Fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Jenny Han will fall in love with this heartfelt and humor-laced debut following one zodiac-obsessed teen as she struggles to find the guy of her cosmic dreams.
As the daughter of an expert astrologer, Wilamena Carlisle knows that truth lies within the stars. So when she discovers a planetary alignment that won’t repeat for a decade, she’s forced to tackle her greatest astrological fear: The Fifth House—relationships and love. But Wil must decide whether to trust her heart or her chart when she falls for a sensitive guitar player whose zodiac sign points to cosmic disaster.
If Wil’s fate is truly written in the stars, then this summer is about to go supernova. . . .
RITA Finalist for “Best First Book” and “Young Adult Romance”
“This sweet summer romance will have you flipping the pages all night long!” —Bustle
“Astrology lovers and YA fans alike will adore this entertaining read.” —RT Book Reviews
One of “The 10 Best New Young Adult Books in May 2016” —Paste Magazine
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Be humble for you are made of earth.
Be noble for you are made of stars.
Two fears have plagued me from the time I was little, and today I must face one of them.
It’s not the clowns. A lot of kids get squeamish around clowns, I know. But no one else at Jessica Bernard’s seventh birthday party screamed bloody murder and wet their pants at the sight of one. That’s when I earned the nickname Wila-pee-na. The nickname is quasi-forgottenthank heavens. Though the fear of clowns is not.
Still, what I’m about to tackle is worse. Way worse.
Carefully I take my place at the top of the water tower, letting my bare legs dangle. The early summer breeze rushes to greet them. One hundred and twenty feet stretch between me and the ground. My pulse doesn’t even flicker. I wish it did. Because heights are a perfectly reasonable fear.
Beneath and around me, the water tower spikes like a bulbous-headed nail from an otherwise tidy landscape. The aging white reservoir once proudly proclaimed CITY OF CARLISLE. But since most everyone, except me and the elements, has forgotten the old tower, it now reads: ITY OF CARL.
I adjust the wrinkled towel underneath me since the metal of the six-foot-wide circular platform is equal parts rust and chipped paint. It’s not as if I planned on coming hereand certainly not in a dressbut driving by on the way to Hyde Park . . . well, I just had to stop. Because for all the structure’s imperfections, it does manage to get one thing rightthe view. From here the world is utterly perfect.
Unfolding the yellowing paper, I smooth it over my lap. My astrological birth chart’s intricate and faded markings offer nothing I haven’t seen a million times. I do it out of habit, because the placement of every planet and its degree is as well-known as the location of the nose on my face.
And there it is: The queen mother of all my fears. The Fifth House.
Much as I’d rather bury myself in the study of astrology and its role in the human experience, I can’t avoid reality any longer. Because the clock is ticking. I have precisely twenty-two days.
Twenty-two days of planetary alignment to find my perfect match. If I don’t, it will take another decade for the stars to produce conditions this ideal. And by age twenty-seven, I could be a whacked-out spinster with eleven cats and a raging case of agoraphobia.
Well, that’s a risk I can’t take. Especially when born with an ill-fated Fifth House that already tipped the scales toward a dysfunctional love life. So help me, if I don’t find my match now, I am staring down the barrel of ten years of falling for the wrong guys. Ten yearsor moreof heartache, heartbreak, and widespread astrological malaise.
I have no choice. I must swallow my fear and seize this cosmic opportunity.
Eyes closed, I inhale deeply.
From the moment my mother cast it, I have never deviated from the guiding wisdom of my chart. After all, its importance is as genetically predisposed as the blue color of my eyes. Failing just isn’t an option.
So I set to work. I dig out my notepad, pen, and iPod, slipping the latter in my dress pocket. Popping in my earbuds, I press play, letting the music take me higher. But even the upbeat song isn’t enough. I stand and pace the platform. Movement of body breeds movement of ideasgospel according to Gram.
I begin my brainstorming by compiling a list of the twelve zodiac signs, placing stars next to Aries, Gemini, Libra, and Sagittarius for their intellectual-mindedness and passion for adventure. I add a couple more stars with question marks to the signs that are possible matches. Scanning the list, I cross off Taurus and Scorpiotoo possessive; Leotoo outwardly absorbed; and Cancertoo feely. I don’t mesh with the emotionally upheaved. And then there is Pisces. Absolutely out of the question. Why did I even write it down? I scribble until the word is an unreadable inkblot.
