Five teens embark on a summer of vigilante good samaritanism in a novel that's part The Breakfast Club, part The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and utterly captivating.
Rising high school senior Sadie is bracing herself for a long, lonely, and boring summer. But things take an unexpected turn when she steps in to help rescue a baby in distress and a video of her good deed goes viral.
Suddenly internet-famous, Sadie's summer changes for the better when she's introduced to other "hometown heroes." These five very different teens form an unlikely alliance to secretly right local wrongs, but when they try to help a heroin-using friend, they get in over their heads and discover that there might be truth in the saying "no good deed goes unpunished." Can Sadie and her new friends make it through the summer with their friendships--and anonymity--intact?
This rich and thought-provoking novel takes on timely issues and timeless experiences with a winning combination of romance, humor, and wisdom.
Release date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Print pages: 336
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
I SPENT TWO months assembling care packages for my friends. It was my way of thanking them for being awesome. Nobody had ever seen such a tight senior class, united by over a decade of friendship and compulsive thrill seeking, and a chemistry my own dysfunctional junior class would never have. The inseparable seniors were about to disband, bound for summer camp jobs and sports clinics and European vacations—and then college.
I wanted to do something special before they left.
The boxes, lined up in neat rows on my window seat, were all the same size and shape. I had scoured the shops and flea markets in town, adding online items that reflected the recipients and what they meant to me. The care packages cost me all my birthday money, but as I tucked in the notes, wrapped each small box with brown paper, and tied it with gold-flecked garden twine, it felt right.
I passed out the boxes at the Night of a Thousand Good-byes, held every year after all the graduation parties and drawn-out family dinners.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sadie,” Ellie said as we sat on the log and she took out the contents of the box: A snowflake-shaped cookie cutter to represent Ellie’s annual cookie exchange. An elephant figurine carved out of a giant nut to represent Ellie’s love of elephants. A miniature bobblehead of our assistant principal to represent her strange crush on Mr. Wilson.
“I will cherish these,” Ellie said, “like forever.” Ellie had only a few more hours of freedom before her family volunteer trip to Mongolia.
Parker was one of the few not leaving right away, but I gave her a care package anyway: A tiny plastic Wonder Woman figurine because Parker was the spitting image of Wonder Woman on Halloween. A box of Thin Mints, her favorite cookie since our Girl Scout days. A temporary tattoo collection to help her finally decide if she wanted a real one.
Parker hugged me so hard I thought I might bleed internally.
The care packages were a big hit. I even made Seth a care package, because he had been a damn good boyfriend while it lasted. I saved his until the end of the night, which was probably a mistake, because he was drunk by then and very handsy.
“Sadie Cakes, come here,” he said, pulling me toward him and leaning down to kiss me. Our original breakup had happened via text during spring break, in the middle of his trip to Cabo. We had mutually decided it was impossible to sustain a relationship when he would be spending the summer at his dad’s in Israel, then going to college in North Carolina. But mutual and amicable didn’t mean fast or easy. It was easier to hook up than not hook up. It was easier to go to a movie with Seth than stay home and watch HGTV with Mom. It was easier to go to senior prom together than to mess up the whole plan.
The first breakup never sticks anyway, so it was good we’d started in March.
“Stop, we’re broken up,” I said unconvincingly. “Here, I made you a care package.”
“Aww. You’re the best ex-girlfriend ever.” He laid his hand on the small of my back. I didn’t move away, but I didn’t move any closer to Seth’s lips either.
I was going to miss Seth and all our history and our chair, the chair we sat in at every Shawn Flynn party, the chair in the middle of it all. And I would miss the bonfires and the football games and the movie nights in Seth’s basement. But I had to stay strong.
Seth tore open his box. He took out each item and studied it. A bobblehead of my deceased cat, Lucy, Seth’s favorite pet. I had gotten a little obsessed with the custom bobblehead site. A bag of hand-cut potato chips, Seth’s favorite snack. And a printout of the first text Seth ever sent me—Do you like sushi?—rolled up in a tiny scroll.
He was quiet.
I hadn’t wanted to get too sentimental. As much as I had loved being Seth’s girlfriend, we both knew there wasn’t enough between us to transcend time and space.
“You suck,” he said, rubbing his eyes. I hadn’t planned to make him cry.
I left him standing there, holding the care package. One last hookup wouldn’t be good for either one of us.
Between the care package distributions and handing out Woody’s Ice Cream hats to everybody—compliments of Dad, who always gave out hats to his graduating customers—I barely talked to Shay. When it was time to go, I pried the fine-tipped Sharpie out of her yearbook-signing hand and waited on the edge of the sob-fest for her drawn-out good-byes.
