Putting a new spin on a classic trope, Kate Evangelista explores family bonds, changing relationships, and senior year as our heroine tries to get over her brother’s best friend.
Stella has had a hopeless crush on Will, her older brother's best friend FOREVER, but now that Cam and Will have graduated and are going off to college, this year is her chance to really strike out on her own. Without her overprotective brother and his sidekick around to distract her, she can focus on having all the typical high school experiences that she's always dreamed ofstarting with finding a boyfriend! With the help of her best friend, Franklin, she comes up with the perfect plan to have a boyfriend by Christmas: The Boyfriend Bracket.
Or it seems like the perfect plan . . . right up until Will starts showing up again. How is she supposed to find the perfect boyfriend when none of her dates measure up to the one boy she can never have?
The Boyfriend Bracket puts a new spin on a classic genre in a fun, unforgettable way.
Praise for Kate Evangelista:
“Kate Evangelista’s romantic story skills leave you wanting more”YA Books Central on No Holding Back
“It’s a great mix of romance, drama, and friendships!”Inah at The Bibliophile Confessions on No Second Chances
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Will stared at the panel for his online comic until his vision blurred. The dorm room he lived in smelled of old sweaty socks, distracting him. No. That wasn't the whole truth. He just couldn't capture the image in his head, and it was frustrating the shit out of him. His summer hiatus was over. It was time for a new chapter. And, yet, nada. Zilch. His brain was empty.
Two hundred e-mails in his in-box impatiently asked for the next installment of The Adventures of Morla the Witch Hunter. And that was just in the last twenty-four hours. More came in daily. He was dropping the ball. Big-time.
Emotions moving from frustrated to pissed, Will closed his ink-stained hand over the sheet filled with half-hearted scribbles. He crumpled the subpar panel, obliterating the story line in one go. Then he rubbed his tired eyes. The fatigue from being up all night clung to his shoulders. His mind was stuck like a mammoth in tar.
He glanced up at the clock. His first class wasn't until two in the afternoon. He had four hours to bang out a page, ink it, scan, and post before he had to go. Getting a shower in there might be stretching it. At least he'd change his shirt. That would hide most of the funk. He hoped.
Sitting back in his chair and tilting his head to face the ceiling, he envisioned his MC. Morla was a badass witch hunter. She had long, black hair that trailed behind her when she ran from the Nosferatu Coven. She was tall and long-limbed, possessing an agility that helped her kill the Ifrit sent to eliminate her by the Mother Supreme. The skintight leather suit she wore emphasized the richness of her brown skin, which glistened in the sun when she had to strip down to her underwear to swim away from the vicious water sprites. Her full lips were always smirking, like she knew more than she let on, enabling her to defeat the rogue warlock terrorizing the southern village of Lapsa. But her best feature was her intensely brown eyes, as rich as the earth she walked upon. They could stare into someone's soul and determine if that person was a witch.
In the last panel he had posted before he participated in a graphic design workshop hosted by the Design Media Arts department at UCLA, Will left Morla in quite a pickle. A bind. The most precarious situation. Basically, he was screwed. She had been poisoned by a dark witch and left for dead after she had fallen down a gully. It was the best scene he had written so far. His readers gobbled it up. The e-mails had been crazy. Readers wanted more.
Will cursed his insidious brain for abusing Morla in this way. She lay on her back at the bottom of the gully in pain. The poison slowly worked its way through her system, eating every cell in her body. How the hell was she getting out of this one?
In defeat, Will threw down his pen and pushed away from his desk. His ergonomic chair's wheels let out a grr of protest beneath his weight. Being a little over six feet with broad shoulders meant he carried around weight that punished furniture if he wasn't careful. He shoved his fingers through his hair. He couldn't think straight. His eyelids were so heavy. It was a Friday. He was feeling a classic case of weekenditis. He tabled updating the comic for now rather than come up with crap. What was the point, anyway? His brain was mush. His readers would just have to be patient and wait another week.
