Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.



4.3 3
by Kathe Koja

What sets Vaughn apart is the quality of our girls. We do draw from all over, girls from every kind of background, girls for whom Vaughn is a major life experience. And not every girl is the right girl for Vaughn. You can often tell, early on, who these girls are.

The Vaughn School. Home of domed ceilings, gleaming checkerboard floors, and the Vaughn


What sets Vaughn apart is the quality of our girls. We do draw from all over, girls from every kind of background, girls for whom Vaughn is a major life experience. And not every girl is the right girl for Vaughn. You can often tell, early on, who these girls are.

The Vaughn School. Home of domed ceilings, gleaming checkerboard floors, and the Vaughn Virgins: the upper stratum of girls who have perfect grades, perfect lives, and perfect friends. Lily Noble is a lifer – she knows all the rules. Then sophomore year, Hazel Tobias arrives as a scholarship student, with her model’s looks and unconventional family, and shows Lily everything she’s been missing. Can you ever fit in someplace you don’t want to be? As Lily befriends Hazel, both girls discover what it means to dive deep beneath the surface – of friendship, of commitment – and to live life with all their hearts, with all they are, headlong.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The book takes place at an élite prep school, a haven for the children of the rich, but there the similarity to “Gossip Girl” ends; “Headlong” is a closely observed tale of a privileged girl beginning to perceive the constraints of her background, who channels her restlessness into a friendship with an emotionally elusive free spirit.” —The New Yorker's Book Bench Blog

v“Besides reliably recreating the dynamics of teen-girl friendship, Koja (Kissing the Bee) relays this story with her usual insight and, through her lightning-fast characterizations, an ability to project multiple perspectives simultaneously.” —Starred, Publishers Weekly

“This is an excellent character study . . . and an in-depth look at how real friendships demand a soul-searching dive beneath the nature of one’s own feelings while trying to understand the complexity of another’s.” —School Library Journal

“This lovely story portrays friendship—what it is and what it is not. Many teen girls will wish themselves into this book.” —VOYA

“Koja is one of the treasures of fiction, and of young adult fiction especially.” —Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother, on boingboing.net

“Boarding school stories may not be a rarity, but one that sounds the prep-school caste system with such probity certainly is.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“An engaging, haunting novel.” —Kliatt

“Anyone who has had to make a tough, possibly life-altering decision can relate to Lily’s character and the pressure she feels from the people around her.” —ALAN’s Online Picks

“Koja creates compelling, nuanced characters.”Kirkus Reviews

“Teen girls passing through a tentative dark and edgy phase will dive in and claim this book as their own.” —Booklist

