"One of 2017's biggest debuts... Obsession-worthy." - Bustle
"Smart, raw, often biting in its reflections of the haves and have-nots, this debut will appeal to fans of John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines... Candace Ganger’s breathtaking debut is a must-have for every shelf." - Patty Blount, award-winning author of Some Boys
Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together, to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad. And to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy links Birdie and Bash together – yet neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall – hard – the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives full of the best nerdy banter this side of Ohio, some seriously awesome skate moves, and the promise of a kiss destined to make the world stop turning, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash will break your heart and put it back together again.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The thing about Wild Kyle is, he's never lost a goddamned thing.
So when I tell him about Layla, my recently departed (his word, not mine) ex, I don't even flinch at his response: "Fuck that shit. Hit it and quit it, man."
He offers his monogrammed chrome flask — KJT — that's filled with something vile, I refuse, he chugs. "What the fuck is in that?" I ask.
With squinted eyes and a puckered pout, he's trying hard to swallow like it'll really impress all these fine young, partygoers if he can keep the burning liquid down the chute without spewing. He raises a finger while a cloud of sour-smelling gas explodes from his mouth. "Moonshine. Eighty proof."
"Holy shit! Why would you do that to yourself?"
A crooked smile crawls up from the corners of his lips. "Why not?" He struggles with another sip, nearly blows chunks right on the flimsy card table, and then excuses himself up the stairs to, I assume, his grave. Leaning back in a plastic fold-out chair, I'm in this tiny basement room that's starting to swell. I don't know half these people, and the ones I do, pretend not to know me. The music is blaring, thumping, through the walls of Kyle's cousin's friend's college boyfriend's place just outside of East Clifton. It's close enough for me to crawl home if I need to, far enough that Ma won't hear about it.
"I need a beer pong partner," a sultry voice says from behind. I know those paralyzing, knife-wielding sounds; rasped and smoky as all hell. It's Layla, my kryptonite. I spin around to see a cigarette pressed between her plump, scarlet lips, her lashes batting at me.
"So go ask your dude," I say, turning away from her. She rests a hand on my shoulder, creeps around to my side and crawls onto my lap. She's wearing this black miniskirt that shows off her curves and thigh-high boots, and after that, there's nothing left to see.
"We broke up," she says with a pout. She pinches the cigarette, pulls it from her lips, and gently nudges it into mine. Our eyes are locked, and from the corner of my mouth, I blow a thin stream of smoke into the air. It curls between us, disintegrating into vapor. She likes this, I see, but I know that face. I've seen it a hundred times. It's the same face she dragged into the rink I work at, the same face she made at the dude whose jock she was all up on at said rink, and the same fucking face that dumped my sorry ass in front of said dude at said rink just one week ago.
She wants me to break. Part of me wants me to break. I mean, goddamn, look at her. Dirty blond hair that trails in loose waves below her shoulders, nose pierced, a few tats on her forearm, mostly butterflies and shit, but rock as hell. Her icy eyes sear through me, and a flash of the future pops into my brain, and she's just not in it. Didn't see it last week — I was too close to it. I see it now. With a firm grip on her hips, I lift her from the warmth of my lap and toss her to her cold, unfeeling heart — I mean feet.
Thanks to the height of her heels, she wobbles, nearly falls straight to her ass. "Bash!" she screeches. Her eyes are bulging, and that pouty thing she thinks is working isn't (anymore). "I miss you. I was wrong."
Reminds me of something I saw scribbled on a gym locker. I inhale and blow another cloud of smoke toward her with a wink. "If you're looking for sympathy, you'll find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis."
I leave her there to, I don't know, think about how actions have consequences, or whatever, and find myself up on the main level where the awful chest-thumping music streams. No sign of Kyle, so I hang in the corner, where I'm mostly alone. Back against the wall, I enjoy the cigarette still pursed between my lips — her lovely parting gift to me. Thanks, doll. Directly in front of me are about a dozen sweaty bodies, bending and swaying, grinding against each other beneath the dim lights that flicker primary colors. From here, they're just faceless, gestural shapes on a dark canvas — something I could draw if I had my charcoal lump and kneaded eraser.
"Want to dance?" a sweat-drenched girl asks me.
She's grabbing at my hand. I pull back. "I don't dance; just watch."
"That's super creepy," she says. "I like it." She smiles with the jagged teeth of a great white as her hands paw at me to move deeper into the nucleus of the cesspool. I resist still, mostly because, selfishly, I want to smoke this free cancer stick to the nub. I keep my cool because Layla lurks nearby, an amber bottle in one hand, my (metaphoric) balls in the other. She's looking around, probably for her next victim, and this chatty girl, man, she does not care I'm not listening. She's talking about her phone bill and how she can't figure out where the extra charges come from — "I mean, I talk the same amount every month, so it should be the exact same," she says — and I'm still looking at Layla, pretending not to, because I know exactly where that eye contact leads and I don't have enough soul left for her to pulverize a third time. And before you even ask, no, she wasn't worth it.
