Download the first chapters of TWO new books chosen by the hottest new community of young adult readers and writers at Swoon Reads.
About THE BOY NEXT DOOR
Maddy's been in love with her skating partner Gabe, who is also the boy next door, forever. But Gabe is terrible at relationships and determined to think of Maddy as a sister. When their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, will it be the big break that Maddy's been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?
About SAVE ME
Something strange is going on in the tiny coastal town of Liberty, Oregon and Cara has been abandoned by both her best friend and her soul mate. At least her mysterious, gorgeous new friend Garren is there to support her. But in the end, even her guardian angel might have trouble saving her...
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|File size:||907 KB|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Katie Van Ark is a member of SCBWI and RWA and a student at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She enjoys reading, writing, and of course figure skating. She lives in Michigan with two daughters, two cats, and one very patient husband, who was also her high school sweetheart. The Boy Next Door is her debut novel.
Jenny Elliott is a lifelong resident of Washington State and lives in Spokane with her husband and four kids. Writing fiction is her favorite method for avoiding insanity. Other avoidance techniques include reading, playing Scrabble, and browsing social media sites. Save Me is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
The Boy Next Door and Save Me
By Katie Van Ark
MacmillanCopyright © 2015 Jenny Elliott
All rights reserved.
The early August heat is melting the make-up right off Dad's face, but his eyes are soft behind his thick-framed glasses, his voice calm. "You can get this, Maddy. Just ease your foot off the clutch."
The stench of burning rubber makes my eyes water as I grip the steering wheel. I blink and give it another go, but we don't go anywhere. My timing's off again and the ancient Dodge Neon shudders like a bug in the last twitch of death.
Gabe makes this look so easy; why can't I do it? The heat flares in my chest and I want to throw something. Release my frustration in some sort of primal battle cry. But I don't do those things at practice and I won't do them here, especially not with the camera crew sitting in the backseat.
Dad squeezes my shoulder. "It's all right."
In the rearview mirror, I see the face of the aide who offered up his car for this driving lesson because Dad thought lessons in a stick shift would be more interesting. He doesn't look all right. There's a big toothy smile on his face but his eyelids are tilted up toward his forehead in a way I didn't even know was possible and his eyes look like they're about to pop out of their sockets. I need to think win-win here. What do the aide and I want? Me out of this car, right now. What does Dad want? Footage for his campaign ads. I smile, half at Dad and half at the camera. "Thanks for always believing in me, Daddy."
The petite woman in charge of our little publicity shoot has tears in her eyes. Maybe from my sappy statement, but more likely from the stink of the burnt-out clutch. Either way, she announces in a singsong voice, "That's a wrap. Harold's going to love it!"
A teensy bit of film editing will obscure the minor detail that I still haven't managed to actually drive the car. I give Dad a peck on the cheek. "I love you."
"Love you, too. See you later, figure skater."
Halfway out of the car already, I pause and smile. "Out the door, Sena-tor." And I run from the parking lot into the arena.
* * *
Taking only a split-second peek in the locker room mirror to check that my hair's still camera slick, I change at superhero speed. Then I dash out of the locker room and finally I'm cleansing my lungs with the smell of the ice, the scent of fresh snow with just a hint of fuel from the last Zamboni pass. As soon as I inhale, I feel the anticipation tingle in my body. Hip-hop beats thump from the speakers overhead and, like the music, I'm cranked.
I'm pulling off my skate guards when there's a tug on my ponytail. "Hey, Mad."
All of a sudden there's a completely different tingle running through my body and I'm breathing in the only other smell that can compete with the ice. Irish Spring soap. I turn to face Gabe.
Forget melting in hands or mouths, all Gabe has to do is look at me with those milk chocolate eyes and I'm slush. Add his gorgeous blond waves, and, sadly, so is every other girl at Riverview Prep. Drool-worthy as always in tight black skating pants and a fitted Under Armour mock tee that shows off the upper body he owes to lifting me, he ditches his own guards and steps onto the ice. "How'd the lesson go?"
