This whimsical, fairy tale of a novel stars fascinating, quirky characters, a dash of magical realism, and a unique setting sure to charm the hearts of readers young and old.
Love is real in the town of Grimbaud and Fallon Dupree has dreamed of attending high school there for years. After all, generations of Duprees have successfully followed the (100% accurate!) love fortunes from Zita's famous Love Charms Shop to happily marry their high school sweethearts. It's a tradition. So she is both stunned and devastated when her fortune states that she will NEVER find love.
Fortunately, Fallon isn't the only student with a terrible love fortune, and a rebellion is brewing. Fallon is determined to take control of her own fateeven if it means working with a notorious heartbreaker like Sebastian.
Will Fallon and Sebastian be able to overthrow Zita's tyranny and fall in love?
Debut author Kimberly Karalius delivers a delightfully charming story of love and rebellion in Love Fortunes and Other Disasters, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads.
Praise for Love Fortunes and Other Disasters:
"An unusual love story that will delight readers."School Library Journal
"I am now a walking, talking heart-eye emoji after reading this book.” Catherine Tinker, reader on SwoonReads.com
"The writing is delicious, and the plot clever and new." Janelle, reader on SwoonReads.com
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Love Fortunes and Other Disasters
By Kimberly Karalius
Swoon ReadsCopyright © 2015 Kimberly Karalius
All rights reserved.
Fallon Dupree was fascinated by people in love. She noticed how easily some couples fit together like puzzle pieces, fingers laced, matching smiles, and the same small, deliberate strides. But thinking of herself as a puzzle piece felt entirely unromantic, so she preferred to focus her excitement on the year ahead. She knew, with the same certainty that Duprees were born with, that she would meet The Boy in high school. He would feel familiar, and new, and their hearts would become beautifully tangled. She couldn't wait.
On the Friday before school started Fallon cracked open the window in her apartment and inhaled deeply. Grimbaud always smelled like roses—the red kind, she thought, purchased by lovers.
The peace shattered when a wail erupted from the first floor. "Open this door," said a girl's voice, followed by banging. "We're not through, Bastion!"
Not again, Fallon thought. She shut the window with a snap.
Moving into the student housing complex a month before school started had been, for the most part, a smart idea. Fallon had never been without her parents or brother before; she loved exploring Grimbaud each day on her own, with only herself to please. But as more students moved in over the past few weeks, the complex grew rowdy, and no one caused more ruckus than a boy called Bastion—or rather, his ex-girlfriends, who came and went like clockwork.
He never once opened the door to any of them; Fallon was disgusted, especially when she could hear those girls crying or shouting threats through her walls. She hoped that if the crying began, the girl would notice the tissue box Fallon had left underneath the staircase.
After smoothing any last wrinkles out of her coral shirt, Fallon locked the door behind her. She checked her watch, noting that it was still too early to meet Anais. However, on today, of all days, she refused to stay inside and listen to Bastion's ex. Grimbaud could amuse her this morning instead.
She walked through the cobblestone streets of Grimbaud with her face soft from moisturizer and her brown hair neatly parted in the middle in a bob ending at her jaw. Unusually polished for a fifteen-year-old, she earned a few respectful nods from policemen patrolling the street corners. Grimbaud was made up of webbed canals and buildings dating back to the medieval era. Stone cupids and storks, sometimes painted and generally gaudy, huddled in the spaces between windows. Smokers spilled ghostly hearts from their mouths. A café owner handed Fallon a coupon for couples seeking brunch. With a smile, she folded the coupon and tucked it in her skirt pocket; she'd add it to the list of activities she'd do with her future boyfriend, the top being taking a boat ride through Grimbaud's famous Tunnel of Love.
Her attention turned toward the spires piercing the sky, the belfry tolling, and the market squares holding hungry wanderers in search of pralines and hot, twice-baked fries.
