by Elana Johnson
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance 302 pages
Mitch can't keep running from his girl problems.
High school senior, Mitch Houser, is thrilled to have multiple colleges recruiting him because of his record-breaking times on the track, but Mitch hasn’t told anyone the real reason he’s been setting records.
He’s trying to outrun his girl problems.
He really hits it hard when Holly Isaacson, the girl next door and his best friend for a decade, becomes buddy-buddy with Jade Montgomery, who is Mitch’s latest crush. He wants to move Jade from a girl he invites to eat dinner with his family to a girl he takes out to dinner—and maybe kisses afterward.
So Mitch runs, and he runs fast. Things progress with Jade at the same rate they fall apart with Holly. Most days, Mitch can’t change into his running clothes fast enough. But running from his problems isn’t a good solution, and Mitch will have to face both Jade and Holly—and decide which one of them to put into the “just friends” category.
So, Drew, you need a ride home after school?” Omar Juavez sidled up beside my sister as we walked down the main hall at Stony Brook High. A smart move considering I’d warned him away from Drew at least ten thousand times in the past month alone.
My stupid lipglossed freshman sister giggled and looked at me for permission. I glared first into her hopeful eyes, and then toward Omar’s sly smile.
“I have track, so I need the car,” I said, gripping my cell phone too tight. I willed it to buzz. Just once.
“So you do need a ride home after school.” Omar draped his arm around Drew’s shoulders and let his eyes linger on her chest —which was barely concealed beneath the scrap of fabric she called a shirt.
She beamed under the glow of his attention, making me stop dead in the middle of the crowded hall. “Listen, Omar. You keep touching her like that, and you won’t recognize yourself next time you look in the mirror.”
The smile slid off Drew’s face, replaced with a scowl. Omar dropped his hand from my sister’s shoulders, a sheepish glint in his eyes. I’d seen this look plenty of times over the years. Every time his mom came looking for him, in fact. He always seemed to “forget” to call her and tell her where he was. Omar did have the courtesy to look and sound apologetic when he screwed up.
Drew stopped next to Omar, and glared at me. “Shut up, Mitch,” she said. “You’re not my father.”
Omar was the kind of guy my dad wouldn’t want anywhere near Drew. Just because Omar ate dinner with us almost every night didn’t mean he could suddenly transition from sleeping in my bedroom to camping out in Drew’s. He and I had been in the same classes for years, and he’d spent so much time at my house, my mom washed his jeans and stocked the kind of cereal he liked.
“When it comes to my senior friends—” I glared at Omar. “— dating my little sister, you bet I am.” I stepped back into the flow of students, my sister and my best friend following.
“I’m not that little,” Drew complained. “And I don’t want to wait until four-thirty to go home.”
“Fine, whatever.” I hooked Omar with a pointed look as I stopped at my locker in Senior Row. “But no touching.”
He crossed his heart and slung his arm around Drew’s shoulders— which counted as touching in my book—drawing her down the hall and away from me.
I watched them go, my mood darkening as he leaned in and whispered something that caused Drew to throw her head back and laugh. Omar twirled her ponytail around his fingers. I turned away before I witnessed them doing something I wouldn’t be able to erase from my mind.
I spun the combination on my locker and opened it, thinking that someone had to watch out for Drew. She was all flirt and no thought, and Omar kept blankets in the trunk of his car. I’d never cared who he slept with, but the thought of that person being my fourteen-year-old sister filled my stomach with fire.
I clenched my teeth and drove them from my mind. The frustration remained as my phone stayed silent. Holly hadn’t texted.
She wouldn’t until she could do it alone—without the inquisitive eyes of her latest boyfriend, Greg Matthews. I had nothing against Greg. He and I had played football for the jaguars until seventh grade. He went on to play tight end until he made the varsity team as a freshman, and I’d left football to the real jocks. I preferred being able to think with my brain and switched to a sport that didn’t require special equipment: Track.
Holly Isaacson and I had been best friends since fifth grade, when she moved in next door. With a newly divorced mom and a younger brother, Holly came with a bright smile and lots of lawyer jokes. We had Mrs. Toolsen, and she was the kind of teacher that made us hand our spelling tests to the person behind us to get corrected. I never crossed my t’s, so they looked like l’s—until Holly, who sat behind me, crossed them for me. It was this unspoken thing between us, the fact that she was saving
my fifth grade spelling grade every week. When Mrs. Toolsen found out—Holly didn’t have an identical blue pen to cross the t’s with one week—she said if Holly crossed my t’s one more time, we’d both fail.
The very next Friday, we both failed, because Holly crossed all my t’s. I could still remember the stubborn glint in her eyes as she stared at Mrs. Toolsen and took her F without a word. From that Friday on, we’d been inseparable. We ran together, we studied together, we grew up together. I talked to her everyday— except when she was dating someone.
