Spotlight on Stars Belong To Us (Annabeth Chatwin), Excerpt, Plus Giveaway! ~ (US/Can Only)
Today we're excited to spotlight Stars Belong To Us by Annabeth Chatwin.
Read on for more about Annabeth and her book, an excerpt, plus an giveaway!
Meet Annabeth Chatwin!
Annabeth Chatwin hit best seller lists in three countries with her debut novella "He Called Me Beautiful," a gay YA romance set in 1998. Hailed as "full of yummy pop culture references!," "He Called Me Beautiful" reaches back to Annabeth's high school years as a bisexual teenager. She earned numerous writing awards during her graduate program in fiction. These include a position as a top-ten finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition in the novel-in-progress category and an award of semifinalist in the novella category, both in the same year.
Annabeth's young adult fiction features LGBTQ teenagers dealing with gossip, finding themselves, and living extraordinary lives in ordinary situations. She writes characters people want to "wrap up and snuggle," often in instalove and friends-to-lovers situations. She especially loves manic pixie dream boys and the complications they bring to the real world.
Annabeth taught creative writing and wrote in the freelance (read: non-fiction) world before turning to young adult literature, with pieces appearing in The Washington Post, Time Magazine, and The Huffington Post. During that time, she was a featured guest on CNN, NPR, and Canadian public radio. Much of her writing focused on her three sons, all of whom have offbeat names and love David Bowie.
Meet Stars Belong To Us!
You see, I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there, trying to forget the bad things that have happened to me.
That's Eliot's story, a baby-you're-a-rich-man prep school kid who throws parties like Jay Gatsby, claims half his high school as a BFF, and seldom sees his absentee parents. When he's tossed a scholarship kid to squire around, Eliot's magnetic enthusiasm takes over, and Jonas falls hard — not for the spoiled rich kid, but for the boy who spends his parties playing video games alone, eats nachos for breakfast, and takes in stray cats.
But Eliot's got a mansion and "an island? It's sort of complicated." Jonas has a seven-room millhouse, a moped, and a mom whose maid company might clean up after Eliot's glittering bashes. But his single mother loves him, while Eliot's grin hides crushing loneliness. Jonas has to fix it however he can.
But Jonas discovers Eliot's family gives out his scholarship. Eliot's old BFFs aren't thrilled their party boy's hanging with a poor kid. And Eliot's grand gestures don't translate to Jonas's paycheck-to-paycheck life. Jonas aches to give Eliot the love he needs. Eliot's aching to love him in return. But sprawling mansions and scraped-up together rent don't mix. Right?
A full-length novel from best selling author Annabeth Chatwin, Stars Belong to Us tells a story of two boys determined to love one another for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health — and how pride can hurt those we love best of all.
~ Excerpt ~
Lowry Prep loomed. With two stories and two small extensions jutting out at each end, it seemed like a crouched bird of prey, wings spread, waiting to swallow me into big, heavy doors. I stared up at it in the warm September morning. School started late, Thursday after Labor Day. A mob of students parted and walked around me. I’d accepted their junior year scholarship because colleges would look longer at an admissions form from Lowry than from my not-so-great public school in Columbia, South Carolina. I took a deep breath and stepped forward into teeming masses of students— only to startle hard when someone touched my shoulder.
I turned. A guy my age, with messy dark hair, dark eyes, and lean muscle, smiled. I tried not to look too long. “Hi,” he said, his grin reaching ear-to-ear. “I’m Eliot Finley. You must be Jonas Durant? They asked me to watch out for you and take you to the office.”
“Um, hi,” I said. “I’m Jonas, yeah. How did you know?”
He shrugged. “Because I know everyone and I didn’t know you.”
“Okay. That sort of makes sense, I guess.”
Eliot’s grin hadn’t disappeared. “Watching the girls walk in? The plaid skirts, huh? And they never wear them long enough, which is supposed to be a credit-card length from the knee and hideously unattractive, so they roll them short and administration freaks at them, then they say they’re sorry and do it again when the teachers turn their backs.” He paused. “If I were a girl, I’d roll my skirt up to my butt, too. They look better that way.”
