A TV writer's room intern must join forces with her crush to keep her boss from ruining a lesbian character in this diverse contemporary YA romance from the author of Queens of Geek.
Seventeen-year-old Bex is thrilled when she gets an internship on her favorite tv show, Silver Falls. Unfortunately, the internship isn't quite what she expected... instead of sitting in a crowded writer's room volleying ideas back and forth, Production Interns are stuck picking up the coffee.
Determined to prove her worth as a writer, Bex drafts her own script and shares it with the head writerwho promptly reworks it and passes it off as his own! Bex is understandably furious, yet...maybe this is just how the industry works? But when they rewrite her proudly lesbian character as straight, that's the last straw! It's time for Bex and her crush to fight back.
Jen Wilde's newest novel is both a fun, diverse love story and a very relevant, modern take on the portrayal of LGBT characters in media.
Praise for Jen Wilde:
"The book deals head on with issues of mental health, body shaming, sexuality, and internet celebrity, handling them with a delicate and skillful touch." Teen Vogue on Queens of Geek
"This is the geeky, queer book of our dreams." Seventeen on Queens of Geek
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Jen Wilde is a writer, geek and fangirl with a penchant for coffee, books and pugs. She writes YA stories about fangirls (Queens of Geek), rockstars (The Brightsiders), zombies (As They Rise), and witches (Echo of the Witch). Her debut series reached over three million reads online and became an Amazon bestseller. Born and raised in Australia, she splits her time between Melbourne and New York. When she’s not writing, Jen loves binge-watching her favorite shows on Netflix, eating pizza, traveling to far away places and going to conventions in Marty McFly cosplay.
Read an Excerpt
The door of the bus hisses as it folds open, and a burst of warm air swirls around me. I heave my suitcase down the steps and squint through the glare bouncing off the sidewalk.
I'm here. I'm actually in Los Angeles. After spending years daydreaming about this moment, it's happening. And it's even better than I imagined, because this is real. The sun is burning my pale skin, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and exhaust fumes fills the air, and I'm kicking myself for thinking my fave plaid shirt was a smart outfit choice in this weather. But it's all okay, because I made it.
I open Google Maps on my phone and check the street signs. I've stared at the map of West Hollywood so many times in the last few months that I could probably find Parker's street in my sleep, but the part of me that likes to be in control needs to have the map ready, just in case.
"Okay," I say quietly to myself. "I'm on Santa Monica Boulevard. Good."
I start walking, dragging my suitcase with its one busted wheel behind me. It's Sunday afternoon, and there's a chill vibe in the air. Tattooed people in printed shirts and oversize sunglasses sip cocktails at trendy outdoor cafés. Locals stroll along the sidewalk, and I smile at their dogs. Bars are painted turquoise and lemon yellow, and there's so much stunning street art that I don't know which one to Instagram first.
I can see why Parker, my cousin, loves this neighborhood. Its Old Hollywood vintage-style neon signs and proud queer culture are a perfect fit for him. Compared to our gray hometown of Westmill, Washington, it's like being on another planet.
Just as I'm thinking of home, I get a text from my mom.
Mom:are you there yet? Let me know you're safe xo
I'll reply later. There's too much going on here that I don't want to miss, and if I'm honest, the last thing I want to do right now is think about home.
That town was suffocating me. Closing in on me like the walls of the trash compactor on the Death Star. I made it out just in time to avoid being crushed by the weight of utter normalcy and conformity. Being here feels like breathing after holding my breath my whole life. I'm free. Free to be exactly who I've always wanted to be.
While waiting at the famous rainbow crosswalk, I arch my back to stretch out muscles that are still stiff from being stuck on a bus for eighteen hours. If I were anywhere else, I'd want to find a place to shower and nap and recover from my journey, but not here. All I want to do is dump my suitcase and start exploring this town. The air is filled with limitless possibility that gives me a buzz when I breathe it in.
This is where people who love creating fictional worlds as much as I do all gather to make magic. The world's most iconic stars have been born here. My heroes have walked these streets.
Emotion swells in my chest, and I squeeze my eyes shut. I can't believe I actually made it.
