Saturday, October 22, 2016

Outward Blonde by Trish Cook

Teen socialite Lizzie Finklestein has all the qualities of a trainwreck in the making.  With a physically absent father, an emotionally absent mother, and an addiction to shopping and hard partying she can’t seem to shake, Lizzie is on a certain path to destruction.  Rock bottom finally comes when one of her public drunken escapades gets caught on camera and shared with gossip sites.

Lizzie’s parents decide it’s time for a change of scenery.  They have her whisked away from her Manhattan penthouse apartment in the middle of the night and dropped at Camp Smiley, a gritty wilderness survival program for troubled teens deep in the Rocky Mountains.  Surrounded by a motley crew of campers all facing their own demons, she’s convinced she has nothing in common with these misfits.

Lizzie must learn to survive in the harsh conditions of the outdoors, including how to dig her own toilet and build a fire by rubbing two sticks together.  Lizzie feels that she’s only left with two options: get with the program, or get out of there.

PUB. DATE: October 18, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-945293-04-7
Barnes & Noble LINK: HERE

“You’re not going to believe this, Jem!” I say when
my best friend finally picks up FaceTime. Her cheeks, nose,
chin, and forehead are slathered in one of those masks she uses
whenever she thinks she might be getting a zit. Which never
actually happens. That girl is flawless.
“Try me.” Her lips are barely moving, which means the
mask must be almost dry, which means she’s probably more
interested in peeling than talking right now. That will change
once she hears my news.
“Guess who I just matched with on Tinder?”
Jem’s mouth moves the tiniest bit downward, her attempt
at a frown. She looks just like my mom after a fresh Botoxing:
incapable of any facial expression. “Using an app to find a boy
is kind of pathetic, don’t you think?” she asks.
“Jem, Jem, Jem. You didn’t say the magic word. A girl like
me deserves a real man, not some immature boy.”

“Well, what you’re going to get on Tinder is a real creeper,
Lizzie,” she warns. “And I like partying with you too much to
let you be found all over the city in a bunch of different garbage
bags. Not to mention, I’d be such shit at giving you a
eulogy. One, because I hate public speaking, and two, I
wouldn’t be able to bring up any of our best times together
without giving the adults at your funeral a coronary. So no.”
“You haven’t even seen who it is yet. Pretty sure you’ll think
he’s worth the risk.”
Jem closes her eyes and puts a hand over her heart, adopting
a sweet little voice that’s nothing like her loud normal one.
“What I’ll miss most about my BFF Lizzie Finklestein is
sneaking out with her on school nights, using our never-fail
fakes to get into all the best bars, doing body shots until we
puke, and making out with random college guys who have no
idea we’re still in high school. I’ll never forget the time we
‘borrowed’ her mother’s Benz and almost ran over a group of
Japanese tourists in Times Square. . . .”
I hold my hand up in front of the computer screen. And in
my hand is my phone, which still has the picture of Hot
Tinder Man on it.
“What . . . the . . . FUCK?” Jem is impossible to impress
and I’m pretty sure I’ve finally done it.
“I know, right?” The only thing standing between me and
this guy at the moment is my mom, who doesn’t take her
Ambien until right before she goes to bed. When she zonks
out, I’m sneaking out.
“It’s not really him,” Jem says. “You do know that, don’t you?”
“Everyone knows he’s on Tinder,” I tell her. “And that he likes
his girls younger. We’re perfect for each other. It’s, like, fate.”