Publishers Weekly

Class, identity and friendship are the intersecting subjects of this intelligent novel. Now that she's a sophomore and boarding on campus, daughter of privilege Lily Noble wonders if she's outgrown the Vaughan School-she feels restless with students, administration and even her boyfriend, who assume they know everything about her. With the entrance of scholarship student Hazel Tobias, raised by her much older photographer brother and his male partner, Lily finds both a new friend and a way to demonstrate her new subversiveness. Besides reliably recreating the dynamics of teen-girl friendship, Koja (Kissing the Bee) relays this story with her usual insight and, through her lightning-fast characterizations, an ability to project multiple perspectives simultaneously. The narrative jumps between the ongoing academic year and its end, a fractured chronology that shades each early encounter with extra significance. Brief reports or memos, mostly from various members of faculty and staff, remind readers that Lily is not always the best judge of her own behavior, and that it is up to the audience to fill in the openings that Koja shrewdly leaves. Ages 14-up. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Tina Dybvik
Lily Swain is a sophomore at a private school when she begins to question her path in life. Then a new girl, Hazel, arrives. She shows Lily a world that questions all the rules. Koja alternates the narrative between the present and the school year's end. This approach hints at the conclusion and keeps readers curious to learn what led to it. The author also shifts perspective. Most of the book is recounted in first person, but some chapters end with monologues or dialogues that reveal the thoughts and concerns of faculty and family. An overall theme is that sometimes life follows a circular path, which both Lily and Hazel realize as a result of their friendship. True to the young adult genre, this text includes the requisite sex and drug use. In this case, such activities function as a backdrop to growing pains and are not the focus of the story. This novel can be solidly recommended to young women who feel in need of change. Reviewer: Tina Dybvik
VOYA - C. J. Bott
If Lily Noble and Hazel Tobias had met in any place other than the elite Vaughn School, they probably would not have had time for each other. But Lily, who has been at VS for all her schooling and looking for something more genuine, and Hazel, the odd new student looking for some place to belong, find a common ground that binds them together and enables each to grow in new and surprising ways. Their friendship gives them a year off from their lives-a year to test themselves and their limitations. The story starts at the end of their sophomore year and then flashes back to the beginning to establish most of the characters and then moves back and forth in time throughout the book. Chapter titles provide clues to the time. Monologues are also interspersed between the chapters to provide insights from staff and parent figures. Hazel, her family, and her dog Elbow are the most interesting characters. Most others are fairly stereotypical. But this lovely story portrays friendship-what it is and what it is not. Many teen girls will wish themselves into this book. Reviewer: C. J. Bott
Patricia Ackerman
After attending an elite private school her entire life, suburban Lily Noble falls into an unexpected friendship during her sophomore year at Vaughn. Hazel Tobias, an eccentric scholarship student, was raised in the city by her artist brother and his gay partner. Despite repeated concerns of Lily's parents and school administrators, the two girls form an unexpected and dynamic bond of friendship. Mirrored by their differences, each girl is able to explore untapped possibilities in her own identity. Beautiful, freespirited Hazel learns what it means to belong. Lily breaks through the confines of performing as a model student to explore her untapped creative potential. Koja's realistic prose illuminates the struggles of adolescent identity. By contrasting conservative and liberal family expectations, this author skillfully navigates her characters through a process of self-discovery. The complexities of adolescent relationship and identity are illuminated through Lily and Hazel's emotional journeys. Reviewer: Patricia Ackerman
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
Deviating from the formula of outsider-girl-trying-to-break-into-popular-circle, Koja comes up with a plot that asks: what if one of the popular girls befriends, even becomes passionately involved with, an outsider girl? Fifteen-year-old Lily Noble comes from a long line of attendees at Vaughn, an exclusive private school, and she's one of the pretty, sporty, known girls around campus, always circulating in a gaggle (giggle) of other girls. Her attention is captured by a scholarship girl, one Hazel Tobias, who attends Vaughn against her will, indeed at the insistence of her gay older brother who has raised her. Lily becomes enraptured by Hazel's exotic world, leaving behind the friends she has known for years, going against the wishes of her white-bread parents, and even thinks about abandoning Vaughn for another school. Much of the suspense comes from whether Hazel will stay at Vaughn for another year. So close does Lily think the two of them are that if Hazel leaves, she plans to go with her. The chapters unfold in non-chronological order, demonstrating their growing friendship, and Hazel always remains a mystery, elusive, charismatic, and unorthodox. In the end, Lily is disillusioned. She finds out how painful it can be to try to leave a safe and comfortable world for friendship and to be rejected in the effort. Written in Koja's characteristically poetic style, this novel illustrates the passion one girl can have diving headlong into a risky friendship, while the other tends to make friends and then abandon them as her ideas change from day to day. An engaging, haunting novel. Reviewer: Myrna Marler
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Sophomore Lily Noble, a privileged, private school "lifer," feels that she no longer fits at Vaughn, her academic home since preschool. Her parents agree to let her board there to see if she can sort things out. In the process, she befriends Hazel Tobias, a transfer scholarship student who challenges her to look at the school, her family, and her friends through new lenses. Lily is intrigued both by Hazel's attitudes and by her very different life circumstances-she was orphaned at age three, raised by her then-teenaged gay brother, and has jumped from school to school. Lily virtually disowns the life she has always known and goes in search of herself, entering Hazel's world. Koja's well-paced novel invites readers into the world of elite boarding schools. Narrated by Lily, the story is juxtaposed with personal reflections about the vagaries of the Vaughn experience as seen through the eyes of some of the secondary characters. Six of the chapters are told in flashback, referring to the months prior to the June Convocation, while the final episode propels the story into the following academic year. Thus, it is possible to see in retrospect the changes in the girls' relationships and the decisions that they both ultimately make. This is an excellent character study of both Lily and Hazel and an in-depth look at how real friendships demand a soul-searching dive beneath the nature of one's own feelings while trying to understand the complexity of another's.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.44(h) x 0.77(d)
920L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


A black circle-in-a-circle-in-a-circle, a bull’s-eye, a target: I trimmed it from the symbol sheet, painted on glue, stuck it to the underside of the vestal’s upraised wrist, one of the few blank spaces left on her. Decoupage, a French word, or from French anyway: découper, to cut. My vestal was kind of plain, compared to other people’s, all bald and smooth and monochromatic, neat black symbols glued on white plastic skin. Hazel’s was just a head, a Styrofoam wig form mounted on a toy plastic police car. Mrs. Parais gave her a zero for materials, but extra credit for presentation and creativity.