But this measly list doesn’t scratch the surface of the daunting research ahead. I’ll have to consult the astrology books tucked under my bed and, of course, my best friend, Irina.
Irina says she has a surprise for me. Something I’ll find quite valuable in my search. Hmm . . . a surprise from my dear Russian comrade doesn’t exactly lower my blood pressure.
I lean back, resting my elbows on the waist-high railing. Cumulus clouds drift overhead, their undersides ironed and starched. One of my finger waves has come loose and slaps the lens of my cat eyeglasses. I tuck the chin-length wave behind my ear, and lose myself in whirling thoughts of sun signs, decanates, and cusps. How in the world will I narrow my search? Where do I even
All of a sudden vibrations carry from my feet all the way up my legs. And there’s another noise. Faint at first, but growing louder.
Confused, I yank out an earbud.
“it! Okay?” a voice bellows from the ground.
I spin around, searching for the source. A guy stares back. The distance between us is too great to make out much more than that. I glance toward the outer part of the platform and spot a second guy racing up the ladder as though he’s being pursued by the hounds of hell and his rump is a beef-flavored chew toy.
A pickle-colored station wagon idles beside Gram’s Buick. The driver’s-side door hangs open.
“Help is coming! Stay where you are!”
Help is . . . coming? Then it occurs to me how this must look from far awaylonely girl at the top of a tower, unresponsive, manically scribbling while leaning over the rail. For the love of zodiac, they probably think I’m writing a suicide note or something! Oh my
“Hey!” I shout, waving my arms. “No! No! There’s been a mistake!”
“No mistake is that bad! Just . . .” The guy’s head lowers, as if he’s searching the crabgrass-and-dandelion ground cover for wisdom. He then lifts his gaze again, cupping his hands to the sides of his mouth. “Just don’t jump!”
So much for wisdom.
The wind awakens with a violent gust. I try to situate myself in line with the shouter so I’m better heard. “Look, I’m not trying to” I inhale sharply as my foot catches on the strap of my bag. Stumbling forward, I slam into the rail, folding like a rag doll over the metal piping.
“Ahh!” ground guy yells. “Grant!”
Powerful arms latch around my middle, reeling me away from the edge. We stagger backward. The guy hits the tower’s siding with a resonating bwong!
I topple against him, feeling the punch of his heart at my back. His arms remain shackled around me.
“It’s . . . okay.” The climber’s ragged breath blows the hair at my neck. Heat radiates from his body, carrying the scent of sweat and something clean like dryer sheets. “I’ve . . . I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall. I won’t let you fall.” Despite the insane strength of his arms, the rest of him shakes.
I wriggle in the stranger’s grip. “Let me go!”
His heart continues jackhammering. “Only if you promise to keep away from the edge.”
“Okay, I promise! Now loosen your death grip before you shatter my ribs!”
He immediately drops his arms.
“Thank you.” I heave a breath of relief and turn. His eyes are first to demand my attention. They’re brown. Brown isn’t always memorable, but his are. It’s as though something lights them from within. But maybe it’s just the glow from the setting sun.
“What are you doing up here?” I ask.
“I’m saving you, obviously.” The last bit comes out in a wheeze as his tall frame doubles over to brace his hands on his knees. His back sags with another heavy exhalation.
“Saving me,” I repeat with a bemused smirk. “Which is why you’re the one needing CPR?”
Ignoring my remark, he squints down, pushing the damp hair at his forehead. “Um . . . It’s really high up here.” The guy doesn’t appear to be trembling anymore but remains less than steady. He slides down to a sitting position against the tower.
“Well, yeah. That’s sorta the point.”
The breeze shifts, plastering my vintage yellow dress to my body. Sure, there was a time I felt self-conscious about my curviness. But the hourglass gene wasn’t something I could alter with diet or exercise. It was simply a force of natureeasier to accept than fight.
