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Seton Academic High is a prep school obsessed with its football team and their thirteen-year conference win streak, a record that players always say they’d never have without Seton’s girls. What exactly Seton girls do to make them so valuable, though, no one ever really says. They're just "the best." But the team’s quarterback, the younger brother of the Seton star who started the streak, wants more than regular season glory. He wants a state championship before his successor, Seton’s first Black QB, has a chance to overshadow him. Bigger rewards require bigger risks, and soon the actual secrets to the team's enduring success leak to a small group of girls who suddenly have the power to change their world forever.
Release date: August 30, 2022
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Print pages: 320
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It isn’t easy to create change that lasts.
In fact, it’s really, really hard.
But we did it, here at Seton. And we believed we did it together.
Don’t you remember the stories? All the tales passed on from seniors to freshmen year after year?
Cooper Adams. Who he was. What he meant. How he came in and changed our whole entire world.
The tales I’ve heard go like this:
Once upon a time, thirteen years ago, the heavens placed upon us Cooper Adams. He had dimples that could seduce a housewife and threw a spiral that could dent a brick wall. He inherited a pretty good football team in a really good division, and he led that team to undeniable greatness. An undefeated season that no team—not Billingsley, not St. Mary’s, not Anderson Prep—had ever seen before. And as he did it, he united a school that had only ever cared about football to care about its girls as well. He was our ally. A feminist before it was even cool.
How, you ask?
Well, the tales say that during the summer of 2006, just before he would take over as Seton Academic High School’s Varsity quarterback, he sat in his basement and penned a cheer. When it was finished, he taught it to his team. And then, at Seton’s first game of the season, right after halftime, the entire football team stood on benches and faced the crowd—faced us—as they recited the legendary Seton Girls cheer for the very first time.
Cooper Adams did other cool stuff, too. He convinced the school to create Seton Girls swag to go with all the Seton Football stuff sold in the online bookstore. He donated the proceeds from the football team’s Season of Giving bake sale to a women’s shelter, instead of to another junior football league.
Cooper Adams saw us. Cooper Adams loved us.
Why, you ask?
Because he couldn’t have had his perfect season without us.
Those were his words. On October 27, 2006, in the very first center spread quarterback feature that Seton ever ran, he was asked why he cared so much about the girls. What was it that made us special? What did he want the rest of the world to know?
And he said: “I want all those girls to know that we couldn’t have had this perfect season without them.”
I read the quote myself when I was researching whatever the hell it is I’m writing now, which I know is the exact opposite of the “I-cannot-tell-a-lie/Isn’t-he-a-hero?” quarterback feature that all of you were expecting to see. I want to say I’m sorry, but I’m not. I just want us to be okay.
I imagine, at the time that Cooper’s words were first published, Seton girls everywhere sighed longingly and collapsed into the nearest arms like they were at a BTS concert. Because Cooper was so perfect. Because he was, and continues to be, our star.
Every year that followed, Seton quarterbacks stood on the foundation of what he built. Undefeated season after undefeated season, like we were magic. But Cooper was only replicated, never duplicated.
Because we get to have his kin. His blood. His brother, with his own delicious dimples and killer spiral.
But if you thought, like I did, that that made us the lucky ones . . .
You were wrong.
What it is.
Our skin glows a dull purple in this bowling alley with all its neon lights. Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” is blasting from the team playlist that the manager happily plugged in as soon as we got here. The playlist Seton has had forever, that only our football players know the password to.
The music is so loud, J had to get up with me, follow me from the plastic seats to our lane, and lean into my ear just so I can hear all this unrequested sideline coaching.
“But Alz, if you just, like—”
“If you use your wrist, though . . .”
“And your forearm . . .” He trails off.
“Look at my forearm. Look at my forearm compared to your forearm.”
We hold our arms out next to each other’s, forearms facing the sky. His has veins the width of pipe cleaners. My arm could lay on top of his twice.
He sighs and slides his hands into his pockets.
I know how much he hates it as I lean over like a little kid bowling, and maybe that’s partly why I do it. I swing the pink marbled ball between my legs with both hands and push it down the slick lane. I stand up straight as the ball takes out four of the nine pins I didn’t knock out the first time.
I smile up at J.
He’s still watching our lane, until he looks at the screen above our heads to check my score. He nods a little to himself and winces like he’s waiting for a doctor to finish giving him a shot.
I laugh and shove him, but he barely moves. “Relax.”
“It’s just that you’re an athlete, Alz—”
“No, you’re an athlete.”
“But you’re a part of me. I’m a part of you,” he argues.
“Did Thoreau say that?”
He wraps his arms around my shoulders, and I rest my face against his chest, my ear against his red Seton T-shirt, soft enough to melt because it’s been washed so many times. He kisses the top of my head through my fluffy bun and declares, “Yo, you talk enough smack to be an athlete.”
I laugh and he does, too, as we walk back to our group of tables now that my turn is officially over.
