A 2017 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, this witty and entertaining contemporary debut deftly combines high school drama with pitch-perfect flirty banter.
Taylor Simmons is screwed. Things were hard enough when her dedication to her studies earned her the title of Ice Queen, but after she got drunk at a party and woke up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip. Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they're in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it's better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard.
Readers will be ready to sign their own love contract after reading The Way to Game the Walk of Shame, a fun and addicting contemporary YA romance by Jenn P. Nguyen and chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads.
Praise for The Way to Game the Walk of Shame:
"The Way to Game the Walk of Shame is the cutest heart-swelling romance to hit the shelves in ages." Pooled Ink
"A feel good romance with tons of laughs and flirty banter." Young Adult Book Madness
“I love that it's so funny, yet at the same time the characters have a lot of depth and emotional growth.” Ashley Maker, reader on SwoonReads.com
About the Author
Jenn P. Nguyen fell in love with books in third grade and spent the rest of her school years reading through lunchtime and giving up recess to organize the school library. She has a degree in business administration from the University of New Orleans and still lives in the city with her husband. Jenn spends her days reading, dreaming up YA romances, and binge watching Korean dramas all in the name of 'research'. The Way to Game the Walk of Shame is her debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
The Way to Game the Walk of Shame
By Jenn P. Nguyen
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2016 Jenn P. Nguyen
All rights reserved.
Before I even opened my eyes, I knew something was wrong. I wasn't in my bed like I should be, surrounded by the cream duvet comforter that Mom and I had gotten from Macy's last month. The fabric under my fingertips was cool and kind of scratchy.
Evidence number two: It smelled different. Not in a bad way. Just not like the apple-cinnamon air freshener that Mom loved and sprayed all over the house, despite the fact that Dad and I hated cinnamon. I usually countered it by walking around the house with vanilla candles. As a result, our house smelled sweeter than the largest bakery in town. Ironic, because none of us could actually bake.
I sucked in another deep breath to be sure. Nope, there were no apples, cinnamon, or vanilla of any kind here. Instead, it smelled like cotton with a faint touch of pine and grass.
But the most damning evidence of all was the muscular, bare back of a half-naked — at least I hoped it was just half, since I couldn't see beneath the navy blanket wrapped around his hips — guy lying beside me. Who definitely should not be in my bed.
"Oh god. Oh. My. God." My voice came out in a hoarse squeak. I squeezed my eyes shut before opening them again. Once. Twice. Over and over until fuzzy stars appeared on the pale-blue ceiling — a ceiling that was also not mine — but he wouldn't disappear.
And the stars didn't help my throbbing head. Why hadn't anyone warned me that drinking would make me feel like crap the next day?
With shaky hands, I peered beneath the covers, and — whoosh — a sigh of relief escaped. Thank god I was fully clothed. If you could call the lacy black tank and capris that Carly had stuffed me into the night before fully clothed. But besides that, everything else looked normal. Except for the strange room and the half-naked guy I was in bed with.
I was in a crapload of trouble. Why had I let Carly drag me to that party last night? (Note to self: Nothing good ever comes from listening to that girl.) But she'd caught me in a weak moment. Granted, I had a bunch of weak moments after I got my wait-list letter from Columbia.
But seriously, me, Taylor Simmons. Wait-listed! I still couldn't believe it. Didn't they know who I was? Did they even look at my application, for god's sake? It was impeccable, and I turned it in extra early. I even had to add an extra page for my list of accomplishments. I should have been a shoo-in.
But the months passed, and no acceptance letter. And they didn't respond to my e-mails and phone calls to check if the computers were down. Or if the acceptance committee was all sick and hospital-bound. Nothing. Until finally, a measly wait-list letter last month.
Anyway, that wasn't the point. Not really. The point was that I'd been dragged to the party ... and then I'd left. Obviously. But where was I now? And how did I get here? Where was Carly, and why hadn't she stopped me or —
"Hmph." The guy flopped over onto his stomach, away from me.
Heart racing, I could barely move. My chest tightened, but I didn't breathe, didn't blink, until the soft snoring from his side of the bed resumed. And even then, I could only let out short half breaths.
That was close. Too close. I needed to get out of here. Now.
