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Messy [NOOK Book]

Overview

Sometimes life gets Messy.
When sixteen-year-old Brooke Berlin catches a taste of fame and her movie-star father's attention, she decides it's time to take her career to the next level--by launching a blog that will position her as a Hollywood "It Girl" who tells it like it is. But between schoolwork, shopping, and spray-tan appointments, she hardly has the time to write it herself...
Enter green-haired outsider Max McCormack, an aspiring ...
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Messy

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Overview

Sometimes life gets Messy.
When sixteen-year-old Brooke Berlin catches a taste of fame and her movie-star father's attention, she decides it's time to take her career to the next level--by launching a blog that will position her as a Hollywood "It Girl" who tells it like it is. But between schoolwork, shopping, and spray-tan appointments, she hardly has the time to write it herself...
Enter green-haired outsider Max McCormack, an aspiring author with a terrible after-school job pushing faux meat on the macrobiotic masses. Max loathes the celebrity scene almost as much as she dislikes Brooke, but wooed by an impressive salary, Max reluctantly agrees to play Brooke's ghost-blogger -- and the site takes off. How long will their lie last? Can the girls work together to stay on top, or will the truth come out and ruin everything they've built?
Along with an entourage of fame-hungry starlets, scruffy rocker wannabes, and sushi-scarfing socialites, the case of Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan's dazzling debut, Spoiled, are back for another adventure in Tinseltown.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Brooke Berlin had two problems. Her first was that she was too consumed by her hectic Hollywood lifestyle to write a blog that bring her fame. That got solved when she hired talented aspiring author Max McCormack to wow the online crowd. That she did; perhaps too well: Brooke is now saddled with the hard job of keeping pace with her own ascending reputation. A stylish standalone sequel to Spoiled.

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—In this hilarious companion to Spoiled (Little, Brown, 2011), snarky Max McCormack rejoices when her best friend and confidante, Molly Berlin, returns to LA to live with her famous movie-star dad and her half sister, Brooke, celebutante around town. Max is working on her application for NYU's summer writing program, and she has some pretty serious writer's block. And unlike Molly, who has an overflowing bank account, she worries that she won't have the tuition, even though she has a job at Fu'd, the new hip spot that serves fake meat. Luckily, Molly sees an awesome ad on craigslist: an It Girl is looking for a stand-in, official blogographer. Max can't abide It Girls, but she really needs the money. Much to her surprise (and dismay), said girl turns out to be the half sister and, according to Max, a half-wit. Swayed by Brooke's persuasive attitude and salary offer, Max signs on. But the blog takes off and Brooke starts getting accolades for it. And she also cozies up to Max's crush....Will Max call off her Cyrano act for good? This story of hidden identities and love triangles is a fun and fast read. The authors do a great job of incorporating the backstory for those new to Max and Molly's world. Readers will love Max's voice and perspective, and they might even come to love Brooke. All of the characters have well-developed personalities, and teens will want to be along for any future adventures.—Traci Glass, Eugene Public Library, OR
Booklist
"This engaging, entertaining follow-up companion to Spoiled (2011) features plenty of snark, style, and Hollywood-centric satire, but also sympathy for the girls as they navigate familiar issues like wanting parental approval and pursuing their dreams."
SLJ
"This story of hidden identities and love triangles is a fun and fast read... All of the characters have well-developed personalities, and teens will want to be along for any future adventures."
Megan McCafferty
"Spoiled is soapy, funny and full of the Fug Girls' trademark Hollywood snark. I want to read the sequel NOW."
Mindy Kaling
"I love the way Heather and Jessica write. They're so funny, and so fashion-y, which is incredibly rare."
From the Publisher
"I love the way Heather and Jessica write. They're so funny, and so fashion-y, which is incredibly rare."—Mindy Kaling, Emmy-nominated writer, actress, and New York Times bestselling author of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

"Spoiled is soapy, funny and full of the Fug Girls' trademark Hollywood snark. I want to read the sequel NOW."—Megan McCafferty, New York Times bestselling author of Bumped and the Jessica Darling series

"The companion novel to Spoiled is a treat. On one level, there are enough witty observations and laugh-out-loud lines to make this about as much fun as you can have reading a book. But, at its heart, this is an engaging, well-plotted story about two girls who are not as different as they seem..."—VOYA

"Satirizing Hollywood is a time-honored literary pastime, but timely satirical touches keep things fresh...For most of the lowlife celebrities skewered, fame will be justly fleeting, but this novel should have a longer shelf life, thanks to a cast of complex characters who offer ample evidence that, F. Scott Fitzgerald notwithstanding, the rich and famous are like you and me."—Kirkus

"This engaging, entertaining follow-up companion to Spoiled (2011) features plenty of snark, style, and Hollywood-centric satire, but also sympathy for the girls as they navigate familiar issues like wanting parental approval and pursuing their dreams."—Booklist

"This story of hidden identities and love triangles is a fun and fast read... All of the characters have well-developed personalities, and teens will want to be along for any future adventures."—SLJ

VOYA - Jane Harper
Max McCormack is an outsider. She has a snarky sense of humor and a talent for wicked one-liners that serve her well as she lurks on the sidelines of her elite L.A. prep school, observing her celebrity classmates. An aspiring writer, she has her heart set on attending a summer program at NYU, but does not have the money. This is where alpha-girl, Brooke Berlin, comes in. She is Max's opposite—the ultimate insider and the daughter of a movie star. Like Max, Brooke wants something that is just out of her reach: attention from her famous father and a serious acting career. Brooke decides that a blog is just the thing to launch her career. Unfortunately, she lacks the time and talent to write it herself, so she hires Max to be her ghost writer. With the money she makes writing for Brooke, Max can go to NYU, and the new blog helps Brooke snag the coveted leading role in the new Nancy Drew movie. Everything is perfect...until it is not, and things get very messy. This companion novel to Spoiled (Poppy/Little, Brown, 2011/Voya August 2011) is a treat. On one level, there are enough witty observations and laugh-out-loud lines to make this about as much fun as you can have reading a book. But at its heart, this is an engaging, well-plotted story about two girls who are not as different as they seem, each one struggling in her own way with self-image, unrequited love, loyalty to friends, and dreams for a better future. Reviewer: Jane Harper
Kirkus Reviews
Sisters Brooke (budding Tinseltown diva) and Molly (level-headed Midwesterner) return, along with Brick Berlin, their self-absorbed, dimly sweet megastar dad, in a companion piece to Spoiled (2011), gleefully sending up celebrity blogs and social networking. Molly's friend, budding writer Max McCormack, lives "in a Fendi world on a Forever 21 budget." Brainiac Max and savvy über-shopper Brooke share little beyond dim views of fashion crimes and cultural misdemeanors. Nevertheless, cash-strapped Max--her mother is the headmistress of a tony private school catering to celebrity spawn; her dad's unemployed--can't resist a high-paying job secretly ghostwriting Brooke's new blog (part career strategy, part bid for parental attention). As blog success brings Brooke a starring role in a drastically re-envisioned Nancy Drew movie, Max increasingly resents her own invisibility--and especially Brooke's rapport with her co-star and major blog fan. Satirizing Hollywood is a time-honored literary pastime, but timely satirical touches keep things fresh, from Brick's latest film, Avalanche! (shot in Florida), to the vegetarian restaurant (Fu'd) where Max reluctantly serves toham and notwurst. For most of the lowlife celebrities skewered, fame will be justly fleeting, but this novel should have a longer shelf life, thanks to a cast of complex characters who offer ample evidence that, F. Scott Fitzgerald notwithstanding, the rich and famous are like you and me. (Fiction. 15 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316201810
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 6/5/2012
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 150,563
  • Age range: 15 - 18 Years
  • File size: 634 KB

Meet the Author

Heather Cocks
Heather Cocks is a die-hard sports fan, a Leo, an ex-reporter, a Notre Dame grad, a dual citizen of the U.S. and U.K., a sandwich enthusiast, and a former producer for America's Next Top Model. Jessica Morgan is a Southern California native and UCLA alumna who has produced reality shows ranging from Growing Up Gotti to the docu-series 30 Days. She collects shoes, books, and unpaid parking tickets. Both ladies live in Los Angeles, California and watch almost everything on the CW.

