"Hilarious, heartfelt, and painfully real, this pitch-perfect, sharp-tongued take on Cyrano is the coming-of-age of my teenage dreams." Dahlia Adler, author of Just Visiting
Aphra Brown is bold and outgoing. Her best friend, Bethany, is achingly beautiful. Individually, they could both do a little better in the self-esteem department, but together? Together, they have what it takes to win over Greg D'Agostino, a proverbial "ten" who happens to be fluent in six languagesseven if you count the language of smoldering gazes. . . .
What begins as an honest mistake turns into an elaborate deception wherein Bethany goes on dates with Greg while Aphra coaches her on what to say and texts him in the guise of Bethany, trying and failing, all the while, to tamp down her own hopeless crush. It's only a matter of time before things come crashing down. The question is: What will happen when Greg finds out? And can Aphra and Bethany's friendship survive the fallout?
From the author of We Regret to Inform You comes a witty, warm-hearted exploration of love in all its forms, and a cri de coeur for self-acceptance when the pressure to be perfect is overwhelming.
About the Author
ARIEL KAPLAN began life as an imperfect baby, matured into an imperfect child, and remains an imperfect adult, though she does occasionally make a perfect chocolate cupcake (the trick, you see, is to leave out the eggs, which interfere with the chocolate flavor). Her first two books, Grendel's Guide to Love and War and We Regret to Inform You received five starred reviews between them, and were included in best-of-the-year lists from Kirkus and Bank Street, among other honors. She lives in Virginia with her family, where she is always working on her next novel.Visit her at aekaplan.comFollow her on Twitter @ae_kaplan
Read an Excerpt
Sometimes, when I’m lying in my bed at night, staring up at the darkened ceiling, I think that the greatest problem in the English-speaking world is that we don’t understand love.
It’s a lack of vocabulary, that’s what I’ve decided. We have one word: love. And we expect it to mean everything, only it’s clunky and imprecise and leads to misunderstandings and anger and frustration and tears.
The ancient Greeks, I think, had a better system: multiple love words, a love word for every possible occasion. If you love your friend, you’ve got philia. If you love your mom, you’ve got storge. If you love the sexy, sexy guy who sits across from you in biology, you have eros. And if you feel some great, cosmic, unconditional love for God or the Universe or your Fellow Man, you have agape.
There are others, actually, but those are the mains. So while in English we may have beautiful sentiments like “Love is love,” clearly eros is not storge, unless you are Oedipus, and then you have a problem. Anyway, the specificity of the Greek system has always appealed to me.
I guess philia is probably my favorite. I don’t exactly understand agape, and eros is not something I ever expect to experience myself. But philia is love for the masses. Everyone has a friend. At least, I hope they do.
My greatest source of philia is Bethany Newman, who has been my best friend since we were eight. I have other friends, of course, but Bethany is special because she looks at me and sees me exactly as I am. I really philia her for that.
I was philia-ing her a little less this morning, though, when I woke up to find her sitting on my kneecaps. She was smiling at me with a smile that was too wide to look at first thing upon waking. It was more like a midafternoon smile. An “I’ve already had two cups of coffee” smile.
“Ow,” I said.
“The pool opens today,” she replied. She bounced a little. “Did you forget?”
I kind of had, being asleep and all. Our town had splurged and installed a heating system in one of our outdoor pools, which meant it opened on the first of May instead of over Memorial Day like the rest of the pools in the area. I remembered that we’d talked about going last night, but I didn’t remember agreeing to wake up at the crack of dawn for it.
“My knees don’t bend that way,” I said, shoving her off. “Why are you waking me up to tell me about the pool?”
“We were supposed to go shopping!” she said. “Half an hour ago! It’s 11:30.”
“It is not,” I said, but it did seem kind of bright out. I’d set my alarm for ten. Hadn’t I? I was pretty sure I had. I felt around on the bedside table for my glasses and then for my phone.
“Where’s my phone?”
“I have no idea. Come on, Aphra, get up.”
I sat up slowly. It wasn’t regular shopping Bethany wanted to do; it was bathing suit shopping, which is the worst kind of shopping. Bright lights. Spandex. Those hygienic liners that don’t make me feel any better about trying on a suit fifty other people have already tried on, even with underwear.
I had agreed to go, though, because Bethany came to me last week with a Plan, and Bethany so seldom has Plans that I felt like I had to go along with it.
The Plan was agreed upon the night of junior prom. Bethany and I went together with a bunch of other girls, and while we were there, we saw Greg D’Agostino with a bunch of his friends from the swim team. He was in a tux, and he looked, possibly, even hotter than usual.
Bethany really wanted to ask him to dance and spent nearly the whole night trying to work up the nerve. Around 10:30, she decided to walk by him during a slow song and hope he’d take the hint.
Except by then, he’d already left.
So now we had a plan to throw Bethany’s bikini-clad body in front of Greg D’Agostino until he magically notices her, falls in love (technically, in eros, but Bethany doesn’t appreciate the Greek system like I do), and then . . . I’m not really sure what happens after that. I guess maybe he’ll ask her out? And then they’ll go out. And then Bethany will, with any luck, be able to speak more than four words to him.
This seems a little unlikely to me, but I haven’t said anything because I’m sure Bethany already knows that.
I pried myself out of bed, jammed my contacts into my eyes—I swear, this is not vanity, glasses just annoy me—put on some clothes, and went off in search of my phone, which was in the hands of my little brother, who was using it to play Minecraft. Walnut the cat was curled up on his lap while Kit used him as a furry lap desk.
“Why are you on my phone?” I asked, pointing at the laptop he’d abandoned on the coffee table.
Without looking up, he said, “I hit my time limit.”
There are parental controls on the family computer that cut Kit off after an hour so he doesn’t rot his little brain. “So do something else,” I said. “How did you get my phone?”
“It was by your bed.”
“You can’t just steal it while I’m sleeping!” “You weren’t using it.”
“Did my alarm go off?”
“Oh.” He looked up. “I didn’t know what that was. I turned it off.” He switched off his game and handed the phone to me, looking contrite, because Bethany and I row on the crew team and he knows that we usually have regattas on Saturday mornings. “Sorry. Did I make you late for your boat race?”
“I’m not mad,” I said, patting his head. Kit is only nine, and I think he has the softest hair in the whole world, like the down on a baby duck. Someday he probably won’t want me to pat his head anymore, so I’m getting my Kit-hair fix now, while I still can. Plus, he’s the only sibling I have that I’m on speaking terms with, and I’m not willing to let a hijacked cell phone get in the way of that. “We didn’t race today,” I said. “Where’s Mom and Dad?”
“Dad’s at the store. Mom’s asleep.”
Both of my parents are professors at George Mason: Mom teaches English, Dad teaches medieval history, and Mom has an evening class on Fridays and likes to sleep in on Saturday mornings. This was a little late, though, even for her.
“You should wake her up,” I said. “I’m leaving with Bethany.” “Can I go with you?”
“You’ll be super bored,” I said. “We’re going shopping.” “For candy?” he asked hopefully.
“Could we do candy?” I asked Bethany. “That actually does sound better.”
“No candy,” Bethany said. “Suits.” She leaned down and we gave him the Kit Kiss, which we’ve been doing since he was a baby, where I kiss one cheek and Bethany kisses the other. Probably someday he won’t let us do that anymore, either. “We’re going to the pool later, if you want to come.”
“Can I play on your phone there?” “No,” I said. “But you can swim.” He made a face.
“I’ll buy you a Fudgsicle,” I said. He made another face.
“I’ll let you eat half my cookie-wich, too,” I offered.
“If you let me eat the whole thing, I promise not to steal your phone again.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I don’t negotiate with terrorists.” “You’re mean.”
I ruffled his hair again, saying, “The meanest.”