Fans of Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, and Jenny Han will delight as the fireworks spark and the secrets fly in this delicious summer romance from a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.
When Jade decided to spend the summer with her aunt in California, she thought she knew what she was getting into. But nothing could have prepared her for Quentin. Jade hasn’t been in suburbia long and even she knows her annoying (and annoyingly cute) next-door neighbor spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
And when Quentin learns Jade plans to spend her first American summer hiding out reading books, he refuses to be ignored. Sneaking out, staying up, and even a midnight swim, Quentin is determined to give Jade days–and nights–worth remembering.
But despite their storybook-perfect romance, every time Jade moves closer, Quentin pulls away. And when rumors of a jilted ex-girlfriend come to light, Jade knows Quentin is hiding a secret–and she’s determined to find out what it is.
Anything was possible. At least that’s what it felt like.
Summer seventeen was going to be one for the record books. I already knew it. I could feel it—from the nervous-excited swirl in my stomach to the buzz in the air around me. This was going to be the summer—my summer.
“Last chance to cry uncle or forever hold your peace,” Mom sang beside me in the backseat of the cab we’d caught at the airport. Her hand managed to tighten around mine even more, cutting off the last bit of my circulation. If there
was any left.
I tried to look the precise amount of unsure before answering. “So long, last chance,” I said, waving out the window.
Mom sighed, squeezing my hand harder still. It was starting to go numb now. Summer seventeen might find me one hand short if Mom didn’t ease up on the death grip.
She and her band, the Shrinking Violets, were going to be touring internationally after finally hitting it big, but she was moping because this was the first summer we wouldn’t be together. Actually, it would be the first time we’d been apart ever.
I’d sold her on the idea of me staying in the States with her sister and family by going on about how badly I wanted to experience one summer as a normal, everyday American teenager before graduating from high school. One chance to
see what it was like to stay in the same place, with the same people, before I left for college. One last chance to see what life as an American teen was really like.
She bought it . . . eventually.
She’d have her bandmates and tens of thousands of adoring fans to keep her company—she could do without me for a couple of months. I hoped.
It had always been just Mom and me from day one. She had me when she was young—like young young—and even though her boyfriend pretty much bailed before the line turned pink, she’d done just fine on her own.
We’d both kind of grown up together, and I knew she’d missed out on a lot by raising me. I wanted this to be a summer for the record books for her, too. One she could really live up, not having to worry about taking care of her teenage
daughter. Plus, I wanted to give her a chance to experience what life without me would be like. Soon I’d be off to college somewhere, and I figured easing her into the empty-nester phase was a better approach than going cold turkey.
“You packed sunscreen, right?” Mom’s bracelets jingled as she leaned to look out her window, staring at the bright blue sky like it was suspect.
“SPF seventy for hot days, fifty for warm days, and thirty for overcast ones.” I toed the trusty duffel resting at my feet.It had traveled the globe with me for the past decade and had the wear to prove it.
“That’s my fair-skinned girl.” When Mom looked over at me, the crease between her eyebrows carved deeper with worry.
“You might want to check into SPF yourself. You’re not going to be in your mid thirties forever, you know?”
Mom groaned. “Don’t remind me. But I’m already beyond SPF’s help at this point. Unless it can help fix a saggy butt and crow’s-feet.” She pinched invisible wrinkles and wiggled her butt against the seat.
It was my turn to groan. It was annoying enough that people mistook us for sisters all the time, but it was worse that she could (and did) wear the same jeans as me. There should be some rule that moms aren’t allowed to takes clothes from the closets of their teenage daughters.
When the cab turned down Providence Avenue, I felt a sudden streak of panic. Not for myself, but for my mom.
Could she survive a summer when I wasn’t at her side, reminding her when the cell phone bill was due or updating her calendar so she knew where to be and when to be there? Would she be okay without me reminding her that fruits and vegetables were part of the food pyramid for a reason and
making sure everything was all set backstage?
