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Love Actually meets Adventures in Babysitting in this hilarious novel written by seven authors about seven classmates who are preparing for a crazy night at their middle school dance.
Lynnfield Middle School is prepped and ready for a dance to remember, including an awesome performance from Heart Grenade, the all-girl band who recently won a Battle of the Bands contest. Seven classmates—Carmen, Genevieve, Tess, Ryan, Ellie, Ashlyn, and Jade—intend to make the most of the night...or at least the five of them who are able to attend do. The other two would sacrifice almost anything to be there.
One thing’s for sure—this entire crew is in for one epic night! Gail Nall, Dee Romito, Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephanie Faris, and Jen Malone have created a charming, hilarious, and relatable novel that’s perfect for anyone who can’t wait to dance the night away.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 13 Years|
About the Author
One of Rachele Alpine’s first jobs was at a library, but it didn’t last long, because all she did was hide in the third-floor stacks and read. Now she’s a little more careful about when and where she indulges her reading habit. Rachele is a high school English teacher by day, a wife and mother by night, and a writer during any time she can find in between. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio where she writes middle grade and young adult novels. Visit her at RacheleAlpine.com.
Ronni Arno Blaisdell is the author of Ruby Reinvented. She has written for several magazines, blogs, and websites. In a previous life she worked as a publicist in Hollywood, and eventually built a home in Maine. She is a keen SCBWI member and contributor to the KidLiterati.com blog.
Alison Cherry is the author of the YA novels Red, For Real and Look Both Ways, and the middle grade novels Willows vs. Wolverines and The Classy Crooks Club. She is a professional photographer and spent many years working as a lighting designer for theater, dance, and opera productions. This whole “writing books” thing is just a cover for the international crime ring she runs out of her Brooklyn apartment. (Shhh, don’t tell.) Visit her online at AlisonCherryBooks.com.
Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing. When she isn’t crafting fiction, Stephanie is indulging her gadget geek side by writing for online technology sites. Her work is regularly featured on the small business blogs for Intuit and Go Payment and she is a featured columnist for SmallBizTechnology.com. She lives in Nashville with her husband.
Jen Malone is a former Hollywood publicist who once spent a year traveling the world solo, met her husband on the highway (literally), and went into labor with her identical twins while on a rock star’s tour bus. These days she saves the drama for her books. Jen is also the author of the middle grade novels At Your Service and The Art of the Swap, coauthor of the You’re Invited series, and wrote the YA novels Map to the Stars and Wanderlost. You can visit her online at JenMaloneWrites.com.
Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail is the author of the middle grade novel Breaking the Ice, the coauthor of You’re Invited and You’re Invited Too, and the author of the young adult novel Exit Stage Left. You can find her online at GailNall.com and on Twitter as @GaileCN.
Dee Romito lives in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, where she and her family are steadily checking items off their own bucket list of adventures. You’re likely to find her at the local ice cream shop, writing at a café, or curled up on the couch with her cats. And while she does her best to be a grown-up most of the time, giggling with her BFFs is still one of her all-time favorite things. To join the fun and create your own bucket list, visit TheBFFBucketList.com.
Read an Excerpt
Best. Night. Ever.
USUALLY LYNNFIELD MIDDLE SCHOOL’S GYM smells like sweaty socks and armpits.
But tonight, everything is different.
Tonight, the gym smells like perfume, hairspray, and the pizza that everyone devoured right away. And instead of getting pelted in the face during a vicious game of dodgeball or doing a million jumping jacks, my friends and I are about to make history when we perform our band’s hit song, “Hear Us Roar.”
The room buzzes with excitement. Our classmates gather at the makeshift stage the drama club constructed, some pushing to get as close as possible, others taking selfies in front of the giant sign the decorating committee hung up with our name, Heart Grenade, written across it.
Suddenly the room goes dark and the audience erupts in cheers. This is it. Our moment!
A single spotlight turns on, illuminating me.
I look out into the crowd and soak up the moment as my classmates’ shouts wash over me. I picture myself as they might. My long black hair is flat-ironed sleek and shiny, and the light from above draws attention to my red streaks. My satin dress poofs out at the bottom, and the short white leather jacket looks amazing over it. I have on Mom’s vintage biker boots with the big silver buckles, and hot pink tights add the perfect touch. I’m rocker cute, as my best friend, Tess, likes to say.
