When You Open Your Eyes

When You Open Your Eyes

by Celeste Conway
     
 

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A consuming passion turns dangerous in this lush and lyrical novel set in Buenos Aires.

The more you love, the more you stand to lose….

Tessa’s head over heels for Lucien, the son of a French diplomat. Sexy, artistic, and daring, he brings out a completely new side of her. With him, Tessa feels beautiful and exotic. So when Tessa’See more details below

Overview

A consuming passion turns dangerous in this lush and lyrical novel set in Buenos Aires.

The more you love, the more you stand to lose….

Tessa’s head over heels for Lucien, the son of a French diplomat. Sexy, artistic, and daring, he brings out a completely new side of her. With him, Tessa feels beautiful and exotic. So when Tessa’s strict father forbids her to see Lucien, she’s determined to keep their relationship a secret.

But as Tessa gets caught up in Lucien, he becomes increasingly volatile. What she once found alluring about him now feels alarming. Tessa must figure out how far she’ll go for Lucien before she risks losing not just him, but everything she loves.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Tessa's life takes an exciting turn when her family moves from suburban Virginia to Buenos Aires where her father is an American FBI employee affiliated with the embassy. Her new circle of friends includes a group of worldly teenagers with access to many features of an adult lifestyle. Among them is her fellow-artist and new boyfriend, Lucien, the son of a French diplomat. Then Tessa's father, who has recently returned from a two-year stint in Colombia, forbids her to see Lucien. Determined to maintain her relationship with the one person who makes her feel beautiful, talented, and needed, Tessa sneaks around. As her estrangement from her family grows, Lucien's alluring behavior is becoming suspect and at times dangerous. When Tessa learns the latest trigger for his manic outbursts, she has a breakdown of her own. The story reaches a frenzied climax in which Tessa attempts to save Lucien from himself only to learn that she may be lucky to save her own life. The characters' voices ring true and the plot moves along at an engaging pace. The subplots involving Tessa's family add to the portrayal of the protagonist's changing personality. Teen girls will recognize the urgency of first love and the ways in which it can take over one's life. This is a solid addition to the darker side of the chick-lit genre.—Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
Publishers Weekly
Conway (The Goodbye Time) pens an atmospheric novel set in Buenos Aires, where 16-year-old Tessa finds first love. Transplanted from suburban Virginia to Argentina by her controlling FBI agent father and self-absorbed mother, Tessa is immediately drawn to Lucien—the moody, artistic, and magnetic son of a French diplomat—even though her father forbids their relationship. Leaving her old life behind piece by piece, Tessa is drawn into a steamy clandestine romance with Lucien (“I want to fly away with him and never be left behind again”), as well as a life of partying with new friends who have the freedom she envies. But Lucien isolates Tessa as his behavior becomes increasingly unpredictable and violent; he pressures her into sex, leaves the country for weeks without calling, and plots a terrorist-inspired art project. Tessa’s meditative and intimate voice carries the story, as does the threat of Lucien’s instability. Thick with evocative descriptions of the subtle and not-so-subtle adaptations involved in living abroad, Conway’s story is gripping and memorable. Ages 14–up. Agent: Erica Rand Silverman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Mar.)¦
From the Publisher
"Thick with evocative descriptions, Conway’s story is gripping and memorable."
Publishers Weekly, January 23, 2012

"The plot twists are enough to keep readers of edgy, realistic fiction turning pages. The real strengths, however, are Conway’s ability to suggest motive and emotion in nuanced dialogue and the portrayal of Tessa’s growing gift for articulating the ironies of the complicated people in her world. As in all good literature, the epiphany is inevitably bittersweet."
VOYA, February 2012

"Teen girls will recognize the urgency of first love and the ways in which it can take over one’s life. This is a solid addition to the darker side of the chick-lit genre."
SLJ, March 2012