His face flushes darker and he quickly looks away. “Look, whatever it is, this can’t be the solution. Because if you think jumping off a tower is going to be”
“I am not a jumper!” I cry. “How many times do I have to tell you guys? Sometimes I come up here to think, to clear my head, not . . . flatten it.” My gaze wanders the vista. I don’t need daylight or twenty-twenty vision to know how Carlisle’s homes and businesses align in static rows. Or how the railroad tracks suture the well-to-do east side to the blue-collar west. There’s the hazy outline of the three smokestacks guarding the south, smokestacks that watch everything with winking, tireless eyes. There is place and purpose to every single thing if you’re high enough to see it.
“Being up here gives me a different perspective, you know? Sometimes it’s all a person needs.” I bend to collect my scattered belongings, shoving my papers into my bag before he can question the scrambled charts and lists of signs.
“Whoa, whoa . . . wait.” His dark brows knit. “You seriously climbed all the way up here just . . . to think?”
He scratches his head; dark hair sticks up every which way. Somehow I get the impression his hair is a serial misbehaver.
“Well, I came to think and for the Milky Way.” I tap the mini telescope in the side pocket of my bag. “I’m referring to the band of stars. Not the candy bar.”
“So I gather.” He gives the ladder a sideways glance and gulps.
“Summer’s the best time for viewing, and up here, it’s easier to see without all the light pollution from the city.” I squint. “Sun should be fully set soon; then it’ll be spectacular. Hey, did you know some Native Americans believed the Milky Way to be a pathway for departed souls? Like a sort of astral skyway they traveled until they found a star to inhabit. And you know what’s even more amazing?”
He shakes his head.
“Some scientists are predicting a supernova will be visible inside the Milky Way within the next fifty years! Can you imagine? Witnessing a star going supernova in our very own galaxy! That moment a star dies, it explodes and emits the most brilliant . . .” My smile collapses when I find him staring like I’ve just declared the moon made of cheese. “Sorry. I, um, didn’t mean to go all tangential on you. I’m Wil, by the way.” I offer my hand. “Wil Carlisle.”
Yes, the same Carlisle our fair Midwestern city is named for. Some quadruple great-uncle or other founded it back in 1847. Which is reason enough for Gram to live and die here.
He rises before taking my hand in his. “You’re kind of an unusual girl. No offense, Wil.”
I grin. “Yeah, well, I tried ordinary once and got bored.”
“I’m Grant, Grant Walker. And somehow”he gives his head a small shake“that doesn’t shock me.” When he finally smiles, it is for real. It shows in his eyes and where his skin touches mine.
My pulse unexpectedly flutters. “So, Grant Walker”I pull back my hand, wiping my palm down my dress“mind calling your friend off suicide watch? As you can see, I’m pretty intent on living.” I notice four lines of orangey-brown where the metal rail has left marks across my midsection. I look like a grilled banana. Awesome. I brush at the unmoving lines.
“Yeah, about that. Unfortunately, I think it might be”
Wee ooh, wee ooh, wee ooh.
The distant wail draws nearer. I jerk my head up.
“Too late,” he finishes with a grimace.
Several police cars and a fire truck barrel down the side road, red lights whirling, sirens screaming. Rocks spray, ricocheting off the base of the tower as the truck screeches to a halt. I watch in horror as firemen and emergency personnel spill from their vehicles. They’re barking orders while unfurling a large trampoline that bears a striking resemblance to the Japanese flag.
This. Can’t. Be. Happening.
A nasally voice projects over a loudspeaker. “Wah-wah, wah-wah-wah. Waaaahhh!”
I can’t make heads or tails of what’s being said because the guy is smothering the mic with his mouth. I’ll assume he’s telling me not to jump.
I bury my face in my hands, sending my glasses askew. All I wanted was a little peace and perspective. Instead, I get a circus. My only consolation is there aren’t any clowns.
Stars in heaven, Gram will kill me. Kill me. I’ve gotten myself in some pretty bizarre twists, but this one’s a cake-topper.
“Damn!” Grant rakes his hand through his hair. His expression offers the apology his mouth doesn’t deliver. Giving his hair a rest, he asks, “So what do we do now?”
I shake my head and blow out a breath. “Now we go down there and explain what a huge misunderstanding this was. Is.”