"That’ll dump your final grade," Audrey said, satisfied. Audrey had done hers with ribbons and magazine cutouts, totally pretty and forgettable, like some mannequin in a mall.

Hazel looked at her, then at me, and shrugged. "I’m not worried."

I was running late with my vestal. She was due on Thursday, our next-to-last full day in the next-to-last week in the year. After that was Convocation, and then we were done. It was June, the public school kids were already out for the summer, clumped up at Starbucks, laughing and shoving. The girls looked younger than we did, somehow, or freer. Like the girls in Hazel’s neighborhood, with their Jessicka jeans, tons of lipstick like kids playing dress-up. As if they were less—serious than we were. Less something.

The bell sounded for third period, but I didn’t leave. The room was quiet around me, the long clean worktables, papier-mâché vases and flowers, some lower-school project waiting to be picked up. A twist of paper stuck to my infinity bracelet, my hands smelled like glue. The symbol sheet had so many cutouts it was turning into lace. At the bottom was a row of little wheels, or flowers, captioned growth, rebirth, confusion, renewal. I cut out one, a seven-armed wheel, blunt black with an empty white center, and stuck it carefully over my vestal’s right eye.

Fourth period, I had already passed my swimming final, so I was free. The walkway to Peacock was empty at this time of day, you weren’t supposed to go back to your room during class hours. "Hazel? " I said. She was stretched out full-length, all five-eleven of her, hair pulled back, eyes closed. The sunlight shone through the green ash trees, a spangled kind of light, as if we were underwater. It was cozy there, the bricks held in the heat.

"Hazel? "


"Are you asleep? "


"Are you—"

She half opened one eye. "What? "


"What. "

"Are you—" Are you Bone, or Lady Vaughn? Are you my best friend? "Are you going to dinner with Edward, or what?"

She yawned, wide and pink, like a cat. "No. I don’t know. . . . I’m going to sleep. I was asleep," play-shoving my leg, closing her eyes again. The ash leaves flickered. Her head against my thigh was heavy and warm.

Excerpted from Headlong by Kathe Koja.

Copyright © 2008 by Kathe Koja

Published in 2008 by publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

KATHE KOJA is the author of several notable books for young adults that have been acclaimed for their psychological intensity, including The Blue Mirror and Buddha Boy, both ALA Best Books for Young Adults, and, most recently, Kissing the Bee. She lives near Detroit, Michigan.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Headlong 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
robin_titan More than 1 year ago
Aww, this book was very ...nice/different/special/touching/sweet. I have never read a book in this kind of writing style, I loved it! I miss it :(
This is a wonderful story about friendship that will stay in your mind for a long time, long after you've read it.
I loved the way the author, Koja, wrote this book. She did it in such a creative way, that it made the whole book even better, I have never read another book written in this way which makes this book stand out.
This book is incredibly realistic and pretty easy to relate to. I enjoyed it so much I can't stop thinking about how amazing I think it is. I HIGHLY recommend this one.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Lily Noble has been attending the Vaughn School since pre-K as a day student. She has been discontent with her life there. To try to appease her, Lily's parents decide to let Lily be a boarder at school sophomore year. Thinking the change will help Lily's restlessness, Lily moves into the dorm. She is stuck with a roommate that has severe allergies and is overwhelmed with the pressures of life at Vaughn.

Lily notices the new girl, Hazel Tobias, in her Lit class. Hazel speaks out to the teacher in an argumentative tone, something Lily would never think to do. One evening while Lily is hanging out with her friends, Hazel approaches her, looking for a cigarette. When Lily encounters Hazel alone late at night in the dorm common room, the two start a hesitant conversation.

From that one conversation, the two form a friendship that the rest of Lily's friends can't comprehend.

Lily has gone through the motions of life at Vaughn. Even before Hazel's arrival, Lily was dissatisfied with her current situation. Her mom went to Vaughn and her dad never said much about her schooling. But once she gets to know Hazel, as much as Hazel will let her in, Lily starts to define herself. She questions her relationship with her boyfriend. She confronts her so-called friends. She changes her accessories.

Hazel doesn't want to be there, but on the surface, she seems to embrace the world that is Vaughn. But when Lily goes home with Hazel on Christmas break, she gains more insight into who Hazel really is.

The book unfolds during the course of the girls' sophomore year. Jumping back and forth from the end of the term to the current month, the reader gets a glimpse of the struggles going on in Lily's head. The reader has to wonder if the changes Lily goes through happened because of Hazel or simply coincided with her arrival.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago