Whatever.: or how junior year became totally f$@cked

Whatever.: or how junior year became totally f$@cked

by S. J. Goslee


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250115140
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 08/01/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 317,248
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

S. J. Goslee graduated from West Chester University with a BA in Literature and a minor in Creative Writing. She's been writing fan fiction in multiple fandoms for over a decade, amounting to more than 140 stories and a million words. Whatever. is her debut novel. She lives in Glenolden, Pennsylvania, with her husband, two young sons, three cats, and two dogs (one giant, one tiny).

Read an Excerpt


A Novel

By S. J. Goslee

Roaring Brook Press

Copyright © 2016 S. J. Goslee
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62672-400-6


Mike Tate is currently more than a little obliterated. Something to do with the cheap beer and excellent pot. He's lounging poolside in between his girlfriend, Lisa, and his buddy, Jason, with the fire pit at his back. The August air is hazy and thick with heat, and Mike blinks blearily up at the tiki torches framing the sliding glass doors.

Cam Scott's house is bigger than it looks from the front. It's a split level, with a sprawling den and a finished basement that opens up onto a yard that's a good three-fourths of an acre, butting up against miles of Morrison Township woods. Add that to the fact that Cam's dad doesn't care how rowdy they get, so long as the police don't get involved, and it's the perfect place to party.

It's the last party of the summer — arguably the best party of the summer. Cam has spared no expense; there are twinkle lights and monster packs of Twizzlers, and Cam's older brother, Zack, is still grilling up burgers, even though it's going on three in the morning.

There's music blaring out of the sound system hooked up underneath the deck. It's power pop, but Mike's in the mood to take it. His junior year looms on the horizon, just a few days away, and he's betting on it being pretty fucking sweet.

There are three things about his life that Mike wouldn't change — ever, for anything.

One: his little sister, Rosie. She drives him up a wall sometimes, but she's a trip, and she's started dressing like him, working holes into her jeans and scribbling black magic marker all over her tees. Mike totally approves.

Two: his crappy garage band. He loves those dudes. They're kind of the best, especially Cam. He's a dick, but he's as close to a brother as Mike's going to get.

Three: uh, three — something to do with Lisa. Lisa is the coolest.

He says all this to Lisa, flashing her a grin. "Everything else can just bite me."


August ends abruptly, like someone sucker punched it in the face and it went down sobbing like a little girl, segueing into a soggy, muggy September. Mike manages to survive his first week of eleventh grade at South Morrison High — barely, and mostly because of the awesomeness of Zack Scott and his homegrown weed. Zack's got a walk-in closet in his attic bedroom that acts as a makeshift greenhouse, also home to his three-foot iguana, Alfie.

After school lets out on Friday, Mike's mom heads off with Rosie — dinner and a trip to Build-a-Bear as a reward for not making any of the other kids cry during her first week of first grade — and he takes full advantage of the empty house with Meckles and Cam and a baggie of Zack's finest.

Mike likes to think he's popular. He's in a sort-of-band with three other popular dudes and Jason, who is barely cool by association, but they let him hang because he's the only one who knows how to even turn on the Casio. With all those switches and buttons, Mike always ends up getting it stuck on Extreme Gothic Organ or something.

Popularity's subjective, of course, but Mike maintains that he's pretty fucking awesome. "I am so fucking awesome," Mike says, lying upside down on his bed, head hanging off the edge. His arms are dangling, hands brushing the carpet. It feels rough — a slight, hot burn when he drags his knuckles along the pile. "Unlike you losers."

Cam's wearing a truly spectacular Hawaiian shirt with a purple-pink sunset and silhouettes of palm trees — it's one of the better ones in his collection, and admittedly works well with his shaggy haircut, which Cam calls his "sweet locks." He shoves Mike's shoulder with his foot. "Fuck you."