Together, Heather and Jessica skewer celebrity fashion crimes on their popular blog, Go Fug Yourself, which draws millions of monthly readers and made Entertainment Weekly's Must List. Their dispatches from the front rows are routinely the most-read pieces on New York magazine's Web site during Fashion Week. Messy is the sequel to Spoiled, and this is their second novel for young adults.
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Read an Excerpt

Messy


By Cocks, Heather

Poppy

Copyright © 2012 Cocks, Heather
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316098298

one

“YOU WERE SO GOOD in that movie. Talking dogs are my favorite.”

Max McCormack felt a snicker bubbling up, like a secret, and willed it to die. Famous people—or in this case, a famous person’s groupie wearing a top so small it would embarrass a bikini—were so reliably, deliciously dim.

“What was your line again?” the blonde asked, scooting so close to the guy that she was practically in his lap.

“Bow-wow-wowza,” he boomed.

Molly Dix’s foot found Max’s underneath the table and began applying pressure, trying to shatter her focus. Max barely blinked. Molly, you amateur. They’d been friends for six months now; she should know Max’s boots would be steel-toed.

Max refocused her eyes on an empty space across the L.A. eatery’s sprawling patio and took a steadying breath. The rules of the game were simple: First to break paid the breakfast check. Max never broke—which was convenient, since she was broke—and she certainly wasn’t going to start now. She assumed an expression of supremely blithe indifference and saw Molly’s shoulders start to shake. Victory is mine, she thought triumphantly.

“Hahahaha! That’s, like, the best catchphrase!” gushed the girl. “It’s better than, like… what’s that one part from that thing with the guy?”

“ ‘You talkin’ to me?’ ” the guy crowed in a terrible Robert De Niro impression.

“Right!” the girl trilled. “You’re totally the Al Pacino of dogs!”

Molly’s laugh caught in her throat, but she managed to turn it into an outrageous coughing fit. The lovebirds in question shot them both a dirty look, then moved a whopping one table away, as if to say, Stop watching. Except, please don’t.

Max sat back in her chair and grinned at Molly. “Still undefeated,” she said in a low voice. “Too bad for you that you’re the only person I know who gets up early enough to eat with me.”

Molly shook her head, amazed, and propped a Nike-clad foot on the chair to her left. “That one was impossible. I don’t know how you didn’t lose it.”

“Years of practice,” Max said. “Have you noticed the people at our school?”

That Max wholeheartedly approved of gawking at the rich and famous would have surprised her classmates at posh Colby-Randall Preparatory School, the majority of whom were children of celebrities, celebrities’ agents, or celebrities’ agents’ cousins (or, at the very least, deludinoids who thought they were one miniskirt at the supermarket away from being discovered). Most of them knew Max only as the snarky green-haired girl who lived in their peripheral vision. But to Max, people-watching was the city’s best free entertainment, and giving L.A.’s celebrities what they clearly wanted—attention—was a deliciously perverse way of paying it forward: Be careful what you wish for, fools.

Curling herself into a little ball on the chair—at five-two, this wasn’t hard—Max mused to Molly, “I figured that living with a guy as famous as Brick Berlin would give you an ironclad poker face.”

“Yeah, but my dad doesn’t usually woo people at the breakfast table. Thank God,” Molly said, pulling her hair into a ponytail. “But I’m still totally awkward whenever somebody famous comes for dinner. You saw me after Robert Downey Jr. brought over that Iron Man Bundt cake. I went catatonic.”

Complicating Max’s pro-gawking worldview was the fact that Molly, Max’s best friend since the fall, was the until-recently secret daughter of the world’s biggest movie star (both professionally and physically: Brick’s biceps were like pythons). But Molly was different. She hadn’t even known about Brick until last summer, right before she moved to California from Indiana; even then, she never courted notoriety, and so—other than a few accidental incidents after she’d arrived—for the most part, it didn’t court her. Whereas people like the Pacino of Pooches over there went begging. It was a clear distinction.

“We might have to make this harder—like, force you to keep a straight face while standing on your head or something,” Molly said, watching the couple take photos of themselves sipping from the same latte. “What is this, fifteen straight wins?”

“Sixteen,” Max corrected her. “If this were an Olympic sport, I’d be on a Wheaties box.”

“Yes! You’d be the Michael Phelps of eavesdropping.”

“The endorsement deals would definitely solve some of my problems.” Max sighed.

Sometimes Max thought Molly had invented this game as a way of springing for breakfast without getting Max up in arms about accepting charity. Max appreciated the gesture too much to fight it. Plus, Molly’s Brick Berlin–funded black Amex was easily up to the task of weekly eleven-dollar coffee-and-pastry jaunts, whereas Max’s bank account contained a whopping $86 and change. L.A. was not the best city to live in with parents who believed in self-sufficiency and the value of menial labor.

But what Max never told Molly was that their game mostly functioned for her as a small daily affirmation. It was exhausting, and a tad demoralizing, living in a place where every third person thought he or she was the next big talent, and thus ignored you if you didn’t look like you could buy a screenplay, buy their screenplay, and/or make them a star. (Nobody ever confused Max McCormack, with her neon bob and wardrobe occasionally held together by safety pins, for a Somebody.) So these eavesdropping sessions were a pleasant reminder that no matter how bored or poor Max was—or how much she dreaded going to school and hearing her classmates weep that life without the latest Louis Vuitton simply wasn’t worth living—things could always be worse: She could be that girl, writhing on some guy’s lap just because he had three platinum records. Seeing the stereotype in action was so unappealing that Max felt like the universe was validating her efforts to remain as disengaged from her schoolmates and surroundings as possible.

The prospect of an entire summer away from the ridiculousness of Los Angeles was the only thing keeping Max sane. NYU, NYU, NYU, she repeated to herself, like a mantra.

“You’re going to shred that thing before you even fill it out,” Molly said, interrupting her train of thought. Max looked down at the notebook propped up on her lap. The corner of a loose page was poking out, and she’d been absentmindedly fiddling with it so intently that it had practically disintegrated.

If I ever fill it out,” Max said, sighing. “My writing sample is currently a three-word essay that says, ‘NYU Writing Sample.’ ”

“Give it time,” Molly said, looking sympathetic. “Writer’s block can’t last forever, right?”

“I guess we’ll find out.” Max fished around in her bag for a pen, then wrote

McCORMACK, MAXINE E.

“There. If this were the SATs I’d be halfway to a passing grade.”

Molly chuckled and checked her watch. “We need to jet,” she said. “You’re going to be late, and I have a meet in half an hour in Santa Monica.”

“Ugh. I would seriously rather run twenty miles with your cross-country team than deal with Dennis today,” Max said, quickly shoving her notebook into her bag. “I think he invented something new last night. The kitchen smelled like evil.”

