"Gut-bustingly funny and exquisitely tender." - Katie Cotugno, New York Times bestselling author of 99 Days
Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?
It's senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing "the rest of her life," Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to behow can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?
Emery Lord's award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life's most important questions.
Praise for The Start of Me and You
A Huffington Post Top YA Books of 2015
One of PopSugar's Best YA Books of 2015
Praise for When We Collided
2017 Schneider Family Book Award Winner
One of YALSA's 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adult Readers
A YALSA 2017 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult readers
A USA Today Must-Read Romance of 2016
One of PopSugar's Best YA Books of 2016
One of Nerdy Book Club's Best YA Fiction of 2016
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Emery Lord is the author of Open Road Summer; The Start of Me and You; When We Collided, which was a Schneider Family Book Award Winner, a YALSA-ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and a YALSA-ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults Books; and The Names They Gave Us. She lives in Ohio with her family and several shelves of books that she considers friends.
Read an Excerpt
Of all the places to spend a hot August day in suburban Indiana, Cinema 12 had to be one of the best. Snacks, ice-cold air-conditioning, and endless opportunities for screen-writing analysis. At least, I thought so when I got the job in July.
Instead, Cin 12 gave me spilled nacho cheese, coagulating on the floor. Gray-haired men demanding student ticket prices but yelling at me when asked for a student ID. People complaining about strong perfume, about back-row makeouts, about the movie's ending, about the ice-cold air-conditioning itself.
Every time I tugged on my itchy, ill-fitting tuxedo uniform, I chanted: College tuition. Room and board. Meal plan. I'd used more blush in half a summer than I had in half a year, coaxing my pale skin to look less sallow against the starched white collar.
"Okay, if you didn't know what happened in these last five minutes," Hunter said, his voice low in the darkness, "how would you write the ending from here on out? Same way?"
"Hmm." I shifted my weight, leaning against the broom handle. Hunter's taste skewed toward big explosions or heartwarming football movies, but he'd taken to asking me about screen writing. "I'd end it more quietly. Instead of her running after his cab, I'd have him turn around, walk back to her front door, and knock. Roll credits."
"What?!" He glanced up at the smattering of viewers, all too enraptured to notice his outburst. "Hancock, you're kidding me."
My other coworkers called me Paige, but not Hunter. Hunter Chen spoke to all of us like we were his baseball teammates.
"You don't like the sprinting-after-him scene? Those are classic."
"No, I do," I said, damping down a smile. In fact, on the last day of school in June, I had sprinted after Max Watson, and I'd kissed him in the empty junior hallway. It was adrenaline and a lifetime of rom-coms, yes, but also something very true. "It shows the pivotal moment of dropping everything to chase what matters."
This summer, my screen-writing-program friends had teased me for preferring TV shows to ?lm. When a movie closed with an inevitable, iconic kiss — atop a building, at the altar — I liked it ?ne. But I grew up with miserably married and then divorced parents, so I'd always known that wasn't really the end of the story. A TV relationship, though, could bear out for years, through the mundanity and will-they-make-it lows. It made small moments big.
On-screen, the beautiful lead reached the taxi, her russet hair tousled. She was breathless and lovely, no trace of sweat even after sprinting. The musical score held its note, violins in waiting.
"Oh my God." Hunter squeezed my arm in mock suspense. "Is he going to get out of the cab? He is!"
Of course he was. We'd seen the end a dozen times. They kissed as cars around them honked, and I shook my head. "See? A quiet realization would be more poetic — something as quotidian as showing back up. Choosing each other when there's no fanfare."
"Quo-what-ian? Okay, Honor Roll."
"Commonplace. So everyday."
He waved me off. "I like the running scene. Cheesy, sure. But packs a punch."
"Oh my God." I snorted. "It's, like, the closest you can get to an action movie sequence. That's why you like it."
"Or maybe," he said, hands on his chest, "underneath this stone-cold exterior, I'm a big softie."