"This dark romance’s dreamy atmosphere, dangerous undercurrents, artistic characters, and overarching theme of fidelity and trust will win over fans of Courtney Summers and Siobhan Vivian."
—Booklist Online

VOYA - Donna L. Phillips
In Buenos Aires, Conway has situated the archetypal plot of the good girl attracted to the bad boy. Tessa, the daughter of an FBI agent working at the U.S. Embassy, is attracted to Lucien, the son of the French cultural attache. Her forbidden relationship with him embroils her with a cosmopolitan group of teens into sex, drugs, art, and fashion, things about which Tessa suddenly feels unhappily inexperienced. Unlike Tessa, these teens are cut loose from the moorings of a supportive, if sometimes annoyingly protective, family. Added to this toxic recipe are Lucien's potentially violent bouts with bipolar disorder, her father's seamy colleague who appears to be stalking her on her father's behalf, and eventual surprises about Tessa's less-than-idyllic family. The plot twists are enough to keep readers of edgy, realistic fiction turning pages. The real strengths, however, are Conway's ability to suggest motive and emotion in nuanced dialogue and the portrayal of Tessa's growing gift for articulating the ironies of the complicated people in her world. As in all good literature, the epiphany is inevitably bittersweet and not for those who need an unambiguously happy ending. It is not if you open your eyes, but when, and what you see is likely to be indelibly painful. The teens' involvement with drugs and their sexual encounters make the book more appropriate for older readers. Reviewer: Donna L. Phillips
Kirkus Reviews
A modern-day Romeo and Juliet. The novel's Romeo is Lucien, the manic, self-important son of a French diplomat, and Juliet is Tessa, the querulous daughter of an American FBI agent. The story takes place far from Verona, in Argentina, an exotic locale that functions as one of the few appealing characters in the book. Lucien's penchant for dangerous behavior is well known in diplomatic circles and ostensibly the reason why Tessa's father has forbidden her to see him. The two must meet in secret, and so begins the downward spiral of an astonishingly dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship. Lucien is a teen Svengali, lazing about in a silk kimono, working on "guerilla" art projects and threatening to consume Tessa with his neediness. It's difficult to even characterize narrator Tessa, because the harder she falls for Lucien, the more frustratingly weak and subservient she becomes. The love scenes, at least initially, are steamy, and the narrative, particularly when describing the setting, is often rich and sensuous, but neither of these things can make up for the novel's shortcomings. Whether Lucien is a victim or a predator is up to readers to interpret, but either way, it's hard to imagine anyone rooting for these two. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442430327
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Publication date:
03/20/2012
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

I

I tell it all to Lucien. He’s stretched to the max on the furry white couch in his mother’s red apartment, looking like something you’d want to paint. Low-slung jeans and the black-on-black kimono, open and almost falling off, so I see the whole smooth front of him all the way down to his poutylooking outie and the blue tattoo of the Algiz rune. He’s drawing in his sketchbook—scratch, scratch, scratch—but I know that he is listening as he murmurs “Nazi” under his breath in his French so-sexy accent, his nostrils flaring, wide and black.

“Dad’s not that bad,” I’m about to say, but Esme’s back, dangling a pair of shoes. She’s been foraging through Lucien’s mother’s closet again. “I’m going to borrow these,” she says. Silvery snakeskin. Four-inch heels.

Lucien yawns. Asks if she’s put the others back. “My mother noticed them gone, you know.”

“I didn’t take them. Mitra did.”

Not a likely story. Esme lies like others breathe. And Mitra’s more into boots.

“Well, somebody has to put them back. Also, Maman requests that you all stay out of her private realm. She’s going to put on a lock.”

“Blah, blah, blah,” says Esme. Her skirt’s so tight, the V of her thong shows through in back as she bends to put on the shoes. “Your mum just loves that we raid her stuff. It makes her feel very cool.”

Lucien twirls his pencil. “Tessa’s father—dad, I mean—says she can’t see me anymore. What do you think of that?”