The monologue had my head spinning. “Um, uh, no to the girls. I’m not— I mean I don’t—”
That grin again. “Don’t tell me you’re gay.”
Oh no. Oh no, oh no. Everyone had said Lowry was really liberal: another reason I’d switched. “Yeah,” I said, and my voice strengthened a little. “Yeah, I am.”
Eliot’s pretty lips twisted. “I think they did that on purpose. The first day of school, and I’ve got to lead around someone with curls like yours.” He actually tugged at one, and I nearly melted. “You are going to be a monumental distraction to my academic career.”
“I guess you’re gay, too?” A stupid thing to say: obviously he was gay, obviously he’d said I was cute, and I blushed hard.
Eliot carried a leather satchel, unlabeled and supple and hence very expensive. “I was formerly the only out kid at Lowry. Now I have a buddy.” He paused. “Do you think they did that on purpose? Maybe they didn’t do it on purpose. But they didn’t not do it on purpose. Come on. I’m charged with escorting you safely to the office and everywhere else thereafter.” He grabbed my hand and led me up the long front steps. Somehow, it didn’t seem strange coming from Eliot.
“New boyfriend?” a kid called to him. “You’re not allowed to bring those to school, Eliot!”
“New kid!” Eliot said over his shoulder.
I’d’ve happily taken that first title. Eliot’s hand was warm in mine, soft, with long, almost delicate fingers. I hadn’t even walked in Lowry, and I’d already been swept up by a super-hot guy who, by the sheer number of waves he was getting, seemed to know everyone.
“Oh, wait, we have to find my sixth grader.” Eliot stopped on a wide brick porch running from one end of the long building to the other, filled here and there with clusters of students. “Her name is Bryson. I think I remember what she looks like from orientation. We have to walk her to her classroom first.”
“Does everyone get a sixth grader?” I asked.
“No, you have to volunteer. It’s a program I started to help them get used to a new school and make a smoother transition into middle school, because let’s be honest, middle school sucks. Have you read the statistics? Bullying peaks in sixth grade.”
“Um, no, I haven’t.” Eliot hadn’t let go of my hand.
“Oh, there she is! BRYSON!” He drew out the first syllable. A teensy little girl with an enormous backpack looked up. Eliot dragged me through mobs of students to her. He leaned down. “Hi, Bryson, remember me? I’m Eliot Finley.”
She perked up. “Eliot! I thought maybe you forgot!” Her red Lowry polo shirt nearly drowned her, but she had long blonde hair, the pale color that would darken as she grew, and dark blue eyes.
“Of course not. This is Jonas. He’s a new junior. I have to escort him around today, so I guess you’re his sixth grader too.”
She looked up at me with very serious eyes. “Hi, Jonas. I’m Bryson Coleman.”
“Nice to meet you, Bryson,” I replied. This first day had already veered far from any of my expectations.
Eliot shifted his satchel towards his back and picked up Bryson’s hand in the one that wasn’t holding mine. “C’mon, girl. Let’s get you to your class.”
“I think I remember where it is?” She drew her eyebrows together.
“Well, I know where it is, because you have Mrs. Joy Sisterman and she’s awesome. C’mon.” Eliot threaded us through other students, in the front doors, and immediately up a grand flight of wooden stairs, worn smooth by generations of students. “The office is downstairs but we need to take Bryson upstairs first,” he said. Students packed wide hallways. Eliot deftly led us around them, past rows and rows of shiny red lockers, to a door covered with fake flowers and the words “WELCOME SIXTH GRADERS!”
“Here you go,” Eliot said. He poked his head inside. “Mrs. Sisterman! I brought you Bryson!”
A tall, thin woman with a severe bob and a sharp nose smiled. Her whole face changed from serious to bright. “Thank you, Eliot, honey. Bryson, come in, and I’ll show you your seat. Eliot, it’s been so nice to see all the high schoolers bringing my kids up today. They seem so much less nervous than usual. I can’t thank you enough for thinking of this.”