Charm-makers sold their wares in shops that looked like gingerbread houses. Fallon's skin prickled as she stopped to stare at the charms on display. A man wearing key chains on his belt promised that buying one would improve her exam scores. A little boy poured green liquid into a bottle labeled CREATIVITY: ONE TEASPOON WITH YOUR COFFEE.
She purposely avoided Verbeke Square. The temptation to get her love fortune early, rather than wait for Anais and Nico, would be too much to bear if she got a look at Zita's charm shop now. Instead, Fallon turned around and walked all the way back toward the complex, stopping a block away to go inside a corner drugstore.
The door jingled when she stepped inside. Her feet made sucking noises on the sticky tile floor. Rows of plastic-wrapped chips and cookies gleamed in the fluorescent lighting. Fallon tucked her hair behind her ears and headed toward the produce section.
She inspected the pears, blueberries, and lemons. White fuzz grew on the fruit. She drew back, her breath coming in short gasps.
"Ah. I see you're admiring the fruit. We have trouble selling produce," said a voice coming from the cash register, "since, you know, most of our customers are high schoolers."
Fallon frowned. "That's still not a good excuse, Anais. Your dad shouldn't let this fruit rot."
Anais stepped out from behind the register and wiped her knees. The girl was tiny, with fluffy blond hair and rosy cheeks. The mischievous curl of her lips dampened her adorability, as well as the peach-colored sweats and stained apron that was her work uniform. "Lucky Grimbaud's health inspectors aren't as dedicated as your parents," she said. "We're not scheduled for inspection until December."
Mr. and Mrs. Dupree were health inspectors, feared by all restaurants and eateries in Fallon's hometown. Her parents had seen enough disease-riddled restaurants and factories that they never let Fallon or her older brother, Robbie, touch anything mass produced in stores. Once a week, her parents had taken them out to eat, using the outings as a chance to conduct blind raids. She had a stockpile of memories of her and Robbie sitting at tables, neatly peeling crayons, while her parents searched kitchens for dead rats and solidified grease like pirates hunting treasure.
Robbie was six years older than Fallon and had gotten to taste freedom first by attending Grimaud High. It was then, when Fallon slept over in his apartment one weekend during his senior year, that she had met Anais Jacobs, the drugstore owner's daughter. With no fresh market within walking distance, twelve-year-old Fallon had braved the drugstore with her brother. When Fallon almost hyperventilated over the clumps of dust and decaying broccoli, Anais had raised her eyebrows and called her "snotty."
They had become friends on the spot, staying in contact first through phone calls, then through letters when both girls were old enough to care to write them.
Anais took a rag and wiped the cigarette case down. "What are you doing here so soon? Are you nervous about your fortune?"
Fallon shrugged. Her toes twitched again. "I shouldn't be, but I am."
"That's a normal reaction, especially the first time you get one." Anais blew a speck of dust off the corner of the case. "But I'm not worried. My relationship with Bear is secure. Whatever Zita has to say about my boyfriend has to be good."
Fallon smiled at that. "When are you going to introduce me to him?"
"When school starts. He'll be back from his judo tournament by then." Anais balled up the rag. "You want to get going now? I told Nico to save us a spot in line."
"Has he been worried?"
"Enough to lose some of his hair. Poor guy."
"Then we'd better go."
"The sooner I can take off this paper bag, the better," Anais said, untying the apron.
While Anais dashed upstairs to change, Fallon tried to ignore the way her heartbeat crawled into her ears, setting off a steady alarm that no one but her could hear.
* * *
A line snaked through Verbeke Square, curving through a maze of café tables and around vendor stalls. The line began in front of Zita's Lovely Love Charms shop, the only shop in a row of old brick buildings that sold something other than lace.
Zita's shop had been painted a shade of pink lemonade and featured bow windows with a second story used only as a backlit display of Zita's finest love charms that glittered with gemstones and gold. Sunlight made the shop gleam beside its drab companions. No one looked at the lace while they waited for their fortunes.
