The following is an excerpt from Odd One Out, the new YA novel by Nic Stone, New York Times best-selling author of Dear Martin. Her new book explores friendship, love, and the path to self-discovery as two best friends — one a boy, one a girl — fall for the same girl who’s new to the neighborhood. Odd One Out is available for pre-order ahead of its Oct. 9 release.
Within sixty seconds of our dinner guests’ arrival, I know all is lost.
The moment we open the door, Jupe squeals—something I’ve never heard her do before. Then she throws her arms around the girl on the other side of it.
The girl’s dad looks about as startled as I feel.
After the longest rocking hug I’ve ever witnessed, they let each other go. “You got your hair trimmed!” Jupe says, reaching out to touch it.
“Mmhmm. You like?”
“I love it. Though it makes you even prettier. Which is annoying.”
The girl snorts. “Peeked in a mirror lately?” Jupe blushes. Like full-on rosy cheeks.
What the hell is even happening right now?
“Hi, I’m Jupiter,” Jupe says, extending her hand to the girl’s father.
“Kenneth Chin,” he says with a smile. “It’s great to meet you, Jupiter. I swear you’re all Rae talks about these days.” Jupe looks like she just stumbled into an underground cave filled with enough gold to end world hunger. I take a quick glance around to make sure I’m still in my Earth house and not some whacked-out alternate-universe version of—
“You’re Rae?” I say. “As in the Rae?” Rae of the giggle- inducing text messages Rae?
Fuck you, universe.
“Umm . . . yes?” Her eyes bounce back and forth between me and Jupe. “Is that bad?”
“Oh, ignore him,” Jupe says, waving me off.
Is she serious right now? “Actually, don’t.” I extend a hand to the dad first. “It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Chin. I’m Courtney.”
“Oh, call me Kenny,” he says. Like Mom would let that fly.
“And, Rae, it’s nice to meet you,” I say. “Jupe’s told me almost nothing about you, but I know y’all text a lot—”
“Coop!” Jupe elbows me in the ribs.
Rae laughs. She really is pretty. “Nice to meet you, too. Well, formally at least.”
As my big-ass hand basically eats her little dainty one, I take her in. Just like Jupe, she’s hard to pin down. Dr. Chin is East Asian, and you can see that a little bit in the shape of Rae’s eyes, but said eyes are green and she’s got a lot of freckles. Nice lips, too. The hair Jupe loves (rolling my eyes) is cut super-short, and there’s a spot over her left ear where it’s a reddish color, but the rest is dark brown. She’s probably got Jupe by an inch or so height-wise, but completely opposite body type: slim, kind of willowy.
And I recognize her now.
“I’ve seen you at school,” I say. On one of the days I was avoiding Jupe, I saw her talking to a short-haired girl in the hallway and didn’t think anything of it because Jupe is always talking to someone.
Now I feel like a dumbass.
“Oh, wonderful, our guests have arrived!” Mama says as she approaches from behind us. “Come in, come in!”
Rae and her dad step into the house.
“Right this way,” Mama says. “The guys are in the living room.”
Dr. Chin and Rae follow Mama, but I catch Jupe’s wrist to hold her back. She turns to me, still beaming.
“You knew she was coming?” I say.
She nods. Eyes sparkling like the Fourth of damn July. “We figured it out yesterday,” she says. “She was saying she and her dad got invited to dinner at a coworker’s house, and when I asked where her dad worked, and she named your mom’s hospital, we put two and two together.”
“And you didn’t tell me?” That this girl who obviously makes you so happy was coming to MY house for dinner?
“What was there to tell?” And she pulls out of my grip and bounds after Rae with more spring in her step than I’ve ever seen.
I get to the living room just as Mama finishes the introductions. It’s dead obvious from the shock trapped in Dr. Chin’s raised eyebrows after meeting Troy and Emilio that he got no forewarning about the nontraditional family next door. Which is fine, of course. I can just tell he doesn’t know what to do with the information.
We live in a pretty “progressive” area, as Mama likes to puts it, and barring one incident in ninth grade involving some bigots picketing at one of my basketball games in deeeeeeeeeeep South Georgia, the two-dad life has never really been a big deal. I’m so used to it not being a big deal, in fact, that Dr. Chin’s shock catches me off guard.
And now I’m really curious about Rae.
It’s crystal clear to me that Jupe was flirting with her, so Rae either didn’t realize or didn’t mind. Definitely seemed like there was something mutual going on, but it’s not like Rae has i like girls tattooed on her forehead, so it’s difficult to know for sure.
What if Rae is batting for the same team as Jupe, and Dr. Chin doesn’t know it? If his daughter was gay, and he knew, he probably wouldn’t have been so shocked by the Dad/ Papi revelation, right?
But then again, he looked so happy about whatever was happening between the two girls.
As a matter of fact, all five of us can see them sitting at the dining room table, giggling and touching each other’s hair and examining each other’s nails and complimenting each other’s best features. I just heard Jupe say, “Dude, your eyes are amazing. They’re like the inside of a just-ripe avocado.”