Finally, I can stop dreaming and start doing. No more long, rainy nights standing behind a deep fryer, feeling a thousand miles away from where I wanted to be. No more hiding in the back of classrooms, counting down the days on the calendar until I could be free.
I'm here for an internship on my favorite TV show: Silver Falls — about werewolves and the people who love them. This time tomorrow, I'll be sitting in the writers' room, taking notes and listening to ideas and trying not to fangirl all over everyone. I'm about to take my first big leap toward my goal of creating my own TV show. I'll intern this summer, hopefully find a job as a personal assistant to a showrunner, then work hard and pay my dues for a while. After a few years, I'll be promoted to writer. My days will be spent crafting story lines and creating characters I've always wanted to see on my television. Then, maybe by the time I'm in my thirties, I'll have proven myself worthy of getting my own hour of airtime. I'll be Bex Phillips: showrunner.
That's my plan, anyway. Mom always says, "Every house needs a blueprint and every dream needs a plan."
I check the map on my phone again. One more block. I look up just as two pretty people with long legs and colorful hair walk by. One wears a T- shirt with HELLA BI printed on it, and the other has a denim jacket covered in buttons that proudly support trans pride. They don't notice me staring at them — they're much too infatuated with each other. They hold hands and giggle as they walk by, and I'm filled with such hope and joy that all I can do is swoon.
When I turn down Parker's street, I still can't wipe the smile from my face. It's lined with palm trees. The sky is a perfect blue. I feel like I've stepped into a postcard. But the closer I get to his building, the higher my nerves rise.
I made it to LA, which means there are no excuses now. Is it possible that some part of me believed I'd never actually make it this far? Did I feel safer holding on to a dream that was so huge, I never thought it would ever come true? What do I do now that it has?
I mean, it's not like I'm the first eighteen-year-old stepping off a bus in LA, carrying a suitcase full of dreams. Everyone has heard those stories of young hopefuls flocking to Hollywood, chasing fame and fortune. But this town is notoriously tough on new arrivals. I could get eaten alive. I could end up back in Westmill with my tail between my legs and my dream crushed to smithereens. God, the jerks from school would love that.
My heart starts racing. Sweat drips down my back, and I'm not sure if it's from the California heat or my sudden burst of anxiety.
Limitless possibility ... that's a lot of pressure.
Walking the streets of my heroes ... that's a lot to live up to.
Stop dreaming and start doing ... that's a lot of responsibility.
Jesus. This is actually happening. I'm here. It's all on me now.
I cannot fuck this up.CHAPTER 2
"Come on, dude, be nice," I mutter under my breath. "Please."
I'm talking to a door. An orange door with a faded green 16 nailed onto it, just above the peephole. And I'm talking to it because no matter how hard I try, it. Won't. Open. I slide the key in for the fifth time, jiggle it, twist it, but it doesn't budge. My fingers sting from trying to turn it.
"You mother ...," I grunt, then stop myself and take a deep breath. It's too damn hot for this. I drop my backpack on the welcome mat and sit on my suitcase.
I pull my phone out and text Parker.
Bex: Cuz. I think you left the wrong key under the mat.
Bex: Your door won't open.
Parker: one sec
I hear footsteps coming up the steps, and a moment later, Parker appears. "Hey!"
No, he's not supposed to be home yet.
I was supposed to shower and unpack first.
He was supposed to come home and I'd be there, clean and fresh and awake and with the words "I'm gay" on my lips.
"I thought you had clients all day?" I ask.
He pulls his makeup case behind him, the wheels rolling loudly across the concrete. "I fudged a little. I wanted to surprise you!"
"Oh," I say. "Yay!" I push my disappointment aside so I can just enjoy seeing him after so long.
Last time I saw him in person, he was boarding a plane from Seattle to LA, his forehead glistening from nervous sweat. That was three years ago. He'd just graduated high school and was moving to Hollywood to train as a makeup artist. Now he's glowing. And somehow, he still looks eighteen even though he's almost twenty-two. His skin is bronzed from the California sun, and his teeth are whiter, but he's still my dorky cousin. I can see that from the tears in his eyes.
"I told you," he says as he pulls me in for a bear hug. "I said you'd make it here one day, and here you are!"
