Authors: Lisa Burstein
Tags: #General Fiction
the debut novel from Lisa Burstein
“A coming-of-age story without the comfort of padding . . . A relatable and compelling character [with] a lot of wonderful snark.”
New York Journal of Books
“Four stars! Burstein paints a bleak picture of teenage politics and one girl’s search to fit in and be loved.”
San Francisco Book Review
“A candid story that serves as a cautionary reminder against the power of peer pressure . . . A satisfying read.”
“If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t belong or didn’t know what you wanted to do with your life, then
is a must-read for you.”
“Burstein writes this teenage misfit coming-of-age tale . . . with a strong, assured hand and a sharp tongue. Amy has an authentic, raw teen voice, the sort that is as prematurely cynical and world-weary as Holden Caulfield.”
“One of the most refreshingly real YA voices I’ve read in years. If you’re looking for a helluva trip . . . please get your hands on a copy of
—E. Kristin Anderson, co-editor of
Dear Teen Me, Authors Write Letters to their Teen Selves
“Masterfully captures the private heart and soul of what it means—exactly how it hurts—and how vulnerable life is for teen girls . . .
will shock you, make you laugh, cry, yell, cheer, look in the mirror, and examine your own friendships as you relate to one or more of the unforgettable characters in this story.”
—Anne Eliot, bestselling author of
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Lisa Burstein. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at
Edited by Stacy Abrams
Cover design by Alexandra Shostak
Cover photograph by Katrina Wojcik
Print ISBN 978-1-62061-254-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62061-255-2
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition March 2013
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following word marks mentioned in this work of fiction: Smokey Bear, Civic, Pepsi, Zippo, Vaseline, Styrofoam, Adderall, Rubik’s Cube,
, Cheerios, McDonald’s,
The Hunger Games
, MTV, Twitter, Ivory,
The Karate Kid
, Brillo, Pepto-Bismol, Superman, Hot Pocket, Facebook, Holiday Inn, Chuck Taylors,
For always knowing I could do this and never once telling me to stop
I Don’t Even Want to Say How Many Days to Go
re you there, Smokey Bear? It’s me, Cassie.
I’m in a shitty shack in the woods with nothing to start the fires you are so desperate to keep people from igniting. I also have no cigarettes to light the stuff that starts fires. I’m seriously pretending to smoke this pencil. If I find some matches I may actually end up smoking it.
I’m at a sleep-away camp for criminals—a mosquito pit that’s supposed to pass as court-ordered rehab. I have no cell phone, none of my own clothes, and no jewelry. They took the dog-tags my brother gave me. They took the six silver hoops that I have worn in my ears since, like, forever. My holes will probably close up, but jewelry can be used as a weapon. The people forced to be here with me would actually consider using jewelry as a weapon.
I have been given a flashlight. Why that’s not considered a weapon I don’t know, but maybe it’s because it’s essential in a place where lights-out comes at lame-ass nine o’clock p.m. You wouldn’t want to hit someone on the head with it—even though you sort of want to—because then you would have to write this mandatory “Assessment Diary” in the dark.
If you didn’t see the skywriters, I was arrested with my best friends Lila and Amy on prom night with the shitload of pot we stole from the dickheads who stood us up for the dance. I was driving, Lila was being Mirror-addict Lila, and Amy was in the backseat shitting bricks. That’s the short story.
I guess this will be the long one.
I’m supposed to write about why I’m here. I’m glad I have a legal reason to blame, because there is no way in hell I am going to write about why I really think I’m here.
No matter what, I can never write about that.
Like I said, it started on prom night.
I was wearing a tight red dress that Lila had picked out. Something I would never usually wear. It made me feel sexy—and normally I don’t do sexy—but hell, I was already going to the prom, and honestly, that wasn’t something I would normally do, either. Lila was all into it because she had a boyfriend and Amy was all into it because Lila’s boyfriend was getting her a date, and, well, I guess I was all into it because it was either that or stay home with my parents. Which I didn’t want to do for all sorts of reasons, reasons that will probably be another entry I will be forced to write, so I’ll save it.
The night actually started out kind of fun. The three of us dressed up: Lila in light purple, Amy in light blue, and me in red—
. We were laughing and getting along, but then we got to Lila’s boyfriend Brian’s house and it all went to shit. He wasn’t there. None of our dates was.
I had to give Lila some credit. She was so pissed off about us being stood up by our dates that she actually broke into his house and swiped his marijuana stash.
That’s about all I’ll give Lila credit for that night.