Shay and I took one last best-friend drive home in Mom’s Prius, which I had basically taken over, forcing Mom to use Grandma Hosseini’s Buick. Shay had to leave for California the next morning to teach at a tennis camp before starting college at Pepperdine. I dug into a bag of tortilla chips and listened to Shay go over her packing checklist one more time.
“Should I just wait until I get there and see what shoes California people are wearing?”
“Yes. It’s humanly impossible to fit another pair of shoes into that suitcase.”
Shay turned to me. “Is this happening?” she said. “Because it feels like a normal night.”
“It is a normal night.” I reached over and squeezed her hand.
Shay was a steaming hotbed of emotion. If she started reminiscing about all the things we’d been through together and how awesome our friendship was, she would blow. I wanted her to remember her graduation night as fun and happy.
We pulled into Shay’s driveway and I turned off the car.
“I have a little something for you,” I said, reaching behind the seat.
“A Sadie care package?”
I grabbed my last Woody hat and set it on her head. Shay adjusted it and said, “I’m going to miss him. If it weren’t for the Woodster, there’d be no Shay and Sadie. Isn’t that crazy to think about?”
When I’d met Shay, we had just moved to the East End from Queens and Dad wanted to take me out on the maiden voyage of the Woody’s Ice Cream truck. Shay chased us down the street barefoot and, after ordering her Nutty Buddy, promptly invited me to the birthday party she was having that afternoon.
“Should I open it now or wait?” Shay said, taking the care package.
“Open it now.”
She carefully untied the gold-flecked twine and pulled off the paper and the box lid, revealing:
A tin of peppermint drops in honor of the fourteen-act play we’d written, acted in, and directed called Peppermint Drop City: The Fairies Take Over.
A berry fusion lip tint and a berry nice lip shimmer (because I always stole hers).
A purple condom (because… college).
A framed photo of Shay and me taken the day we met, when I actually showed up at her tenth birthday party that afternoon.
Twin bobbleheads of Shay and me holding hands. (I had treated myself to a matching set of Bobblehead Shay with the long blond hair and bulging blue eyes and Bobblehead Sadie with the thick wavy black hair and sharp nose.)
“Wow, my bobblehead has a huge rack,” Shay said, running her fingers over the bobblehead’s plastic chest.
“I thought you’d appreciate that.”
“There’s nothing I can say to do justice to this care package, so I’m just going to hug you,” Shay said, leaning over to pull me in. I hugged my best friend and pressed my face into her wild blond mermaid hair. She smelled of the lavender essential oil she rubbed on her temples when she was stressed.
We let go at the same time and said what we said on any normal night.
The next morning I woke at six, still on school time, and reached for my phone to text Shay. It took me a few seconds to remember it was over, that she was probably already on her way to the airport.
I hugged Flopper, my stuffed harp seal, and tried to go back to sleep, but Mom’s kitchen clanging and television sounds put an end to that.
“What are you doing up?” Mom looked over from her perch at the kitchen island, where she sat sipping tea and reading the headlines as the Hamptons forecast blared from the TV above the sink.
“My brain thinks it’s a school day.” I foraged through the fridge. “Can you make pancakes?”
I nodded, then sat at the counter, hands folded, waiting for my pancakes.
“What’s on the agenda?” Mom asked, setting a glass of milk in front of me.
I stared up at her and then reality set in.
“I have no idea.”
I welcomed my first official shift at the farm stand. I knew work would be hot, and full of horseflies and sawdust and some of the world’s most irritating customers, referred to by year-round Hamptons residents as cidiots (city idiots). But I would get to eat a lot of peaches and strawberries, and I needed the paychecks for school clothes and college savings.
The first morning, Farmer Brian reminded Daniela and me how to work the register and do the tally sheets, and we got a refresher on the difference between ripe and rotten. After Farmer Brian left, Daniela spent most of the time on her phone, or dozing off because her three-year-old exhausted her, but I didn’t mind. Work gave me something to focus on.
I lingered awhile in the back of the wooden building, with its three walls painted dark green and its open, awning-covered front that faced the road. I unloaded crates of vegetables, avoiding the picky locals and the overeager city people and the tourists who drove all the way to the Hamptons to take pictures for their Facebook pages.
The cidiots were back.
That night, Mom and Dad took me for pizza to celebrate the beginning of summer. They had promised not to bring up college until I’d had a chance to adjust to my new normal. College had been a family sticking point since Shay got into Pepperdine, mostly because I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do.
Two bites into my calzone, Mom sent Dad to the bathroom to wipe the Parmesan off his mustache. “I picked up the Guide to Northeast Colleges at the bookstore,” she said casually. “It’s on the dining room table. I earmarked a few that look interesting.”