I follow him. "If it'd been a skating test, I would've gotten marked retry."
Gabe takes a swig of water, but I take off down the ice. I need the feel of it beneath me, smooth and sure. As I fly toward him again, already headed for lap two, I grin and holler, "It was like practicing triple Axels. Crash and burn, over and over again. Well, no actual crashing but the clutch is burnt toast." I turn backward to face him as I whip past, and pinch my nose at the memory. Gabe laughs.
He catches up to me, but only because I let him. I step forward to match his strokes, easy as breathing. I know I should want my driver's license. My sixteenth birthday's so far past that I turned seventeen last month, but I shrug. "Like I need to drive, anyway. Anywhere I need to go, I can ride with you."
Gabe doesn't answer but as we round the end of the rink, he takes my outstretched hand. We don't need words, anyway. We've been pair skaters since before I cut off most of his hair playing beauty parlor in preschool. Our senior year of high school just started, but we already know we'll be going to Riverview Community College or Wichita State together. Skating and school, that's my life, and Gabe's, too. Since he's the boy next door and has had his license and his own car for almost two years, the bumming-rides deal works out pretty well.
Because he really does live next door, it's also hard to ignore that he goes plenty of places without me, but I shove the thought from my mind and start thinking about triple Axels again. I feel the smile creep over my face. I haven't made any progress with the driving lessons, but I'm going to land a triple Axel. Soon. Our coach, Igor, and I have a secret plan. We've been doing harness lessons to work on a throw quadruple Salchow and, because he knows I like the challenge, Igor's been letting me work my triple Axel in the harness, too.
Gabe and I finish our warm-up and head for the boards. I dart out of the way just in time, and the ice shavings from Gabe's hockey stop miss me. I circle around and send a snow shower of my own across his skates. He laughs and tosses me my water bottle. I take a sip, but I'm drinking in more of his grin than my water.
That is, until the slam of the metal latch behind me. My unexpected jump leaves my jacket soaked from the water I've spilled down my front. Smooth as ice, that move. I turn away quickly before Gabe notices and see Chris and Kate coming into the hockey box. Their faces are in perfect unison, the same stony expression.
"Weren't even going to tell me, were you?" Chris's bicep bulges on his wiry arm as he throws his skate guards on the floor of the hockey box. "Happy two-year anniversary to you, too." His face clashing pink against his fiery orange hair, he stomps past me and onto the ice.
Gabe turns as though he's about to say something, but his mouth hangs open, silent, and then he closes it again. Now on the other side of the rink, Chris rips the edges of his cross rolls purposefully hard. As his skate blades flash across each other, slashing the ice, the grinding noise competes with the music.
I glance back into the hockey box. Kate is sitting on the bench, her body bent forward as she fidgets with her skate laces. She tucks the loose strands of her white-blond bob back into her barrette with shaking hands.
Gabe beats me to my question. "You all right?"
Kate sits up but looks past Gabe. "Yeah." She pushes herself off the bench. "You guys want your music on?"
Gabe hands her our practice CD, tucking behind it a tissue from the box we always keep on the barrier. I ditch my wet jacket, tossing it onto the hockey bench. As Kate heads for the music box, we skate for center ice.
With the hip-hop beats silenced, there's only the rrrip, RRRIP of Chris's blades. I crouch down, pulling my body as tight to my skates as I can. Even though Chris and Kate are ice dancers and don't do jumps, Gabe jokes about when they're going to land their Axel. He means that their relationship is like us attempting our Axels: up, then down. Hard. Over and over and over again. But— "It's worse than ever this time."
"I'm so glad we're not like that." Behind me, Gabe takes his time covering my body with his own. "Classic why-you-shouldn't-date-your- partner."
