[ SECOND EDITION ]
Campbelton looks like a city at peace; yet, just below the surface lie certain dangers...
Haruna Catherine is an overachiever with dreams of attending the University of British Columbia. Ryu is a total slacker whose one desire is to escape this ridiculous prison called "his life." So when a major assignment on Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice comes along, their worst nightmare comes to pass: being partnered with each other. Just as everything reaches a breaking point, revelations about an old East Side mansion called "Heaven" turns everything on its head.
Nothing is what it looks like — it’s worse. As it turns out, all that glitters in Campbelton really isn’t gold.
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Judge by the Cover
Hafu Sans Halo Book One
By Melissa Abigail
CreateSpace Independent Publishing PlatformCopyright © 2017 Melissa Abigail
All rights reserved.
all that glitters
To the average onlooker, all it was, was a pretty necklace.
Whatever beauty it had had little to do with the way it shined, for it rarely showed the kind of glimmer expected from real gold. It was simple, save for the small pendant suspended from it. The pendant was in the shape of a teardrop with a red garnet at its centre, and marked with a Chinese-style engraving of a bird. This necklace might have been valuable once. Maybe. But now its value was sentimental. It belonged to some special people, though one couldn't really say for sure how special.
Had she remembered them ... surely, they would have meant everything.
Haruna twirled the necklace idly, allowing the jewel to glide between her fingers. She turned it over, inspecting it out of boredom. Though the one side bore the stone, the other was marked with strokes that formed Japanese letters. She had always wondered what the word meant, what the necklace meant, but she never fully understood. There might have been times when she could have tried to find out the meaning of that word, but something always held her back. She didn't know much about her Japanese father and she certainly didn't know Japanese. After all, she was only half.
"Alright, five minutes left until the bell. I'll be coming around to collect your tests."
The teacher glimpsed down at the students, their pens dashing with erratic fervour, fighting against all odds to beat the hands of the clock. Haruna glanced down at her own test paper. She had managed to answer all thirty of her questions fifteen minutes ago. She even proofread her answers three times since then.
"Ready to hand it in, Miss Mitsukai?"
The voice of the fifth period teacher carried over her. She looked up, releasing the necklace to tuck it down the front of her blouse, the chain around the nape of her neck the sole evidence of anything being there at all. He smiled, the crows-feet wrinkles tugging at the corner of his eyes. Haruna picked up her test paper and placed it on top of the small stack already in his hand.
"Yes, sir!" Haruna answered, returning his smile. He responded with an approving nod and continued through the row of desks. Mr. Hahn had been her English teacher last year. It was a shame he was only filling in for their actual English teacher, Mr. Lee.
Another two minutes passed, and the bell rang. Fifth period and her second test for the day were over. The day and week were over, finally.
She gathered her belongings and started for the door. The hallways erupted into a chorus of excited laughter and a deluge of students. Haruna moved briskly, manoeuvring strategically through the crowd, eyes scanning over the throng for a clear exit.
She stole a glance at her phone for the time. From the looks of things, she wouldn't be late, but she hated being "just in time." She forced her way through a group of tenth graders loitering around one of the building's side exits. She flung through two sets of doors and was met with a burning feeling in the back of her throat and nostrils. Haruna brought her hands to her face. She started on a coughing fit. Her eyes squinted. She was certain whatever this smell was, it wasn't just tobacco.
Haruna lifted her head. It was the usual gang of six trouble-makers. Four of them, she'd seen occasionally, but she didn't know them too well having never shared classes with them. She wasn't even sure if they were all in the same grade. Then there were the other two who she'd had the displeasure of knowing for five whole years.
The one who had asked if she was "okay?"
That was Seth Jordan.
"I-I'm fine," Haruna managed finally, averting her gaze elsewhere as she readied herself to keep on going. "I'm pretty sure smoking on school property is not allowed."
Seth's face broke into a devious grin as he shed his cigarette butt. "What are you? The headmaster?"
Haruna inclined her head and stared dully.
"What are you — an idiot?"
Several of his friends burst into fits of laughter, jamming each other at the sides, pulling faces, shouting through bated breaths:
"She told you, Seth!"