“Thanks, Mom.” I knew better than to remind her of her promise.
I reached under my bra line and scratched the hot, clammy skin. I needed a shower. And sleep. But halfway through my calzone, Shay texted me. Hannah S. and Chelsea want you to escort them to Shawn’s tonight.
As much as I’d told Shay I was happy hanging out on our porch with my parents and our neighbor Mr. Ng, she worried about me. She had been trying for months to play friend matchmaker with Hannah S. and other people from my dysfunctional class.
Oh, come on, I replied. The gadflies?
I told them to pick you up at nine.
Shay, I don’t feel like socializing.
Come on, give them a chance. Otherwise you have the potential to turn into one of those agoraphobic people.
No I don’t.
Please?? I want to know what’s going on. I’m already out of the loop.
Damn it, Shay. FINE.
Hannah S. and Chelsea were part of the gadfly faction of my dysfunctional junior class. Shay titled them gadflies because they hung around like insects, buzzing in tightly drawn circles, gossiping and side whispering and basically being petty, drama-slinging troublemakers. Shawn Flynn was having another party because Shawn Flynn was addicted to the moment when a rush of freshly showered people rounded the back bend of his hedgerow to fill the empty spaces of his parentless mansion.
Hannah S. and Chelsea pulled into our driveway just as I was throwing on shorts and my leprechaun T-shirt. I put my wet hair in a bun and found my overaccessorized classmates on the front porch with Dad and Mr. Ng.
“Have a blast,” Dad shouted as we climbed into Hannah’s car.
“I feel so bad that Shay has to miss this summer,” Hannah S. said, acting like Shay was her lifelong friend.
“She’s in California. I’m sure her summer will be better than ours,” I said, texting Shay from the backseat. So bored. Wish I was in bed right now.
We drove around awhile and parked down the road from Shawn’s massive mansion. Chelsea cracked open a warm screw-cap bottle of wine she must have clipped from a hotel minibar. They bombarded me with questions about the Night of a Thousand Good-byes and who’d hooked up that night and was it true D-Bag fell in vomit?
Hannah swallowed another mini bottle of zinfandel and smacked her lips.
“Let’s do this,” she said loudly, tossing the bottle out the window.
Hannah is littering, I texted Shay.
Just give them a chance.
I flung open Shawn’s front door and ushered in Hannah and Chelsea.
“This house rocks,” Hannah said, giggling awkwardly.
“I’ll be back.” I scanned the crowd of sunburned faces and found Parker on a lounge chair playing a game on her phone, probably counting the minutes until college.
“Parker, slide over.” I crawled up next to her and sighed heavily.
“The juniors have moved in,” she said. “This is bullshit.”
Shawn’s back deck teemed with drunken ruffians (also Shay’s term): the assholes who made everyone loathe my class. In true clichéd form, the ruffians targeted the weak kids, the smart kids, the robotics kids, the loner kids, the theater kids, and anyone else they could get away with harassing.
“Filling the void with assholes,” Parker said.
I spotted Hannah and Chelsea side whispering near a potted tree. “I’m going for a walk,” I said.
I wove through the shot takers and pool poseurs to the beach path and made my way over to the hump of sand a few feet from the surf. I sat down, brought my knees up to my chest, and planted my chin on my stubbly kneecap. The party sounds blended with the waves under the sliver of a moon.
Loneliness set in like thunderclouds.
When I got home, I sent Shay a long-winded text about how I was better off removing myself from the Shawn Flynn party scene and how I really was looking forward to reading books on the porch. I wanted to downsize my social life and just hang out alone for once.
She responded with: Parker told me Shawn’s was a shit show. I don’t blame you.
To which I replied: Good. You can stop pimping me out to the gadflies. I’ve got my Flopper. He’s all I need.
ON DAY TWO of work, the family of tourists stood in line behind old Mr. Upton, who swatted at a mosquito on his cheek, leaving a crush of black and blood the size of a dime on the rosy area to the right of his bulbous nose. He held a quart of peaches and I noticed his nails were long and yellow. I tried to tell him there was something on his face, but his hearing aids weren’t in. “What?” he kept saying, until I mouthed Nothing and walked away. His aide, Sissy, wandered up to the farm stand counter. Sissy held two bunches of flowers and a head of Swiss chard. Sweat beaded on her dark Caribbean skin. She wore teal mascara, and her loose-fitting rust-colored T-shirt had a purple stain near the collar. I wondered if it was plum juice.
The car barreled through the gravel parking lot so quickly a few rogue pebbles flew up and hit Mr. Upton’s Lincoln. We all stopped where we were. Mr. Upton and Sissy. Daniela. The two women near the wildflowers. The family shopping for their Montauk picnic.
