'Summer Of Supernovas' Is The Warm-Weather YA Romance Everyone Will Be Reading — EXCERPT
Can the stars really tell you who you should love?
In Darcy Woods new young adult romance Summer Of Supernovas , Wil Carlisle decides to find out. Wil puts absolute faith in astrology; her dead mother was a famous astrologer, and she always told Wil that her charts would tell her everything she needed to know. That's how Wil knows — unquestionably — that she has just 22 days to find "the one" before the planetary alignment shifts. Armed with a collection of adorable vintage dresses and her trusty astrological map, Wil sets out to find the Sagittarius of her dreams before her luck expires.
Alas, the course of true love never did run smooth, and Wil finds herself falling in love with two very different, equally dreamy brothers, Grant and Seth. She knows that one of them absolutely, positively does not match up with her map — but can the zodiac really predict who Wil belongs with? This sweet summer romance will have you flipping the pages all night long in search of the answer.
Summer of Supernovas will be available in bookstores everywhere on May 10, but you can read an exclusive excerpt below. Enjoy chapter one, and get the book next month.
Be humble for you are made of earth.
Be noble for you are made of stars.
— Serbian Proverb
Two fears have plagued me from the time I was little, and today I must face one of them.
It’s not the clowns. A lot of kids get squeamish around clowns, I know. But no one else at Jessica Bernard’s seventh birthday party screamed bloody murder and wet their pants at the sight of one. That’s when I earned the nickname Wila-pee-na. The nickname is quasi-forgotten— thank heavens. Though the fear of clowns is not.
Still, what I’m about to tackle is worse. Way worse.
Carefully I take my place at the top of the water tower, letting my bare legs dangle. The early summer breeze rushes to greet them. One hundred and twenty feet stretch between me and the ground. My pulse doesn’t even flicker. I wish it did. Because heights are a perfectly reasonable fear.
Beneath and around me, the water tower spikes like a bulbous-headed nail from an otherwise tidy landscape. The aging white reservoir once proudly proclaimed CITY OF CARLISLE. But since most everyone, except me and the elements, has forgotten the old tower, it now reads: ITY OF CARL.
I adjust the wrinkled towel underneath me since the metal of the six-foot-wide circular platform is equal parts rust and chipped paint. It’s not as if I planned on coming here—and certainly not in a dress—but driving by on the way to Hyde Park . . . well, I just had to stop. Because for all the structure’s imperfections, it does manage to get one thing right—the view. From here the world is utterly perfect.
Unfolding the yellowing paper, I smooth it over my lap. My astrological birth chart’s intricate and faded markings offer nothing I haven’t seen a million times. I do it out of habit, because the placement of every planet and its degree is as well-known as the location of the nose on my face.
And there it is: The queen mother of all my fears. The Fifth House.
Much as I’d rather bury myself in the study of astrology and its role in the human experience, I can’t avoid reality any longer. Because the clock is ticking. I have precisely twenty-two days.
Twenty-two days of planetary alignment to find my perfect match. If I don’t, it will take another decade for the stars to produce conditions this ideal. And by age twenty-seven, I could be a whacked-out spinster with eleven cats and a raging case of agoraphobia.
Well, that’s a risk I can’t take. Especially when born with an ill-fated Fifth House that already tipped the scales toward a dysfunctional love life. So help me, if I don’t find my match now, I am staring down the barrel of ten years of falling for the wrong guys. Ten years—or more—of heartache, heartbreak, and widespread astrological malaise.
I have no choice. I must swallow my fear and seize this cosmic opportunity.
"I have no choice. I must swallow my fear and seize this cosmic opportunity."
Eyes closed, I inhale deeply.
From the moment my mother cast it, I have never deviated from the guiding wisdom of my chart. After all, its importance is as genetically predisposed as the blue color of my eyes. Failing just isn’t an option.
