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Blonde Ops: A Novel

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Overview

Expelled from yet another boarding school for hacking, sixteen-year-old Rebecca "Bec" Jackson is shipped off to Rome to intern for Parker Phillips, the editor-in-chief of one of the world’s top fashion magazines. But when a mysterious accident lands Parker in a coma, former supermodel and notorious drama queen Candace Worthington takes the reins of the magazine. The First Lady is in Rome for a cover shoot, and all hands are on deck to make sure her visit goes...

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Blonde Ops: A Novel

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Overview

Expelled from yet another boarding school for hacking, sixteen-year-old Rebecca "Bec" Jackson is shipped off to Rome to intern for Parker Phillips, the editor-in-chief of one of the world’s top fashion magazines. But when a mysterious accident lands Parker in a coma, former supermodel and notorious drama queen Candace Worthington takes the reins of the magazine. The First Lady is in Rome for a cover shoot, and all hands are on deck to make sure her visit goes smoothly.

Bec quickly realizes that Parker's "accident" may not have been quite so accidental, and when the First Lady's life is threatened, Bec is determined to uncover the truth. On top of that, Bec must contend with bitchy models, her new boss, Candace, who is just as difficult as the tabloids say, and two guys, a hunky Italian bike messenger with a thousand-watt smile and a fashion blogger with a razor-sharp wit, who are both vying for her heart.

Can Bec catch the person who's after the First Lady, solve the mystery of Parker's accident, and juggle two cute boys at the same time? Blonde Ops is a fun, action-packed romp through the hallways of a fashion magazine and the cobblestone streets of Rome by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
03/24/2014
Thrown out of her sixth prep school for hacking its computer system, 16-year-old Bec Jackson is sent to Rome to intern at Edge fashion magazine, whose editor-in-chief, Parker Phillips, is a friend of Bec’s mother. In Italy, Bec is quickly put to work by a demanding managing editor. When Parker is in a near-fatal car accident, connected to a visit from the First Lady of the United States, former supermodel Candace Worthington replaces Parker as editor. Despite the presence of the Secret Service, Bec launches her own investigation into the accident, combining her hacker skills and nascent detective instincts (“Real detectives used a special black powder. I would have to make do with MAC Onyx Dust”). Bennardo and Zaman (the Sirenz books) offer a light mystery filled with fashion tips, entertaining dialogue, a pair of potential romances for Bec, and an alluring Roman setting. What this thriller lacks in character depth it makes up for with an energized pace, ever-shifting suspects, and an intriguing glimpse into the benefits and drawbacks of art and fame. Ages 13–up. Agent: Natalie Lakosil, Bradford Literary Agency. (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for Blonde Ops

“[A] hypercharged thriller of fashion, high-tech sleuthing, and power, with bella Roma as the backdrop. Close calls, mysterious phone conversations, surreptitious whispers in office corners, and a clandestine conversation in a dark warehouse make for…highly entertaining, escapist fun.”

Booklist

 

"Bennardo and Zaman offer a light mystery filled with fashion tips, entertaining dialogue, a pair of potential romances for Bec, and an alluring Roman setting... An energized pace, ever-shifting suspects, and an intriguing glimpse into the benefits and drawbacks of art and fame."

Publishers Weekly

“A big, delicious ice cream cone of a novel! A hilarious, fast-paced mystery/thriller combining high fashion...plus a couple of very hot guys and one of the most engaging and original heroines ever. I dare anyone not to love this!”

—Molly Cochran, New York Times bestselling author of Legacy

“An absolute thrill ride of a story. I loved it!”

—Kristi Cook, author of Mirage

“Clever and cute...a laugh-out-loud blast of a ride. Resist at your peril.”