“Hello, Lynnfield Middle School!” I yell into the microphone. The sound of my voice sweeps through the gym. “We’re Heart Grenade, and we’re ready to rock!”
Tess starts playing the drums, Faith comes in on the bass, and as Claudia launches into her signature guitar riff, the lights go up over the whole band, and our classmates go wild.
I open my mouth to start singing . . . and something soft smacks me in the head.
And just like that I’m jolted out of the best daydream ever and back into the worst reality ever. Because instead of being in the middle school gym performing with Heart Grenade like I’m supposed to be tonight, I’m surrounded by beige-and-maroon-striped wallpaper in a very tiny and very crowded hotel room with my family.
My eyes land on my ten-year-old brother, Lucas. He’s dressed in a gray suit that’s too short for him, and his dark hair is all spiky, even though Mom told him it would be really nice if he just combed it straight. But his appearance isn’t what I care about; it’s what is in his hands. He’s holding Pandy, my bear that I may still sleep with, although I’d never admit that to anyone. He dances around me and dangles Pandy in front of my face.
I yank her away from him. “Get your grubby hands off of my bear.”
“Gladly. I’ve got some reading to do anyway.” Lucas pulls my diary from under his pillow on the bed.
“Give me that!” I reach to grab the notebook with the hand that isn’t holding Pandy, but he pulls it away from me. I have no idea how the little sneak got hold of it, since I packed it deep down into my duffel bag, but there’s no way I’m letting him see what’s inside. He’d never let me live down the pages I filled about how cute my bandmate Claudia’s brother is.
“Mooooom,” I yell, but she waves a hand at me. She’s talking on the phone in rapid-fire Spanish to my aunt Sonia, or “the mother of the bride,” as everyone keeps saying, and is trying to convince her that something to do with the flowers is going to be all right. But meanwhile, this diary situation most certainly is not going to turn out all right.
I tackle Lucas and thankfully wrestle the notebook away from him, but not before getting an elbow to the gut and a knee to my head.
“You’d better sleep with one eye open,” I warn him. “I’m not going to forget this.”
“Ohhhh, I’m so scared,” he replies and rolls his eyes.
“You look like Christmas,” my seven-year-old brother, Alex, says, and my attention shifts to him. Yep, I have two younger brothers. Two annoying little brothers. It’s pretty much the worst ever.
“Christmas?” This is March; that holiday is long gone.
“Yep, with that green dress and those awful red streaks you put in your hair, you make me want to watch Rudolph and hang ornaments on the tree.”
“Whatever! You’re the ridiculous one, with your purple tie and sweater vest,” I say.
“If you say so, Jolly Old Saint Nick.”
“I don’t look like Christmas,” I tell him, but I walk over to the mirror. The girl who stares back at me isn’t happy at all. Instead of the cute black dress I gazed at every time we went to the mall, the one I’d planned to buy for our big concert, I have on a junior bridesmaid dress that’s about as pretty as a pillowcase. It’s made of some stretchy fabric that bunches up around my waist and digs into my armpits. And it’s green. Not the cute emerald green or Kelly green that all the celebrities wear these days, but bright elf green. My brothers are right; with the red streaks in my hair, I’m ready to deck the halls and have myself a merry little Christmas.
“I’m suddenly in the mood for milk and cookies,” Lucas says, coming up behind me.
“That’s it,” I announce. “I refuse to wear this!”
I go to my suitcase and pull out my jeans with the rhinestones that I wore on the drive here because right now, no dress is better than wearing this one. I try to reach behind and unzip the offending dress, so I’ll at least look the part of the lead singer even if I’m not rocking out with everyone back at school.
“Not a chance,” Mom says. The phone is still up against her ear, so I pray maybe she’s talking to my aunt instead of me. “You’re not putting that on,” she says, crushing all my hopes.
“But why not? The ceremony is over, and we took a million pictures of me in this awful thing. Can’t I wear these now?”
“You’re wearing the dress your cousin picked out for you. It’s your cousin’s night, so you’ll do what makes her happy.”
What about what makes me happy? It was supposed to be my night, I want to say, but it’s no use trying to convince Mom. I can tell from the glare she gives me that I won’t win this argument.
I try a different approach and decide to talk to Dad instead. He’s always the easier one to convince, especially when it involves ice cream before dinner or staying up past my bedtime. Dad’s a sucker for my sad face, and sticking out my bottom lip and looking especially pathetic always seals the deal.
