Luke Grayson’s life might as well be over when he’s sent to live with his Baptist pastor father in rural Tennessee after getting kicked out of his DC private school. His soulless stepmother is none too pleased to have him, and Luke’s bad boy status has done him no favors with his new principal or the local police chief. He’s also an easy target for Grant Parker, the local golden boy with a violent streak, who has the community of Ashland under his thumb and Luke directly in his crosshairs.
But things go topsy-turvy when, after a freak accident, Luke replaces Grant at the top of the social pyramid. This fish out of water has suddenly gone from social outcast to hero in a matter of twenty-four hours. For the students who have lived in fear of Grant all their lives, this is a welcome change. But Luke’s newfound fame comes with a price. Nobody knows the truth about what really happened to Grant Parker except for Luke, and the longer he keeps living the lie, the more like Grant he becomes.
Kat Spears returns with this explosive coming of age story that explores not only the labels put on us by society, but the labels we put on ourselves, and the work it takes to find out who we really are underneath all the lies.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
KAT SPEARS has worked as a bartender, museum director, housekeeper, park ranger, business manager, and painter (not the artistic kind). She holds an M.A. in anthropology, which has helped to advance her bartending career. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her three freeloading kids. She is also the author of Sway and Breakaway.
Read an Excerpt
The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker
By Kat Spears
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Kat Spears
All rights reserved.
When I imagined my first day of school in Ashland, Tennessee, it was me rolling up to the parking lot in a classic muscle car, the radio blaring with some hard-rocking song to match my awesome ride, sunlight glinting off of polished chrome, and heads turning to catch a glimpse of me, the mysterious new kid, at the wheel with sunglasses on.
The fact that I was an outsider would make me an enigma, a mystery to these sheltered, small-town, hopelessly backward hicks.
The reality was nothing like my fantasy.
* * *
It was the Tuesday after Labor Day, the weather still hot and dusty despite our proximity to the mountains and the calendar's promise of autumn. I had planned to ride my bike to school, but Dad insisted on driving me for my first day. He pulled straight up to the front of the building, flagrantly violating the buses-only restriction, in his mint-green RAV4 with a JESUS IS MY COPILOT bumper sticker.
I had been living with Dad for only two weeks, and things were still strained between us. It was hard for me to imagine that I would ever feel really comfortable with my dad. After all, because of my taste in music and the fact that I didn't accept Jesus as my savior, according to his belief system I was destined to burn in a fiery hell for all eternity. I had a feeling that was going to make Christmas dinner uncomfortable for at least one of us.
"Dad, you aren't supposed to drive up here," I said, my patience shortened by crippling embarrassment.
"Darn," Dad said, the closest he ever came to swearing, "I thought this was the entrance to the parking lot." He jerked to a stop and then, to make matters a hundred times worse, put the car into reverse and started to back out of the bus lane.
The bus pulling in behind us honked with alarm as Dad almost backed straight into the bumper of the giant yellow grille that loomed in the rearview mirror. Dad raised his hand in a friendly wave, as if genuinely grateful for the update that he was, in fact, the worst driver on the planet.
He inched forward but was now stuck waiting for the throng of students who poured in from the parking lot toward the main entrance. Every single person who passed turned to study us curiously, and I wanted to sink below the dash and disappear.
"I'll pull around and park," Dad said. "I want to walk you in. Make sure you find the office."
"You really don't have to," I said. "Mom hasn't gone with me for my first day of school since second grade."
"I think the school would expect me to be with you," he said.
"Dad. I'm seventeen. Not a child."
"You know," he said, ignoring my protest and circling back to our earlier conversation, "I specifically asked your mother to take you out shopping for some suitable school clothes before you moved. There isn't as broad a selection available here as there is in the city."
His tone when he said "city" conveyed disdain, as if Washington, DC, where I had lived for the past thirteen years, were the biblical Sodom or Gomorrah.
"She did take me shopping for school clothes," I said.
"Then why," he asked, "are you wearing that T-shirt for the first day of school?"
"She bought me this shirt," I said. A blatant lie. My mother had given me her credit card and told me to go out and buy clothes similar to the uniform I wore to the private school I had attended in DC. I had ignored her instructions, of course, and returned with only jeans and T-shirts and hoodies. I was sick of wearing a tie and collared shirts and blazers and considered the lack of a uniform the only advantage to attending my new public school.
