Here at YABC, we're thrilled to be hosting an excerpt of Rachel Vail's new novel,
Meet Rachel Vail!
Rachel Vail is the award-winning author of more than 30 books for young people. As a theater lover, Rachel sees and reads as many plays as she can. Well, That Was Awkward was in part inspired by her love of the play Cyrano – another tale of secrets, wit, self-confidence, self-loathing, friendship, identity-hiding, and romance that blossoms between all the wrong people. Or does it?
Rachel lives in New York City with her husband, their two sons, and (like Gracie) a tortoise named Lightning.
Meet Well That Was Awkward!
It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie's beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She's had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.
It’s all good. Well, almost all. She's trying.
THAT AWKWARD MOMENT WHEN
You can’t just drop a dead sister into the conversation.
If it accidentally comes up that my sister died, everybody freezes, their mouths hanging open and their eyes wide. Then they shift around awkwardly, muttering apologies, and I have to assure them it’s okay, it’s fine, don’t worry!
Well, that’s not at all what happened today. But usually that’s how it goes: silence, shuffling, sorry, okay.
It came up more when I was younger, before I learned to steer the conversation away at any hint we might be heading in that direction. Sisters, siblings, death? Find the nearest exit, please. In first grade when we were learning graphing, Ms. Murphy told us to stand up when she got to how many siblings we had. Zero? One? Two? Chairs scraped the floor as kids stood up and sat back down, with Ms. Murphy counting. I raised my hand to ask, “What if I have a sister, but she’s dead? Is that a zero or a one?” Poor Ms. Murphy wasn’t sure either. She said, Um, oh, it’s, oh, ah, your choice? Then she blinked very many times and erased that graph and switched to: How many teeth have you lost? That night, she called my parents in for a conference to discuss what had happened and to apologize to them. They explained why I had seemed so factual about the situation, so Ms. Murphy wouldn’t think I was a scary unfeeling loon, and comforted her. She retired the next year.
My mom says it definitely wasn’t because I had traumatized her.
But Mom is like that, very supportive. Always on my side. Never gets mad.
My dad doesn’t get mad either, actually. To be fair, he seems generally pretty unemotional about anything that’s not the outer planets.
Except when it comes to the subject of Bret. Just the mention of my sister’s name makes both Mom and Dad kind of jolty, though they attempt to hide it. Now that I’m almost fourteen, I try not to bring up Bret anymore. You know how if you drop something on the subway tracks, you have to just leave it? You can maybe still see it, your bead necklace or phone or whatever, but too bad; you can’t ever get it back. That’s kind of what the topic of Bret is like for us at this point.
But today it came up at Monday-out-day lunch, while AJ Rojanasopondist was insisting that his brother Neal must’ve stolen his permission slip. Which didn’t make any sense, obviously. Why would adorable little Neal want to steal AJ’s permission slip?
“It’s a conspiracy,” Emmett explained, in solidarity with his best friend.
“It’s true,” AJ insisted. “Neal is evil.”
Emmett smiled at that. He has the most genuinely happy smile. It takes over his whole face.
Before lunch, Mr. Phillips had snapped his fingers and told AJ, in front of the whole class, that if he didn’t get his parents to deliver a signed permission slip by the end of the day, he wouldn’t be allowed to go on the trip tomorrow to the concert at the cathedral. So AJ spent the whole lunch period pleading with his mom on Emmett’s phone (AJ’s phone was dead, as usual) while simultaneously shoving three slices of pizza into his mouth, practically whole.
AJ Eating should be its own channel on YouTube. Everybody would watch it. I’m not kidding; it’s seriously that good. The guy barely has to chew.
He and Emmett had taken the other two chairs at the table where Sienna and I were in Famiglia, so it’s not like we could politely not listen to AJ trying to convince his mom that little Neal must have stolen the permission slip out of his binder.
“He just wants to mess me up constantly,” AJ complained to us after he said good-bye, thanks, I love you to his mom, and handed Emmett’s phone back. We all threw out our used plates and napkins. Sienna and I walked out with them into the sunshine of Broadway and stopped in front of the big group of Loud Crowd kids who were stalled there. “Neal may look sweet,” AJ continued. “But he is actually a demon child.”
Emmett, whose older sister, Daphne, is quiet and studious, said, “Ugh, demon siblings are the worst.” Then he looked at me apologetically, realizing.
“Don’t you love permission slips?” I asked, to get off the sibling topic.
“I hate them,” AJ said. “Permission slips are my enemy.”
“Gracie loves permission slips?” Riley Valvert asked, rolling her pretty blue eyes toward her Loud Crowd friends about how lame I am. “That’s so sad.”
“Permission slips are amazing,” I said. “Are you kidding?”
Riley looked blankly back at me. She is basically never kidding, so, fair point. Riley is in the Loud Crowd, but despite how beautiful she is, they don’t seem to like her very much. If she weren’t so nasty, and so pretty, I’d feel sorry for her.
“I love that my parents have to sign a crumpled scrap of paper,” I explained. “And then just that little nothing, which I fully could have forged, gives teachers legal cover to ditch school with us to go do some random nonschool thing. How is that not amazing?”
“Good point,” Beth chirped.
“Absolutely,” Beth’s best friend, Michaela, agreed. She was holding hands with David. They’ve been going out since the end of seventh grade.
“Wait, Gracie—you can forge signatures?” AJ asked me.
“My own parents’, sure,” I said. “Yours, not so much.”
“But maybe you could try—”
“It is kind of random,” Emmett interrupted. “Permission slips, and off we go?”
“Right?” I seconded. “I want to marry permission slips.”
“Ew,” Riley said, rolling her eyes again, this time to Michaela, who shrugged.
“So do I,” Emmett said. I love Emmett. He is simply the best. He helps everybody out. “We could have a double wedding.”
“Perfect,” I agreed.
Well That Was Awkward
Author: Rachel Vail
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Published Date: February 28th, 2017