So I set to work. I dig out my notepad, pen, and iPod, slipping the latter in my dress pocket. Popping in my earbuds, I press play, letting the music take me higher. But even the upbeat song isn’t enough. I stand and pace the platform. Movement of body breeds movement of ideas— gospel according to Gram.
I begin my brainstorming by compiling a list of the twelve zodiac signs, placing stars next to Aries, Gemini, Libra, and Sagittarius for their intellectual-mindedness and passion for adventure. I add a couple more stars with question marks to the signs that are possible matches. Scanning the list, I cross off Taurus and Scorpio—too possessive; Leo—too outwardly absorbed; and Cancer— too feely. I don’t mesh with the emotionally upheaved. And then there is Pisces. Absolutely out of the question. Why did I even write it down? I scribble until the word is an unreadable inkblot.
But this measly list doesn’t scratch the surface of the daunting research ahead. I’ll have to consult the astrology books tucked under my bed and, of course, my best friend, Irina.
Irina says she has a surprise for me. Something I’ll find quite valuable in my search. Hmm . . . a surprise from my dear Russian comrade doesn’t exactly lower my blood pressure.
I lean back, resting my elbows on the waist-high railing. Cumulus clouds drift overhead, their undersides ironed and starched. One of my finger waves has come loose and slaps the lens of my cat eyeglasses. I tuck the chin-length wave behind my ear, and lose myself in whirling thoughts of sun signs, decanates, and cusps. How in the world will I narrow my search? Where do I even—
All of a sudden vibrations carry from my feet all the way up my legs. And there’s another noise. Faint at first, but growing louder.
Confused, I yank out an earbud.
“—it! Okay?” a voice bellows from the ground.
I spin around, searching for the source. A guy stares back. The distance between us is too great to make out much more than that. I glance toward the outer part of the platform and spot a second guy racing up the ladder as though he’s being pursued by the hounds of hell and his rump is a beef-flavored chew toy.
A pickle-colored station wagon idles beside Gram’s Buick. The driver’s-side door hangs open.
“Help is coming! Stay where you are!” Help is . . . coming? Then it occurs to me how this must look from far away—lonely girl at the top of a tower, unresponsive, manically scribbling while leaning over the rail. For the love of zodiac, they probably think I’m writing a suicide note or something! Oh my—
“Hey!” I shout, waving my arms. “No! No! There’s been a mistake!”
“No mistake is that bad! Just . . .” The guy’s head lowers, as if he’s searching the crabgrass-and-dandelion ground cover for wisdom. He then lifts his gaze again, cupping his hands to the sides of his mouth. “Just don’t jump!”
So much for wisdom.
The wind awakens with a violent gust. I try to situate myself in line with the shouter so I’m better heard. “Look, I’m not trying to—” I inhale sharply as my foot catches on the strap of my bag. Stumbling forward, I slam into the rail, folding like a rag doll over the metal piping.
“Ahh!” ground guy yells. “Grant!” Powerful arms latch around my middle, reeling me away from the edge. We stagger backward. The guy hits the tower’s siding with a resonating bwong!
I topple against him, feeling the punch of his heart at my back. His arms remain shackled around me.
“It’s . . . okay.” The climber’s ragged breath blows the hair at my neck. Heat radiates from his body, carrying the scent of sweat and something clean like dryer sheets. “I’ve . . . I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall. I won’t let you fall.” Despite the insane strength of his arms, the rest of him shakes.
I wriggle in the stranger’s grip. “Let me go!”
His heart continues jackhammering. “Only if you promise to keep away from the edge.”
“Okay, I promise! Now loosen your death grip before you shatter my ribs!”
He immediately drops his arms.
“Thank you.” I heave a breath of relief and turn. His eyes are first to demand my attention. They’re brown. Brown isn’t always memorable, but his are. It’s as though something lights them from within. But maybe it’s just the glow from the setting sun.
"His eyes are first to demand my attention. They’re brown. Brown isn’t always memorable, but his are. It’s as though something lights them from within. But maybe it’s just the glow from the setting sun."