“Hey.” Mom gave me a look, her eyes suggesting she could read my thoughts. “I’ll be okay. I’m a strong, empowered thirty-four-year-old woman.”
“Cell phone charger.” I yanked the one dangling from her oversized, metal-studded purse, which I’d wrapped in hot pink tape so it stood out. “I’ve packed you two extras to get you through the summer. When you get down to your last
one, make sure to pick up two more so you’re covered—”
“Jade, please,” she interrupted. “I’ve only lost a few. It’s not like I’ve misplaced . . .”
“Thirty-two phone chargers in the past five years?” When she opened her mouth to protest, I added, “I’ve got the receipts to prove it, too.”
Her mouth clamped closed as the cab rolled up to my aunt’s house.
“What am I going to do without you?” Mom swallowed, dropping her big black retro sunglasses over her eyes to hide the tears starting to form, to my surprise.
I was better at keeping my emotions hidden, so I didn’t dig around in my purse for sunglasses. “Um, I don’t know? Maybe rock a sold-out international tour? Six continents in three months? Fifty concerts in ninety days? That kind of
Mom started to smile. She loved music—writing it, listening to it, playing it—and was a true musician. She hadn’t gotten into it to become famous or make the Top 40 or anything like that; she’d done it because it was who she was. She was the same person playing to a dozen people in a crowded café as she was now, the lead singer of one of the biggest bands in the world playing to an arena of thousands.
“Sounds pretty killer. All of those countries. All of that adventure.” Mom’s hand was on the door handle, but it looked more like she was trying to keep the taxi door closed than to open it. “Sure you don’t want to be a part of it?”
I smiled thinly back at my mom, her wild brown hair spilling over giant glasses. She had this boundless sense of adventure—always had and always would—so it was hard for her to comprehend how her own offspring could feel any different.
“Promise to call me every day and send me pictures?” I said, feeling the driver lingering outside my door with luggage in hand. This was it. Mom exhaled, lifting her pinkie toward me. “Promise.”
I curled my pinkie around hers and forced a smile. “Love
Her finger wound around mine as tightly as she had clenched my other hand on the ride here. “Love you no matter what.” Then she shoved her door open and crawled out, but not before I noticed one tiny tear escape her sunglasses.
By the time I’d stepped out of the cab, all signs of that tear or any others were gone. Mom did tears as often as she wrote moving love songs. In other words, never.
As she dug around in her purse for her wallet to pay the driver, I took a minute to inspect the house in front of me.
The last time we’d been here was for Thanksgiving three years ago. Or was it four? I couldn’t remember, but it was long enough to have forgotten how bright white my aunt and uncle’s house was, how the windows glowed from being so
clean and the landscaping looked almost fake it was so well kept.
It was pretty much the total opposite of the tour buses and extended-stay hotels I’d spent most of my life in. My mother, Meg Abbott, did not do tidy.
“Back zipper pocket,” I said as she struggled to find the money in her wallet.
“Aha,” she announced, freeing a few bills to hand to the driver, whose patience was wilting. After taking her luggage, she shouldered up beside me.
“So the neat-freak thing gets worse with time.” Mom gaped at the walkway leading up to the cobalt-blue front door, where a Davenport nameplate sparkled in the sunlight.
It wasn’t an exaggeration to say most of the surfaces I’d eaten off of weren’t as clean as the stretch of concrete in front of me.
“Mom . . . ,” I warned, when she shuddered after she roamed to inspect the window boxes bursting with scarlet geraniums.
“I’m not being mean,” she replied as we started down the walkway. “I’m appreciating my sister’s and my differences.
Right then, the front door whisked open and my aunt seemed to float from it, a measured smile in place, not a single hair out of place.
“Appreciating our differences,” Mom muttered under her breath as we moved closer.
I bit my lip to keep from laughing as the two sisters embraced.