"Nico better be at the front of the line," Anais said. "My sandals aren't made for standing."
Fallon glanced at her friend's flat, faux-leather shoes. They looked like they had been cobbled together by a blind shoemaker, if not a factory, and she doubted that the straps would last the walk back without breaking. "I'm sure he's got us a good spot."
The majority of the line consisted of Grimbaud High students. Tradition dictated that every high school student should get a love fortune before the beginning of each school year. This particular love fortune was different than the other charms sold in Zita's shop: it foretold your romantic future for the entire school year. Zita's 100 percent accuracy kept the townspeople coming back to her shop.
The line moved, releasing a smattering of students trying to process their fortunes. Some cried—happy tears or sad—while others stared at their ticker-tape fortunes with stunned disbelief. The students with the best fortunes glowed like stars, one step away from dancing on the cobblestones. Nico stood in the middle of the line, twisting his damp shirt in his tanned fingers. He had brown hair, burned gold from the sun, and a sinewy body.
"Couldn't you have gotten here earlier?" Anais said, pinching Nico's arm.
"Hey! It doesn't make a difference. The line's been here since dawn. Just be glad you're not in the back of the line," Nico said, "because I'm nice enough to let you cut me."
"Did you eat breakfast?"
"Nah. I can't stomach it." Nico rubbed the back of his head; his fingers paused over his thinning hair.
Fallon and Anais squeezed in front of Nico in line, much to the consternation of the students behind him.
"After we all get wonderful fortunes," Anais said, "we'll have to indulge in a good brunch."
Nico pressed a hand to his mouth. "Please don't talk about food."
Fallon worried about the green tinge of his skin. "Sit down right now," she said, placing her hands on his shoulders. "Put your head between your legs."
Nico obeyed. He gulped down a few deep breaths before struggling to his feet again.
"Could you be seasick?" Anais teased.
"Not possible. Sailing the canals is nothing like the sea. The water's smooth, like gliding on mirrors."
"The better to see your bald spot with."
Nico rolled his eyes. "I'm just excited, okay? And out-of-my-mind nervous. This could be the year I get Martin's attention. Or not. Oh god, or not."
"Deep breaths," Fallon warned.
"You don't understand," he said. "Martin broke up with Camille over the summer. I might have a chance."
Fallon had only known Nico for a month, having been introduced to him through Anais, but she already felt invested in his longtime crush on Martin Pauwels, the student government president. As a sophomore, Nico had secured the unwanted position of treasurer, enabling him to work side by side with Martin during the new school year.
Nico's full name was Nicolas Barnes, of the Barnes family that owned the most popular canal cruises in town and the famous tourist attraction, the Tunnel of Love. Nico spent his days cleaning the boats, manning the Barnes' booths spread throughout Grimbaud, and sometimes giving tours when the cruises were booked low. Over the weeks that she had gotten to know him, she had learned how to speak above the roar of boat engines. Nico had mastered that skill long ago and had no trouble bemoaning Martin's now ex-girlfriend and the fact that, as far as anyone knew, Martin didn't like boys.
The line continued to move, and each step brought them closer to the moment of truth. Fallon could see Zita's storefront now, adorned with slanted gold lettering. The windows revealed a shop lit with warm, round lights. Love potions in glass-blown bottles gleamed in the windows. A rack holding prewritten love letters spun like a carousel while charms molded like cupids sat in baskets labeled HALF PRICE. Fallon tore her eyes away from the enchanting display.
The love-fortune machine was built into the wall on the left-hand side of the shop. Like the storefront, it was painted the same shade of pink and rimmed with golden swirls. A series of cogs, kept behind rose-colored glass, moved each time the machine printed a new fortune on paper strips. The boys in front of them shoved their coins one by one into the slot; Fallon heard Nico swallow loudly when the last boy, shouting with victory, brandished his good fortune and walked away.
"Who's going to go first?" Fallon said. Her hands shook.
