Today we're offering a sneak peek of Sarvenaz Tash's novel, The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love! Read on for more about Sarvenaz, her novel, chapter reveal, plus a giveaway!
Meet Sarvenaz Tash!
Sarvenaz Tash was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. This means she got to spend most of college running around and making movies (it was a lot of fun). She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, copywriting, and professional tweeting. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Meet The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love!
John Hughes meets Comic Con in this hilarious, unabashedly romantic, coming-of-age novel about a teenager who is trying to get his best friend to fall in love with him from the author ofThree Day Summer.
Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy...
Archie and Veronica...
Althena and Noth...
...Graham and Roxy?
Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago, and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.
But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.
When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be...even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.
When a OnceinaTimeLordLifetime Opportunity Presents Itself, Seize It
“I know we’ve been friends for such a long time, Roxana. I only have about five years’ worth of memories without you in them. But . . .”
Here’s where the next panel would come. And in an ideal world, I’d ask Roxy herself to help me figure it out. She would sketch something, sometimes just a ghost of a line, and on the best of days, a dying ember would ignite and suddenly I’d know exactly what came next. I need her. I need her to help me figure out how to tell her I love her.
I know what it has to feel like: epic. But also sweet. Like the romantic subplot of a superhero movie. Like that rainy, upsidedown kiss in SpiderMan. But knowing what something is supposed to convey and actually getting it to do that is incredibly hard. Ask any writer.
My phone buzzes from my nightstand, a longer buzz than I’m used to. A phone call instead of a text? I see Roxana’s hastily sketched selfportrait flash across my screen and feel an inexplicable panic flit across my stomach, blaring a runon sentence like an LED display: Oh god something must be wrong if she’s calling me is she dead she’s dead or worse oh god she has a boyfriend now and they’re getting married . . .
I try not to let this spigot of crazy flow out into my voice, but as it turns out, I don’t get the chance to say anything.
“GrahamGrahamGraham, guess what? He’s coming!” Her voice is completely out of breath, like my stepsister sounds after a track meet, and I have absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. But I smile anyway. Probably one of the stars of the endless British TV shows she’s always bingewatching is going to be in a Broadway play. I should check
my bank account to see if I can afford a ticket anytime soon. I grab my iPad and hit the banking app.
“Who—” I start, but she doesn’t let me finish.
I stop typing midpassword, stunned. “Coming?” Coming where? Surely not to Long
Island. Or even anywhere in the eastern United States. Or anywhere at all that could be pinpointed on a map. Zinc hasn’t been seen, interviewed, or photographed since November 3, 1995. Not even five years ago when the reboot of The Chronicles of Althena happened. Not even six months ago when the film adaptation was finally announced, cast, and actually shooting.
“To Comic Con. New York Comic Con. Go check the boards. Go check the boards now.”
I zip over to my laptop and type in: zmen.net. First message of the forum, in capital letters, is exactly what Roxy has just told me.
I can’t believe it. Robert Zinc, creator of my favorite series ever and the J. D. Salinger of the comic book world, is coming out of hiding. Has agreed to an exclusive fortyfive minute, inperson Q&A. And it’s open to the public at New York Comic Con, taking place three weeks from now only an hourlong train ride away. Roxy and I already have passes for the weekend, only . . .
“It’s on Friday,” Roxana says, with an incredulous finality. “At three p.m.” Her voice is flat.
“Don’t you think your parents would let you skip school for this?” I urge. “This is once in a lifetime . . . not even once in a regular lifetime. Once in a Time Lord lifetime.”
“Obviously. I know that. And you know that. But explaining it to Maman and Baba...” She takes in a deep breath. “But I will try. Oh, how I will try.”
In the meantime, I’ve frantically clicked over to the NYCC website, even though I’m positive Friday passes have already sold out (they have). Fine, I’ll take care of that later. Right now, I need to figure out how getting into the Q&A is going to work.
It’s just three sentences: “Robert Zinc, creator of the oncecult The Chronicles of Althena, will be sitting down for an incredibly rare Q&A with Solomon PierceJohnson, the director of the upcoming The Chronicles of Althena movie. This event will need exclusive wristbands that can be obtained Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. at the Javits Center. One wristband per attendee.”