“What are you doing up here?” I ask.
“I’m saving you, obviously.” The last bit comes out in a wheeze as his tall frame doubles over to brace his hands on his knees. His back sags with another heavy exhalation.
“Saving me,” I repeat with a bemused smirk. “Which is why you’re the one needing CPR?”
Ignoring my remark, he squints down, pushing the damp hair at his forehead. “Um . . . It’s really high up here.” The guy doesn’t appear to be trembling anymore but remains less than steady. He slides down to a sitting position against the tower.
“Well, yeah. That’s sorta the point.”
The breeze shifts, plastering my vintage yellow dress to my body. Sure, there was a time I felt self-conscious about my curviness. But the hourglass gene wasn’t something I could alter with diet or exercise. It was simply a force of nature—easier to accept than fight.
His face flushes darker and he quickly looks away. “Look, whatever it is, this can’t be the solution. Because if you think jumping off a tower is going to be—”
“I am not a jumper!” I cry. “How many times do I have to tell you guys? Sometimes I come up here to think, to clear my head, not . . . flatten it.”
My gaze wanders the vista. I don’t need daylight or twenty-twenty vision to know how Carlisle’s homes and businesses align in static rows. Or how the railroad tracks suture the well-to-do east side to the blue-collar west. There’s the hazy outline of the three smokestacks guarding the south, smokestacks that watch everything with winking, tireless eyes. There is place and purpose to every single thing if you’re high enough to see it.
“Being up here gives me a different perspective, you know? Sometimes it’s all a person needs.” I bend to collect my scattered belongings, shoving my papers into my bag before he can question the scrambled charts and lists of signs.
“Whoa, whoa . . . wait.” His dark brows knit. “You seriously climbed all the way up here just . . . to think?”
He scratches his head; dark hair sticks up every which way. Somehow I get the impression his hair is a serial misbehaver.
“Well, I came to think and for the Milky Way.” I tap the mini telescope in the side pocket of my bag. “I’m referring to the band of stars. Not the candy bar.”
“So I gather.” He gives the ladder a sideways glance and gulps.
“Summer’s the best time for viewing, and up here, it’s easier to see without all the light pollution from the city.” I squint. “Sun should be fully set soon; then it’ll be spectacular. Hey, did you know some Native Americans believed the Milky Way to be a pathway for departed souls? Like a sort of astral skyway they traveled until they found a star to inhabit. And you know what’s even more amazing?”
He shakes his head.
“Some scientists are predicting a supernova will be visible inside the Milky Way within the next fifty years! Can you imagine? Witnessing a star going supernova in our very own galaxy! That moment a star dies, it explodes and emits the most brilliant . . .” My smile collapses when I find him staring like I’ve just declared the moon made of cheese. “Sorry. I, um, didn’t mean to go all tangential on you. I’m Wil, by the way.” I offer my hand. “Wil Carlisle.”
Yes, the same Carlisle our fair Midwestern city is named for. Some quadruple great-uncle or other founded it back in 1847. Which is reason enough for Gram to live and die here.
He rises before taking my hand in his. “You’re kind of an unusual girl. No offense, Wil.”
I grin. “Yeah, well, I tried ordinary once and got bored.”
“I’m Grant, Grant Walker. And somehow”—he gives his head a small shake—“that doesn’t shock me.” When he finally smiles, it is for real. It shows in his eyes and where his skin touches mine.
My pulse unexpectedly flutters. “So, Grant Walker”—I pull back my hand, wiping my palm down my dress— “mind calling your friend off suicide watch? As you can see, I’m pretty intent on living.” I notice four lines of orangey-brown where the metal rail has left marks across my midsection. I look like a grilled banana. Awesome. I brush at the unmoving lines.
“Yeah, about that. Unfortunately, I think it might be—”
Wee ooh, wee ooh, wee ooh.
The distant wail draws nearer. I jerk my head up.
“Too late,” he finishes with a grimace.