I rolled my eyes, used to this after a month of coworkerdom. For a while, I'd wondered if Hunter's friends ribbed him about his good looks, about his training regimen. Maybe he made the jokes before anyone else could. Or, I wondered, was he possibly a little vain and drawing attention to himself? Finally, I realized: it's definitely both.
We rotated through three stations at Cin 12: box office, concessions, and usher shifts. Our manager, Donna, had taken to pairing me with Hunter because he'd worked here long enough to help train me. And I, apparently, "kept him in line" better than Hunter's best friend, Lane, whom he'd sweet-talked Donna into hiring.
The credits rolled to the beat of "Say Yes," this summer's "Live in the moment!" anthem. People ?led out of the theater, and I smiled thinly as they passed. "Have a good one."
"Take that chance with me," Hunter added, speaking the song lyrics. The girl he directed this toward glanced away, bashful and thrilled. He had one of those full, semicircle grins, with dimples and a square chin to frame it. "Make a running leap and see."
In June, "Say Yes" had pulsed out of bodega speakers and open windows as I walked to classes in New York. I'd bobbed my head happily. By mid-July, I was groaning at the intro's percussive handclaps as I swept up crushed M&Ms. Now, though, Hunter and I had come back around to "Say Yes." Was it because the song was terrible and we'd succumbed? Was the song was great and we'd embraced it? I had no idea; it was simply part of us now.
"'Say yes, say yes,'" Hunter sang in an atrocious falsetto, shimmying up the steps. He'd apologized early on for his terrible voice and for the fact that it would not stop him. The universe, I'd supposed out loud, would only allow him greatness in one type of pitch. He was delighted by my willingness to both mock him and laud his baseball prowess, which I'd gotten a crash-course on these past few weeks. Hunter had aspirations of being the first Chinese-American pitcher to sign with the MLB, until the rigor of travel schedules and training twinged both his elbow and his enjoyment. He scaled back, healed, and was leveraging his skill for a full athletic scholarship to IU, hopefully on his way to PT school or school counseling.
"So, what's the countdown on The Boyfriend? Cutting it pretty close to the start of school," Hunter said. My coworkers called Max "The Boyfriend" with implied air quotes, like they didn't fully believe he was real.
Perfectly real, in fact. Just in Italy for the second half of the summer, thriving in his preferred lifestyle of Latin, ancient relics, and gelato.
"He's home Friday morning." The closer Max's arrival, the joltier my pulse. I imagined the sharp lines on an EKG, its alarm beeping with increasing urgency. Even with good anticipation, my body didn't handle feelings well sometimes.
"Friday morning? Don't you mean thirty-six hours, twelve minutes, and forty-two seconds?" Hunter clutched his hands together like a Disney princess daydreaming of her true love. "Forty-one. Forty!"
I chucked an empty popcorn tub at him, which he dodged, laughing. I didn't even talk about Max that much! Or maybe I did. But who wouldn't? I'd spent the first half of summer in Manhattan. By the time I got home, Max had left for his Italian study abroad. And since I hadn't confessed my feelings for him till the last day of school, our relationship had been spent almost entirely apart.
I leaned down to an aisle seat, examining what appeared to be — yep, lovely — a small glob of white gum, newly stuck to the armrest. "Honestly. What compels a person to remove something from inside their mouth and press it somewhere another human being will sit?"
Hunter smiled, looking past me like a sailor gazing fondly at the horizon. "You've truly become one of us, Hancock."
He pretended to be jaded by this job after two years of part-timing it. As far as I'd witnessed, though, Cinema 12 was Hunter Chen's personal center stage. He flirted with elderly ladies, let his many buddies in with discounts, wheedled every grumpy coworker until they smiled.
"Yeah, it's a real treat." I reached for a napkin, wrinkling my nose before I even neared the gum.
"So, hey," he said. "You tell your parents?"
