Can friendship, Star Trek, drama club, and a whole lot of coffee get two nerdy best friends through the beginning of their senior year of high school?
"Friendship . . . is the crux of the story and it’s what will stay with you long after the book is done. Meg & Linus is ultimately a lighthearted, low angst look at holding onto friends and growing up. . . . It’s exactly the sort of relevant and positive portrayal that is needed." Teen Vogue
Meg and Linus are best friends bound by a shared love of school, a coffee obsession, and being queer. It’s not always easy to be the nerdy lesbian or gay kid in a suburban town. But they have each other. And a few Star Trek boxed sets. They're pretty happy.
But then Sophia, Meg’s longtime girlfriend, breaks up with Meg. Linus starts tutoring the totally dreamy new kid, Dannyand Meg thinks setting them up is the perfect project to distract herself from her own heartbreak. But Linus isn’t so sure Danny even likes guys, and maybe Sophia isn't quite as out of the picture as Meg thought she was. . . .
Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski is a fun friendship story about two quirky teens who must learn to get out of their comfort zones and take riskseven if that means joining the drama club, making new friends, and learning how to stand on your own.
Praise for Meg & Linus:
"Told in short chapters with alternating points of view, Meg & Linus is a story of friendship, stable families, and sweet romance. The fact that the protagonist and supporting characters are gay is a nonissue, which makes this a refreshing read." VOYA
"Readers experience [Meg's] pain and Linus’ uncertainties as the story moves back and forth between their respective perspectives. . . . this is one of the rare LGBTQ books to feature both a gay boy and a lesbian who are friends." Booklist
About the Author
Hanna Nowinski is a language enthusiast and trained translator for German and English who lives in the middle of nowhere, Germany. She has wanted to be a writer since she learned that books were made by real people. As a kid, she made up her own bedtime stories, mostly sending her stuffed animals on adventures around the world. She loves books, music, coffee, and getting way too emotionally invested in TV shows. Meg & Linus is her debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
Meg & Linus
By Hanna Nowinski
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2017 Hanna Nowinski
All rights reserved.
"I CAN'T BELIEVE I LET you talk me into this," I say, because it's what I always say.
Sophia grins and kisses my cheek, says, "Come on. I know you secretly love the spotlight." Because it's what she always says. And she's right, I do enjoy this. Even if tonight she seems strangely sad, strangely quiet. It's not surprising. Last times are sad. Even if they involve karaoke.
"Who am I gonna sing with when you're not here anymore?" I ask, pouting at her. "My voice will go even thinner." Her face falls, and immediately I feel bad for bringing it up. "We can do Skype duets, I guess," I add quickly.
"Yeah," she says. "Yeah, I guess we —" She lowers her eyes, doesn't finish the sentence.
Summer break is almost over, and in just a few days she will be moving away while I am staying here, starting my senior year of high school.
I want to do something epic with Sophia before she goes. Something we can remember until we see each other again. Of course I'll visit her once she's settled in at college, and she'll be back for Thanksgiving at the latest, but before all that, I want to do something special. Just the two of us.
However, tonight, we're out for karaoke with most of her recently graduated drama club friends. Their last karaoke night together before they're all moving away. Special in its own way, but not quite what I was thinking of.
I'll come up with something. I'm sure of it. But first of all, Sophia and I are up next for our traditional duet — I always agree to this even if I'm really not much of a singer. It's fun, though, and I like singing, even if I don't hit all the right notes and my voice sounds almost embarrassingly thin. Sophia is really good, though.
She stares down at our joined hands and I give her fingers a tiny, reassuring squeeze. I guess she's finally getting nervous about college and moving out and growing up. I would be, too, if I were her.
I'm going to miss her so much.
Onstage, the boy with the blue streaks in his hair who's been bravely battling his way through Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" for the past few minutes is finishing up, and next to me, Sophia tugs at my hand. I turn my head to look at her, and she smiles. "Our turn," she says. And, oh god, I love her voice, even when she's just using it for speaking.
