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Abi Saunders

WILL THE REAL ABI SAUNDERS PLEASE STAND UP

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Excerpt

Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up?
by Sara Hantz

Copyright © 2014 by Sara Hantz. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Chapter One

“You’re kidding, right?” I stare hard at my trainer, Bill, waiting for the usual smirk to appear on his face. I’ve been kickboxing here at the dojo for eight years, since I was ten, and his practical jokes are legendary. As if he’s really fixed it for me to audition as a stunt double for movie star Tilly Watson. As in Tilly Watson. The Tilly Watson.

I don’t think so.

Although it’s not like Bill to call someone to his office just to play a joke, especially during one of the evening classes, since that’s when he’s so busy. There’s always a really good reason if he wants a word in private. And often, the private words are the ones you don’t want to hear.

I glance around his office at the trophy cabinets bursting with awards for the dojo, going back years. The wall is covered in photos of Bill, when he was younger and had hair, standing with kickboxing champions he’d trained and celebrities who’d come to the gym he used to own in L.A. He’s especially proud of his photo with Jackie Chan, from when he consulted on one of Jackie’s movies. So, he’s got the right connections, that’s for sure. But seriously. Me?

“Not kidding this time Abi, I swear.” He leans forward in his office chair and makes a little cross over his heart with his forefinger. “My buddy, Danny, is an assistant stunt coordinator, and he told me that Tilly Watson’s making an indie movie here in Nebraska, and her regular double has broken her arm. They need to replace her right away. He’s trying out some girls for the job, and he asked if I could recommend anyone, since they’d like someone with kickboxing experience. When I told him you took the North American WAKO title at age sixteen, he was hooked.” WAKO is the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations. I won the point-fighting women’s flyweight youth title in the Pan-America championships last year. “Plus, you’ll be perfect. An obvious choice, if you ask me. Identical build and everything.”

They must be desperate if they want to audition someone like me. I glance down at the black gym gear I’m wearing, which flattens my chest so much that if you put a bag on my head, you wouldn’t know which way I was facing. A far cry from Tilly’s enviable size-D cups, which some gossip blogs reported her having surgically enhanced after they saw her coming out of a clinic a few months back.

“S-s-same height, maybe,” I argue, my stomach already in knots at the thought of my kickboxing—and my body—being scrutinized by a bunch of Hollywood types. “But that’s where the similarity ends. If you haven’t noticed, my hair’s shoulder-length and blond, and hers is long and dark. Not to mention my nose.” My nose has been an issue with me ever since I broke it last year in a bike accident. There’s a crooked little bend in it now that mocks me every time I look in the mirror.

“A technicality,” Bill says, waving his hand dismissively. “Nothing a wig and make-up can’t fix. And, for the record, there’s more similarity between you than height. There’s shoulder width. The way you stand. After Danny asked me, I watched one of her movies to check her out. There’s a definite likeness.”

I don’t really get what he means, but even if he’s right about those things, it doesn’t matter, because, more importantly, a wig and make-up can’t fix the sheer terror of having to mix with loads of people I’ve never met before. I might have my stutter mostly under control when I’m with people I know, or when kickboxing, but in a room full of strangers…that’s a whole new ball game, even with the breathing techniques that, although haven’t cured me, have helped me a lot for so many years. Just the thought of leaving the comfort of the gym for the unknown is making me break out in hives.

Then again, it would mean meeting Tilly. How ridiculous would that be? She was my favorite child movie star when I was growing up. We’re almost the same age, though she’s a little older, and I used to pretend to be her, when she was Jo in The Hunter Family, while playing in my bedroom. Even now, I still love her movies. Especially It’s My Life, which came out a couple of years ago. She played a girl with a disability. It was based on a true story, and the way she portrayed Dani was so believable, it was like she’d been through something similar in her life. Watching that, I felt a strong connection between us. Felt that she would understand what I had gone through in my struggle to speak like a normal person.

“But why suggest me?” I ask. “Doing stunts involves jumping and swimming and getting blown up and all sorts of other dangerous stuff. They might want someone who can fight, but I’m sure they need more experience than that. Experience that I don’t have, being just a kickboxer.”

“I wouldn’t say just. You’re the best I’ve ever trained,” Bill says nodding.

My heart skips a beat, and I can feel my cheeks flush. He’s never said that before. Coming from him, it’s high praise. He’s not known for giving compliments.

“Thanks so much,” I say.

“Which is why I want you to do this. I think it could give you an insight into a career where you can use your talents. Have you thought about what you want to do once school’s out?”

“Not really.” I bite on my bottom lip, feeling really lame. There’s nothing I’m good at, except kickboxing. I’m not smart, so I didn’t even consider applying to a good college. Mom made me apply to the local school, though, to study health science. I’d love to be more like Rupert, my older brother. He always gets top grades. He’s a jock, too. But I don’t hold that against him. I love him dearly…most of the time. He’s just a hard act to follow, especially in the classroom. Lucky for me, he never tried kickboxing. He probably would have been better than me at that, too.