It wasn't clear who they were mocking, whether it was her or Seth, but it didn't bother her in the slightest. Why? Because she was Haruna Catherine Mitsukai, Head Girl and future valedictorian — that's why. With her back straight, Haruna secured her bag's straps along her shoulder and continued on her way. Before she could take two full footsteps, she saw a dark shadow. Its owner positioned himself in front of her.
Haruna jerked to a stop. She faltered back and dared to lift her head. She met Ryu's gaze — auburn eyes framed by sharp, dark eyebrows. He would have been half decent-looking if he weren't so menacing, possessing a lethal stare and the faded scars of someone who'd gotten into one too many a fist fight. But the only thing certain about those eyes was their coldness, the way they seemed to be filled with nothing but hatred. Haruna hated those eyes. It was like staring back at the Devil himself.
"What do you want?" Haruna snapped, her voice shakier and less sure than she had meant it.
His lips curled into a dry smirk. Haruna glared, her emotions raw. He hadn't been in class. He'd opted to dedicate his time to messing around instead. Not unusual for a total slacker.
"Not going to answer? Then move out of my way," she spat, her unease eclipsed only by her disgust.
In response he narrowed his eyes, his movements slow and deliberate as he drew the cigarette from his mouth. He leaned forward, his face a mere few inches from hers. After what could have been ten seconds, he blew. Flustered — agitated — Haruna brought her hands over her mouth. Breaking into yet another coughing fit, she roughly pushed past him and her shoulder slammed against his as she stormed away. She could hear the howls of laughter among them.
Haruna blinked back tears, ignoring their voices as she found the familiar footpath on her way home. So what? She didn't care what they thought of her. Opinions. Something everyone had, regardless of whether they had enough cells in their brain to rationalize them. She knew where she stood. She had worked hard ever since she started grade seven at Shady Glenn Academy. Only two types of people could manage entry into the top-tier private schools on the West Coast: the well-to-do and the brilliant. Haruna was a lucky combination of both.
Well, okay. So she wasn't a genius so much as her study habits were intense, and she wasn't fabulously wealthy so much as she was just very comfortable.
But entry didn't matter as much as survival, and Haruna didn't just survive; she flourished. She was a nice girl, everyone thought so, so she was good at making friends. Anti-social rejects, losers — like Seth and Ryu — were the bold exceptions to the rule. Everyone knew their admission to the Academy was strictly because of connections. They never worked hard, never put too much effort into anything, practically sailed through life without a care in the world. While everyone else had to follow the rules, they never did. And she could never understand how they managed to maintain enrolment, let alone advance year after year into the next grade.
Ryu Debiru was the worst of the worst.
He was your classic rebel without a cause, always looking up to no good, even when he wasn't up to anything, dazed and zoned out. He'd stand around somewhat stoic and silent, but always mean and rough around the edges. He almost never wore his uniform properly, often opting to wear a hoodie over his not-tucked-in uniform shirt or at random wearing dusty black runners instead of dress shoes. Even his dark, shaggy hair that stuck up at random was always messy.
Haruna had learned to be confident.
There weren't too many people who were able to crack through her veneer, ruffle her feathers or send chills down her spine like he did. It was a good thing that he never spoke to her, and she never spoke to him. For Haruna, the reason was simple. As intimidating as Ryu was when silent, he was scarier when he spoke. So Haruna supposed it was better to avoid him.
Not that it was hard to do.
They were from two different worlds.
If anything, there was just one, slight, terribly insignificant thing they had in common.
He was Japanese too.
Well ... only half.
* * *
Ryu watched as Haruna disappeared down the block. He turned and glanced towards the others, his grin retracting, morphing into a straight line. He dropped the remnants of his cigarette and ground it into the concrete.
"Blowing smoke in her face? Went too far, bro," muttered Tim. He wiped a tear that had leaked from his eye. "Still hilarious, but damn — just savage."
Jackson shrugged his shoulders, pulling out a lighter to ignite his own joint.
"Ha, serves her right, though. She's such a bitch."
"Yeah, we live in Canada. It's a free country. She needs to check herself, fo' real," said Cody, sounding higher than a Zeppelin and overflowing with even more hot air. "Leave it to Ryu to set her type straight. Like always."