"Let's do this," I say, leaning in to kiss her quickly. I don't let go of her hand as we walk up to the stage to punch our song selection into the machine. We don't have to discuss this; we always sing "Something Stupid" together. It's our song, at least for karaoke. Listening to it as a recorded version, on the other hand, is another story. It's our favorite (completely good-natured) argument. Because Sophia loves the Frank and Nancy Sinatra version while I will defend Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman to the death.
But today we're just singing, no discussions, just my thin and wobbly voice and her strong and soulful one, and I've been looking forward to this all day, ever since we decided to come here tonight.
We've done this duet so many times we even have choreography. It's choppy and awkward but also kind of awesome, because it's silly and fun and we came up with it together.
The music starts and the first verse is mine, so I stretch my hand out for her to take as I start singing.
I can tell from the moment she takes over that something is ... off. I can't really put my finger on what it is, though. Her voice is as beautiful as ever and she doesn't miss a step of our weird dance, but ... I don't even know.
We dance and we sing and she smiles at me, but there's still that sadness in her eyes when she looks at me. And I'm not sure what's wrong. Is this still about leaving? Is this because this is our last duet for possibly months?
We finish up to the applause of her drama club friends and the other random people scattered throughout the room before stepping off the stage together.
She starts heading back in the direction of our table immediately, but I stop, holding her back, her hand still firmly in mine. "Sophia."
"Hmm?" She turns, looks at me, and I can't look past that sadness in her eyes anymore. It seems to only get more pronounced the more time passes. "What's up?"
"I was just going to ask you the same thing."
She shakes her head. "What? No, everything's okay."
"Are you sure?" I ask, because I'm not. Not at all.
"Yeah, of course. Do you want another soda?" She changes the topic.
I'm not convinced. I know her. I know she's lying to me, but I don't want to press the issue. Not here, not now. And anyway, if this is about her leaving, I'm still working on coming up with one last big date, some big gesture, something special to celebrate her before she leaves. Once I come up with it, maybe that will help to cheer her up. At least I hope so. "No, thanks," I say. "I'm good."
I let her tug me back to the table, sit down in my chair beside her, but no matter how hard I try to ignore it, I can't stop this feeling of worry gnawing away at my insides.
Other people from our group take the stage one by one, all of them recent graduates using this night to celebrate their newfound freedom. I'm the only one not yet graduated in this particular group of people, and I'm really glad she asked me to come along tonight. There is so little time left before she leaves. We're trying to make the most of it.
I lean my head on her shoulder and she threads her fingers through mine and together we watch the stage while our friends sing. Slowly, I can feel the worst of the tension leaving her shoulders as she relaxes against me.
"You should sing us another one," I suggest quietly, shifting a little closer to her. Singing calms her a lot of the time. Maybe it would help.
"Maybe." She sighs. "You want to sing it with me?" I lift my head from her shoulder. "No, I want to hear you." I attempt a smile. "I love your voice."
"You know I love yours, too," she says and smiles, the first real smile I've seen from her all evening.
I laugh and close my eyes when she kisses me, and maybe it will all be okay. I know she's sad. I am sad, too. But no matter how much tonight feels like a good-bye, I know it isn't one, not really. It's just the beginning of things changing. We can handle that, together. I know we can.
* * *
She comes over the next day — an afternoon date at my house while Mom is at work. We're going to hang out in the backyard and enjoy the nice summer weather.
"Hey," she greets me as I open the door for her.
"Hi," I greet back and lean in to kiss her hello before stepping back to let her walk past me into the house.
I'm going to miss her so much. But things are looking a lot better in the bright light of day, as they usually do. It's just one year. One year until I graduate, too, and then I can follow after her. If I get into her college. But my grades are good, I have all the extracurriculars I need, I think my chances are pretty solid to actually make this. And we can do one year, can't we? I know it's possible.
"You want some lemonade?" I ask, walking up behind her to wrap my arms around her waist as she's toeing off her shoes by the stairs.
"Sure," she agrees, and I press my face into her wild dark curls for a second before pulling back to walk ahead into the kitchen.