Behind this girl, who is now spewing a diatribe about the government spying on us through our phones, I lose sight of Layla for just a moment. The crowd parts in a zigzag fashion and beneath the light machine, where the red, green, and blue hit the hardest, I see her — this statuesque beauty — hiding behind a trail of long brown hair and thick-framed glasses. With her hands folded snug in her lap, she's looking around, sinking farther into the couch's wilted threads as if hoping to not be seen, but I see her because hiding is typically what I do, too.
"My God," I say. The cigarette hangs from my bottom lip, and this girl, who finally stops talking, is still looking at up me, glitter plummeting from her silver-tinted eye shadow. The flakes dance down to the tops of my boots like little asshole snowflakes. That shit should be banned. She follows my eyes across the floor to the big, plaid couch, letting her smile fade. Losing interest (finally), she drops my hand and disappears into the sea of people from which she first emerged.
With my heart nearly beating out of my chest, I watch Couch Girl. The way she tucks her hair behind her ears with precision, the way she nudges her falling glasses up the bridge of her nose, the way she pretends she's not as earth-shatteringly stunning as she really is. Radiance surrounds her — not a halo, but some kind of ethereal glow — and I can't look away. She looks up at me. Once, twice, three times; tries to avoid my eyes, but can't. For the length of a whole song, my gaze doesn't abandon her, and by the middle of the next song, she's smiling at me. Score. Normally, I'd hang back, wait and see if we "accidentally" cross paths, but Layla's determined eyes are on me so I up my game. To finish her.
I push through the haze and find my way to Couch Girl. She looks up at me with these electric green eyes that are more evident through her lenses, and I do something I thought I'd never in a million years do — hold out my hand.
"I don't dance," she says, reluctant.
"Me either. Too many germs." A few seconds pass before she decides to take my humble offering. I pull her to her feet, and our palms smash together and slide across the dampness. This would normally gross me out, but I kind of want to linger in it with her. Gently, I lead her to the center of the floor where we are now gestural shapes on this dark canvas, too.
"Help me out here," I say. "See that girl over there?" I point to Layla with my middle finger. A silent dig, if you will.
"I need her to see us talking."
She scrunches up her face. "I'm not getting in the middle of whatever that is." Her finger is waving around, grabbing Layla's attention. "But thanks."
As she tries to walk away, I tug on her sleeve. Eyebrows arched, and my own full puppy-lipped pout now in full effect. "Please."
She must sense my sadness (read: desperation), because with one sharp sigh and a roll of her beautiful eyes, she digs her feet firmly into the floor. "Okay, fine. Just for a minute though."
We're not dancing, not swaying or grinding, but here we are, in the epicenter of it all. She crosses her arms, I cross mine, too. "So are we going to actually talk or just pretend?" she snaps.
"Who the hell are you?" I ask with a smirk.
She looks down. "Who am I? You mean what name was I given at birth, or who am I in a general sense?" I start to respond, but she interrupts.
"Because, in said general sense, I'm a girl at a party I should've never come to but did and am now trapped in this weird interaction between subjects A and B while I'd much rather be at home teaching my chunky cat how to drink from a running faucet, thank you very much."
With my gaze pressed hard on her porcelain skin, I drop the last bit of cigarette to the floor and twist the cinder into the grooves until it burns no more. My smile grows, and all of a sudden, I don't care if Layla's watching or not. "Fair enough."
"Who are you?" she replies with a touch of snark.
I look down to the holes in my shirtsleeve where the fabric has worn, and I realize I have two choices here. I can tell her the lame, true story of my life and wait for her to walk away, or I can do the opposite and hope that, for one perfect night, I'm allowed to feel this way about a girl who's way out of my league, knowing the second I leave here, this, whatever this is, leaves with it.
Plus, it'd totally piss Layla off, and that makes it sweeter.
"Well," I say, "in a general sense, I'm a boy at a party I should've never come to but did and am now gloriously trapped in this enlightened conversation with, probably, the most captivating girl in the entire house. In an even generaler sense" — she stops me, tells me that's not a word — "I'm nobody. Well, until I saw you." My smile widens. To sell it.
She blushes. Her fingers fumbling through her long, silky strands, she objects. "One, that's so ridiculously cliché, and two, statistically speaking, you're a percentage of this party as a whole house equation. Without the exact number of bodies — I estimate around thirty-seven — you're something like 2.7027 percent somebody without ever seeing me."
My heart drops through this creaky, wooden floor, and this smile that's still pasted — it's about to rip my face in two. The forces of the earth have rumbled beneath my feet and combined, climbing up through the dirt core, into my heart. We stand here, for, I don't know, what feels like an infinity (she abruptly explains infinity is a concept and there's no way to solve for x, so in reality, we can't actually stand here that long), and all these things start flying out of my mouth — how I graduated last year, I'm only in town for tonight — and with every passing lie, I think, You're no better than Kyle, which makes me sick — like, physically ill with the sweats and a weird clamminess and all these symptoms that remind me how I felt when I first met Layla.
