A gritty read for a woke generation. — KIRKUS
At Jonesville High, casual misogyny runs rampant, slut-shaming is a given, and school athletes are glorified above all else. Best friends Suze, Nikki, Ani, and Lydia swear they’ll always have each other’s backs against predatory guys—so when Suze suddenly starts dating wrestling star and toxic douchebag Tarkin Shaw, it’s a big betrayal.
Turns out, it’s not a relationshipit’s blackmail. At first, Suze feels like she has no choice but to go along with it, but when Tarkin starts demanding more, she enlists the help of intelligent misfits DeShawn and Marcus to beat Tarkin at his own game. As Marcus points out, what could possibly go wrong?
The answer: everything. And by the time the teens realize they’re fighting against forces much bigger than the Tarkin Shaws of the world, losing isn’t an option.
About the Author
LAUREN MCLAUGHLIN is the author of five novels, Cycler, (Re)Cycler, Scored, The Free, and Send Pics. She has also written the children’s picture books Wonderful You and Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective. Prior to her fiction career, she spent ten years as a screenwriter and movie producer. Her screenplay credits include Prisoner of Love, starring Naomi Campbell, Specimen, starring Mark Paul Gosselaar, and Hypercube. She also produced American Psycho, Buffalo 66, and several other feature films.
Read an Excerpt
My cell phone chirps as I pull up a chair and sit beside him at his work bench. It’s a message from Elena DePiero, my colleague at the Bugle. Apparently, the police were called out last night to a keg party on Brooks Road, and Elena wants to know if I was there. I wasn’t, of course. I eschew keg parties. Or they eschew me, depending on your point of view.
I’m pretty sure the party she’s talking about happened at Tara Budzynski’s house. I overheard people talking about it at school on Friday. Tara’s a junior, a middling field hockey player, marginally well-liked but not quite popular. Definitely not in the upper echelons of Jonesville High society, but reaching, baby, reaching for the stars.
It must be a really slow news day if Elena’s trolling high school keg parties in search of a lead. Then again, this is Jonesville. Every day is a slow news day. I tell her I’ll dig up whatever I can, then, while DeShawn works on Terence, I hit the usual sites on my phone.
Sure enough, there’s loads of chatter about who hooked up with whom, who broke up with whom, who got drunk, who got stupid at Tara’s party. It’s the typical Jonesville bacchanalia, with the requisite pics to back it up: girls flashing their bras, guys chugging beer, other guys passed out, somebody’s naked butt, a still life of puke in the flowerbeds. Someone even captured video of the cops arriving while dozens of kids fled the scene.
“Hey, who’s that?” DeShawn asks, pointing to my phone.
On the screen is a poorly lit photo, featuring an unconscious girl being carried by three other girls across the front lawn, her long hair dragging along the grass.
“Is that Suze Tilman?” he asks.
It’s hard to tell. The unconscious girl’s face is obscured behind the legs of one of the other girls.
“Well, that one’s Nikki Petronzio,” he says, pointing to the girl on the left. I can’t see her face, but I recognize Nikki’s hair: long, dark, and blade straight, like Cher from the early days.
“And that’s Lydia Moreau,” he says, pointing to the little blonde pixie on the right. The third girl is hidden behind the others, but I’m guessing it’s Ani Chakrabarti, because these girls tend to move as a pack. Which, by deduction, means the girl being carried out of there is almost certainly the illustrious Suze Tilman, the fourth and newest member of their pack.
“I hope she’s not hurt,” DeShawn says.
“She’s probably just drunk.”
“Dude, everyone knows that Suze Tilman doesn’t drink.”
“Really? Everyone knows that? I didn’t know that.”
“What’s she even doing at that party?” he asks. “Since when do Suze and those girls go to parties?”
“DeShawn, you’ve never been to a party. How do you know who goes to them?”
He ignores my question. He’s too stricken by the photograph. “I’m really worried about her, man.”
To be clear, Suze is not a friend of ours. Neither of us has ever spoken to her. We’re juniors. She’s a senior. She moved here from Munich last year and was immediately co-opted by Nikki and her icy friends. Rumor has it she was born in America but spent most of her youth moving from one European city to another, which makes her glamorous by Jonesville standards.
She doesn’t look so glamorous in this picture.
As a joke, I text the photograph to Elena with the fake headline: Cool New Girl Who Doesn’t Normally Drink Gets Trashed at Kegger.
A minute later Elena texts back: Stop the presses.
Like I said, Jonesville does autumn well, but every day is a slow news day.