Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues

Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues

by H.S Valley
Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues

Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues

by H.S Valley


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"The racially diverse cast and the worldbuilding surrounding the magic system... provide a unique backdrop for Kiwi author Valley’s witty and buoyant debut." — Publishers Weekly starred review

What happens when your enemy becomes your friend … with benefits? 

Red, White and Royal Blue meets The Magicians in this surprising, wildly original and joyously funny LGBTQ YA novel set in a magical boarding school. 

Tim Te Maro and Elliott Parker – classmates at Fox Glacier High School for the Magically Adept – have never gotten along. But when they both get dumped the day before the big egg-baby assignment, they reluctantly decide to ditch their exes and work together. When the two boys start to bond over their magically enchanted egg-baby, they realize that beneath their animosity is something like friendship … or physical attraction.

Soon, a no-strings-attached hook-up seems like a good idea. Just for the duration of the assignment. After all, they don’t have feelings for each other … so what could possibly go wrong? 

From debut Kiwi author H.S. Valley, the latest winner of the Ampersand Prize, comes this gleefully addictive romantic comedy that’s perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan. In a word – it’s magic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781760508753
Publisher: Hardie Grant Children's Publishing
Publication date: 02/14/2023
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 366,220
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

H.S. Valley grew up on the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland, at the foot of Takarunga. She now lives near the Waitakere Ranges with her partner. She has a bachelor's degree in design. She won the Ampersand Prize for her debut YA novel, Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues.

