This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2014 by Sarah Mlynowski
Jacket art copyright © 2014
Jacket photographs © 2014 by Ali Smith
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Don’t even think about it / Sarah Mlynowski. — First edition.
Summary: “What happens when a group of Tribeca high school kids go in for flu shots … and end up being able to read each other’s minds”
—Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-385-73738 (hc : alk. paper) —
ISBN 978-0-385-90662-3 (glb : alk. paper) —
ISBN 978-0-449-81415-4 (ebook) [1. Extrasensory perception—Fiction. 2. High schools—Fiction. 3. Schools—Fiction. 4. TriBeCa (New York, N.Y.)—Fiction.] I. Title. II. Title: Do not even think about it.
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
For the ladies who lounge (and sometimes write):
Courtney, Jess, Adele, Robin, and Emily
(and when I’m very lucky, Leslie, Joanna, and Julia).
Thanks for the company and the cupcakes.
We were not always freaks.
Sure, most of us occasionally exhibited freakish behavior. But that’s not the same thing.
Olivia Byrne, when she worried about something, picked the skin around her thumbnails until it bled.
Cooper Miller sang badly. When he walked down the hall, when he studied, when he ate. He wasn’t singing the top twenty either—he made up tunes and lyrics about his everyday life. Walking to school. Being late to math.
Mackenzie Feldman, Cooper’s girlfriend, hated needles. Not that any of us
needles, but Mackenzie truly hated them. She hated them so much she never even got her ears pierced. She wore clip-ons to her own sweet sixteen. Or her Sweet, as we called it in Tribeca, our little downtown corner of Manhattan.
So yeah, we had certain quirks, but before October 2, which was eleven days before the Bloomberg High School carnival and eighteen days before Mackenzie’s Sweet, Olivia, Cooper, Mackenzie, and the rest of us were pretty much just regular sophomores.
Even October 2, the day that changed everything, started normally enough.
We got ready for school. Most of us lived in Tribeca, within a few blocks from BHS, Bloomberg High School.
Tribeca is one of the wealthiest areas in Manhattan. Not that we were all wealthy—definitely not. Half of our parents owned our apartments; the other half rented. A bunch of us shared rooms with our siblings. If you lived in Tribeca and your parents were
rich or famous—like if your mom was Beyoncé or your dad ran an investment bank—you didn’t go to BHS like us. You went to private school.
On October 2, we arrived at school, most of us on time. We locked our stuff in our lockers and headed to room 203, where 10B met for homeroom. Well, Cooper didn’t arrive on time—he was always late. He also didn’t lock his locker, because he didn’t bother having a lock. He could never remember the combination. And he trusted us. Back then, he trusted everyone.
We claimed our usual seats and chatted with our friends.
“Darren Lazar asked me if you were single,” Renée Higger said as she sat down beside Olivia in the middle of the room. Renée’s black leopard scarf fluttered behind her. She was also wearing a black hair band, earrings, and a silver bracelet overflowing with charms. She was an accessories kind of girl. She was a busybody kind of girl. We’re relieved she’s not one of us. We have enough busybodies without her.
Olivia’s heart skipped a beat. “What did you tell him?”
Renée laughed. “What do you think I told him? I told him you were. Unless you’re involved with someone and keeping it a secret?”
Olivia had never been involved with anyone. Fifteen and never been kissed. She was afraid that when the time came to be kissed she would barf all over the kisser.
Olivia did not have much confidence around boys or girls. One of the main reasons she hung around Renée was that Renée did 99.9 percent of the talking.
Of course, we didn’t know the degree of her lack of confidence back then. We didn’t know about her lack of kissing experience either. We didn’t know any of each other’s hidden thoughts or secret histories. Not like we do now.
“Do you think he’s going to ask me out?” Olivia asked.
Renée twirled her scarf around her wrist. “Do you want him to ask you out?”
“I don’t know.” Olivia tried to picture him. He had light brown hair and red cheeks. Green eyes, maybe. Dressed well. Button-downs and the right jeans. He seemed nice. No one called him by his first name—he just went by Lazar. They had public speaking together. Her stomach clenched at the thought of the class. The next day she had to make a speech on Lyme disease, which was worth 40 percent of her grade. There was nothing that terrified her more than speaking in front of others.
“I think you guys would be perfect together,” Renée continued.
“Why?” Olivia asked. “Because we’re both short?”
“No, because you’re both nice. And smart. And cute.”
Olivia didn’t say no, but didn’t say yes either. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Lazar. It was just that the idea of being on an actual date—where she would have to worry about what she wore, what she ate, and what she said—was incredibly stressful to her. She picked at her thumb.
Cooper came in at last, singing to himself. As usual, he looked slightly disheveled, like he’d woken up, picked up the green hoodie and jeans that were lying in a heap on his floor, and put them on.
Which is exactly what he had done. Cooper was wearing his Yankees hat. He wore it all baseball season until they were out of the running. Also, it brought out the blue in his eyes. Not that he’d be aware of something like that. Well, not without reading our minds.
Cooper cupped his ear with his open hand. “What’s up, 10B, can I get a boo-ya?”