I’d texted her last night with no response. And again this morning. Still nothing. It wasn’t like I needed her. I didn’t have a pressing question for her to answer. I didn’t like her for anything besides a friend. But I didn’t know how to function without her.
She’d know what to do about Omar and Drew, and she’d ask if I’d finished my history essay. She’d remind me about youth group on Wednesday, and she’d assure me I was going to win the cross-country meet on Friday. I’d tell her about my latest crush on Jade Montgomery, and she’d advise me how to ease into Jade’s social calendar without being obvious. Without Holly, I felt isolated, lost.
As much as I hated to admit it, I was lonely without Holly. I missed hanging out at her house after track, and I missed having her and her brother over for dinner when her mom had to work late. Holly and I had trained for track all summer, running earlyearly in the morning before the sun could bake the Kansas landscape into hundred-degree temps and before I had to work at the car wash and she had to strap on her roller skates and waitress at the drive-in. When Holly started dating Greg in mid-July, I’d found a new running partner. I wanted to believe that getting up at five a.m. to train with Ivy Olsen and Lance Higbee was the same, but it wasn’t. I gathered my books for first and second period and slammed my locker. My cell buzzed, causing a tremor of hope to vibrate through my chest. The warning bell rang as I checked the message.
To Be Yours
by Elana Johnson
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance 242 pages
A girl who's lost herself and the boy who's always known how to find her.
When seventeen-year-old Eden Scotson skis to the bottom of a mountain on a routine trip with her older brother's best friend, Grayson Young, they find the lift non-operational and the biggest storm of the season upon them.
Unable to stay in the tiny hut, they decide to make the climb back to the luxury condos at the top. Along the way, they have to battle the danger of an avalanche, the elements of wind and snow, and their feelings for each other. As Grayson deals privately with his mother's alcoholism and an absent father, Eden's grief over her father's death nine years earlier is a little more public.
Compared to dealing with the complexities of friendship and more-than-friendship, overcoming grief, and learning how to forgive old wounds, physically climbing the mountain will be the easiest part of the journey for both Eden and Grayson.
I can’t believe I let you talk me into coming here again.” I picked up the single-sheet menu and pretended to look at it. “I’m the one who needs consolation. I should’ve gotten to pick the place.”
“Third Thursday.” My brother, Josh, slid me look over the top of his menu. “You like the shrimp rolls. You’ve had those before.”
I glanced my way into the sushi restaurant, but this place could actually be called a dive—and it would go with the fishy theme. A certain stench hung in the air, and I almost bolted.
“I don’t understand why you like kelp,” I said, shifting in the booth. The cheap vinyl made a slurping sound as the duct tape that had been holding it together came loose.
“It’s an acquired taste, Eden.” He grinned at me, his dark eyes shining though there was hardly any light coming from the bare bulb—definitely a dive—above us. They probably kept it dim on purpose, so customers couldn’t see what they were putting in their mouths.
Josh and I ate out every Thursday night, because it was the night Terry had to work late at the hospital and Mom ordered pizza when our step-dad did that. We’d arrive back at the House of Chaos in time to help her get all the littles to bed, and not a minute sooner. Josh and I had perfected the timing over the past year of working our way around all the eating establishments in Collinworth, the tiny ski town in Idaho where we lived.
We’d been everywhere, and sometimes when it wasn’t winter, we drove to nearby Twin Falls. But in February, we stayed in town, and Josh got to pick the restaurant every first and third Thursday.
“What’ll it be?” I glanced up at the nasally voice, finding a bored man with a very large chin. I ordered the shrimp rolls and waited while Josh ordered half the menu. The waiter didn’t write anything down before walking away.
“I don’t see how you’ll eat all that.”
“Have I ever let you down?” Josh spread his arms across the table. “Now tell me you’ve decided to come up to Sun Valley with me tomorrow.” His enthusiasm for a weekend of skiing was almost infectious. Almost. “Four-day weekend.”
I couldn’t suppress my smile forever, and I let a sliver of it show on my face. Josh seized onto it and practically lunged across the table to scrub my hair. “I knew you’d relent.”
“It’s only ‘cause I don’t want to spend the next four days cooped up in the house with the kids.”
Josh leaned back, some of his humor evaporating. “I can’t believe Mom asked you to babysit overnight.”
“Why wouldn’t she?” I’d babysat a lot over the past seven years—since Mom remarried and started having babies like she was trying to repopulate the earth. A set of twin boys was followed by two girls, giving her and Terry four kids under the age of six.