Read an Excerpt

You’d think a place like Fox Glacier High School for the
Magically Adept – which has taught magic for decades –
might’ve found a way toheatits super-secret underground
compound, or at least the sick bay. Especially since it’s
under a river of ice. The ceilings are low, the walls are thick,
and there’s an air-circulation system anyway– it could
surely have been awarmair-circulation system. If not with
magic, then with a solar-powered something; the glacier is
pretty reflective. And cold. The sick bayshouldn’tbe cold.
It’s unhealthy.
This wet mess the nurse has put on my head isn’t helping.
And it smells. She’s gone off somewhere, maybe to make
a note in her ledger aboutwhat’s happened this time,
Mr Te Maro? I bet she has a tally. To be fair, us Defensives
are probably winning for the highest number of avoidable
injuries. At least they’re usually only to ourselves, and not
to others – unlike the Minders.
Theirs isn’t a bad Specialty – the things they study do a
lot towards mental health care and law and stuff – it just
seems to have attracted shitty people in my year. And one
group in particular has been making the whole lot look bad
lately. Last time I was in here it was because one of them
had decided it would be hilarious to make me hallucinate
that my custard was full of spiders. I’d ended up with a
broken dessert bowl, a five-centimetre cut on my shin and
no more custard. Come to think of it, the time before was
their fault as well, and I have a scar from that, too.
I’m still thinking about it when their poster boy, Elliott
Parker, walks in; I’m pretty sure he was the one who found
out I don’t like spiders. I feel my shoulders bunch up – he
doesn’t look injured enough to be here legitimately. He’s
still in full uniform, even though it’s after eight. He probably
likes the way the blue stripe brings out his eyes or something.
Or maybe the contrast of dark, scholarly grey and his floofy
blond hair sparks joy. Who the hell knows with him.
He stares at me for a second as I lie on the only occupied
bed, and I wonder if the nurse’s proximity is enough to
keep him from being a dickhead. Though, Iwouldlike
to practise some of my new Advanced Defence magic on
him. Disembowelling, perhaps. Maybe that’s technically
AdvancedOffensivemagic. Maybe I don’t care.
‘Te Maro,’ he says.
‘Dickhead,’ I reply.
He’s looking at me like my being here is suspicious,
which is ridiculous since I’m obviously actually injured and
he’s just swanning around like he normally does. Plus, the
other Tim got expelled last year so he could probably afford
to use my first name now. Maybe he’s still sulking over it.
They were friends, or whatever passes for it when you’re
low-key evil.
‘I see whoever didthatdidn’t manage to knock some
manners into you,’ he says, eyes flicking up to my hairline.
‘Would you preferSirDickhead?’
The nurse comes out to find out what the noise is about.
‘What brings you here, Mr Parker?’
He shoots me another look, wary this time. ‘Things I’d
rather remained private,’ he says, and blushes, his pale skin
giving him away. Mine never betrays me like that. Thanks
for the melanin, Dad. Shame you buggered off somewhere
and left me and Mum alone.
The nurse sighs and beckons Elliott into her office. I close
my eyes and try out a hearing-enhancement spell, even
though I don’t have a mea to help me focus my magic. I stop
breathing so I can hear better, but it doesn’t seem to work;
they’re too quiet. I bet he’s got an STI.
I compile a list of horrific things he might be infected
with while I wait for whatever the nurse has put on my head
to do its thing. It was a tiny cut, but apparently ‘the real
danger with exploding snow globes is the unsanitary water
inside them’ and she’s worried about infection. Nobody sees
the irony in my girlfriend (ex-girlfriend, now) owning a
snowglobe when we live under a glacier. Or that it’sthat
particular piece of crap which landed me here and not the
river of actual ice a couple of metres above our heads. Or
that it’s her fault I’m here; she’s a Healer and they’re meant
to be the good guys.
Elliott slinks out of the office a few minutes later, looking
shifty. Maybe I was right. Maybe the imagined ‘Parker’s
Pustules’ are real and his crotch truly is encrusted with
weeping purple sores. The nurse wanders off to rummage in
a cabinet. Elliott comes closer and with the way he’s looking
at me, I wonder if the carving around my neck will be
enough to protect me. Perhaps a full-body condom would
be more appropriate, considering what might be wrong
with him.
‘So,’ he says, and sits on the bed next to mine like we
don’t dislike each other all of a sudden.
‘What do you want?’ I reply, making sure to keep the
hostility out of my voice lest he think I’m trying to start
something when I’m actually just trying to stay still enough
that the goop on my head doesn’t slide into my eyes. It’s
been hard enough lying here with my hair in a bun, the hair
tie’s digging into my head and it hurts.
‘I want to know if you’re going to do anything about the
situation we’re in.’
I fight the urge to turn and get a better look at his expres-
sion. My eyes hurt from glaring sideways. ‘What situation?’
He sighs. ‘The one where my ex-friend has run off with
your ex-girlfriend.’
I was under the impression she’d run off alone after I
exploded a snow globe all over her homework, but hell,
when is life ever simple or painless or not a complete and
utter mess? ‘Since when?’
‘By the looks of your manuka poultice, about half an
hour ago,’ he says – accurately, which is a bit suspect.
‘I must say, I didn’t expect she’d have clobbered you.’
‘She didn’t.’ I want to scowl at him, but I have to keep
my eyebrows still. ‘How do you know all this?’
‘Blake – roommate, ex-friend – very kindly informed me
that our own arrangement was at its natural end and he
was taking up with your girlfriend.’ He sighs again and, in
the blur of my periphery, I see his gaze drop to his hands,
clenched in his lap. ‘Apparently they’re in love.’
‘They’re inlove?’
Thinking back, less than an hour ago, Lizziewastrying
to explain something when I really wanted her to stop
talking altogether – everything she said felt like another
brick on my chest, and I lost control of my magic for a
second. Picture frames rattled on the wall, a magazine
shivered and slid off her bed and then one lone snow
globe shattered outwards, glass flying and its tiny penguin
inhabitant suddenly exposed for the first time in its life. It’s
been years since I lost my shit like that – I would’ve been a
kid the last time, maybe twelve, my magic just starting to
manifest. Now I guess the unbridled joy of Dad walking
out and my girlfriend leaving me is enough to render
me a hazard.
Tim,’Lizzie had said, her voice so concerned, so
careful ... I saw a thousand patronising words in her eyes.
Look at you, losing control. What’s wrong with you? Get
yourself together, Tim. Cheer up. Get a haircut.
What if
what she really wanted to say was,And by the way, I’m in
love with Blake Hutton.