I ignore that last part, taking the second to enjoy the closeness instead. Our music starts and we explode into movement, a fast routine from the soundtrack of The Incredibles. We sail across the rink in perfect unison, completing side-by-side triple toe loops before launching into flying camel spins. As we soar down the ice for our spiral sequence, stretching our free legs up behind us, we're at warp speed. In our pair spin, I pull my leg over my head. I am Elasti-Girl.
I rotate around Gabe for the death spiral, my body arching until I'm face-to-face with the ice. Our last move is a throw triple Salchow. Gabe's hands are firm on my sides. I spring from the ice, feeling the release as he launches me. My arms cross tight against my chest, elbows down, ankles crossed. I'm spinning through the air, my ponytail flying out from the force of the rotation. My toe pick hits the ice, then I'm gliding backward, arms checked out and a smile on my face. That landing was demo-video smooth.
We hit our end pose as the last note sounds. I gasp for air, but the smile on my face isn't for the judges that our coach insists we pretend are watching every practice. It's for real. We nailed that run-through. "That ... was ... incredible."
"Drop," Gabe manages, and we lose the pose. He's breathing hard, too. He drapes an arm around me, half leaning on me, half hugging me. "We're ... gonna win."
I grin, too, leaning back into him. If we skate like we just did, he's right. Forget last year's pewter pity medal, the Junior Grand Prix is ours this year.
Gabe releases me so fast it's like I've sprouted toe picks on my shoulders. He snaps to attention, military style, except his hands are clasped behind his back instead of saluting. This means one thing, and I straighten up, too. Igor glides across the ice toward us, his long black coat floating behind him. It's his job to pick our skating apart but today, even though my face is hiding my gloating, I'm daring him to find even one thing wrong.
Igor stops right in front of us but he doesn't smile. He doesn't even nod. His mouth is a thin, straight line and his forehead has a matching thin, straight line creased into it. "We skate like so?" His dark gray eyes stare at us from under furry, silver eyebrows that match his furry, silver cap. "We lose."
I don't flinch, but I feel like the little air I had left has been sucked right out of me.
Igor's eyes pierce mine. Then I see his face smooth out, the steely eyes soften. "Technically, is perfect. But ..." He tilts his head. "Is time. Gabriel is no longer a boy. Madelyn is no longer a girl. We do new long program this year, Romeo and Juliet. We are needing ... passion. A love story."
My heart does a split jump in my chest. I can do passion. But it crashes down as I look at my best friend, because Gabe doesn't even look at me.CHAPTER 2
Shit, double shit. If my coach were on TiVo, I'd be hitting rewind. A love story? This is some sort of deranged joke. Except Igor doesn't crack jokes. He barely knows how to smile.
I glance at Mad going all starry-eyed next to me. I've heard correctly. I look back at Igor and hold my eyes steady on him, but my insides are shaking worse than when I told Kurt I was quitting hockey just before the bantam travel team championships.
Igor nods his head toward our water bottles at the boards. "I leave copies of music there. You listen at home tonight, yes? For today we see what we have to begin." He cracks his knuckles under his leather gloves. "Death spiral again. Before, you skate for audience. This time? No audience. Only Madelyn and Gabriel. You understand?"
"Yes, sir." I understand, but there's an ice rink's chance in hell that I'm actually going to do what he wants. I take the lead and set my pivot, looking at the empty bleachers. It's been Madelyn and Gabriel for longer than I can remember. I let her hack off all my hair in preschool. I quit hockey for her. I broke my arm for her. There's nothing I wouldn't do for her ... except this. She's like my sister, the way we read each other so well. Sib closeness I can deal with. That's where it stops.
On the exit, I push out so my back is facing Igor and I stare over the top of Mad's head. Epic fail on my mission to fool our coach. "Again," he says. "You must look, Gabriel."
This time, I watch the skate on Mad's free foot as she circles around me. Igor is skating toward us before we've even finished the move. He nods at Mad. "Good, Madelyn. I have changed my mind. We listen to music now. Put it on."