* * *
STELLA WALKED OUT of class feeling like a million bucks. She had aced her history quiz. She'd finally put in her contacts without poking an eye out. Her chin-length hair bounced like she had Beyoncé's magic fan blowing air up toward her face. And the maxi dress she had finished sewing the night before flowed like water when she moved.
All summer she had been busy with her makeover. Come the first day of school in mid-August, she had been more than ready to unveil the new her. The Stella free from her hovering helicopter big brother and his henchman.
Shoulders squared, she approached her locker like a model walking the runway at New York Fashion Week. She punched in her combination with newly manicured nails and curled her moisturized fingers around the handle. A slide up and a tug later, the door swung open.
All Stella's confidence tumbled to the floor as fast as a trash can's worth of crumbled paper and a single banana peel spilled out from the bowels of her locker.
Laughter and the words "Trash for trash" followed the spectacle, spoken by the leader of the three girls that the school referred to as the Salads: Lemon. Romaine. And Parsley.
"This is getting old, ladies," Stella said in complete and utter exasperation. "It's getting really old." The last part, she muttered to herself. She didn't bother with the sigh and the eye roll that usually accompanied finding her locker stuffed with trash. Again. She didn't even feel tears prick the corners of her eyes. Patience, she reminded herself. Soon she would be a student in one of the best fashion schools, living the life she was meant for.
"Tell me," Lemon said. "Where did you get that dress?"
"Saved it from a dumpster, maybe," Romaine, her second-in-command, chimed in most helpfully.
"I see Parsley's the one in charge of locker stuffing today," said a lovely, confident, slightly sassy male voice. "Why don't you ladies go find someone else to bore with your conformity? Shoo!"
Stella smiled at her best friend over her shoulder. His hair was parted to one side and held in place by a dragonfly clip showing off the neon streak. Franklin Park wore his soul on the outside. That was what Stella loved about him. And the blue suede shoes on his feet. They were to die for.
"Would it kill you for some originality?" he continued, aiming his question at the Salads as Stella swapped out her morning books for her afternoon books. The studded-leather bag she had made just couldn't hold them all at once.
"You're one to speak, Park," Lemon said. Clipped. Like a verbal slap. "That hair is so last year."
"The Salads? Original?" Stella asked, speaking to Franklin as if the Bitches of Eastwick didn't exist. "Does not compute. I guess I should be happy that Lemon's group is as typical as it gets. Can you imagine if they were more creative with their bullying?" She shuddered.
"Don't think that just because you got rid of the braces and put in contacts that you're more than you are," Lemon said, venom dripping from her tinted lips.
Her words were quickly followed by laughs and catcalls from the horde, which reeked of expensive perfume and was clad in Rodeo Drive couture. Then, as if hearing the silent command of their queen, the hive mind continued down the hallway.
Unable to contain herself, Stella shouted after them, "You're going to beg me to make you clothes one day!"
The Salads kept sashaying like her words meant nothing to them. A part of Stella was stung, but another part became twice as determined to succeed. It was the best revenge, after all.
"Speaking of clothes." Franklin drew her attention back to him. "Are you channeling Project Runway's season nine winner? That's certainly an Anya dress."
A huge, braces-less smile spread across Stella's face. "This is challenge one from the new season. The designers were asked to put their best foot forward." She twirled to show off the lighter-than-air chiffon she had used for the dress. "I went for Cali-beach girl. It's a call back to my roots. I think Tim Gunn would be proud."
Franklin clapped. "Even if we're four hours away from the beach on a good-traffic day."
Stella pouted. "I go where inspiration takes me. That's what Christian Siriano did, and he went on to become the youngest winner of Project Runway. I totally plan on breaking that record."
"I can't say this enough, but I really like this new confidence of yours. And from what I hear, so do half the boys in school."
"The other half are head over heels for me."