Mike says, "You wish," halfheartedly smacking at Cam's toes. Mike and Cam have been stuck with each other since kindergarten. In certain circles they're labeled as best friends, and they're even occasionally mistaken for actual brothers — both of them are on the brownish side of blond and on the short side of tall, but Cam is stocky and broad-shouldered, thicker where all Mike's parts are lean.

Cam shoves harder at Mike's side and Mike slips off the mattress and lands on his neck and elbows, knees against his chest, spine curving, stretched muscles just shy of painful. This is some weird flexibility he's got going on here. Mike's sure it should probably hurt more than it does.

He huffs and twists and falls onto his side, cheek mashed into the carpet. It smells funny. Maybe they should let up smoking weed in his room. Or maybe he should vacuum more than once a year.

He fishes his phone out of his pocket and thumbs on the display. 6:50 p.m. He's somehow lost four hours. His mouth tastes like dead things, his tongue feels like cotton, and he thinks that somewhere in there he had a conversation with Omar about Jason's fingers and Cheez-Its and those giant spiders from Harry Potter. Shit. He must have called Omar.

Meckles, a killer drummer and Mike's other best bro, is sprawled lazily in Mike's desk chair, his large body barely fitting between the armrests. Mike groans and tugs on Meckles' outstretched leg, fingers snagging his ankle. "You let me call Omar," he says. They're such assholes. Omar probably thinks he's the biggest dumbass; why does he always end up calling him when he's stoned?

Meckles snickers.

Mike rolls to his feet and sniffs his armpits. He's kind of rank, and he contemplates taking a half-assed shower before switching out his T-shirt for something that isn't three days old.

Fuck it. He's already late to meet Lisa.

"See you dudes later," he says, and Cam gives him a two-finger salute.

* * *

"I'm not actually your girlfriend," Lisa says, leaning across their table at the diner to flick Mike's ear right in the middle of his rant about how Cam and Meckles are such douche bags for letting him call Omar at work. "I don't have to put up with this."

Lisa would technically be Mike's best friend if Mike was the kind of guy who had girls for best friends. That sort of thing had stopped being cool back in sixth grade, and when it circled around into being cool again, Mike had already alienated Lisa with years of ignorance and sticking gum in her hair. Which, of course, all culminated with them making out at Cam's last New Year's party. There had been the excited buzz of the countdown and they'd been squished up next to each other on the couch at the time; that's Mike's only explanation.

"We're dating, though," Mike says as he dips a fry into his chocolate shake.

Lisa rolls her eyes. "I let you buy me dinner and sometimes we make out a little when we're bored. That's not dating."

"Okay." Mike bobs his head, rolling with it. "Then you can pay for the movie."

"Deal," she says, and then takes a huge bite out of her hamburger.

Mike pauses with a fry at his lips. "Wait, seriously?" They're really not dating?

Lisa chews and chews and chews for as long as possible, head tilted, a pensive look on her face. Then she says, "I kind of want to ask Larson out."

"Larson Kemp?" Mike says, incredulous. "The creepy dude who wears suspenders and hangs out with Casper Jorgenson behind the gym, making craploads of origami frogs?"

Lisa smiles. "He's so handsome."

Mike kicks her shin under the table. "You're full of shit."

"I'm serious, Michael," Lisa says, still grinning. "All you do is smoke up and forget to shower. I'm better off with someone I'm less likely to get a communicable disease from."

Mike narrows his eyes at her. After the surprise kiss on New Year's Eve, Lisa had made Mike apologize for shoving a salamander down her dress when they'd been eleven. She'd made him apologize in front of Meckles and Cam. It's been eight months since then, since they reconciled their differences and started fooling around. Mike wishes he'd known that he and Lisa were apparently just friends with benefits — though, since they've never actually had anything remotely close to sex, Lisa would probably destroy him for just the implication. But now he feels like he's wasted all this time. "Well," Mike says, slumping lower in the booth. "This sucks."

"It doesn't. I just need you to stop complaining about Omar's work schedule and Cam's porn and Jason's track practice," she says. "It's getting old. Maybe you need new friends."

