by Jessica Brody
Teen Fiction
FSG Books for Young Readers – April 2010


I can tell you right now, it’s all Karma’s fault.

Yes, Karma. You know, that unmistakable force in the universe that makes sure good deeds are rewarded and bad deeds are punished.

Like when I stole my little sister’s lunch in the seventh grade because I woke up too late to make my own. When I got to school, I found that the meat on the sandwich was actually moldy and I had to spend the very last of my allowance money on the disgusting, unrecognizable cafeteria food.


Or the summer between sophomore and junior year of high school, when my best friend Angie and I decided that our time would be better spent at the mall rather than keeping our promise to her mom to help clean out the garage. Well, Angie’s car ran out of gas halfway there and instead we spent our morning trudging through the 90 degree heat toward the nearest gas station that was, not surprisingly, four miles away and then back to the abandoned car with a gas can that weighed nothing short of twenty pounds. Needless to say, the total amount of energy exerted during this little brilliant escapade of ours was about ten times the amount it would have taken to help Mrs. Harper sort through a few dusty boxes.

Yep, Karma again.

And then when I was eleven, I obsessively begged my parents to let me get a dog and they refused. So I decided to volunteer at the local animal shelter walking dogs that didn’t have homes because it was clearly the closest thing to a dog I was going to get. Well, my parents were so impressed with my “unrewarded dedication,” as they called it, that they ended up letting me pick out a dog from the shelter to keep.

So, you see, it works both ways.

Good deeds are rewarded while bad deeds are punished. Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. That’s just how Karma works.

Well, at least that’s how I thought it worked.

But that was before I entered the second half of my senior year. When everything changed. Everything I thought I knew and everything I thought I could count on suddenly went right out the window.

I think I can track it back to one day.

That fateful day when Angie called me up with the news.

Yes, that was definitely the day it all began. Before my simple, little world—where up is up and down is down, and right and wrong are as different as night and day—was flipped upside down. And from that point on, there was absolutely nothing in my life that could be described as “simple.”

The Hunky Dough Boy

My phone seems to be ringing louder than usual today. And there’s a certain urgency in its tone that makes this incoming call somehow sound more important than most.

I stare at it for a moment and then quickly decide to ignore the call. I’m in the middle of studying for a very important European history test and I really don’t want to be bothered.

The phone rings again.

I don’t need to look at the caller ID to know that it’s Angie who’s being so freaking persistent. My friends each have their own ring tone. Angie’s happens to be a very popular hip hop song that she insists she started liking way before everyone else did. Personally, I think she just doesn’t want to admit that she’s in any way “mainstream.” It would damage that subtle counterculture reputation she’s spent so long perfecting.

Either way, I think this particular song lost its appeal after about twelve rings. And given the fact that Angie calls me at least sixteen times a day, I am now officially sick of it.

I ignore Angie’s call again and continue reading about the storming of the Bastille. Whatever is so important can at least waituntil King Louis XVI gets his head chopped off.

The phone rings a third time.

Finally, I groan and pick it up. “What?”

Normally, Angie would berate me for my unfriendly greeting but this afternoon, apparently, she has bigger things to worry about than my tone. “Maddy, get down to Miller’s NOW.”

“I can’t. I’m studying for my history test,” I say, slightly annoyed.

“Drop everything and get your butt down here,” she practically growls into the phone. “I promise, it’s more exciting than the French Revolution.”

“Yeah, like that’s hard,” I reply sarcastically.

“Just come.” And with that she hangs up the phone.

Angie has been my best friend since the sixth grade. She probably knows me better than anyone else in my life. For instance, she knows that right now, I’ll sulk around my room for the next few minutes debating about whether or not I really want to give in to her demands. Then I’ll eventually close my textbook with a scowl, slip on my shoes, and drive the twelve blocks to Miller’s Drug Store where she works quarter-time as a cashier. I say quarter-time instead of part-time because although it is a part-time job, she spends only half of the time working and the other half reading magazines from the rack next to the register.

I pull into the store parking lot exactly nine minutes later and I know she’ll be patting herself on the back when I walk through door, incredibly proud of her ability to clock my decision-making process down to the minute.

I trudge into the empty store and approach the register where she’s flipping through the new February issue of Contempo Girl, our mutually favorite magazine. Although we have completely different reasons for liking it.  I enjoy reading the sections about the new fashion trends, latest celebrity gossip, and relationship advice, while Angie, as far as I can tell, just likes reading it so she can have a replenishing supply of people and products to criticize.

“What’s so important you couldn’t just tell me on the phone?”

Angie looks up and without even so much as a hello, shoves the magazine into my hands. I manage to catch it just before it falls to the floor.

“Turn to page 35.”