Eliot beamed. “No problem. I thought they’d feel special having an older kid, and it would give them a familiar face at lunch.” He turned to me. “I tried to match lunch periods so the kids didn’t ever have to sit by themselves.”
“Who’s your friend?” she asked.
“This is Jonas Durant. Jonas, Mrs. Sisterman, sixth grade teacher extraordinaire. Do you know they intentionally gave the new gay kid to me?” He sighed. “Dr. Mansfield totally did it on purpose.”
My face heated up.
“I think it’s sweet. I hope you enjoy Lowry, Jonas.” She gave me that kind smile that little kids’ teachers always have.
“Thank you, ma’am, I hope so, too.”
She laughed. “You’d be hard pressed not to with Eliot. Eliot, you’d better get him down to the office.”
“Right away, ma’am. Have a great day!” Eliot pulled me back into the mob. “She was my sixth-grade teacher and super-sweet. Well, down the stairs again. I always forget how crowded this place gets. And dude, half the little ones don’t wear deodorant yet and I swear they get so stinky.”
I laughed. “I remember those days.”
“Yep, me too, and they sucked. That’s why I started the sixth grade mentor program.” We turned at the bottom of the stairs, people sporadically saying hi to Eliot as we walked. Around another corner, we took another huge staircase down. An immediate left, and Eliot was leading me into Lowry’s office. “I’ll wait out here while you get your schedule, even though it’s probably the same as mine. Maybe we could do your locker at lunch? We can do your locker at lunch, it’s so crowded right now. Don’t lose your key, they charge you ten bucks when you do that. Ask me how I know.” He made a face.
“The lockers have actual keys?”
“Well, sure. It’s better than those twirly little locks I can never figure out. Here you go, Mr. Simmons,” he said to a Black guy seated behind a desk. “This is Jonas Durant.”
The man smiled and flipped some dreads behind his shoulder. “Hi, Jonas. Let me take you back to see Dr. Mansfield. I’ll get you a locker assignment while you’re there.”
“I’ll be right here,” Eliot told me, his dark eyes big and serious. “Don’t worry.”
Another tall Black man sat behind an enormous desk, but he was balding and looked tired already. “Jonas,” he said. “How’s your first day?”
“Um, it’s a lot? But uh, Eliot’s really sweet.”
He smiled. “Eliot’s our best ambassador.” He opened a desk drawer, rooted around, and finally handed me a class schedule. “I think you’re all taken care of. Have a great first day.”
I walked out of his office, where Mr. Simmons gave me a locker assignment and a key. “Oh, you’re right near me!” Eliot said. “Not a shock, because that’s where junior class lockers are, but still. Okay. Onto homeroom. We have the same one, because you’re D and I’m F and they do it in alphabetical order.” He took my hand again and led me to homeroom, where he introduced me to Ms. Heeley, and Eliot I were both assigned seats. He hung around mine instead of sitting. Most people who walked by had a smile or a fistbump or a hug for Eliot.
“Hands off him,” he told all the girls. “Jonas doesn’t swing your way.”
I hadn’t planned on being super-obvious about being gay— I wasn’t going to deny it, but I hadn’t planned on proclaiming it, either. But if I had to get outed, Eliot seemed like perfect company for it, since no one treated it as anything strange.
Eliot took me around all morning: we did have the same schedule. He sat next to me in all my classes, recited dizzying strings of names, and kept up a patter of conversation. I’d been terrified of fitting in. Instead, the hottest guy in school, who happened to be gay, kept picking up my hand and leading me around. Eliot even made our tucked-in polo and khakis uniform look adorable. I reminded myself not to read into his boundless, enthusiastic kindness. That just seemed to be… Eliot. Everyone knew him. Everyone had a word or two to say to him. His glow reflected onto me, and people actually asked where I’d gone before, did I like Lowry, was I finding everything okay? I’d thought I’d spend my first day hiding in the back of classrooms and reading alone at lunch. I’d even brought a book. But I’d been swept up into the warm heart of the school, and its name was Eliot Finley.
