Today we're excited to spotlight Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter. Read on for more about Gena and her book, plus an excerpt & giveaway!
Meet Gena Showalter!
Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of many fantastical, romantic novels and series for adults and younger readers including the Everlife series and the White Rabbit Chronicles. You can learn more about Gena, her menagerie of rescue dogs, and all her upcoming books at genashowalter.com and follow her on Twitter @genashowalter.
Oh My Goth (September 2018) by bestseller Gena Showalter is the hilarious and heartfelt paperback everyone will be stashing in their backpacks this Fall!
Since a terrible car accident took her Mom’s life, Jade Leighton has been shut-down, unwilling and unable to show her emotions except through sarcastic, ragey outbursts. Jade hardened her style too, choosing freaky clothes and morbid tattoos to scare away everyone in her small town. Everyone except her chosen family that is, the small clique of goth outsiders who Jade would literally die for.
After a raucous party, Jade’s world is upended – again! She is arguing outside with her nemesis, popular girl Mercedes when a car nearly runs into them. As Jade pulls Mercedes out of the way, she hits her head on a planter and blacks out. Jade wakes up in another dimension, a world where she is Queen Bee of the school, all the other kids are wannabe goths, and Mercedes is her outcast stepsister. Only Jade and Mercedes know something is seriously bonkers in this world but will they change their old ways and band together to return to normal life?
Oh My Goth was one of Gena Showalter’s first stand-alone novels and in this fully revised paperback edition, readers will see why this funny, full of feels book had to get out to a new audience.
Outward beauty will one day fade, but the things we do—our cruelties or simple kindnesses—will live forever in the people we hurt or help.—From the journal of Miranda Beers
My name is Jade Leighton, and this morning I staged my own death. Fiona, my stepmom, walked in and just about screamed the house down.
First: Knock please!
Second: I think she screamed louder when I opened my eyes.
Third: She’s going to need therapy after this.
I know, I know. How morbid of me. Seek help. Why focus on death when life is what matters? Don’t worry, I’ve heard it all. The truth is, I never wanted to be discovered. I’d planned to snap a few photos of my “corpse” to study later—at the suggestion of my therapist, thank you very much.
Okay, okay. He hadn’t suggested I stage my own death...exactly. He said I should face my past head-on so that I can finally move forward.
My interpretation? Recreate my mother’s death—the most defining moment of my life—and find the beauty hidden in the darkness.
Her name was Miranda.
When my parents got along, my dad called her Randy, a nickname she claimed to hate. He would say it with a twinkle in his eyes, and Mom would protest while fighting a smile.
I was five years old when she enrolled me in a ballet class. The day of my first lesson, I remember wearing a pink tutu and feeling like a princess. I twirled all the way to the car and begged Mom to let me sit in the front seat like “a big girl.” The studio was only a few miles from our house, so she decided to humor me. At least, that’s my best guess.
I don’t remember what happened to us on the road. I’m told another vehicle slammed into ours halfway to the studio, propelling us off a bridge. We landed upside down next to a river. I do remember the thunder of my heartbeat in my ears when I opened my eyes. I remember the scent of old pennies and fuel thickening in the air. I remember the feel of my seatbelt as it pinned me in place, the strap cutting into my tiny chest.
I also remember panicking, fighting to right myself as warm blood trickled down my face and splashed onto my mother...who lay beneath me, splayed across the minivan’s dash, surrounded by broken glass, her golden gaze staring at nothing. A metal spike protruded from her torso, the perfect complement to the bones sticking out of her arm, and both of her legs.
Hours passed. The car responsible for our predicament had soared over the other side of the bridge, and the driver—the only occupant of that vehicle—had died instantly. No one had witnessed the collision, so no one had called for help.
By the time we were found, I’d screamed so much that I’d permanently damaged my vocal cords.
My dad says I quit being me that day. He says I shut down completely. He isn’t wrong.
I’m seventeen now, and I haven’t shed a single tear since the accident. I haven’t laughed, either. I feel nothing. Not sadness. Not anger. Not happiness. Nothing.
I don’t get excited when good things happen to me, or anyone. On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t get upset when bad things happen to me. Fiona once tried to tell me—in the gentlest way possible—that I suffer from RWF. Resting witch face. (She refuses to curse.)
I’ve spent years in counseling. My therapist says my emotional detachment is a protective measure I use to shield myself from trauma I’m not yet able to handle. He isn’t wrong, either.
I choose not to feel, and I like my numbness.