Following twenty or so minutes of time well wasted, Ryu gave a roll of his shoulders. He stowed his hands into the front pocket of his hoodie and stepped away from the others.
"Yo, where are you going?" One of the guys, Kevin, shouted after him.
Ryu spun to face them, walking backwards.
"I've got business. Peace!"
He gestured a sideways "V" before turning again and cantering off.
He didn't need to explain to them.
His business was his.
No matter, though, because Ryu wasn't even four minutes from the school grounds before he got the sense he was being followed. He stopped in his tracks. He half-turned.
"I know you're following me, Seth."
Seth froze. He had trailed some distance after Ryu, but he hadn't been subtle. Seth raised his arms in surrender.
"Got me," he joked. He then returned his arms to his sides and remained standing there, awkward and staring.
Ryu grunted, not bothering to question him as he pivoted and marched on again.
"Hey, that's it? You're just going to walk away?" Seth called out. In no time, he appeared at Ryu's side, his long legs falling into step with Ryu's.
"Not sure what you expected. I told you I had stuff to take care of," Ryu mumbled.
"That 'stuff?' Um, so when are you going to quit all that 'stuff?'"
Ryu rolled his eyes.
"You ask the question like I have a choice." He then half-smiled, peering at Seth from the corner of his eye. "Besides, who said I wanna quit, anyway?" Seth sighed. He'd given up on pressing the issue, much to Ryu's relief. The boys walked onwards, a slight breeze in the air as the sidewalk split into two, and they turned along the bend, allowing a second breeze to lash against their faces. They stopped at the usual corner, and Ryu entered into the convenience store as Seth stood outside and waited. Once done, Ryu took care to tuck the brown paper bag into the front pouch of his hoodie and slipped out the doors with a casual stride. He gave Seth a nod, indicating he'd finished what he had come to do, and the two were off again. It had been five solid minutes before Seth spoke.
"So, the guys were thinking of hitting up O'Brien's tomorrow night ..."
"Yeah, count me out. I've got plans," Ryu sighed. "But next time for sure. I'm down."
Seth bobbed his shoulders, grinning. "Sounds good."
Ryu stopped. He turned to his friend but didn't return the smile.
"So what did you really want to talk about? You didn't follow me and wait fifteen minutes outside the smoke shop just to tell me about Saturday."
Seth looked taken aback, his face blank for the slightest second before clearing his throat. He emitted a light chuckle.
"Ha, yeah, I'm an open book, right? Well I guess I just wanted to say maybe ... maybe go easy on Haruna."
Ryu blinked slowly. "You're kidding."
Seth had to have been because those words sounded beyond ridiculous to Ryu.
Seth offered a weak shrug, hands in his uniform's pants pockets as he tilted his head. "Well, I mean, you're always kinda giving her those death stares — and have you seen what those look like coming from you?"
Ryu knitted his brows.
"Yeah, so? I don't see her smiling in our direction, either. For one thing, she called you an idiot. Are you one?"
Seth brought his arm up and rubbed the back of his neck.
"Look, I'm just saying. No need to be in her face, dude. Literally."
Ryu leered, visually dissecting his friend's freckly face. It was interesting the way Seth always acted so relaxed and chill. Yet, he was also persistent, so set on having a perfect moral code. In some ways Ryu admired it, but most of the time it really just irritated him. Seeming to detect Ryu's annoyance, Seth looked elsewhere. Ryu was amused by the way he'd cause Seth to be unnerved at times. It didn't matter that Seth was almost six feet and had more than a fewinches on him.
That's right. Height meant nothing.
Ryu sneered. "I know what your problem is. It's about her friend, am I right?"
Seth let out a deep breath, pulling his hands from his pockets then clapping them together.
"Honestly, I'm this close to asking Gabrielle out — so I mean, like maybe don't ruin things by being a grade-A dirt bag to her best friend? It would be real thoughtful of you."
"Oh, please. I don't care who the hell you date or whatever — but don't tell me crap about kissing up to some stuck-up girl like her or any other clown from this school."
"Oh, come on! You know I don't mean —"
"Whatever, Seth. You do you."
