So, it’s been a while since I’ve dropped an excerpt from Quinn Invisible, the forthcoming first book in a new YA series. I’ve been sick, the day job’s been busy, and yadda, yadda, yadda. But, at long last, I’m sharing another peek at Quinn Invisible (and you can read a blurb for Quinn Invisible here).
In this excerpt (from the middle of Chapter 3), Quinn is in history class on her first day of school, and the teacher, Mr. Birk, is distributing textbooks, giving Quinn her first look at her nemeses at Harrandale Prep–both new and old. Readers also get their first exposure to Evan Thalmann, twin brother of Quinn’s deceased best friend Emma. And at the end of the chapter, Quinn is saved from a lonely lunch period from a potential new friend:
Really? No one else in this class has a last name starting with a “B?”
Accepting that I can no longer stay in the back of the room attempting to blend into the wall, I rise from my seat and push my hair out of my face, wiping my sweaty hands down the front of my cropped jeans. I take a few tentative steps toward Mr. Birk’s desk, which seems far enough away that it might as well be in another state, but I have to stop walking forward because Larissa had been sitting two seats in front of me in the same row, and the row isn’t wide enough for her to return to her desk and for me to walk to the front of the room at the same time. As she realizes our predicament, she stops, clasping her hands behind her and cocking an eyebrow at me as if to say, “Well? Are you going to let me through?”
I don’t make a move for a few seconds just to keep her in suspense, but then I nod toward her desk to indicate she can return to her seat. She arches her eyebrows at me in a sarcastic “Thanks.”
I hate her already.
With Larissa safely back on her throne, I continue my trek to the front of the room, keeping my eyes focused on Mr. Birk and not on my classmates. Mr. Birk records my book number on his spreadsheet and hands me my copy of our textbook, and I turn to face my classmates for the first time.
Every eye in the room is trained on me with sniper-like precision. I do a quick sweep of the faces and find that other than the three girls Mr. Birk has already named, I don’t immediately recognize anyone else after four years, with the exception of one person.
In the middle of the room, on Harmony’s other side, sits Evan Thalmann—I know him as surely as I know my own reflection. He still has the same sandy hair and clear brown eyes he’s had ever since I can remember, and he’s staring at me with an inquisitive version of his familiar grin, making me relieved that he’s not regarding me with disgust. But the hair and eyes and grin are now attached to the body of a man rather than a little boy. Since he’s sitting down, I can’t tell how tall he is, but he’s definitely filled out over the last few years, his shoulders broad and his face more angled and defined, his jaw more square than rounded as it used to be.
Once he realizes I’m staring back at him, Evan’s grin disappears and he shifts his gaze to the notebook on his desk and starts doodling. A tiny smile tugs at my mouth at having made him uncomfortable.
“Miles Coburn.” Mr. Birk continues calling out names, waking me from my temporary Evan-trance. I make my way to the safety of my desk in the back row, trying to ignore the scrutiny of my classmates whose eyes bore into me with the weight of a thousand bricks. Or a thousand stones, maybe, as I fully expect to be pelted with a bunch of them like the outcast I am the minute I attempt to step out into the quad.
I sit through the rest of the roll call—some of the names belong to people who outright tormented me, other names are of those who just ignored me after my mom died—and I try to pay attention during the remainder of class, but what I’m really doing is staring at the back of Evan’s head, which I can only do whenever Nathan Devane leans forward so I can see past his big stupid noggin. Before I know it, the bell rings to indicate that I’ve survived first period, and I strategically wait until everyone else is out of the room before venturing downstairs to my locker to put my history textbook away.
“Quinn Callahan,” says a male voice to my right, his identity blocked by my open locker door. I slam the door shut to find Nathan Devane striding up to me, flanked by Evan, Harmony, and Larissa.
“Looks like the gang’s all here,” I comment, trying not to make eye contact with Evan, who’s practically wearing Harmony like a leather jacket she’s so draped all over him. Ugh—why does he have to be dating her, of all people?
“I’d heard you were back in town,” Nathan says, looking me up and down like something he wants to eat for breakfast—and swallow whole rather than take his time chewing. “You’ve changed. Like, you’ve totally filled out in all the right places.”