“So what do you have to lose? Go and see Danny. It will do you good to shine somewhere other than on the mat. Danny won’t take you on if he doesn’t think you can do it. He said it’s only for basic stunts and some fight scenes, so I’m sure you’ll be fine.” He nods his head while running his hand along the silver stubble shadowing his pointed chin. I know his eager expression is supposed to encourage, but all he’s doing is scaring the crap out of me.

“I don’t know,” I say.

“Come on. Give it a shot.”

I run my tongue along my bottom lip, while playing it over in my mind. “Thanks for thinking of me. But…” I let that “but” trail off. Part of me wants to run in the opposite direction. But part of me is excited by the prospect. I guess if it’s just kickboxing, I could handle it. After all, I climbed up to the advanced ranks here at the dojo pretty quickly.

Except I’d still have to be in a room full of strange people. And what if they make me actually read lines?

I hold back a shiver.

“Don’t say no right away. Give it some thought and tell me later. If you get the job, Danny will arrange for someone to train you, and he won’t make you do anything that puts you at risk. I promise.” Bill gets up from sitting behind his desk and walks around to where I’m standing. “And don’t worry about your stammer. You’ll be fine. Just remember what you were taught in the speech program,” he says softly. “If you can do this, you’ll be able to do anything. Trust me.”

It’s easy for him to say; he’s not the one who spent years at school being tormented by the other kids. I used to dread reading out loud in class so much, I’d be physically sick on the days my English teacher had us studying plays.

“I’ll think about it,” I say, mainly so as not to upset Bill. He’s doing this to help me, I get that.

“Good girl.”

I know he means well, and it’s not like he doesn’t understand. The reason I came kickboxing here in the first place was because Mom and I met Bill and his son, who also stutters, at the stutterers’ support group we used to go to when I was younger. Bill persuaded Mom that the discipline involved in kickboxing would help in other areas of my life. And he was right. Sort of. At the dojo, everything is cool. Outside? It could be better.

I leave his office and head slowly toward the stairs, my mind a whirr of thoughts. From over the balcony, I notice everyone in my class warming up. The dojo might not be the flashiest building. The furniture is old and has seen better days, same with the carpets. And the paint is peeling in places. But it’s clean, the equipment is top of the line, and I love it here. It’s where I belong. I quickly scan the room for my best friend Matt. He’ll tell me what I should do. Like me, he’s a black belt and my go-to for all things kickboxing. What I love about sparring with Matt is that he doesn’t think he has to make allowances for me being a girl. Plus, he knows I can whip his ass any time I choose. Even if he does deny it. He’s such a typical guy.

Matt’s nowhere to be seen, but as I get to the bottom of the stairs, the white entrance door swings open and he comes charging through. He’s tall, around six feet, and his lean but muscular frame fills whatever space he’s in. He sees me, stops in his tracks, and flashes a wide smile that transforms his dark-and-broody movie star face into something almost boyish.

My heart does a little flip, as usual, when I see him. He’s like Henry Cavill’s much better-looking younger brother. But I ignore it. Deep down, I’ve always had a thing for Matt. He’s never felt the same about me, though. Yeah, he flirts, but he does that with everyone. It’s part of his DNA, so it doesn’t count.

And we’re friends. Good friends, and that is what’s most important. I’ve pretty much put my feelings for him in the back of my mind, where they belong. Nothing can happen between us, because it could ruin our friendship. And no way will I ever let that happen.

“Hey, Abi. Not in trouble are you?” He glances up at Bill’s office, which is the only room on the second floor. He knows as well as I do that being up there isn’t always a good sign.

I move past him and take a place on the mat. “I’ll tell you later. Come on, let’s warm up before we do get in trouble.”

“What’s with you being so secretive?” he asks as he stretches out his calf muscles.

“I’m not,” I say, smirking.

I’m hopeless at keeping anything from him, so I walk away before I break down and tell. Anyway, Bill goes crazy if we stand and chat while we’re supposed to be working.

We put on our helmets and face each other. Matt signals for us to start.

As soon as we’ve finished warming up, I throw the first punch. Matt blocks, kicks back. I block. We fall into the rhythm of the fight. Punch, block, kick. Roundhouse, front kick, block, jab, low kick, hook. And so forth. I throw myself into our sparring, trying not to be distracted by the way his muscles bunch and flex as he does his moves, and almost forget the chance of a lifetime Bill dropped into my lap.

“You’re gonna spill, Saunders. And I don’t just mean in the ring.” Matt grins and winks, his hazel eyes—green mixed with gold—sparkling as he dances back out of my reach.

I snort. As if that’s gonna break me.

“So not happening,” I yell in his direction. Just in case he thinks he’s got a chance.

“Of course you’ve got to do it. Why wouldn’t you?” Matt asks while we’re sitting on the patch of grass outside the dojo. Despite my having toweled off numerous times, sweat is still dripping down my neck and back, staining the neckline of my fitted tank in a very unladylike way. Matt still hasn’t cooled down, either, judging by the way his chestnut-brown hair curls damply around his face. We went for each other hard.