Max sometimes wished she could borrow Molly’s old life in Indiana, where everyone had part-time jobs at nice, normal places like Barnes & Noble or Baskin-Robbins. Instead, she was working for a man whose vocation, as he loftily called it, was making artisanal meat substitutes, which he believed would save the world’s animal population and win him a Nobel Prize (Max caught him practicing an acceptance speech in the employee lounge—aka the utility closet he’d outfitted with a futon and a sink). When his restaurant, Fu’d, first opened a few months ago, Dennis’s “tofu arts” were confined to basic tofurkey and veggie patties, but after some success with something he called Fauxrk Chops, he’d morphed into a mad fake-meat scientist. The smell associated with his calling was less intoxicating than simply toxic; Max was pretty sure it was only a matter of time before Dennis’s fifteen minutes of fame ran out and the FDA quarantined the place.

“Good luck,” Molly said. “I’ll be thinking of you when Coach Petit is screaming at me to feel the burn.”

Max gave Molly a half-salute farewell and jaywalked across the street, bursting through the front door just as her boss was slinking out of the back to give his speech about the day’s specials.

“Thank you for joining us,” Dennis sneered, rolling up his stained white sleeves over an arm tattoo that read FERGALICIOUS in cursive. His three-inch-tall bleached Mohawk looked limp and sticky. “So the soup today is Hearty of Lentil with Faux-cetta, and we have a new sandwich that I want you to push-push-push. It’s a croque-monsieur.” He paused for what he thought was dramatic effect, but which actually was just irritating. “And it’s made with real toe ham.”

All of Dennis’s nonmeats had asinine mashed-up names. But even though Max’s head knew he’d said toham, her ears (and churning stomach) heard only toe ham, and the stuff Dennis was waving around certainly smelled like his feet had something to do with its origins.

Dennis narrowed his beady brown eyes. “I take it from your face that you have thoughts, Max?” he said.

You need the money. NYU. NYU. NYU.

“Um, no. No thoughts. Just daydreams, sir,” she finally said. “I was, uh, imagining whether the toham croque would be more divine with veganeddar or notzarella.”

Dennis snorted. “Cute. Watch the attitude,” he said, flipping the slice of toham at her. It landed with a smack against her bare forearm. “It scares the customers. Now get this place ready to go—we open in five.”

The meat slithered off Max and onto the floor with a squish, like reptilian bologna. Max’s skin crawled so fast she thought it might escape.

“Right, like you’re the scary one,” whispered her coworker Pete as they watched Dennis storm back out behind the café’s counter.

“Don’t speak too soon,” Max said, swiping the toham off the floor and dangling it in front of Pete’s nose. “I’m holding weaponized lunch meat, and now I know how to use it.”

Pete fiddled nervously with the ring on his pointer finger. “At least you don’t have to make the sandwiches.” He made a mournful sound. “This is not what I moved to L.A. for. I am totally wasting my face back here.”

He disappeared into the kitchen with a sigh. Max took her post behind the sandwich counter, rested her chin on her fist, and gazed at the café’s black-and-white checkered floor, the charming wicker chairs parked at gleaming glass tables, and the painted script above the door that read ALL FU’D IS GOOD FOOD. This isn’t what Hell had looked like in her imagination. In fact, when she’d read on Eater LA that a new meatless restaurant was opening up on trendy Third Street, it had sounded like an excellent place to make a few bucks. Max had been a vegetarian most of her life, and apart from being one of the only places hiring, Fu’d was conveniently just far enough south of Colby-Randall to feel removed from its social orbit. But within three weeks of being hired, two things happened to dampen her outlook: Dennis made her eat “twicken”—a tofu-wheat chicken substitute that tasted even worse than it sounded—and two actresses from the new 90210 got photographed snacking on the bacon-flavored yam jerky (which, admittedly, was delicious; Dennis was way better with vegetables). Within days, Fu’d was on the map, full of both celebs who wanted to look socially conscious and their pseudostalkers with very nosy cell-phone cameras. But the café’s newfound notoriety also piqued the interest of Max’s trend-obsessed classmates, most of whom regarded her with a blend of confusion and horror—to them, “having a job” was slang for getting their noses done.

“Yo!”

Great. Here they come now.

Chaz Kelly and four of his burly Colby-Randall football teammates loped up to the counter, the chains clipped to their low-riding jeans rattling like spooked snakes.

“What up, Kermit! Got any steak up in here?” Chaz boomed.

Max placed her palms flat on the mint-green Formica, as if summoning whatever Zen it might possess. “Brilliant, Chaz,” she said, tipping up her head so that she could see his face, which was a good six feet, five inches off the ground, as round as a soccer ball and about as empty. “Your wit is matched only by your literacy.”

Chaz frowned. “You’re so queer, Kermit,” he said, flicking her hair. “Gimme a Coke. And don’t get any of your head mold in it.”

Chaz’s football buddies all started chortling and punching his extensive biceps, onto which were tattooed smaller replicas of those exact biceps. Max gritted her teeth and turned to face the guy who stepped ahead of them in line. Her amber-flecked eyes met a warm pair of deep blue ones. Max’s breath caught in her throat a little bit, just like it did every day, just like it had when she was in eighth grade and Jake Donovan had glanced at her while giving a book report on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. She’d been so hypnotized by his beauty that she barely heard him saying how bummed he was to learn the title didn’t refer to a bunch of underwater sports teams.

“Sorry about Chaz,” Jake said. “He’s my best offensive lineman, but he’s kind of…”

“Offensive?” Max finished for him. “No kidding. It’s a miracle that he’s mentally capable of recognizing the color green.”

Jake seemed apologetic. “His helmet breaks a lot,” he said. “Don’t worry. We’re not going to be here very long. Chaz is obsessed with Selena Gomez, and he read that she eats here sometimes, so he’s scoping it out.”

“How romantic,” Max said, peering around at Chaz trying to use his car key to slice a hole in the knee of his two-hundred-dollar True Religions. “What should I get for them? We only serve locally sourced organic teas and tisanes.”

“What’s a tisane?” Jake asked.

“I have no idea,” Max confessed.

“I’ll just tell Chaz it’s organic Gatorade,” he said, slapping some bills onto the counter. “Keep the change.”

As Jake headed off to join his teammates, Max allowed herself a tiny smile. Despite the fact that she’d been crushing on him for years, Jake hadn’t even learned her name until after she’d given him a pep talk before last fall’s school production of My Fair Lady. Now, if they weren’t quite friends, they were definitely friends-adjacent. Which made Max feel slightly less pathetic. There was nothing more obvious than the spunky, unpopular girl having the hots for the quarterback. But secretly liking one of your friends (adjacent)? Way less like the plot of an old Freddie Prinze Jr. movie.

Max rang Jake’s purchase through the register and put his change in the tip jar. She let her hand linger a second, wishing she could stuff the generous twelve-dollar surplus in her pocket. Despite working nearly every day after school and every Saturday for the last four months, she was still well short of what she needed for NYU. But everyone at Fu’d split tips—well, unless you were Dennis. Last week, when that bony girl from Frigid Valley had come in, Max sold her a plate of carrots and then watched as the girl did nothing but stare at it for ten minutes before slapping a Benjamin on the table and announcing that she was stuffed. Dennis had swiped the bill without a word. Two hours later, Max was at the In-N-Out drive-thru sinking her teeth into her first cheeseburger in six years. It was delicious. It tasted like spite.

“Kermit!” Chaz yelled. “What’s taking so long? It’s just a Coke, dude.”

Dennis burst out of the kitchen and poked Max hard in the back.

“What did you do?” he demanded. “Never mind—I don’t want to hear it. Just go clean out the grease traps in the tofunnator. Now.”

