YA Contemporary Romance
Joss Olstad has finally talked her clingy, stoner mom into springing Joss from her stifling private school and into the labyrinth of a prestigious Brooklyn public high. Searching for “a way out, a way in, and something I can’t even put into words, yet” Joss longs to find missing pieces of herself she lost when the father she never met died on a faraway road in India. All she has of him is a painted box he made. Joss is also itching to escape the hippie hell of her mother’s bong shop, and the hypocrisy that is her life. With her honey skin, and long brown hair, she passes for white, even though she’s half Indian. This culturally diverse school will be her chance to find out who she really is.
Day one, and Joss is terrified by how different things are. Has she made a horrible mistake? Before long, she gets into the pace. Her sights are set on her own “Bobcat in black denim”, the tall, handsome Will Torres. She’s met Katya too, a popular glam queen, who’s a blast to hang out with. She’s even joined an Indian Culture Club, who invites her to live music clubs. Life is perfect!
Or is it? Her friend, Katya starts acting like a royal slut, her mom’s flinging insults and lies at her, and the Club girls are pressuring Joss to reveal her sketchy pedigree. Joss finds herself spinning stories about her past to fill in the holes. Even Will becomes leery of her. And the Personal Iconography class that Joss signed on for because kids claimed the teacher was “nuts in a good way” is the toughest class she’s ever taken. In it, Joss starts to make her own, heart-shaped boxes, with private messages in them. They help guide her forward. Not only is she forced to figure out who she is beyond the “nice girl” she always hid behind, her search leads her to the fringes of the outer boroughs, to a scary industrial section of Queens, and a shocking family secret that changes everything.
“It’s a labyrinth, um, but it was great, everyone’s brilliant.” I don’t tell her I was hyperventilating and barely found the classes before the bells rang, or that a girl I rammed into had to practically hold my hand and lead me around, or in the morning I felt like a preppy geek-virgin among the urban Brooklyn übercool. I won’t give Mom an I-told-you-so moment.
“Meet anyone nice?” She fusses with the incense holders, clearly trying to hide her expression as she often does when the subject of my friends comes up. Now she’s rearranging the already perfect array of stone-carved pipes.
I think of bobcat-smooth, lime-infused Will. “I met a girl named Katya,” I answer finally, as I refold a scarf a customer left in a heap. “We ate lunch together.”
“That’s nice. Where does she live?”
Who cares? It’ll be more embarrassing when my new classmates find out where I live—over a freaking head shop in the East Village. “Manhattan Beach,” I say finally.
“Manhattan Beach. Is that—?”
I cut Mom off by turning to a pair of skateboarders who stride up to the counter. “May I help you?”
One of the guys points to a pipe. “How much?”
“Ten,” I answer.
His friend points to a marble container. “How much for a stash box?”
“Fifteen. They’re potpourri boxes,” I correct him. Mom insists on catchy names to hide the real purpose of the items, plus she gives the beat cops huge holiday tips—hush money.
In fact, the major premise of the store is a grand illusion. Even the shop’s name—Bodhisattva Beach—supposedly stands for a sanctuary of salt waves and coconut trees and mango mimosas with wisps of hibiscus petals. And Bodhisattva stands for paradise, for the godhead. But I know different.
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