“Shut up. You know why not. M-m-m-matt.” I exaggerate my stutter to make a point and glare at him, but all he does is pick a blade of grass, put it between his fingers and blow, making a loud squeaky noise.

I roll my eyes toward the sky. He knows how hard things have been for me in the past, so why is he acting like this is an easy decision for me?

“This is Tilly Watson we’re talking about.” He won’t admit it, but from the way he looks when he mentions her name, I figure he’s got a crush. “I understand you might be nervous, but this is, like, one chance in a million. You’ve got to do it.” He drops the grass and lifts his head so our eyes meet.

But as for me being her stunt double…

Yes, of course, I’d love to meet Tilly. But I can only imagine what it would be like.

Hi, T-t-t-tilly. N-n-n-n-nice to m-m-meet you.

Yeah, so not happening.

“No, Matt. I can’t.”

“And what does Liv think?”

Liv’s my other best friend, and I’ve known her since grade school. The biggest mistake I ever made was introducing the two of them. They’re always ganging up on me, even if it’s usually in a nice way.

“She doesn’t know.”

“If she agrees with me, then you’re going to do it. Okay?” He leans across me and picks up the towel, and the sight of his toned six-pack showing underneath the hem of his tight white tee momentarily distracts me. I swear he lets that thing ride up on purpose to see my reaction—or that of any female standing nearby. I shake my head to bring my thoughts back in line.

Well, at least Liv will be on my side. She understands what I went through as a kid. Unlike Matt, I don’t have The Abs to mesmerize people with. “Fine. Text her.”

He glances up, looking at something over my shoulder. “Already did.”

I swing my head around and see Liv’s battered green Civic squeal up to the curb. She gets out and slams the door, charging over toward us. What the…

“Abi! I can’t believe it,” she says as she plunks herself and her bag down between Matt and me. “When’s the audition?” Her china blue eyes are as wide as her mouth is open.

I can’t believe it either. This so isn’t what I want to hear. My shoulders sag, and I lean against the big old oak we’re sitting under.

“But Liv…” My voice sounds all pathetic and pleading, even to my ears. But it’s how I feel.

“Don’t even think of telling me you don’t want to go,” she says sharply.

“You don’t understand. This is way too big for me to get my head around.” I throw my hands in the air out of sheer exasperation. “I don’t know why Bill couldn’t have asked someone else.”

“Like who?” Matt says. “No one else is remotely at your level. Plus, you’re the right age and the right size. An obvious choice, if you ask me.”

“What is it with everyone thinking Tilly and I are similar? We’re most definitely not. And I should know—I see myself in the mirror every day.”

“Look, Abi,” Liv says, locking eyes with me. “You’ve got to put yourself out there. You can’t always hide in the shadows. This is your chance to show everyone what you can do.” She busts out into a series of stereotypically girly punches to illustrate. I know she means well, but there’s a reason field hockey is her thing. “No way are you turning down such an opportunity. Absolutely no way. Is she, Matt?” Liv turns her head in Matt’s direction, obviously confident he’ll take up where she left off.

It’s like she’s got a hotline to Bill, practically repeating his every word. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Bill talked to them both before he even approached me to get them on his side. All we’ll need now is Mom to get involved, and we’ll have triple the fun. I get that they think they’re ganging up on me for my own good, but maybe they should leave me alone to make my own decisions. Which I am quite capable of doing. Most of the time.

“A once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Matt says. “That’s what I’ve been telling her.”

“Exactly,” says Liv, folding her arms and subconsciously assuming her I-am-a-wall-and-nothing’s-going-to-get-past-me goalie stance.

“Look, if you’re so thrilled, then you go,” I say to Liv. “You’d be much better than me.” I conveniently ignore the fact that unless she has a hockey stick in her hand, Liv hits about as effectively as Kermit the Frog. “There’s bound to be hundreds of people there. You know what these movie crews are like. Even the assistant to the assistant kitchen hand has an assistant. I’d sooner be fed to sharks than have to face all that.”

“That can be arranged,” Liv retorts. “Don’t underestimate us just because we’re in Nebraska.” She turns her body toward me and rests her hands on my shoulders. “Look,” she continues, her voice slightly more gentle than before. “I’m your best friend, and I know you better than anyone else.” She’s right about that. I owe her big time. We started school the same day, and I couldn’t have coped without her protection from the merciless, teasing bullies. She’s been fighting my fights and standing up for me for as long as I can remember. “There’s no way it’ll be as bad as you imagine. You don’t even have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to, so don’t worry about that. They want you for your kickboxing; just pretend it’s one of your matches.”

She makes it sound so easy, but then it would be for her. She couldn’t care less about walking into a room full of strangers and talking to them. I’m feeling beyond sick just thinking about it.

“I suppose that could work.” I bite down on the inside of my mouth as I process what she’s been saying.