My dad does not. For his birthday, he used to say, “All I want from you is a genuine smile or laugh.” I’d fake one, and he’d reply, “Instead you give me heartburn. Great!”
He used to tell me a joke every morning.
Where does a sheep go for a haircut? To the baaaa baaaa shop! How do you make a tissue dance? You put a little boogie in it. What time did the man go to the dentist? Tooth hurt-y.
My lack of reaction depressed him, and finally he’d stopped.
I don’t enjoy hurting him, but I’m not going to change just to please him.
The bell for first period rings, drawing me from my thoughts and signaling the start of a new school day. I’ve been seated for over ten minutes. I’m not eager, trust me, I’m just punctual. If you aren’t early, you’re late.
Mr. Parton takes attendance. He smiles sweetly at Mercedes Turner, teacher’s pet, and glares daggers at me, teacher’s nightmare. When he begins his lecture, comparing triangles to other triangles, drawing tangents to circles, I hear blah, blah, blah.
I’ve never liked sitting for long periods of time as someone who hates me explains the ins and outs of a subject I’ll never actually use in the real world. Go figure. The only classes I find the least bit interesting nowadays are creative writing, art, and anatomy.
I sigh and doodle different parts of the skeletal system on the pages of my notebook. A femur, metacarpals and phalanges, a radius and an ulna. Things guaranteed to creep out Mr. Parton if he demands to know what I’m doing.
Maybe my friend Linda “Linnie” Baker is right. How do you know someone has spoken to Jade? They’re crying!
Linnie offered that particular quip after I told her about my confrontation with Fiona...and after I made a junior sob. At school, the only people I talk to—besides my friends—are the students who insult my friends.
I never shout, only warn, but for some reason, my calm tone elicits fear. Apologize now, or I’ll cut out your tongue so you’re no longer able to speak such ugly words.
The thing is, my warnings are not lies. One day, I’ll probably end up in jail.
“Tsk, tsk, Jade. Touching yourself in class,” Charlee Ann Richards says, her voice soft. She’s seated next to me. “How scandalous.”
I realize I stopped drawing in order to trace my fingertips over the scars at the base of my neck, courtesy of the car wreck and my seatbelt. Thanks to shards of glass, more scars decorate my abdomen and legs.
Ignoring Charlee Ann, I pick up my pencil and draw a sternum, then a ribcage. Soon I have an entire skeleton on the page, though the bones are scattered like puzzle pieces that need to fit together.
As if offended by my lack of concern, Charlee Ann confiscates the paper and mutters, “You are such a freak.”
I run my tongue over my teeth. I choose not to feel, yes, but I do not like having my things taken from me. However, I remain mute. The moment I speak up, she’ll know how to strike at me next time.
She learned from a master, after all. Her mentor, Mercedes. According to Linnie, Charlee Ann is Mercedes’s clone, and together the two are the most popular girls at Hathaway High.
I know Mercedes well. Her mom, Nadine, used to date my dad. In fact, Nadine was his first serious girlfriend after my mother died. Dad and Nadine were serious enough to shack up together. Mercedes and I became friends; in elementary school, we were never far from each other’s side. Then, right before our first year of junior high, Nadine broke up with my dad and moved out.
Like the car accident, the day is forever burned into my mind. Nadine held her bag in one hand and Mercedes’s hand in the other. She looked at me dead-on and said, “You are to blame for this. You’re a bad influence. A budding sociopath!”
I think my dad agreed with her. That same night, he had a few too many beers and said to me, “Did you really have to ask Nadine how she wanted to die—then explain in minute detail how other people have died? You frightened her.”
Mercedes and I were never friends again. In fact, we became target practice for each other.
“Nothing to say?” Charlee Ann asks with a smirk.
Again, I ignore her. To the rest of the world, I’m weird. So what? So I wonder how people are going to die. Again, so what? The opinions of others mean nothing to me.
I wish my friends felt the same. Linnie, Kimberly Nguyen, and Robb Martinez care a little too much.
Insults cause Linnie to spiral and seek praise in all the wrong places. Kimberly adds another layer of sass to her attitude, as my dad would say. Robb often sinks into a deep, dark depression and goes mute.
I might not know how to help them, but I do know how to threaten their tormentors.
Charlee Ann hands my paper to Mercedes, who is sitting directly behind her. “Look at this,” she whispers. “We should schedule an intervention, yeah? Before she murders us all.” Charlee Ann is probably going to kill someone, hide the body but get caught anyway, and die in prison when another girl shanks her. Mercedes is probably going to have a heart attack at thirty and never recover.