I cautiously eased off the mattress, inch by inch, wincing as the slight movement made my head pound harder. My toes touched the soft carpet, and I pushed myself upright, freezing for a full minute every time the bed creaked. Only a bit farther.
After what felt like hours — although it was probably only a few minutes — I slipped off the edge of the bed and took a step toward the door. Big mistake. The floor's creak was like a shotgun blasting across the room. The guy stirred, and I dove toward the ground, landing on the maroon carpet with a soft thump. My head smacked against my forearm. Ouch.
What the ...? A name was written on my left forearm in my curly handwriting. My name. Taylor Simmons. How hammered had I been to scribble my own name on my arm? Seriously, what the hell happened last night?
There was no time to think about it now. Still on my hands and knees, I stumbled around the dark room for my silver sandals. The only noise was the soft snoring from the lump on the bed.
Still ... who was my partner in crime? Could it be someone I knew, or was it — holy crap — a random guy I met at the party? Was I a harlot like in those Regency romance novels I hid in the back of my nightstand?
Or was courtesan the right word? It sounded classier, at least.
"Oh god." I shook my head and resisted the urge to smack my palm against my forehead. Now wasn't the time to get technical.
A sliver of sunlight shone through the top of the window shades, casting a shadow over his face, which was still partially buried in the pillows. I peered over the edge of the mattress but couldn't see more than his muscular, deeply tanned back. I thought his hair was dark, but I couldn't be sure. Even though I knew I should get the hell out of here, a part of me — probably the part that was still drunk — hesitated. I had to know who he was. But each time I tried to get closer, the damn floor kept creaking.
Jeez, what kind of house was this?
Against my better judgment, I snooped around the room, careful to crawl on my elbows and stomach like a soldier on enemy territory. Tennis shoes, video games, textbooks with crisp pages that hadn't been used very often, an admirable collection of old-school comic books ... Bingo! I hit the jackpot when I tossed a dirty magazine out of the way and found a stack of pictures. I shoved my tangled, dark hair out of my face and moved a little closer to the light.
Cars and girls. Loads of them. Girls, I mean. And there was a lot of skin in most of them. My cheeks flushed hotly at a picture of a girl and the minuscule bikini that could barely restrain her large boobs, which she thrust toward the camera with a coy grin. I couldn't even tell if she was a redhead or a brunette. Just teeth, lips, and boobs. Flip. A blond with boobs. Another blond with boobs. A picture of someone's legs on the beach.
"Come on. Show your face," I muttered with a quick upward glance to make sure my unknown partner was still sleeping. He was.
Finally, I found a picture with a guy in it. He was standing in profile, but his face was turned toward the camera, dipped down toward — what else? — more boobs. His nose was pretty straight, aside from the teeniest bump at the bridge. Slightly spiky dark blond hair. Laughing dark-gray eyes that glanced to the side. His jaw was sort of large, which could be from an underbite, but it suited him. Especially when he smiled. So very hot.
My head jerked to the smooth, lounging back. Then I focused on the tiny glimpse of black Chinese characters trailing down his left forearm. I'd seen that tattoo close-up once before. Everyone claimed it meant "Just live." But for all I knew, it actually meant "Gum lover."
A low groan escaped my lips. No, no, no. Not him. Anybody but Evan McKinley, Nathan Wilks High School's very own legendary manwhore. Said to have screwed so many girls that he had to get a new surfboard, because his old one was full of nicks in memory of each new conquest.
Killing any remaining traces of hope that I was wrong, he stretched out his left arm, and I could see his name written on his skin. Evan McKinley. In my handwriting.
WHERE WERE THOSE DAMN SANDALS?
I crawled around so fast, I was pretty sure I'd have permanent carpet burn on my elbows. I didn't care. If anyone caught me within a yard of Evan, the rumor mill would explode. It had been hard enough to squash the gossip that spread last year when I'd nearly drowned in the Harrison Parks community pool and he'd saved me. Since then, I'd steered clear of anything that had to do with him.
Which would really suck if anyone knew I'd spent the night in his bed.
