Rosie Girl

Rosie Girl

by Julie Shepard


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Little Peach meets We Were Liars in this haunting YA debut about a troubled teen searching for her birth mom who uncovers disturbing family secrets along the way.
After her father passes away, seventeen-year-old Rosie is forced to live with her abusive stepmom Lucy and her deadbeat boyfriend, Judd, who gives Rosie the sort of looks you shouldn’t give your girlfriend’s step-daughter. Desperate for a way out, Rosie would do just about anything to escape the life she’s been handed. Then she finds a letter her dad wrote years ago, a letter confessing that Rosie's birth mother isn't dead, as she believed, but alive somewhere—having left them when Rosie was a little girl for reasons he won't reveal.
     Rosie resolves to find her birth mom, and she'll put everything on the line to make that happen. She hires a PI paid for by her best friend, Mary, who turns tricks for money. Unlike Rosie, Mary's no delicate flower and when she sees the opportunity to make some cash and help out her closest friend, she takes it. Romance blooms when the PI Rosie hires hands the case off to his handsome nephew Mac, but Rosie struggles to keep her illicit activities with Mary a secret. Things begin to unravel when Rosie starts getting creepy anonymous texts from johns looking for Mary. And then there's Mary, the one person Rosie can count on, who's been acting strangely all of a sudden. As Rosie and Mary get closer to finally uncovering the truth about Rosie's mom, Rosie comes face to face with a secret she never saw coming. A visceral, poignant tale of friendship, sacrifice and identity, Rosie Girl is an unforgettable debut that will leave you guessing till the very last page.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399548642
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 07/11/2017
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Julie Shepard has an English degree from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and a teaching degree in Middle Grades English. She lives by the beautiful beaches of South Florida. Rosie Girl is her debut.