"Here I am," I say with an excited smile. He holds me at arm's length, taking in the sight of me.
"I'm so glad you stopped straightening your curls," he says as he tugs on the ends of my shoulder-length hair. It's red, like his used to be before he bleached it white.
"Don't get too close to me," I say, shaking my hair loose from his fingers. "My stench might attach itself to you." Spending all night on a bus with busted air-conditioning never smells good.
He cringes and pulls his keys from his pocket. "I wasn't going to say anything, but yeah." He slides his key into the door. "There's a trick to this bitch. Watch and learn."
I take note as he pulls the handle toward him, jiggles the key, and kicks the bottom corner of the door. It opens with a thud and a creak.
"That seems overly complicated," I say as I swing my backpack over my shoulder.
Parker shrugs. "Welcome to LA."
I follow him inside, dumping my bags onto the cushion-covered futon that will be my bed for the next month, at least.
Parker twirls in the middle of his living room. "So what do you think of my bachelor pad?"
The outside of the building is old, faded pink and stuck in the seventies, but the inside is modern, sleek, and very Parker. Framed black- and-white photos of Old Hollywood adorn the cool gray walls: Marlon Brando, James Dean, Sidney Poitier. A metal bookshelf holds framed Polaroids of Parker and his friends in between stacks of books by makeup artists like Kevyn Aucoin and Bobbi Brown. He works freelance as a makeup and hair stylist, mostly on the Glamsquad app, but recently he's been getting jobs prepping celebs for award shows and photo shoots.
"I've never slept on the futon myself," he says. "But Ma slept fine on it when she came down to visit, and you know how fussy she is."
I chuckle. "She wanted me to give you this, by the way." I pull him in for another hug, squeezing him tight around the ribs. My aunt Laura is a big woman and super strong, and her hugs damn near break you, but in the best possible way.
"Aww," Parker says as he squeezes me back. "I miss that old girl."
Should I just tell him now? Is this the moment? Just say it, Bex, I tell myself for the thousandth time. I'm gay. I'm gay. I'm gay. I open my mouth and wait for the words to come out, but my voice seems to be hiding. Just like me.
Logically, I know I shouldn't be so nervous to come out to him. It's not that I'm afraid he won't accept me — he will. But I've spent my whole life doing whatever Parker did. I looked up to him. When he started school, I threw a tantrum because I wanted to go to school, too. When he got the training wheels off his bike, I made my mom take mine off, too — which ended with me upside down in a bush, but I didn't care. I wanted to be like Parker so much that it became a running joke in our family and earned me the nickname Lil P. I think the rock in my stomach that's weighing me down and stopping me from biting the bullet is the fear that they'll laugh at me. That Parker will give me a sympathetic smile and brush it off as another way I'm trying to be like him. Or Mom will laugh her loud, throaty laugh, shake her head softly, and say, "Aww, Lil P. That's cute." Or the kids from school will think I'm coming out to be relevant and gain attention.
I just don't want to be laughed at.
Maybe I could just add it nonchalantly to the end of any sentence, like it's no big deal. I could say something like, "I'm tired and I'm gay." Or ... "I've missed you and I'm gay."
"Oh! Wait," he says, and takes his phone out of his jeans pocket. "I promised your ma that I'd let her know when you arrived."
He opens the camera on his phone and holds it up to take a video of us.
"She's here, Auntie Jack!" he says.
I wave to the camera and smile. "Hey, Ma! I'm alive! You can stop worrying now!"
Parker stops recording and texts the video to my mama. It's Sunday afternoon, so she's at work with my old crew at the Westmill Sonic Drive- In. Right now, she's probably stuffing burgers into bags and wrangling staff together for the lunch rush. It's wild to think that I was right there with her a week ago, rushing orders out to cars and getting soaked in the Seattle rain. And now I'm here, sunburned and sleep-deprived in Los Angeles.
Parker points behind me to the kitchenette. "The kitchen is too tiny for any kind of mess, so eat whatever you want, just clean up your shit." It's super small, but super neat and organized. He walks over to a closed door and pushes it open. "My room. You have to walk through here to get to the bathroom."