Shoes, shoes ... maybe I didn't need them. Dad had bought them for me when I became editor of the school yearbook. He probably wouldn't even notice that they were missing, but Mom definitely would. She'd been the one who persuaded him to get them for me despite their ridiculous price — you would have thought the crystals were real diamonds — instead of the modest black pumps I needed for my internship at his law firm next year. "You need something pretty! Something fun!" she kept saying over and over. Weird how I was more like Dad, even though I wasn't his biological daughter. The only thing I'd gotten from Mom was her brown eyes.
And she would give me hell if I didn't have my shoes. Besides, I didn't know how far from home I was. And I already wasn't looking forward to the walk of shame I had ahead of me. I wiggled even more beneath the bed, arms spread out in search.
A sleepy male voice laced with amusement suddenly drifted over my head. "They're under my desk."
"What?" I scrambled out and shot upright, smacking the back of my head against Evan's jaw. He must have been leaning over the bed, watching me. A loud crack echoed through the room before we both sprang apart, each groaning loudly. Gah, his jaw was as hard as a hammer, and I was the screw he'd nailed. Not exactly the best metaphor, but he'd knocked whatever literary sense I had out of me.
When the pain finally lessened, I glanced up. Evan was turned to the side, slightly bent over, both hands massaging his cheeks and jaw as though checking if anything was broken. With a mind of their own, my eyes slid down his body. I'd seen him at the pool and gym before, but I'd never actually looked at him. At least, not this closely.
Light freckles were sprinkled where his very tan shoulders and back came together. Thank god he was wearing a pair of wrinkled khaki shorts — although they rode pretty low on his hips. On one side, a pale line peeked out beneath his tan. A spot that was probably never in the sun and no one ever saw. At least no one he wasn't sleeping with.
"Uh ..." My head nearly burst from the instant heat that sprang to my cheeks. I tore my eyes away and focused on a tropical postcard hanging on the edge of his mirror, squashing the unwanted yet not unreasonable disappointment that he was wearing clothes. This was not the time to be ogling Evan McKinley.
"So, I guess I should say good morning." He stretched his arms over his head and grinned down at me, enjoying my discomfort. I saw his lean biceps ripple distractingly out of the corner of my eyes. "Isn't that what people are supposed to say first thing in the morning?"
Look away, Taylor. Look away. I shaded my eyes against the tantalizing view and focused on the lines on my palm. "I don't know. Shouldn't you know the morning-after protocol better than me?" Damn, I shouldn't have said that.
To my surprise, he threw his head back and laughed. "Yeah, I guess there's no denying that truth."
I clamped my jaw shut before anything else inappropriate slipped out, and my eyes longingly glanced toward the door. I should have slid out when I had the chance.
Did we have to go through the polite pleasantries? Couldn't we just forget about each other as though last night (and this morning) hadn't happened? Like we didn't know each other?
Oh god. He probably didn't know me. Just because I knew who he was didn't mean he knew who I was. Aside from my choking out "Thank you" after he'd saved me at the pool, we'd never spoken to each other before (or since). Not to mention, I had looked like a drowned rat that day, so I kind of hoped he didn't remember. Besides, he must have saved hundreds of girls in the past year. I'd even seen a girl pretend to drown in front of him just to get some lip action.
Nah, Evan couldn't possibly remember. I was just an average one-night — wait, we hadn't slept together, so scratch that. I was a random, strange girl in his room. And it was going to stay that way.
I climbed to my feet, intending to make a quick escape, when a wave of nausea caught me by surprise. My mouth filled with a bitter taste. Urgh. I pressed a hand against my lips as my vision blurred.
Evan reached forward as though he was going to catch me. Either me or my vomit. I automatically backed up a few steps until my back was pressed against his desk chair.
"The bathroom's over there," he said with a jab over his right shoulder. "I guess you're a bit of a lightweight, huh?"
Pride made me swallow back the bile that struggled to climb out of my throat. "No, I'm all right," I choked out.
"Are you sure? I mean, you really shouldn't be keeping it in. Especially if you're going to eat breakfast. You know, eggs, cereal, or bacon. Or sausages, if you prefer that. Me, I like the crunchiness of bacon. Especially when paired with some warm pancakes, gooey butter, and syrup that drips all over the place and runs down —"
The images he painted made me want to give up the fight and hurl on the carpet right there. "No, just — stop. I can't —" I stopped trying to breathe since the air was making everything worse, and I clenched my lips tightly together instead. I squeezed my eyes closed. I will not throw up. I forbid myself to throw up.
