How to Break a Boy

How to Break a Boy

by Laurie Devore


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In this YA contemporary romance, there's only one rule: Keep your enemies close and your friends closer.

Olivia Clayton has mastered the art of tearing others down to stay on top. She and her best friend, Adrienne, rule their small southern town like all good mean girls do—through intimidation and manipulation. After Olivia suffers a family tragedy and catches Adrienne sleeping with her boyfriend, Olivia is over it. She decides to make a change, but it's impossible to resist taking down Adrienne one last time.

Up to her old tricks, Olivia convinces golden boy Whit Du Rant to be her SAT tutor and her fake boyfriend. But when it starts to feel real, Whit gets caught up in Olivia and Adrienne’s war. Olivia may ruin everything she touches, but she won't go down without a fight—not if it means losing Whit. And definitely not if it means losing what's left of herself.

How to Break a Boy is an engaging young adult novel from debut author Laurie Devore.

An Imprint Book

Praise for How to Break a Boy:

"This is a classic tale of high school drama and redemption." —School Library Journal

"Olivia’s interior world is full of layers and emotional complexity, and readers will root for her to find her way." —Publishers Weekly

"A razor-sharp look at grief, betrayal, and redemption. Readers won't be able to resist Olivia." —Kara Thomas, author of The Darkest Corners

"Complicated girls, beautiful writing, and drama that will keep you turning the pages until the very end." —Kody Keplinger, New York Times-bestselling author of The DUFF and Run

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250144201
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 01/30/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 465,672
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 15 - 17 Years

About the Author

Laurie Devore was born and raised in small town South Carolina and graduated from Clemson University. She now lives and works in Chicago, where she misses the charms and contradictions of the south every day. In her spare time, she reluctantly runs marathons, watches too much TV, and works a "y’all" into every conversation. How to Break a Boy is her debut novel.

Read an Excerpt

How to Break a Boy

By Laurie Devore


Copyright © 2017 Laurie Devore
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08287-9


If you're riding up from Columbia on I-20, get off at Exit 98 and drive northeast for about forty-five minutes, past a bunch of cows and historic battlefields and bullshit, and you'll hit Buckley, South Carolina. It's a blink-and-you-miss-it town, minus there being anything to miss. When you see a sign declaring the BUCKLEY HIGH GOLF TEAM STATE CHAMPS and a water tower with some faded spray paint, you're there. If you hit the Gas-n-Go, you've gone too far.

We moved to Buckley after I finished sixth grade. Mom bought a tiny house on Main Street, with no explanation as to why we were moving from the middle-class suburbs of Charlotte to a shithole town whose residents live for beauty-salon gossip and the repeal of separation of church and state. Her mouth would flatten into a line of distaste when her eyes hit the ridiculous headlines of the one-man biweekly newspaper, and even though she never said it, she expected better of us than to act like everyone else in Buckley.

Just because you're in the zoo doesn't mean you're an animal.

Buckley liked to maintain an aura of historical importance. Here, a plantation where Jefferson Davis once spent the night. There, a monument for a fallen Revolutionary War soldier, right on the spot he died. They'd have you believe that Buckley was a perfect — if smaller — representation of southern gentility; another Charleston or Savannah, nestled in the flatlands of eastern South Carolina.

But underneath it all lurked the same nasty streak that marked so many small southern towns. The windows filled with defiant Confederate flags, the sexual rumors whispered behind closed doors, and the firm belief that Buckley was the finest place on God's green earth anyway, thank you very much. Buckley's famed town square was known across the state for its cobblestoned road and historical landmarks. Even still, seedy bars and failed business ventures filled the edges of the square, the same people roaming them for years. Then, later, their children and their children's children after that.

If you headed out of town south toward Myrtle Beach, you'd ride past Buckley High School, then over some railroad tracks and into the old mill village, a part of Buckley no God-fearing townsperson would talk about and many claimed should've never been drawn into the Buckley city limits at all.

That was Buckley — historical tours and meth labs, Confederate legacy and Friday night lights.