Mad skates off, leaving me alone with the KGB. "I do not believe," Igor says. "Make me believe."
I kick at the ice with my toe pick. Disrespectful, yeah, but a trip to the penalty box is sounding like a winning idea right now. I've known this day was coming. Known it since I first made myself look away from Mad's arched chest and ... "I can't."
Igor steps closer, and I stop. I'm not sure what he'll do if I accidentally kick him, but I'm sure I don't want to find out. His breath makes warm puffs of air in my face. "Do not tell me, 'I can't.' 'I can't' is not part of plan."
For years I've trusted Igor's plans. For good reason. He's coached me and Mad to the national junior pair title and three Junior Grand Prix medals, including a fourth-place finish at the final last year. But ... "This is Mad."
Igor's stainless-steel eyes glint at me. "You want to win, yes?"
"Yes," I whisper. Mom's medals gleam in the back of my mind. Ineed to win.
"So you pretend. You need me to, what do we say, write it out?"
I don't need Igor to spell it out. I know how to get a girl going. Trouble is, I'm not so hot at keeping things going. Mad returns and I ease her into the move once again, this time to the long desperate notes of the music. I look at her face. Sister, sister, sister, I chant in my head. But there's a cartoon red devil on my shoulder reminding me I'm an only child. Okay then: Friend?
My feeble attempt only spawns another devil. They slap each other five. "With benefits!" they chorus.
Where the hell are my angels? "No."
I must've said it out loud, because Mad startles. She slips off her edge and falls out of the spiral. She was only a few inches from the ice, but still. Stupidest move in the world to fall on. Even juvenile pairs do it in their sleep. I help her up. "Sorry."
"Madelyn," Igor says, his voice as sickly as a tornado-warning sky, "please go work on your brackets for a moment."
Igor's temper usually blows on Chris's shenanigans, but today I get the twister-cloud eyes. "I see you. All those girls, under bleachers at hockey games. What is problem here?" His gloved fingers curl, now black claws.
I look at Mad, zipping through her brackets. She attacks the twisty turns, the determination fierce on her face. She puts so much power into the pattern that she almost slams into the barrier at the end. That's the problem. I've compartmentalized my life for so long but Mad has no fear of the barrier.
I look back at Igor, watching me watch Mad. His fingers have relaxed in his gloves. "Is pretend," he says, cajoling now. "But we are needing under the bleachers. Mind in storm drain."
If I let my mind go in the gutter, I'll never get it out.
"Madelyn," Igor calls. "Get a drink. We resume."
I skate over for a drink, too. Anything to stall.
Mad plunks her water bottle down on the barrier. She keeps her chin up but she doesn't look at me. "Am I that disgusting?"
"You won't even look at me."
"No." Shiny, dark brown hair. Eyes as wide and blue as summer sky. Cheeks splashed with such tiny freckles that I want to lean in close just to see them. Barrier. I need that barrier. "Mad. No."
"Forget it, forget I said anything." She skates back to Igor.
I follow, but this time it's me stretching my hand out to her. Once more, we set up for the move. I do what Igor wants. I watch the white of Mad's neck as her head dips backward, let my eyes trail from that perfect collarbone over the bloomed arch of her chest. Mad's circling smoothly around me but my whole world is waterfalling down the storm drain.
On the exit my heart is pounding so loud I can't even hear the music. We present, arms locked out, free legs extended. But I can't stop. I take an extra stroke toward Mad, my face right up to those barely-there freckles. "You're disgustingly beautiful." With my eyes locked on hers, I miss Igor's reaction. But I don't need even a nod to know this time was exactly what he wanted.
* * *
"Dismissed," Igor says. "You practice jumps alone now."
I look at the clock on the scoreboard. An entire hour has slipped by.
Mad raises her eyebrows at me. "Want to play triple Axel contest again?"
Excerpted from The Boy Next Door and Save Me by Katie Van Ark. Copyright © 2015 Jenny Elliott. Excerpted by permission of Macmillan.
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