Chaz made the “Oooooh” sound universal to high school boys who liked getting people in trouble. Max wanted to protest, but fighting with Dennis was always a losing battle. With a deep breath, she shoved her way into the kitchen. The smell of body odor, stale tofu, and lemon Pine-Sol hit her in the face so hard she broke into a coughing fit.

NYU. NYU. NYU.

It wasn’t working.

two

The warm gun lay next to her body. Blood streaked toward the front door, which was locked from the inside. As Ileana struggled to sit up, she realized two things: She hadn’t shot the gun, and she wasn’t bleeding. And she was in a story I don’t know how to finish. So, three things.

Max smacked the delete key and leaned back in her chair, picking at the stud in her upper ear.

“Ooooh, I like this one. It’s for a ‘bookeeper’ with great communication skills,” said Molly with a snicker from across the room. (After the day’s disastrous shift, Max had called her over for an emergency job-hunting session.) “What this woman actually needs is a proofreader, although I love the idea of you running around locking up all her old boyfriends.”

Max grunted.

Mack Duncan stared at the spleen on the floor. It looked like a giant slug and smelled like it had been cooking in the heavy South Florida heat for about a week and oh my God this was on CSI: Miami last week and it ended with him saying “a murder most ob-spleen” aaaaaaaaaaargh

The application wasn’t due until May—the program’s founder was a Colby-Randall alum who mandated that a spot be held each year for a student of his alma mater’s choosing—but Max had been trying for weeks now to churn out a good writing sample. Applicants for New York University’s creative writing apprenticeship program will submit an original work or essay of no fewer than three thousand words, demonstrating the ability to develop compelling characters, plot, and tone, the instructions read. So far, Max had started, and erased, about thirteen stories whose characters, plot, and tone made her want to puke all over her keyboard. It was so much easier writing stuff for school or scribbling bits and pieces in her spiral-bound notebooks, piles of which were shoved under her bed for posterity (or to give everyone something really amusing to do at her funeral, when she was too dead to be mortified). But this was the first thing she’d ever written that actually counted for something, beyond a letter grade scrawled on the corner of the page next to another one of Ms. Perkins’s stains of dubious origin. The last one smelled like Thai curry.

“I don’t suppose you’re secretly a registered nurse,” Molly said. “You could make fifty bucks an hour at Botox parties if you’re willing to stab people’s faces with needles.”

The keg rolled into Digger Bond’s leg, nudging him awake and forcing him to confront the fact that [insert event here] had not gone as planned. His first clue: [something hilarious]. His second clue: He sucks and I’m going to be a waitress forever.

Delete delete delete…

“Or you could get paid a hundred bucks an hour to shoot video of your feet stepping on milk cartons.”

Max jerked up her head. “What?”

Her friend grinned. “Finally. My next step was selling your eggs just to get your attention.”

“Sorry,” Max said. “I’m kind of distracted. I think getting assaulted by fake meat sucked out my writing mojo.”

“All the more reason to stop banging on that thing and get over here and look at craigslist with me,” Molly said good-naturedly. “I’m not sure I can do this by myself anymore. I had no idea how many people wanted to invest in other people’s ovaries.”

“Oh, you haven’t even gotten to the good ones,” Max said, pushing herself away from the old iMac on her desk and plopping down on her bed’s torn quilt next to Molly and her laptop. “Last month I almost applied to be some old lady’s ‘bird manicurist’ just because I wanted to see the inside of her house. You know that place was full of those creepy collectible babies you can buy off the back of Soap Opera Digest.”

“So you’re saying I should return the one I got you for your birthday?”

Max laughed. When Molly had moved to Los Angeles from the tiny Indiana town of West Cairo, she and Max had clicked into the kind of rapport Max rarely had with people. Maybe it was because Molly hadn’t known Max was the headmistress’s daughter the first time they’d talked, or maybe Molly was too nice to care about being socially associated with the offspring of an authority figure (unlike everyone else at any school Max had ever attended). Either way, Max appreciated feeling like she had an ally against all those Colby-Randall Stepford teens. And when Molly—after a brief stress-induced detour back to the Midwest—decided to return to L.A. for good to make it work with her crazy family, she’d made Max promise to keep her sane and calm now that she lived in a house with stone lions in the driveway and its own climbing wall. Perfect social symbiosis.

“Okay, seriously, though, how about being an English tutor?” Molly now said. “You’re into writing. That might be fun.”

“Nah, it says here you have to send in a completed script, no rights reserved,” Max said. “Sounds fishy. And it’s five bucks an hour. I make more than that scrubbing Dennis’s grease traps.” She frowned at the screen. “Which, thank God, is not a euphemism, unlike the listing here that says it wants a girl who can work a feather duster.”

“Gross!” Molly squirmed. Then she rummaged for her phone. “What time is it?”

Max pointed to the computer’s clock. “Six forty-three. Why, are you and Teddy heading out?”

Molly tried to tuck her russet bangs behind her ear, but they weren’t grown out enough yet, so they just flopped back into her face. “He’s taking me for Indian food after practice. It was my mom’s favorite. It would’ve been her birthday today. Or… I mean, technically I guess it’s still her birthday.”

Molly’s mother had died the previous summer, after blurting out Molly’s parentage secret on her deathbed. Even after years of watching Lust for Life—whose stories ranged from dramatic confessions to face transplants to, according to Internet spoilers, the love story between an AWOL Air Force nurse and the handsome circus ringmaster she recently recapitated—Max never imagined she’d know someone to whom anything that soapy actually happened.

Max smacked her forehead. “Oh, my God. I am a jackhole,” she announced. “You mentioned that last week and I totally forgot. I’m sorry, Molly.”

But Molly smiled.

“It’s okay,” she said. “Actually, I’m kind of glad you forgot. I’m sick of being Dead Mom Girl. The other day Brooke asked if it would be cathartic to watch Beaches.”

Max snorted. “Yes, Brooke Berlin is so sensitive to people’s pain,” she said. Molly’s half sister, whom Max had disliked since the eighth grade (the duration of which Brooke spent calling her “little boy”), was something of a tornado of self-involvement. When Molly arrived in Southern California, the sisters had gotten off to what could be described charitably as a rocky start. “It must have really soothed your wounds when she tried to make the whole country think you were some scabby alcoholic hussy.”

“Well, that was by accident,” Molly defended Brooke. At Max’s expression, she amended, “Okay, some of it was an accident. But in a weird way, all of that drama with leaking stuff to Hey! turned out to be the best thing that could’ve happened. I think I kind of needed a nuclear moment to realize how much I wanted to fight to make things work here.”

“Brooke Berlin is a nuclear moment, that is true.”

“All right, all right, no more Brooke bashing,” Molly said. “We’ve been getting along pretty well since I decided to stay in L.A. The mink slippers she got me for Christmas are really comfortable.”

“She also got you a wig.”

Molly giggled. “She thought I might want to wear it while I grew out these bangs.”

“I guess that is kind of funny,” Max said grudgingly.

“See? Even you have to admit that she’s been a lot better since we made up.”

“A bit better,” Max allowed. “In a very Brooke way. And mostly only to you. But look, I’m happy about that. You deserve a break.”

“Thanks,” Molly said, picking at a stray thread on Max’s quilt. “You and Teddy have been awesome. I’d probably be in a mental hospital if you hadn’t decided to eat lunch with me that first week.”

“That’s true. I am a hero,” Max said with a nod. “How are things going with Teddy, anyway?” She paused. “Wait, hang on. I should warn you that I both care and am completely grossed out discussing my brother’s love life. Okay. Please continue.”