I don’t have enough faith in her right now to not believe
Elliott, and my eyes start to prickle so I focus on him
instead. It’s better than crying. ‘What arrangement?’ I ask,
even though I think I know what him and Blake might’ve
been up to. Maybe marvelling at the fact we might have
certain interests in common will distract me from my misery
for a second. Then again, maybe I’m projecting.
‘Have a little imagination, Te Maro, won’t you?’ he says
with a tilt of his head and a smirk that’s interrupted by the
nurse. Right, not imagining that, then.
‘You’re lucky I found this, we were almost cleared out
last month,’ the nurse says, appearing at the foot of the bed
with a tiny glass jar in her hand. ‘After – well. You know.’
‘Sadly, yes, I do know,’ Elliott says with a pained look and
I have a sneaking suspicion that my imaginings regarding his
crotch problems might not be completely unfounded.
‘How are you, there, Mr Te Maro? All absorbed?’ she
asks. I don’t know how she expects me to know – I can’t
see it.
‘I think he needs another minute, Ma’am. I’ll stay with
him,’ Elliott says, and I twitch with the urge to gape openly
at him. We’ve never been friendly, to put it mildly. To be
less mild, I hate him and I’m a hundred per cent sure the
feeling’s mutual, so I don’t know why he’s offering to keep
an eye on me.
But the nurse just says, ‘Very well, give me a shout,’ and
disappears again into her office. Maybe she’s adding to the
Minder ledger this time:another case of purple sex-boils,
order more ointment.I’m mildly horrified she’s leaving me
alone with him.
‘So, Te Maro. My ex, your ex, both terrible people –
what say we mess with them a bit?’
There it is. I could’ve guessed this would be a mostly
selfish endeavour. Dick.
I wave my hand at the little jar in his hand and take a
punt. ‘Perhaps a bit lessmessing aroundwith them would’ve
done you some good?’
‘Or in your case, perhaps a bit more?’ He cocks his head
to the side and I want to belt him, sod the bloody goop on
my head. Let it fall in my eyes, I can fight blind.
‘I hate you,’ is all I say though, focusing on the low,
grey concrete ceiling and the dusty metallic criss-cross
of ducting.
‘That’s irrelevant and not remotely surprising,’ he huffs.
‘The question is, will you stand for your little girlfriend
running off with a big, bad, nasty Minder?’
‘That’s stereotyping,’ I say, even though I usually call
them something far worse. Usually when they’re trying to
practise on us without permission.
‘Just because it’s a stereotype, doesn’t mean it’s not true,’
he says, pointedly adjusting the expensive-looking silver
ring on his middle finger. ‘He really is quite big.’
My mind goes places with that statement, and it takes
me a second to realise Elliott might be causing it, trying
to push my thoughts towards jealousy. I don’t know who
decided it was a good idea to teach a bunch of teenagers
how to manipulate people’s brains. I wish they hadn’t. Even
though I kind of want to be able to do it too. Becoming
a Minder was, admittedly, my second choice, since it’s the
second most versatile Specialty, but I’d rather have quit
school altogether than commit to hanging out with any of
that lot on purpose. Elliott’s not even the worst of them. At
least there are three less Minders now after last year’s fiasco
and the Principal’s zero-tolerance attitude towards people
actively setting the school on fire. I like to think she doesn’t
like Minders either, anymore.
‘I don’t care,’ I say, forcing my mind clear. ‘You said you
wanted to know if I was going to do anything about it – I’m
not. What else do you want?’
‘Well, you know ... proper central heating, not living
underground for most of the year, a flat white that doesn’t
make me cry a little inside, an entire tray of apple crumble,
maybe my parents sending me a postcard once in a while ...’
His voice trails off like maybe he didn’t mean to say that,
and I wonder if he has anyone else to talk to. Only him and
Manaia are left from his little group of Aucklanders after
last year, and I doubt the other Minders are any good to
confide in. I wouldn’t tell them shit. ‘Anyway. I’ll settle for
petty revenge.’
‘I’m not dating you to piss off Blake, if that’s what you’re
getting at.’
‘Interesting that’s where your brain went.’
‘Pretend that wasn’t your aim.’
‘My aim is to annoy him, not confuse him.’
‘So what do you need me for?’
He huffs out a breath. ‘I want you to help me come up
with something so theybothsuffer, since if it wasn’t for
Elizabeth I’d still have a perfectly goodfriendwith perfectly
goodbenefits, and absolutely no need to talk to you.’
‘Sucks to be you. Sadly, I don’t feel super motivated to
help you with anything, since I don’t actually like you.’
‘What do you want, then?’ He tosses his hands up in the
air. ‘Do you want me to pay you?’
‘I don’t need your money, Elliott.’
‘OK, one, from the state of that hoodie, I think you
probably do. But, two, if you’re this stubborn, then surely
you at least want to get your own back on that heartless
praying mantis of a woman who just left you for someone
else? Apparently without even telling you that was the
case.’ He stands to leave. ‘I’ll think of something and let
you know.’
‘I wish you wouldn’t.’
‘And yet, I will. Spend a night alone with your thoughts
and see how you feel.’ He comes to stand over me. It’s
unnerving; I still don’t trust him.
‘He looks about ready, Nurse Hiatt,’ he calls out, then,
Twat. Unimaginable, unspeakable twat. Who the hell
says ‘ta-ta’? Is he an eighty-year-old woman? Why would
I ever help him? What could he ever do for me? And why,
after four and a half years, can he not just leave me alone?

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