A spunky, contemporary novel about friendship, failure, and what happens when things don’t go according to plan, ideal for readers who like their heroines smart and strongbut not perfect.
Nominated for Best Young Adult Novel by the 2017 RT Reviewers' Choice Awards!
Danielle's plans for the future were all figured out... until she failed senior English and her single college acceptance was rescinded. Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass English and get back into Ohio Stateand her mother’s good graces. Romance isn't on her radar... until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden boy next door, Luke.
Between family drama, first love and finding her own way, Danielle can't help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat. One thing's for sure: This time, failure's not an option.
Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads, The Big F is a smart, funny, and highly relatable novel by debut author Maggie Ann Martin about finding your own way after one epic fail.
Praise for The Big F:
"The quirkiest, most fun-loving read of [the year] so far!" RT Book Reviews
"Danielle is a savvy, likable character with whom teens will easily identify." School Library Journal
"An easy, enjoyable read." VOYA
"Fun, cute, and totally relatable." Book Allure
About the Author
Maggie Ann Martin, author of The Big F and To Be Honest, hails from Des Moines, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She earned her BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge-watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet.
Read an Excerpt
FAILURE: somebody or something that is unsuccessful.
Life can be a little weird when your mom is a psychic in Ohio. And not the witchy, crystal-ball-reading psychic — a college psychic, helping budding students find their perfect school. Call it hokey, but kids come from all over the Great Plains states to get an hour with my mom. It's pretty ironic, then, that I managed to earn a rejection letter from the school I was destined to attend.
The second letter revoking my admission to Ohio State in the fall sat tucked under my mattress, the prime hiding spot for my every teenage secret. I failed my senior English course, of all things. After a series of unfortunate events, including a complete misunderstanding of my final assignment and an unforgiving teacher, I didn't pass the class — the one class that Ohio State required for my major in "New Media and Technology," whatever that meant.
"Ohio State is a perfect fit for you, Danielle," my mom had said. "I've been able to observe you your whole life; my reading for you is going to be spot-on."
I trusted her. She did know me better than I knew myself sometimes. She could sense when I was upset, when I needed guidance, when I preferred to be left alone. Luckily for me, her senses had been consumed with new clients for the past month, and she hadn't questioned me about the perpetual and clichéd storm cloud over my head.
My mom's readings come in two phases. First, she has a one-on-one session with students where she asks them some basic questions about what they're interested in, where they think they want to go to school, what they think they want to do. Then she gets into the nitty-gritty of what students actually like, seeking out deep and repressed vibes. Like a kid who had been bred her whole life to be a doctor but dreamed of being a museum curator and should actually pursue art history. Those parents are always the worst when they hear that their pride and joy is not who they expected. Nine times out of ten, I see students walk out of our home with relief on their faces. Even if my mom really isn't a psychic — if she's just really good at reading people and knows a lot about colleges — it's comforting to know that someone can validate your future.
Slipping on my fuzzy socks, I headed downstairs to find my mom leading a group out the front door. The family was all smiles, so this must have been a very nonconfrontational session. I slinked into the kitchen and stayed out of sight. There were pictures of us hanging from every angle of the house, but when Mom had clients over, we were to stay invisible. Staying invisible was easier for me than it was for my dad and brother, who liked to watch early morning cartoons at full volume. You'd think that since Noah was fourteen now they would have shaken that habit, but when I opened the door to the kitchen, the sound of the Road Runner accosted me.
They barely looked up as I walked in. I went over and kissed my dad on the side of his head and reached to refill his coffee mug. This one said "Greetings from Oahu!" with chipped palm trees winding up the handle. My grandparents were huge travelers, and the X marking their current vacation spot was a cheap mug in the mail. I grabbed a mug that said "Someone from Paris Loves Me," remembering the year that my grandparents lived in France. It was the longest they stayed in one place my entire life, and the memories of one summer there when I was fourteen grounded me in my desire to travel.
"Mom's working, you know," I told them both.
"It was an emergency session; she's done now," Dad said.