The car made that much of a commotion.
A guy jumped out and slammed the door. He called somebody a fucktard on the phone as he pushed past the berry display and into the building where we all stood, staring.
“What are you looking at, rich bitches?” the guy slurred.
I hadn’t seen someone so angry drunk since a kid from Watermill had had to be transported out of Shawn Flynn’s snow day party in an ambulance to have his stomach pumped.
“Eat shit and die,” the guy yelled into the phone before he shoved it into the pocket of his faded jeans. He clumsily wove around the vegetables and opened the cold case. He grabbed a fistful of cheeses and threw them into a basket. His face, mottled with acne scars and covered in patches of salt-and-pepper facial hair, was almost purple, probably because he was wearing a flannel shirt and work boots in ninety-degree weather.
Sissy shook her head and raised her eyebrows. Mr. Upton fumbled with his wallet. A noise came from the parking lot. At first it sounded like the guy had left the car radio on. But then the noise revealed itself.
She was a crying baby.
I stepped away from the counter and walked out to the guy’s burgundy sedan. The tinted windows were up tight, except for the baby’s window, which was down only an inch or two. The baby’s shape moved frantically as the wailing sounds got worse.
“What the hell?” His voice hurtled toward me from behind. “Get away from my car, you little Arab.” He was talking to me.
I whipped around. The stink of liquor and B.O. hit me in the face. His eyes were wild, the whites stained yellow. Some sort of valve opened inside me and adrenaline shot through my body. It was massive and electric and, in a weird way, calming.
My voice was measured when I said, “Sir, why don’t you take out the baby and get her some cold water? She’s probably really thirsty.”
“I don’t want to offend you, sir, but I think you’ve had a bit to drink and maybe it’s not a great idea to drive right now.”
His face purpled even more. “I don’t want to offend you, but you’re a twat.”
The crying got louder.
The guy hurled the plastic basket onto the ground. Cheese bricks, strawberries, and jars of honey scattered. One of the jars smashed and honey oozed into the gravel. He reached into his pocket for his keys and stumbled around to the front of the car. I tried the back door handle. It was locked. I ran around to the driver’s side, where he was climbing in, and I dove on top of him, trying to grab for his keys.
I was not going to let him put his key into that little slit.
Sprawled across his foul-smelling body, I felt his hand grab my ponytail and yank my head upward. For a split second, I was angled toward the backseat and noticed the baby’s face, bright red and tear streaked, brown eyes fixed on the guy’s hand pulling me up by my hair.
For another split second we were all suspended in silence.
The grip tightened on my ponytail and forced my head downward. My face collided with something hard on the passenger seat. He yanked up and forced my face down again. The cold metal of a toolbox cut into my forehead. I cried out before reaching again for the keys.
In an instant, he let go of my ponytail and grabbed a nearly full bottle of liquor. The amber liquid swished upward before he struck me on my back. My body curved instinctively. Blow after blow, he pummeled the bottle into my torso. I cried out from the crushing pain of each blow as my own guttural sounds blended with the staccato cries coming from the backseat.
It was only after the sirens were surrounding the car that I noticed the police. A cop reached in to pull me out. I resisted at first, because I still hadn’t gotten the keys.
“It’s okay, Sadie.” I heard Daniela’s voice echo through the pounding in my head. I stumbled and collapsed onto Daniela, who couldn’t handle the weight of my body, and we fell to the ground. The gravel tore into my knees as the cop who’d pulled me out and several others wrestled with the guy until they finally got him down. He landed inches from me, his face stuck to shards of glass and honey. I looked up and saw another cop carefully unbuckle the baby. She had stopped wailing, as if she knew she was safe.
For a single moment, it all shifted into slow motion.
I noticed the two city women had never left the wildflower stand. One clutched the other, and they stood with their hands over their mouths. I noticed the family talking to the cops over by the willow tree.
I reached up and felt the blood seeping out of my head.
The blood from my head gash felt sticky, more like Jell-O than juice. The paramedic pulled out my ponytail holder and released a matted knot of hair. They covered me with a thin white blanket, and I fell in and out of sleep.
“Sadie, I’m going to need you to wake up.” The words floated somewhere beyond the deep, pulsing pain in my head and my back. I looked up, only for a second, and saw a woman’s face, blue eyes with deep half-moon bags underneath.
“What’s up?” My mouth tasted like metal and dried leaves.
Every time I fell asleep, somebody bothered me awake.
“Sunshine, it’s Daddy.” I opened my eyes, strained hard to keep them open. Dad’s face hovered above mine, his gray eyes ringed in red. He forced a smile.
“What’s wron. . .
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...