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Read an excerpt from Janelle Brown's thriller Watch Me Disappear

The book is out July 11

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In Janelle Brown‘s new thriller Watch Me Disappear — out July 11 — teenage Olive and her father, Jonathan, mourn the disappearance of her mother, Billie Flanagan, who went on a solo hike and was never seen again. But when Olive starts having strange visions of Billie being very much alive, Jonathan starts digging up secrets about Billie’s life that makes him question what he thought he knew about the woman he married.

In advance of the book’s July release, EW can share an exclusive sneak peek at Chapter 2, below.

Excerpt from Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Chapter 2

The Claremont Moms are circling. They flutter around Jonathan, a flock of predatory birds in lululemon and boyfriend jeans; hair freed from ponytail elastics in order to swing flatteringly around faces, shoulders thrown back in order to lift chests up to pre-breast-feeding heights. They hold voluble debates about tutoring schedules and real estate prices and the senior snow trip, only a few feet away from where Jonathan stands in the parking lot, their bodies angled just so in an invitation for him to join the conversation.

He sips his coffee and leans against the door of his Prius, pretending not to notice. He’s grown used to this over the last eleven months, being the sole single dad at pickup, though he’s still not quite sure what to do with the attention, just as he wasn’t quite sure how to handle the flood of mom–cooked lasagnas and cookies last winter after Billie died. He is unclear whether he is an object of curiosity, pity, or desire (perhaps some combination of all three?), so he mostly smiles politely and studies his cellphone as if he has critical emails to return (he doesn’t). With every breath thinking, Too soon, too soon, too soon.

He doesn’t have to be here, submitting to their attentions—there are buses and carpools, Olive is perfectly capable of getting herself home—but Claremont pickup has come to be his favorite part of the day. He would never say that there’s been an upside to Billie’s death, but if anything positive has come from the last year, it’s this: He has time now, so much time, for Olive. If only Olive actually wanted to spend that time with him. It is a bitter irony, he thinks, that he spent the first fifteen years of his daughter’s life—years in which Olive wanted to cuddle and go for fro-yo and play endless games of gin rummy—working seventy-hour weeks; and only now that he’s quit his job and settled into the loose (and, let’s admit it, somewhat lonely) schedule of a full-time memoirist, his daughter has apparently lost interest in being his buddy. She disappears into her bedroom the minute she gets home; any free non–homework hours are spent with her best friend, Natalie.

But at least they have this: twenty minutes in the car together every day. Forty-five if he can convince her to stop at the Cheese Board for a pletzel on the way home.

A willowy brunette drifts in Jonathan’s direction: Katrina, the real estate agent mother of Olive’s friend Tracy, a recent divorcée with a penchant for alarmingly translucent shirts. “Hey, you,” she says, slipping an arm around him and squeezing him right in the ticklish place where his waistline hits the top of his pants. “Where have you been?”

“I’ve been here, actually.” He points at the asphalt under his sneakers. “Every day.”

Katrina purses her lips into an ovoid of approval. “What’s this I hear about you writing a book about Billie? A memoir kind of thing?”

“Yes,” he says. She stares at him, waiting, until he realizes he’s supposed to elaborate. “It came out of the speech that I gave at her memorial last year, maybe you remember, about how we met on the J Church in San Francisco.” Someone took a video of the speech and put it up on Facebook and it went viral. Half a million views. He wasn’t initially aware of this fact—-having not posted the video himself (he still hasn’t figured out which of the four hundred memorial attendees did it) and being too distraught to pay any attention to Facebook in the months after Billie died—-until an agent called him and suggested he turn it into a book. “It could be a memoir about your marriage to this modern supermom icon, and how your love was torn apart by tragedy,” the agent, Jeff Freels, told him. “Like a modern retelling of Love Story, but true.”

At first Jonathan was appalled by the idea. He was already weary of the media frenzy around his wife’s death, and this struck him as a kind of macabre profiteering, peddling Billie to strangers with an insatiable appetite for catastrophe. Besides, their relationship wasn’t some kind of perfect idyllic romance; things had been rocky at times, as in any marriage. But as time passed and the local news swiftly moved on to someone else’s misfortunes, the reality of life as a widowed father set in and the idea of a book started to feel less objectionable. In fact, it seemed to solve a lot of problems in one go. It would give him a reason to finally quit that all–consuming job at Decode, just like Billie had always encouraged him to, and spend more time with his daughter. Instead of blunting himself flat with bourbon every night, he would have a constructive outlet for all his pain. Plus, the book would ultimately be for Olive, a tribute to her singular mother, and what was so bad about that? Why not paint a loving portrait of her mother that she would cherish forever?