Mercedes studies my artwork and shudders. “I doubt it will help,” she whispers back. From her coifed blond hair to her fit-and-flare buttercup yellow dress, she is the epitome of perfect. “The crazy is strong in this one.”
Charlee Ann chortles.
Mercedes knows I’m forced to go to therapy, but she’s never told her friends. Not out of the goodness of her heart. (Does she still have a heart?) She keeps quiet because I have dirt on her, too. For years I’ve watched her struggle with an eating disorder. Whatever goes in soon comes right back out.
I blame Nadine. (Who is probably going to outlive us all.) The woman constantly criticizes her daughter, as if nothing Mercedes accomplishes is ever good enough. Even I would admit Mercedes is smart and beautiful—on the outside, at least.
I should probably feel sorry for her, but sympathy is beyond me. Like her mother, Mercedes tears down others in an attempt to feel better about herself. I think that’s why she’s my only no-emotion exception. I kinda sorta enjoy tearing her down.
“Keep the paper,” I say just as softly. “It can pass as your new student ID. The resemblance is uncanny, don’t you think?”
Shock and horror flare in Mercedes’s blue, blue eyes—eyes that quickly well with tears. She blinks rapidly, and the tears vanish. Hey, maybe I imagined them.
“Shut your mouth,” Charlee Ann snaps, earning a disapproving glance from Mr. Parton. She shrivels in her seat. “Sorry. My bad.”
He nods and continues his lecture. To him, she can do no wrong.
As co-chairs for Make A Difference—or, as I liked to call it, MAD—both Charlee Ann and Mercedes are considered earth angels. They spearhead most school fundraisers and throw parties to encourage students to support each other, no matter their race, religion, gender or sexuality.
Their next event—Light Night—is three or four weeks away. (I don’t know the exact date, because I tune out every time someone starts talking about it.) Tickets are twenty dollars a pop. Twenty dollars to dress up, stand outside during a heat wave, eat crappy hors d’oeuvres, and light a candle at the same time as other people? No, thank you.
Take my money. I’ll keep my time. What Mercedes and Charlee Ann don’t seem to understand? You don’t need to light a candle to prove you support other people, whatever their race, religion, gender or sexuality. You just need to be kind on a day-to-day basis. Yeah, I know. What a shocker.
And yeah, I get that I’m not always kind to others. I like to think I’m a little less of a hypocrite, though, since I get my jollies from bullying the bullies. Or is a hypocrite just a hypocrite, no matter the circumstances? Oh, well.
Eyes narrowing, Mercedes leans toward me. “My mother says you’re such a heinous bitch because you’re jealous of me. What does your mother tell you about me?” She fluffs her hair. “Oh, that’s right. She can’t tell you anything. She’s dead.”
Charlee Ann offers me another smirk, clearly assured I’ve been put in my place.
Why would I be upset? Mercedes spoke the truth. My mother is dead, and she can’t tell me anything.
Uh-oh. Mr. Parton looks ready for war as he stomps toward us. Both Mercedes and Charlee Ann sit up straighter and gaze at him with adoring eyes, as if caught up in the wonders of his lecture. Talk about false advertising! The only person who adores Mr. Parton is Mr. Parton.
He stops to pat Mercedes on the shoulder, all You’re such a good girl.
This world isn’t fair, so he’ll probably die of old age, in his sleep, while having an X-rated dream.
As soon as he passes her, she withdraws her cellphone to sneak a selfie with Charlee Ann as the two pretend to gag. I’m sure the caption will mention me.
I’ve never understood the “art” of the selfie, or how and why so many people morph into a philosopher on the Internet. Every day people post pictures of their faces and caption each photo with “words of wisdom.”
Can’t let life’s cares get you down.
Really? So you aren’t obsessing about the number of “likes” and “shares” you’re getting?
Look at the beautiful world around me. Good job, God!
Problem: Your ginormous head is obscuring the beautiful world around you.
Take time to enjoy every season of your life, guys. Even the storms. Without rain, we wouldn’t have flowers.
And we can’t understand the profound nature of your advice unless we see you sitting in your car with your hand resting in your hair?
Why not post the pictures with a statement of fact: I think I look AMAZEBALLS today. Look at me. Look at me right now! Sidebar: Aren’t I super duper SMART?
Linnie says my name fits me so perfectly because I’m so jaded. Maybe she’s right. Again. She also says I was born in the wrong century. While my friends consider their cell phones an extension of their hands, I use mine only to send my dad proof-of-life texts.