“Boo-ya,” called out Nick Gaw from the side of the room. Nick was one of Cooper’s good friends.
Cooper sighed with exaggerated disappointment. “That was lame, people. Lame. Lame-o. The Yankees won last night! I said give me a boo-ya!”
Mackenzie responded with a “boo-ya.” She had to. That was her job as girlfriend, even if she occasionally found Cooper’s antics a little embarrassing, like the time he insisted on giving her a piggyback ride down the hallway.
Cooper stood in front of Olivia’s desk and wagged his finger. “Livvie, I did not hear you boo-ya. Why did I not hear you boo-ya?”
Olivia flushed. She gripped the sides of her desk. She did not like being put on the spot. Her heart sped up; her mouth felt dry. She debated. Would whatever she said sound stupid? Would she not make the right boo-ya sound? Would she sound too eager? Place too much emphasis on the
and not enough on the
But she liked Cooper. If he weren’t totally out of her league and didn’t already have a girlfriend, she might have a crush on him. He was one of those people who were always smiling. Always kind. Always inclusive. Like right then, when he was trying to get her to boo-ya.
She could do it. She could! She just had to push the words out with the tip of her tongue. “Booooo-ya?”
Cooper petted her twice on the head like she was a rabbit. When he was a kid he’d had a rabbit for a whole two weeks before his dad made him return it to the pet store. He’d gotten a turtle instead. Gerald. “Well done, Livvie. Thank you for playing.”
Olivia turned bright red.
Cooper made a point of talking to Olivia. She was shy, but Cooper knew that she just needed some help breaking out of her shell. Like Gerald. When he’d first gotten Gerald, the turtle had barely ventured out of his bowl. These days Gerald strutted around the loft like he was the mayor of Tribeca.
Cooper got a few more of us to boo-ya as he zigzagged his way through the desks to the empty seat in the last row by the window, right next to Mackenzie and her closest friend, Tess Nichols.
“Thank you, Cooper,” Ms. Velasquez said, closing the door behind her. “Now take off your hat, please.”
Cooper gave our teacher a big smile. He had a small overbite from losing his retainer a month after he got it. “But Ms. V, I didn’t have a chance to wash my hair this morning.”
“Then you might want to consider getting up earlier in the future,” Ms. Velasquez said, taking off her blazer and slinging it over her chair.
Cooper removed his hat, revealing slept-on hair, clutched it to his chest, and finally sat down. “Let’s get this party started,” he said, and leaned his chair all the way back so it kissed the wall.
“Let’s see who’s here,” Ms. Velasquez said, and called out all our names. When she was done, she sat on the desk and swung her legs. “People, I have some good news and some bad news,” she said. “I’ll start with the bad news.”
“Those of you who are planning to get flu shots—and I think that’s most of you—are scheduled to get them today at lunch,” she told us.
Ms. Velasquez cleared her throat. “So, the good news is …”
Cooper made a drumroll.
Ms. Velasquez smiled. “You probably won’t get the flu.”
Naturally, we booed.
“What if I like the flu?” Cooper asked.
“Why would you like the flu?” Ms. Velasquez asked.
“I’d get to stay home and watch baseball,” he answered.
“I wouldn’t mind missing a week of school,” Nick said.
We understood. His mom was a biology teacher at school. If our moms taught at our school, we’d want to stay home too.
“I’m not getting the shot,” Renée declared, playing with her headband. “I never get sick. And you know, I read an article that said that they don’t even work. That the pharmaceutical companies are only interested in making money off us.”
We all groaned and she crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. Renée was a conspiracy theorist. She thought the government was out to get everyone.
These days we’re not so sure we disagree.
“I’m skipping it too,” Mackenzie said.
Mackenzie had been born a preemie, at twenty-six weeks instead of forty. She’d required a lot of surgeries. Eye surgery. Kidney surgery. Heart surgery. She didn’t remember any of it, but she knew she hated any kind of needle, and she assumed the two facts were related.
“You’re going to make me get it alone?” Cooper asked. “We’ll do it together. I’ll hold your hand. It’ll be fuuuuuun,” he sang.
Mackenzie saw nothing potentially fun where needles were involved. But as usual, her boyfriend found the silver lining in everything. In coming to school. In the flu. In vaccinations.
Cooper lived in silver linings.
Ms. Velasquez tapped her fingers on her desk. “So remember, everyone. Nurse Carmichael’s room. Lunchtime. Bring your permission slips if your parents haven’t already sent them back.”
As Ms. Velasquez continued talking, Olivia continued to worry. Not about the vaccination. Needles didn’t scare her. She was nervous about her Lyme disease speech.
She picked her thumb.
Everything will be fine,
she told herself.
Fine, fine, fine.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fine. Not at all. But Olivia couldn’t know that. It’s not like she had ESP.
Ha, ha, ha.
This is the story of how we became freaks.
It’s how a group of
’s became a
Maybe you think Olivia is telling the story. Or Mackenzie, or Cooper, or someone else in our homeroom you haven’t met yet.
It could be any of us.
But it’s not.
It’s all of us. We’re telling you this story together.
It’s the only way we know how.