She blew him a raspberry before she said, "It's definitely easier without Cam around."
"Tell me you already have a date for homecoming." Franklin's eagerness was catching as they walked arm in arm toward the cafeteria.
"I haven't decided yet," Stella confessed.
"You can't procrastinate on this. What happened to Operation Boyfriend Hunt?"
"I have several promising prospects. In fact, I already have a date lined up for tonight."
"Pray tell, just how many are these prospects of yours? I will not settle for less than five."
"As a matter of fact, there are eight of them."
"Well done!" He patted her arm. "Now, how do you propose you narrow the eight down to one?"
"That's what I need you for," she said when they grabbed trays and got in line. "You're going to help me choose."
"Oh!" Franklin perked up. "Can I make a bracket like they do in sports? I'm going to call it the Boyfriend Bracket."
"What do you know about sports?" Stella sent him a disbelieving sidelong glance.
"Enough to know there are a lot of hot athletes."
This time, Stella allowed the eye roll. The situation called for it. She didn't doubt that between her and Franklin, they'd come up with the suitable candidate for her senior-year boyfriend. And she wouldn't even have to hide him anymore. Ah, freedom. Oh, how sweet.
They picked a table in the middle of the cafeteria. The second they put their trays down, Franklin leaned forward and said, "Who are the guys? I need names."
Stella licked her lips, then looked around. "There's Tommy Larrabee, Kevin Marquez, Joey Esposito, Daniel Connors, Mike Cortez, Eric Richards, Aaron Anderson, and Hector Villegas."
"I can work with that" was all he said as he grabbed his tray and stood.
"Aren't we having lunch?" she asked, pushing away from the table, then standing.
"You eat." He waved her back down to her seat. "I have work to do. Meeting at your room after school."
"I'm visiting Nana this afternoon," she called after him.
"It won't take long" was the last thing she heard before the crowd's buzzing swallowed the rest of Franklin's words. The gleam in his eyes made tumbleweeds jump around in Stella's stomach. Suddenly she wasn't very hungry. She had a feeling what should have been a simple way of finding a boyfriend had become a tiny bit complicated.CHAPTER 2
After school, Stella and Franklin sat in her room staring at the bracket of potential boyfriends. They had it propped up on an easel. Beside each candidate's name was a headshot with numbers in glitter indicating when the first date would take place. Lines extended from the names that met into one rectangle at the center, which declared the winner in sparkling letters above it. If it shined, gleamed, or sparkled, Franklin had used it. The piece of cardboard was so colorful, Stella feared it could be seen from several houses away.
"As you can see" — Franklin indicated the brackets with a ruler — "I've grouped guys that best match each individual's qualifications for a fairer assessment. There are eight in all, so that's two dates per weekend for a month then we move on to one date per week for the semifinals. And for the finals, you get to choose from the last two contenders. I predict you'll have a boyfriend by the holidays."
Stella nodded, her lower lip sticking out. "I have to say, I'm impressed. What are the stars and hearts for?"
"I'm glad you asked." Franklin beamed. "I've ranked the guys based on looks and charm. One to five stars for looks, five being smoldering. Same with hearts. One to five hearts for charm, five being charming to the max."
"What about things like attitude?"
"That falls under charm. Plus I hate anything that isn't a star or a heart. Deal with it."
Stella pursed her lips, considering. "Makes things simple. I like it."
"Good, you see it my way."
"At least now I can focus on the dresses I have to sew for the dances and making sure my college applications are on point. But don't you think this is going a little too extreme?"
He slapped the ruler on the board, hitting poor Kevin Marquez's smiling face in the process. "Extreme is my middle name. And you said it yourself. This bracket takes the pressure off."
"It certainly lowers the percentage of choosing the wrong guy. How did you get them to agree on when the dates will happen?"
"I have my ways." He arched an eyebrow at her, then he regarded the board once more. "Since Tommy is tonight, I went from there with the other guys. Actually, you have a pretty diverse group here."