—Leanna Renee Hieber, award-winning author of Darker Still

Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
A sixteen-year-old rebel, the fashion industry, and a job as an intern may not seem like the stuff of suspense and mystery. Then again, Bec Jackson does not seem like much of a detective, but she is thrust into that role. After being expelled from another in a string of boarding schools, Bec is sent to stay with her mother’s old friend, Parker Phillips, for the duration of the semester. Parker is the editor of a fashion magazine currently shooting on location in Rome and she has arranged for Bec to have an unpaid internship while she finishes her assignments for the school year. When a car accident lands Parker in the hospital days before the American First Lady is to arrive for a high-profile photo shoot, Bec suspects that it was a deliberate assault. But why? Who would go after Parker? Is the First Lady the next target? If so, how can the sixteen-year-old computer hacker help to keep her safe? Bennardo and Zaman combine talents in this international teen thriller, replete with elements of mystery and romance. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
06/01/2014
Gr 9 Up—Student (and hacker) Bec has been in trouble plenty of times before, but this time is different. Instead of being sent to yet another boarding school, she's shipped off to stay with her mom's college friend Parker in Rome. Fashion magazine editor Parker's next assignment is big: to run photo sessions of the First Lady during her visit to the Italian capital. When Parker is seriously injured in an accident, Bec suspects a more sinister explanation and uses her hacking skills to investigate. The teen also has her hands full with juggling the affections of cute Italian messenger Dante and sexy fashion blogger Taj. Tension mounts as clues reveal that the First Lady's life may be in danger, and the hacking fashionista stops at nothing to unravel the mystery. Bec's narration is sincere and intriguing, but readers will find it difficult to connect with her. While her hacking skills are good, they are nowhere near as advanced as one of the "bad guys," yet she is able to thwart the operation with only a little help. Most of the characters remain two-dimensional, and the fashion focus, including tips at the beginning of each chapter, feel tacked on and not completely integrated into the plot. A fun read for those who can suspend their disbelief.—Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-31
A teenage American hacker in Italy becomes embroiled in a whirlwind of fashion, espionage and romance. After her latest boarding school expulsion, Bec Jackson finds herself in Rome under the care of her mother's old friend, Parker Phillips, editor in chief of Edge magazine. Put to work as an intern, she clashes with the high-strung fashion elite as the magazine prepares for a photo shoot with the first lady of the United States. It isn't long, however, before two alluring paramours appear and compete for her attention. Amid the chaos, a terrible accident occurs, leaving Parker in critical condition as Candace Worthington, reality TV host and former model, sweeps in to take her place. Bec senses foul play and begins to investigate, stumbling upon layers of espionage and secrecy far darker than that of the catty fashion industry. Bennardo and Zaman paint Bec with strokes of Veronica Mars, creating a heroine with exceptional skills and believable teenage angst who prioritizes her mission over mooning over boys. Though integral to the plot, the love triangle is uneven, with the clichéd Italian heartthrob thinly drawn. However, Bec's amusing observations never miss a beat, more than making up for her sometimes-shallow counterparts. Readers will be taken with the pink-haired protagonist and her Italian exploits. (Fiction. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250030399
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/6/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 272,310
  • Age range: 13 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

CHARLOTTE BENNARDO graduated from Rutgers with an English degree and lives in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

NATALIE ZAMAN has previously held positions in the publishing industry and as a high school English teacher. She lives in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Together, Bennardo and Zaman are the authors of Sirenz and Sirenz: Back in Fashion.

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Read an Excerpt

TRICKS AND TIPS FOR THE EDGE-Y GIRL

Little plaid skirts, button-downs, knee socks, and loafers only work in Japanese films or private school. Go for collegiate details rather than a full-blown costume for an A+.

 

1

 

 

There are worse things than being yanked from the middle of lunch, dumped onto a plane to fly cross-country in a stupid school uniform that made me look like an anime reject, and be told that I really effed up this time.

But I couldn’t think of any at the moment.

I unfolded the crumpled paper Dean Harding gave to me before I was dismissed and read it again. Printed on school letterhead, it was officially scary.

Does not adhere to school dress code.

Violates “No Cell Phones in Class” rule.

Does not perform to expected academic and social standards.

“Hacked” into school computer network and changed third-quarter grades.

Yeah, that last one did it—the infraction that sealed my expulsion from Anaheim’s prestigious St. Xavier’s Academy.

In less than three years, I’d been in and out of four—or was it five?—prep/boarding/private schools. This would make St. X’s number six.

Mom’s going to be pissed.

Correction: was pissed. I hadn’t heard a word from her since I’d gotten called down to the dean’s office: no phone call, no e-mail, no personal messenger with papers putting me up for adoption. Just a car sent to shuttle me to the airport and this flight to New York where she was probably waiting to escort me to the next polo-shirt-wearing / rowing-type school where I would finish my junior year. I didn’t think there were any left I hadn’t been kicked out of—on either coast.