“I will spare you the juiciest details,” Molly said, grinning. “But things are good. Really good. It’s kind of awkward at school sometimes, though. The other day Chaz Kelly saw us hugging and yelled at us to save it for prom night, and your mom was standing right there.”

“I heard about that,” Max said. “But I also heard him ask Jake whether he should get his left fist tattooed onto his right fist, so I would go ahead and assume even my mother knows Chaz is an asswagon.”

“Please promise me you’ll never use that word in front of Bone,” said a voice from the vicinity of the doorway, followed by the form of Max’s brother, Teddy, shuffling into the room. “He’s looking for an insult that rhymes with dragon.”

“Sounds like band practice was… educational,” Molly said.

“I don’t know why you put up with Bone Johnson’s lame-ass lyrics,” Max scoffed. “I swear, I’ve never heard anything more tragic than the song where he rhymed shrubbery with secret hot-tubbery.”

“Yes, but the ladies love his wounded soul, or something,” Teddy said, plopping down into the overstuffed armchair in the corner of Max’s room after brushing away three socks, two folded crosswords, and a plate with a two-day-old sandwich crust on it. “Maybe I should invite him over here. Show him what real tragedy looks like.” He sniffed the air. “Is that topheasant?”

Max threw a pillow at him. “Shut up. I have to get out of that smellhole and I only have two more minutes of Molly’s help before she clocks out,” she said. “Or else I might get desperate and reply to this ad for…” Max paused. “Wait. I could make twenty-five grand as a surrogate mother? For that money I could be Juno, no problem.”

Teddy nodded very seriously. “You do own a lot of hoodies.”

“Hey, how about this one: ‘Wanted: same-age Official Blogographer for teen actress/It Girl’s social media empire. Competitive pay, social and lifestyle perks, complimentary Diet Coke,’ ” Molly read. “Actually, that’s kind of perfect.”

“Are you cracked out?” Max retorted. “I would never in a million years work for one of those nutjobs. Also, in this town, ‘lifestyle perks’ usually means ‘colonics.’ ”

“I actually like this idea,” Teddy said, rubbing his hands together. “My sister, the professional hanger-on.”

“Because I so want to fetch dry cleaning and, like, be forced to buy this girl meth in a bathroom stall,” Max countered.

“Just think, in four months you could be dating a Jonas brother.”

“Or dumping a drink on him.”

“Will you still talk to us when you’re wrangling her gown at the Oscars?” Teddy pretended to fret.

“Give her a break, Teddy,” Molly said, laughing. “Seriously, Max, maybe you should think about it. You want to write. This is a writing job. You could probably do it at home half the time. And aren’t you even a little bit curious?”

“Oh, no, not Maxine,” Teddy said. “She doesn’t believe in how the other half lives.”

“What is wrong with thinking it’s ridiculous, for example, to pay a facialist to exfoliate you with diamond dust?” Max said hotly. “And it doesn’t even help. Jennifer Parker still looks like she fell asleep on a pizza.”

“Maybe this is Jennifer,” Molly mused. “I heard her saying the other day that she’s working on adding a message board to JenniferParker.com, because she’s applying to be on Celebrity Roller Derby.”

“ ‘Celebrity’? Please. Cancún Barracuda Swarm was two years ago, and I think it might’ve even gotten yanked while it was airing.”

“Yeah, but not before the scene where one of them ate her face,” Teddy said. “It was so moving, Molly. Max made me watch it with her because Jake tweeted—”

“Aren’t you guys late for something?” Max said frostily.

Molly closed her laptop and stood up, squeezing Max’s shoulder. “Look, I know it seems bleak, but I promise you are not going to be making toham sandwiches for the rest of your life.”

Teddy joined her near the door. “That blog thing could be a pretty painless gig,” he said. “Maybe writing about something else every day will cure your writer’s block.”

“Who says I have writer’s block?” Max said, shooting a poisonous look at Molly.

“Your delete key,” Teddy said. “I can hear it crying all the way up in my room. You have a signature deletion pattern, sometimes mixed in with just bashing the keyboard with your palms, like it’s a drum—”

“Go away now.”

“Maybe if you tried writing a romance novel? I hear they’re timeless, and full of artsy synonyms for—”

“OUT.”

Max saw Molly smack Teddy lightly as he closed the door while reaching for her hand with his other arm. Max sighed. She really was happy for the two of them—they’d spent most of Molly’s first six weeks in Los Angeles not admitting they were into each other, and all the unsubtle yearning was more annoying than the hand-holding. But having your best friend date your brother meant you had to share custody, and Max hadn’t felt done with Molly yet today. She still needed a job. Or a writing topic. Both.

She flopped back down into her desk chair.

Matilda swept her fiery bangs out of her eyes and glared at the muscled laird standing before her, his kilt leaving little to the imagination as he mounted his steed and said, “asdfjkl’asdfjk; agkhltkjhk.”

She stopped her hand on its way to the delete key, then highlighted it all and clicked Cut instead. Take that, Teddy.

Since she obviously wasn’t getting anywhere with her submission, Max opened up a new browser window and headed back to craigslist. There it was again: official blogographer. It was terrible word. A nonexistent mash-up. Weren’t real words good enough anymore?

On the other hand, blogographer had nothing on—and nothing to do with—toham.

Max leaned back in her rickety wooden chair and took stock of things. At this rate, she wouldn’t get into the NYU program, because she couldn’t make her brain operate above a fourth-grade level, probably because she spent every day inhaling lethal meat-substitute fumes. Dennis was pickling her brain. And then stealing her tips.

Her eyes drifted around her room, past the giant heap where her hamper had exploded, across the posters of classic Keanu Reeves movies (Max had decided in middle school that his rampant awfulness came back around to making him amazing), finally settling on the gray-and-red paisley wallpaper that was peeling in several places. Her dad had promised her room would be next to be renovated, but then he’d lost his job at Cal Tech and she’d overheard her parents having a tortured conversation about how they’d make ends meet on her mother’s salary. Max had marched right in on them and announced how much she loved paisley.

So even though CRAPS—Max’s favorite nickname for Colby-Randall Preparatory School—paid Mrs. McCormack enough that they weren’t poverty-stricken, they definitely weren’t rolling in spare cash. Max knew she had to fend for herself if NYU was going to happen, and that might require drastic measures. Casting a furtive sidelong glance at the door, Max clicked the “Reply to” link.

Relax, she scolded herself. Probably nothing would come of it, anyway, and it could just be her dirty secret. But Molly and Teddy were at least a little bit right. If writing was the end game, a job doing any writing had to be better than where she was now. Whoever Teen Actress/It Girl was, she couldn’t possibly be any worse than assault with a deadly sandwich meat.

three

“… AND SO I WAS, like, Mom, of course the Chloé bag is fine, but it’s not like it’s Chanel.”

With a shrill laugh that echoed sharply in the school’s high-ceilinged hallway, Jennifer Parker and three of her cronies brushed past Max—bumping roughly into her arm without acknowledging it, as if Max’s limb were merely very thick air—toward Mr. Kemp’s classroom. Max cursed her predictable bad luck. Of course Jennifer was on the Colby-Randall Spring Carnival Planning Committee. Far be it from Max to make it through one semester without being forced to hear Jake Donovan’s girlfriend drone on about how she was one audition away from getting a final audition to read for the part of Third Cheerleader on the Left in one of the straight-to-DVD Bring It On sequels.