"I'm not going to like where this is going, am I?" She squinted at him.
"Hear me out." Franklin brought the ruler to each guy as he spoke. "Tommy is president of the student council. Kevin is captain of the chess club. Joey plays football. Daniel swims. Mike is point guard for the basketball team. Eric plays the clarinet. Aaron, well, he's the wild card, but he does have a band, so the artists are accounted for. And Hector is the glee club's Bruno Mars. You can actually win prom queen with this group if you wanted to."
A protracted sigh left Stella's lungs. "I don't have time to campaign for prom queen. I need to focus on my college apps, especially the one for Parsons. Plus, going toe to toe with Lemon? Who has the time? Give her prom queen. I just need to get through this bracket and find a boyfriend before all the craziness starts."
"I'm just saying. You already have the ingredients right here."
"In neon and everything that glitters from the office-supply store."
A huge smile brightened Franklin's face. "If you think this is over the top ..." He pulled out a travel-size booklet from his messenger bag and handed it to Stella.
"What's this?" The front was as colorful as the board. She started leafing through and found the answer as he spoke.
"It's a miniature version of the bracket. Each page contains a picture of your date with all his interests and what clubs he belongs to in school. As you can see, the back of each page is blank. That is where you will put all your notes after each date so we can better assess who makes it to the next round."
"Jaw-dropping effort," she said, eyes wide.
He lifted his chin. "Thorough is my second middle name."
"I don't know anyone with a second middle name."
"Well, I do. Remember, prom photos are forever. We will find you the right guy to fit that space in the picture."
"Are you sure being a fashion designer is your goal? Because the CIA is always open to new recruits."
Franklin executed a few karate chops and said, "I can be a fashion spy. Ruling the runways by day, collecting important information for my country by night."
"All right, Agent K-Pop." She slapped the booklet against her palm. "Let's focus on finding me a boyfriend before you go and save the world from crimes against fashion."
* * *
STELLA WAS THANKFUL for three things. First, Franklin's bracketing idea was actually helpful. Now they had a clearer picture of which of the eight guys she had dates with might eventually become her boyfriend. She smirked at the idea of Cam losing his cool if he ever found out. But, to save her the drama, she and Franklin were keeping things on the down low from her brother. He was way too busy with college and baseball, so there was quite a bit of breathing room.
Second, it was a Friday, which meant no homework. Oak Hills High valued giving students rest on the weekends. For Stella, it meant more time for sewing and sketching. She needed to start conceptualizing her dress for homecoming. Not to mention the two dates she had lined up. One for that night. One for Saturday. Sundays were family days.
And third, her favorite part of Fridays were her weekly visits with Will's nana. Despite the blush that still colored her cheeks when she thought of him, she had set aside her childhood crush. Stella understood that while she had feelings for him, it was nothing more than a fantasy. Regardless of her enlightenment about William Montgomery, she loved Nana. She'd stuck to checking in, even if summer vacation was over. Not that Nana needed a babysitter — Nana's word. She was capable. Even so, Stella stopped at the store and grabbed a few necessities Nana might need.
Armed with two eco-bags worth of groceries, Stella left her modest Honda hatchback at the curb and walked up to the mint-green Victorian the Montgomerys called home. A mix of fuchsia and orange bougainvillea lined the walkway. Box flowers bloomed in a riot of color beneath the windowsill. And a swing dominated one side of the front porch.
She was so at home that, instead of ringing the doorbell, she tipped the potted azalea for the spare key. She and Nana had a great routine going where Stella entered and put the groceries away while Nana prepared afternoon tea. Then they'd gossip or talk clothes. Nana had a great sense of style, which Stella admired.
After unlocking the front door, she returned the key to its hiding place, picked up the groceries, and pushed into the house. She called out, "Nana, I'm here. I got those tangerines you like."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Boyfriend Bracket"
Copyright © 2018 Kate Evangelista.
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.
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