To me, the Internet sucks. There are far too many trolls—fools who think cruelty is hilarious and their opinion is the only right one, who forget that the person they are calling terrible names has baggage, too. Cowards who think they are protected behind their screen, because the other person isn’t nearby to gut-punch and junk-slam.
Linnie once posted a picture of us eating lunch together and, no joke, someone legit told us the world would be a better place without us, that we should just go ahead and kill ourselves.
She cried for weeks, nothing I said able to comfort her. Unlike me, she still loves the internet. If she’s not in class, she’s on her phone.
“If Miss Baker will give me the honor of her attention,” Mr. Parton snaps, “I’ll explain the relation between sine and cosine.”
All eyes zoom to Linnie. Her cheeks turn bright red as she shifts in her chair. I think she’ll die of some rare disease, but only after she’s traveled the world and left her mark.
She sits several rows ahead of me, at the front of the class. At the beginning of the school year, Mr. Parton separated us so we couldn’t “plot the downfall of the world.” Yeah. He really used that phrase.
I’m not surprised he’s singled her out today. He tends to focus all of his negative energy on one of us each and every day.
I don’t hate him, but I might cheer if Wolverine smashed through the door and gave him a prostate exam. When we ask questions, he sneers as if we’re dumb for not already understanding something we’ve never before studied.
To draw attention away from her, I say “You have my permission to continue, Mr. P,” and give a royal wave my hand. “Unless you don’t know the relation between a sine and a cosine?”
A chorus of chuckles abounds.
He scowls at me, a vein throbbing on his forehead. I think he secretly hopes I’ll cower in my seat. Too bad, so sad. Fear of him is as foreign to me as happiness and hatred.
Mercedes raises her hand. She doesn’t wait to be called on, but says, “If Jade insists on being disruptive in class, perhaps you should make her stand in the corner by herself. Except, then we’d have to look at her, and everyone would probably lose their breakfast.”
More chuckles abound.
Mr. Parton smiles before masking his amusement with a stern expression. “That was beneath you, Miss Turner. We must be kind to others, even when our kindness isn’t deserved.”
Barf. “You’d lose your breakfast? Really?” I ask her. “No wonder you look at me so much. No one enjoys losing a meal more than you, eh, Mer?”
The color drains from her cheeks.
“Enough.” Mr. Parton claps his hands once, twice. When I meet his gaze, his too-thin lips press together even as his eyes glow with triumph—as if he’s won some kind of war against me. Silly Mr. Parton. “We’re here to learn.”
If that’s true, we need another teacher.
Mercedes raises her hand a second time. “I have an equation, Mr. Parton. May I share it with the rest of the class?”
She sneers at me. “You dress like a Goth to set yourself apart from others, to protest conformity, and yet you conform to the image of other Goths. Explain that.”
Hello, stereotype. “Your ‘equation’ has a flaw,” I say, using air-quotes. “You assume I am what I am as an act against some type of conformity. The truth is, I simply am what I am.”
Most people are afraid of death. Not me. I’m curious about it. I know the body dies—does the soul die, as well? I accept the fact that we are all bound for the grave, and I find beauty in things other people consider doom-and-gloom. Like a withered tree, or a broken mirror. Even a pile of debris. In books and movies, I tend to sympathize with the villain.
I’m not normal, and I don’t want to pretend otherwise.
“You’re a freak, plain and simple,” Charlee Ann says.
I meet her gaze, unwavering. “Again, there’s a flaw in your reasoning. There’s nothing wrong with being a freak. However, there is something wrong with being a fraud.”
Her jaw drops. “I am not a fraud!”
Linnie gives me an I adore you smile.
Doing my best impression of Charlee Ann, I flip my hair over my shoulder. “I’m so kind and compassionate. I love and support everyone always.” As she glares at me, I add, “What a person looks like isn’t what determines your treatment of them—the blackened state of your heart is.”
Once again Mr. Parton claps his hands. “All right. That’s enough, Miss Leighton.” Me? I wait for him to call out Charlee Ann or Mercedes.
Wow. Okay, all right. “Here’s a problem I’d love for you to solve for the class.” I lift my chin, square my shoulders. “There are twenty-one kids in this room, and not one of them has learned anything but the consequences of having a bad teacher. How do you explain that?”
Everyone snickers, even Mercedes and Charlee Ann.
The vein in Mr. Parton’s forehead throbs faster. “One more word out of you, Miss Leighton, and you’ll spend a week in detention.”