We sat with Bryson and some other sixth graders at lunch, plus two junior-class girls and a guy who also had charge of kids. The sixth graders seemed awed in that way that little ones do around older kids, and they chattered about their classes and school and different clubs they could join. Eliot leaned forward and spoke to them seriously while the other juniors watched with indulgent smiles. Bryson had apparently bragged to everyone that she had two juniors. “I don’t think I count,” I said. “I’m as new as you are.”
“Are you a junior?” She sniffed. “Then you count, Jonas. Obviously.”
I cracked up at such a tiny person telling me off. “You’re right, Bryson,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
We sat at a table in the front of the cafeteria, and most people who walked by said hi to Eliot. He forced most of them to stop and meet both me and Bryson. I had never spoken to so many people in one day. When our last bell rang, Eliot waited at my locker while I sorted out books.
“Thanks for showing me around,” I said. “It was really sweet of you. Especially since like, everyone seems to know who you are and stuff.”
Elit shrugged. “Are you busy tomorrow night?”
I shook my head. “No, as usual, Friday night, and I’ve got nothing to do. I don’t even have to work.”
“You work?” Eliot tilted his head.
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m a nanny. A manny. Whatever. I take care of three kids from the time their bus drops them off to when their parents get home at like, six.”
Eliot’s eyes widened. “Three kids is a lot.”
I shrugged. “They’re good kids. Bethany and Gale, they’re eight-year-old twins. They’re super sweet, and the little one, Tristan, he’s six and just wants to cuddle all the time.” I smiled. “I sort of just tote him around and play Play-Doh and draw all afternoon. It’s not a bad gig.”
“You don’t just plop them in front of the TV, do you?” Eliot nodded his approval. “You’re a good manny. Most people would just ignore them.”
“No, that wouldn’t be fair. They’re sweet. And I mean, LEGOs and Play-Doh sort of don’t get old.”
Eliot laughed. “Sounds fun.”
“Speaking of that, I’ve got to go. I have to pick them up from the bus stop at 3:30.”
“I’ll walk you to the parking lot. But what I was saying, about Friday night? I’m having a party. The whole school’ll be there, you should come.”
I shut my locker. “I guess, yeah. That would be fun.”
“Good.” Eliot clapped me on the shoulder. “I need someone to dance with.”
I reddened. Did he— was he serious? He’d been paying attention to me all day, maybe he was? “Are you real?” I asked. “You’re gay and out and you go to my school and you’re… yeah.” I’d almost said, you’re hot. “You’re like, the unicorn.”
Eliot cracked up as we walked down the stairs. “You’re the unicorn. You’re gay and out and go to my school and you’re hot. Those blonde curls? And you have the biggest blue eyes, did anyone ever tell you that? They probably told you that.”
I reddened. “My hair’s mostly brown,” I said to the staircase.
“Dirty blonde. Whatever. But I hate that description, it sounds so ugly.” We walked out into hot September sunshine. I stopped next to my moped and opened its storage under my seat.
“This is yours?! That’s so cool! I always wanted a moped!”
“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t tell him I had a moped because we couldn’t afford to buy another car. “See you,” I said instead, and strapped on my helmet.
“See you later, Jonas.” Eliot grinned. “I had fun taking you around today.”
“Thanks for doing it.” I strapped on my helmet.
He threw me a half-grin. “It wasn’t like, a hardship, trust me. The hard part was not staring at you all through class. Oh well. I’ll get to dance with you tomorrow night, if you’ll let me. You’ll let me, right? Please say yes.”
He waited expectantly, like a puppy for a treat. I smiled despite blushing. “Yeah. I’d like that a lot.”
“Awesome. Later, Jonas.”
Stars Belong To Us
By: Annabeth Chatwin
Release Date: March 31st, 2021
Three winners will receive a copy of Stars Belong To Us (Annabeth Chatwin) ~ (US/Can Only)
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