"Maybe you need a new face," Mike says, scowling, crossing his arms over his chest.

"I'm not kidding about Larson," Lisa says. "I bet he'd take me to cool German restaurants. Did you know his dad owns a boat?"

Mike says, slowly, "There are parts of your brain that are very scary."

"The frogs are for performance art purposes, by the way," Lisa says, eyebrows arched.

Freaky theater geeks. Mike doesn't mind them, but he doesn't think Lisa should date them. She's hot in this statuesque, down-home, country-spun, meat-and-potatoes way. "Larson would have no idea what to do with your boobs."

"Like you do?" Lisa shakes her head. "I need you to give up here," she says. "We'll be beffies, it'll be great, we can gossip about boys."

"I hate you." He sighs, because he very obviously doesn't hate Lisa.

"Whatever," Lisa says. "Grab the check. I don't want to miss the previews."

* * *

Friday late-nights at the Franklin 23 are insane. It's not the only movie theater in town, but it's the biggest, and it's directly behind the mall, so when all the stores start closing, everyone drifts westward.

It takes them twenty minutes to get through the ticket line, and Omar meets them at the snack bar with a bucket of popcorn and a blue raspberry Icee. He raises a mocking eyebrow at Mike.

"Save it," Mike says, cheeks heating.

"It's not that I don't enjoy talking about the possibility of Jason being an alien, dude." Omar laughs. "Sometimes I even put you on speakerphone. The guys at the shop really get a kick out of it."

Mike groans. Omar is super cool, as far as his friends go. He's got a van, he plays a mean bass, and he gets along with pretty much everyone in the entire universe. There should be, like, tiny birds and woodland creatures following him around, only Mike is pretty sure Omar's dad, an avid outdoorsman, would just shoot and eat them. Anyway, Mike should probably take it easy with the weed.

Lisa pokes his back. "I want Skittles," she says.

"How can you still be hungry?" Mike asks.

"I'm not," she says. "Skittles don't count as food, duh."

Mike opens his mouth to argue that Skittles are part of the four main food groups — candy, cheese, cookies, and hamburgers — but she palms the side of his face and says, "Skittles, Michael. Line number three is moving pretty fast."

Mike grumbles, but does what she says. He's pretty whipped, he acknowledges this, and it's doubly sad now that apparently she's not even his girlfriend. Cam's gonna laugh his ass off.

By the time he gets to the counter, Mike's decided to get himself an Icee, too, and water for Lisa, and a pack of Goobers, and he says, "I'll have —" just as he looks up at the douche at the register. "Aw, hell."

He's gonna have to strangle Lisa later. Such a shame; she had a rich and fulfilling life ahead of her.

"Tate," the cashier says. He's got this gleam in his blue eyes, like Mike being alive is just hilarious.

Rook Wallace is evil. Too bad no one will believe Mike.

"Wallace," Mike says tightly. He needs to learn how to kill people with his mind. No messy fingerprints, and Wallace would be out of his life forever. That would be pretty sweet.

Wallace says, "What can I get you?" with this massive, sparkling smile, and it takes Mike a second to remember how to talk.

"Skittles," Mike says finally.

Wallace cocks his head while ringing him up. "That it?" Mike nods. "Yeah."

When he's walking away, he totally kicks himself for being a pussy and forgetting his Goobers. He'll just steal Omar's Icee, and Lisa can suck it up — she didn't specifically ask for water.

Lisa pouts anyway when he hands over her candy.

"You're sharing," he says. "I had to talk to Wallace."

"I like Wallace," Omar says, like he could ever hate anyone anyway. Mike has legitimately never even seen Omar get angry with anyone, even that time Meckles sat on his bass.

Mike points at him and says, "That's because he isn't after your soul." The bitch of it is that Wallace is a nice guy. Hell, he's even friendly with Jason, and Jason's a massive tool. Mike just happens to rightly believe that Wallace is the spawn of the devil, because no one knows how Wallace used to beat the crap out of him after Little League games when they were twelve. And no one will ever know. There's no way Mike is going to bring that up now; how embarrassing would that be?

