Fifteenth Summer - By Michelle Dalton


When you’re stuck in the backseat of your parents’ car—on hour twenty-five of the drive from Los Angeles to Bluepointe, Michigan—the last thing you’re thinking about is love.

But somehow that’s what my two sisters were discussing. They chatted over my head as if I was no more than an armrest between them.

Actually, it’s a stretch to say they were talking about love. They were really talking about boys. The boys of Bluepointe. Two of them in particular.

“Liam,” Hannah breathed. She propped her feet on the hump in the middle of the backseat, even though that was clearly my personal space. “That was my guy’s name, remember? We saw him at the beach at least four times, and the last two, he definitely noticed me. Now, which one was yours?”

“You know,” Abbie said impatiently. She did most things impatiently. “The guy who worked at the market. That boy could shelve.”

I snorted while Hannah said, “Well, did you ever talk to him? Was he interested? What was his name?”

Hannah always liked to have all her facts straight.

“John,” Abbie answered, nodding firmly as she stared out the car window. Then she frowned and clicked one of her short, unpainted fingernails against her front teeth. “Or . . . James? It was definitely John or James or . . . Jason? Ugh, I can’t remember.”

“If you were a boy,” my dad chimed from the front seat, where he had the car on cruise control at exactly sixty-five miles per hour, “we were going to name you Horatio. No one ever forgets the name Horatio.”

My dad thinks he’s hilarious. And because he works from home, doing other people’s taxes, he’s around a lot to subject us to all his one-liners. My mom is the only one who doesn’t roll her eyes at every joke. She even laughs at some of them. Dad always says that’s why they’re still married. That and the fact that my mom is super-practical with money, which is very romantic to an accountant. All it meant to me was that I had to babysit to earn every paltry dollar of my spending money.

I sighed and glanced at the novel in my lap. That book—the latest dystopian bestseller—was torturing me. I was dying to read it, but every time I did, I got carsick. I was still feeling a little green after reading two irresistible pages (two words: “prison break”) twenty minutes earlier.

Texting with my best friend, Emma, made me feel slightly less queasy.

Ugh. Today is the shortest drive of our trip but it’s the most soul-killing. I feel like it will NEVER. END. And why do I always get the middle seat?


Don’t gloat cuz you’re an only child.

. . .

Are you texting with Ethan right now?!?


I can tell your palms are sweaty. Plus there are the long delays.


Uh-huh. Even when they’re sending mash notes to their boyfriends?

. . .



Ethan was Emma’s boyfriend of two weeks. And class was at “the Intensive,” which is this hard-core, fast-track-to-prima-ballerina summer program at the LA Ballet. All spring Emma had talked about nothing else. She’d angsted about her floppy fouettés and worried that she’d be too tall for the boys to partner. She’d wondered if the mesdames would be harsh and beautiful, like the ballet teachers on Fame, and she’d considered cutting off all her hair to make herself stand out.

But then Ethan Mack asked Emma to fast dance at our spring semiformal, and everything changed.

When it happened, I was already out on the dance floor (which was just our school gym floor covered with a puckery layer of black vinyl) with Dave Sugarman.

Dave was nice enough. He had a round, smooth face and one of those nondescript bodies that always seemed to be hidden inside clothes a size or two too big. He was in a couple of honors classes with me, so he was smart. I guessed. He never really spoke much in class.

He was, I thought, a tennis player. Either that or he did track and field.

Dave was perfectly nice.

But here’s what Dave wasn’t. He wasn’t Mr. Darcy. Or Peeta Mellark. He wasn’t even Michael Moscovitz.

And they were the boys I was searching for.

I don’t mean I wanted an actual revolutionary hero or a guy with an English accent and ascot. (Okay, I wouldn’t turn down the English accent.)

I didn’t want the perfect