I love Liv to bits, and I know she has my interests at heart, but she’ll never know what it’s like, however much I try to explain. It’s not her fault. You have to experience wanting to say something and not being able to get the words out to know what it feels like.

“Of course it will work,” she says. “Just remember, it’s only an audition, so it’s not like the real thing. You’re not going to be faced with all the actors and crew, are you?”

“I guess not.” I sigh. Something tells me Liv’s already made the decision for me.

“So you’ll go?” she asks, her eyes bright with anticipation.

“I’m still not sure,” I say.

“Abi, stop it. You can do this. Have some faith in yourself. After all you’ve been through together, do you really think Bill would ask you if he thought you couldn’t?”

“She’s right,” Matt adds. “If Bill thinks you’ll be okay, you will be. Go on. Tell him yes. We’ll come with you to the audition if you want.”

“Sure,” Liv replies, nodding, which causes her dark bangs to fall across her forehead. “It’ll be hard having to hang around a movie set with lots of celebs. But I’ll be there for you, Abi, because that’s the sort of thing best friends do for each other.”

She bursts out laughing and Matt follows. I can see I’m fighting a losing battle. I smile at them both—at least I think it’s a smile. I’m probably going to regret this, but what the hell.

“Okay. Okay. I’ll go.” A shiver shoots down my spine, and I’m not sure whether it’s from excitement or fear. Whatever. If this does work out, I can never again complain about my life being boring. Not that I ever do, but just saying.

“Awesome. And just think, when you’re famous there’ll be a line of guys wanting your number. How cool would that be?” A dreamy expression crosses her face.

Guys all wanting my number, huh? That would be a first. We’d see how many were left standing after I took an hour to recite it to them. I glance across at Matt, to see if the thought of guys wanting to ask me out bothers him at all, but all he’s doing is grinning. Probably thinking that I’ll be able to introduce him to Tilly. Well, that’s definitely not on my agenda.

“I haven’t got the job yet,” I say. “I’ve got to audition first. And there’s every chance that I’ll get there and then make a mad dash away from the place.”

“I can assure you, that’s not going to happen. I’ll be holding your hand every step of the way.” She folds her arms tightly across her chest and narrows her eyes, her lips locked together in grim determination. You don’t mess with Liv when she’s like this. Not if you know what’s good for you.

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In the Blood - Hantz[1]

IN THE BLOOD

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Chapter One

Pedophile: Noun

An adult who is sexually attracted to children.

Scum.

Sleazeball.

Creep.

Loser.

Lowlife.

Asswipe.

Dad.

Chapter Two

Benjamin Franklin. My Dad.

Not that Benjamin Franklin.

That Benjamin Franklin.

Pedophile and murderer.

Freaked out?

Did you even know a bastard like that could lead a regular life?

With a wife and two children. A son and a daughter. No, nor did we. Until it was too late.

Too fucking late.

The numbing shock when he was arrested. The disbelief.

The conviction that the police had gotten it wrong. Way wrong. Even in the face of damning evidence, we knew that the truth would come out. That the evidence got switched. That there was a cover up, or something.

Something.

Then the police found locks of hair belonging to each of those dead boys, so well hidden in the little trinket box my dad’s mom gave him on her deathbed.

Then we knew. Really knew. And that’s when our lives changed.

Forever.

Chapter Three

Walking into the kitchen, I wonder if today’s going to be any different, so I test it by opening the refrigerator, grabbing the OJ, and taking a huge swallow from the carton. Glancing to the side, I wait for a reaction.

Nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

Like I’m surprised? It’s just that today, of all days, I hoped something might change. That Mom might acknowledge my existence and actually notice when I do the one thing she really hates. And maybe even offer to make me a special breakfast, the way she used to. What the fuck do I know?

I keep looking at her, but she doesn’t notice, she just sits at the table with her hands wrapped around a mug of steaming coffee, staring into space. It suddenly strikes me how gray her hair is now, making her look way over thirty-nine. It didn’t used to be. In the past, she’d spend hours at the hair salon.

And every day, she wears the same green track pants and shapeless, faded red tee. Before it all happened, she spent so much money on clothes and stuff, it wasn’t funny. Her shopping obsession was a family joke. But it didn’t matter. We could afford it because Dad inherited loads of money when his parents died, just before Amy was born. First his mom and then his dad a few months later. No, money was never a problem. Still isn’t. And she was always buying me and Amy things. Every week, we’d get something new.

And look at the house. Not that it’s dirty; she has a cleaner come in once a week. But it’s nothing like it was. No flowers in all the downstairs rooms. No home baked cookies. It’s like living in a hotel. Cold. And the garden’s all grass now, which I have to mow every couple of weeks because the gardener left after Mom instructed him to pull up the flowers and shrubs to stop people from hiding in there. By “people,” I mean the press.

I get it, though. It’s the same for me. The past nine months have been hell. All I wanted to do was run and hide somewhere I’d never be found. Away from the constant attention of the media. Away from the whispering neighbors. Away from the school corridors and those shits who think that I knew what was going on and could’ve done something about it.

