Author: Adi Alsaid
Number of Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Date of Publication: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Never date your best friend.
Always be original.
Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.
Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school.
Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never dye your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.
Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.
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"You're being strangely helpful," Julia said, putting on her gloves and eyeing Brett. "I didn't know you could be…"
"A nice person?" Brett said. "I'm a little hurt by that."
"I wasn't trying to insinuate anything, I was actually struggling for a way to complete the thought. But, yeah, nice person works. I thought you were just going to be critical of the plan. Like with the explosions."
"Truth be told, I've been waiting for years for you guys to come out of your shells. I wanted to be around to watch it happen."
"Shells? What shells? I'm not shy."
"It has nothing to do with shyness. The little tortoise shell the two of you live in without letting the rest of the world in," Brett said, turning on the generator, the whirring cutting off Julia's chance to retort. She looked over at Dave, who could only shrug. There was probably some truth in what he'd said.
At first it didn't seem like they were accomplishing much. Dave and Julia stacked piles of wood around the tree. Brett would hand Dave a few pencil-marked boards and tell him where to hammer in nails, which Dave would do slowly, careful not to miss the neat little exes. Music playing from Brett's truck filled the night, though it was often drowned out by sawing, drilling, and Julia making fun of Brett's taste in music.
Then, all of a sudden, there were stairs leading up the tree to where the first of the branches spread out to cast a shade that the claimed as their own. The skeleton of a treehouse had appeared almost as if through magic. It was nothing that Dave would dare to get into yet, but if he squinted at it he could see it coming to life, like a connect-the-dots drawing that was still a missing a few lines.
With each plank that was hammered into place, each branch sawed out of the way, a palpable sense of accomplishment built in the air, or maybe that was just happening in Dave's head. Every now and then Julia's arm would brush against his, bare despite the chilly night—they'd all started sweating early and long-sleeves were quickly rolled up, sweaters discarded into a small pile in the bed of the pick-up truck, which early in the night held tons of supplies and now was mostly bare. It would be a lie to say he felt nothing at the touch of her skin—skin doesn't forget so quickly—nor would it be honest to say it didn't make him happy—hearts are even worse at learning new habits—but it didn't feel momentous anymore. In fact, the shiver down his spine would rather quickly lead to thoughts of Gretchen, and it was with her face in mind that he put together the treehouse.
When the sun started to bruise the sky with its approach, the three of them put their tools down and looked out at the tree. Dave was sweating, and he could hear Julia and Brett breathing heavily beside him. While Brett made a run to a nearby deli for a huge thermos of coffee and a box of bagels, Julia and Dave added the finishing touches; applying a coat of varnish on the outside, sanding away the rough edges on the counter that faced out at the entire school, arranging an armory of pillows purchased at a Goodwill store and sprayed with disinfectant before being spread around the treehouse floor, ready for Seniors in their last two languid months of school before freedom.
They broke it in together, spilling grains of sugar and drops of creamy coffee over their work and talking giddily, despite the accumulated exhaustion. Dave and Julia were an hour or so away from having to sit through class, but there was a sense that they'd done something lasting and meaningful.
"Hold this pen with me," Julia said, pulling out the Nevers list from her back pocket.
"Have you seriously been carrying that with you every day?"
"Shut up and hold this pen," she said. He wrapped his fingers around the pen and then Julia's hand covered his own. She moved the pen across the page. "There. We have a lunch spot now."
Brett swallowed down a bite of bagel, "S***, I wish I would have gotten that on tape. That would have been perfect." He wiped some cream cheese from the corner of his mouth and went to get the camera. "Say it again."
Julia laughed and shook her head, folding the list away as if it were a treasure map. "Too late, man. It's done."
That's it for this Blog Tour stop! I'm quite interested to read Never Always Sometimes soon! It seems like a good story.