“Oh, please.” Jem peels off an inch-wide strip of mask
starting at her chin and ending at her hairline and shakes it at
the screen. “It’s an old, bald, smelly, fat creeper pretending to
be him so he can rape and dismember you.”
“Dismember. Good SAT word, Jem. Mrs. Lemelson would
be so proud,” I say, invoking our prudish, perma-single English
teacher. “But I guarantee you it’s really him. If you don’t believe
it, come to the Standard with me and see for yourself.”
Jem’s peeling like crazy now. “It’s not him, and that fat
smelly old creeper is going to throw you into the Hudson once
he dismembers you. Do you really want to be shark bait?”
“I thought you said he was going to leave me in garbage
bags all over the city?” I tease. “Besides, I’m pretty sure there
are no sharks in the Hudson. And if you were really that worried,
you’d be my wingman.”
Jem strips off the final bit of mask. Her face is a gorgeous
deep caramel again, except for the smallest pink dot you’ve ever
seen on the side of her nose. It’s probably from the colored pens
we used in art class today. She points to the supposed “zit.”
“I can’t be seen in public like this. Activate your Find My
Friends app so I’ll at least be able to tell the cops where some
of your body parts are.”
I shrug. “Okay, but you’re missing out. Because I’m pretty
sure James Franco would be up for a threesome. Just think of
the pictures we’d get pretending we were going to go through
with it—”
“Fake Franco, you mean,” Jem interrupts me.
“He’s the real deal,” I tell my friend, and click the Face-
Time screen down before she can try to convince me some
more he’s not who he says he is. Or worse, decide to come

along and initiate a threesome for real (which she knows I’d
never participate in, leaving her with James Franco all to
herself, and she’s smoking hot so who could blame him, so,
like, no way).
There’s a knock at my door. My mom peeks her head inside
my cavernous room. She peers first at my king-sized canopy
bed, which is currently covered in pillows of every shape and
size but not me. Then she glances over to my dog’s bed where
Poochie—my adorable googly-eyed Shih Tzu with a crooked
underbite—is fast asleep. She’s twitching and smiling and
probably dreaming about bully sticks, her favorite treat. Whoever
decided dried bull dick might be a good dog snack is a
certified psycho, but Poochie is obsessed with it so I guess I’ll
have to keep buying it.
Finally, Mom realizes I’m sitting on my white leather chaise
by the window, like always. My laptop is on my lap, like always.
And I’m not doing my homework, like always. Mom has on a
silky nightgown and robe. That must mean it’s Ambien time.
“You almost ready for bed?” Her eyes are glassy and she’s a
bit wobbly—both sure signs the medicine is already taking
“Yeah! Don’t you like my pajamas?” I gesture at my crop
top and miniskirt. I hide my high heels under a throw so she’s
less likely to realize the outfit screams “going out” and not
“going nighty-night.”
Mom ignores my clothing and stares straight at my forehead,
where a subtle, stubborn swath of acne has been camped
out since sixth grade. If Jem had my skin issues, she’d never
go out again. Luckily there’s such a thing as cover-up or neither
would I. “Did you remember to put on your prescription
face lotion?”

Figures that even when she can barely focus, all she can see
is my flaws. I don’t reply. She won’t remember my answer in
the morning or that she ever asked anyhow.
Mom mumbles goodnight and shuffles down the long hall
of our penthouse apartment. It takes her forever to get there.
As a little kid, I used to hate the yawning distance between
us. Instead of staying tucked in, I’d make a break for it every
night, jumping as far from the mattress as possible and
sprinting away to be with her and my dad. Warm and safe
between them was the only place I could ever get a decent
night’s sleep. After all, Ursula the Sea Witch didn’t live under
THEIR bed.
So good thing I’m not a little kid who’s scared of an evil
fictional octopus anymore (mostly), since that kind of comfort
isn’t even an option now that my parents are divorced, Dad
went to live out his save-the-world dreams in Africa, and Mom
decided she prefers being in a medicated coma to snuggling.
Even better is that I actually like how far away they are from
me these days. Especially at night. Because you do the math:
divorced dad living in another country + mom’s room being
down an endless hall + her having an anxiety disorder that
requires daily doses of Klonopin x Ambien = me being able
to do whatever and whoever I want to, whenever I want to.
Which, tonight, is none other than James Franco.


This book was a page turning journey that didn't let up for a second. The author's voice was compelling and I enjoyed the read.