Anais rolled her eyes. "Me. Otherwise we'll be pelted for holding up the line."
She slipped her coins into the machine and placed her hand on the scallop-edged heart in the wall. The heart pulsed as the cogs turned. No one knew exactly how the love-fortune machine worked, but it was clear that the heart read who you were—somehow. Fallon felt a slight tremor under her feet. As if Zita herself were underneath the cobblestones right now, reading Anais's heartbeat and scrawling her fortune.
The ticker tape slid out of the machine facedown. On the other side, written in red ink, was the fortune.
Anais squealed. "Good news for me. 'Your love life will be fruitful as long as you are true to yourself.'"
Fallon let go of the breath she didn't know she'd been holding.
Nico frowned. "What does that mean?"
"If I'm myself, I'll get to keep Bear as my boyfriend."
"If," Nico said, "you actually let him see you in your work uniform."
"What about the biscuit tins? I'm sure he'll think you're adorable when—"
"No way. No boyfriend of mine needs to know about that." Anais pushed him forward.
"You go next."
Nico put his hand on the heart. He shuddered so badly that the printing of his fortune seemed miraculous. Nico scanned the fortune, one, twice, and muttered, "Oh no. Oh no."
Anais plucked it before he could drop it. "'Your love will go unnoticed by the one who matters.'"
Fallon rubbed his shoulder, at a loss for words. "Nico ..."
His eyes grew red with unshed tears. "No big deal, right? I expected this."
"Shut up," Anais said, drawing him into a hug.
Fallon wished she could tell him not to give up, but that wasn't how Grimbaud worked. Zita's love fortunes were always right. The red ink was clear enough; Nico would do better forgetting Martin once and for all. Easier said than done. Fallon squared her shoulders and stepped forward, taking her turn at the machine.
She placed her hand on the scallop-edged heart and closed her eyes. The cogs turned in a symphony of clicking and clanking. In that moment, Fallon swore the earth absorbed her heartbeats like sunlight and saw the truth in them. Her fate. She almost forgot to reach for the ticker tape as it slid out of the machine.
"Fallon, read it," Anais said, her voice soft with new worry.
Fallon opened her eyes and tore off the strip. The red ink made a long scar on the surface. "'Your love will never be requited,'" she whispered aloud as she read each word.
Her stomach dropped out of her.
Nico rubbed his eyes, turning green on her behalf. "Are you sure?"
Anais gently pried the fortune out of Fallon's hands and read it herself. "It's true. It really says that. Fallon, have you been holding out on us? Is there a boy you like? Someone from your hometown, maybe?"
It took a few seconds for her throat to work. "No."
Fallon forgot how to breathe. The word "never" scared her. It held the weight of forever.
Her fate was sealed.
Fallon broke away from the machine, ignoring Anais's and Nico's shouts as she ran straight into the shop. Despite the warm lighting, the layout of Zita's shop had the ambiance of a perfume department. Marble counters and shelves displayed booklets on how to kiss and how to plan a perfect date. Bins of innumerable pocketbook charms, potions, and amorous gifts reserved for adults overwhelmed her. The scent of a dozen roses stuffed up her nose and tickled her brain. She imagined holding hands with a boy alongside the canal at midnight. Sharing secrets. Stepping on cobblestones. Exchanging kisses as decadent as truffles. Her heart pounded like a wild thing. She breathed through her mouth and stumbled toward the nearest counter.
"Try not to breathe too deeply," warned the girl at the counter. "The scent they pump in here takes a long time to get used to. It makes you daydream."
Before Fallon could speak, someone approached from behind. "Lucie, remember your training. Don't tell our customers such things."
Lucie shrunk behind the counter. "Sorry."
"Why don't you stock the love-letter stationery." It wasn't a question.
Excerpted from Love Fortunes and Other Disasters by Kimberly Karalius. Copyright © 2015 Kimberly Karalius. Excerpted by permission of Swoon Reads.
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