When 16-year-old Scarlett Wakefield transfers from St. Tabby's to Wakefield Hall Collegiate, she is relieved that no one knows her dark, haunting secret. A few months ago, Scarlett was invited to an elite party with a guest list full of the hottest names in British society, including Dan McAndrew. Before the party, Scarlett had only imagined what it would be like to have her first kiss with Dan, but on the penthouse terrace, Dan leaned in close and she no longer had to wonder. Their kiss was beautiful and perfect and magical, and then . . . Dan McAndrew took his last breath as she held him in her arms. No one knows how or why Dan died, and everyone at St. Tabby's believes Scarlett had something to do with it. But now that she's safely hidden away at Wakefield Hall, Scarlett would rather forget that it ever happened. Only she can't. Especially when she receives an anonymous note that will set her on the path to clearing her name and finding out what really happened to the first and last boy she kissed.
Turning for the first time to YA, Henderson (the Sam Jones mysteries; Jane Austen's Guide to Dating) kicks off her Scarlett Wakefield series with a mostly captivating mystery. Sixteen-year-old Scarlett is trapped in social obscurity at St. Tabitha's, an ultra-ritzy, all-girls' school in London. Used to spending her free time at gymnastics practice and watching movies with her only two friends, Scarlett is stunned when the school's poshest set invites her to one of their parties. She eagerly accepts, hoping to see her longtime crush, Dan McAndrew, the most golden of the boys from the neighboring school. But when she and Dan actually kiss, he drops dead at her feet-and her classmates brand Scarlett a murderer. Forced to flee to Wakefield Hall Collegiate, a private school in the English countryside where her aristocratic grandmother reigns as headmistress, Scarlett launches her own investigation to discover the cause of death and clear her name. The marriage of chick lit and murder can be awkward: Scarlett can barely breathe in Dan's presence, but Henderson can't let readers get invested in him lest the treatment of his death seem casual. However, this author knows just how to time even the smallest revelations for maximum drama, and her mini-sleuth has a natural glamour and intelligence that Nancy Drew can only dream of. The audience will be rivited. Ages 14-up. (Jan.)
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Delacorte Books for Young Readers
January 12, 2009
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Excerpt from Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson
On January 1, I made two wishes. I know it's supposed to be resolutions, but the two things I really wanted you can't exactly make happen, like you can with resolutions. I wished to kiss Dan McAndrew. And I wished to have breasts, instead of two flat pancakes on my chest. God, how I hated it when girls would come by and flick their fingers on my back between my shoulder blades and laugh mockingly because there wasn't a bra fastening there, because I didn't need to wear one. (Actually, that's three wishes, isn't it? One kiss plus two breasts equals three, the magic number.) Cut to June, nearly six months later, when I'd pretty much given up hope that I would get either of those things, ever. I had resigned myself to being flat-chested and unkissed for the rest of my life. And then everything happened at once, and my life was changed. Though not, I might add, for the better. Be careful what you wish for. *** "Scarlett! Round-off, two back handsprings, back tuck! And keep it tight this time!" I stand at the edge of the floor, bracing myself. I can do this. Ricky's halfway down, at just the right place to give me a spot on the second back handspring if I need it. But if I need it, he'll shout at me afterward. Long and strong, Scarlett, I say to myself. Long and strong. I'm running. Three steps to the round-off. Land and flip, jump up, jump back . . . my hands push the spring-loaded floor and bounce me up, feet land and I'm already jumping off my toes to the second back handspring, reaching away, reaching long . . . yes! No touch in the small of my back, which would be Ricky thinking I needed that tiny bit of help to arch on the second one . . . land on my feet again and use the momentum to rebound up, high in the air. Spot the high bar across the room, which gives me that fixed point I need to focus on for the split second before I tuck and flip myself backward like a ball through the air, thrown by an invisible hand. Land straight, knees not too bent, slightly dizzy, but knowing I made it. "Yeah!" Across the room, Alison and Luce, my two best friends, are clapping and whooping. I beam with happiness and look at Ricky for approval. "Better. But go a lot longer on the second back handspring" is all he says. That is approval, believe it or not. You don't expect bouquets of flowers from Ricky, no matter how good you are. And then he looks at my chest. "Strap those things down, Scarlett, can't you?" he adds. "They're bouncing everywhere--they're getting in your way when you tuck up! Jesus, where did they even come from?" This is embarrassing. It's embarrassing to have Ricky talking about my boobs in front of everyone. "Get a sports bra, for God's sake!" Ricky says, waving me away. Like every single other girl here, I used to have a massive crush on Ricky, who's built like a rugby player--wide shoulders, muscles bulging through his tracksuit--with thick blond hair, bright blue eyes, and a really nice smile, which you get to see, on average, once a year. Ricky's incredible grumpiness is the reason my crush faded. And the insults he throws at you. And the fact that he's gay. (No reason you can't have a crush on a gay guy, of course--it just feels increasingly pointless as time goes on.) I move to the side, giving Alison a clear run across the floor. As she starts, I walk around the edge of the gymnasium, back to where Luce is standing. "I'm wearing a sports bra already," I say. "I don't know what to do." "Get one of those tops with a built-in thingy," Luce suggests. "You know, the shelf support." I pull my top a little away from my body so she can see. "I am," I say hopelessly. "Oh." Luce has the ideal build for gymnastics--like a wire. She's small (you