So tremendous to see you, too,” Max groused at their backs. But none of them answered. In Max’s experience, nobody ever had much to say to a headmistress’s kid except “You’re not going to tell on us, are you?” Her mother would say this was because Max tried to push everyone away, with her caustic tongue and her neon coif. Teddy—to whom this problem did not apply, because he was in a rock band, which was so Hollywood—would say it was because of her habit of preemptively thinking everyone sucked. But Max knew better: Everyone did suck. They always had. Following her mom to three different L.A.-area schools had taught Max that much, from being kicked in the face in fourth-grade gym by a future Olympian who told her to “get out of the way of greatness”; to getting stuck at a table in sixth-grade art with Carla Callahan, the kid from the E.T. sequel E.E.T., who did nothing but make dots on paper with her Hello Kitty pencil while yapping about how Spielberg thought she was the next Anna Paquin (and yet still got an A for her “brave minimalist approach”); to Jennifer Parker, whose credentials for social greatness included one long-dead sitcom and a string of execrable made-for-TV movies, most recently The Pied Viper, about a murderous flute player. Max had nothing to say to these people. If she was destined to be a pariah, better to do it on her own terms.

Max hung back from following them into the classroom. She felt jittery and weird. Not at the prospect of spending more time marinating in her and her classmates’ mutual hostility—sometimes that could be invigorating—but because after this, she had a meeting with YourNewIt

. At It Girl’s suggestion, they were meeting for dinner at Mel’s Drive-In on Sunset to see if they had “a copacetic rapport.” Max focused her nervous energy on retying her Doc Marten boots and trying to brush the fine film of chalk dust off her black skirt. It had never recovered from this morning’s blackboard race in calculus. Nobody else had come out of class looking like a powdered doughnut. Maybe designer pants repelled dirt in a way H&M’s one-ply cotton could not.

Swatting at her skirt was just making the situation worse, so Max gave up and leaned against the wall to watch other kids trickling into the meeting—prim student-government types, a couple of overeager freshmen, and Magnus Mitchell and some other athletes who were clearly there for their college transcripts or under parental duress. Max could relate to that. Mrs. McCormack tried to force school spirit into Max by prescribing extracurriculars as punishments, in the hope that one of them would stick (the carnival planning committee was for routinely ditching her last two classes to drive down to Irvine to go to concerts). It was a cunning plan, in theory; alas, if only the esteemed Headmistress Eileen McCormack had known that the motherly and teacherly pushing made Max less interested, and in fact made her want to drop out of high school altogether in favor of being one of those stoner trustafarians who panhandled in front of The Grove. Except without the trust fund. Or the drugs. So, basically, a loiterer.

“Are you coming in, Max?” asked Mavis Moore as she passed by.

“I guess,” Max said, shouldering her book bag. She glanced down at the tangled gray lump under Mavis’s arm, which had long skinny needles poking out of it. “Your colon is looking good.”

Mavis, a fellow junior described most diplomatically as “quirky,” had been knitting her way through the human body since spring of sophomore year.

“Thanks,” Mavis said proudly, holding up what looked like a soft, squishy sausage. “I’m almost done. Just a few major organs left. I’ve got the spleen going at home.”

Max grinned. “You know, if you could mass-produce those, you’d probably be a millionaire. It’s either a great study aid or something doctors could safely throw at the TV screen whenever Grey’s Anatomy makes up something idiotic.”

Mavis blinked several times rapidly. “I would never sell my innards,” she said, wandering into the classroom.

“I love that girl,” Max said under her breath. For every ten Jennifer Parkers with their competitive Chanel and razor-sharp elbows, there was at least a Mavis to keep things fresh.

Mr. Kemp’s room had been chosen for the meeting, ostensibly because the tall, arching windows got fabulous natural light, but Max spoke CRAPS fluently enough to know that translated to “Because there is a perfect view of lacrosse practice.” As if anyone needed such a hormonal excuse to like that room—in fact, all the rooms at Colby-Randall were beautiful. The school was a rambling old estate that had, over the years, annexed surrounding properties and either converted or rebuilt them. The result was a lot of newfangled outbuildings (like the Brick Berlin Theater for Serious Emotional Artistry that rose like a white shark fin from the ground by the man-made lake) surrounding the majestic old main house, with its lead-paned windows, dark wood paneling, creaky old floors, and closets that were surely as full of juicy secrets as they were of upperclassmen making out. It would be perfect for a horror film. Half of Max’s classmates were Jennifer-flavored zombies, anyway; she could just turn a camera on and let it roll.

As soon as Max headed in, she saw Jake Donovan sitting next to Jen in the back row. “Over here, dude,” he called out.

Max felt a wave of pride, then quickly squashed it. She didn’t want to be the kind of girl who trembled every time a popular kid acknowledged her existence.

“Ugh, you can’t sit here,” Jennifer whined, throwing a pained look at Max’s clothes. “I’m allergic to dust.”

“Then how come you auditioned for that horse movie?” Jake asked, befuddled.

“Sweetie, movie sawdust is hypoallergenic,” Jennifer said, as if addressing a very small child. “It’s make-believe. Like Fox News.”

“Did you get the part?” Max asked. “Or did they give it to an actual horse?”

Jake snorted gleefully. Max turned to face front, but not before she saw Jennifer whip out her cell phone and start typing. No doubt this would make for a frosty Twitter update. Jake and Jen were constantly sniping at each other through the Internet. As much as Max liked Jake’s congenial doofyness—and his hot, hot face—she couldn’t figure out why he and Jennifer were still dating. Did the universe give Jake six-pack abs in exchange for common sense?

“Okay, everybody,” Max heard a familiar, commanding voice say. “Let’s bring to order the first meeting of the Colby-Randall Spring Carnival Planning Committee.”

A hush fell over the room as Molly’s half sister Brooke Berlin walked into it, immediately owning the space with her imposing height and, of course, even more imposing paternal pedigree. Brooke was alternately adored and feared by everyone in the school. Until last fall she was mostly feared, thanks to her tendency toward bossy, imperious behavior; however, after her nemesis Shelby Kendall broadcast some very personal letters of Brooke’s on the school news station, everyone developed sympathetic amnesia about the many ways Brooke had terrorized them. Now she was seen as more of a benevolent dictator, less Kim Jong Il than a very bronzed Simon Cowell. Max tried to tolerate Brooke for Molly’s sake, but after years of being treated like a piffling underling, she privately would’ve enjoyed it if Brooke seared off every last blonde hair in a tragic tanning-booth accident.

Brooke took a central position behind Mr. Kemp’s desk, flanked by her sophomore assistant (legal name: Martha; painfully trendy Brooke Berlin–created pseudonym: Brie, bestowed on her like a charitable donation) and a couple of fidgety juniors and seniors. One of them was Anna Fury, whose mother, the infamous Judge Fury, had the country’s number one syndicated courtroom show. Anna whipped out a gavel from her purse and rapped it so vigorously on the desk that she almost conked Brooke in the chin.

“Anna!” Brooke barked. “This is not Mommy’s courtroom. Put it away.”

Anna shrank back toward the blackboard. It was hard to pull a power trip based on your mom’s daytime TV show in front of Brooke Berlin, whose father’s face was on no fewer than four billboards within a half-mile radius of the school.

Brooke cleared her throat and shook her long blonde curls away from her shoulders. “As you know, this year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the carnival, and as such, I fully intend for it to kick serious ass,” she began. “Not that it will be so hard to beat last year’s. I don’t know what Keely Harris was smoking when she went with the Tribute to Ryan Seacrest theme. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll come up with the perfect idea myself eventually, but first let’s be democratic about it.”

Jennifer’s hand shot up. “The movies of Brick Berlin!” she practically panted. “Amendment to Hell has that whole Ferris wheel chase scene!”