My eyes popped open again when Evan pried my fingers away from my face. I was too surprised by his touch to react. His laughing gray eyes twinkled down at me. He placed an unopened water bottle in my hand and wrapped my fingers around it. "Here, drink this. You'll feel better."
"Trust me. I know how to handle hangovers better than you." His hands moved up to my shoulders, and he pushed me down on the plush leather chair. "Seriously, just drink it. It's not poison. I promise."
I eyed the water. "And I'm just supposed to take your word for it?"
"No, you'll take my word for it because you don't have a choice," he said with a snort. "Besides, if you throw up in here, I'll have to clean it up, and you can bet your ass I'm not doing that."
Hmm. He had a point. I took the bottle and forced myself to drink. It threatened to come back up, but I didn't stop until it was empty. My full stomach bounced uncomfortably, but I didn't feel like I was going to die anymore.
As Evan watched me, his brows furrowed together until they were practically one dark-blond line. Suddenly, he reached out and touched my forehead.
I jerked my head back and batted his hand away, despite the fact that it was nice and warm against my clammy skin. My fingertips massaged my forehead, and I willed the whole situation to go away. More than anything, I wished this was just a bad nightmare and that I was actually all snug in bed. "Shit, I'm in so much trouble. I'm supposed to meet Brian about the alumni speech. But not before I KILL Carly and — why are you grinning?"
"Nothing, it's just ..." His smile grew so wide that his eyes became slits. "You don't look like the type of girl who curses much. It's sort of weird."
I stared at him. My life was turned upside down, and that was the most important thing on his mind right now? "Well, I do when the situation calls for it. And believe me, this calls for it. Shit. Shit. Shit." I actually wasn't used to cursing, but this was a special occasion. And I was offended by his comment. Like I was some type of Goody Two-Shoes. I would have thought waking up in his bed should have eliminated that possibility.
And why did I even care what he thought of me?
Evan let out a low whistle. "Okay, I get it, Taylor. You're a badass. Don't make me have to censor you."
"Whatever. I'm sure you've said much worse —" Wait a second, did he just ... "You called me Taylor."
"Um, yeah. That is your name."
"But how do you know my name?"
"Because it's written on your arm?" He pointed at my left arm just as I tried to cover it up. "Besides, we do go to school together."
My jaw dropped. Crap, he knew ME.
I leapt to my feet. The nausea and headache suddenly vanished. It was as if the fear and anxiety had absorbed all the alcohol. Best cure for a hangover? Imagine your reputation tarnished in an instant. Better than tomato juice, or whatever people drank to sober up.
"Listen, Evan. You have to promise me that you won't tell anyone about this. Ever." I said the last word as firmly as I could, channeling my dad in the courtroom when he intimidated a witness. "No one can ever know that I spent the night here. Especially with you."
His forehead wrinkled. "And what's so bad about me? You know, it may be hard to believe, but girls are usually pretty happy when they wake up in my room. Perky, too."
"Uh, hello?" I grabbed the picture of Boobs Girl off the ground and shoved it in his face.
Evan stared blankly down at the photo and scratched his head, making his hair even more disheveled. My stomach flopped.
Excerpted from The Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen. Copyright © 2016 Jenn P. Nguyen. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Taylor,
Chapter 2: Taylor,
Chapter 3: Evan,
Chapter 4: Taylor,
Chapter 5: Evan,
Chapter 6: Evan,
Chapter 7: Taylor,
Chapter 8: Taylor,
Chapter 9: Evan,
Chapter 10: Taylor,
Chapter 11: Taylor,
Chapter 12: Evan,
Chapter 13: Evan,
Chapter 14: Taylor,
Chapter 15: Evan,
Chapter 16: Taylor,
Chapter 17: Taylor,
Chapter 18: Evan,
Chapter 19: Taylor,
Chapter 20: Evan,
Chapter 21: Taylor,
Chapter 22: Evan,
Chapter 23: Taylor,
Chapter 24: Evan,
Chapter 25: Evan,
Chapter 26: Taylor,
Chapter 27: Evan,
Chapter 28: Taylor,
Chapter 29: Taylor,
Chapter 30: Evan,
About the Author,