Dad sighed wearily and waited for the students crossing the bus lane in a reluctant herd to clear.
"I'll be fine," I said, opening the door and evacuating before he could move the car.
* * *
A new student might have gone unnoticed for days or weeks (maybe months if he played his cards right) at my old school. Washington, DC, was such a transient city that people were always coming and going. But in Ashland, I might as well have been wearing a bell announcing myself as a leper. People stared and spoke in low voices to each other as I passed in the hallway.
If I heard laughter, I assumed it was directed toward me, as if everything about me was under scrutiny — my clothes, my hair, the way I walked, the Mount Vesuvius–like stress pimple that had erupted on my chin that morning.
The only thing I had going for me, maybe, was that my appearance was almost depressingly average. I might as well have been wallpaper. And that was exactly the way I wanted it — to blend into the background and go unnoticed.
I managed to find the office without asking anyone for directions, and the receptionist greeted me in a southern drawl so outrageous it seemed like it had to be a put-on.
"I'm Luke Grayson," I said. "I'm new here." Captain Obvious. As a stranger in Ashland, I stuck out like a boner in sweatpants.
"Well," she said, the word gusting out as she folded her hands on the desk and pressed them into her bosom, "I go to your daddy's church, and I never knew anything about Pastor Grayson having a son until we got word you were coming. Of course, he's such a busy man, what with all the goings-on we've had since Easter. Three funerals in as many months. Never a good sign if a church has more funerals than baptisms, wouldn't you say?"
I wouldn't, but I kept my mouth shut and tried to convey concern in my expression, though it was a lie. The tardy bell rang as she droned on about the business of my dad's church, and I feigned interest, while in my mind all I could really focus on was the fact that I would now have to enter class late and be even more of a spectacle than I already was.
"Principal Sherman wants to have a quick visit with you before you start the day," the receptionist said, once it was obvious I was going to fail miserably at making small talk, and then she picked up the receiver of the ancient desk phone.
As I was shown into the principal's office he came around from behind his desk to shake my hand and gestured for me to take one of the hard-backed chairs, though a leather couch along one wall offered a more comfortable option. He was middle-aged, with the paunch of a former football player, and his doughy hands clashed with the tailored suit he wore. His desk was an ocean of polished oak, and my chair was at least a few inches lower to the ground than his so that I felt small and insignificant sitting across from him. I disliked him immediately, feeling that he would have been more at home on a used-car lot than in a high school administration office. And once he started talking, I knew the disproportionate height of the chairs and the size of the desk were both power plays, his intention to make whoever sat across from him feel powerless.
"So, Mr. Grayson," he said as he crossed one leg over the other, shot his cuffs, and twitched his hand to settle a heavy gold watch against a meaty wrist. "How are you settling in?"
"Uh. Fine, I guess." My response came out as a wavering question since I wasn't sure how well I should have settled in during the five minutes I had been at Wakefield High School.
He just nodded at my answer, as if it was the response he had been expecting but wasn't really interested in whether it was true.
The ocean of wood between us housed only a phone and a pen holder with a faux-bronze nameplate on the front of it. The name LESLIE G. SHERMAN was inscribed on the plaque. I wondered what the "G" stood for and how he felt about having a girl's name. I could only assume the "G" stood for something worse than Leslie. I was distracted with trying to think of a name worse than Leslie that started with a "G" — Garfield? Grover? — when he startled me with his attack run.
"Since it's your first day here I'm not going to make a federal case out of it, but we do have a student dress code." He was looking so pointedly at my chest that I couldn't help but steal a self-conscious glance at my Death Cab for Cutie T-shirt. My stepmom, Doris, had already made a federal case out of my shirt that morning at breakfast.
"Oh. Really?" I asked innocently.
"Yes. Really," he said with such condescension that I wondered if he had kids of his own who hated him. "T-shirts with printed designs have been strictly forbidden since the Columbine tragedy." His expression conveyed the very real concern that my T-shirt would inspire a Columbine-like incident.
"Okay," I said as I tried to think of what shirts I owned that didn't include printed designs. Did a Georgetown University sweatshirt count as a printed design? I wasn't sure. But it didn't seem the right time to ask.