The sudden jarring of the wheels as the plane landed churned up the worry in my empty stomach. Closing my eyes, I tried to think calming thoughts, but all I saw was Mom, her perfect brows arched like sickles, ready to cut down any excuse I had to offer.

I turned on my phone and winced. There was an unread message from her. I decided not to look at it yet. It was only going to be more bad news.

Not wanting to fight the crowds or my mother, I waited until the aisle was empty to grab my carry-on and laptop case, then stumbled off the plane, barely acknowledging the forced brightness of the flight attendants’ good-byes.

I lingered in the airport bathroom, staring at my pathetic reflection in the mirror over the row of sinks: mussed pink braids; wrinkled oxford shirt; the cringe-worthy school-issued brown, beige, and taupe pleated skirt and burgundy tie that wasn’t flattering on anyone. My sudden departure left me no time to change into normal clothes. For a second I was tempted to nip into a stall and ditch the uniform and put on my beloved combats and favorite tee, but I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to spare the time. Curiosity overcame me and I read Mom’s text—it was curt, and not open to interpretation.

Get off the plane. Find the limo. We have places to go.

A knot formed in my stomach. Where? I wondered. To what new sleepaway school hell?

I spotted the driver quickly, a large man in a gray suit holding a sign with my first initial and last name neatly printed in jumbo black Sharpie.

I waved. “B. Jackson, right here.”

He looked me up and down, his eyes lingering on my neon hair for half a second before sweeping up my bag with a big paw, but he left my laptop to me.

The stench of diesel fumes and rain hit me as the exit doors whooshed open. Of course it would be raining. We headed for the taxi stand, where a long line of dark cars and cabs idled. The driver stopped at a long black Mercedes with tinted windows and popped the trunk to load my luggage. This was it. I opened the rear passenger door and let myself in.

“Rebecca.”

My full name. And another layer of scary: the Quiet Voice.

“Hi, Mom!” I chirped and gave her a huge “I miss you” smile. She wasn’t fooled. Everything about her—makeup, silver-gray power suit, black pumps, slicked-back hair—and pursed mouth—told me this was going to be a tough negotiation.

“I’m very disappointed in you. I thought we had an agreement, and you were doing so well—until this hacking episode.” She frowned prettily, a talent I wished I could learn; when she did it, all anyone wanted to do was please her—even me.

The driver slid into his seat and tilted his head, his face reflected in the rearview mirror. “What airline, ma’am?”

“United,” said Mom and turned to me. “You have really bad timing, Rebecca. Your father is about to close on a property in the Hills and I have to travel. I tried to change my plans—” A ringing cell phone cut the admonishment short. She plucked it out of her bag, tapped a key. “Tam!”

Tamora Smith was Mom’s personal assistant, responsible for making her travel arrangements, fetching her coffee, and remembering birthdays—mine included. Tam was amazing and paid close attention to details. She really impressed me with the original, factory-sealed Cap’n Crunch Bo’sun whistle—a trinket highly prized by the hacking set and hard to find—that landed in my mailbox at the dorm. On my actual birthday. The card was a nice touch too, even if she’d forged my parents’ sigs; I’d done it enough, I knew.

I tugged at the neon yellow nylon cord around my neck and pulled out the whistle; I wore it everywhere. Mom caught me doing it and shook her head. What would she say if she knew Tam paid $250 for it? What would she do if she knew what it was for? Probably something worse than complain about my bad timing.

“You weren’t able to change the flight?” Mom went on, clearly annoyed. “That’ll mean getting into Belize at eight in the morning.”

Belize?

I fought to suppress the instant giddy feeling that came over me. I’d be going along with Mom for once, to stay in one of her sweet beachfront hotel rooms with twenty-four-hour room service and bronzed lifeguards.…

I gazed out the window. Rain pelted the glass as the car snaked slowly around the airport. The sun-drenched shores of Belize would be a nice change from Cali—and way better than this chilly East Coast drizzle.

Mom hung up and tilted her head at the window. “I don’t have a lot of time.” She dropped her phone back into the pit of her purse. “I convinced Dean Harding, when I talked to him last week, to allow you to complete your junior year off-campus in an independent study.”

Last week? Mom had been in cahoots with Dean Harding for days and I’d had no idea? Wow. She was better than I thought. I tried to look contrite, really, I did, but inside I was screaming, Belize, here I come!