Repressing the urge to run and find the nearest shower as his travelling gaze stops at my breasts, I instead look Nathan in the eye and say, “Funny, but you haven’t changed at all. Oh…wait a minute, though…” I squint and put a finger to my lips as if something’s just occurred to me. “I think maybe you’ve become an even bigger asshole.”
Evan’s mouth turns up in something resembling a smile, giving me all the victory I need in this moment.
“And you’re still a loser who doesn’t belong here,” Nathan continues. “You know, even when we were kids, I always thought you were a little weird. Everything that went down with your mom just proved to everyone your family doesn’t fit in.”
Nothing like a little murder-suicide to show people your family’s kind of off-kilter, I guess.
Squinting once again, I lean in so I can get a closer look at Nathan’s hair, which I remember as being a sort of a golden blond shade rather than the almost white-blond surfer dude look it has now.
“Are you coloring your hair?” I ask. “Or are you just highlighting? Because you look a little different than I remember. What brand do you use? I was thinking about going blonde myself…”
Harmony and Larissa both glance at Nathan’s hair and then at each other, and I can’t tell from their expressions if they’re impressed or horrified by Nathan’s dye job. Evan, meanwhile, is mashing his lips together as if he’s trying to keep from laughing out loud.
Nathan shakes his head. “Whatever. I can’t believe you had the cajonés to set foot in Harrandale again,” he continues.
“And I can’t believe you just used cajonés in a complete sentence in reference to a female.”
Once again, Nathan ignores what I’ve said and shifts the conversation to a slightly different—but related—subject. “You get that the only reason they let you back in is because your aunt’s on the board, right?” he asks.
“Oh, and you’re here because of your stellar grade-point average and community service,” I taunt, assuming Nathan hasn’t transformed into a star student in my absence. “Your dad’s name and money don’t have anything to do with it.”
Nathan Devane’s father founded the Devane’s Deli franchise, which has locations in three Missouri counties as well as several locations in Illinois. Assuming nothing’s changed over the last four years, Nathan is one of the wealthiest students at Harrandale, and judging by the conversation I’m having with him now, he hasn’t grown a heart or a brain to go along with all that money. But I’m not too surprised because he’s always been a borderline psycho. After my mother died, I walked into school one day and went to my locker to find Nathan had scrawled “Murderer’s Daughter” across the metal door in red permanent marker, but because he’s an idiot, he ended up leaving off the second “er” and so his insult actually read “Murder’s Daughter,” which doesn’t make any sense but was pretty painful to me anyway. I couldn’t prove to the administration that Nathan was the one who decorated my locker, of course, but I was pretty sure he was the culprit because he pulled a red marker out of his backpack and waved it at me during English class. If only he’d had a long mustache to twirl, too, he couldn’t have played the villain any more perfectly.
“Come on, Nate,” Larissa says, slipping an arm through his. “We’re going to be late for class. And she’s not worth the time. She’s nothing.”
Larissa narrows her eyes at me as her last words practically drip from her blood-red lips, condescending attitude oozing from her like an oil slick.
Yup. Hate her. Whoever she is and whenever she came here, she’s definitely mastered the fine art of bitchery, with Harmony as her likely tutor.
Nate and Larissa glide on down the hall, followed by Evan and Harmony, but not before Evan can pull away from Harmony slightly to mumble “Sorry about your dad,” as they pass by. I’m so stunned by his kindness that I stare after him long after he and Harmony have disappeared into the crowd, and long after the crowd itself has disappeared into various classrooms.
Then the bell goes off and I’m officially late for my second class. Awesome.
After digging my schedule out of my backpack, I discover that I’m supposed to be in the Science Building for chemistry class. Once I reach the room, I’m able to blame my lateness on a case of “new girl” syndrome, which the teacher, who is thankfully new to Harrandale this year herself, totally buys. I manage to get through my next classes without incident and, thankfully, without Evan, although there are plenty of other people around to remind me of my past. Harmony ends up in my chemistry class along with Cole Lautendale, who’s been Nathan’s best friend since we were little kids, and Tommy Boylston, another of Nathan’s evil clique. While Tommy and Cole never wrote nasty messages on my locker like Nathan did, they wrote plenty of nasty messages that they slipped inside my locker through the narrow space between the door and the locker’s metal frame, messages I knew had been written by them because I’d sat next to them in enough classes over the years to have seen their chicken-scratch handwriting—not to mention that whenever I’d find one of these messages, at least one of them would always be in the vicinity, snickering at me as I read.
