A high-achieving teen who's determined to become a fighter jet pilot is matched up with an accused criminal at an elite military boarding school in SM Koz's YA novel, Risking It All.
Paige knows exactly what she wants—to graduate from Wallingford Academy and become a pilot in the US Air Force. She’s inherited her father’s no-nonsense attitude and whip-smart intelligence, all of which have made her the perfect Wallingford cadet.
Wallingford Academy is the last place in the world Logan wants to be. But after his girlfriend borrows his car and commits a crime, Logan takes the fall and ends up there with hopes of striking a decent plea bargain. For him, graduation can't come soon enough.
When Paige is asked to mentor Logan, it’s the perfect opportunity to prove her leadership skills—but she doesn't account for the feelings that start to develop or the baggage from Logan's past which could threaten both of their futures.
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|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|File size:||4 MB|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
SM KOZ is a medical writer from North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and numerous pets. She has a BS in Biology from Duke University and a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from North Carolina State University. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, photographing nature and her family, gardening, travelling, and attempting, usually unsuccessfully, to decorate birthday cakes. Love Me, Love Me Not is her first traditionally published novel.
Read an Excerpt
Alex, the commander of Alpha Battalion, stops our jogging cadence abruptly as Commander Anderson, the dean of students, approaches him.
"Commander Jernigan!" the dean yells, motioning for Alex to join him.
Alex jogs over to the dean and a guy who has stepped out from behind him. This new guy clearly doesn't belong here. He's wearing jeans, a long-sleeved red T-shirt, and stylish sneakers that won't last for a single run during PT — physical training. The most obvious sign he's not a Wallingford student, though, is his full head of blond hair hanging over his eyes and ears.
Alex makes eye contact with me and motions for me to take over. "Lieutenant Commander Durant is in charge," he says to our battalion before continuing with the dean and the new guy.
I step out of line to put myself next to the ten rows of cadets and continue with the cadence.
"Dedicated!" I yell, getting us back to where we were.
"Dedicated!" the cadets reply, their heavy footsteps keeping time as we pound out our five miles.
This added responsibility puts more pep in my step than usual. As lieutenant commander, I don't get this job as often as I'd like, though I do have plenty of other responsibilities.
"Everybody!" I yell as we pass under an arch and onto the gravel path that circles our campus. I take a deep breath and smile at the nice view of the mountains. The trees are a little barer than they were yesterday, the ground is littered with a few more red and gold leaves, and mist rises from the valleys, despite it being the middle of the afternoon. If it were up to me, there would only be one season and it'd be fall.
"Everybody!" the cadets reply.
When we start on our second lap around campus, Alex and the new guy join us. I drop back into line, but Alex motions for me to fall out of formation to stand next to the new guy. I do as he orders and try to get a better look at the guy while staring straight ahead.
He's shuffling his feet, slumping his shoulders, and huffing and puffing despite just starting to jog at what is really a leisurely pace. Then he stops. He literally stops on the gravel, causing three cadets to run into him, knocking him to the ground.
"What the hell?!" he barks, sending them a glare as they sidestep him and return to their places in line.
"Get up," I say as the rest of our battalion pulls away.
"No," he replies, brushing dirt from his sleeve.
"It wasn't a request; it was an order. Get up."
My jaw almost drops at his display of disrespect, but I quickly catch myself. I can't let him think he's got the upper hand.
"Get up now or you'll be disciplined."
"Fine. I'll get up," he says, standing with a smirk.
I nod, happy he came to his senses. "We'll need to sprint to catch up to them. Commander Jernigan doesn't tolerate cadets who fall behind," I reply, looking at the group now far away. "I hope those shoes are more comfortable than they loo —" Where'd he go?
Turning around, I see him sauntering along the path to a bench. Then he sits down. On the bench. During PT.
"Cadet!" I yell. "Your behavior is completely unacceptable!"
"My name's Logan," he grumbles before raising his fist into the air and then jutting his middle finger out. This time, my jaw does drop.
It's clear by this guy's attitude he's not here by choice. Wallingford Academy has split admission: half of the cadets, like me, apply and have dreams of a military academy after graduation, and half are sent here by their parents or the court when all other attempts at correcting their behavior have failed. Most of these delinquents, or DQs as we call them, come at the start of a semester, though, not four weeks in. And they aren't nearly as disrespectful. The drill sergeant usually gets that out of them during their two-week boot camp.
