Welcome to Swoony Boys Podcast! We are thrilled to be part of the tour for Veronica Bartles’ debut novel, Twelve Steps!Twelve Steps on March 25th, 2014
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Sixteen-year-old Andi is tired of being a second-class sibling to perfect sister Laina. There in Laina's shadow, Andi's only noticeable feature is her pretty awesome hair. And even that is eclipsed by Laina's perfect everything else.
When Andi’s crush asks her to fix him up with Laina, Andi decides enough is enough and devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina. After all, great hair must count for something.
Step 1: Admit she’s powerless to change her perfect sister, and accept that her life really, really sucks. OK, maybe that's two steps in one.
Step 4: Make a list of her good qualities besides great hair. There have got to be at least three good qualities, right?
Step 7: Demand attention for more than just her shortcomings, and break out of her shell. Easier said that done, but worth the effort in the long-run.
When a stolen kiss from her crush ends in disaster, Andi finds that her prince isn’t as charming as she'd hoped, and realizes she may need a new program--perhaps with less steps!
As cracks in Laina’s flawless façade begin to show, the sisters work together to find a spotlight big enough for both to shine.
“Great concert, guys! We rocked it!” I skip into the room and casually brush one finger along the back of Jarod’s neck as I pass the table. He shivers at my touch and glances up at me. His jaw drops when he notices my outfit, but I pretend not to notice.
I fill the kettle with water, and then I set it on the stove to boil before I grab a package of Oreos from the cupboard and pull a chair up to the table between Jarod and Laina. “I don’t see how you can eat ice cream when it’s, like, fifteen degrees outside. What’s wrong with you two?” I shiver
and my knee “accidentally” brushes against Jarod’s leg. I feel his body stiffen next to me, and I bite my lower lip to stifle a smile. “Don’t you guys know ice cream makes you colder?”
Laina laughs and reaches across the table to squeeze Jarod’s hand. “We always do this,” she
says. “It’s tradition.”
“Do you remember,” Jarod asks, carefully avoiding my eyes, “when we were freshmen?” They launch into a story all about how they thought the juniors and seniors were going to the Dairy Shack for ice cream after their first concert, so they came back to our house to make ice cream sundaes. They thought they could tell everyone that they went out for ice cream and pretend they were a part of the cool kids, but then it turned out that everyone was really going out for brownies and hot cocoa instead.
The kettle whistles and I jump up to make my hot cocoa. I take a careful sip and return to my seat between them. “Really?” I ask. “You guys eat ice cream when it’s freezing out because you were stupid when you were freshmen?” I lift my steaming mug and stare at Jarod over the cup as I take a sip. “I think I’d at least put a warm brownie with the ice cream.”
“Oh, we have brownies and hot cocoa every year after the spring concert,” Laina says. She’s barely paying attention, and totally oblivious to the real conversation taking place right in front of her.
I pull my chair closer to Jarod, close enough that our legs are touching, and I eat the last bite of ice cream out of his dish. I lick my lips slowly, and then casually dunk an Oreo in my cocoa. “So the brownies and the ice cream are both because of Laina?”
Jarod squirms in his seat and glances at my sister, but she’s a million miles away, absently rubbing at a sticky spot on the table with that vacant look on her face.
“It’s just our thing,” he says. “Because we’re friends.”
I give him a you-must-think-I’m-a-freaking-idiot smile and trace a figure eight with my index finger on his leg. He reaches under the table to grab my hand and looks at me with thinly veiled terror. I laugh and cock my head to one side, as if I’m only making casual conversation. “So, you would never, ever, for instance, eat brownies and ice cream together because Laina wouldn’t approve?”
He blinks, and every trace of color drains from his face. His eyes plead with me to stop, and he
squeezes my hand. But if he didn’t want me to say anything in front of Laina, he shouldn’t have avoided me all week.
“Or would the brownies and ice cream combination be a dangerous declaration that you wanted something way more than friendship?”
Jarod gulps and looks at Laina, who is still tracing hearts with her finger on the table. She nods absently.
“That’s silly,” he says. “It’s a dessert. No symbols. No hidden meanings.” He drops my hand and slides his chair away from me.
I take a deep breath and exhale slowly, folding my arms across my chest. “So when you eat them separately, the brownies and the ice cream are symbols of your enduring friendship. But when you eat them together, they mean nothing?”
“Sometimes a dessert is just a dessert,” Jarod says.
I twist open an Oreo and slowly lick the cream filling. “What about kisses?” I ask. “Do those mean anything?”
***About Veronica Bartles***
As the second of eight children and the mother of four, Veronica Bartles is no stranger to the ups and downs of sibling relationships. (She was sandwiched between the gorgeous-and-insanely-popular older sister and the too-adorable-for-words younger sister.) She uses this insight to write stories about siblings who mostly love each other, even while they’re driving one another crazy. When she isn’t writing or getting lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, Veronica enjoys knitting fabulous bags and jewelry out of recycled plastic bags and old VHS tapes, sky diving (though she hasn’t actually tried that yet), and inventing the world’s most delectable cookie recipes. TWELVE STEPS is Veronica Bartles’s first novel.