I’ve studied the bus maps, and even though we are almost three hours from home, if I take the six thirty p.m. bus, I might make it back so I can sing with the band. Imagine everyone’s surprise and delight if I showed up. They’d be so excited, especially since they were all upset when I broke the news that my parents were making me go to this wedding. It was awful; we all cried a little bit. Well, except Genevieve, who got really, really quiet. She’s probably thrilled to be in the spotlight since she only joined a month ago as a backup singer and now she gets to take my spot in the lead.
“Dad, what do you think about taking me to the bus station before you all go to the reception? I can go home early, sing with the band, and stay with Tess.”
“Yeah, and he can also drop me off at the airport for a flight to Disney World,” Alex says, and I want to scream. “There’s no way you’re going to be allowed to ride the bus alone.”
“Stay out of this,” I snap.
“He’s right,” Dad says. He doesn’t even take his eyes off the TV, and I can’t believe he’s abandoning me instead of being my ally. “That’s too dangerous. And besides, you know how excited Mom is for us to spend family time together.”
“This is so unfair. It’s Heart Grenade’s big night. We worked so hard to win the Battle of the Bands at the mall, and now I can’t claim our prize.”
“We’ve been over this already, Carmen. You made a commitment to be in your cousin’s wedding,” Mom says. She’s finally hung up the phone, probably so she can direct all her attention toward continuing to ruin my night.
“But that was before we won.” I try to reason with her. “When am I ever going to be on TV again?”
“You’ll survive,” Mom says.
But I’m really not sure I will. Our local station is broadcasting Heart Grenade’s concert to everyone during the evening news, and I won’t be a part of it.
“You don’t understand. Anyone could be watching. I’m pretty sure Taylor Swift got discovered in a similar way.”
“And I also bet that she went to all her family weddings,” Mom says. She touches up her bright red lipstick in the mirror and doesn’t seem to care at all that my life is ending. “It’s good to spend time as a family.”
“Well, you got your wish,” I say.
“How about you try to have fun? You might even find that being at this wedding isn’t so awful, mi pajarita.”
She tries to pull me into a hug that I most definitely do not want.
I wiggle out of it and back away. “Fun? You don’t understand anything! When I have daughters, I’m always going to listen to them and make sure I support everything they want to do.”
I huff and puff all the way to the bathroom to make sure everyone knows how mad I am. I slam the door and sit on the edge of the bathtub.
This is a million times more horrible than I’d imagined. I pull out my cell phone and send a text to Tess.
Help! Emergency! Come save me STAT!!! This is a tragedy! I need to be with all of you!
I wait for her to reply and wish that she really could come to save me. But when you’re stuck an entire state away in a hotel room, that’s pretty much impossible.
Someone bangs on the door.
“Time’s up, Mrs. Claus. I need to get in there,” Alex yells.
I turn on the water in the tub full blast to drown him out, scroll through my Instagram feed, and torture myself with picture after picture of everyone getting ready for the dance. I burst out laughing at a picture from earlier in the afternoon of my classmate (and Tess’s mortal enemy) Mariah with a green face mask on and the caption, Do you all like my makeup for the dance? Perfect, right?! I scroll through and pause on a cartoon one of my classmates drew of Heart Grenade’s logo. Can’t wait to hear my favorite band live is written on the bottom.
“My life is over!” I wail.
“Carmen, open up right now! This isn’t funny,” Lucas whines. “I drank two cans of soda and need to use the bathroom.”
“Should’ve thought about that before you made fun of my dress.”
I hear Dad yell something with my name in it, so I know it’s only a matter of time before he comes over and tells me to open the door.
I grab for my phone as it lights up, telling me I have a text.
Except it isn’t from Tess.
It’s from Genevieve.
THE Genevieve, who is taking my place tonight as lead singer.
A.k.a. . . . the last person in the world I want to hear from.
Hope the wedding is fun. Wish you were here!
I feel a little better. At least the band is thinking of me.
I’m about to respond when another message from her pops up on the screen.
Any last-minute advice?
Seriously? She’s asking me for advice? That’s like kicking someone when they’re down.
I don’t want to give her advice; I want to be up there onstage. I fight back tears while Lucas continues to pound on the door and Alex sings Christmas carols. And his song choice couldn’t be better, because it’s going to be a “Silent Night” for me as the lead singer of Heart Grenade.