As I begin marching toward the new cadet, Alex comes racing back at us. "What's the problem, Paige?"
"No problem," I reply, shaking my head and smoothing back my black hair, making sure none of it has come free from my braid. I don't want Alex to think I can't handle the new guy. I've never had a problem with DQs before, and I'm not about to start now.
"Why's Evans sitting down?"
"He's being petulant. I've got it, though."
"Move your ass now!" Alex yells, ignoring me and causing my jaw to tense and my blood pressure to rise higher than it's been throughout our run. Later, once we're alone, I'll call him out on this. I'm a great cadet and even better officer. Given two more minutes, I would've gotten the new guy — Logan Evans, apparently — in line. Alex should know that. Besides being my commander, he's one of my best friends.
The new guy gives Alex the finger, and suddenly my annoyance disappears. I cringe, waiting for the punishment that's coming. Poor Evans doesn't stand a chance.
Alex stalks over to the bench with narrowed eyes and slow, confident steps. "You will never do that to me again. Understand?"
"I'll do whatever the hell I want," Evans mutters, meeting Alex's eyes briefly before dropping his gaze to the ground.
"The correct answer is 'Yes, sir, Commander Jernigan.'" He rests his hands on his knees and bends down until he's eye level with Evans. "This cocky attitude of yours might have worked where you're from, but it's not going to work here. You will spend your personal time tonight cleaning all the whiteboards in the classrooms."
"Screw you," Evans says, standing and trying to push his way past Alex. Except Alex has at least fifty pounds more muscle, so he doesn't budge, and Evans has to squeeze past him.
"Make that two nights of personal time. Want to try for three? I have no problem standing here the entire afternoon and taking away all your free time for the rest of the semester. In fact, I'd enjoy it."
Evans pauses, his back to Alex, and his shoulders fall.
"It's your choice," Alex says.
Evans slowly turns around and starts jogging at what really is more of a walking pace along the gravel path. Alex nods. "Good decision, cadet." Then he speeds up to join the rest of our battalion while I accompany Evans. At this pace, we'll never catch the others, but at least he's trying and will eventually get the miles in.
I consider starting a new cadence song with him, but he's already out of breath and red-faced. There's no way he can yell on top of running.
Unfortunately, our crawling pace is going to make me miss the rest of PT. I'll need to figure out a time to get my push-ups and pull-ups in, although I doubt I'll have a chance until late tonight since right after PT, I have cross-country practice, then it's dinner, followed by study hall, and then two hours of personal time, most of which will be spent at debate club. If I'm quick, I can probably fit in my workout after debate club and before lights-out at 10:00 P.M.
Other than debate club and my second round of PT thanks to Evans, it's an exact replica of yesterday. That's one of the nice things about Wallingford — you always know what to expect. There are never any surprises.
Without warning, he turns right onto the lawn, and then sprints between two buildings. Well, it's a sprint for him. I could easily catch up, but I stand staring at his back instead.
So much for no surprises. Where did he find that spurt of energy? And where in the world is he going? The only thing behind those buildings is the staff parking lot and then forest leading up the mountain. Unless he plans on committing grand theft auto or living in the wild, there's nothing for him back there.
With a sigh, I pick up my pace and follow in his footsteps, twice as quickly as he went. It takes a few minutes, but I find him sitting on a yellow cement parking block with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
"You have to finish PT," I say, stepping in front of him.
"Look," he says, raising his head, "you'd have better luck convincing me to jump off a cliff than you will getting me to run five miles. It's not going to happen. There's no way in hell I'm doing all this military shit."
He doesn't have a choice. The only way to avoid the strict routine is to leave Wallingford, which I imagine isn't an option for him. But maybe it is. Only one person knows the answer to that. "You can take it up with the dean. Let's go to his office."
With a nod, he says, "I'll head over there in a minute," before stretching out his legs and leaning back on his arms, as though he's enjoying a causal summer afternoon lounging around a pool.
Except it's not summer, there's nothing casual about Wallingford, and our pool is only used for swimming laps, not floating on a raft and soaking up the sun. "I've got to get back to PT. We need to go now."