"Are you excited yet about leaving?" I ask, getting the pitcher from the fridge and pulling two glasses from the cupboard. Ignoring it isn't going to make it easier. And I remember how excited she was when she was accepted into her dream college. We celebrated for days. With a cake and lemonade picnic in her backyard, and then we went to all of our favorite places around town (our favorite coffee shop, the movie theater, our corner in the park, and many others) and took pictures of her visiting these places for the first time as an (almost) college student.
Maybe she is just in a bit of a funk because it's all finally starting to get real? I'm going to have to do my best to cheer her up. It sucks for me that I have to stay behind, but I want her to be excited about college. I want her to have a great time there until I can finally join her.
I hear her socked feet padding across the floor toward the kitchen table, and turn my head when she needs longer than usual to respond. She flickers a smile at me when I give her a questioning look, shrugs her shoulders a little.
"Yeah. Sure. I am."
And I get it. It's scary. The first time living away from home, in a strange new place with strange new people, of course she's nervous. But I know she's going to be fine once she gets there. Sophia makes friends so easily, everybody loves her. As they should. She's perfect.
"Call me when you get lonely," I tell her and offer a smile, and she does smile back at me, but doesn't say anything. "Hey. Are you okay?" I ask.
She stares down at her hands and shrugs again and I close the distance between us to give her a hug. She hugs me back tightly and I can feel how tense she is, and there's the worry creeping back in, even in the bright light of day. Sophia is usually the most cheerful person I know. Something is just — wrong.
"Do you want to sit outside?" I ask, pulling back far enough to look at her. It's a beautiful day, maybe the sun will help cheer her up. "Even if I'll be covered in freckles tomorrow, I don't care. The weather looks like it will totally be worth it."
She nods. "You're the best! And yeah! Sounds good," she agrees. "Thanks."
"Okay." I nod and fill our glasses with ice while she puts some cookies on a plate for us.
Sunshine, sugary-sweet lemonade, and cookies. I'm going to make her feel better somehow. I don't want her to be sad about leaving, even if I am a little sad myself. But this is a good thing for her, and I want her to be able to enjoy it. And it's only a year. We can do a year. It's going to be so worth it once I graduate and follow after her.
So I lead her out onto the back porch where we sit down on the steps side by side with our cookies and our ice-cold lemonade and I take her hand as we watch the sunlight play on the grass and wait for her to talk to me about whatever it is that's on her mind.
I'm here for her. I know she knows that.
"I've been thinking." I finally break the silence when I can't take it anymore. "You know, my grades are okay —"
"Says the girl who's most likely going to be class valedictorian," Sophia interrupts, bumping our shoulders together.
I squeeze her fingers a little, laughing. "Well, anyway, I should probably add some more artsy extracurriculars to my application, shouldn't I?" Sophia frowns. "Why?"
It's my turn to shrug. "Just so I have them. To round out my application? If we want to be back in the same place next year — I know your college really likes —"
"Actually," she says, "about that. I wanted — um."
"I wanted to talk to you."
"College." She bites her lip, looks straight ahead, doesn't meet my eyes. "My college. Just — are you sure that's actually where you want to go? Isn't that — I don't know. Is that the best idea? For you?"
I open and close my mouth, looking for the right words, and I don't get it. We have talked about this so many times; every time in the past I discussed my plans to apply to her college for next year she never said anything to make me believe she didn't think it was a good idea. "Of course it's a good idea," I finally settle on. "Why wouldn't it be a good idea? You're there!"
"Yeah, but. Is that the only reason you want to go there?" she asks.
I shake my head. "Of course not. I mean — well, it is a really good school. You know it is. You're going there. And — I thought we wanted this? I mean, we talked about this. So many times. You never said —" "You talked about it," she points out. "I didn't."
"You don't want us to go to the same college?" My stomach suddenly feels hollow and my palms are cold and sweaty. What is happening?
"I didn't say that," Sophia says. "I just meant — do you really and honestly think that this is a good idea? Because you have to be sure. This is a really big decision. You can't just go where I go."