"Emergency session" was code for a kid who had waited until the last minute to apply anywhere. On top of Mom's knowledge of colleges, she also held a bit of clout when it came to admissions. She could usually work some magic to get admissions to take another look at an application and knew the right things for kids to write in their appeal letters. After she was a student at Ohio State (go figure) she worked in their admissions office for a few years before hopping around to other colleges. She made so many connections from moving around that she started to realize that she could recommend schools based on all the experience she had. She started out with the neighborhood gang of soon-to-be college students when I was the ripe old age of twelve, and the rest is history.
"It's all hands on deck for dinner tonight," Dad said. "Aunt Rachel and Claire are coming."
My aunt and her angelic daughter only came by the house for one of two reasons: they had something they wanted to brag about or something they needed sympathy for. More often than not, Claire came for her bragging rights. We had dinner when Claire was voted homecoming princess, when she got her swanky internship at Teen Gleam Magazine, and when she got into Northwestern — the school that my mom had so perfectly helped her find.
"And you're all staying to eat?" I asked.
"No way," Noah responded, finally looking up from the TV. "Dad's taking me to acting class tonight."
"I can drive you to acting class," I said. "I'll get us ice cream and a puppy after."
"Nice try," Dad said, turning off the TV. "Your cousin will be happy to see you. She's only back in Denton for the weekend."
"I don't think she's ever particularly happy to see me," I said.
"I don't think she's ever happy to see anyone," Noah said. I sent him a mental fist bump of sibling solidarity.
"Who are we talking about?" Mom asked as she made her way into the kitchen.
"Oh, you know, the Queen of England," I said. "I've heard she's kind of a diva."
"The queen?" Mom raised her eyebrows.
"That's what the rumor mill is churning out these days, Mom; you should really tap into pop culture more often," I said. She could see through my BS but chose not to say anything. "How was the emergency session? They seemed smiley."
"Just a run-of-the-mill late application. Very minor work on my end," she said. "The good news is, now we have more time to get ready for dinner. Danielle ... I know you and Claire have your problems —"
"Dad already warned me. I'm mentally preparing myself. Though I would be really okay with taking Noah to his class tonight if that makes things easier for everyone."
She crossed her arms. "Can't you ever do something nice for me without complaining or trying to get out of it?"
"I'm kidding, I promise," I said, holding up my hands.
Dad and Noah sat in tense silence trying to find their way out of the room and the awkwardness.
"Why don't you and Noah go to the store and grab a few things for me?" she asked. The family took a collective breath as the tension lifted.
"Sure," I said. "Make me a list and check it twice!"
She wasn't amused. Noah left the room to change out of his pajamas, and I took his exit as my cue to leave as well. I closed my bedroom door behind me and sank against the door. The lie of my rejection was bubbling inside me, and I felt like the truth would explode out of me. It could quite possibly kill my mom. Sure, she'd probably have an emergency plan in place, but it seemed pretty hopeless. My room was already stacked to the brim with Ohio State–embellished dorm room merchandise, including a rather comfortable toilet seat cover. I flopped onto my bed, my hand reaching to that space in between the bedframe and the mattress where my shame hid. I opened it up one more time, thinking that the words from the dean of admissions would magically change by positive thinking.
Dear Ms. Cavanaugh,
It is with great regret that I inform you that we will not be accepting your application to Ohio State University this fall. After a thorough review of your final transcript by our admissions board, your final grades did not match the stipulated grades for our competitive New Media and Communication Technology program.
If you wish to retake the classes in which the competency levels were not reached, you may apply again for admission in the spring. More than 10 percent of our students join classes in the spring semester and are still able to complete their degree within the four-year time span.
Thank you for your interest in Ohio State University, and we hope to see your amended application in the spring.