When the song ends, we hold on to this moment that, in the space between, feels like a million electrodes have begun to rattle and vibrate. I feel it fuse to my bones. It connects us together, grounds us, right here, right now. Layla's gone — who cares now? — but just as I start to ask for her number, or the name she was given at birth, a tiny little thing with big, springy curls that dangle over one eye pulls at Couch Girl's arm.
"Ready to go?" the friend asks. She's looking me over in this protective kind of way, and I know what she's thinking because I beat her to it.
While the two of them decide, a hand slaps the back of my shirt hard enough to leave a mark. I turn around to see Kyle's cousin's friend's college boyfriend with a worried look on his face. "Your friend might need to go to the hospital. He's, like, not waking up."
With a heavy sigh, something that follows Kyle's hijinks often, I silently agree to retrieve my sort-of-ill-behaved dog that does as he pleases. Before I can even think about what to say to Couch Girl next, I spin around and she, and her tiny friend, are gone.
Just like that, it's over before it even started.
Story of my goddamned life.
Two days have passed since the house party, and I'm still thinking about what an idiot Kyle is. The only chance I had to talk to (probably) the most interesting lady specimen I've ever met, and he totally screwed me. One night to be all the things I'm not, maybe make out a little, and instead, I spent the wee hours of yesterday making sure his ass didn't die of alcohol poisoning — again. And now here we are, hanging out at 8:30P.M., on a stormy Sunday, in one of his dad's empty developments doing what Wild Kyle does best — drinking.
Kid doesn't use his head because he's never had to. If I had everything he has, I'd be eating three square meals, filling my tank with premium gas, and sleeping on something more than an old spring mattress in a piece of shit trailer — all these things, these simple ideas that most normal people get on a human level — are things Kyle couldn't get if you nailed them to his brain with a stake and hammer.
But I guess if I had those things, or even one, I wouldn't be me. I'd be him. And right now, him is sitting in a yoga-like position, legs crossed, eyes closed, fingers pinched up at his sides like he's taking a serious shit. He drinks straight from the bottle of his dad's top-shelf vodka, and with one flick of his metal skull lighter, he burns the end of a fresh joint. But me? I've got my legs spread out in front of me, a cheap can of off-brand beer that tastes like asphalt in one hand, a limp cigarette balanced in the other, as I try to sketch with a jagged piece of compressed charcoal on a napkin.
He makes a deep hum and exhales a cloud of smoke through the side of his lips, currently buried under an avalanche of wiry hairs. "You're so whipped! I can tell you're still obsessing over Layla. Didn't know she'd be there, I swear."
I shake my head, surprised he noticed anything more than the toilet rim.
"Forget that heartless bitch. Didn't you see that hottie in the spandex thing? Oohhh! I'm not religious, but goddamn, TAKE. ME. TO. CHURCH!"
I don't dare tell him about Couch Girl. Conversing only encourages the idiocy, and I don't need him fucking up any more of my shit. Besides, I'd rather let him think I'm still hung up on Layla because (1) in a totally whacked-out way, it's kind of endearing that he cares, and (2) it gives him something to focus his negative energy on — that won't fuck up any more of my shit.
"This is good stuff, man. Sure you don't want some?" He pulls the stick from his mouth and offers it up.
"Nah," I say. "My gift for helping with that wretched chem test last week. Besides, Camilla's way past that now, and I sure as hell don't want it."
He nods, knows Camilla — Ma — is the reason we sometimes come drink in this dark, empty neighborhood. It started months ago during her weekly chemo treatments and became this thing I couldn't get out of — I tried. Among the half dozen vacant houses and lots Kyle's dad invested in, this one is my favorite, because even though it's not finished, I can tell it could really be something. Kind of like me.
There's a long silence, a shift in the air between us, as he shuffles around to stretch his lanky limbs. He lifts the joint into the air and unfolds his legs. "So did you pass the test or what?"
I take a swig of the warm beer, my last one, my only one. "No. Goddamn reactions and rates. That whole collision theory got me. How am I supposed to remember what affects the rate of a reaction? If I knew, I wouldn't be in school where you learn things — I'd be Stephen Hawking or some shit. Not trudging through my mandatory four-year sentence like a freakin' dunce."
"Five for you."
"Hey — everyone should be a freshman twice. It makes a real man outta ya."
Kyle's obnoxious laugh echoes through the wooden slats where walls should be. "Like John Locke says, 'There is only one thing which gathers people into seditious commotion, and that is,'" he pauses for dramatic effect, "'OPPRESSION!'"
Excerpted from "The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash"
Copyright © 2017 Candace Ganger.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great book! It kept me on the "edge of my seat" wondering... Will he live? Will he go to prison? Will she fall in love? Would recommend to anyone over the age of 14 because there is strong language and sexual innuendos that aren't really appropriate for a younger age.