Several police cars and a fire truck barrel down the side road, red lights whirling, sirens screaming. Rocks spray, ricocheting off the base of the tower as the truck screeches to a halt. I watch in horror as firemen and emergency personnel spill from their vehicles. They’re barking orders while unfurling a large trampoline that bears a striking resemblance to the Japanese flag.
This. Can’t. Be. Happening.
A nasally voice projects over a loudspeaker. “Wah-wah, wah-wah-wah. Waaaahhh!” I can’t make heads or tails of what’s being said because the guy is smothering the mic with his mouth. I’ll assume he’s telling me not to jump.
I bury my face in my hands, sending my glasses askew. All I wanted was a little peace and perspective. Instead, I get a circus. My only consolation is there aren’t any clowns.
Stars in heaven, Gram will kill me. Kill me. I’ve gotten myself in some pretty bizarre twists, but this one’s a cake-topper.
“Damn!” Grant rakes his hand through his hair. His expression offers the apology his mouth doesn’t deliver. Giving his hair a rest, he asks, “So what do we do now?”
I shake my head and blow out a breath. “Now we go down there and explain what a huge misunderstanding this was. Is.”
Grant starts inching over to the steep ladder, back flat to the tower’s surface. The color has completely drained from his face.
I stand beside him, following his line of sight down the hundred-plus rungs. “Grant?”
His eyes are unfocused. “Huh?”
“Are you . . . are you that afraid of heights?” There’s an affirmative bob from his Adam’s apple. “Well, what on earth possessed you to come charging up here?”
“Adrenaline,” he snaps. “I thought you were about to jump. And you were pacing. And you”—he points—“you wouldn’t respond to anything we said!”
“I had earbuds in!” I cry with a flap of my arms.
“Ooh, well, now I know you’re a music aficionado!” Grant shouts mockingly over the whooping sirens. He holds up a hand. “Sorry . . . I’m sorry.” Working to unkink the lines of panic on his face, he adds, “Look, I’m not phobic or anything. Heights just make me a little”—he sways—“uncomfortable.”
I take his arm to steady his teetering form. “Easy there. Hey, look at me.” I give him my most reassuring you’ll-live-to-see-another-day smile. “Stay with me. It’s gonna be okay, Grant. I promise. I’ve been up and down this ladder more times than I can count. We’ll just take it one step at a time. I’ll even go first. All right?”
The nasally fireman is making out with the mic again. I wish he’d stop. It only agitates Grant.
“No,” he says, sliding his hands up and down on his jeans. Grant grips the top rung as his nostrils flare with determination. “I’ll go first.”
I pat the tense muscles of his back, doubting there’s a soft spot on him. “Okay, you’ve totally got this. You can do it.”
His mouth twists in a grim line. “Yeah.”
I wait until he’s made decent progress before I climb on. He’s moving, slow and steady . . . well, steady enough. “You’re doing great!” I holler. We clamber down the ladder as I continue to shout random encouragements. I’m not sure if it helps. Grant’s been funeral-procession quiet for a while now. I squint, trying to assess the remaining distance. “Almost halfway there!” I report. Give or take.
The breeze, which had the civility to die down, notches up again. My dress flutters. I’ve been so preoccupied with keeping Grant from full-on freak-out that it doesn’t sink in. It takes me all of four rungs to realize why I feel so airy.
I freeze. Why? Why today? Because it’s laundry day, that’s why. And I was out of clean bikinis. So I had to opt for the scrap of beige lace balled in the back of my drawer. Emergency use only.
An effing thong.
My forehead thunks to my arm. When I consulted my daily horoscope, it said to consider new prospects for current obstacles. Nowhere, repeat, nowhere did it tell me to consider my prospect in undies!
"My forehead thunks to my arm. When I consulted my daily horoscope, it said to consider new prospects for current obstacles. Nowhere, repeat, nowhere did it tell me to consider my prospect in undies!"