Trish Cook is the author of five young adult novels, including NOTES FROM THE BLENDER, A REALLY AWESOME MESS, and OUTWARD BLONDE coming this October from Adaptive Studios. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago's Graham School program in Creative Nonfiction, and her essays have been seen in the Manifest-Station, Graze Magazine, and Spittoon. In her spare time, she rows with a masters crew, most recently competing in Masters Nationals and the Head of the Charles Regatta. You can find more information at and @trixcook on Twitter. 

Forget Me Always

Forget Me Always Banner

Love Me Never

Love Me Never (Lovely Vicious, #1) by Sara Wolf No 99 cents! Go get your copy today! Entangled: 

 Read the book that Kirkus Review called: “A complex, witty page-turner, ideal for YA fans of scandal and romance.” 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 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. Previously published as Lovely Vicious, this fully revised and updated edition is full of romance, intrigue, and laugh-out-loud moments. The Lovely Vicious Series continues: Forget Me Always Remember Me Forever – Summer 2017

Forget Me Always

Forget Me Always (Lovely Vicious, #2) by Sara Wolf: Entangled: 

All warfare is deception. Even in high school. It’s been nineteen days since Isis Blake forgot about him. The boy she can’t quite remember. She’s stuck in the hospital with a turban-size bandage on her head, more Jell-o than a human being should ever face, and a tiny bit of localized amnesia. Her only goal? To get out of this place before she becomes a complete nutjob herself. But as Isis’s memories start to return, she realizes there’s something important there at the edges of her mind. Something that may mean the difference between life and death. Something about Sophia, Jack’s girlfriend. Jack Hunter―the “Ice Prince”―remembers everything. Remembers Isis’s purple hair and her smart-ass mouth. Remembers that for a little while, Isis made him feel human. She made him feel. She burned a hole in the ice…and it’s time to freeze back up. Boys like him don’t deserve girls like her. Because Jack is dangerous. And that danger might be the only thing protecting her from something far more threatening. Her past.   Previously published as Savage Delight, this fully revised and updated edition is full of hilarity, drama, and heartbreak. The Lovely Vicious Series continues: Remember Me Forever – Summer 2017