Our crew takes up three lanes. There’s a crowd of people we don’t know at the door, waiting for spots to open up, some who were waiting even before we got here, but the staff figured out how to make room for us despite our lack of a reservation. The guys just wanted to hang out tonight, get as much of the team together as they could without it being a house party like normal. One more chance to make a memory before this summer is officially over.
Parker has his arms folded in front of him when we get back to the tables where the wings and the pizza and the cups of beer that the manager let him order are waiting. The lights are making everything about him skew a different color. His green eyes are almost orange. His pale skin is blue. His brown hair that’s sometimes buzzed short but right now is long enough for Michelle to push her fingers through—and a lot of times, she does—looks like dust.
J, in real light, is a compilation of different shades of brown. Me, too. So, tonight, he’s a fun array of purples, not a neon rainbow like Parker.
The boys are debating like they always are. It’s anything from the best burger in town to the best touchdown ever scored. Right now, they’re going on about superpowers. Which one they’d want if they could have any one in the world. It’s Parker’s turn to choose, seconds after J takes his seat on the bench and has me sit on part of his leg so there’s enough room for me, too.
Parker sucks his teeth. “Yo, I don’t need a superpower. I am a superpower.”
Everybody laughs, the guys louder than the girls. Nudging each other and bumping each other, and Parker’s smiling, too, but he’s saying, “Yo. No, yo. Shut the fuck up. Yo, hear me out,” while he slaps their hands and grips their shoulders and makes sure everyone is listening. “I’m being deadass serious right now. I am a superpower. I’m a fucking superpower. And you’re a fucking superpower,” he says, clapping his hand against Charlie’s shoulder. “And J, my man.” He reaches his hand across the table and J meets it with the same
easy handshake they’ve done for years. Fingers sliding and a snap to end it. “You’re a goddamned superpower if I’ve ever fucking seen one. Everything we do, everything we’ve done is a certified superpower. No one else can touch us. Check the fucking almanac—”
“This dude said ‘the almanac . . .’ ” chuckles one of the guys at the end of the table.
“Yeah, I said it. I said check the motherfucking almanac. There’s only one Seton football team and that’s all there ever will be. Don’t sit around crying about the superpowers you don’t have when we’re the goddamned definition of the term.”
J’s laughing into his lap, shaking his head to himself with his hand on my leg as he subconsciously picks at the hole in the knee of my jeans. I smile. Because it’s annoying. And because he doesn’t care.
“That’s why we’re gonna take States this year,” Parker declares, the promise he’s been making all summer. “First time in history. This team right here.” He jabs his finger into the table, once with right and again with here. “I bet my fucking life on it.”
It’s like he shines a little brighter when he says it, his neon glow more radioactive, more untouchable. The boys smirk and nudge each other, and half of them start a mini-chorus of He wants two. Trophies, they mean. One for the season and another for the state championship.
“Does that just go for you guys?” Britt MacDougal asks, her voice breaking through their chant before it really has the chance to become one.
She’s a few people down from us, from Parker, sitting on the tabletop. Her thick hair is frizzy and loose and gorgeous. She’s wearing tiny cutoff jean shorts and a fitted long-sleeved black shirt with Timberlands. She’s surrounded by her three friends—the four of them together like this weightless, perfect, intoxicating aura everywhere they ever go.
Bianca Patel sits on the tabletop next to Britt, both of them glowing shades of purple like J and me. Kelly Donahue is in the seat on the other side of Bianca, glowing neon like a girl version of Parker. And then there’s Michelle Rodriguez, more blue than purple, with her long dark hair coiled up in a ballerina bun, her perfect body on display in a pale pink romper. She’s Parker’s girlfriend, and she loves him, just like he loves her. But I’ve always had a feeling that she loves Britt a little more.
Michelle sits in the seat next to Kelly, resting easily between Britt’s legs, her elbows on Britt’s kneecaps. She watches Parker as Parker smiles and watches her back. His girl. His girls.
“What do you mean?” he asks Britt.
“Your whole self-righteous superpower title,” Britt answers him, her gray eyes still gray, even in this lighting. But they burn more. “Does that just go for you guys or does it go for us, too?”
“Like you girls?”
“Me, B, Kel, Mich. Aly. Any girl here. Any girl who exists.”
“I know you’re super-powerful when you get drunk and hungry.” Parker smiles.
They talk to each other like that. Like family.
Michelle smiles at him warningly from between Britt’s legs. “Don’t be a dick.”
“How many times do I have to tell you that you’re the best girls in the world?” Parker amends.
Bianca seems to think about it. “Maybe try one more time?”
“Louder,” Kelly demands, smirking as she does.
But Britt shakes her head, looking at her friends. A conversation they’re capable of having with just their eyes because they’ve mattered to each other for that long.
She’s talking to Parker, but almost anyone at our table is listening, too. Watching. Those girls are distracting in the most addictive way.
“Best is an adjective,” she informs him over the music. “We deserve to be nouns.”
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