“Wil? What’s wrong? Why’d you—”
“Don’t look up!” I shriek.
“Why, what’s . . .” Silence. Blaring silence.
I squeeze my eyes shut. “If you’re finished with your study of my backside, can we keep moving?”
“I, uh . . .” Grant clears his throat, snapping his head down. “I don’t know how to answer that without being offensive. But thank you,” he says over the resuming creak of the ladder.
“Don’t mention it. Seriously. Ever.”
“No, I just mean”—he chuckles nervously—“for a second there I almost forgot my fear of—”
“Grant!” Twisting my neck, I see he’s missed a rung completely and has slid down to the next. There’s a groan of rusted metal giving way. Part of the ladder is breaking. I scramble to close the space between us, to try to catch his flailing arm. “Grab my hand!” Knees slightly bent, I lean back. All my muscles quiver as I strain to reach him from above. “Grab it!”
Shouts erupt. Sirens woot. The firemen jostle to position.
Grant’s brown eyes are wide and terrified as his grip loosens. In sheer panic, he reaches out. His hand clamps around my ankle.
I am not prepared for that. The bottom of my ballet flat slides, slipping effortlessly beneath me. Corrosion scrapes my palm. My knee gongs against the metal. I scream.
And Grant is falling.
Correction . . . we are falling.
We sink like graceless stones through darkening sky. My yellow dress flaps—useless, broken wings at my sides. For a nanosecond, I wonder if I’m flashing the world my full moons. Butts aren’t meant to be seen moving at this velocity.
Then it hits me. I could die!
And here I am, traveling at the speed of ass, and I can’t form a single profound thought. Pray. Yeah, I should pray. . . .
Dear God, please don’t let me die. I promise to be a better person and be more efficient with my laundry and . . . and to never wear these devil’s panties again.
Grant yells, too, but I doubt he’s bargaining with God over his choice in Skivvies.
He touches down first with a muffled thud.
My impact closely follows. “Uuuhhh!” The trampoline stings my skin; all the air is slapped from my lungs. I bounce and my head strikes something hard.
I see stars. I blink to clear my vision.
Faces hover in a frantic circle above, red lights streaking across them. Mouths are moving, but I don’t hear what they’re saying over the ocean in my ears. A fireman with a push-broom mustache is directly over me. He spittles when he talks. He needs a bigger mustache.
If this is heaven, I want my money back.
There’s a dip in the fabric as someone moves. His face appears inches from mine. Full lips, prominent straight nose, and those striking brown eyes all volley for my attention. Lush. If Webster gave me only one word to describe Grant’s features, that’s the one I’d pick. Did I notice that before? Yes. No. Maybe. My head is fuzzy. It’s made fuzzier by his concerned gaze. His lips compress in a tight line. I want to tell him not to worry. I’m alive. Honestly, I’ve never felt more so. And my heart is slamming so hard, I’m sure it registers on a Richter scale somewhere.
"Full lips, prominent straight nose, and those striking brown eyes all volley for my attention. Lush. If Webster gave me only one word to describe Grant’s features, that’s the one I’d pick. Did I notice that before? Yes. No. Maybe. My head is fuzzy."
“Wil?” My name tumbles from his lips; it is the only sound I hear. Like sound didn’t exist until this very moment. “Wil? Are you hurt?” He brushes back the hair at my cheek, inspecting my temple.
The grin on my face feels crooked, like a picture frame you tap this way and that, impossible to level. “Grant . . .”
He leans closer, eyes searching. I can smell the fabric softener and summer on him. His fingers continue to linger on my face. “Can you hear me? Are you hurt?”
“I hear you, Grant . . . Parker.”
His shoulders drop as he lets out a shaky laugh. “It’s Walker, actually.”
“Whatever,” I mumble.
The earth spins faster and faster, blurring the people and commotion around me. Dark clouds mushroom my vision, leaching color from the world.
I must be falling.
But how can you fall when you’ve already hit the ground?