Some people might think this is too small a space for two people, but Parker and I have shared a room our whole lives. I'm actually kind of excited to be living with him again. It'll be just like when we were kids, only now we won't have to whisper the day's gossip to each other so our moms don't hear.
"I cleared space behind the mirror for your meds," he says. "You're still on Ritalin, yeah?"
I nod. "And Lexapro now, too."
He raises his hands to the air. "Same, girl, same."
I could say it now. Just spit it out. He's queer as hell. He'll understand. Shit, he'd throw me a party.
I feel it coming. The two most important words of my life are rising up inside me like an air bubble rising from the bottom of the ocean.
"Parker," I say. My heart feels like it's stopped, like it's listening, waiting for me to introduce it to him from behind an invisible curtain.
"Mhmm?" he says as he clicks open his cosmetics case.
I can't do it. I'm chickening out. I don't know how to say the words. I just keep picturing him laughing in my face the moment I do. The air bubble pops before it reaches the surface, and I slouch onto the futon. My eyes feel heavy, and suddenly all I want to do is sleep. But I can't stand the smell of myself, so I dig my bathroom bag out of my backpack.
"I'm gonna have a shower," I say.
"Sure thing, honey," he says with a smile.
I start walking to the bathroom when he calls my name. When I turn around, he's got tears in his eyes again.
"I'm so glad you're finally here."
I give him a tired smile. "Me too."
And I'm gay.CHAPTER 3
"We need to leave Silver Falls," Jonah says as he wraps Tom's arm in gauze.
Parker and I are watching the new episode of Silver Falls. At the end of last season, a family of werewolf hunters came into town and have been causing havoc ever since, so tonight Jonah and Tom are hiding out in an old barn just outside of town. The buzz online is that the queer YouTuber and actress Alyssa Huntington is joining the cast as a special guest tonight, but the episode is almost over and she hasn't made an appearance yet.
"No," Tom growls, still struggling to keep his werewolf side under control. "I won't be chased from my home. I'd rather die."
"Then you will die," a new voice says from offscreen.
I grab Parker's hand and we both squeal in anticipation as Alyssa emerges from the shadows.
Onscreen, Jonah jumps to his feet, standing between Alyssa and Tom, his teeth bared. "Who are you?"
The camera zooms in on Alyssa just as she says, "I'm one of you."
The credits roll, and Parker and I bounce excitedly on the futon.
"You have to introduce me to Will Horowitz," Parker says as he squeezes my hands in his. Will Horowitz is the actor who plays Jonah, and Parker has had a crush on him since season one. "I promise I'll thank you at our wedding."
I laugh. "He's got a boyfriend. Ryan from that band the Brightsiders."
Parker groans. "Fiiiiine. I'll take Archer, then."
"He's straight, I think."
"Oh," he says with a pout. "Well, you should date him, then. It's about time you got yourself a cutie like him."
My cheeks burn. "Ha. Yeah. I don't think fraternizing with the talent is on my list of intern duties."
Also, I'm gay.
Parker takes our plates of half-eaten macaroni and cheese into the kitchen. "You gotta tell me if Alyssa Huntington is staying for the whole season. It's about time they added another queer kid to that show. Six seasons and only one gay is not enough."
I nod. "I hope the character she's playing is queer, too."
Parker puts the plates in the sink and claps his hands together. "Let us pray," he says with a sigh, like he's asking the Gods of Gay to make it so.
* * *
The next morning, I'm in the passenger seat of Parker's old Buick LeSabre. Its blue paint is faded and the interior is torn and stained from all his morning coffees, but it works, so that's all that matters to me. There was a time when neither of our moms could afford a car, so being able to drive anywhere we want still feels like a luxury to us. Even in LA.
The radio plays the latest Bleachers hit, and the sun is already turning up the heat even though it's not even 8:00 A.M. yet. I feel like a bowl of Jell- O, jiggling and shaking as the car rumbles through the traffic. I'm so nervous for my first day that I couldn't eat breakfast, and now I'm sweating through the navy button-up shirt that I so carefully picked out just for today.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Going Off Script"
Copyright © 2019 Jen Wilde.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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