NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RHYS ERNST AND STARRING NICHOLAS ALEXANDER, BOBBI SALVÖR MENUEZ, LEO SHENG, AND MARGARET QUALLEY “An insightful, funny, and unexpected love story.”—Aimee Mann When Adam Freedman — a straight, cis teen from Piedmont, California — goes to stay with his older sister Casey in Brooklyn, he fantasizes about a summer of freedom, new friends, and falling in love. He’s in for a surprise. It’s 2006 and Casey has thrown herself into NYC’s lesbian and trans activist scene—marriage equality marches, L Word-watching parties, BDSM sex clubs, and trans rights protests. Adam tags along, having fun in places he’d never have expected, but he’s surrounded by lesbians, and it seems like the last thing he’ll find is a girlfriend. That is, until he meets Gillian. Adam is soon hopelessly, desperately in love…only there’s just one small problem. Gillian thinks he’s a trans man. Ariel Schrag’s scathingly funny and poignant debut novel puts a fresh spin on questions of love, attraction, self-definition, and what it means to be part of a community. "[An] audacious coming-of-age novel.”—Miami Herald "Compulsively readable."—Bookforum "Hilarious...Schrag's riotous, poignant debut novel will leave you reeling."—SF Weekly
About the Author
Ariel Schrag grew up in Berkeley, California. She is the author of the graphic memoirs Awkward, Definition, Potential, and Likewise, and has written for the television shows How to Make it in America and The L Word. She lives in Brooklyn.
Read an Excerpt
Adam stared up at the tree leading to Kelsey Winslow’s bedroom window. He was holding a flower he’d picked on the way over—a golden poppy, the official California state flower, a conversation piece:
“Did you know it’s actually illegal to pick these?”
“Yeah, weird, right?”
But now, about to climb the tree, he didn’t know what to do with it. If he just held it in his hand while he climbed up, it would definitely get smashed; same thing with putting it in his back pocket. He racked his brain and finally decided he was just going to have to hold it in his teeth while he climbed: 100 percent Gay. But, whatever, he’d just make sure to get it back in his hand before Kelsey saw his head poking out over the window.
The whole climbing-into-the-girl’s-window-through-a-tree-in-her-backyard thing was itself pretty ridiculous, but Adam didn’t have much choice. He hoisted himself up. Kelsey’s parents were cool—almost too cool—and they wouldn’t have given a shit if some boy dropped by and asked if Kelsey was home. Kelsey was always saying things like: “My parents don’t care about anything. They totally know I steal their alcohol. When Mom went on her ‘I’m not drinking anymore’ thing, and all the beer in the house disappeared, I was like, ‘Just ’cause Mom doesn’t wanna drink doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t be able to!’ ” Their lack of caring was why Kelsey insisted everyone climb up the tree and through her window. It made things seem more exciting.
Adam transferred the flower from mouth to fist and rapped on the glass. He could see Kelsey sitting on her bed with her laptop. She came over and opened the window. She looked cross.
“I told you to come over at around six. You’re early.”
Adam scrambled into the room and peeked at his watch. It was 5:44. He had taken the bus from his house to Kelsey’s and overestimated the time; he had actually arrived an entire hour early but walked around the block thirteen times until it was 5:40, and for some reason he had calculated that it would take him twenty minutes to climb the tree.
Adam shrugged. Kelsey mock-shrugged back. She went over to her bed and picked up where she had left off with her laptop. Adam sat down next to her. She was in socks with her feet curled up underneath her. Adam’s sneakers looked huge and bulbous and were caked in mud, tree sap, and probably dog shit. He slouched against the wall so his shoes dangled off the edge of the bed, not touching any of the blankets. He considered for a moment kicking them off, all casual, like, Whatever, I’m just gonna kick these shoes off. But even the thought made him cringe. She’d think he was just trying to make out with her, which of course he was. Adam looked down and realized he was still holding the now-mashed poppy in his fist. He discreetly smushed it into his back pocket.