Ryu shoved by, ignoring Seth's bewildered expression or him calling Ryu's name as he continued down the street. The bus pulled up as Ryu came to the crosswalk. The driver didn't dare drive off once subjected to his glowering. The door opened and Ryu boarded, tossing several coins into the meter. He jetted straight to the corner seat farthest to the back.
Heaving a sigh, Ryu pulled his hood over his head and tilted his neck back, ear buds in, shutting his eyes to think to the steady beat of Notorious Thugs.
To say Ryu felt stressed-out would be an understatement.
Friday evenings were the hardest, second only to Saturday nights. Who knew what news would be waiting for him when he got home? Which one of his brothers would have screwed up this time? Who might be the next to wind up in the hole or find themselves facedown, kissing pavement in some damp, dark alley? Which one of his brothers decided to impress Father this time, going "above-and-beyond?" Of course, above-and-beyond never impressed Father. Father hated unpredictability, hated rash actions. People who acted on their own ... these were the people Father hated the most. But far too many of Ryu's brothers were too stupid to comprehend this. Ryu had learned it the hard way. It was pretty unfortunate, but it was a dog-eat-dog world. People have to do what they have to.
If they want to survive that is.
Ryu reopened his eyes and lowered his head to observe his fellow commuters. It was nearly five minutes after five. Rush-hour traffic meant this bus ride was going to be a long one. Even so, the bus wasn't too crowded yet. Those who rode had their heads buried in newspapers or eyes glued to their phones. Ryu scoffed. Must have been wonderful: actually wanting to look at your phone. Ryu hated the thought of his. Every text or phone call meant the difference between life and death.
The bus stopped at Rosedale and East Point Ave., and a teenager got on. Her silky, gingery hair with a subtle glint of gold was pulled into a high ponytail. Ryujostled forward in his seat and watched as the girl flashed a metro pass. She turned, and he felt his body calm.
It wasn't her after all.
Now that Ryu saw the girl, in full view — dressed not in their uniform but casual clothes — he realised she wasn't even what they'd be called back in Japan, "hafu." An easy mistake to make. Haruna Mitsukai was a girl who really didn't look too Japanese, save for her slight frame, her heart-shaped face and a certain something about her. But Haruna's light hair was like this girl, same colour, always in a ponytail, and Haruna's wide, double-lidded eyes were green. Or blue. Ryu could never quite tell which it was. Her eyes always seemed to change colour.
"24 Park Lane."
Ryu turned to his right, offering a weary glance at the back door as the bus came to a lurching stop. The familiar "ding" sounded and a greying man pressed against the door to exit. A bevy of people came in through the front. The robotic tone of the automated bus announcer came again: "Next Stop, 48 Park Lane."
Public transit was the pits.
Ryu skipped through his playlist. Next song, Everyday Struggle. He glimpsed again at the back of Ponytail-Girl's head, watching the sway of her hair as she stood, struggling to maintain balance, her grip fixed on a yellow pole as the bus became more and more packed.
How could Ryu possibly take that girl for Haruna? No way would she be caught on one of these nasty buses.
Excerpted from Judge by the Cover by Melissa Abigail. Copyright © 2017 Melissa Abigail. Excerpted by permission of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsCHAPTER ONE all that glitters,
CHAPTER TWO angels and demons,
CHAPTER THREE much ado about everything,
CHAPTER FOUR a knock at heaven's door,
September 2006 FIVE YEARS PRIOR,
CHAPTER FIVE midnight run,
CHAPTER SIX disturbing the peace,
CHAPTER SEVEN year of the dragon,
CHAPTER EIGHT fear is fowl,
CHAPTER NINE wolves' hide for the sheep,
CHAPTER TEN day is night,
A NOTE FROM the author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite Judge by the Cover: High School, Drama & Deadly Vices is the first book in the Hafu Sans Halo series by Melissa Abigail, a story that transports the reader into the complex worlds and relationships between high school characters. Haruna Mitsukai has great dreams, an overachiever who wants nothing more than to attend the University of British Columbia. Ryu Debiru feels out of place in his own world. Both teenagers attend the Shady Glenn Academy and they detest each other, despite the fact that they have similar personalities. But they are compelled to work together on an assignment on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. As the tension grows between the two, a startling revelation about an old mansion on the East Side wakes Haruna up and she begins to question who Ryu really is. Could their destinies be linked and how? This mesmerizing story took me by surprise as I felt drawn in by the confident, crisp writing. The author wastes no time in introducing the reader to the complex world of the key characters, constructing elements of the conflict deftly, and right from the very start of the tale. The characters are sophisticated and memorable and developed to reflect the psychology of their age. The story is well-paced with emotionally charged scenes throughout the narrative, great dialogues, and a vivid setting. The plot has many surprises for readers and they will love Melissa Abigail’s gift for sustaining their curiosity and keeping their eyes on the pages until the satisfying end. Judge by the Cover: High School, Drama & Deadly Vices is an excellent opening for a series, well written and highly entertaining.
