Lark is the queen of breakups. When she ends things with a boy, there are never any hard feelings. Sometimes he doesn't even realize that she broke up with him. And that's exactly how Lark likes it. What's the point in hurting people? Or getting hurt?
Her best friends, Cooper and Katie, think Lark's dating pattern is tragic. How can she know what love is if she refuses to take risks? They dare her to finally have a bad breakup, one that matters. To appease her friends, Lark selects "Undateable" Ardy Tate as her target. He's a mysterious challenge and completely different from any guy she's ever dated. Can she win him over? Will she break his heart? Or will the Queen of Breakups have her heart broken?
Fall in love with another YA romance from Jen Klein, the author of Shuffle, Repeat, which SLJ praised as "addictive. Fans of Deb Caletti and Sarah Dessen will enjoy this sweet romance."
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Yesterday, my heart was “broken,” which is why today I’m sitting on a glossy but practical daybed with hidden drawers for extra storage. The mattress is firm, the spread is a bright floral pattern, and the throw pillows are wide and comfortable.
YepIKEA on a Saturday morning. That’s me. It’s not exactly something I like to publicize, but this is what I do every time I fake a heartbreak. What better place to try to forget what’s wrong with me than here: a collection of perfect rooms, just like the rooms in the houses I want to design someday. Perfect houses for perfect families full of perfectly normal people.
That’s the dream.
I stay where I am through visits from a handful of other families who are interested in outfitting their homes. In the past, I’ve gone to a compact kitchen or one of IKEA’s cleverly designed space-friendly living rooms, but yesterday’s relationship dissolution propelled me here. There’s something comforting about the idea of eventually owning a home that I might want other people to visit. A place to be peaceful, a place to be proud of . . .
Until there’s an earthquake.
At least, that’s what I first think when I jolt awake, startled by the bed’s movement beneath me. Horribly aware that Southern California is a hotbed of geologic activity, I grab for the frame, jerk to an upright position, and scramble to remember the closest exit.
Except then the fog wisps away from my brain, and I realize three things all at once:
1. I was asleep in IKEA.
2. There was no earthquake after all.
3. Undateable Ardy Tate is sitting on the end of the bed, looking at me with undisguised curiosity.
“Sorry, Lark.” His eyes are wide and brown and blinky behind his dark-rimmed glasses. I notice the light freckles scattered across the pale skin of his nose. “I didn’t realize you were actually asleep.”
“I wasn’t.” Lie #1.
“I wasn’t trying to freak you out.”
“You didn’t.” Lie #2. Ardy is all kinds of cute and lanky andlet’s be honesta little awkward as he perches beside me in his screen-printed tee and skinny khakis. I realize I have no idea what to say to him, and that’s the part that’s freaking me out because usually I know exactly what to say to a boy.
No, not usually. Always.
This double standard is how I know the universe is unfair: because Ardy Tate is labeled Undateable, when, despite all appearances to the contrary, it should be a description for me: Lark Dayton.
My third and fourth fingers are tapping against the bed frame, so I make a tight fist to still the movement. “What are you doing here?” I ask, before thinking the question through, because it’s definitely not one I want to answer in return.
“My mom sent me out for candles.” Ardy looks rueful. “And, yes, I know I’m nowhere near the candles. This place is a maze.”
“Tell me about it,” I say, grasping the lifeline he’s unintentionally thrown out for me. “My parents wanted me to get . . . napkins.”
“The cute striped ones,” I say, remembering a package my mother bought one time. “I ended up in Guest Rooms and needed to take a break.”
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Ardy agrees. “I think napkins and candles are both in the Marketplace. You want to go find it?”
I nod because what else would I do, and moments later we’re winding our way past closet storage systems and toward the staircase. My fingers tap against the leather strap of my messenger bag, and I hazard a sideways glance up at Ardy. He’s tallmuch taller than I amwith a sharply angled jawline and the finest dusting of shadow around his mouth. Maybe he doesn’t shave on weekends. I wouldn’t know, because this is the first time I’ve seen him outside of REACH High.
It’s October now; Ardy Tate transferred to my school at the beginning of our senior year, so I’ve only been aware of him for a couple of months. When he arrived, even though I was newly flirting with Rahim Antoun, I noticed that (a) Transfer Boy existed and (b) Transfer Boy was quirky-hot and seemed smart. At first I didn’t pay much attention to him because Rahim and I soon were finding places to make out on campus, and I was enjoying that New Boy rush. By the time Rahim and I stopped hanging out (after I invented superstrict parents who would never let me go anywhere with him), two new things had come to my attention: (c) Transfer Boy’s name was Ardy Tate, and (d) Ardy Tate was Undateablesomething about an event that occurred at his old high schoolplus, he was basically stapled to Hope Burkett’s side. Hope’s boyfriend, Evan, is stapled to her other side, so supposedly she and Ardy aren’t together, but they seem like they are, and that’s enough for me. Although I may mess around with lots of guys, I do not go after those who belong to other people. Not by a long shot.
A girl has to maintain some ethics.
As we reach the bottom of the stairs, I can’t help asking the question. “What’s Hope doing today?”
Ardy looks confused. “I don’t know, homework or hanging out with Evan, probably. What’s Dax doing?”
His question throws me for a loop. Sure, Dax is the boyfriend who fake-broke my fake heart last night, but our short-term dalliance wasn’t front-page news or anything. Has Ardy been paying attention to who I date?
Or, rather, “date”?
“I don’t know,” I tell Ardy, because I don’t want to go there.
We step into the controlled chaos of the IKEA Marketplace: a tangle of aisles filled with interesting, low-priced items. The shelves closest to the stairs are brimming with galvanized metal wall letters, the type you buy separately so you can assemble them into words like FAMILY and LOVE and TOGETHERNESS to decorate your home.