir, that night Grandpa cooked up some steaks and a bunch of mushrooms in butter sauce and mashed potatoes and green beans and fixed us salads. The deal is I never ate the green beans or the salad part. I doubled up on mashed potatoes, because oh balls, yes, do I love the awesome flavor of my grandpa’s cream cheese infused mashed potatoes.
While I was sucking down the potatoes, Grandpa stared at me. He said, “Boy, the lack of roughage in your diet accounts for that big gut of yours.”
I looked up, stared back at Grandpa’s pinched face. I remembered Mr. McCartney calling me a fat ass in gym. My heart sank. My chin quivered. “Big gut?” I asked.
“You heard me,” he said.
I swallowed hard, thought I might cry, because all these names… But then my Doris philosophy kicked in. I said, “I’m out of here!” I put the rest of the potatoes in my mouth—a giant wad—jumped up from my chair and ass-danced out of the dining room.
“Sure love the spuds, don’t ya, ya Chunk,” Grandpa called after me.
“Ha ha ha!” my dad laughed.
Back downstairs in my room, I stared at the stain again. What the hell is so funny? Am I really just a joke? I pictured Doris’s quivery arms and unsteady gaze and her wrinkled old face.
Then it hit me! Oh man, I thought. Crap! You’re not Doris, you idiot.
Total realization, sir. Doris couldn’t help it that she was so old. What was she going to do? Cry about living so long she no longer had control of her body? Better laugh than cry makes sense for her. I, on the other hand, have a choice. I’m a powerful young buck. Ass dancing isn’t the only option, right?
Don’t get me wrong, sir, I like being funny. But I don’t like…
You asked for it! The whole story! This totally has to do with the pop machine.
See, I was already pretty crabby that last week of school. Because I tried to limit my Code Red intake to three bottles a day, because I didn’t want to be a victim anymore, didn’t want to just laugh it all off. I wanted to do something for myself. I’d become dependent on the sugar and caffeine in the freaking pop, okay?
 Justin and Camille both commented on my bad mood.
“Why so sad?” Justin asked while driving me to school.
“Someone hit you with the sad stick?” Camille asked during chemistry.
“Bah,” I replied to both of them. “Screw everything.”
See? I was already evolving the attitude that caused me to become the criminal I am today.
Then, Wednesday that last week of school we had the first tiny event of what has since come to be known as the Spunk River War.
What a stupid name. Spunk. That’s a bonehead name.
Sure thing, sir. Go ahead and get coffee. I’ll be here when you get back. Not like I can go anywhere.
 

Geoff Herbach is the author of the award winning Stupid Fast YA series. His books have been given the 2011 Cybils Award for best YA novel, selected for the Junior Library Guild, listed in the year’s best by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association and many state library associations. In the past, he wrote the literary novel, The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg, produced radio comedy shows and toured rock clubs telling weird stories. Geoff teaches creative writing at Minnesota State, Mankato. He lives in a log cabin with a tall wife.

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