I’m a sucker for those mysterious new boy YA novels. I relish the potential of the new boy to come shake up the status quo and make things weird. Weird is always good! And I was that weird girl when I was a young adult who actually lived by the motto: “Weird is Good!” Perhaps that is why Pauline Creeden’s First Impression quickly won me over.
Chira Kelly’s life isn’t a bowl of cherries; it actually could be defined as this pits. Her mom works a shift that happens to leave her home alone with her stepfather who just may enjoy making her life hell. He sure doesn’t like having her around and she doesn’t like being around him. Going to school isn’t any better since she is persona non grata being a scholarship student rather than one of the wealthy tuition attendees. She has one friend, Tasha–and if Tasha still feels the need to please the crowd than Chira will be beside her as she tries to please, because that is where a best friend should be. Even if Chira couldn’t care less to spare the same people a thought.
The real story actually begins when Tasha talks Chira into going to a Old Schoolhouse that many report to be haunted with a group of Tasha’s other school friends. Ben, the new boy who has just arrived at school and met Chira earlier in the day is part of the party and he, Tasha, Chira and the group are on this exploration to see if the structure is safe for an upcoming party site. But when something inexplicable is witnessed a string of tragedies begin to occur and Ben seems to be the only one with any answers. As far out as the explanations first sound Chira can’t help but begin to believe him when she has already witnessed something just as unbelievable.
Ben is a very charming and easy to love hero. I can’t help but find his jealousy of his cousin Matt endearing and the way he always tries to protect Chira only makes him an even more *SQUEEE*–ish about this Book Boyfriend. Add all that to his paranormal abilities and he is a prime catch. Well, for Chira that is, he’s really, really too young for me. The teenager in me would totally give her a run for her money though.
Pauline published First Impression with AltWit Press. I went to the website for the AltWit I found that even though it appears to be a small Indie Publisher they have a good selection of fiction books offered in their catalogue.
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First Impression Excerpt:
Ben pulls open the office door and stands to the side to allow me to go first. The hallway that was empty only a short while ago is now full of kids and their incessant conversations. With a shrug, I eye his class schedule quickly. Except for second and sixth period, we have exactly the same schedule. He’s in all of the advanced classes, too. Only he has gym for second period, and Latin for sixth – opposite of my schedule, except I take French.
Piece of cake.
I glance up at him again, and his eyes meet mine. My breath hitches. Something in his intense gaze makes me feel like he’s measuring me. And there’s something strange about his eyes. They’re brown, but I can tell he has colored contacts. Why would anyone color their eyes brown?
Something about the way he’s looking at me makes my heart flutter. A sniffle escapes me before I can stop it. Ugh. I clear my throat and start in the direction of first period. “Follow me.”
We elbow our way down the freshman hall toward the second floor, but before we start up I point down the way. “Do you know what your locker number is?”
Ben nods and pushes his backpack up on his shoulder further.
I wait for a second and then smile. “What is it?”
“706.” He has a slight accent and his voice is deeper than I expect. I suppress a shiver at the jolt that the musical timbre of his voice sends through my body. I’m resonating like a tuning fork. I really want him to speak again with every fiber of my being. What’s with me?
“Uh…okay.” I swallow, trying to regain composure. And take him to the general area of the locker. “Here it is.”
He looks at it, nods, and returns his gaze to me.
“I know you don’t have any books to put in it, but do you want to try out the combination?”
He lifts one shoulder in a shrug and spins the combo quickly through the three numbers. I purposefully look around so he knows I’m not peeking. He opens the locker wide, nods toward me and then closes it again.
“Great. We have first period over here.”
“You and I have the same first period?”
My body vibrates again, and I blink hard. So glad my back was to him so he couldn’t see the effect his voice has on me. I swallow and face him. “Actually, yeah. Our schedules are very similar. It’s a smallish school so there’s only a few tracks that juniors can be on.”
He nods, and his eyes are half lidded as if he’s bored already.
I lead him toward our class room. “We don’t really have assigned seats, so you can pretty much sit anywhere you want. I’ll show you to the gym at the end of class. I have French next, but it’s not too far from there.”
I lead him to the front of the class, and my friend, Tasha Brown gives me a wan smile and raises her eyebrows, looking back and forth between me and Ben. She mouths, Who’s that?
I roll my eyes and put up one finger toward her to let her know I’ll tell her in a minute. Then I turn to the teacher. I hand him the schedule from the office. “Hi, Mr. Scott. This is Ben Oscuro, a transfer.”
Mr. Scott sets down the Mountain Dew he was drinking and offers Ben a wide grin. He puts a hand out for him to shake. Ben hesitates but takes the hand in what looks like a firm grip. Mr. Scott shakes his hand afterward. “That’s some grip you’ve got there.” He laughs and leans down to the bottom drawer of his desk and hands Ben a Geography text book.
With a nod, I return to Tasha and squeeze into the desk next to hers. Because I’m at Jackson Hall partially on scholarship and partially on my father’s insurance money, I’m somewhat of a social pariah. My only real friend is Tasha, a pariah herself, being one of the few African-American kids in the school. Still she tends to be more popular than me, because at least her family does have money. And then there’s that rumor…
“So who is the new hottie?” Tasha hops up and down in her seat.
I shake my head at her. “You are one big hormone, you know that? Sure, he’s cute, but is there any guy in the room you don’t consider a hottie?”
Tasha scans the room, considering for a moment with her hand on her chin and a very serious expression on her face. Her hair is in the typical pigtail braids she usually uses to play up the uniform. She has on no sweater, and her shirt is one size too small, causing the buttons at the front to bow and expose part of her red bra. Finally she returns her gaze to me. “There’s only one guy in here that doesn’t rank hottie.”
She leans in conspiratorially and whispers, “Mr. Scott.”
I nearly choke on a laugh as I eye the middle aged, balding teacher at the front of the room. But I have to admit, Jackson Hall is a prep school. And no one can afford to make their children look their best more than the wealthy. I guess if I take my father’s words to heart, it’s better to be the poor kid in the rich kids’ school…than the other way around. Right?
Tasha’s smile returns and I follow her gaze to figure out why. Ben Oscuro walks down the aisle between us and takes the desk right behind mine. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. He smells like pine and mint, and it reminds me of the outdoors. When I open them again, Tasha’s smile has grown impossibly wider. She leans towards me and whispers, “What was that you said about hormones again?”
I shove my elbow toward her but she dodges me with a giggle.
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