Upgrade U

Upgrade U

4.8 104
by Ni-Ni Simone

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Life is poppin' and seventeen-year-old Seven McKnight is rockin' Stiles University's hottest baller, Josiah Whitaker, on her arm when it all falls apart. With groupies threatening her basketball wife status and Josiah's dreams of the NBA blowing up his ego, Seven finds herself in a tailspin. . .should she stay or leave?

In steps the unbelievably fine


Life is poppin' and seventeen-year-old Seven McKnight is rockin' Stiles University's hottest baller, Josiah Whitaker, on her arm when it all falls apart. With groupies threatening her basketball wife status and Josiah's dreams of the NBA blowing up his ego, Seven finds herself in a tailspin. . .should she stay or leave?

In steps the unbelievably fine sophomore heartthrob, Zaire St. James, who's been watching Seven and waiting for his chance. With Josiah doing his own thing, Seven finds herself falling for Zaire. But just when she decides to give Zaire her everything, Josiah becomes determined to win Seven back by any means necessary. . .

Praise for Ni-Ni Simone

"Ni-Ni Simone's fast-paced writing keeps me coming back for more." --L. Divine, author of the Drama High series

"Simone tells authentic stories of teen life in the 'hood better than any other author currently writing contemporary YA street lit. Spiced with plenty of Simone's trademark humor." --Library Journal on Teenage Love Affair

"Urban teen readers may recognize their friends and themselves in the language, music and feel of this fluffy-but-fun read." --Kirkus Reviews on If I Was Your Girl

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The fourth volume in Simone's series about Seven McKnight, a book that stands on its own, finds Seven starting her freshman year at (fictional) Stiles University in New Orleans. Rooming with her bestie, Shae, and new friend Khya, Seven is optimistic about the year ahead, especially since her high school love, Josiah, is a basketball star at Stiles ("We were a fairytale. A hood love story"). But Josiah's big man on campus status and a girl who keeps hanging around have Seven feeling insecure, especially when he ignores her texts and asks her to write papers for him. Meanwhile Zaire, the smooth Southern boy who gets Seven's pulse racing, keeps appearing in her life. Shae and Khya are unhappy with how Josiah is treating Seven, but Seven fights to stay true to the guy she thought she'd always be with. Filled with snappy dialogue and one-liners that pull readers into Seven's world, the story mixes romantic drama with empowering messages, as well as sobering facts about post-Katrina life for New Orleans natives Khya and Zaire. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Best friends Seven and Shae enter college at Stiles University in New Orleans. Seven's boo, Josiah, is already on campus as a scholarship basketball player. So why doesn't he return Seven's texts? And who is this girl Seven catches Josiah smiling at during the very first party? Campus love hits bumps in the road as Seven fumes about being in hell with gasoline panties on. Stealing scenes is Seven's other roommate, New Orleans native Khya, who offers a voodoo spell that will make Josiah look like Lady Gaga or Gary Coleman reincarnated. Snappy repartee, up-to-the-minute slang, outrageous drama, and plenty of pop culture name-dropping make this a breezy romp.VERDICT Too often librarians and teachers suffer from Goldilocks syndrome when selecting fiction that appeals to African American teens. Adult street lit titles are way too harsh, and yet many YA books are annoyingly didactic. Simone's efforts are just right. Her latest should not be considered street lit, but it's essential for all urban libraries. Other titles in Simone's series are Shortie Like Mine, If I Was Your Girl, A Girl Like Me, and Teenage Love Affair. — "The Word on Street Lit", Booksmack! 1/20/11

Product Details

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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Upgrade U

By Ni-Ni Simone


Copyright © 2011 Ni-Ni Simone
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-4191-7

Chapter One

What's higher than number one?