"Why not?" I want to know. "And, yeah, I know it's a big decision. That's why we've talked it through so many times. You're my girlfriend. It makes sense for us to be together. Doesn't it?"
She still doesn't look at me, but slowly, very slowly, pulls her hand away from mine, folds her fingers in her lap as she stares down at the ground. "Maybe it doesn't," she says, and I can feel the words sinking like bricks into my stomach; this can't be happening.
"What are you saying?"
And she finally turns her head, finally looks at me, and I'm looking right into her face as she says the words I never expected to hear in a million years.
"Maybe we should break up before I leave."
... This was not the kind of epic event I wanted to happen before she leaves. Not at all.CHAPTER 2
I REALLY LIKE COFFEE. A lot. Coffee is important to me. There is nothing better than a nice cup of coffee to start a morning or to get you through a busy afternoon.
The good thing is that my parents also love coffee. I don't know, maybe it's genetic or something. In any case, for any of this to make sense it is important to know that as a result we have a really, really good coffeemaker at home. A really good one. I love that coffeemaker. It's the best thing about my mornings.
And yet, this summer I have spent a really large number of days having my coffee at the coffee shop down the road from my high school instead.
I've only started doing that this summer. Hanging out there. By myself. Getting some reading done, or even just playing games on my phone. This is a new thing for me. Not because I usually only go out with large groups of people, but because I usually prefer the quiet of home. And my best friend, Meg, was busy a lot of the time this summer, so we met up less than we normally do.
As a result, my summer has been rather lonely, but that's okay. I have honestly enjoyed all this time to myself; I've read so much and I've even gotten a bit of a tan from sitting in the backyard with my books when I wasn't hanging out here in the coffee shop. (Mostly I just freckled, though.) And some days I did hang out with my friend, but I probably turned down her invitations to hang out more often than she did mine.
You see, I had a very good reason for hanging out alone at this coffee shop so many afternoons.
His name is Danny and he is absolutely and ridiculously perfect, with his dark hair styled upward to look spiky and his soulful brown eyes and his cute smile. He also has really nice arms.
He's a barista here, he's new, and I think he's my age. I don't know anything more about him because I don't have the faintest idea how I would even start a conversation, but I like just sitting here and drinking my coffee and being in the same room with him. Is that creepy? I don't want it to be creepy. I know nothing would ever happen between us, even if I could somehow find the courage to say anything to him, anything more than is required for ordering a cup of coffee, or sometimes, when I'm feeling adventurous, a coffee and a piece of chocolate cake.
But yeah. I mean, he's probably not even gay. Chances are that after his shifts he goes to meet up with his perfect, witty, attractive girlfriend to go on wonderfully romantic and entirely straight dates with her.
And even on the off chance that he's gay or maybe bi, he certainly wouldn't be interested in an awkward chubby little dude like me.
But still, I like going to the coffee shop when he's working. And I like being able to simply look up from my book or my phone to see him standing there behind the counter with his spiky hair. Before this summer, I didn't even know I had a thing for spiky hair, but apparently I do.
Also, he's always really nice to me, during all those non-conversations we have. He smiles at me every time I order my coffee from him. He probably smiles at everyone, I guess it's in the job description, but ... I don't know. I still like it. It makes me feel good. Although I know he must smile like that at everyone, a smile is nice, you know? Being smiled at is nice. And if it's done by someone you think you really, really like, it's even better.
My official excuse for going is the caramel macchiato. Which is seriously delicious. Some days I just buy one and leave. I don't want to seem weird by hanging out here by myself all the time.
Today I'm in luck and he's working, standing by the register and taking orders. I almost like it better when he's making drinks because it means I don't have to talk to him directly. I'm not so good at that.
It's already quite crowded when I enter, mostly older people who are probably picking up their post-lunch-break coffees at this time. Anyone my age is probably hanging out with other people instead of stalking innocent baristas at their summer jobs.
Excerpted from Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski. Copyright © 2017 Hanna Nowinski. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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