Esme jumps like someone’s stuck her with a pin. The bangles clang on her bony wrists.

“I don’t get it. What do you mean?” She’s tall as a tree in the spiky heels.

“Tes . . . sa’s dad . . . does . . . not . . . want . . .” He drags it out as if Esme’s deaf and a hundred years old.

“Can someone really do that? I never heard of such a thing.”

Lucien laughs. “Isn’t she precious, Tess?” he says. “You’d think she was raised by wolves.”

“I don’t see your mummy here too much.” Esme’s English. Says “mummy” a lot. She rolls her eyes at Lucien. “She doesn’t even notice when the clothes in her closet disappear.”

“You take her clothes?” This is news to Lucien, who up till now thought it was only shoes. He goes back to the subject of my dad and tries to explain to Esme that certain parents in the world do, in fact, tell their kids who to see or not. This doesn’t compute in Esme’s brain. She sinks to the white alpaca next to my boyfriend’s feet. “Boyfriend,” I’ve just begun to say.

“Bizarre,” she comments, mystified, and fiddles with his toes. This I hate. Her bony fingers are limp with rings. Peridot and turquoise. Some great big diamond with a crack. Lucien’s toes are beautiful. The bottoms of his feet are smooth. Petal soft, the color of a flower tea. “Why don’t they like poor Lucien? He’s a sweet little boy. Wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“That tickles, Esme. Get the hell off.”

“But why?” she coos. “Just tell me why.” It’s hard to look at Esme. Her beauty messes up my head. Her china-blue eyes don’t match the darkness of her skin. Her “mum’s” Malaysian, so she says. But no one’s ever seen her mum, so the story’s probably bogus too. Her height comes from her father (this part Lucien says is true), a red-faced Brit, thin as a flagpole and just as stiff. Esme’s hair is long and white. Cornsilk strands that fly in her face. I bought some bleach, but Lucien said Don’t touch your hair. He loves my looks, he tells me. So fresh and squeaky American-clean.

“Her father thinks I bring the marijuana.” “Marie Juan,” it sounds like, like the name of an exotic girl.

“So what. Who cares.”

“Well, it isn’t me. I wouldn’t share my stash like that.”

“Don’t put yourself down. You’re very kind.”

“Try to stay focused, Esme sweet.”

“Well, who made it up, this rumor, when everyone knows it’s Wid?”

“They talk on Sunday at the church.”

“What church?” says Esme, wide-eyed.

“All the Americans go to church. And when it’s over they have café—”

“And doughnuts?” says Esme brightly. “I had an American doughnut once—”

“Hopeless,” says Lucien close to my ear.

“You Americans always hate the French. And I know why,” says Esme. “You’re jealous because they speak so nice and they make soufflés and those chilly little aspic things.”

“What chilly little aspic things?”

“Those things with the tomatoes. Lucien knows the things I mean.” Esme stretches out her legs and stares at the snakeskin shoes. Then flashing back to me again:

“Can’t you just tell them it isn’t true? That the little Dutch boy sells the weed?”

“You really want her to rat on Wid?” Lucien intervenes for me. He’s stippling with his pencil now, putting angry eyebrows on my dad. Esme shrugs.

“Will your dad try to have him ganked, you think?”

“Vous êtes tres drôle,” says Lucien, which means “you are very funny,” though Esme is not laughing, not even a smile on her spaced-out face.

“Doesn’t he work for the CIA?”

Lucien whispers, “FBI.” I’d asked him to keep this to himself. My dad doesn’t advertise that fact; people in the Bureau don’t. Not that it’s some big secret. For three months now, since we moved to Argentina, he’s been stationed at the embassy—the “legal attaché,” he’s called—with his weird little dweeb assistant, Jer, formally known as Jerry. We’re supposed to say he works for “Justice” if anyone asks. That’s Department of Justice, by the way, not the whole ideal.

Esme springs up. “Does he have a gun?”