It was a risky move, throwing away a lifetime of stability, but it was one that Billie would have approved of. He called the agent back: “OK, I’ll do it.” By February, he’d emptied his desk at Decode and settled into the life of a full–time writer.

“Oh! I remember your speech! It had me in tears,” Katrina breathes. “It’s just wonderful that you’re writing about Billie. If you want, I could share some of my own stories about her, how extraordinary she was, how inspiring.” Her hands drift up toward her eyes as if she feels tears coming on, although Jonathan faintly recalls that Katrina and Billie stopped hanging out some years before her death. “God, this must have been such a difficult year for you.”

Difficult. The word is inadequate to his experience, and for a moment he feels a million miles away from this woman, unable to understand how she could pick one so trivializing, so mundane. Learning how to speak Chinese is difficult. Winning a Pulitzer Prize is difficult. Losing the love of your life in an inexplicable act of carelessness, listening to your daughter sobbing herself to sleep every night, wondering if your wife’s skeleton is still rotting at the bottom of a ravine somewhere: That isn’t difficult. It’s the fucking end of the world.

“We’re surviving,” he says.

Katrina leans in close enough that he can see mascara flakes in her lashes. “Time heals all wounds.” He nods soberly, as if this is the very first time he’s heard this infuriating platitude. “Listen, why don’t you and Olive come over for dinner next weekend with Tracy and me? I’m sure it’s been a while since you two had a home–cooked meal.”

This is not at all the case; not only has he proved himself a passable cook, but their refrigerator is constantly brimming with food from Billie’s best friend, Harmony, who just happens to be a professional caterer. “What a nice offer. I’ll check my schedule and get back to you,” he says, compulsively twisting the platinum wedding band he still wears. He edges away from Katrina and toward the school’s stairs, as if in anticipation of the bell.

This proves to be the wrong choice, though, as Vice Principal Gillespie has just materialized in the doorway of the school. She positions herself on the top of the stairs, coolly surveying the parents assembled below, rail–thin and hawkish in her tweedy skirt suit and pumps. Jonathan quickly backs away, but it’s too late: She’s spotted him.

“Jonathan!” Her voice is just a little too loud; he can sense the other parents turning to watch her descend the stairs toward him. “Got a minute?”

He showily lifts his forearm in an instinctive wristwatch–examining move, a clear farce, since he has neither watch nor anywhere to go until Olive is released by the bell. When that fails to slow Gillespie’s approach, he attempts diversion: “Is something wrong with Olive?” he asks as she comes closer.

“Olive? No, she’s her usual ray–of–sunshine self,” Gillespie says. “But you said there would be a check on my desk this week and . . .” She lets the accusation linger there.

“Ah, right. Well, the funds are still tied up.” He makes a face that is intended to express his frustration at the powerful forces that have unexpectedly detained his money. “If you can give me a little more time?”

Gillespie’s brow draws together, her beaky face going suddenly sincere. “Look, Jonathan. I really wish you’d talked to me about this before the school year started, and we could have put you on a payment plan. But we’re three months past the tuition due date, and I’ve already given you every concession I can. We can revisit this in the spring semester, but for now . . .”

“Just a few more weeks,” he says. “I’ll see if I can move some money around.”

This is a lie, since there is no money that can currently be moved around, let alone $26,720 worth of it; just a series of moving legal deadlines and promised checks that will arrive at some too–distant point in the future. Tuition for private school was never painless, but when he had a senior editor’s salary at Decode and a wife who also contributed a part–time income, it was low–grade pain, like a toothache or a mild hernia. Now the pain level is more like attempting to remove your spleen without any anesthesia.

Lately, during his nocturnal anxiety attacks, he’s begun to wonder if the most reasonable solution to this problem would be to simply pull Olive out of private school and put her in Berkeley High. Billie was never keen on private anyway; Jonathan, with his own Stanford University education in mind, was the one who’d pushed for it, eventually convincing Billie that Olive would go overlooked in an enormous public school. Maybe that was a mistake, but now, five years in, Olive is solidly a Claremont Girl. How can he take that away from her when she’s already lost so much? Claremont is Olive’s entire life.

