Cat and Mike have been best friends forever, but freshman year of high school finds them growing apart. Cat proudly flies her freak flag; Mike tries to fade into the background. Cat checks out the gay pride group; Mike joins the military club. It’s fall 2010, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is still in effect. Mike likes that -- he doesn’t want to ask or tell.
While Mike falls in love with the military club’s values of strength, honor, and courage, Cat falls in love with Calliope, an impossibly sophisticated sophomore girl. Her world is a roller coaster of grand gestures, romantic declarations, and messy, public drama. Mike is quieter with his feelings, but he’s finding it harder and harder to deny them -- especially his crush on the guitar-playing new boy. The safety of DADT is beginning to feel more like a burden. Mike believes in courage, but who is the brave one? Can these two best friends, more alike than they know, find their way back together?
Publisher: Prizm Books
Release Date: April 17, 2013
Genre: Gay & Lesbian Young Adult
Ages: 12 and up
Buy: Amazon | Smashwords | Prizm Books | Torquere Press
Extras: Making Of | Playlist
Press: Press Release | Jamaica Plain Gazette
Reviews: Rainbow Awards Runner Up, Best LGBT Debut (2nd)/Best LGBT Novel (3rd)/Best LGBT Young Adult Novel (7th) | Fallen Angel Reviews
I didn’t realize how stuffy and hot the music room was until I got outside in the cool, fresh air. It was like in a movie when somebody throws water at the guy and says, “Snap out of it!” I walked briskly down the path, feeling the cool air on my face. I didn’t know why I sat so long on that piano bench, thigh to thigh with another boy.
Okay, I had an idea, but I didn’t like it.
What if someone had walked in? We weren’t exactly being quiet. How would it look? I couldn’t even think about it.
Phweet! Phweet! “Go, go!”
I stopped along the fence around the soccer field. The field had been transformed into an obstacle course. There were hurdles, tires to jump through, and a net to climb. Two kids worked their way through it at a time, and about a dozen more stood by in a neat line. The kids were all dressed the same -- black T-shirts, camouflage pants, and matching caps. An older-looking kid, a senior maybe, blew on a whistle every so often, sending another runner through the course. Mr. Sheldon stood by, observing. He was wearing a uniform, too -- a dark blue suit decorated with patches and badges. This had to be Future Service-members of America.
It wasn’t a big group, fifteen or so, all freshmen except for the two older kids who stood at the sidelines, watching and whistle-blowing. I picked out Jayden in the lineup, looking noble and serious. They should put him on the pamphlet. I could totally picture Keith in the army, just a mass of muscle in a uniform. Van was there too, I guess attracted by the idea of blowing shit up. I also identified Sai, Tony, Mike A., and Dina. I’d have figured Dina more as the type for Science Olympiad or student government, but watching her stand there, back straight, eyes forward -- it made sense. She’s the kind of hardworking, rule-following kid that teachers love, and the army probably would too.
It was weird watching them all stand there in line, quietly waiting for their turns. Even Van and Sai were behaving, not shoving each other and joking around like they did in homeroom. It could only be the second session of FSA, and already they’d turned into a disciplined team of elite soldiers.
I lost track of time, standing there clinging to the fence. After watched about a half a dozen kids, Mr. Sheldon turned and motioned to me. I don’t know why I thought I was invisible, but it surprised me to be noticed. “You want a turn, son?”
“Uh...” I was too afraid of him to say no. “S...sure. Okay.”
“You say, ‘yes, sir,’” he told me. Not scolding, just giving me information.
“Okay... yes, sir.”
Dina shot me a smile when I joined the end of the line. Then she turned back and faced forward, all seriousness and good posture, like she was playing the part of a soldier in a movie. In my rugby shirt and jeans, I stuck out like a sore thumb, but nobody booed me out of the line or anything.
My heart was jackhammering by the time I got to the front of the line. There’d been a mistake. For one thing, I was pretty sure they didn’t let gays in the military. Not that I was, but… me? Army material? I’m afraid of the ball. I have a girl best friend. I’m demonstrably weaker than a bee. The last thing I needed was to screw this up with everyone watching. Sure enough, I took two steps and flopped forward on my face in the mud.
“Get up, get up, go!” the kids behind me shouted. But it wasn’t mean. They really sounded like they wanted me to get up and go. They were rooting for me.
I got up, and I went. I made it through the tires. I jumped the hurdles.
The line was silent and orderly again by the time I made it back. Mr. Sheldon gave me a curt nod. I rejoined the line. The next guy lined up right behind me, like I belonged.
The second run was actually fun. I knew the course, and I didn’t have to think so much. I wasn’t worried about face-planting, because I already had, and it wasn’t the end of the world. On the final straightaway back to the line, I felt like I was flying.
I was all ready for a third lap, but the older kid blew two long whistles, and the running stopped. Everyone formed two neat horizontal lines, standing at attention. I did my best to imitate them.
Mr. Sheldon walked back and forth in front of us, frowning. Then he stopped, paused, and nodded approvingly. “Looks like I may have a halfway decent pack of recruits after all. Today I saw discipline. I saw strength. I saw heart. What’s our motto?”
Everyone but me chanted, “Integrity. Loyalty. Courage.”
Mr. Sheldon nodded. “Dismissed.”
The older kids went into action picking up tires and stacking traffic cones like they’d done it a million times. The freshmen filed back toward the school.
“Ruggiero,” said Mr. Sheldon.
“Uh, yeah? I mean... yes, sir?”
“We meet in my classroom. 204. Every Wednesday. Fifteen hundred. Don’t make a habit of being late.”
I didn’t know what to say. Oh, I can’t join your club for unspecified reasons. You wouldn’t want me. Instead, I just nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“And, Ruggiero.” He made a “get up” gesture with his hands. “Straighten up. Walk tall.”