Mom had long dark hair and fell just under the average-height bar like me. Aunt Julie, conversely, had light hair she kept swishing above her shoulders, and she was tall and thin. Her eyes were almost as light blue as mine, compared to Mom’s, which were almost as dark as her hair. It wasn’t only their physical differences that set them apart; it was everything. From the way they dressed Mom in some shade of dark, whereas the darkest color I’d ever seen Aunt Julie wear was periwinkle—to their taste in food, Mom was on the spicy end of the spectrum and Aunt Julie was on the mild.
Mom stared at Aunt Julie.
Aunt Julie stared back at Mom.
This went on for twenty-one seconds. I counted. The last stare-down four years ago had gone forty-nine. So this was progress.
Finally, Aunt Julie folded her hands together, her rounded nails shining from a fresh manicure. “Hello, Jade. Hello, Megan.”
Mom’s back went ramrod straight when Aunt Julie referred to her by her given name. Aunt Julie was eight years older but acted more like her mother than her sister.
“How’s it hangin’, Jules?”
Aunt Julie’s lips pursed hearing her little sister’s nickname for her. Then she stepped back and motioned inside. “Well?”
That was my cue to pick up my luggage and follow after Mom, who was tromping up the front steps. “Are we done already? Really?” she asked, nudging Aunt Julie as she passed.
“I’m taking the higher road,” Aunt Julie replied.
“What you call taking the higher road I call getting soft in your old age.” Mom hustled through the door after that, like she was afraid Aunt Julie would kick her butt or something.
The image of Aunt Julie kicking anything made me giggle to myself.
“Jade.” Aunt Julie’s smile was of the real variety this time as she took my duffel from me. “You were a girl the last time we saw you, and look at you now. All grown up.”
“Hey, Aunt Julie. Thanks again for letting me spend the summer with you guys,” I said, pausing beside her, not sure whether to hug her or keep moving. A moment of awkwardness passed before she made the decision for me by reaching out and patting my back. I continued on after that.
Aunt Julie wasn’t cold or removed; she just showed her affection differently. But I knew she cared about me and my mom. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t pick up the phone on the first ring whenever we did call every few months. She also wouldn’t have immediately said yes when Mom asked her a few months ago if I could spend the summer here.
“Let me show you to your room.” She pulled the door shut behind her and led us through the living room. “Paul and I had the guest room redone to make it more fitting for a teenage girl.”
“Instead of an eighty-year-old nun who had a thing for quilts and angel figurines?” Mom said, biting at her chipped black nail polish.
“I wouldn’t expect someone whose idea of a feng shui living space is kicking the dirty clothes under their bed to appreciate my sense of style,” Aunt Julie fired back, like she’d been anticipating Mom’s dig.
I cut in before they could get into it. “You didn’t have to do that, Aunt Julie. The guest room exactly the way it was would have been great.”
“Speaking of the saint also known as my brother-in-law, where is Paul?” Mom spun around, moving down the hall backward.
“At work.” Aunt Julie stopped outside of a room. “He wanted to be here, but his job’s been crazy lately.”
Aunt Julie snatched the porcelain angel Mom had picked up from the hall table. She carefully returned it to the exact same spot, adjusting it a hair after a moment’s consideration.
“Where are the twins?” I asked, scanning the hallway for Hannah and Hailey. The last time I’d seen them, they were in preschool but acted like they were in grad school or something. They were nice kids, just kind of freakishly well
behaved and brainy.
“At Chinese camp,” Aunt Julie answered.
“Getting to eat dim sum and make paper dragons?” Mom asked, sounding almost surprised.
Aunt Julie sighed. “Learning the Chinese language.” Aunt Julie opened a door and motioned me inside. I’d barely set one foot into the room before my eyes almost crossed from what I found.
Hot pink, light pink, glittery pink, Pepto-Bismol pink—every shade, texture, and variety of pink seemed to be represented inside this square of space.
“What do you think?” Aunt Julie gushed, moving up
beside me with a giant smile.
“I love it,” I said, working up a smile. “It’s great. So great.
And so . . . pink.”
“I know, right?” Aunt Julie practically squealed. I didn’t know she was capable of anything close to that high-pitched.
“We hired a designer and everything. I told her you were a girly seventeen-year-old and let her do the rest.”
