The Boy I Love by Nina de Gramont
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
SynopsisWhen the boy you love asks you to keep his greatest secret, do you? A thought-provoking, achingly complex novel about prejudice and the many meanings of love from Nina de Gramont, author of Meet Me at the River, which Kirkus Reviews called a “must-read.” Sixteen-year-old Wren has been content to stay in her best friend Allie’s shadow. It doesn’t bother her that Ally gets the cutest guys, the cutest clothes, and even a modeling gig—Wren is happy hanging with the horses on her family’s farm and avoiding the jealousy of other girls. But when Tim, the most intriguing guy in school, starts hanging out with Ally and Wren, jealousy is unavoidable, but not the kind Wren expects. Because even though Ally is way into him and Wren hasn’t flirted, not one little bit, it becomes increasingly clear that Tim prefers Wren’s company above anyone else’s. Tim’s unexpected devotion comes at the exact time Wren’s home life is about to be turned upside down. But at least there is Tim...always a gentleman and ever dependable. But as his own seemingly perfect world comes spiraling down around him and he tells Wren his biggest secret, Wren must decide what she’ll really do for love.
“So,” Allie said. She sipped her water, and I knew it took every bit of confidence for her to start a conversation. “Are y’all going out for football?”
“Allie’s going to be a cheerleader,” I said.
“Going to try to be one,” she corrected.
“I’m already on varsity,” Devon said. He clapped Tim on the back. “So was this loser until he decided he wanted to try out for the school play.”
“Hey, I’m trying out too,” I said, way too fast and way too excited. “I’m so bummed it’s a musical. I can hardly sing at all.” This last was a lie, and as soon as it was out of my mouth, I wondered why I’d said it.
“She can too sing,” Allie said. “Wait till you hear her.” By this point the sun had set. The water had gone dark but had a pretty shimmer on top of it from the moon, and lights from passing boats.
Devon said, “Yeah, it’s always the girls who say they can’t sing who have the great voices. But this guy.” He gave Tim a playful little shove. “I don’t know why Tim wants to wreck a perfectly good winning streak so he can sing songs with a bunch of faggots.”
Allie and I both did double takes. At Cutty River, you could get suspended for a whole week just for using a word like “faggot.” The teachers would’ve called it hate speech. I looked over at Tim like I expected him to melt right there on the ground. But he didn’t, just took a sip of his beer as if Devon hadn’t said anything at all. I almost said something to Devon. I swear I did. But Allie was widening her eyes at me in a way that said please, please, do NOT say anything. So I kept my mouth shut. It was Devon’s party, after all, and he’d been nice enough to invite us. And if Tim didn’t care, why should I?
I looked over at all the kids crowded around the fire. It seemed like fifty more people had arrived just since we came to get our drinks. Some had brought guitars, so we headed back there, sidling our way through the crowd to stand right in front of the flames. There was a girl sitting with the guitar players, and she started singing along with them. I thought she was pretty good. I wondered if I would ever be that brave, to sing in front of all these people.
I stood there for a second, imagining how it would feel to not only be at this party but be the absolute center of attention. As this thought formed in my head, I had no way of knowing that in another moment I would be the absolute center of attention, but for a much less positive reason than singing a song. Because just then a group of three drunk girls pushed through the crowd to get close to the fire. One of them (I found out later it was Tim’s old girlfriend, Caroline Jones) tripped and reached out to grab me for balance. Maybe if I’d been wearing sneakers, or bare feet, I would have been less wobbly. Or maybe since I never saw her coming I wouldn’t have stood a chance anyway. But what did happen was, I pitched directly forward. My water bottle flew out of my right hand. I saw the flames coming at my face. Later every- one said it happened in the blink of an eye, but to me it felt like slow motion. I reached out my left hand to catch myself. Unfortunately, the only place to put it at that point was straight onto the burning logs of the fire.
“Wren!” Allie screamed. “Oh my God, Wren!”
I thought at first it was her who grabbed the back of my dress and pulled me out of the fire. But it was Tim. One second later and probably my hair and head would have gone up in flames. In that moment, however, I could not appreciate my good fortune, because my hand hurt worse than I ever knew anything could possibly hurt in this world, and the only thing I heard was my own voice, screaming.