Yesterday afternoon, I'd shocked myself by confessing to Hunter that my parents didn't know I planned to apply to ?lm school in New York and LA. We were in the box office during a lull and venting about college anyway — Hunter may have been committed to IU for baseball, but he still worried about injury and balancing his coursework. And the words fell out, clumsy and unbidden. I hadn't even told my best friend yet. And I hadn't told Max.
"I did. Last night."
I was hoping the screen-writing thrill would dim as summer wore on. I expected to stay the course: an English degree instate, with screen writing as a quirky side interest. But when I helped my friend Maeve begin her writing portfolios for applications, I ended up starting my own, almost helplessly. Ideas that energized me, new pieces that challenged me.
"And it went well ...?" Hunter prodded. "Okay, I think."
My dad went on about his pride in my go-get-'em aspirations, and my mom tempered the conversation with reason — ruminating about loans, job prospects, the fact that screen writing would likely keep me on either coast beyond college. It was like watching a bizarre table tennis match: My dad on the left, rallying about my big dreams with the fervor of someone giving a commencement speech. Volley to my mom, reminding me that Indiana has great schools, that education is what I make of it.
Now I just had to tell Max. We'd talked about college abstractly, always assuming we'd both stay in the Midwest. Before this summer, I'd figured I'd land at IU like half my friends planned to. Then, even if Max went to Notre Dame or Purdue, we'd be a two- or three-hour drive apart — totally doable for weekend visits or meeting halfway.
Max would be supportive; I knew that. But as a helpless devotee to worst-case-scenario planning, I feared he'd also want to break up now, before we could get any more attached.
"Good thing this is our last showing," Hunter said. "That look on your face ... man. You need a drink. And not just coffee at Alcott's."
I wrinkled my nose at him, and we bagged the remaining trash, working silently and fast. Once in the lobby, Hunter spun back.
"Hey, for real, what are you doing tonight? You should come out with us." He threw a glance at Lane, who was finishing up ice-bin clean-out behind the concession counter. Hunter described their best friendship as "siblinghood" after years of living in the same condo building. "Tell her to come out with us."
"You should!" Lane ran a hand through her red hair — a pixie cut with long layers that she wore pushed back. "Bella said the more, the merrier."
I had no idea who Bella was. Maybe someone from Linwood High — Oakhurst's neighboring town and rival, where Hunter and Lane were seniors. But they seemed to know everyone at my school, too, plus the local private school and a bunch of college campuses. Always a party, always open invitation.
"Maybe next time," I said, moving toward the door. "I have curfew. But thanks for the invite."
"She always says that," Hunter grumbled to Lane.
"Hey, I go out sometimes."
"Only when we're going to Waffle House." Hunter cupped both hands around his mouth. "It's senior year, Hancock. Say yes!"
"Have fun!" I called. "Be safe!
The first time we met, Hunter rattled off the names of his friends at Oakhurst, hoping that I knew them. Aditi Basu? A little — I really liked her. Nate Song? I knew of him. Kara Cisse? I'll save you some trouble, I wanted to say. At that enormous public high school, I socialize with between three and six other people. I figured Hunter — star athlete with an endless stream of high-fiving friends stopping by the theater — would be glibly nice and not retain my name.
But during the second shift Hunter and I worked together, one of my mom's PTA friends walked up to the snack counter. I knew, with slow-motion certainty, what was about to happen. And sure enough, she very kindly mentioned that she thought of Aaron often, and of me, and hoped I was well. I said I was; I thanked her. I handed her a box of Sno-Caps.
Hunter didn't ask what happened because he didn't have to; everyone in the tristate area knew that an Oakhurst student named Aaron Rosenthal had drowned in a freak accident right before our sophomore year. And plenty of people knew he was my boyfriend at the time. He was sweet and smart and I liked him as much as you can like anyone you've known for two months when you're fifteen. Grieving him was slow, in jerky stops and starts, and it had never become easier to feel people's thoughts of him like a projector flickering images across my face.
"You wanna hide in the stockroom?" Hunter had asked. "Scarf some Reese's? I'll cover for you."