From the time we arrived, my older brother, Ryan, and I kept a map on his bedroom wall charting all the places we wanted to go — places so far away, so different from Buckley. I was always picking stupid ones like Albuquerque and Ann Arbor and Austin. They sounded unique to me. Interesting.

His dreams ran bigger. Florence. Berlin. Cairo. I'd listen as he talked, painting enchanted pictures in my head of places as distant as the imaginary worlds in his books. I hung on to Ryan's words when there was nothing else worth hanging on to. Buckley was a fence holding us in, a cage clipping our wings. Everything that mattered was outside, waiting on us.

Until I met Adrienne.

At Buckley Middle School, Adrienne had everything and she was everything. She'd hold court with her best friend, Claire, on the swings during lunch and tell Claire all the secrets everyone had fed her that day. Who was making out with whom. What party everyone was and wasn't invited to. Who had on a heinous skirt.

I was fascinated with the pair of them. Adrienne looked so different from everyone else in Buckley. I later found out her father had been a purebred southern bachelor and betrayed his heritage by going to law school at Northwestern and marrying the future Mrs. Maynard, a beautiful dark-haired advertising exec of some kind. That explained Adrienne's perfect tan skin, her shiny black hair. But the one thing that made her uniquely Adrienne was her hypnotizing dark brown eyes, the way they flashed when you had pleased her, offering the most specific kind of acceptance and love. Claire was the perfect unassuming best friend for Adrienne — small for her age, white-bread innocence, and all-American cute.

One day in class, Adrienne was talking about Elona Mabry, a slightly overweight classmate of ours who tended to overpraise Adrienne whenever she was within fifteen feet of her. I had no trouble identifying Elona's type — a specifically sad kind of wannabe in the middle school world. "It's that thing she does with her eyeliner," Adrienne was saying during fifth period. "It totally looks like she puts it on in a dark room while being groped. And that huge, clearly fake Coach purse she carries around, and she can never find anything in it. Like, what do you even think she's looking for in there? It's like — it's like —"

"Like a raccoon robbing a trash can," I said from my assigned desk catty-corner to her. I didn't stop to think about what I was saying. The words ripping Elona to shreds automatically strung themselves together.

Adrienne snapped her fingers, pointing at me. "Yes." Then she laughed, tilting her pretty head back until everyone was looking. Claire sat behind her, covering her mouth with a hand, giggling as if in spite of herself. Adrienne went on, "That's exactly what it is. You're Olivia, right? I've been meaning to tell you how much I love your hair. What do you do to it?" I twisted a strand of hair around my finger. I could practically feel others tuning in to what was happening, looking at me like they looked at her. Adrienne liked me; Adrienne thought I was funny. My smile was radiant. Later, I'd tell her about where I was going. The places on the map. She told me she'd seen some of them, from her parents' pictures or in person.

Adrienne was in Buckley, but she was so above it.

There's something about certain people that always draws me in. They make me feel more daring, more alive, more vibrant. They light a match and spark a fire, and the blaze is too enticing to be scary.

Adrienne was a fireworks show to my total eclipse.

Before I met Adrienne, Buckley was a colorless day, a roadblock on the map, a punishment to be endured. Everything about it was so boring, so lifeless and ordinary.

With her, everything developed an edge. And I loved it.

We sat on the swings day in and day out and observed our peers. Mocked them. Grew sharper than them, smarter. In my report cards, the teachers never used the words, but I could read between the lines and Mom could, too. Bully. Mean girl.

"Jealous." Adrienne would laugh.

I laughed, too. Life was easy when you were looking down on everyone else.

Three years later, Ryan packed up our map and put it in his trunk. He took it with him where he was going: Ann Arbor. Turns out, wings grow back. He flew out of Buckley.

He left me behind. I'd forgotten I was supposed to care.

And then he was gone for good.