You’d think I’d have my family to fall back on, but it’s like I’m dealing with it all on my own, and there are times when my head feels like it’ll explode.

Realizing that today’s gonna be no different, I start to make my breakfast. First taking out the bread and placing each slice the same way up in the toaster, then taking a plate and knife and lining them up next to each other. It’s just the way I do things. I like order. Nothing ever out of place.

Just like Dad. He was a neat freak, too.

“Jed,” Mom says, the sound of her voice making me start.

“Yes?” My heartbeat quickens as I wait anxiously to see if she’s remembered. I spin around to face her, though she’s still staring ahead.

“I want to you to take Amy to school today,” she says, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Why?” I challenge, the frustration of this whole situation getting to me even more than usual.

She swings her head around and looks in my direction. The listlessness in her eyes wrenches at my gut. She’s like a walking zombie. It’s like on the day Dad got arrested almost a year ago she totally gave up on life. She’s only visited him once in prison, and that was just after the arrest. I’ve no idea what went down. She didn’t say, and I didn’t ask. But she came home, packed all his things in boxes, and called a guy to collect them and put them into storage. She doesn’t talk to me about him at all, hasn’t even mentioned the trial, which, according to the papers, is due to start real soon.

I’ve been working out the best way to tell her I’m going to the trial. I need to go. To try and make sense out of everything that happened. To understand how a regular guy—correction, who we thought was a regular guy—like Dad could do something so horrendously despicable that it defies comprehension. He might’ve pleaded not guilty, but that’s crap. The evidence is too damning for him not to be.

Or maybe I shouldn’t say anything to Mom. I’m seventeen, not a kid. And it’s not like she’s gonna care. She never knows where I am or what I’m doing. Never asks about school. Only does my laundry if I bring it downstairs myself, and, when it’s clean, it stays in the basket ’til I put it away. Not that that’s a problem, it’s just so different from how she used to be. In the past, every time she went into my room, she’d empty my laundry basket. I can’t remember the last time she set foot in there.

“I’ve got a headache,” she responds.

She stands, leaves her mug on the table, and heads for the door just as Amy, my five-year-old sister, comes racing in and crashes into her.

“Sorry,” Amy says, untangling herself from Mom and scampering into the kitchen. “Jed, have you seen Rolo?”

Rolo’s her bear. She’s had it since she was born, and it never leaves her side—even more so since Mom’s checked out.

“Try the den, then come back for breakfast. I’m taking you to school today.”

I pull a bowl from the cupboard and pour some cereal in it for her. Looks like she doesn’t remember, either. Though why would she at her age?

Whatever.

Happy Birthday to Me.

Reviews:

“A dark and deliciously tense story that will make you wonder how alike our parents we can be.” Kelley York, author of Hushed.

“Sara Hantz doesn’t pull any punches shaping this story of one of the toughest, most complicated family situations that a teen could face. Jed’s emotions are raw and real. I ached and raged with him and frantically turned pages to see where he would end up.”  Stephanie Kuehnert, author of Ballards of Suburbia and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.

“In The Blood is a gut-wrenching look inside the mind of a young man living with a nightmare. Jared has to learn to face life after his father is accused of an unspeakable crime. A ripped-from-the headlines story that illustrates the power of unconditional love.”B. A. Binns, author of PULL and Being God.

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Sally's Kindle Cover - hi_res

The Second Virginity of Suzy Green

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The second edition of THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN has been released on Kindle and can be bought through Amazon

Excerpt

Prologue “Pass the bottle,” I yell. If Lucy finishes it I’ll kill her. And I’m not joking either. “Make me,” she cries taking a step closer and wav¬ing it under my nose. “Right that’s it.” I leap up from the bench and lunge at her. But my feet get caught up in one another and suddenly I lose my balance. “Help,” I cry, but too late. Splat. I land in a heap on the ground. I roll over onto my back, stretch my arms and legs out and wave them up and down. “Look. I’m an angel. Weeeeeeeee. I’m an angel and the angel needs a drink. Please Luce. Please. I’m thirsty.” I close my eyes but everything starts to spin so I quickly jerk them open. Standing over me is Lucy. “Why should I? I bought it.” She takes a drink and skips off holding her arms out like she’s a plane. “Stole it, you mean.” I giggle at my joke. I’m so funny. A stream of dribble runs out the corner of my mouth then flows back in. Before I can stop myself I swallow and start to choke. I push myself up until sitting and cough and cough. Eventually Lucy comes over. “Here,” she says holding out the bottle of vodka. “Thanks,” I say grabbing it from her. I lift it to my lips but miss and pour it all over me. “Shhit. That’s just typical. Just fucking typical. I can’t do anything right. My life sucks. It’s the suckiest life in the whole world. Sucks, sucks, sucks. That’s me. And that’s my life.” I drop back down on the ground still clutching the neck of the vodka bottle. My eyes close and I lay motionless until something bubbling in the pit of my stomach forces me upright. “Luce,” I moan. “I don’t feel well.” “Stick your fingers down your throat. Works for me every time.” “Okay.” I hold out my hand and Lucy pulls me up. “Take this while I chuck up in the bushes.” I give her the vodka. “And don’t drink it all. Or else.” My feet point in the direction of the bushes but they’re too heavy to move. Then, without warning, vomit shoots out of my mouth and covers me. And my new sneakers. “Suzy,” Lucy shouts. “You freak.” “Lucy. I’ve been sick.” I lean forward and wrap my arms around my middle. “It tastes horrible. And I smell soooooo bad.” “Well take your clothes off then, and wash them in the fountain.” “Yes. Yes. That’s such a good idea. You’re so clever. I wish I was clever. Why is everyone I know clever and I’m not. It’s not fair. It’s so not fair.” I yank at my shirt and a button flies off. “Oh, shit. That’s all I need.” A noise distracts me and I look up. “Fuck. Can my life get any worse?”