"Mr. Grayson, I have a great deal of respect for your father," the principal said, changing the subject abruptly. He paused in anticipation after he said this, waiting for an appropriate response. I was still shifting gears from Columbine and printed T-shirts and I wasn't sure what an appropriate response should be, so the pause dragged on — from awkward to painful.
Finally I said, "Thanks." As if I was entitled to some credit for how respectable my father was.
"Ashland is a strong Christian community, as I'm sure you know since your father is a man of God." I was starting to get the sense that he had practiced this speech ahead of time. Like he had an agenda and had worked out in his mind how to approach it in a roundabout way.
"Yes. Strong," I said, feeling like an idiot as I said it.
My eyes wandered around the room as I tried to think of something clever to say to alleviate the impression that I was a moron. A large framed print hung on the wall behind the desk, the words THE PRINCIPAL IS MY PAL — THAT'S THE PRINCIPLE WE LIVE BY displayed in colorful block letters.
"I've been reviewing your records from your previous school," he said as he reached forward to lift the papers in front of him, the implied threat made all the more menacing because it was an alarmingly thick stack of papers.
I wasn't sure what to say. I decided to stay silent, not give anything away in case some things hadn't been committed to paper. Better to remain silent, not incriminate myself, than to start offering up explanations.
"Your grades were ... unexceptional," he said, maybe still trying to be polite.
Unexceptional was putting it mildly, though I would often argue with my mom that a C average was just that — average. I didn't aspire to be anything other than average.
I kept silent, not wanting to do anything that would extend my stay in his office.
"It seems that you also like to challenge authority, Mr. Grayson," Leslie said as he frowned at the second stapled page of my permanent record.
"I went to an all-boys school when I lived in DC," I said with an innocent shrug. "Pranks are just the usual there."
"This seems much more serious than pranks." He looked at me expectantly over the rims of his reading glasses. "These notes indicate that on one occasion there was personal injury to another student and property damage to the school. Does that seem like just an innocent prank to you, Mr. Grayson?"
I shifted in my seat as I tried to let my anger dissolve before responding. If I came across as snide and pissed, it would just make the situation worse. But it was hard — the way he called me Mr. Grayson, the way teachers do as if they are showing a sign of respect for students as grown people when really they are just patronizing us.
As I waited for the acid to dissipate from my tongue before answering, I thought bitterly of Steve Moyo, my underachieving partner in crime for the debacle that had ultimately driven my mom beyond the point of no return.
That Steve had been stupid enough to light an M-80 firework while sitting on the toilet was his own fault. He had definitely been stoned and just hadn't thought through the sequence of events ahead of time. Trying to correct his mistake, he had dropped the firework into the toilet, not knowing it would land with the fuse above the waterline and continue to burn. Though the resulting damage to his ass and the underside of his balls was enough to keep him from sitting comfortably or jacking off for a few days (a new personal record), he wasn't seriously injured and his virility was intact. The explosion had cracked the toilet bowl and flooded the bathroom reserved for teachers. Teachers got to crap in private, didn't have to use the multistalled bathroom the students used.
At the moment of detonation I was in the teachers' lounge, loading a bag of contraband for later redistribution from the well-stocked snack cupboards. Steve's injuries prevented any kind of escape, and we were both caught red-handed. I was standing with the door to the toilet open while Steve writhed on the ground, holding his crotch and screaming, "Are they gone? Did I blow them off? Fucking tell me! Don't sugarcoat it, man!" at the precise moment when the track-and-field coach sauntered into the lounge, a newspaper folded under one arm, to take his morning dump.
"I asked you a question, Mr. Grayson," Leslie said, and brought me back to the present. "Does that seem like a simple prank to you?"
"No," I said finally, since it was the answer Leslie was waiting for.
"No, what?" he asked.
"Sir?" I hazarded a guess.
"I address you with respect," he said. "I expect the same in return."
Other transgressions on my record would be much more minor — tardies, maybe a mention of being caught smoking on school grounds once or twice, and repeated trips to the principal's office for mouthing off to my teachers — but really I had no idea how much information ended up in a permanent record. I wondered idly if this permanent record would follow me to college and beyond.