Plus, there’s a solution just on the horizon. If he’s patient a little while longer—-or, rather, if he can convince Gillespie to be patient—-it should all sort itself out. In the meantime, what is the school going to do, kick out the girl whose mom just died?

The Claremont Moms are circling. They flutter around Jonathan, a flock of predatory birds in lululemon and boyfriend jeans; hair freed from ponytail elastics in order to swing flatteringly around faces, shoulders thrown back in order to lift chests up to pre–breast–feeding heights. They hold voluble debates about tutoring schedules and real estate prices and the senior snow trip, only a few feet away from where Jonathan stands in the parking lot, their bodies angled just so in an invitation for him to join the conversation.

He sips his coffee and leans against the door of his Prius, pretending not to notice. He’s grown used to this over the last eleven months, being the sole single dad at pickup, though he’s still not quite sure what to do with the attention, just as he wasn’t quite sure how to handle the flood of mom–cooked lasagnas and cookies last winter after Billie died. He is unclear whether he is an object of curiosity, pity, or desire (perhaps some combination of all three?), so he mostly smiles politely and studies his cellphone as if he has critical emails to return (he doesn’t). With every breath thinking, Too soon, too soon, too soon.

He doesn’t have to be here, submitting to their attentions—-there are buses and carpools, Olive is perfectly capable of getting herself home—-but Claremont pickup has come to be his favorite part of the day. He would never say that there’s been an upside to Billie’s death, but if anything positive has come from the last year, it’s this: He has time now, so much time, for Olive. If only Olive actually wanted to spend that time with him. It is a bitter irony, he thinks, that he spent the first fifteen years of his daughter’s life—-years in which Olive wanted to cuddle and go for fro–yo and play endless games of gin rummy—-working seventy–hour weeks; and only now that he’s quit his job and settled into the loose (and, let’s admit it, somewhat lonely) schedule of a full–time memoirist, his daughter has apparently lost interest in being his buddy. She disappears into her bedroom the minute she gets home; any free non–homework hours are spent with her best friend, Natalie.

But at least they have this: twenty minutes in the car together every day. Forty–five if he can convince her to stop at the Cheese Board for a pletzel on the way home.

A willowy brunette drifts in Jonathan’s direction: Katrina, the real estate agent mother of Olive’s friend Tracy, a recent divorcée with a penchant for alarmingly translucent shirts. “Hey, you,” she says, slipping an arm around him and squeezing him right in the ticklish place where his waistline hits the top of his pants. “Where have you been?”

“I’ve been here, actually.” He points at the asphalt under his sneakers. “Every day.”

Katrina purses her lips into an ovoid of approval. “What’s this I hear about you writing a book about Billie? A memoir kind of thing?”

“Yes,” he says. She stares at him, waiting, until he realizes he’s supposed to elaborate. “It came out of the speech that I gave at her memorial last year, maybe you remember, about how we met on the J Church in San Francisco.” Someone took a video of the speech and put it up on Facebook and it went viral. Half a million views. He wasn’t initially aware of this fact—-having not posted the video himself (he still hasn’t figured out which of the four hundred memorial attendees did it) and being too distraught to pay any attention to Facebook in the months after Billie died—-until an agent called him and suggested he turn it into a book. “It could be a memoir about your marriage to this modern supermom icon, and how your love was torn apart by tragedy,” the agent, Jeff Freels, told him. “Like a modern retelling of Love Story, but true.”

At first Jonathan was appalled by the idea. He was already weary of the media frenzy around his wife’s death, and this struck him as a kind of macabre profiteering, peddling Billie to strangers with an insatiable appetite for catastrophe. Besides, their relationship wasn’t some kind of perfect idyllic romance; things had been rocky at times, as in any marriage. But as time passed and the local news swiftly moved on to someone else’s misfortunes, the reality of life as a widowed father set in and the idea of a book started to feel less objectionable. In fact, it seemed to solve a lot of problems in one go. It would give him a reason to finally quit that all–consuming job at Decode, just like Billie had always encouraged him to, and spend more time with his daughter. Instead of blunting himself flat with bourbon every night, he would have a constructive outlet for all his pain. Plus, the book would ultimately be for Olive, a tribute to her singular mother, and what was so bad about that? Why not paint a loving portrait of her mother that she would cherish forever?

It was a risky move, throwing away a lifetime of stability, but it was one that Billie would have approved of. He called the agent back: “OK, I’ll do it.” By February, he’d emptied his desk at Decode and settled into the life of a full–time writer.

