“Our cousins have done this program,” Sophie whispers. “Best kept secret. Zero supervision.”
And just like that, Ever Wong’s summer takes an unexpected turn. Gone is Chien Tan, the strict educational program in Taiwan that Ever was expecting. In its place, she finds Loveboat: a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop.
But not every student is quite what they seem:
Ever is working toward becoming a doctor but nurses a secret passion for dance.
Rick Woo is the Yale-bound child prodigy bane of Ever’s existence whose perfection hides a secret.
Boy-crazy, fashion-obsessed Sophie Ha turns out to have more to her than meets the eye.
And under sexy Xavier Yeh’s shell is buried a shameful truth he’ll never admit.
When these students’ lives collide, it’s guaranteed to be a summer Ever will never forget.
Read and excerpt below or download it here.
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
The envelope drops through our mail slot like a love letter.
The sight of the familiar purple insignia—the four-petal flame spreading like a dancer’s fan—sends me plunging down the worn blue carpet of our stairs. I text Megan: running late b there in 5. Then I snatch up the letter almost before it kisses the doormat.
I trace the school’s name with my thumb. The last time an identical envelope arrived, crisp-cornered, smelling of new paper and ink and smudged with fingerprints, was two months ago. Like a full-colored dream breaking into a gray reality: of the lavender swish of tulle skirts, satin-rose ribbons unfurling, the weightlessness of leaps toward a sapphire sky.
NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Can it be—?
“Ever, there you are.”
“Mom!” I spin around, scraping my arm against the rickety bookshelf Dad built. I fold the letter out of sight behind my back as Mom charges from the kitchen, waving a printout. Her jade-green blouse is buttoned to its modest neckline, as usual. A familiar panic digs into my gut. “Mom, I thought you were out.”
“The church had extra volunteers today. I have good news.” She waves the page, covered with Chinese characters. Another ancient herbal concoction to improve my circulation? I don’t want to know, and anyways, she’ll be making me drink it soon enough. “We applied for you and—are you wearing makeup?”
Damn. I seriously thought she was out.
“Just a little,” I admit as she snatches a tissue off the side table. Behind my back, the envelope cuts into the blisters on my palm. Normally, I’d have waited until I was down the block to pinkie on my microscopic touch of lip gloss.
“Mom, I’m late to meet Megan.” I try to angle past the coat tree to the stairs, but the hallway, crammed from floor to ceiling with portraits of Pearl and me at every age, is as tight as the inside of a suitcase.“She’s at the field already.”
Mom sets my tank top more securely over my bra strap, lips pursing, as they do whenever I mention Megan. She’d rather I spend my hours getting ready for Northwestern because my brain and the Kreb’s Cycle don’t get along. I barely scraped a B in AP Bio—and that tumor on my report card might be malignant.
The tissue comes at me. It doesn’t even occur to her she’s invading my space. “Yes, but I need to tell you—”
A soft crash in the kitchen is followed by a wail from Pearl. “I’m sorry! My hand slipped!”
I hide a smile as my little sister’s head pokes from the doorway behind Mom. She bites into a spear of peeled grapefruit. Her eleven-year-old face is mine in miniature: same shoulder-length black hair and pixie-face, but with doe-brown eyes like Dad’s, reflecting her infinitely sweeter disposition—and a mischievous glint as she meets my gaze. “Mom, help! I spilled the brown sugar.”
“You didn’t hurt yourself?” Mom’s already starting for Pearl.
“No, nothing broke.”
Dad appears at the top of the stairs. “Everything okay?” The steps squeak as he descends, belly straining at his favorite Cleveland Indians sweatshirt. Under his elbow, he folds the World Journal, the Chinese language newspaper that covers everything from global politics to the ten-year-old Chinese-American global chess champ, to the Yale-bound prodigy who is the bane of my existence.
“Grab the broom, will you?” Mom asks me.
“No, I’ve got it,” Pearl says. “Look, the sugar’s mostly on the napkin. Still clean.”
Not a penny wasted. Five years of running interference for each other, and Pearl has it down to a science. I mouth thank you at her then squeeze past Dad, sliding my arm around to my stomach, keeping my letter out of sight.
“I’m sorry, I gotta run.” My feet scarcely dent the carpet pile as I race upstairs. Near the top, my shoulder jostles the family portrait.
“Ever, I need to tell you something.” Mom never lets go—Pearl and I know that better than anyone. “This summer—”
“Sorry, Mom, I’m so late!”
The slam of my door flutters the old test papers on my desk and sets my pink pointe shoes, hung by their ribbons, swaying on my bedpost. My room holds my bed, my dresser and a few dozen pieces of dancing gear: jazz dance shoes by my closet, my dance squad flag in the corner, leotards and tights and skirts.
I lean my back against the door and hold the letter to the pounding in my chest.
Can it be—?
I’d applied to Tisch on a whim, in secret. My parents tolerated all my dancing only because my guidance counselor reassured them I needed diverse interests for college applications. Buried under the mountains of medical program applications, Tisch was a shot in the dark. When the waitlist letter arrived, I figured that was what they told all their applicants: Thanks, but you go on without me.
I have two minutes before Mom breaks down my door.
With a trembling finger, I rip open the envelope.
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen is available at Fully Booked stores Fully Booked Online.