—Beyoncé Ft. Jay-Z, "Upgrade U"

Stiles University, Big Easy, USA

"Seven, promise me you'll call home every week. Okay? You hear me?" my mother said, as the tears she held back caused her words to tremble. She palmed my face softly between her hands and kissed my forehead. "I'm never too far away—"

"To tap dat azz," Cousin Shake said as he walked into my dorm room, holding a stack of two cardboard boxes in his hands and nodding his head to the side for emphasis. "That's what's wrong witcha now, yo mama babies you too much. But see, I know your tricks, homie. And I know that you applied to a college far away from home, so you could get your hoochie off in peace"—he dropped the boxes on the floor—"but ain't gon' be no peace. 'Cause I'm gon' send somebody to keep a watch on you."

"All right, Cousin Shake," my mother said sternly.

"Grier, you know I love da kids," Cousin Shake said, and as he spoke, the seat of his metallic gold MC Hammer pants flapped with every word. And the taco meat on his chest—that he so proudly showcased by wearing no shirt beneath his matching gold vest—seemed to get tighter by the moment. Ugg, I just wanted him to leave!

"Why are you looking at me like that, Seven?" Cousin Shake said. "Huh? I'll tell you why, 'cause you know that I see right through you."

"Cousin Shake, behave" was my mother's failed attempt to get this sixty-year-old throwback to listen to someone besides himself.

"You don't tell me to behave, Grier," Cousin Shake admonished. "I raised you. Now, all I'm doing is making a point."

"And what's that?" I said with a little more edge than I should've.

"Watch your tone, Seven," my mother warned. "What's your point, Cousin Shake?"

"My point is"—he turned to me—"that just 'cause you in the Big Easy, Seven, don't mean you have to be the big easy. Feel me? I mean, you still big, but you don't have to be all easy, greasy, and handing over your goodies to every Tom, Raheem, and Josiah, just 'cause me and your mama's up in Brick City."


"Cousin Shake," my mother snapped. "That's a bit much."

"See?" Cousin Shake snorted. "That's her problem-you spoil this girl too much."

"This is my baby." My mother hugged me tightly. "And she's never been this far away from home or me before."

"Ma, I'll be fine." After all, this wasn't my first time in college. I went to Spellman for half a semester, until my stepfather lost his job and we had to move from Atlanta back to Jersey. But that didn't last for too long, because I was seriously on my grind. I was turning eighteen and had big dreams. Dreams that only going to college would afford me. So while my twin sister, Toi, stayed close to home and attended NJIT, I applied to Stiles U, and courtesy of my good grades and perfect SAT scores I was awarded a full academic scholarship. So me, along with my BFF, Shae—who also transferred from Spellman—arrived in the Crescent City ready to roll.

"I'm here!" Shae screamed running into our dorm room. She ran over to me and said, "Girl, it's some cuties up in here, honey. Told you southern boys were the truth!"

Obviously Shae ran in here so fast she didn't realize we weren't alone. "Shae—"

"Seven," she said, not letting me get a word in, "I couldn't wait to shake my daddy at the gate. We got to the registration office and I was like, 'Dad, seriously I got it from here. I handed my stuff to Big Country and waved bye-bye to Samuel Parker. Whew!" She wiped invisible sweat from her brow. "How'd you ditch your blockers?"

"She didn't," my mother said, causing Shae to halt in her spot.

"Why didn't you warn me?" Shae mouthed, as she slowly turned around and gave my mother a small wave.

"I was trying to tell you to shut up," I mumbled.

"Told you," Cousin Shake said, wagging his finger at us. "From cute lil sweet Jersey girls to nasty Louisiana—"

"All right, Cousin Shake," my mother said, as Shae walked over and gave her a hug. "These are good girls and New Orleans is one of the greatest cultural cities in the world."

"Yawn," Cousin Shake said, as if he could not care less.

"Mama!" poured from down the hall and toward our room. "Could you please stop trippin'? You acting like I've moved to Arizona, Utah, or California somewhere, I'm back home, in N'awlins. And from the time we stayed in Houston until I applied to go away to college, we've talked about this ... over and over again.... Dang." Whoever this was, stopped in our doorway, looked up at the numbers on the door, and nodded her head like she was in the right place. The woman standing beside her wore the same look of sadness and worry that my mother did and the six-foot-tall man who stood behind them looked to be as bored as Cousin Shake.