“Right,” I say, my brain going into organizational overdrive. Once hologrammed thought projections become a reality, this will be the point at which a large spreadsheet will beam out of my forehead. “Nine a.m. tickets means we have to line up on Thursday night. Probably starting at nine p.m.” I have personally never done this before, but I know, generally, how tickets to hot panels work. If they’re handing them out first thing in the morning, the diehard fans will line up as soon as the previous night’s convention closes. And really, who is Comic Con made of if not boatloads of diehard fans?
Roxy sighs, then laughs a little bitterly. “No problem, right? Not only can I cut school on Friday to go, but I’ll definitely be allowed to spend Thursday hanging out on a street. In New York City. Overnight. This is the start to an amazing fantasy series.” Roxy’s parents are incredibly strict. She often chalks it up to them being, as she calls it, “maximum Persian.”
“We’ll figure it out, Roxy. I promise,” I say fiercely, my brain spreadsheet starting a whole new tab for how to get Roxy to NYCC on Friday.
I hear her breathing relax a tiny bit and she laughs again, this time a little more freely. “All right, Graham,” she says. “I don’t know why, but I believe you.”
I feel a jolt in my heart at her implicit trust in me, and then, suddenly, my virtual spreadsheet is a siren, flashing blue and red.
Comic Con? Robert Zinc? A weekend immersed in practically everything we love as individuals and together? This is it: the perfect opportunity to profess my unrequited love. The spreadsheet explodes into confetti. Because maybe if the gesture is grand enough,
and perfect enough, it won’t be unrequited at all and I, Graham William Posner—lanky, pale, glasses, and with a penchant for fantasy worlds—will actually get the girl.
Every Geek Has His Price
As expected, I find Friday tickets for NYCC on eBay, no problem. Well, other than the fact that Roxy and I may have cleared out most of our bank accounts for them. I want to insist on paying, to go along with my plan to sweep her off her feet, but she gives me a weird look when I suggest it, reminding me that it isn’t her birthday or anything. I realize I have to play it cooler than that if I want to set this up right. I need to orchestrate it so that when the moment comes, she’s surprised but, on the other hand, not so shocked that she completely loses it or anything. Kind of what my favorite book on writing says about how to end a story: make it unpredictable but also inevitable.
On Tuesday, I go over to her yard so we can have our weekly writing session. Most of the leaves on the trees are red and gold already, and the wind is getting crisper as September wanes, but we still have a few weeks left of sitting out comfortably on her deck, eating the fruit and nuts that her grandmother insists on bringing out to us. We don’t get much work done today, though. We can’t stop talking about what we’ll ask Robert Zinc if there is somehow an openmic Q&A at the end of his panel and we’re lucky enough to get the chance to ask a question.
“How about ‘Where do you get your ideas?’” I tease.
“Original,” Roxana shoots back. “Not to mention, it’s not like you don’t already know the answer to that, since it’s one of about twenty questions he ever answered.”
“‘Where would Althena be right now?’” Roxana offers.
“Awesome one,” I agree. “Though I feel like copper670 already wrote the answer to that.” I’ve developed a theory that one of the zmen.net users is actually Zinc himself, incognito. He writes a lot of fan fiction that I’ve started recently calling just plain author fiction. It’s that good, and it’s completely in Zinc’s style.
“Well, there’s a question to ask him so that we can settle this debate once and for all. ‘Are you copper670?’” Roxy slams her black marker down enthusiastically, leaving the panel she was working on half inked.
“But then what will you give me when I win?” I flash her a Cheshire cat grin.
She looks down at her sketchbook and runs her hand over the back of her hair. At the beginning of the summer, she took a picture of Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby to the salon and chopped off the waistlength hair she’s always had. The cut accentuates her big eyes and long neck and is, plain and simple, stupidly hot, especially when she runs her hands through the buzzed part when she’s thinking, which she does a lot during our writing sessions.
Now her lips purse to the side and she gets a mischievous gleam in her eye. “If you win, we can kill off Slammerghini.”