Sara Wolf 

 Sara Wolf lives in San Diego, California, where she burns instead of tans. When she isn’t pouring her allotted lifeforce into writing, she’s reading, accidentally burning houses down whilst baking, or making faces at her highly appreciative cat.   Read below to read an excerpt from Forget Me Always:
“Are you all right, sir?” I look up at the voice. A bellboy smiles cheerily at me. He has no idea who I am or what I’ve been through, yet he has the nerve to smile. It’s been nineteen days since Isis Blake forgot about me, and he has the nerve to ask if I’m all right. I light another cigarette. “Get out of my face.” His expression falls, and he backs away. “S-Sure. Have a nice night.” I scoff and lean against a pillar of the grand marble roundabout of the Hilton. I watch ridiculously fancy black cars shuttle in and out, dropping off equally puffed-up old rich people. Bellboys and concierges scurry around, calling taxis and directing valets. Revolving glass doors with gold accents constantly whirr and hiss over the mindless chatter. Women shriek with laughter, men guffaw; all of them are oblivious, happy idiots. I can see the truth in their clothes and posture—five of the men are cheating on their wives. Two of them with far younger women, one of them exclusively with prostitutes. He not-so-subtly taps the ass of a passing blonde in a peacoat. She hides her grimace with an actress’s grace. When she sees me, she clips over in her heels with a mildly happier smile. “Jaden! Oh my God! It’s been forever!” “Three months, Lily,” I correct. Jaden is the name I use for my escorting work, and I’ve never let the other escorts I’ve met in passing know my real name. “Three months, forever, same difference.” She laughs. Perfume wafts off her, the expensive, strong kind. The kind you buy when you have to cover up the pervasive smell of sex. “Finished with work?” I ask, and jerk my head at the man still watching her lecherously, his wife oblivious and clinging to his arm. Lily sighs. “Yeah, for the night. I’m about to head back to my place. What about you?” “Mayor’s daughter.” I motion to my tuxedo. “Winter ball.” “Bet you were the hottest guy there.” “It was a Catholic girls’ school.” “And the hottest guy she’ll ever have.” Lily is just a few years older than me, but she’s been in the Rose Club far longer. Lily isn’t her real name, just like Jaden isn’t mine. I don’t know her in real life, and she doesn’t know me. But sometimes we work in the same hotels, and she’s one of the few girls in the Rose Club who isn’t annoyingly vapid. So we talk. “Seriously.” Lily elbows me. “I’ve seen her. She looks like an inbred Pomeranian on her best days.” “Now now.” I blow smoke into the sky. “Let’s not be nasty. She paid good money. And I respect and appreciate money.” Lily watches my face carefully as she waits for a taxi to cycle past. She knits her thin brows. “What about your own prom?” she asks. “What about it?” “Are you going to that? Do you have a girlfriend? Or a date?” I took Sophia to my junior prom. Sophia, the hospital-ridden girl I’d known since middle school—my first infatuation and first real friend. But it’s not Sophia who pops into my head right now. An image grows strong of Isis, dressed up in some silk dress. Red? Or blue? Purple, probably, to match her hair. She’d dance and drink and start at least four fights. It would be awful. It would be hilarious. I smirk at the thought, but it quickly fades. She’s in the hospital, too. And thanks to that scumbag called her mother’s boyfriend, she doesn’t remember me anymore. It’s been almost three weeks since she asked who I was, with that blithe smile on, and only now have I really started to believe it. “No. I’m not going to the senior one. It’s pointless. I’m graduating in five months, anyway. High school barely matters anymore.” She plucks the cigarette from my lips and grinds it under her heel. “When did you start smoking?” “When did you decide to start mothering me?” I ask. “It’s not good for you.” “Neither is sex work.” Lily glowers. “Escorting. And we both have our reasons for doing that. You don’t have a reason to smoke. Unless you want to die early and painfully.” “And if I did, it would be none of your business.” Lily flinches, as if I’d slapped her. She hails a passing cab, then pauses in its open door to look back at me. “You’re one of us, Jaden,” she murmurs. “Society looks down on us. Customers objectify us. All we have is each other. So it is my business.” She pulls out her Rose Club card—white with pale gold stripes—and hands it to me. “If you ever need anything, or if you wanna talk, call me.” She’s gone before I can throw it back at her, gone before the gaping chasm in my chest has the chance to bleed. I shake it off. I’m Jack Hunter. No one makes me bleed. Except one girl, at a party, nearly five months ago. I light another cigarette to cover the stench of weakness emanating off me. The women at the hotel’s entrance are eyeing me. If I so much as blink in their direction, they’ll accost me, flirting with tired tactics and worn eagerness. They are just as bad as the men. They covet things that look nice. And when they can’t have what they covet, they squabble, quickly turning on each other in sickening displays of predatory possessiveness. I consider throwing Lily’s card in a nearby puddle. She has no idea what I’m going through. I have no idea what I’m going through. She can’t help me. Besides, her help is offered solely because she has designs on me. Even an idiot can see that much. Not everything with a vagina likes you, dipshit! I whirl around at the sound of the voice. It’s so clear, so perfectly loud and obnoxious, that it has to be her. But no purple streaks bob out of the crowd to greet me. No warm brown eyes crinkle with a smirk. I fall against the pillar again and laugh, putting my head in my hands as reality slips through my fingers. Get it together, Jack Hunter. You’re going to Harvard in seven months. Your mother is waiting for you to come home now. Sophia is counting on you. Her surgery is imminent. You can’t go crazy. People are depending on you. You have a life to live, and no matter how much you wish on stars, no matter how much you bargain with God or with the doctors, that life does not include Isis Blake any longer. You’re a stranger to her. The hole she burned in the ice must be filled. There is no warmth anymore. You barely tasted it, barely felt it on your skin. It brushed against you for a single second. Something so small should not retain this much weight. It is illogical. You are illogical for letting it affect you so much. There is no warmth, Jack Hunter. Not for the likes of you. You have blood on your hands. You have duty, and guilt, and you can’t escape that. No one can help you escape. Not even her. “Jaden!” A shrill voice makes me look up. Cynthia, the mayor’s daughter, waves me over to the limo. Her dark hair is over-curled and looks ridiculous. Her pink dress is too tight and too bright. Her circle of simpering friends have dropped off their purses and retouched their makeup, and now they’re on their way to an after-party. We’re on our way. I’m being paid to be one of them, after all. I stub my cigarette out and put on my best smile.