I’m supposed to leave the arrest behind me, but that doesn’t mean I can stop thinking about that red dress hanging in my closet, like a dead body in a freezer, and wondering if my mother has hocked it yet for beer money. Oh, crap, see? Now I’m writing about my family. Moving on . . .
When I landed at the Arcata, California, airport this afternoon, after the four-hour flight from New York, the arrest wasn’t even on my mind. It was occupied instead by an asshole in a tight white T-shirt and dark jeans, sitting on a metal bench in baggage claim, who kept staring at me like my hair was made of boobs.
I didn’t know what else to do when I got there except sit on that bench—so cold from the air-conditioning that I could feel it through my cargo pants and on the backs of my arms. I held the strap of my duffel bag tight. It made an angry red mark on my hand.
“Waiting for someone?” he asked. He didn’t turn to look at me, just talked like we were two old men sitting next to each other in the park. He had wavy brown hair, desperately in need of a cut.
“Not for you,” I said. We were both sitting there looking around—both obviously waiting for someone. Why did he care who I was waiting for?
“Who, then?” he asked, not at all understanding that I didn’t want to talk to him. Maybe he was that stupid, or maybe he was that much of an asshole.
“Get lost,” I said. Even without the cigarette I was dying to smoke, I needed to play it cool, at least until I saw the people in uniforms. Would they be dressed in, like, medical whites, or would it be more like policemen?
I put another stick of cinnamon gum in my mouth, but I didn’t offer him any. My brother, Tim, had bought me one of those Plen-T-packs. He gave it to methat morning when he dropped me off at the airport in my Civic, which he was going to take care of while I was gone. At least my car wasn’t being punished like I was for being there on prom night.
Tim had never been to rehab, but he’d been to war just like my dad, and he knew gum could be my new addiction, could be one small thing that might keep me sane. He was right. I needed all the gum I could get.
I swallowed a mouthful of cinnamon spit.
“Your mom,” the asshole sitting next to me said.
“What?” I turned to him. He had that perfect skin some guys have that looks like it belongs on a girl—dewy and glowy and rosy and not all that masculine.
“You waiting for your mom?” he asked.
Did I look that young? That lame? Sure, I was still seventeen. My lawyer had said that was what saved me—made it so I could be sent to rehab. I guess it was good my parents didn’t hold me back in kindergarten like my teacher had suggested. Of course, if they had, I wouldn’t have been going to the prom that night anyway.
I wouldn’t have even known Amy and Lila.
“No,” I growled. “Screw my mom,” I added, though I’m not sure why. I didn’t mean that, not really. I didn’t give two shits about my mom. I had enough to deal with without thinking about her. Screw him for bringing her up.
“Poor you,” he said.
; maybe it was true. I was here. Amy wasn’t—she got probation for ratting me out. And Lila wasn’t—she took off to God knows where. So that left me, Cassie, to deal with this bullshit all alone. Fuck them all anyway.
“What do you want?” I asked.
He shrugged, one of those infuriating shrugs that said he knew exactly what he wanted but wasn’t about to tell me. He started smacking the tops of his thighs in that way guys who play drums do.
Guys who want you to know they play drums.
I watched his hands, slapping like his legs were bongos. He was wearing a thumb ring.
“Had to leave my set at home,” he said.
I rolled my eyes and sighed heavily, something I usually reserved for people I knew much better and had more time to hate. “I’m not interested,” I said. I looked at the automatic doors. How much longer could I sit here without pulverizing this guy into soup?
“In what?” he asked, still slapping his knees like there was a crowd watching, cheering him on.
I continued to stare at the automatic doors and tried to ignore him. Would the people in uniforms be holding a sign with my name, or would I hear it over the loudspeaker? Would there be more handcuffs? I touched my wrists.
“I’m Ben,” he said, stopping his concert to turn to me. His eyes were wide, like sunny-side-up eggs with brown yolks.
“Good for you,” I said, stuffing another piece of gum in my mouth.
He laughed and touched the back of his neck. “Not really.”
“Am I supposed to tell you my name now? Is that how it works? You tell me your name and I tell you mine and then we slobber all over each other?” I spoke fast, faster than I meant to. Mostly because he made me think about Aaron, because I was always thinking about Aaron, how I wished I had told him to fuck off the first day I met him, instead of slobbering all over
and having everything lead where it led.
Wishing I could take it all back. Hit rewind and erase.
“What are you talking about?” Ben asked, starting to laugh, a laugh I think was supposed to let me know he would never consider slobbering all over me.