“Go home,” said Lucien, waving her off.

“No, really, does he? I bet he does.” She clomps back and forth across the room, testing out the shoes. “Anyway, I guess I’ll go. I know you really want me to. Plus Gash is taking me out tonight.”

“How can you stand that scary old scag?” Gash is gross, but I’m glad we’ve stopped talking about my dad.

“Gash is an icon. An icon, love. He changed the world of rock.”

“He’s a dirty old man, is what he is.”

“He isn’t dirty. He bathes a lot. Sometimes several times a day and with soap that’s made by monks. Anyway, who cares. Gash and I have fun. We play this game—I call him ‘Daddy’ when we go out. At Christmastime, he’s taking me to Italy.”

“If you live to be twenty, Esme, it will be a miracle. Arrivederci. Blow a kiss.” Esme smiles, teetering slightly in the heels. She opens the door and tosses puffs of air at us.

“Find who has my mother’s clothes!” Lucien hollers after her. Her footsteps clatter in the hall. It sounds like she’s walking back and forth, breaking in the shoes. Seconds pass and we hear the elevator doors and the fading hum as the big brass cage lowers from the penthouse floor.

I turn to look at Lucien to ask him again not to mention my father’s job. But then I don’t, because he’s put down the pad and pencil with the portrait of my Nazi dad. He’s smiling too, thedimples dark at the ends of his mouth. That’s what I fell in love with first—those shady wounds at the corners there. He was standing in front of a painting by Michelangelo—a poster, that is, on the wall of the art room at our school. His full-lipped mouth looked just like the painted angel’s, and I knew I was going to kiss it soon. That was just two weeks ago—well, sixteen days and a couple of hours—yet I feel like I’ve always known that mouth, tilting now in the slow, faint smile that’s only meant for me.

“What are we going to do?” I ask.

“It’s so sexy when you’re serious. Everything dire and ter-ee-bul.”

“My dad isn’t kidding, Lucien. We really have to make a plan.”

“Tessa. Belle. Ma Tessa.” His voice is soft and sibilant. And already I feel the slow, hot dip just hearing the way he says my name with the belle in between, which in French, you know, means beautiful. “We’ll work it out. We’ll sneak around.”

“You don’t know my dad—”

“We’ll make up stories. Little lies. You’ll say that you’re at Esme’s house. Or Mitra’s place. Who cares? Your father can’t come to school with you or follow you around all day.”

“He knows when I’m lying. He has a gift.”

“Don’t worry, Tess. I’ll teach you how to do it. How to lie so good that nobody sees it in your eyes.” He reaches out and takes my hand. I forget about Dad as he draws me down on top of him. The silk kimono slips away, my face falling into the warm, dark slot beside his own. He talks in French against my hair as if what he needs to say to me can only be said in the language that came first to him.

So we make our plan: We’ll lie and fake. We’ll make up stories and sneak around. “It might be fun,” he whispers. Like Esme pretending she’s Gash’s daughter, calling him “Daddy” wherever they go, playing their game in the secret dark of clubs and bars. We could go to Alibi Alice too. She’s a girl at school who, for money, will fix up everything. “She’s an entrepreneur,” says Lucien. Before I leave we drink some port. I don’t really like the taste of it, but I love to hold the tiny cut-glass thimbles he takes from the Chinese cabinet. Solange, Lucien’s mother, is a cultural attaché and has things from all around the world. We sit on the floor on the Turkish rug.

He signs the drawing of my dad. He tears it out and I put it in my sketchbook, in between the pages, the way you’d press a flower.

“Drawings,” whispers Lucien, “are more intense than photographs. They’re the actual lines that the person has made. With the impulse of his nerves and touch.” When I look at this drawing years from now—when I’m old, he says, “an old, old girl in a red wool cap”—I’ll remember this afternoon.

The drawing doesn’t look like Dad. It doesn’t look like anyone. But already I know the other part’s true. The part about remembering.

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