I nearly gasp. Slammerghini is one of her favorite characters of ours to draw, but I’ve had a problem coming up with good story lines for him for years. There’s only so many ways a mage can turn himself into a jail cell to catch the bad guys, you know?
“Or how about if I win . . .” What I want to say is, I get to kiss you. And there is a moment when everything gets suddenly quiet, except for a soft breeze that releases a flurry of maple leaves between us. I stare into her big brown eyes, gleaming copper and gold as they reflect autumn back at me. I almost reach my hand out to touch her buzzed
chestnut hair. I almost cup her cheek and just lean in and do it. It’s almost a perfect moment.
But then I don’t. I freeze. I look away a moment too late, and then Roxana looks away too, puzzled. And instead of everything being perfect and romantic and aligned exactly right, it’s awkward and askew, like we’ve just missed an important beat in the story. It’s moments like this that make me wish life had second drafts.
“I think killing off Slammerghini is a pretty good deal, Posner. And if I win, we have to make a whole threeissue arc about him.” She picks up her marker again and goes back to crosshatching Rewinder’s cape.
And just like that, the moment is gone forever.
I obsess about it all week, feeling like I’ve failed everything pop culture has ever taught me about romance by letting the opportunity slip out of my hands. But after I’ve sufficiently beat myself up over it (three full days), I allow it to fuel my fire to make Comic Con even more perfect for the two of us. I sit out in my yard, staring at the back of Roxana’s fence—at the gate that I made my dad put in there when I was nine so that we could get in and out of each other’s backyards easily—and scheme out every detail. I print out maps of the Javits Center and schedules of the events, and start a list that is unabashedly titled “Things Roxana Loves,” with the goal of incorporating as many of the items into our weekend as possible. If things work out, by the end of New York Comic Con, my name will be on that list. I even reread all twentyfour issues of The Chronicles of Althena and take notes on all the most romantic bits—on all the perfect lines that Charlie Noth says to Althena as he falls for her. “I have no idea what you really look like.
But I still know you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve never seen” is a particular standout. Maybe I can incorporate an adaptation of that somehow.
On Friday morning, it’s time to launch Phase 2 of the plan’s centerpiece: the Robert Zinc panel. Before school, I bike over to my friend Casey Zucker’s house. His parents are backing out of their driveway when I get there, on their way to their teaching jobs at Stony Brook University. I wave at them.
I find Casey up in his room, putting an enormous amount of white glop in his hair and running his hands through it until he’s created vertical black spikes that would look right at home on a medieval mace. Casey discovered hair product about six months ago. I guesstimate another six months before he figures out he doesn’t need to go through a bottle a week.
“NYCC. Zinc. Here’s the deal.” I don’t waste time with preliminaries.
“Ugh. Don’t even get me started, dude.” He immediately goes over to his desk and hits a key on his computer to fire up the monitor. A spreadsheet fills the enormous display, each of its cells filled with minuscule font. “I had everything planned out weeks ago and the panel has messed up my entire schedule. I might even have to skip out on a Jim Lee signing and a Joss Whedon meetandgreet.”
“Or maybe,” I say, leaning against his dresser and staring at his neat bookcase full of plasticwrapped comic books, “you won’t.”
“It’s not ideal,” Casey continues. “I’ll give you that. But . . . I do have to learn to be a little more flexible. I suppose.” He sighs as he clicks on something on his spreadsheet and deletes it.
“Or you can just stick to your original plan that you’ve spent months perfecting,” I counter again.
Casey finally turns around in his desk chair, one eyebrow raised. “All right. What’s going on?”
That’s the problem with having the class valedictorian as one of your best friends. It can be pretty hard to try and slide something by him.
“I have a proposal,” I say. He continues to stare at me, and I know my best bet is to just be straight with him. “You stand in line with me to get the Robert Zinc wristbands, and then let me give your wristband to Roxana. In exchange”—Casey guffaws, but I don’t let that deter me—“I will give you my pristine Issue Number One of GiantSize X Men.”
We stare at each other across Casey’s room. It’s a good offer. Nay, it’s a great offer. The issue was a gift from my dad and I checked its value just before coming over today. It’s worth well over a grand these days.
“A, ‘Pristine’ is stretching it,” he finally says. “It’s an eight point five, tops.”