Even though it's September, no one's bothered to take down the Fourth of July banners hanging from the lampposts. Most of the buildings around the town square are closing down, but Corley's Ice Cream is still open, and Buckley cheerleaders get half off on Tuesdays. Claire and I sit at the wrought-iron table out front. She has her fingers wrapped around a strawberry milk shake, slurping loudly. I lean back on the chair's legs and watch a white Jeep drive through the square, heading out from south Buckley toward the nicer houses in Buckton, the rich neighborhood near the Woodhaven Country Club.

It's all the normal conversation of the day: Coxie's pot habit and the shit Daniel Smith pulled in third-period biology today to finally drive Mr. Nickles to walk out in the middle of class. But as it does lately, everything else is eating away at the edge of my consciousness. Until I can't take it anymore.

"Do you think I'm doing this wrong?" I ask Claire. She is still the yin to Adrienne's and my yang after all these years, the light to our dark. She is still petite, but the cute developed into stunning somewhere along the way.

She pulls her straw away from her mouth, her perfectly shaped blond eyebrows furrowing. "What?" A green cloth banner blows in the wind behind her, saying GO EAGLES, the tattered ends whipping against the post.

I've already started, so I go ahead and spill the rest out. "Mr. Doolittle says everyone processes grief differently. When I go to his office, he keeps repeating it like it's his damn mantra. He says my non-reaction is the most obvious kind of reaction. That when I'm upset, I act even more callous to upset everyone else. So, it's like, when I'm hurting others by being cold, I'm really hurting myself. Am I cold?" I take the straw wrapper up from under my cup and wind it around my fingers. Every week, Mr. Doolittle tells me something else that creates another crack in my carefully constructed wall, gets too close to touching on something I don't want to think about.

"Hey," Claire says, and I look up at her, serious blue eyes trained on me. Claire has the kind of face that you believe, which makes her an excellent liar. "You're not cold. You're — you're different from before. You're doing the best you can."

I nod. I feel different. I feel ... less. It's when I start letting myself feel too much that everything gets all fucked up. I like having a non-reaction. I like living how I did before Ryan died — ice cream with Claire, post–football games with Ethan. They're traditions. They hold things together. They remind me to hold it together.

I go through the motions. But it's hollow. Every second is hollow.

It's funny, but I don't think I'd understand the contrast without Adrienne. If I hadn't ingrained a picture of that mischievous and exuberant face she'd give me sometimes when she felt love for me in her particular way. If I didn't have to see every day the apathetic, disinterested one she gives me now. Sometimes, that hurts more than grief.

"Adrienne acts like she doesn't get me anymore," I finally confess to Claire, turning over the words in my head as I see Adrienne's face. "Like what I'm feeling is so beneath her. That I'm no fun. But I don't want — I don't know how to be fun."

"Adrienne misses the way things were. You know how she is," Claire explains away, not quite meeting my eye.

The way things were. I try not to think about it too much. I know what's right and what's wrong, who's good and bad, and I know if you sin against enough people, ultimately the universe will find you. I always knew better. That's probably what made it worse. I should've known even before he died. I should've known it was coming.

Ethan warned me, accidentally probably. He once said to me: "This isn't who you are. These things you do. They're Adrienne."

They weren't, but I could never admit that to him. Or that I thrived on top, on the way people looked when they were afraid. That drama gave me a kick of adrenaline. That sometimes I loved him more just because it pissed Adrienne off.

Those aren't things a good person thinks. Not things you think if you're the right kind of person.

"Ethan wants me to talk about it," I say now. "He's kind of like Mr. Doolittle that way. He thinks grief is a glass barrier I must break through and he'll be on the other side with warm fuzzies and hugs. I know he talks about it with his mom."

"Isn't she a psychologist for dangerous criminals?" Claire returns, sounding a little amused.

I snort. "Yeah. Hit the nail on the head, huh?"

"He loves you."

"I know." It's easy to hear the resignation in my voice. I finish off the rest of my ice cream and throw the empty cup into a trash can. I pick up Mom's keys from the table. "Anyway, I'm going over to Adrienne's house. She wants to choreograph a new routine for the pep rally next week, and I told her I'd help. She says I've been avoiding her."