Glancing over at the full-length mirror framed in, you bet, fuchsia rhinestones, I wondered what about me led my aunt to classify me as “girly.” I shopped at vintage thrift stores, lived in faded denim and colors found in nature, not ones manufactured in the land of Oz. I was wearing sneakers, cut-offs, and a flowy olive-colored blouse, pretty much the other end of the spectrum. The last girly thing I’d done was wear makeup on Halloween. I was a zombie.
Beside me, Mom was gaping at the room like she’d walked in on a crime scene. A gruesome crime scene.
“What the . . . pink?” she edited after I dug an elbow into her.
“You shouldn’t have.” I smiled at Aunt Julie when she turned toward me, still beaming.
“Yeah, Jules. You really shouldn’t have.” Mom shook her head, flinching when she noticed the furry pink stool tucked beneath the vanity that was resting beneath a huge cotton-candy-pink chandelier.
“It’s the first real bedroom this girl’s ever had. Of course I should have. I couldn’t not.” Aunt Julie moved toward the bed, fixing the smallest fold in the comforter.
“Jade’s had plenty of bedrooms.” Mom nudged me, glancing at the window. She was giving me an out. She had no idea how much more it would take than a horrendously pink room for me to want to take it.
“Oh, please. Harry Potter had a more suitable bedroom in that closet under the stairs than Jade’s ever had. You can’t consider something that either rolls down a highway or is bolted to a hotel floor an appropriate room for a young woman.” Aunt Julie wasn’t in dig mode; she was in honest mode.
That put Mom in unleash-the-beast mode.
Her face flashed red, but before she could spew whatever
comeback she had stewing inside, I cut in front of her. “Aunt Julie, would you mind if Mom and I had a few minutes alone?
You know, to say good-bye and everything?”
As infrequently as we visited the house on Providence Avenue, I fell into my role of referee like it was second nature.
“Of course not. We’ll have lots of time to catch up.” Aunt Julie gave me another pat on the shoulder as she headed for the door. “We’ll have all summer.” She’d just disappeared when her head popped back in the doorway. “Meg, can I get you anything to drink before you have to dash?”
“Whiskey,” Mom answered intently.
Aunt Julie chuckled like she’d made a joke, continuing down the hall.
I dropped my duffel on the pink zebra-striped throw rug.
“You grew up seeing the world. Experiencing things most people will never get to in their whole lives.” Her voice was getting louder with every word. “You’ve got a million times the perspective of kids your age. A billion times more compassion and an understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Who is she to make me out to be some inadequate parent when all she cares about is raising obedient, genius robots? She doesn’t know what it was like for me. How hard it was.”
“Mom,” I repeated, dropping my hands onto her shoulders as I looked her in the eye. “You did great.”
It took a minute for the red to fade from her face, then another for her posture to relax. “You’re great. I just tried not to get in the way too much and screw all that greatness up.”
“And if you must know, I’d take any of the hundreds of rooms we’ve shared over this pinktastrophe.” So it was kind of a lie, the littlest of ones. Sure, pink was on my offensive list, but the room was clean and had a door, and I would get to stay in the same place at least for the next few months. After living out of suitcases and overnight bags for most of my life, I was looking forward to discovering what drawer-and-closet living was like.
Mom threw her arms around me, pulling me in for one of those final-feeling hugs. Except this time, it kind of wasa final one. Realizing that made me feel like someone had stuffed a tennis ball down my throat.
“I love you no matter what,” she whispered into my ear again, the same words she’d sang, said, or on occasion shouted at me. Mom never just said I love you. She had something against those three words on their own. They were too open, too loosely defined, too easy to take back when something went wrong.
I love you no matter what had always been her way of telling me she loved me forever and for always. Unconditionally. She said that, before me, she’d never felt that type of love for anyone. What I’d picked up along the way on my own was that I was the only one she felt loved her back in the same way.
Squeezing my arms around my mom a little harder, I returned her final kind of hug. “I love you no matter what, too.”