Eternal Darkness Oblivion

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman
Brady Stefani
Genre: YA Psychological Thriller/Scifi
Release Date: June 7th 2016

Summary from Goodreads:

Fifteen year old Courtney wants to be normal like her friends. But there’s something frighteningly different about her—and it’s not just the mysterious tattoo her conspiracy-obsessed grandfather marked her with before he disappeared. She's being visited in her bedroom at night by aliens claiming to have shared an alliance with her grandfather. And imaginary or not, they're starting to to take over her mind. “Mental illness is a slippery slope,” her mother warns her.

The last thing Courtney wants to do is end up crazy and dead like her grandfather did. But what about the tattoo? And the aliens trying to recruit her? With her new alien-savvy friend Agatha and her apocalyptic visions, Courtney begins connecting the dots between the past, present and future—of her bloodline, and the ancient history that surrounds it. Is she going insane, like her family claims her grandfather did, or is she actually a "chosen one" with ancestral connections to another world? Either way, Courtney has a mission: untangle her past, discover the truth, and stop the apocalypse before it's too late for everyone. 

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman was featured in Redbook Mag! Check it out HERE!

Advance Praise:
A must read sci-fi book.”
- Hypable, fandom reviews

“A wild ride through portals to other worlds… This debut novel fuses a serious issue—the stigma of mental illness—with sci-fi to chronicle a girl’s unusual coming of age.”
- Kirkus Review

“This novel has a breakneck pace and Stefani’s writing is fluid and perfectly suited to this most extraordinary tale that blends coming of age, adventure, science fiction, and post-apocalyptic genres— and it all works beautifully.”
- Readers' Favorite, Five Stars

“As the father of two teenage girls, I can tell you that Brady Stefani must have some sort of supernatural helmet that helps him think and write in their language. But The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is much more than a novel for teens. This fast-paced adventure kept my attention, blazing back-and-forth from reality to an alter-world so close by that it’s creepy. Here’s a page-turner that captures a lot about childhood struggles through an imaginative story filled with surprises.”
-Jim Schaefer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer for the Detroit Free Press

“Stefani’s The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is a thought-provoking and emotional journey through a young girl’s mind as she struggles to understand who she is, where she came from, and who she is supposed to be—all while deciphering between reality and the tricks our minds can sometimes play on us. Stefani beautifully demonstrates how difficult life can be for anyone who thinks or acts a little differently, and reminds us that, more often than not, the things that terrify us the most are the things trying to save us.”
-Jessica Stevens, author of Within Reach

About the Author

Brady G. Stefani has a bachelor's degree in creative writing, and a graduate degree in law. During law school, he spent time as an involuntary commitment caseworker for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, where he interacted with patients suffering from severe thought disorders, including numerous patients presenting with subjectively real memories of being visited and abducted by alien beings (commonly referred to as alien abduction phenomenon). It was through his study of these patients, along with his own struggles with anxiety and cognition, that Stefani became aware of just how deceiving, mysterious, and powerfully resilient, the human mind can be.
In an effort to provide awareness of mental suffering, and spread hope to all those touched by it, Stefani is focused on writing YA novels that explore the experience of being different and the other-worldly places our boundary-less imaginations can take us. Alienation is his first novel. But with two works currently in progress, the journey has just begun. 

Author Links:

The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman Playlist

I don’t have an elaborate set list, but I do have three albums that I depended on greatly to set the tone form my while I was writing certain types of scenes.

For the frightening scenes, which there are many I listened to Burzum’s first self-titled album (Norwegian black metal) especially the song “Feeble Screams from a Forest Unknown”

To lighten things up, for the less frightening scenes, I listened to Head on The Door by the Cure, and OK Computer by Radiohead

Blog Tour Organized by:

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Girl on the Brink Tour and Giveaway

Girl on the Brink
Christina Hoag
Genre: YA Romance/Thriller
Release date: August 30th 2016
Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books


Sometimes the one you love isn’t the one you’re meant to be with.

The summer before senior year, Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce. But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire, and Kieran turns violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up. Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.

Buy Links:

Advance Praise:
“An engrossing tale of a dangerous teen romance.” -- Kirkus Reviews 

Girl on the Brink is a must have for every high school and public library.” – Isabelle Kane, Wisconsin high school librarian 

What inspired you to write “Girl on the Brink”?

My motivation to write “Girl on the Brink” was simple: I really feel that girls need to know the red flags of abusive guys early on. There’s a very set pattern of behavior that once you become attuned to it, you can pick out the signs right away. If you don’t know these red flags, you can misread them, as I did.
Controlling behavior, for example, can be misconstrued as “he’s really into me” or “he really cares about me.” Clingy-ness can be read as “he needs me” instead of “he’s smothering me.” You can really believe that he’s sorry and he’ll “never do it again,” but guaranteed, he will and it will likely be worse.
Unfortunately, these things aren’t taught in school (although I think they should be) and most girls and women don’t familiarize themselves with how abusive relationships develop until after the fact.  Getting involved with the wrong guy is surprisingly common and can happen to anyone at any age.
I also wanted to show how hard the aftermath of these relationships can be and how important it is to overcome that sense of shame and seek help in order to safely get out of the relationship. Ending the relationship is the most dangerous time as the abuser knows he’s losing his control and often resorts to revenge of some sort, as Kieran in the novel does.
I chose a novel as the way to tell this story because I think it’s more engaging to read a narrative rather than be lectured to, although book also features a resource page at the back. So far I’ve had a number of readers tell me that they went through similar experiences and really appreciated seeing this story told. There’s a lot of power in seeing yourself reflected in someone else’s story. So I’m hoping that this novel can be useful to readers in two ways: cautioning them away from abusive guys, as well as validating the girls and women who have had this experience.

Abusive relationships are widespread, cutting across socioeconomic, racial and ethnic, religious and gender preference lines. One in three high school girls experience dating violence, while more than half of college-aged women reported experiencing controlling behavior in a relationship. Eighty-nine percent of female college students said they were unable to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship, and a third of teens involved in intimate partner violence ever told anyone about it. 

GIRL ON THE BRINK By Christina Hoag

The carnival sets up for two weeks every summer in a field outside town. Everyone goes. It’s something to vary Indian Valley’s monotonous diet of bowling, the single-screen movie theatre, miniature golf, and hanging out at the Dairy Cream. 
Kieran grabs my hand as we stroll into the fair. It’s a riot of dazzling lights, whirling rides and thumping music. I scan the crowd, hunting for Morgan and Jade, who I spot waiting for funnel cakes.
“Hey, there are my friends.” I wave frantically at them with my free hand as I tug Kieran with the other. Morgan sees me, points me out to Jade and they both look my way.
Kieran yanks my hand in the opposite direction. “We’ll catch up with them later.”
“I want you to meet them. I told them all about you.”
“I just want to play my favorite game for you first.”
I can’t refuse. I let myself be pulled and make an apologetic face at them. Morgan’s expression hardens. She says something to Jade. The crowd swarms between us, and I lose sight of them.
Kieran steers me to a shooting-at-moving-ducks game and grabs a rifle. He’s a good shot and soon wins a white teddy bear with a red satin heart sewn on its chest. He hands it to me.
“For you.”
“Thank you. It’s adorable.” I proudly tuck it under my arm.
“Just like you. Hungry?”
“Me, too.”
We make for the food concessions. “Carnival hot dogs are the best,” Kieran says. “The pizza and hamburgers blow.”
“Totally,” I say as we line up.
We buy hot dogs slathered with relish—and root beer, of course—and sit at a picnic table. Kieran straddles the bench, patting the seat in front of him. I sit astride like him. He inches closer so our knees touch.
“Open wide,” he orders, looking at my mouth.
I obey. He feeds one end of the hot dog to me, then leans in and bites the other end. I crack up and almost choke.
“Don’t laugh,” which comes out something like “doan waf” through Kieran’s mouthful of hot dog.
No hands, he chews, swallows and takes another bite. I do the same. We manage to eat the hot dog, and at the end, our lips touch. Kieran presses mine into a kiss.
“So that’s why you like carnival hot dogs,” I say when we break apart. “To steal kisses.”
“Hey, I told you they were the best. Hold on, you have mustard on your face.” He swoops in and licks the side of my mouth.
I wipe off his wetness. “Ew, Kieran!”
“Mmmm, salty.”
I giggle. He swoops in again and licks all around my mouth and lips. His tongue tickles, and I laugh as I shake my head, sucking in my lips, trying to get him off me as I crack up harder, which only encourages him. He slurps my cheeks and chin, and I try to recoil out of his reach, but he pulls me to him. Finally, he backs off and dabs my face with a napkin as I recover my breath.
“You’re worse than a puppy,” I say.
“Ruff, ruff.” He pants and holds up his hands like paws, then jumps to his feet, holding out his palm. “Come on. Time for rides.”
We run like it’s an emergency.
“Cup of tea, Madam?” Kieran points to the tea cups, then pushes open the just-closing gate and leaps in a cup.
We spin madly in the tea cups, chase, block and slam each other in the bumper cars, cling to each other in the haunted house. We finish with a ride on the Ferris wheel.
It’s getting late, and the crowd has swelled with rowdy revelers who obviously made a pitstop at a bar before the carnival.
“Let’s go,” Kieran says, after a guy, drunk or stoned, stumbles in front of us.
“I really wanted you to meet my friends.”
“We’ve got plenty of time for that. It gets nasty this time of night, a lot of fights.”
“Okay.” I give a last three-sixty turn in case Jade and Morgan appear. Kieran’s right. Cliques of older guys and girls hang around the perimeter, smoking and drinking from paper bags.
We swing our clasped hands as we walk to the parking lot. I wish the night would never end. When we get in the truck, he blasts the air conditioning and rolls down the windows. We pull out into the street, and as the AC chills, I close my window. Using his control, Kieran buzzes it down again.
“The AC’s on,” I say.
“I know, but doesn’t it feel great? To feel cold air and warm air at the same time?”
He accelerates. Bathtub-temperature air whooshes along the side of my body, while my chest is cooled by the AC. The combination feels luxurious.
“You’re right. It does feel great!”
He grins. “Told ya.”
“My mom would kill me for doing this.”
“That’s why you’re hanging with me, not with her.”
He snakes an arm over and slides off the elastic holding my ponytail. I shake my hair loose and let the wind whip it.
“That’s it, sweetpea, be free.”


This book takes a look at how relationships can turn in an instant and before you know it, the guy you thought you knew is a total stranger. Every teenage girl should read it. Domestic violence/dating violence is not okay-but it can be hard to break away from when you're stuck in the middle of a situation. The author did a good job of illustrating this.


About the Author
Christina Hoag is the author of Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults (Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books, August 2016) and Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld (Martin Brown Publishing, September 2016). She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets including Time, Business Week, Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. She is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention (Turner Publishing, 2014). She resides in Los Angeles. For more information, see
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