Even Brooke, who counted Jennifer among her best friends, rolled her eyes. “No.”

“How about an Ode to Shopping?” suggested Justine McGrath, whom Max recognized as being on the cross-country team with Molly. “Each ride could be, like, themed by a different brand. The Christian Loveboatin tunnel, a Jimmy Choo-choo…”

“… a Silence of the L.A.M.B. funhouse, with real kidney snacks,” Max piped up.

Justine scowled.

“Anybody else? Anybody serious, who actually cares about things other than sarcasm?” Brooke said, glaring at Max. “Come on, people. We are the highly educated leaders of tomorrow. And also, I don’t have all day. Barneys won’t hold those new Brian Atwoods for me past six.”

“How about a courtroom theme?” Anna suggested hopefully.

“No, do vampires!” called out Emily Matsuhisa. “My dad’s restaurant just catered the birthday of one of the Twilight special-effects guys, so I bet we could get a deal on fake blood.”

“The music of Katy Perry!” Magnus shouted. “My mom once dated her manager!”

“What if we made it like a mini-Disneyland?” said Jennifer. “I once did a Disney TV series, as you all know, so I have major pull.”

Max couldn’t help snorting.

Jennifer raised her hand. “Brooke, can I move to eject anybody who isn’t willing to be a positive creative force in this room?”

“Why are you here, Max?” Brooke asked. “Don’t you hate anything fun?”

Max smiled innocently. “I don’t see any of that here, so we’re good.”

Brooke crossed her arms. “I’m sure your mother would be very upset to hear that you’re not giving this carnival your all. I’d just be devastated if you got grounded and missed the three days your clothes came back into style.”

“Fine,” said Max. “How about Justin Bieber? Or ‘The Crucible: A Celebration,’ or why not just build a replica of the Taj Mahal, that seems totally rational and affordable….”

“Oh, Max,” Brooke said, shaking her head sadly. “Bollywood is so last year.”

The room exploded as people volleyed suggestions left and right. Max sank back in her chair and stared up at the clock hanging over the chalkboard. Four ten. Just another ninety minutes or so and she’d be due at Mel’s to meet her random actress. If only she’d blown off this committee meeting, she’d have had time to drive home and change. Today she felt extra conscious of living in a Fendi world on a Forever 21 budget. Especially since she just noticed that her shirt had a hole in the sleeve.

There was a barely audible thud as a triangle of paper landed near her feet. Pretending to pick lint off her tights, Max swiped the clumsily folded note off the floor and opened it in her lap.

If I start snoring please kick me before Jennifer thinks it’s my theme suggestion.

Max grabbed her pen and wrote:

A nap-themed carnival might be better than whatever Justine just said about Betty White.

When Jake read it, he laughed under his breath. Max noticed Jennifer doing that thing where she was pretending to gaze out the window but was in fact actually watching Jake. After a respectable amount of time had lapsed, Max fished her phone out of her pocket and pulled up Facebook. Jennifer’s status update read Lacrosse players soooooo much hotter than football players, fyi. Social media really was a godsend when it came to spying on people who had no filter. If only Max were up for a gig writing the blogography of the Jake and Jennifer relationship. She was already an expert.

“Max, wait up!”

Max stopped on her way across the school’s front lawn and saw Molly jogging toward her. “I just wanted to wish you luck at your meeting with Miley Cyrus,” she panted, wiping the sweat off her face with the hem of her CRAPS Track and Field Invitational T-shirt.

“If it is Miley Cyrus, I may lobotomize myself with a milk shake spoon.”

“I think this is the part where I tell you to keep an open mind,” Molly said, pulling her right foot into a stretch behind her back. “Charmaine thinks it’s Heidi Montag. She wants to know how freaky Heidi looks in person.”

“I find it suspicious that some random girl in Indiana knows all my secrets,” Max said.

“Not any of the important ones,” Molly said lightly. “Oh, but she did tell me to say that you should stop reading Jennifer’s Twitter.”

“Not a chance,” Max said. “The last hour of the meeting she tweeted six things about how quarterbacks have weak calves.”

Molly snorted. “Okay, I’m off. Teddy and I are supposed to go see The Hangover 3D, and I stink from practice. Have fun with the chick from Jonas L.A.

“You won’t be laughing when it turns out to be Dakota Fanning,” Max called out as Molly sped off.

Dragging her backpack carelessly behind her, Max walked the short distance to her car. Unlike Teddy’s 4Runner, which he had paid for by selling his comic book collection, Max’s yellow Chevy wagon was an inheritance from their aged neighbor who’d had his license revoked due to glaucoma. The tailpipe was hanging by an intricate duct-tape braid, and the back right window had gotten smashed by the kid across the street during his BB-gun phase, so it was covered in Saran Wrap and taped along the sides. Calling this car a hunk of junk was exceedingly tactful. People at CRAPS were so terrified of it, they refused to park near her. So some days, like today, Max parallel parked across three front spots, just to do it.

She unlocked the door, pushed the button on the handle, and yanked upward. It opened with a loud groan. Dakota Fanning was going to love that. Max putt-putted out of the lot, pointing her car down the canyon road toward Sunset, then turning right and cruising the short distance to Mel’s, a Hollywood landmark of a greasy spoon. It was an odd choice for a meeting, which maybe was precisely why It Girl picked it. Maybe it was a test. Or maybe she wasn’t as scene-obsessed as all the wannabes at Colby-Randall.

Max parked at Mel’s and pulled out a wrinkled red cardigan from behind the driver’s seat. That and her Bachelor-branded notebook were the two hallmarks she’d given to It Girl so she’d recognize her. These were, in Max’s way, also a test. Because if this girl didn’t understand the secret comic genius of that train wreck of a show, or offered to pay for her dry cleaning, then she wasn’t Max’s platonic work soul mate at all.

She slid into a booth and ordered a chocolate malt, putting her notebook right at the edge of the table. Her heart thumped. Max realized this felt uncomfortably like a blind date, and worse, she was actually nervous. Maybe she’d been counting on this gig more than she’d thought.

“You have got to be kidding me. WordNerd94 is you?”

Max felt a cold, creeping sensation spread slowly across her chest. She looked up at the golden curls framing a face she knew all too well, a face that wore an expression of disbelief tinged with amusement. Her heart sank.

“Well, well, well, Maxine. So you want to be my employee?”

four

BROOKE BERLIN ALWAYS EXPECTED things to go her way. Eventually. History backed her up: The events of six months ago, when her father’s secret love child moved in with them and temporarily ruined her life, could have gone much more horrifyingly than they did. Sure, she and Molly had gone through a rough patch that ended in Brooke accidentally chasing her back to Indiana, but they were past that now, thanks in part to her and Brick taking a nightmarishly rustic road trip to West Cairo to win Molly back. When they’d arrived, after three days without hair product and sweating oil from eating mostly Sonic Tater Tots, Molly swore she’d already decided to come back—but Brooke figured her and Brick’s disheveled patheticness lent their pleas a sincerity that helped the cause. (Even so, as soon as Molly’s intentions were clear, Brooke wasted no time in making Brick sell his godforsaken RV and fly them home on a private jet, like civilized people. Even sincerity had its limits.) Now, several months hence, she and Molly had slowly settled into a sisterly routine. Molly was as well adjusted as anyone could ask, which Brooke attributed to her own recent efforts to look past her sister’s ill-conceived bangs and humble hayseed beginnings and find the kindred spirit within. They were, if not terribly alike, very bonded. Score another one for Brooke Berlin.