Reviews:

Teen’s are people too…Kudos to Sara Hantz, May 8, 2013     im1Rarebird (Jacksonville Florida):  Life is not easy when you are a teenager. Many adults will enjoy reading this book, especially if they have children. It is a reminder to us all how in the moment life is at this age. Suzy had been a bit out of control until the death of her sister. She is hurting and so is her family, deciding that she will not add to her worry and agony she vows to change her behaviour and therefore change her life’s path. Moving to a new area and a new school seems to be the ticket, but life is not as forgiving as she would like it to be. Suzy learns that the past will come back to haunt you and that you can change but you also have to accept your past. Trying to fit in and be accepted by the “virginity” club she is mortified when the fact that she is no longer a virgin threatens to destroy everything. This is a story that rings true for so many and it is refreshingly blunt on a subject that most parents would rather believe could never apply to their child. Suzy not only wants to makeover her life, she wants to save her soul. Recommended reading for adults and teens.   5.0 out of 5 stars          All I can say is Wow!,April 21, 2013  By LaurenLovesLuxury (Cleveland, OH)

Let me preface this by saying I am not a teen nor do I typically reach for contemporary young adult lit. But I LOVED the title and premise of the story. So I downloaded it and I’m so glad I did. What a sweet and relatable novel about a thoughtful young girl named Suzy Greene. She struggles between a sense of realism beyond her years and her natural teenage desire to belong. Suzy’s heartache over the loss of her “perfect” elder sister leads to an intricate yet charming tale of events while introducing some very endearing characters on the way. I loved the supporting players (especially her friends at her new school) as well as Suzy’s regular musings on her “old life.” I remember back in high school doing whatever I possibly could to fit in, and Suzy’s sweet perspective sheds light on young relationships in a way that sends me back to a more innocent time. This story has an inherent element of sad, but ultimately I’d say that reading it made me happy. Bravo to Sara Hantz for a story well told. I would absolutely read a sequel!

suzy-final-cover.jpg My debut book THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN was published by Flux and made the New York Public Library ‘Books for the Teen Age’ list.

Upon Further Review

“This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and really made me remember what being a teenager is like. Trying to fit in sometimes means giving up some of the things you love – Suzy finds this out the hard way. All of the characters were so well developed, and one of my favorites was Maddie, the best friend who struggles to believe all that Suzy is going through to impress her “new” crowd of friends. I applaud the author for encouraging teens to just be themselves instead of trying to be something they aren’t.”

Trashionista

BOOK REVIEW – The Second Virginity of Suzy Green by Sara Hantz Reviewed by Luisa Plaja “I can’t think of a single YA title set in Australia that I haven’t loved, and this book is no exception. Suzy is a sweet character who means well but never quite manages to adopt her new ‘perfection’, or at least not in every way. This means we still get to benefit from her brilliantly irreverent ‘fringes of Goth’ outlook, even as she struggles to be one of the glamorous, rich gang. My favourite moments were when her old voice came through loudly at unexpected moments, and always to great effect.” “The characters are wonderful, especially Suzy’s friend from home Maddie, who only features on the other end of the phone, but really shows us what the old Suzy was like. I also loved the ex, Ryan. We don’t get to meet him directly until relatively late in the book, but it doesn’t matter because this is an easy, fast read and one of those books where you’re halfway through before you know it, desperately turning the pages to find out what happens next. I was surprised to find that the story doesn’t dwell for long on the sadder aspects of Suzy’s life, but this is something that fits well with Suzy’s character. I should also point out that it’s amazingly clean for a book with ‘virginity’ in the title (er, if that makes any sense).” “The Second Virginity of Suzy Green has everything – laugh-out-loud humour, exciting cliffhangers, cringey embarrassing incidents, and also some total lump-in-your-throat moments. Plus a lovely cover, featuring two cherries – nice touch!”