Read an Excerpt

MY BEST FRIEND’S name is Mary, but don’t be fooled. She’s no virgin.
As a matter of fact, she’s with Todd Ryser right now in the stairwell that separates the second and third floors of Del Vista High.
I’m waiting for her in the girls’ bathroom down the hall. Both places smell like pee, but at least I have a mirror where I can check to make sure my hair is behaving. Mary’s told me about these sessions before, and because she likes me to stay close (Jesus, Rosie, it’s the least you can do!), I’ve often been tempted to listen in. Sounds weird, I know. I’ve been insanely curious, and since I’m superbored, I decide to do it.
The hall’s empty. After four o’clock, the school dries up like a desert. No flow of students, only the stray cactus who remains at her desk to grade papers. Plus the head janitor who roams around with keys jangling in his pocket, but I haven’t heard any jangling up here on the third floor, so I figure I’m safe.
Once I reach the stairwell, I put my ear to the door. Faint movements. Rustling.
Then, Todd’s voice. “You’re so hot.”
Mary doesn’t answer him. She knows better than to read anything into words mumbled during stuff like this. We both do. I did that once with Ray, my first real boyfriend (and it wasn’t even during sex, just fooling around with fingers and tongues), then spent months searching for the part of my brain I lost while riding a one-way train called “First Love.” In case you didn’t know, it ends up in an overpopulated city called “Dumped & Stupid.”
When I press my ear harder, I hear heavy, rapid breathing. His. It’s almost over. At least that’s how Mary says it goes. I imag­ine his hands on her sunburned shoulders. They’re bare today, exposed by my heather-beige tank top Mary insists looks better on her than it does on me.
Does it feel good? I’ve asked, because best friends have no boundaries when it comes to sex or borrowing each other’s clothes.
It doesn’t feel like anything, she’s said, other than sweaty. It’s more about the sounds—the grunting the guy makes, the short, quick gasps when he’s about to come.
I prefer to use the word climax, even though Mary thinks it sounds silly. Just because we’re seventeen doesn’t mean we have to be so crude.
Things have gone dead quiet. I almost turn away when I hear Todd again. “Ivan was right,” he says. “You are sweet.”
I feel sick because it doesn’t sound like a compliment from this side of the door. But I’m sure Mary only adjusts her clothes and grins up at him with lips he never kissed. For some reason, she says, they never kiss. And I know it must be true. Whenever she’s done, the first thing I notice is her raspberry gloss, shiny and untouched.
When I hear Mary say, “Thanks,” I can’t help myself. I place my bag, packed with textbooks, on the floor and stand on it so I can peek through the small glass pane. There they are, on the concrete landing. I’m glad I looked, because she wasn’t thanking him for being a jerk—she was thanking him for the bills in her hand.
I step off my bag, and not ten seconds later the doorknob turns. I almost trip over my own feet to hide behind the near­est corner. Todd comes out first. His black hair is plastered at odd angles around a face shimmering with sweat. His shorts are wrinkled and both ends of a canvas belt hang free below his shirt. He’s cute, and I hate myself for thinking it. I hate myself even more for this odd sensation I know is jealousy. Out comes Mary. Her straight hair falls in soft brown sheets around her shoulders. She adjusts a strap of my tank top, which also looks wrinkled, and two of three buttons remain unfastened.
They part without speaking. He doesn’t even nod or wave goodbye. There are three possible directions they can take, and passing me would be one of those ways. I pray Todd picks one of the other two, and he does. Mary chooses my way.
When she reaches me, she barely slows down to say, “Let’s go.”
I search her face for signs of distress as we move at a hurried clip down the hall.
“Are you okay?” I ask, trying to keep up. Her legs are a mile longer than mine and stretch out like pale white sticks in front of her.
“Don’t break the rules,” she says, then purses those glossy lips. Rule number one: No questions after. I can tell by her mood not to bring up the fact that she broke rule number five by not getting paid first. So I force a smile and stay quiet as we hustle down another set of stairs. Unlike the stairway she and Todd were in, this set is at the end of the building and has a first-floor exit to outside. She pushes her way through the metal door.
The fresh air greets us, but so does the hot sun. Mary slips a rubber band off her wrist and pulls her hair into a ponytail. It falls into a silky chocolate waterfall. I reach out and fasten one of the buttons on her tank top, then linger on the next one. I always do this, trying to delay our separation by adjusting a piece of her clothing or making mindless conversation. It just feels weird leaving each other, but Mary doesn’t share those feelings.
“Stop,” she says. “I can do my own buttons. See you later, okay?” Then she takes off down the sidewalk toward the back of the school, her sneakers slapping against the concrete. Mary crosses the spongy orange track and cuts through the football field. I watch her break into a run, book bag swinging behind her. If you didn’t know, you’d simply think she was a girl racing home from school. But I do know, so I’m thinking something else. That what she just did was horrible. And how lucky I am that she did it for me.
Once Mary’s out of sight, I pick up the pace in the other direction so I don’t miss the 5:10 bus and have to wait another fifteen minutes. By the end of September, I had given up asking my mom to borrow the Saab (or, as I like to call it, the Slaab-mobile) since at the last minute she’d always renege, and I’d end up scrambling for a ride. The bus system is pretty reliable and gives me an excuse to hit her up for some extra cash.
I make it to the bus stop in front of Del Vista as the groaning metal beast pulls up, clipping the curb. The doors open with a whoosh, and a blast of cold air saves me from the May heat. Even after all these months, Archie still doesn’t say hi, but I nod and smile anyway, hoping one day to crack him.
I search for an empty seat. It’s packed, but I spot one next to an old lady clutching a bag in her lap. I’ve seen her before, always lodged in the back. She looks up at me when I approach, not realizing it’s her lucky day. Unlike some of the criminals that frequent the Miami-Dade transit system, I’m one of the nonthreatening seat buddies who won’t attempt to steal what she’s trying so hard to keep safe.
I settle in next to her, pull the sketchbook out of my bag. The bus ride home from school is a great place to get down the designs I’ve been creating in my head all day. Teachers think I’m paying attention, but what I’m really doing is studying their outfits, the colors they’ve chosen, the styles they believe flatter their figures.
The old lady makes an exaggerated snorting sound, break­ing my concentration on a jumpsuit. She crinkles her nose as if she’s smelled something foul, then dramatically turns her face to look out the window, wet with condensation. I ignore her and sweep both hands over the top of my head, hoping to tame my mane. South Florida weather is no friend of mine. The year-round humidity is constantly turning my waves into a frizzy mess that even a fashionable hat has trouble hiding, and with summer fast approaching, the worst is yet to come.
At least my face, by most people’s standards, registers as pretty. Oval-shaped with skin that rarely gets zits. Eyes the color of dark blue marbles. Lips naturally the color of Mary’s favorite gloss, Rockin’ Raspberry. And a cleft chin that used to make me self-conscious until someone once said it gave me a unique “model” look. I appreciated the compliment but knew I could never be one. I’m not tall enough at barely five foot three. Plus, I’m nowhere near thin enough and not about to give up root beer, salt-and-vinegar potato chips, or anything with a cherry filling.
The old lady scoots over, jamming herself next to the wall of the bus so the fabric of her faded, flowery dress doesn’t touch me. Have I somehow offended her? The energy between us is tense and threatens to darken my mood.
Stop one: Miami Medical Center. Two people get off, six people get on. I don’t know where they’re going to sit. Indeed, four people have to remain standing.
Normally, I get a semi-pleasant riding companion, but the old lady doesn’t seem too friendly. She’s pulled out a ball of yarn and moves her needle at a brisk pace. I pass the time by working on the jumpsuit and imagining creative ways to an­noy her, none of which I have the courage to carry out. Some people are big talkers. I’m a big thinker.
Stop two: Hibiscus Mall. No one gets off, three more people get on, faces instantly sagging at their pole-clutching fate. I hang my head, knowing thick bangs will fall and cover my eyes. I should probably offer my seat to the sixty-something nurse who took blood and gave sponge baths all day, but I’m tired, too. Schools are like mortuaries—they drain the life out of you.
Stop three: I gather my things, because stop three is mine.
“You should button that up,” the old lady says, quick and sharp as if she wanted to make sure to tell me before I left.
“Excuse me?” Instantly, I glance down at my denim shirt she’s spying. It’s one of my favorites, darted in the back so it makes me look extra-slim. There are an appropriate number of buttons undone—two—and nothing is showing. No cleavage, no bra. I don’t know what her problem is.
“Girls your age get into all sorts of trouble these days. And then you go blaming everyone else.”
I can’t believe this lady. Anger wells up inside me and I say loud enough for everyone around us to hear, “My buttons are none of your business. That crappy knitting in your lap—that’s your business.”
That ought to shut her up. And it does. She purses her wrin­kled mouth, accentuating the crevasses filled with traces of her orange lipstick.
I follow a trail of people off the bus, totally peeved from our exchange. I don’t like to get like that, but if somebody pushes me hard enough, I push back.
The humid air instantly clings to me like a damp sweater I can’t shed. I gulp in a breath of thick afternoon air and trailing bus fumes. I’m dropped three blocks from home, on a corner with a gas station that carries the most delicious root beer with a tree etched right into the glass, its roots wrapped around the bottle. I resist the urge to push through the double doors and clomp my feet with renewed purpose the other way. I’d love a soda, but satisfying my thirst now would only hurt me in the long run. Every dime counts.

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