Oh, and Josh and me. We still lived there too, with Josh only three months and ten days away from graduating and leaving me alone with the Chaos for a whole extra year. I’d been panicking about it at random times, like when the morning announcements at school included things like, “Be sure to turn in your graduation deposit by Friday!” or “Seniors, the all-night party has been scheduled! See the poster in the student center and sign up to reserve your spot.”
Josh and I had been close since babydom. Irish twins—Mom’s always been Fertile Myrtle—he was only eleven months older than me.
“She just shouldn’t go away overnight and leave you in charge of everything.” Josh’s expression darkened. “Promise me you won’t let her pull that crap when I’m gone.”
My stomach flipped and not only because the waiter set down a tray of sushi rolls that had the thickest layer of kelp I’d ever seen. “I won’t,” I promised. I swallowed hard to keep the emotion building in my chest where it belonged. Deep down. “Thanks for inviting me on the ski trip. Grayson won’t be upset, will he?”
Josh eyed me for a moment before digging into the disgusting sushi. “Are you kidding?” he said around a mouthful of fish and rice. He swallowed and stared openly. “He invited you specifically.
He’s been pestering me about talking to you about it for weeks.”
I frowned, that emotion shooting to the top of my skull, coating my tongue, making my eyes hot. “Why would he do that? He knows I don’t ski.”
“He knows you have in the past.”
“That’s only because he knows everything about me.” We’d grown up in Collinworth together and he was Josh’s best friend. I saw a lot of Grayson Young, whether I wanted to or not. Sometimes I did, and sometimes I didn’t. Right now, I was in the undecided category.
“You’d really rather spend ten hours in the car with Mom and the kids? And then babysit while she goes shopping with her sister?” Josh’s right eyebrow cocked, the way it always did when he was trying to prove a point or make me laugh.
“Mom said I could stay home alone.”
“With Terry.” He refused to look away. “Just come with me. We’re driving up tomorrow morning. Not early,” he rushed to add. “I know you like your beauty sleep.”
I rolled my eyes. I’d been wearing my more-brown-than-auburn hair in a ponytail for two years, and I usually left the house wearing only mascara and lip gloss. Nothing beautiful about me.
Josh chuckled and finished off his appetizer. “Seriously, Eden. It’ll be fun.”
“Grayson’s bringing his brothers, yeah?”
“Both of them, yeah. Their cabin is like a resort. Don’t let the word ‘cabin’ fool you.”
“I’ve heard all about it from Grayson.” He sat behind me and one row over in health class, and he’d whispered all about the cabin for the past week trying to get me to come.
“He likes you, you know.”
I met Josh’s eye, that brother-sister understanding passing between us. My heart softened, and I wished I could properly explain why I held Grayson at double-arms-length. But I’d have to know for myself first.
“He’s not my type,” I finally said.
“Rich, muscular, and smart isn’t your type?”
“I’m not into athletes. Especially baseball players.”
“You’re an athlete.”
“Which is how I know I don’t want to date one.”
“You don’t date anyone.”
“This argument is old,” I said. “Can you please not?”
He held up one hand in acquiescence, and I relaxed into the booth. “How long does sushi take? They don’t even have to cook anything.” I glanced in the direction the waiter had gone.
“So?” Josh asked. “The ski trip? Cabin-slash-resort? Hot Grayson attending to your every need?”
I couldn’t help the laugh that slipped past my vocal chords.
Grayson did land at about an eight on the attractiveness scale, what with his hair the color of dark chocolate. Some of the previous girls he’d dated had sworn up and down that their fingers got caught in his hair, so thick and “luxurious” as it was. Their words, not mine. I hadn’t touched his hair since yanking on it in fifth grade so he’d give back my package of grape bubble gum.
“I need to let him know if you’re coming or not,” he said. “He’s having the maid set up the rooms tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, the maid.” That right there almost made me change my mind. But I’d already decided. “I’ll go.” I glanced away as the waiter arrived with the rest of the food. The sight of it set my guts rolling, but Josh dug in with vigor. I pinched one shrimp roll between my thumb and forefinger and dipped it in the sweet ginger sauce. Coated in enough candied ginger, anything would taste good. Right?
“I’m glad you’re coming, sis,” Josh said when he finally stopped stuffing his face. “It wouldn’t be good for you to be home alone.”
“I know.” I met his eye again. “Thanks.” That one word said more than my appreciation, and Josh smiled before attacking his bento box.
A speculative fiction author and USA Today bestseller under the name Elana Johnson and an inspirational adult romance author under the pen name of Liz Isaacson, her work includes the young adult dystopian romance series Possession, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), Elevated, the Elemental series, the Songs of Life fantasy series, the Redwood Bay romance series, and the #1 bestselling Three Rivers Ranch Romance series.