"I don't need a chaperone."
"I'm sure you understand why I don't trust you to go on your own."
He remains silent, so I continue. "You are free to mess up your life all you want, but I won't have you messing up mine. I need to get back to PT, but I can't do that until you either rejoin PT or I deliver you to the dean."
He stands, but not before sending an annoyed look in my direction. "Fine, let's go to the dean's office."
We cross through the parking lot to a sidewalk and then quietly make our way to the administrative building.
"You've delivered me," he says when he reaches for the door. "You can go back to your pack of brainwashed robots."
"Excuse me?" I reply, my hands landing on my hips. His disrespect seems to have no end.
He waves his hand in the general direction of the athletic field, where my battalion should be done with their run by now. "I'd hate to mess up your life. Go back to whatever it is you're supposed to be doing."
I grit my teeth and bite my tongue. He needs a lesson on how to behave around here, but that responsibility will need to fall on his peer mentor. I can't be expected to turn him around in only a few minutes.
Hopefully whoever is paired with him will be able to do it quickly because Alex will have zero patience with him if he keeps acting like this. Fortunately, it usually doesn't take long. My last match was the beginning of my junior year, and it took less than a semester for my good behavior to rub off on her. She went from a C to an A average and from picking fights in her spare time to being a key player on the soccer team.
As far as my responsibility to Evans, it ends here. Since he refused to do PT, I brought him to the dean. Nothing more can be expected of me. I turn on my heel before sprinting back to my battalion.
Throughout the rest of PT, I can't stop thinking about the guy. He might be the worst cadet I've ever seen. Sure, all DQs have issues, but most of them respond to our threats. And want to avoid the dean at all costs, not volunteer to see him. He's an unusual one, for sure.
I have no idea what the dean's plan is for him, but boot camp really needs to be in his future. Maybe some hard-core drill-sergeant treatment will be the kick in the pants he needs.
Once we're done with our exercises, I start to head for my dorm with my roommate, Leah, who also happens to be my best friend. Suddenly, a flash of red between a cluster of pine trees catches my attention. I turn in the direction and stare.
"What's going on?" Leah asks when she notices I've stopped.
"I thought I saw something. Back there," I reply, pointing. It was the exact color of Evans's shirt, but it couldn't be Evans. The dean wouldn't allow him to wander around campus alone.
Squinting, she says, "I don't see anything. It was probably just a squirrel."
Convinced she must be right, I nod. For some reason, I've got Evans on my mind. It's ridiculous. He's just another DQ, one who may not even be here by tomorrow morning. It's time to forget about him and how he messed up my PT so I can focus on the important things I've got going on.
Like the urgent discussion I need to have with my dad.
* * *
The next morning, in the mess hall, I follow Alex from the buffet line to where Leah and some of our other friends are seated.
They're congratulating Chris on his acceptance into the Naval Academy, which he just received yesterday. I start to say something, but I'm interrupted by a voice behind me. "Lieutenant Commander Durant."
I turn around to find the dean standing there. My stomach drops and the two bites of breakfast I've taken feel like a bowling ball weighing me down. I quickly review everything I've done the past twenty-four hours, but can't come up with anything that would lead to a visit by the dean. I got As on my two tests. All the girls passed their room inspections. Lights-out was seamless. I did get frustrated at cross-country practice when I lost to a junior right in the last 100 yards, but I took out my frustration by running sprints. No one should have a problem with that.
"Sir, yes, sir," I say, sitting at attention, not letting my voice give away my nerves.
"Please come to my office after breakfast." Lowering his voice, he says, "I have something important to discuss with you regarding the new cadet."
I gulp and nod as my stomach drops even lower. Evans. Was I not imagining things in the forest yesterday? Was he somehow sneaking around? That's impossible ... unless he never went to the dean after I dropped him off.
How could I make such a careless mistake? I should've escorted him into the office. What if he went AWOL? Will the dean hold me responsible? "Yes, sir," I say with another gulp. "I'll report to your office immediately after breakfast."
He turns around without another word and leaves the mess hall.
Leah lowers her fork and gives me a sympathetic look. "What happened?" she asks.
I crack my knuckles. "I'm not sure." I don't want to admit my mistake in front of the other officers.