Is he kidding? I might have just won the lottery. Detention lasts for an hour after school. The longer I can avoid Fiona, and a new lecture from my dad, the better.
“Word,” I say.
His eyes narrow to tiny slits and his face darkens to lobster red, clashing with his white button-down shirt and brown dress slacks. He’s so neat and tidy; he obviously prizes order.
To him, I must look like chaos. My clothes are usually torn. I have two eyebrow rings and a silver hoop in my nose. One of my arms is sleeved in tattoos. My back is also covered.
Part of my armor, my therapist says. He’s wrong. They are my memorials.
Robb gave me my first tattoo—a broken heart on my wrist. Of course, my dad flipped out. What he didn’t understand, then or now? The image reminds me of my mother, forever and always.
I told him I would be getting other tattoos with or without his approval. Rather than allowing my friend to put my “health at risk,” Dad shocked me by hiring a professional to do the rest of the work. We had to travel out of state, and he had to sign paperwork to grant his permission, but each and every time, he did it with only a handful of complaints.
“If you want detention so badly, I’ll give it to you—for the rest of the month.” Mr. Parton crosses his arms, clearly expecting me to rush out an apology. “How does that sound?”
When will he learn I’m not like other kids?
“Mr. Parton,” I say, picking a fleck of black nail polish from my index finger. “Have you noticed you’re the one being disruptive, wasting everyone’s time? You offered detention. I accepted. Can we move on, please?”
Rage detonates in his eyes as a chorus of Oooh and Aaah rings out.
“That’s it! I want you gone.” He closes the distance to slap his hands against the sides of my desk. The metal legs vibrate. If he doesn’t learn to control his stress levels, that vein in his forehead is going to burst. “You are nothing but a nuisance. At this rate, you’re going to fail my class. Probably all your classes.”
If I hadn’t taught myself to shut down emotionally, I might have erupted just then. He’s not supposed to discuss my private business with others. But all I feel is more nothingness. “You’re wrong about my grades,” I inform him. “I’m passing every class...that has a decent teacher.”
He jerks a finger toward the door. “Get out of my classroom. Go straight to Principal Hatcher’s office. Do not talk to anyone along the way. Do not stop in the bathroom.”
Tomblike silence slithers through the room.
“May I collect two hundred dollars for passing Go?” I say as I bend down to retrieve my books and bag from the floor.
“Happy to go just as soon as you write me a note.”
His nostrils flare before he stomps to his desk, scribbles something, and throws a piece of paper at my feet.
I may be indifferent, but I’m not stupid. This is a power play. One of many. Mr. Parton has always enjoyed taking his frustrations out on his students. If he spills coffee on his shirt, we get a quiz. If he locks his keys in his car, we get ten pages of homework.
I remain beside my desk, stiff as a board. I will not pick up that paper.
On my sixteenth birthday, my dad gifted me with two of my mother’s journals. One she’d written before her marriage, the other she’d written after. I’ve read every precious word more times than I can count. One of my favorite passages plays through my mind.
If I don’t stand up for myself, I will fall. I must be strong, and I must be brave. I must be me. Because, if I fall, how will I carry my little girl when she needs me most?
At one time, she was the head cheerleader, a position she lost when she got pregnant with me. My dad, the football star, had knocked her up.
As soon as she hit her second trimester, she was kicked off the cheer squad. Kids called her a slut and a whore, and she lost many friends.
Although, I suppose they weren’t really friends. Arguably not even people worth knowing.
I wish I could read Mom’s other journals and discover more pearls of wisdom from her, but my dad said the rest were lost when we moved out of my childhood home and into the one we now share with Fiona.
“Miss Leighton!” Mr. Parton’s voice yanks me from my thoughts. “Pick up the pace. The sooner you’re gone, the sooner the rest of the class can enjoy the lesson.”
I stand and adjust the strap of my bag on my shoulder. “I don’t think you have to worry about anyone enjoying it.”
I don’t mean the words as a taunt but a simple truth. Still, students laugh.
He closes in on me once again, and he looks ready to snap—my neck, that is. I remain in place, forcing him to peer up at me. At five ten, I’m two inches taller than Mr. Parton.
When he realizes I can’t be intimidated, he balls his fists. “Don’t you dare come back in here. You do, and you’ll be punished. Do you understand me?”
“Of course. Your lectures are always punishment.” I step past him, past the paper he threw, and nod goodbye to Linnie as I stroll into the hall.
Oh My Goth
By: Gena Showalter