Dr. Caroline Bates
Over the past month, I'd come up with elaborate schemes to get rid of the letter. I could burn it, feed it to the neighbor's dog, turn it into confetti in the paper shredder — but nothing seemed to resonate. One of my favorite units in elementary school was this "Crafts Around the World" program, where we worked on a project that was inspired by a different country each week. The best week was Japan, when our class made paper crane strings that wound around the ceiling of our classroom for the rest of the year. The colors always stayed in my mind, and even now I sometimes make paper cranes when I feel stressed out or in need of focus. I tore off the bottom of the letter, leaving the paper in the perfect square shape to start creating the crane. Memory wasn't normally my strong suit, but the folding technique of the crane came back to me instantly.
When I finished, it seemed much smaller than I thought it would be. I couldn't read the words that haunted me anymore. They jumbled together into nonsense that looked sort of beautiful.
"Shall we start shopping for the dinner of doom?" Noah asked, popping his head into my room. I quickly placed the paper crane on my bedside table and hopped off my bed.
"Let me throw a sweater on, and then we'll roll," I told him.
He nodded and left, and I took the crane back into my hand. I could have sent it flying out my window and watched it float away, but I placed it on the top of my bookshelf instead. Even though it was probably around eighty degrees outside, there was something comforting about wearing a sweater. Also, I think my blood circulation is shoddy — I'm always freezing. If it were socially acceptable to carry a blanket around in public, I probably would.
The door to Mom's office was closed when I came back downstairs, but her grocery list was on the counter alongside the keys for our family minivan. Driving the minivan was a special treat. It should have gone into retirement years ago, but my dad refused to get rid of it. I call it the Jankmobile for numerous reasons, one of which is the gross kick of exhaust it puffs out each time you turn the car on.
I wasn't super disappointed about having to go to the store because it meant I had an excuse to see my best friend, Zoe. She started working at Freeman's Market when she was probably too young, and she was promoted to shift manager two years ago. Being shift manager meant she could sneak her best friend and her best friend's little brother reject donuts if they asked nicely for them.
"What's on the list, Noah Man?" I asked.
"Chicken breasts — the nice kind behind the counter — peppers, onions, mushrooms, and spinach noodles," he said.
"Spinach noodles?" I asked.
"Apparently Claire is gluten-free," he said.
"Of course she is."
Freeman's Market wasn't terribly crowded, but I figured we'd see at least ten people we knew just walking in. Denton wasn't a Podunk, everyone-know-severy-one type of town, but it was one of the smaller suburbs of Cleveland. You were bound to see a familiar face wherever you went. I squirted some hand sanitizer on the handle of our cheap basket before picking it up and heading straight for the bakery.
Zoe hated wearing her uniform while she was working in the bakery. They had a mandatory hairnet rule (for good reason), and the all-white uniform clashed with every overly colorful outfit Zoe picked out for the day. I spotted her working meticulously on frosting cupcakes, a job that only she had the patience for. Zoe was happiest when she was being creative. Her hands had permanent damage from many a hot-glue-gun burn. Crafting was her favorite destressing activity.
"I would like to place a complaint with the shift manager," I told one of the young workers at the front of the bakery. The look of horror on her face confirmed that she did not recognize me or appreciate my sense of humor. The poor girl flitted back to Zoe, who wiped her hands on her apron and smiled my way when she saw me.
"I'm taking a break, Claudia. Don't let anything burn down," she told the girl. Zoe flung her apron off and ducked under the bakery counter to join us. She turned around and grabbed two donuts with smudged frosting that were misshapen and handed them to Noah and me.
"To what do I owe this pleasure?" she asked.
"We're on food duty for a Claire dinner tonight," I said.
She cringed appropriately. "I made an awesome pear cake this morning if you would like to offer it as a sign of peace?"
"Not even your baking can offer the peace we need to have a civil dinner," I said. "The little brother over here has managed to get out of it, twerp."
"Hey, I just got lucky that my acting class was at the same time," he said.
"But who will make faces with me when Claire makes a backhanded comment?" I asked.
"I'm sure you can manage for one night," he said.
"So, pear cake, yea or nay?" Zoe asked.
"I mean, what can it hurt at this point," I said. She ducked back under the counter and emerged with a simple cake that hadn't been frosted yet. Quickly she spread some sort of white icing all over the cake, spinning it on one of those cake wheels that you see in reality TV baking shows. She placed the cake in a box and put a big discount mark on the top for us to use when we checked out.