Lisa ignores him and says, "Are we waiting for Meckles and Cam?"

Mike waves across the packed lobby toward Meckles. If his flaming red hair hadn't made him stand out, everything else about Meckles would have. Over six feet of solid muscle, currently making his way over to them in too much flannel and baggy jeans, like he time-traveled to modern-day Morrison from Seattle circa 1995. Mike would be ashamed to be seen with him, but Mike's an upstanding and giving guy. Plus, it's not like Cam's any better with his floral prints and his cargo shorts that he insists on wearing at least eleven months out of the year. He just pulls his socks up to his knees when he gets cold.

"Dudes," Meckles says. He bumps fists with Omar.

"Where's Cam?" Lisa asks.

"With Deanna." He makes a face. Meckles is thoroughly weirded out about Cam dating Deanna, mainly because she's Meckles' twin sister.

Mike approves, because Deanna is totally hot.

"Movie, guys, let's go," Omar says, jerking his head toward the ushers.

"No Jay?" Meckles asks.

"Damn it," Mike says. "Did anyone even call Jason?"

Omar waggles his cell phone in the air before tucking it into his back pocket. "He's babysitting, he'll meet us later. Now let's go before all the good seats are taken. I'm not sitting by myself again. Or with Meckles."

"Hey," Meckles says.

Omar hugs the bucket to his chest and says, "You touch my popcorn, you die."

* * *

When the movie lets out, they hang in the dimly lit side exit until security chases them off.

Lisa leans into Mike's side and loops their arms together, watching Meckles charge into Omar, flip him over his shoulder, and take off toward Omar's van. Omar isn't a little dude. He's smaller than Meckles — everyone is smaller than Meckles — but it's still pretty impressive.

"Huh," Mike says.

"What?" Lisa asks.

"Nothing." It's kind of chilly, so Mike twists his arm out of her grip and wraps it around her waist instead, pulling her closer, and wonders if it's okay to still hold her like this. "Just. Larson Kemp? Really?"

Lisa shrugs. "His accent's sexy. Plus, I'm thinking about joining drama, beef up my transcripts. I need to get more involved with school activities if I want to get into a good college."

Mike sighs. Really, it's a little tragic, all those estranged years between them. He thinks their relationship might've been more fulfilling if they hadn't needed sucking face as a reason to hang out. It's kind of messed up, now that he thinks about it. And mostly proves that one or both of them have some emotional issues. Ugh.

He's not even really hurt about Lisa's decision; his ego's bruised more than anything else. That probably says a lot about what was really going on.

At the van, Omar calls back to them, "Yo, we're meeting Jay at the Lot!"

Lisa nudges their hips together. She says, "I've realized a few things in the past couple weeks, you know," steering him across the parking lot toward Omar.

Mike turns his head, giving her a questioning look. "What?"

"Just" — she shakes her head — "some things." Her eyes are somber in the dim light spilling over the parking lot. There's no breeze, and her dark hair falls mostly straight and heavy around her face, bangs cutting just above her eyes. She looks like maybe she isn't as okay with their so-called breakup as she says she is, and Mike wants to know why. He kind of feels like he did something wrong, but he can't think of what that could be.

Mike seriously hates talking about feelings, though. He swallows back all his words and forces a shrug. "Okay."

* * *

The Lot is the stretch of cracked asphalt framing an abandoned Sears building at the rougher end of town — the Morrison ghetto, or what passes for a ghetto in suburbia. It's half lit by halogen spotlights — three of the five lights have been popped by douches with rocks, and it's not the kind of place where anyone would replace them. On the other end of the strip mall is a Payless and a Manhattan Bagel, but neither is open this late.


Excerpted from Whatever by S. J. Goslee. Copyright © 2016 S. J. Goslee. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook 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.

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