"I'm good," I'd assured him. "Although, good guess with Reese's. Peanut butter is at the nexus of all my emotional eating."
"The nexus?" Hunter repeated. "Okay, Hermione Granger."
I tipped my head. "Did you just mock my nerdiness by ... citing Harry Potter?"
After that, Hunter invited me to every place he and Lane were cruising off to after work. But I'd always preferred being poolside at Tessa's, sneaking out to Kayleigh's rooftop with a laptop, watching a movie under the stars. I visualized myself at one of Hunter's parties: pressed into the corner of a sofa, praying for someone to talk to me and also fearing that someone would talk to me.
I walked outside into what felt like a screen door of August humidity — heat so heavy it seemed nearly visible. The feeble AC in my car tried its best, more an exhale than a gust. I was finally thinking of the sedan as my car — formerly my dad's and recently bequeathed to me for my seventeenth birthday. It was ancient, and not a cool car even when it was new. But I loved it — the console stocked with hand sanitizer, wipes for dashboard dust, a few old CDs for the player. Driving home from work was a small pleasure, me and the quiet, tree-lined roads.
When I pulled onto my street, I startled to see my dad's current car in the driveway so late. I used to consider my parents' marriage a tragedy, with bitterness that lingered even after they signed divorce papers. So when they started dating each other last year, I could only see a dark comedy. These days, though, even I could admit it had romantic dramedy potential. They were really happy, but obsessed with "maintaining boundaries," which included my dad staying at his own apartment.
I stepped around a hulking armoire in the garage, then a rolltop desk and a corner hutch, all furniture models posing in wait. After my grandmother died last spring, my mom refurbished her old desk for me, in the kicky red lacquer of a maraschino cherry. Since then, she'd been transforming ?ea market finds and free roadside furniture in her spare time — channeling grief, I suspected. Our garage looked like a re-creation of Beauty and the Beast's penultimate scene, servants frozen in household form.
When I put my hand on the doorknob, I caught a raised voice from inside. My mom — not angry, but stricken. "It's not just the tuition and debt. We wouldn't be able to afford to see our daughter, Dan!"
I settled back on my heels, stunned. I knew my mom wasn't thrilled that Way-Out-of-State was my Plan A, but I genuinely hadn't expected this level of strife.
"We couldn't ?y out there on a whim," my dad reasoned. "But in an emergency ..."
I shook my head, sure that my mom's chin was quivering at the mention of an emergency. Rookie move, Dad.
"She's never even been to LA," my mom said. "I've never been to LA."
I needed to de-escalate, so I stamped my feet, as if just arriving home, noisily.
"Heyyy." I opened the door, and pretended to look surprised that they were both right there at the kitchen table, papers spanning its surface. My dad was pointing at two different pages like a cartographer charting a course.
"Hey," my mom said, straightening. Her eyes flicked to the kitchen clock, not nearly as subtly as she probably intended. The cinema's last showing was a little earlier than usual tonight.
I stood there, tuxedo jacket held at my side. "Everything okay?"
"'Course." My dad's voice was clear. Confident. And he wasn't necessarily lying, in his own mind. My dad viewed most problems as challenges, obstacles on the way to greater good. But I knew the thin-pressed line of my mom's lips.
"Is this college stuff?"
My mom started stacking the nearest papers. "Yep. Boring parent to-do list. Forms due in October."
I examined her through squinted eyes. My mom was not a "yep" person. She said "yes" — maybe a "yeah" here or there if she was feeling tense.
Even if I hadn't overheard them, I'd have smelled the money stress like a trail of smoke. When you grow up with occasional income dips — a lag in freelance work, layoffs at the paper — you sense the tension long before you witness the fire. My parents' work had stabilized, as far as I could tell, in the past few years. My mom primarily wrote for and edited a parenting magazine, and my dad was at the city paper. But most of my life, their bickering had spiked highest around finances.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Map from Here to There"
Copyright © 2020 Emery Lord.
Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
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