"Wassup, round? How ya livin', yat? I'm Khya." She batted her extended lashes and flipped her one-sided Rihanna-esque bob, with blond streaks running through it, from over her left eye to behind her respective ear. She placed her hands on what looked to be about a size-sixteen hips, complimented by a small waist and a rump shaker that would put Nicki Minaj to shame.

Khya continued on with her spiel. "Seems we already got two things in common: late acceptance and registration. 'Cause according to the RA's Facebook status"—she looked at her BlackBerry for a quick moment and then back to us—"that's how they choose who was gon' be sharing the triple dorms."

Khya slammed her hot pink and floral Coach shoulder bag on top of a desk, and without missing a beat or taking a breath she continued, "It's 'bout to be crunk, ya heardz me? I can look at y'all and tell y'all good people. So since we 'bout to be roommates, ya might as well hit ya girl with some introductions."

True story: I didn't know what the heck just blew in here. Even Cousin Shake looked confused. This chick's New Orleans accent was thicker than you could ever imagine or wrap your ears around hearing.

"Y'all must be from up north," Khya said, "'cause y'all lookin' at me like ya slow. Now what's good?"

Was that an insult? I stopped my eyes from blinking and did my best to wipe the confused look off of my face. I walked over to her, with Shae beside me, and said, "Hey girl, I'm Seven and this is Shae."

"Wassup, ma?" Shae said.

Khya blinked. "Oh my, y'all got some serious New York accents on y'all."

Did she just talk about somebody's accent? And she's standing here sounding like Lil Wayne's ex-wife, Toya.

"Actually, we're from Jersey," I said.

"Nawl," Cousin Shake interjected. "Actually, we're from Earth, where we speak English."

"Oh, you so funny and cute." Khya laughed. "You look just like 1982. Who is this, your great-granddaddy? He needed a walk or something, a day out of the home?"

"Yep," I said, laughing. "That's exactly who he is."

"Be quiet, Seven." My mother twisted her lips at me and then turned to Khya and her family and said, "I'm Grier, Seven's mother, and this is my cousin, Cousin Shake."

"I'm Toni." Khya's mother sniffed and dabbed the corners of her eyes. "Nice to meet you, and this is my husband, Kyle."

"It's hard, I know," my mother said, and I could tell she was swallowing tears. "But we have to let them go."

"I've been telling her this since forever," Kyle said.

"I know, Kyle," Toni said, with tears bubbling in her eyes. "But she's my baby."

"Oh, Toni," my mother joined in, "I said the same thing." She was now dabbing her eyes too.

"Looka here, Mama," Khya said. "Listen, you call me tomorrow, okay? 'Cause I really would like to get settled into my room."

"Give me kisses first."

"Mama!" Khya arched her eyebrows in embarrassment. "Would you stop?"

"Kisses," her mother insisted.

"Mama, I'm not—"

"Get yo behind over there and kiss your mama, girl," Cousin Shake growled. "And you too, Seven. Y'all better be lucky you got mamas, somebody that can tolerate you. 'Cause I'ma tell you the truth, I don't like kids, I fight 'em. Now give me a reason to handle you"—he looked at Khya—"and I'ma show you what 1982 was really about. Now try me. Go kiss yo mama, like I said. And do it now, 'cause I don't have much time. I need to go and meet my wife Minnie. She's at the hotel waiting for me, so we can get our flash on and get thrown some beads on Bourbon Street."

I don't know about anyone else, but the visual of Cousin Shake and Miss Minnie flashing anybody was about to make me throw up in my mouth.

Khya and I walked over to our mothers, hugged and kissed them, and as if they'd practiced it, they simultaneously said, "I love you. Call me if you need anything."

"Okay." Toni sniffed. "I'ma go now."

"Me too," my mother said. "Come on, Toni, we can walk out together."