Reviewed by Caitlin Lyle Farley for Readers' Favorite Haruna and Ryu both attend the prestigious Shady Glen Academy and they’re both half-Japanese, but that’s where the similarities end. Haruna is a hard working student driven to excel in everything she does, whether it’s playing the piano for her church’s youth performance or completing her chores. Haruna does everything with a smile on her face, until her English teacher teams her up with Ryu for an important mid-term assignment. It doesn’t take two minutes for Haruna and Ryu to start fighting. Ryu is abrasive, direct, and has no qualms about confronting Haruna for being a domineering perfectionist. While Haruna’s chief concern is getting an A for this project, Ryu has responsibilities to fulfil that could mean his death. Judge by the Cover seems like an uncomplicated story at first, but Melissa Abigail soon leads the reader into a tangle of rivalries, danger, and impossible expectations. Haruna’s insulated upbringing introduces a compelling narrative on racism and provides a contrast to the violent realities of Ryu’s life. These two characters may mirror each other on the surface, but beneath that they are opposites. This highlights the misconceptions that so often underpin the view of bigots; that what they view as ‘the other’ are all alike. Although the occasional timeline switches in Judge by the Cover do augment the plot with relevant information, I found them a little frustrating. I also wish there had been a better balance between Ryu's and Haruna’s narratives. Author Melissa Abigail does intersperse Japanese throughout the book, but the meanings of these words and phrases is strongly implied. Judge by the Cover has a strong focus on character development, and while I do love a novel that examines society and the inner workings of individuals, there were times when the plot felt a little light.
Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite Judge by the Cover: High School, Drama & Deadly Vices - Hafu Sans Halo, Book 1 is a young adult coming of age novel written by Melissa Abigail. Haruna Mitsukai had her life and future pretty much on track. She was the Head Girl at Shady Glenn Academy, the prestigious preparatory academy she attended, and her marks were more than sufficient to win her a full scholarship to the university of her choice. Her boyfriend, Mani, was gorgeous and came from one of the elite families in the area; one of the only reasons why her strict grandmother allowed their budding romance. Haruna rarely got to see him, however; mostly it was during their Church work on Friday afternoon and on the weekends. During the week, her life was filled with school and homework, followed by her music practice and the never ending chores her grandmother seemed to delight in assigning her. Haruna’s first reaction to Mr. Lee’s announcement that a group project would take the place of their final English exam was outrage -- she enjoyed taking tests and knew she could study hard enough to get perfect grades, but a group project meant relying upon others. When she was paired off with Ryu, the bad boy of her class, she became infuriated, which neither impressed her teacher nor convinced him to change his mind. Somehow she and Ryu would have to find a way to get past their mutual loathing and make this project work. Melissa Abigail’s coming of age novel, Judge by the Cover, is a beautifully written and compelling novel about the stresses students find themselves under as they are coming of age. Haruna and Ryu are marvelous main characters whose opposite qualities hide a deeper fellowship than either of them are able to perceive. Bullying, peer pressure and racism are all deftly handled by the author as each of her two combatants learn to accept the different outlooks of the other and appreciate how working together can create something better than they could achieve separately. It’s especially interesting to see how the preconceptions each has of the other turn out to be so far off base as they find learning to work as a team enables them to also learn about themselves. The plot is solid and well-constructed, and the characters are genuine and real. Judge by the Cover: High School, Drama & Deadly Vices - Hafu Sans Halo, Book 1 is most highly recommended.