I have. But I can't tell her why. I can't even fully explain it to myself yet. I only know I can't be who I was before my brother died.

I wave at Claire as I head out, purposely not allowing my gaze to wander down the street leading away from the town square. I still can't look at the white church.

Some sins can't be forgiven.


The countryside barrels by me as I take Mom's Bronco farther and farther into the outskirts of town. The Buckton neighborhood, built around the Woodhaven golf course, isn't exactly the stuff of network television perfection, but it's the nicest part of town. A place where little kids meet for playdates and dads golf on weekends. People who want Buckley to be something it isn't but were too sheltered to get the hell out of Dodge. It's a stark contrast to the other side of the town, where Buckley High School is. Over the railroad tracks where the mill-village kids roam, ratty backpacks thrown over their shoulders.

I come to the sign telling me I'm five miles from the next town over — a town with a movie theater and a Dillard's — and I take a left down a side road. Adrienne's parents are the type that decided they wanted to raise their family in the wide-open country, which seems sweet if you think about it but is actually totally ridiculous in practice. Mr. Maynard grew up in Atlanta, Mrs. Maynard in Chicago, and neither could shake the city from their system. Since Adrienne was old enough to stay home by herself, her parents have been leaving her alone — her dad traveling for work with her mom along for the ride. Adrienne's always hated staying in the big house on her own, so Claire and I crash there a lot to keep her company. And to get into trouble.

The closer I get to Adrienne's house, the more my stomach churns. Adrienne has always been hard to read, but lately she's been impossible. Deep down, I know she's worried, but at the same time, some sort of subtle anger bubbles under it all. Every conversation is clipped, uncomfortable. Like she wants me to snap, and I'm waiting for her to do the same right back.

Today, she asked me why I was so obsessed with things I can't control, and I told her I didn't really know.

Trees line the Maynards' long, winding driveway. I pull in up front, behind Ade's shiny red coupe. Outside it's eerily quiet, and the heat hits me like a wall as I get out of my car. I bound up the front steps and knock — I know neither of Ade's parents is home, and from here, I can hear music pounding against her upstairs window. I push open the front door and take the hardwood steps two at a time, hitting the landing leading to her room. I study the closed door for a minute, considering. She still hasn't answered my text that said I was on my way; she must be busy. But she wanted me to come. She'd yelled at me about not spending time with her.

I push open the door.

I should've trusted my instincts.

She's with a boy.

With a boy in a way that I do not want to see.

It takes a minute for me to stop looking and start seeing. It's not just any boy.

It's my boy.

Ethan Masters. All shaggy blond hair and long torso and silly grins just for me since the first day we met. My Ethan with Adrienne and her tan skin and her dark hair on the black sheets we'd slept on together so many times during innocent sleepovers. As I stand there and watch, every moment stretching as long as ten, one word keeps running through my head: cold.


Adrienne. "Oh my God."


Ethan. "What the hell."


I turn and walk downstairs, carefully down every step, and then I sit on the couch.

Adrienne fumbles down the stairs after me in a Buckley High cheerleading T-shirt, sounding more like a herd of elephants than a 120-pound teenage girl, all doe eyes and shame. "Listen, O —"

I push a piece of hair back behind my ear. "Well, that should be an interesting beginning to our routine and will probably really get the boosters going, but maybe for your opening solo, you should dial back on the slut a little bit."

"O." We both turn as Ethan pokes his head around the staircase. Adrienne tells him, "Do not come out here," in a way I can't believe, like she has any right, and then it hits me so hard, I dig my fingernails into my palm if only to feel something concrete. I try not to look at him, because he is my Ethan. I never thought I'd get through losing Ryan, but Ethan had always been there. I never wanted him to know about Ryan's problems, but those few times Ethan found out, he stayed. He'd be with me. And sometimes — in those moments when our skin was touching, when he breathed in as I breathed out — that had been all I'd had.


Excerpted from How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore. Copyright © 2017 Laurie Devore. Excerpted by permission of Imprint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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