Khya gave her father a hug. "Don't forget to get me some tickets for the basketball games, baby girl," he said.

"Okay, Daddy." Khya kissed her father on the cheek, and then he left. That's when we realized that Cousin Shake was still there.

"You can leave too." I tried my best not to snap, but the mere sight of him lingering around caused my blood pressure to rise.

"Who you talkin' to, Fat Mama?" he growled, calling me by my childhood nickname. "Girl, don't make me handle you. Now your mama may have ran outta here like she's crazy, but I'm not leaving until we pray."

Oh hell to da nawl! "Cousin Shake, that won't be necessary," I insisted.

"What?" He frowned. "Don't make me put my thang down on you. Since when you start refusing prayer?"

"You know how he is," Shae mumbled. "Now let's just bow our heads and get this over with."

I couldn't believe this was happening to me. I grabbed Khya's hand and said, "Come on, roommate, we in this together."

Reluctantly we bowed our heads and Cousin Shake began. "Our Father, Who art in Heaven, wassup, bruh? How's Julio, Mary, Margaret, Paul, Radio-Raheem, and er'body? I know I ain't been to You in a minute, Lawd, but You know, like Fat Joe says, 'If it ain't about money why we wastin' time?' 'Cause moneeeeey's," Cousin Shake started to sing, "always on my mind. You can believe that I be where the G's at—"

"Cousin Shake!" I said sternly.

"Who you yelling at?" he said. "You know when I get to talking about Julio, I get a lil carried away—"

"Who is Julio?" Khya whispered to me.

"Jesus," I mumbled. "Just roll with it."

"Oh my ..."

"Now, Father," Cousin Shake's prayer continued, "please look over these girls and remind them of what Your word says, remind them of Your seven commandos."

"It's commandments," Khya interjected, "and it's ten, not seven."

"You correcting me, Karate?"

"It's Khya." Khya attempted to enunciate her name for Cousin Shake, "K-Y, the h is silent, the y makes a long I sound, and then there's the sound of ya. Khya."

Cousin Shake moved his fingers as if he were speaking in sign language. "Are you cra-ay-zee, interrupting me during prayer time?" Cousin Shake snorted. "Let me tell you something, Cashew. Don't sleep on me. I might be sixty-two, but I will bring it to you. Ya heardz me? Now, as long as you rooming with these two, then you part of the family. I'ma send you care packages, just like I'ma send them. I'ma send you a ten-dollar allowance just like they gon' get.

"'Cause in college I know y'all don't have no money. And I'ma be here for you when you need me and to mess you up when you get outta line, but don't try me. 'Cause I'm lookin' for a reason to unleash my aggression." He squinted. "Word to the mother-son-cousin. Now bow yo dam'yum heads."

"Just do it," I whispered to Khya. "Trust me he only gets worse."

We bowed our heads again.

"Like I said," Cousin Shake went on, "Lawd, remind them of the five comrades: Thou shalt not bear thou goodies for nobody. Thou shalt not steal time away from thou homework to get thou skeezin' on. Thou shalt not come home without calling first, because thou room will be turned into a love den for Big Daddy Shake and his Minnie. Thou shalt get a J-O-B. And lastly, thou shalt know that Cousin Shake loves you and he will never be too far away if you need him." He sniffed. "Hallelujah. Amen."

Was he crying? Ugg! Just when I couldn't stand him, he acts human. "Awwl, Cousin Shake, I love you too!" I said, giving him a hug.

"Me too!" Shae joined in.

"Me three!" Khya said, completing our group hug.

A few seconds later, Cousin Shake said, "All right, get up off me now. Minnie don't like too much perfume in my taco meat."

Yuck! I promise you I couldn't stand him. He walked toward the door and hit us with a two-finger peace sign. "Deuces," he said and a few minutes later he was gone.

Chapter Two

He on some other sh*t.

—Lumidee Ft. Pitbull, "Crazy"

I have to stop calling him.