"You're an angel," I told her. I put Noah on cake-carrying duty as a tiny punishment for leaving me alone for the impending dinner of doom.
Something clanged loudly from the back of the bakery, and Claudia yelped.
"That's my cue," Zoe said, ducking back under the counter. "My shift ends at six. Call me if you want to vent about it afterward over a basket of Moe's fries."
I saluted her. "You can probably count on it. Thanks again for the cake."
She waved at us before rushing back to help Claudia, who seemed to be trapped under a fallen drying rack.
Noah and I cruised through the store, only having to ask for some help when it came to the spinach noodles. Apparently Freeman's Market has an entire organic and health food section that I didn't even know existed. I prefer my food chock-full of gluten and inorganic materials.
When we made it home, the fancy tablecloth covered our beaten wooden table and Mom was in the process of pulling out the nice dishes from the cabinet above the fridge that no one can ever reach. Was Claire winning Miss America? Noah made a quick exit with my father to head off to acting class, and he gave me one final thumbs-up before he left.
"Can you grab the plates and set them on the table?" Mom asked, blowing off a layer of dust bunnies from the top plate.
"Sure; how many?" I asked. It was usually a toss-up if Uncle Brad would join us. I think Uncle Brad has enough Aunt Rachel time at home without involving her obnoxious extended family.
"Five, please," she said, a little smile creeping onto her face.
"So Uncle Brad is braving it today, huh?"
"Not quite," she said, her smile getting bigger.
"Your cousin is bringing someone to dinner! Isn't that exciting?"
Or horrible. "Who is it?"
"I think it's that boyfriend of hers from Northwestern. They're getting pretty serious, according to Rachel."
"Oh!" I said, with more inflection than I think Mom expected. Actually, this development wasn't horrible. It was really to my benefit — if the focus was on Claire and her serious boyfriend, then my failure might go unannounced. Perhaps the "Danielle Is Going to Ohio State" dinner was being renamed the "Claire Tricked a Boy into Liking Her" dinner, and for once I was completely okay with that.
"He's studying to be a doctor," she said.
Of course he was. Only Claire would be able to find herself madly in love with a doctor-to-be. After I set the table, I helped Mom with the spinach noodles and threw all the salad fixings into a bowl. We were a pretty good team as long as I didn't have to do any major cooking. I have a bit of a bad track record with the stove. Somehow my hands or forearms always end up burned one way or another. Mom only trusted me with salad prongs.
In the middle of my superb tossing, the doorbell rang. Part of me wanted to open the door and be the first to see Dr. Charming, but Mom was too excited for me to take that away from her. She skipped to the door in a way she only does when Noah gets a new acting job. Noah's first shining, skip-worthy moment was being an extra in a toothpaste commercial. He was labeled as Cavity Kid #2 and had to smile with a mouthful of gauze in the back of the dentist's office. We were pretty proud.
"Oh hello! Come in, come in!" Mom said from the door, her voice reaching new octaves in her excitement.
"Thank you," said a deep voice I assumed to be the boyfriend's, unless Aunt Rachel had started anabolic steroids. I joined Mom by the front door.
"Hi, Dani, you look cute," Claire said, giving me a hug. How could she make "cute" sound bad? She had a gift.
"Thanks," I said.
Excerpted from "The Big F"
Copyright © 2017 Maggie Ann Martin.
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: Failure,
Chapter 2: Fate,
Chapter 3: Final,
Chapter 4: Friendships,
Chapter 5: Fluke,
Chapter 6: Fun,
Chapter 7: Future,
Chapter 8: Fire,
Chapter 9: Family,
Chapter 10: Firsts,
Chapter 11: Foreboding,
Chapter 12: Fame,
Chapter 13: Faster,
Chapter 14: Festivities,
Chapter 15: Formal,
Chapter 16: Feast,
Chapter 17: Fever,
Chapter 18: Fortune,
Chapter 19: Frustration,
Chapter 20: Fracture,
Chapter 21: Feeling,
About the Author,