Now it’s my turn to guffaw. “Excuse me, but do I need to show you the paperwork again? This is a really interesting time for your photographic memory to fail you.”
“B, you are insane,” Casey says, ignoring me, “if you think I’d bail on seeing Zinc.” He puts his computer to sleep and gets up to find his backpack.
I sigh. I really thought the GiantSize XMen offer would hold more water with him. “Okay, then, what do you want?”
“Nothing,” Casey says without flinching. “I’m not missing Robert Zinc.”
I watch him carefully put two textbooks into his bag and zip it. There’s no way I’m ready to give up.
“There has to be something you’d miss him for,” I say. Every geek has a price, something my dad, the OG—Original Geek—taught me long ago.
Casey’s dark eyes stare into mine, and in a moment I’m pretty sure he’s finally achieved his lifelong ambition of developing a mindreading serum. Because he brings up the OG too. “Your dad’s ObiWan figure.”
For an insane moment, I actually consider it, and the notion that I can somehow get my hands on it, all heistlike, and then just hand it over to Casey. But this is real life, not The Sandlot.
“I’m inheriting that in about sixty years. Maybe come talk to me then.” Even though I know I’ll never give it up, even then. The 1978 doubletelescoping ObiWan figure, untouched and in its original box, is my legacy. Not to mention, whenever I do get it, my dad’s ghost would definitely haunt me were I to just give it away.
“How about . . .” I have a sudden flash of brilliance. “My full Legends Awakened set?” Valuewise, this has nothing on ObiWan, of course. But sentimentally, it was one of the few things Casey didn’t get his hands on when we were kids, and he wanted it . . . bad. It just so happened that those Pokémon booster packs came out during one of the years when both of his parents were on sabbatical and working on their respective academic books. It was a good year for us to play video games and eat as much sugar as we wanted with zero to no parental supervision. A bad one for Casey to get a single Christmas present he had asked for, partially because Mr. and Mrs. Zucker were too distracted and partially because money was pretty tight that year.
Casey brings his hands together and looks down into them, as if divining the answer there. I think I may have just hooked him and congratulate myself on my lateblooming genius. “And the GiantSize XMen?” he asks.
“Yes. Fine,” I agree, feeling relieved that our negotiations are at an end.
Only, he pauses again, still examining his hands, which he’s now rubbing together exactly like a cartoon villain.
“Come on, Case,” I finally plead, trying to appeal to his heretofore nonexistent romantic side. He didn’t seem particularly fazed when I told him a month ago that I was in love with Roxy. In fact, I think his exact reaction was to tell me that my lack of concentration was costing us the Warcraft raid. But I plunge on anyway. “I have to tell Roxy how I feel, and this is the perfect opportunity. You know how she feels about Robert Zinc.”
His eyes narrow. “You know how I feel about Robert Zinc.”
“And you know how I feel about Roxana . . .” I trail off. I should’ve known better. This line of beseeching isn’t going to get anywhere with Casey.
Or so I think. “Okay, throw in one more thing and I’m in,” he says, finally staring up at me again with a gleam in his eye.
I draw in a sharp breath. “What?”
“The XMen Number One, Legends Awakened, and . . . get Callie to agree to a date with me.”
My jaw nearly hits the floor. “Callie? Callie . . . McCullough?” I say numbly. As if we know any other Callies beside my stepsister.
“Yup,” Casey says, swinging his backpack over his shoulder and heading for his bedroom door.
“Just how am I supposed to do that?”
Casey shrugs. “I leave the method up to you. But those are my terms. Take them or leave them.”
I follow him out, stunned. Maybe I was wrong about Casey and romance after all. Maybe every geek not only has a price, but a girl who makes him crazy, too. As evidenced by the fact that he would even think to lump a date with a reallife person in the same category as some cards and a comic book (no matter how awesome they are). Maybe he’s as far gone as me.
That’s my own excuse, anyway, for immediately trying to figure out how to get my superpopular, athletic, senior stepsister to agree to a date with someone who, in her parlance, would inevitably be a junior dork. My mind churns for our entire walk to school.
The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love
By: Sarvenaz Tash
Release Date: June 14, 2016
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