So Brooke assumed her blogographer ad would be a hit. Surely any rational, breathing human would leap at the chance to get in on a budding showbiz empire, especially once they realized she was the daughter of the man who coined the phrase “Sayonara, scumsucker.” But getting a response after just five minutes exceeded even her imagination. Of course, that response had been from a guy sending her a picture of his feet, but it had started the ball rolling: In quick succession she got two e-mails from people asking if she knew Taylor Lautner, one from a girl who wanted to know if they’d be in Seventeen together, and then a reply from WordNerd94. It was sparse—just a brief mention of writing aspirations—but also spelled correctly. Way more promising than the one that followed, from a thirty-six-year-old man wanting to write a piece called “Dear Jake Gyllenhaal, I’d Like to Buy Your Vowel.”

Max finally closed her gaping mouth. “Brooke.”

“Max.”

“Brooke.”

“Max,” Brooke said again, impatiently. “Can we move on to some other words?”

“Sorry,” Max said. “It’s just that the ad said ‘teen actress/It Girl,’ so I was expecting some sort of, you know… teen actress/It Girl.”

“And I was expecting someone who isn’t the social equivalent of menstrual cramps,” Brooke retorted. “Tough day all around.”

This depressing turn of events was the opposite of what Brooke had pictured. Obviously, she wanted her blog strategy to work. She needed it to work. But she’d envisioned it involving a bookish beauty who would be eternally grateful to Brooke for changing her life, beginning with a makeover that blossomed her into a spunky mini-Brooke, and continuing through highly nurturing shopping and social adventures. Instead, Brooke’s best candidate was her high school’s resident pale, acid-tongued loner whose gold-tinged eyes and green hair made her look like a refugee from some nerdy movie about elves.

A model-esque beauty in trendy glasses appeared behind Brooke’s shoulder. “Max McCormack? Surely you jest.”

“We covered that part already,” Brooke told Arugula, relieved that her best friend had arrived to diffuse some of the awkwardness. “We’re already up to the bit where I say, ‘But aren’t you some kind of antiestablishment shut-in?’ ”

Max stood up. “I have a sudden urge to go behead all my old Barbies.”

“Oh, please. Don’t be so melodramatic.” Arugula scooted into the booth. “Maybe this is destiny. Maybe the hand of fate is trying to give you a massage.”

Max glared stonily at Arugula. Brooke stifled a snicker. She and Ari had been best friends for ages, long before anyone—including Arugula—figured out Ari was the class genius. Brooke liked basking in the reflected glory of her friend’s intelligence, but sometimes it was hard to keep a straight face.

“Whether fate is getting handsy or not, Arugula does have a point,” Brooke opined. “Obviously you answered my ad for a reason.”

Max smacked the table. “God, that ad. I am going to kill Molly for not telling me it was you.”

“I don’t run everything I do past Molly,” Brooke said, offended. “We may be sisters, Max, but we are our own people.”

“Sure. Whatever.”

Brooke studied Max. There was nothing to indicate that she’d be a particularly successful writer. But then again, Brooke had always assumed from their previous interactions that Max didn’t have any ambition to be anything except sarcastic, and that she would live out her days as a cranky drugstore cashier, staring pointedly at all the weird things people had in their baskets and trying to make the kids buying condoms feel really uncomfortable. The fact that she’d confided career aspirations in an e-mail to someone she thought was a total stranger made Brooke wonder if Max had hidden depths.

“Okay. I can’t afford to waste the time I’ve carved out in my schedule,” Brooke said, feeling decisive. “And since I skipped Yogilates, we might as well do this.”

“Oh, no,” Max said. “I’m not staying. I need an actual job.”

“This is an actual job, and technically, you have already stayed,” Brooke said. “Obviously you’re not my first choice, but maybe you’ll be good practice for interviewing real applicants.”

She pulled a clipboard out of her giant leather bag and brightly clicked open a pen that said Avalanche! on the side.

“That’s your dad’s latest, right?” Max said. “The one he’s shooting in Florida?”

“Yes,” Brooke said, pleased as she always was when people were abreast of her father’s career. “Would you like me to get you a pen?”

“It is my life’s ambition to advertise such an impressive feat of cinema verité.”

Brooke shook back her curls and leveled Max with a smile that said, Nice try, but you can’t provoke me. “Let’s start at the beginning,” she said. “What do you think of my shoes?”

Max shook her head and rose. “They’re blue. That’s what I think. And since that is totally not a real question, I’m going to go home to catch the Lust for Life prime-time special. Julianna is supposed to find out that her recapitation surgery is illegal and that Pip’s head might get reclaimed.”

Brooke put down her pen and affixed Max with a very serious look. “God invented the DVR for a reason,” she said. “Sit down and respect the process.”

Max appeared to be wrestling with something, perhaps a very muscular inner demon, and then plonked back down. Brooke mentally patted herself on the back. She knew she had a way of making it hard for people to wriggle out of things. She’d inherited it from Brick. It was how she kept managing to wrangle Molly into driving her places (at last count, Brooke had flunked her written driver’s test six times, although it wasn’t her fault—that stupid rectangular manual was ergonomically nightmarish to read).

“My shoes?” she prompted.

“They look like you left your feet outside a Siberian tree farm for three weeks.”

Wrong, but at least it was creative. Brooke silently ticked the box on her form that read Pithy Turn of Phrase. “Favorite outfit of mine?”

“Are you ser—”

“Respect the process.”

“I like whatever it is you’re wearing when I’m not around you.”

Brooke nodded and made another mark, this time next to Sass Factor. The waitress slammed Max’s chocolate malt onto the table.

“Interesting,” Arugula murmured, reaching over to check a box with a flourish. This one read Can I Sneak Fattening Snacks?

“You Tyra Banks?” the waitress asked, flicking her thumb at Arugula’s head.

“Yes,” Arugula deadpanned. “Top Model auditions are in two days at 4100 Bar in Silver Lake. Seven AM sharp. Bring your bikini waxer.”



Continues...

Excerpted from Messy by Cocks, Heather Copyright © 2012 by Cocks, Heather. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(27)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2012

    Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Loved it! Of course...... i loved it how in the last bk they mostly concentrated on Molly but now we get to c things through the eyes of brooke AND max. Purdy kool. Trust me u will at least like it if not love it!!!!!!!!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    Loved the book, very well written! I however wish it included more about Molly's life, like the first book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2012

    Okay

    I thoughtt it was okay. I thought the first book, Spoiled was much better.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    Great!

    I fell in love with this book in the first chapter!:) Read it yoi will love it for sure!:)

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2012

    Jackalene

    Rides u and sicks ur dik and tells u to make me cum u sperm

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    Would Not Recommend

    This book is the second in the Spoiled series by Heather Coces and Jessica Morgan, and it's not good. I would not recommend this. It's confusing and slow-paced. Would not recommend. Get it from the library.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2014

    Yas.

    Starbucks is life
    -your average teen white girl

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2014

    Ryas has a crush on..........

    Not tellin ya'll

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2014

    Shaun

    Silver

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    Crush....

    Ryas

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    Kennedy

    Sefem

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2014

    Ghb

    Ghb

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    Faolon

    No one yet :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    Jay and nico

    Jay-sutton nico-z

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    Annabelle and aj

    Aj is my world

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    IS IT AGE APPROPIATE

    I really want to readspoilesd and messy but is it for 12 and up

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2013

    Good playet

    Best player and even messi tricks people in a ball

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    Not my kind

    I did not like the book and i could not get past the first few pages without getting tired of the book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2013

    Pages

    It has fifty five pages

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2013

    ?????

    How many pages does this book have?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews

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