“He’ll be sending the coursework requirements”—she peered at me over the top of thin, sleek glasses—“and all your assignments have to be printed out and mailed in—no technology. Not after what you did to his e-mail.”

“Seriously? Oh my God, Mom, that is—”

“—very generous of Dean Harding,” she interrupted, and narrowed her eyes at me. “Let’s forget about the hacking for five seconds. You’re a bright girl. Why are you giving your teachers a hard time? And getting a D in World Civilizations?”

I twisted in my seat. That wasn’t on the list of violations—okay, it’s why I had to adjust my grade, but I deserved at least a B+ for that last paper. It was a work of political genius.

“Mr. Benning doesn’t teach. In fact, he doesn’t have a clue about anything—especially current events. You’re just supposed to agree with him. Whatever happened to independent thinking?” I slumped back into the leather seat. “What does he want, a robot?”

Mom sighed, not impressed. “You’re not always going to like who you have to work with.”

Here we go …

She eyed me sharply. “Or for.”

I got it. It wasn’t the time to argue. “Okay.”

“That’s better,” she said, but tapped my knee with a French-tipped nail. “And don’t you dare miss a single assignment. There won’t be any second chances this time, understood?”

“I promise,” I said, figuring I’d gotten off easy. She could have confiscated all my devices or sent me to a tech-free “retreat” for wayward teens. One of my off-grid pals, R2Deterent, was sent to one of those when his parents caught him tapping into his neighbor’s wi-fi to cover his illicit activities. When he didn’t show up in our weekly chat room, DR#4, haxorgrrrl, and I—Cap’nCrunch—knew something was up. When we finally heard from him again—three months later—he told us what happened. He’d been caught, all of his technology was confiscated, and then he was carted off to somewhere in Lancaster, PA. He’d been lucky to find a power socket out there, let alone a cell phone signal.

The car rolled to a stop in front of the Alitalia departure area. Didn’t Mom say United? From her purse, she dragged out two tickets and handed one, along with my passport, to me. “You land in Rome at—”

WTF?

My heart sank. If Mom was going to Belize, who was going to Rome with me?

“Rome? I’m not going with you?”

She looked at me like I was insane. “No. What would you do in Belize?”

I shrugged. “Homework?”

She laughed. “I’m going to be in meetings for the next three weeks. Daddy may join me at some point, but with his schedule…” She put a hand to her temple, then stared at me with a very serious expression. “I don’t have time to keep an eye on you.”

“Come on, Mom! I don’t need watching.”

Up went that cutting eyebrow. “Really?”

“You know what I mean.”

“The decision’s been made. You aren’t in any position to bargain, Rebecca. My friend Parker from college owes me a favor and agreed to watch you until Daddy and I are back in the States.”

I ran down a mental list of Mom’s friends. “Parker?”

“Parker Phillips. She’s the editor in chief of Edge magazine. I really think you’ll like her. She’s a good role model. Successful, respected—”

Basically, everything I’m not. I shrank down in my seat, smarting inwardly at the unintentional barb, and looked away from her.

“I think you’re making out quite well, all things considered.” She fished her wallet out of her bag and pulled out a few bills and a credit card. “Do not go crazy with this,” she warned.

The driver opened the door, letting in the roar of the airport.

“You’ll be fine,” she said. Not a reassurance but an order. “Be good, and I’ll call you once I’ve landed.” She kissed me, giving me a little nudge out the door. “Love you!” Then her phone rang and she was back in full executive mode again. I should’ve known better than to get my hopes up. Numb, I slid out and retrieved my carry-on waiting for me on the curb. The driver shut the door behind me, got back in his seat, and sped away to the next terminal.

Ciao, Mama.

 

Copyright © 2014 by St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    Macy&star

    I went to tell u guys but then i saw a go to blondie ops res one blablabla. Ok so see u guys late july cuz this is the real macy. &#9786 i taught lizzy that. :)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    Bri

    Ok.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    Amanda

    I HAVE THE SAME DRESS AS THE GIRL ON DA COVER EXCEPT I LIKE IT REALLY TIGHT FOR MY CURVIES ^_^

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    Lizzy ☺ ☻

    Uhh ello, anyone on? (And sorry i havent been on)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 5 Customer Reviews

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