Leslie allowed his leather desk chair to fall forward on its rocker with an ominous thud. He blew out a weary sigh but said nothing for a long minute. The seconds ticked off on the wall clock as beads of sweat formed at my hairline.
"Let me be very clear," Leslie said, speaking slowly, as if I might be simpleminded. "If you give me any trouble. Any at all. I will recommend you finish your high school career at the juvenile reformatory in Purcellville. You get me, Mr. Anti-establishment?"
Since I had never considered myself anything even close to resembling a rebel, his threats almost made me giggle with nervous energy. Giggle or pee myself.
"Yes," I said, though I didn't really. Get him, that was.
"Yes, what?" he asked, his face crimson now.
The corners of his eyes creased into a menacing scowl, and I unconsciously straightened in my chair and cleared my throat before saying, "Yes ... sir . ... I won't give you any trouble."
And even though I meant what I said, had no plans to cause trouble, by the end of the day, that promise would be broken.CHAPTER 2
I spent most of that first day cussing my mother in my head for making me come to this godforsaken town. Jesus, I had moved five hundred miles from DC to eastern Tennessee (actually, I had no idea how far DC was from Tennessee), but I felt like I had moved five hundred years. Principal Sherman had set the tone before my day even started, and now I was resentful and angry.
My mother really had no room to talk when it came to life choices. She had been a complete degenerate as a teenager and in her early twenties. She married my dad, a student at the Baptist seminary in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, in a failed attempt to straighten out her life. Within a few years it became painfully apparent that my mom was not cut out for the role of preacher's wife, so she packed up me and her few belongings and relocated to Washington, DC. After that, there had been a revolving door of weirdos in our house — Mom's friends and guys she dated.
My mom was actually pretty cool. I could tell her things most teenage guys can't tell their moms. But since she had been such a fuckup for most of her adult life, I also couldn't get away with anything. She could smell a lie from fifty paces, and she felt like she had some special license to try to make me turn out a saint after the havoc of her own young adulthood.
I had never lived with my dad. Hadn't even really seen much of him for the past thirteen years. He hadn't managed to do much to straighten Mom out. I'm not sure what she thought he could do with me.
Excerpted from The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker by Kat Spears. Copyright © 2016 Kat Spears. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Great Read Ashland, Tennessee Luke Grayson moves to rural Tennessee to live with his Baptist pastor father when he is kicked out of his private DC school and as far as he is concerned his life might as well be over. His stepmother is none too pleased to have him not to mention she is completely soulless. Luke’s bad boy status is also not doing him any favors with either the local police chief or his new principal. Grant Parker is the local golden boy that has a violent streak and Luke is proving to be an easy target for him. Especially as Grant has the community of Ashland under his thumb and Luke directly in his crosshairs. Luke suddenly replaces Grant at the top of the social pyramid when things go topsy-turvy with one freak accident. Now the social outcast is the hero in just a matter of twenty-four hours. This is a welcome change for the students that lived in fear of Grant. There is a price though for Luke’s newfound fame. Luke is the only one that knows the truth about what really happened to Grant Parker and the longer he keeps living the lie the more Grant-like he becomes. This is another excellent book by this author that writes stories that really make the reader think. The characters is this one are engrossing and make for an unforgettable book that really makes readers see things from different perspectives and see how the social aspect of high school works from the different groups of students. This is an interesting story that opens up readers’ eyes as they see things through the eyes of different clicks of students.
I absolutely loved the idea of this, so I couldn't wait to start reading it. I usually enjoy boy POV more than girl and Luke's head was so much fun to be in for the first half of the book. He was sarcastic and a little vulgar and had a strong sense of snark. Then the "killing Grant Parker" part happened and for me, it all went to crap. He became so passive. Not that he wasn't in the beginning, but his inner monologue transformed into something bland. He let everyone make decisions for him and was drunk all the time. The charismatic part of his brain I liked had disappeared. The only character I cared for was Delilah and she got a raw deal. She was shoved to the side quickly and makes an appearance at the end. I think she deserved better. Yes, I'm keeping this sort of vague on purpose. The plot part of the story was not at all what I was expecting and maybe that's part of the reason I was so disappointed in the second half of the book. **Huge thanks to St. Martin's Griffin and NetGalley for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**