Chicklish

REVIEW: The Second Virginity of Suzy Green by Sara Hantz “This is a fabulous feelgood book, full of humour and engrossing twists. The characters are brilliant, especially Suzy and her best friend from home Maddie, and you quickly feel as if you know them. It was great to see Suzy adapting to her new environment. I loved her honesty – her descriptions of her classmates as Stepford students, the way she admitted to being unable to recognise herself and ‘missing the kicks’ even when she was desperately trying (and largely managing) to fit in with the new crowd. There was loads of page-turning intrigue and some sad moments, too.”

Young Adult Book Central – 5 Star

The stuff A review by Bria “Suzy Green is many things: fun, crazy, and cool. But one of them is not a virgin. That is not what she tells are new friends at her new school. Suzy Green has moved to a small town in the outback after her sister dies, and her father gets a new job. She tries to by like her sister by getting good grades, doing her homework, and never yelling at her mom (I know impossible!). She even makes a few new friends and a hot guy (named Guy) is actually interested in her. Everything is perfect until Ryan, her ex-boyfriend, shows up. He knows a little secret about her so-called virginity. With the help of some new friends, and some old friends Suzy will finally find her self, and learn that she is perfect the way she is (virgin or not), I loved this book. I read it in one sitting and could not put the book down. I think that flux has a hit with this book. I think Suzy is more like the modern girl. She has flaws and is not perfect. In some books they try to make the main character this perfect sweetheart who does not deserve what is happening to her, but in this book the characters. Reading this book is like hearing your best friend tell you the story of her life. It is fun, sweet, and hilarious. Sara Hantz really knows how to get into the teenage mind and tells us that we are okay just the way we are. Another great addition in teen chick lit and I hope to see more with this author.”

Teen Book Review, November 2007, 4 1/2 Star

“THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN is a funny, engaging, and touching story that readers will surely love. Sara Hantz is great at creating realistic, memorable characters, Suzy of course being the best of them. This novel is a first-person narrative told in Suzy’s great voice, very well done. This is Sara Hantz’s debut novel, and I look forward to reading her future work!”

Teens Read Too, September 2007, 5 star

“With THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN, author Sara Hantz has written a moving novel about a girl trying to make over her soul without losing herself in the process.”

KLIATT, September 2007

“The topics addressed here – sexuality, friendship, family relationsships – all add depth to the plot and should provide much fodder for discussion.”

Simone Elkeles, September 2007

“The Second Virginity of Suzy Green is a perfect example of why teens shouldn’t try and be someone they’re not! Suzy learns the hard way that it’s best to be true to yourself.” You can order online at: Amazon

Excerpt:

Prologue “Pass the bottle,” I yell. If Lucy finishes it I’ll kill her. And I’m not joking either. “Make me,” she cries taking a step closer and waving it under my nose. “Right that’s it.” I leap up from the bench and lunge at her. But my feet get caught up in one another and suddenly I lose my balance. “Help,” I cry, but too late. Splat. I land in a heap on the ground. I roll over onto my back, stretch my arms and legs out and wave them up and down. “Look. I’m an angel. Weeeeeeeee. I’m an angel and the angel needs a drink. Please Luce. Please. I’m thirsty.” I close my eyes but everything starts to spin so I quickly jerk them open. Standing over me is Lucy. “Why should I? I bought it.” She takes a drink and skips off holding her arms out like she’s a plane. “Stole it, you mean.” I giggle at my joke. I’m so funny. A stream of dribble runs out the corner of my mouth then flows back in. Before I can stop myself I swallow and start to choke. I push myself up until sitting and cough and cough. Eventually Lucy comes over. “Here,” she says holding out the bottle of vodka. “Thanks,” I say grabbing it from her. I lift it to my lips but miss and pour it all over me. “Shhit. That’s just typical. Just fucking typical. I can’t do anything right. My life sucks. It’s the suckiest life in the whole world. Sucks, sucks, sucks. That’s me. And that’s my life.” I drop back down on the ground still clutching the neck of the vodka bottle. My eyes close and I lay motionless until something bubbling in the pit of my stomach forces me upright. “Luce,” I moan. “I don’t feel well.” “Stick your fingers down your throat. Works for me every time.” “Okay.” I hold out my hand and Lucy pulls me up. “Take this while I chuck up in the bushes.” I give her the vodka. “And don’t drink it all. Or else.” My feet point in the direction of the bushes but they’re too heavy to move. Then, without warning, vomit shoots out my mouth and covers me. And my new sneakers. “Suzy,” Lucy shouts. “You freak.” “Lucy. I’ve been sick.” I lean forward and wrap my arms around my middle. “It tastes horrible. And I smell soooooo bad.” “Well take your clothes off then, and wash them in the fountain.” “Yes. Yes. That’s such a good idea. You’re so clever. I wish I was clever. Why is everyone I know clever and I’m not. It’s not fair. It’s so not fair.” I yank at my shirt and a button flies off. “Oh, shit. That’s all I need.” A noise distracts me and I look up. “Fuck. Can my life get any worse? Chapter 1 “Bye Dad,” I say, opening the car door and swinging my legs round to ease myself out. New state, new school, new start. New state, new school, new start. New state, new school, new start. It really helped when Maddie (aka best friend and person who knows nearly all my innermost secrets) and I were singing it the other night on the phone, but now it’s doing absolutely nothing to quell the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t sleep a wink last night worrying my butt off about today. What if they all hate me and won’t talk to me? I’ll be a right Larry Loner. Or what if everyone there is really weird? I mean, if the uniform is anything to go by I’m in serious trouble. I glance down at my way-too-long green and grey checked skirt, which no-one at my old school would be seen dead in, and shudder. And having to wear a tie really sucks. It feels like I’m choking. Maddie would laugh herself senseless if she could see me. Ever since I told her my new school, St Peter’s, is the poshest in the area she’s been teasing me about having to dress like Deirdre our school librarian. I’m really going to miss Maddie. Dad’s secondment means most of our contact over the next year will be cyber. Why they couldn’t train someone else to do the job I don’t know. It’s not like he’s some sort of nuclear physicist. There must be plenty of structural engineers in Adelaide who would be suitable. “Have fun. And be good,” Dad says as I close the car door behind me. I fling my bag over my shoulder, wave in Dad’s direction, and put my best foot forward. I took so long getting ready this morning we were almost late – not good on my first day. Walking in front of me towards the entrance are three really cool girls. It’s easy to tell; confidence oozes from every pore. Nothing to do with the uniform, as we’re all dressed the same. It’s just the way they stand tall while walking and the way people part to let them through. Maybe if I tuck in behind everyone will think I’m one of them. Yeah, right. I push open the entrance door and follow the arrows to the school office. When I get there I knock on the door and wait, while my foot taps nervously on the wooden floor. No answer. After a few seconds I knock again. Still no answer. Panic sets in, as according to my watch school started exactly two minutes ago. This is so not good. Just as I lift my hand to knock a third time the door opens and a tiny grey haired woman stares out at me. “Yes?” She says tersely, peering over the top of her gold rimmed, half-moon shaped glasses. “I’m Suzy Green. I start today.” “You’re late,” she says looking pointedly at her watch and frowning. Old Suzy would have quipped in a flash that if she’d answered the door sooner then being late wouldn’t be an issue. New-start Suzy however- “Sorry, I lost my way.” “Well never mind that now. Follow me.” She rushes off with such speed that a trail of dust rises in her wake, and it takes me all my time to keep up as these disgusting black regulation lace-up shoes they force us to wear are killing my feet. We go along a corridor, up some stairs, along another corridor, and around a corner – by which time I’m so sure I’ll never find my way back I give up even trying to remember the way. Finally we stop outside a class with 7D on the door. She gives a sharp knock and walks in, with me following close behind. Omigod! Everyone stands up. Not only that, they’re all quiet. This is seriously weird. “You must be Suzanne,” says the teacher standing at the front. She smiles at me. Phew. Thank goodness they’re not all like school-office woman (whoever she might be). “I’m Mrs Richardson, your House Mistress. Take a seat over there,” she points to an empty desk by the window, “and I’ll talk to you at the end of the tutorial.” I sit down and pull out a pad and pen from my bag, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. I’m sensing all eyes are on me and I can feel my cheeks colouring – hardly the coolest entry. Will someone tell me why I agreed to come to this school? Hypothetical question. It was Mum and Dad’s idea and I wasn’t in a position to say no. And there isn’t a better place to be if I want to stay out of trouble. The forty minute lesson goes by in a flash and I’m surprised that when the bell rings nobody jumps up and races to the door. Instead they wait for Mrs Richardson to tell them to go. All except me and another girl – who only happens to be one of the cool girls I saw earlier – as we’re asked to stay behind. “Hi,” says the other girl. “I’m Lori.” There’s something really familiar about her but I can’t quite work out what. Maybe it’s something to do with the preppy blonde highlighted hair tied up in that couldn’t-care-less look, which probably took at least half an hour to perfect. Not that I don’t like it. I’d kill for hair like that, rather than the dark brown mass of curls I inherited from Mum that frizz out at the slightest opportunity. “Suzy,” I say smiling back at her. My mouth freezes for a second as I worry my smile is too Cheshire-cat-like. First impressions count and I mustn’t stuff up. “Suzy. You prefer that from Suzanne?” Mrs Richardson asks as she comes over to where we’re standing. I nod my head. “Good. I’ll try to remember. Here’s your timetable.” She hands me a small piece of paper, and I take a quick glance. Oh, no. It’s biology next. I hope there’s nothing to dissect. Last term we dissected a sheep’s head, and all I can remember before coming over faint was someone throwing the eye across the class and it splattering in my face. Gross. “Lori is your allocated buddy,” Mrs Richardson continues, reminding me I’m at St Peter’s now and not Carlton High. “She’ll show you around and take you to all your classes during your first week. Anything you need to know, ask her.” Omigod. Someone, somewhere is looking out for me. I can’t believe one of the cool girls is my mentor. This is my big chance. I’ve got a week to get her to like me, and maybe I’ll get to hang with the in crowd all the time.

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