"Did you sneak off campus?" Deborah, the girl to my left, asks.
"Were you caught using your phone during school hours?" Alyssa, a girl seated across the table, asks.
"Are you hiding Twizzlers in your underwear drawer again?" Alex asks with a grin.
I wrinkle my nose at him. Back when I was a freshman, I thought I could keep candy in my room for a late-night snack. Turns out not even your underwear drawer is sacred. It was found within two days, and I ended up in detention for the infraction. That's also when I met Alex, who was there because he kissed a girl in the hallway between classes. Apparently, they didn't know — or didn't care — about the no-PDA-on-campus rule.
That, three years ago, was the first and last time I disobeyed a rule.
"Hey, maybe it's good news," Leah says with a hopeful smile.
I bite my lip, crack my knuckles again, and nod, although it's not. Nothing positive happened between me and Evans yesterday. I try to take a bite of sausage, but it gets stuck in my throat. Things have been going so well. My application to the Air Force Academy was going to be as strong as I could possibly make it. I had everything planned out. My dream of becoming a fighter pilot was becoming more and more real every passing day.
Did Evans put all that at risk for me?CHAPTER 2
As soon as the bell rings, I shoot up and rush for the dean's office, unable to handle the suspense any longer. I must know what Evans did, and if my inappropriate actions are going to ruin my chances at the Air Force Academy. I need to have a spotless record. If I'm disciplined for what happened, my dream could be over.
"Sir, Lieutenant Commander Durant reports," I say when I reach his open doorway.
He says, "At ease, Lieutenant Commander Durant. Please come in and take a seat."
I enter the room but pause when I see Evans.
"I believe you've already met our new cadet, Logan Evans."
He's slouched in his chair and gives me a half wave and a smirk. My eyes grow wide at his complete lack of respect in front of the dean.
"Yes, sir." I sit down, my back rigid and my hands folded in my lap.
"Since he's joining us in the middle of the semester, he has not had the benefit of our basic training course."
"Yes, sir." That much was obvious yesterday.
"It's impossible to run the full program for one cadet in the middle of the semester, so I'd like for you to provide his training between classes and your other duties. You're the highest-ranking officer without a current match, so I feel it's the best solution to get him quickly up to speed on our customs and courtesies. Not to mention you're one of the best role models he could have."
"Thank you, sir." All my fear from a few minutes ago disappears. I'm not being disciplined at all. I'm being offered yet another leadership position, which will only improve my chances of getting into the Air Force Academy.
"Are you willing to take on this responsibility?"
"Of course, sir." It's not like there's another answer. If an administrator asks you to do something, you do it. Even if "no" were an acceptable answer, I'd never say it. I'll have to figure out how to add in the new responsibility when my days are already filled second by second, but it will be worth it. I'll make it work somehow. As my dad always says, failure is never an option.
Commander Anderson faces Evans and says, "Lieutenant Commander Durant will teach you how to survive around here, if you let her. I highly suggest you drop the attitude and embrace the opportunity to learn. Insubordination will not be tolerated. If she tells you to jump, you ask how high. Understood?"
Evans's eyes stay on his feet.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Risking It All"
Copyright © 2019 Shannon Kozlowicz.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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
Chapter 1. Paige,
Chapter 2. Paige,
Chapter 3. Logan,
Chapter 4. Logan,
Chapter 5. Logan,
Chapter 6. Paige,
Chapter 7. Logan,
Chapter 8. Logan,
Chapter 9. Paige,
Chapter 10. Logan,
Chapter 11. Paige,
Chapter 12. Logan,
Chapter 13. Logan,
Chapter 14. Paige,
Chapter 15. Paige,
Chapter 16. Logan,
Chapter 17. Logan,
Chapter 18. Logan,
Chapter 19. Paige,
Chapter 20. Paige,
Chapter 21. Logan,
Chapter 22. Logan,
Chapter 23. Logan,
Chapter 24. Paige,
Chapter 25. Logan,
Chapter 26. Paige,
Chapter 27. Logan,
Chapter 28. Paige,
Chapter 29. Logan,
Chapter 30. Paige,
Chapter 31. Paige,
Chapter 32. Logan,
Chapter 33. Paige,
Chapter 34. Logan,
Chapter 35. Paige,
About the Author,