But I can't believe he hasn't returned my text.

So what? I don't give a damn.

Yes, I do.

Puhlease, two can play that game.

But he said he would be here to help me move in.

Where is he?

Maybe he didn't make it to campus yet.

He's a ball player. He's always on campus.

Maybe my text didn't go through.

Yeah, right, out of the five hundred I sent, not even one went through? He got 'em.

Prove it.


Seriously, I was buggin'. I sat on the edge of my unmade twin-sized bed, in a sea of cardboard boxes, while Q 93.3 FM serenaded us during our pre-party preparation. Khya sorted through her makeup bag, picking out the right eye shadow. Shae laid True Religion jeans, a hot-pink ribbed tank top, and stilettos across the foot of her bed—all while I straight fronted like going to this party was the most pressing thing on my mind.

But it wasn't.

I hated that I played myself like this. I really wanted to enjoy this moment. I mean, seriously, my freshman year of freedom was just beginning, and the hottest Big Easy bounce party was about to go down. I needed to be practicing my booty bounce, not sitting here with a grip on my cell phone, praying it would ring or signal that I had a text message.

"So when are you going to get dressed?" Shae asked, sliding gloss across her lips.

"Yeah, really," Khya said as she applied mascara, "'cause we fidda catch da wall, bey-be."

What did she say? "Khya." I laughed. "Catch a who?"

"Da wall, honey. It means—"

"Get your groove on," Shae interjected. "So get up and stop thinking about Josiah." She pointed to my cell phone.

"Who's Josiah?" Khya asked, while she looked in the mirror and blew kisses at herself. "I am so sexy." She turned away from the mirror and said, "Now tell me, who is Josiah?"

"Seven's boo," Shae volunteered.

"All right now." Khya snapped her fingers. "You miss him, Seven? Where's he at, in Jersey?" She sat on the edge of the dresser.

At this point I wish he was in Jersey.... Then at least I would understand not hearing from him.

"No, he's—"

"Right on campus, girl," Shae snapped.

Oh no, she didn't.

"Oh hell nawl!" Khya said. "What's his name again? Jamil?"

"No, Josiah," I said.

"Well, he sounds like Jamil."

"Who's Jamil?"

"My ex-boyfriend," Khya said. "Being on the same campus and not calling is something he would do."

"I never said I haven't heard from Josiah."

"Actions speak louder than words," Shae said, pointing to my phone.

If looks could kill Shae would be laid out on the floor. "You need to fall back, fa'real."

"Girl, please." Shae smiled at me. "You know I love you. Now, come on 'cause my baby, Big Country, is throwing a slammin' part'tay."

"Yes, he is!" Khya hopped off the dresser and turned up the radio where Sissy Nobby screamed about a spinning top. Khya placed her hands on the wall and proceeded to break down the art of a Big Easy bounce.

"Don't stop, get-it—get-it!" Shae jumped up and joined Khya, both of them shaking their bottoms as if their behinds were having multiple seizures.

Okay, so, despite how I really felt, I had to jump off the bed and join them. After all, attached to my size-fourteen hips was more than enough rump to spin. Not to mention Shae wasn't really doing the dance that well. And since she was my homegirl, I wanted to show her how it's supposed to go down.

"First of all," I said, half smiling and half smirking, "this is how it's done." I did a Beyoncé pop, swept the floor with it, and bounced my booty like I was a New Orleans native and not a transplant.