Rae’s reply? “Oh my gosh, yours are like tree sap backlit by sunlight.”
Again, Dr. Chin looks thrilled. Is this a normal thing for girls to do?
Jupe says Breanna isn’t her “type.” . . . Is Rae?
Which leads to other questions: How much have they been talking? Do they see each other outside of school? Did they hang out at all during my Game Plan hiatus?
During dinner, I keep my mouth shut and my eyes on my plate to keep from staring at them—“What the hell you plan to do if she gets a girlfriend, Coop?”—but then Mama has one mojito too many—Papi made a freaking pitcher—and starts blabbing. “So, Rae, you should know you’re a lucky girl. Courtney and Jupiter are Decatur High royalty.”
“Mama, put the glass down, please.”
“What? I’m just making sure she knows she doesn’t have to worry about making friends!”
Jupe snorts. “You can say that again.”
“Oh, you shhh,” Rae replies with a blush.
I’m missing something here. What am I missing? This is driving me bonkers!
“Courtney, I hear you’re quite the basketball player,” Dr. Chin says.
My cheeks burn, not that anybody can tell. “Ah, I’m not too bad.”
“Don’t let Mr. Humble Bumble fool you, Doctor,” Papi says with a wave of his fork. I smile in spite of myself: I used to watch I Love Lucy with my dad, and when I met Papi at age seven, I thought, Wow, a blue-eyed Ricky Ricardo! Learning Papi was born in Santiago de Cuba just like Desi Arnaz? Definitely one of the highlights of my childhood. “Cuatro has been the leading scorer on the team every year since the fourth grade, isn’t that right?” And he winks at me. Papi’s called me Cuatro for as long as I can remember. Said it was because he’d never met a fourth before.
Mama jumps back in: “And Jupiter is class president and the head of a number of civic groups, right, honey?”
Jupe smiles at her but looks at me and crosses her eyes really quick. It’s this little thing we do when one of the parents is getting too parent-ish.
So she hasn’t forgotten me in the face of a pretty girl. Good to know.
“Mmhmm,” Jupe says before shifting her attention to Dr. Chin. “I’m in charge of a couple of volunteer organizations, and I run Iridis, our school’s GSA.”
“GSA?” he asks.
“Gay-Straight Alliance,” Jupe says. “Oh—so you’re also . . .”
“Gay? Yes, sir, I am.”
Dr. Chin’s face goes crimson, and he smiles and looks down at his plate.
I can’t decipher Rae’s reaction because she literally doesn’t have one. No pause of her fork or rapid blinking or twitch of a finger or small smile.
“So what about you, Rae?” Mama is practically singing now. Dear Lord, don’t let her be asking Rae if she’s gay . . . “Did you participate in any extracurriculars at your old school?”
“Rae was in the Eight Hundred Club,” Dr. Chin says, grinning. “She was the only freshman to get a perfect score on the PSAT verbal—”
“Oh my gosh, Daddy, that’s not an extracurricular.”
“Sorry. Proud dad moment,” he says. “She also constructs incredible crossword puzzles.” Now Rae groans.
“I think that’s amazing.” From Jupe, batting her eyelashes, the asshole. “I knew your vocabulary was pretty impressive just from talking to you, but seriously?”
Rae blushes even deeper, and Dr. Chin laughs. “At three years old, the only item on Rae’s Christmas list was a dictionary.”
Mama, Papi, and Dad all chuckle. Rae puts her face in her hands.
“Hey now, nothing wrong with beauty and brains,” Jupe says. She nudges Rae, who just beams at her.
This is torture.
“So were you involved in anything else at your old school?” Mama asks.
Rae nods. “I was a cheerleader.”
OPPORTUNITY! “Oh yeah?” I say. “Which position?” “Flyer.” She looks at me and grins. Finally!
“Do you not see her, Coop?” Jupe interjects. “You really had to ask?” She nudges Rae again, and they explode into a fit of giggles.
“I didn’t want to make any assumptions.” And how ’bout you stay the hell out of it, Jupiter? I say in my head. Full disclosure: I’m not used to girls not paying me any attention, and it’s bothering me a lot that Rae’s into Jupe instead of me. Courtney Cooper, thou hast been brought low, brah.
“You know, Coop’s a cheerleader, too,” Jupe says.
“Mmhmm. I saw him on the sidelines at the game yesterday,” from Rae.
Am I not sitting right here?!
Jupe’s face lights up like it’s Christmas. “Coop, you should see if you can get Rae on the squad!” she says. “It would be perfect!”
Oh, now she’s okay with cheerleading? I take a sip of water to help me swallow down Well, we wouldn’t want to subject her to the male gaze, now would we? Especially since Rae is staring at Jupe like her idea could bring world peace.
Am I being petty?
Yeah, don’t care.
I force a smile. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Excerpt copyright © 2018 by Andrea Livingstone. Published by Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.