My newest nemesis Larissa Bailey ends up in my both my chemistry and French classes, and she sits in front of me in French for reasons that don’t become clear until at one point in the middle of class when she arches her back and stretches, casually dropping a wadded up piece of paper on my desk. At first, I don’t grab the paper, partially because I’m stunned on seeing the “wadded up paper” trick for the first time since sixth grade and mostly because I’m afraid the paper might be coated with anthrax or ricin or any one of a number of deadly chemicals. When I finally smooth the paper out into its full notebook page form, I find that Larissa’s written me a lovely little note in feathery handwriting:
A bunch of us have a bet going to see how long it takes us to make you quit Harrandale. I took one week. Help a girl out?
I wait until Madame Renard has her back turned to the class so she can write verb conjugations on the board, and then I tap Larissa on the shoulder. She turns to find me holding the paper in my right palm, the edges of the sheet upturned. Closing my hand in a fist around the page, I return the paper to its crumpled form while making sure my middle finger stands out in a silent response to Larissa’s written request. She purses her lips as if she’s just eaten something sour and turns back toward the front of the room, and I let the wad of paper drop to the corner of my desk where it sits until the bell rings, when I shove it in my backpack along with the rest of my class supplies. Before standing up from my desk, I check my schedule to find out my next destination and discover I’m about to face my greatest challenge so far on my return to Harrandale.
With my head down and my hair just enough in my face that I’m mostly hidden but can still see, I head down to the basement cafeteria in the Upper School. Hanging back by the rest room just outside the cafeteria doors, I wait for the other juniors and seniors to file through the food line before I enter and take my place at the end so no one can lob insults—or, worse, food—at me. But after I’ve paid for my salad and filled my soda cup at the machine, I find I have a greater dilemma in front of me now than how I’m going to get through the food line unscathed.
I have to find somewhere to sit.
Staring out at the rows of tables filled with juniors and seniors, I almost laugh to myself that I’m living the “lunch room” scene in every movie featuring a new kid on the first day of school. Everyone who isn’t ignoring me is looking at me and whispering to their friends, just like kids always do in those movies. And also just like in those movies, I’m about ten seconds away from giving up and taking my tray to the bathroom so I can hide in a stall and eat in peace. But before I can move, I see a dark-skinned girl—Indian, most likely—walking by herself to the front of the cafeteria. And it quickly becomes clear that she’s heading straight for me where I stand just a few feet from the soda machine.
Think, Quinn, think…who is she? Was she here back in seventh grade?
I can’t place her from my past, so that’s good. If she didn’t know me four years ago, then that greatly decreases the chances she’s walking over in order to flip my tray over on me. Or maybe someone I used to know has sent her up here to mess with me? I mean, I had no idea who Larissa Bailey was before this morning, but she’s obviously spent enough time around Harmony and Nathan’s crew that they’ve all poisoned her against me. So maybe this girl is my enemy and I don’t even know it. Maybe…
My thoughts have me so paralyzed I can’t even flinch or move away when the girl reaches me and places her hand on my forearm.
“There you are,” she says to me loudly enough that people at the tables closest to the soda machine would be able to hear her. “Hal and I have been waiting for you. We saved you a seat.”
“Hal?” I mumble, still wondering if I’m about to become the victim of some elaborate prank.
“Yeah. We’re at the back table in the corner, just like we talked about.” The girl pauses, her wide-set almond eyes boring into me as if to say “Just go with this, okay?”
“Right,” I reply.
“Come on.” She smiles before turning back to the rows of tables and walking off. And although I’ll hate myself for trusting a stranger if her intentions aren’t good, I follow.
But I guess whatever happens will be more exciting than eating lunch in the bathroom.
Again, I haven’t hit the editing stage yet, so I can’t guarantee that everything here will end up in the final book. I’m hoping to have release information for Quinn Invisible available soon, so watch this space! And in the meantime, don’t forget to add Quinn Invisible on Goodreads.