Excerpted from Upgrade U by Ni-Ni Simone Copyright © 2011 by Ni-Ni Simone. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. 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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Upgrade U 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 104 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seven is back AGAIN ! I am so excited to get my hands on this book. Ni-Ni Simone is a WONDERFUL Writer . Exspecially in my point of view . She has an ability to grasp people's attention with her words & Trust me not that many books catch my attention . But her's surely did ! Keep up the GREAT Work Ni-Ni ! iLoved All Your Books ?
CreativelyInsane More than 1 year ago
over the last few months i've read all of nini simone's books and i've loved every one of them. but i can honestly say that this was absolutely the best one yet! zaire was just whoo! lol he actually stole my heart from harlem (a la if i was your girl). cousin shake, courtney, and kyah were true comic relief and had me laughing out loud. this book had me talking to the characters like they were actually in the room with me (a sign of a good book, not mental illness on my part lol) anyway check it out (and her other works) and you won't be disappointed.
idknow More than 1 year ago
Seven is back!Im too ready for this book to come out. I wonder if they are going to talk about Toi, the baby, and Harlem too! wait arent the in the atl? So how did Josiah get there? hmm, but anyway he better stop playing before Seven dip, trust me he will miss her!!!
adrianne122 More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Ni-Ni Simone's books and this was my absolute favorite. This book was just amazing thats the only way i can put it. If you have already read shortie like mine you need to make sure you read this if you enjoyed that book. I give this book an overall thumbs up, must read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
YAY seven's backkk! I was soo hoping there would be a sequel! I love ni ni simone! She's a fabulous writerr! But real talk seven dont play so josiah better get his mess in check! Ferreal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book cant come out fast enough hurry up! every one should read ni-ni simones books
nataviat More than 1 year ago
The is now 1 of mi all time favorites!!!!! NI NI SIMONE really knows how to connect with her young adult readers i say because im one my self and i connected soo much with book that i couldnt put it down and i read it in all of two days:) it was a wonderful read keep up to good work gurl :)
KaiLeigh2015 More than 1 year ago
Borrowed this from a friend. It was amazing ! Before reading this you should read Teenage Love Affair so that you can understand and get a proper introduction to some of the characters. This book can make you want to laugh, cry, fight, and all the other emotions experienced in the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Omg in love with this book but i feel bad for seven and josi i was in love with there relationship that gurlhe cheated on seven wirh i wanted to jump in the book and give her a beat down i know if i was seven i would of killed her and josi, josi was messed up for that but i want there relationship with out the ending part when he cheated on seven-___________-
TrueLove7 More than 1 year ago
This Was One Of The Best Books Ever. Josiah Played Himself & He Thought Seven Was Gone Stick Around & Take That . . . NOPE ! Zaire Was Definitely The Boy Seven Was Meant To Be With. Even Though He Makes Some Mistakes He Was Always There For Seven. Made Me Believe Its Some Faithful & True Guys Out Here <3
StasiaBabyLuv More than 1 year ago
Brooklyn_Ash More than 1 year ago
Ni-Ni Simone out did herself again! I must say she actually is my favorite author. Normally I wait for my friends to get a book first and then just borrow it from them, but when it comes to one of her books I go out and get it myself!! I was so excited when I walked into Barnes and Noble on sunday (Feb.20th) and found this book! I didn't put it down until it was finised. I cannot wait for her next book. Hopefully its an update on Taio and Harlem or Zas Zas. That's another thing! She always seems to have interesting character names! Big fan of Ni-Ni Simone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lovely_Lady_Rose More than 1 year ago
I've read just about every other NiNi Simone book. I have to say it feels like she rushed through this one. It's like Seven's character isn't fully developed since this is the second book she's been in. The plot was still good, I just feel like it could've been drawn out more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was everything , im soo happy a 3rd one is coming out
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Upgrade you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made me cry, smile, giggle and absolutelt LOL. Nini definitely has a way of connecting this fiction with the realities of young women. Call me a fish because I'm definitely hooked
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Upgrade you is about a 17 year old girl named Seven Mcknight. She is going to stiles university with her boyfriend from high school and her best friend Shae. When she gets there she meets two new friends and one is her roomate. Her name is Khya and the other friend is Courtney. A couple weeks later she notices that her boyfriend Josiah is being distant and not talking to her. After that she realises whats going on and does what she has to do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever i love it *^_^*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book! I was kind of sad to how it ended though. I want more Josiah & I really want a book 3 to it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lovee This Book Real Talk ;
Anonymous More than 1 year ago