“Oh! I remember your speech! It had me in tears,” Katrina breathes. “It’s just wonderful that you’re writing about Billie. If you want, I could share some of my own stories about her, how extraordinary she was, how inspiring.” Her hands drift up toward her eyes as if she feels tears coming on, although Jonathan faintly recalls that Katrina and Billie stopped hanging out some years before her death. “God, this must have been such a difficult year for you.”

Difficult. The word is inadequate to his experience, and for a moment he feels a million miles away from this woman, unable to understand how she could pick one so trivializing, so mundane. Learning how to speak Chinese is difficult. Winning a Pulitzer Prize is difficult. Losing the love of your life in an inexplicable act of carelessness, listening to your daughter sobbing herself to sleep every night, wondering if your wife’s skeleton is still rotting at the bottom of a ravine somewhere: That isn’t difficult. It’s the fucking end of the world.

“We’re surviving,” he says.

Katrina leans in close enough that he can see mascara flakes in her lashes. “Time heals all wounds.” He nods soberly, as if this is the very first time he’s heard this infuriating platitude. “Listen, why don’t you and Olive come over for dinner next weekend with Tracy and me? I’m sure it’s been a while since you two had a home–cooked meal.”

This is not at all the case; not only has he proved himself a passable cook, but their refrigerator is constantly brimming with food from Billie’s best friend, Harmony, who just happens to be a professional caterer. “What a nice offer. I’ll check my schedule and get back to you,” he says, compulsively twisting the platinum wedding band he still wears. He edges away from Katrina and toward the school’s stairs, as if in anticipation of the bell.

This proves to be the wrong choice, though, as Vice Principal Gillespie has just materialized in the doorway of the school. She positions herself on the top of the stairs, coolly surveying the parents assembled below, rail–thin and hawkish in her tweedy skirt suit and pumps. Jonathan quickly backs away, but it’s too late: She’s spotted him.

“Jonathan!” Her voice is just a little too loud; he can sense the other parents turning to watch her descend the stairs toward him. “Got a minute?”

He showily lifts his forearm in an instinctive wristwatch–examining move, a clear farce, since he has neither watch nor anywhere to go until Olive is released by the bell. When that fails to slow Gillespie’s approach, he attempts diversion: “Is something wrong with Olive?” he asks as she comes closer.

“Olive? No, she’s her usual ray–of–sunshine self,” Gillespie says. “But you said there would be a check on my desk this week and . . .” She lets the accusation linger there.

“Ah, right. Well, the funds are still tied up.” He makes a face that is intended to express his frustration at the powerful forces that have unexpectedly detained his money. “If you can give me a little more time?”

Gillespie’s brow draws together, her beaky face going suddenly sincere. “Look, Jonathan. I really wish you’d talked to me about this before the school year started, and we could have put you on a payment plan. But we’re three months past the tuition due date, and I’ve already given you every concession I can. We can revisit this in the spring semester, but for now . . .”

“Just a few more weeks,” he says. “I’ll see if I can move some money around.”

This is a lie, since there is no money that can currently be moved around, let alone $26,720 worth of it; just a series of moving legal deadlines and promised checks that will arrive at some too–distant point in the future. Tuition for private school was never painless, but when he had a senior editor’s salary at Decode and a wife who also contributed a part–time income, it was low–grade pain, like a toothache or a mild hernia. Now the pain level is more like attempting to remove your spleen without any anesthesia.

Lately, during his nocturnal anxiety attacks, he’s begun to wonder if the most reasonable solution to this problem would be to simply pull Olive out of private school and put her in Berkeley High. Billie was never keen on private anyway; Jonathan, with his own Stanford University education in mind, was the one who’d pushed for it, eventually convincing Billie that Olive would go overlooked in an enormous public school. Maybe that was a mistake, but now, five years in, Olive is solidly a Claremont Girl. How can he take that away from her when she’s already lost so much? Claremont is Olive’s entire life.

Plus, there’s a solution just on the horizon. If he’s patient a little while longer—-or, rather, if he can convince Gillespie to be patient—-it should all sort itself out. In the meantime, what is the school going to do, kick out the girl whose mom just died?

Excerpted from WATCH ME DISAPPEAR by Janelle Brown Copyright © 2017 by Janelle Brown. Excerpted by permission of Spiegel & Grau. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.