Kelsey was IM’ing with what appeared to be five different people on her computer screen and texting with someone on her phone. She was carrying on six conversations, none of which were with Adam. He gazed around the room, trying to pretend he didn’t care or notice that she was ignoring him. His eyes shifted: desk cluttered with school stuff and Buffy DVDs; corkboard with photos of friends at school, everyone hanging off of one another; drawings that looked like they were done by a five-year-old (kid she babysat for?). What the fuck was he doing here? It was almost the end of his junior year of high school, and he’d still only made out with one girl in one piece-of-shit game of spin the bottle back in eighth grade. He probably shouldn’t even count spin the bottle, but what was he going to do, say he’d never made out with anyone? He’d already exaggerated the kiss in his mind to include tongue and a little groping, when the reality was it had been one quick peck on the lips that gave him an instant hard-on. Kelsey was part of a group he hung around with at school, and everyone had been telling him she liked him. He thought she seemed 100 percent indifferent to him like every other girl he knew, but Brad had insisted, “She wants you, man; she’s totally damp for you,” so he’d asked her if he should stop by after school, and she’d said: “Sure.”
“Adam? Why are you being so weird and quiet?”
Adam looked at Kelsey, who was staring at him.
“You are. You’re, like, just sitting there staring.”
Kelsey shoved her laptop off her stomach and walked over to her stereo. She fiddled with the iPod, and music started playing. She’s setting the mood. Adam’s body tensed. Kelsey started doing a flow-y dance to the music. She rolled her neck back and moved her arms in undulating curves. Her eyes were closed, and she mouthed the words along with the music as she swayed. She stopped and opened her eyes at him.
“Wanna get high?”
“Sure,” said Adam.
There was nothing Adam wanted to do less, but if it meant making out with Kelsey, he was willing to risk it. He’d smoked pot a couple weeks ago with Brad and Colin, and spent the whole night praying for the feeling to go away. They’d smoked out of an empty Bud can that Brad had turned into a pipe by bending it in half and jabbing a little circle of holes in the middle with a ballpoint pen. After only three hits, Adam couldn’t tell the difference between what he was saying or merely thinking, and he was convinced Brad and Colin had masterminded the entire night just to fuck with him. “Adam’s tweaking!” they kept saying, and laughing (secret looks between them) “Adam’s totally tweaking!”
Now Kelsey wanted to get high, and before she’d even taken out the weed, Adam felt like he was completely stoned.
“I got this new bong on Telegraph,” said Kelsey, rummaging through a drawer. She extracted a bra and flung it over her back across the room, just missing Adam, turning his face red as it passed.
“Here it is,” said Kelsey. “Shit goes straight to your brain with this.” The bong was translucent purple with a giant weed leaf painted along the cylinder. Adam had seen ones like it propped up next to the for tobacco use only sign in the display case at Annapurna, the smoke shop on Telegraph Avenue. Kelsey dumped some leftover Diet Coke inside the bong and packed the bowl.
“Guests first,” she said, standing in front of Adam and extending the bong to him. “Or is it ladies first?” She grinned and snapped her arm back, bringing the bong to her chest. The cylinder was stuck between her tits, making them spread out. Her nipples looked hard, and despite his paranoia, Adam could feel himself getting that way too.
“Ladies first,” he said.
Kelsey flopped down on the bed, splashing Diet Coke from the bong on her pink ringer T-shirt. She lit up and inhaled long and deep. Adam scooted in closer to her. Their thighs were touching and his hand was resting just behind her back, right where her jeans went down and her shirt went up, exposing a slice of bare skin and underwear. Kelsey handed the bong to Adam and he lit it. He sucked in but closed his throat.
“What kind of pussy inhaling is that?” said Kelsey. “Open your mouth! Do you not like bongs ’cause it makes you feel like you’re sucking a dick? Matt doesn’t do bongs ’cause he says it makes him feel like he’s sucking a dick.” Matt was Kelsey’s recently ex-boyfriend. “I think he was just gay. Dick.” Kelsey shoved the top of the bong up into Adam’s mouth, put her thumb over the carb, and relit the bowl for him. “Now suck,” she ordered.
Adam inhaled with all his might, the bong bubbled, and Kelsey released the carb. Adam exploded in coughing.
“Now you’ll be high,” said Kelsey, satisfied. She took another hit and then performed the procedure with Adam again, resulting in another explosive cough.
“But I’m, like, what? Matt doesn’t know shit,” Kelsey rambled, apparently continuing a conversation she had started in her head. “He thinks all girls love to suck dick—I mean, some girls do; some of us like it to be a little more equal. Alice says she’ll only suck dick after a guy’s gone down on her. Frances says the only fair thing to do is sixty-nine first, and then it doesn’t matter if the girl sucks dick or if the guy goes down first. I think it’s OK to suck dick first, but only if you can tell it’s the kind of guy who’ll go down on you, and if you can’t tell . . .”