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“You could, too, if you talked to Mr. Fujita,” she says. “You have the grades. You’re a good writer. Plus, he loves your parents.”

“Nah.” I’m expecting acceptance letters to colleges anywhere but here—Mom begged me to only apply out of state—and a yes from any one of those schools will be conditional on my grades this last semester. Regardless of how easy I think this might be, this is not the time to be taking chances.

Autumn picks at a beleaguered fingernail. “Because then you’d have to, you know, finish something?”

“I finished your mom earlier. I think you know what I mean.”

She pulls my leg hair, and I screech out a surprisingly feminine sound.

“Tanner,” she says, sitting up, “I’m serious. It would be good for you. You should take this class with me.”

“You say that like I would want to.”

Glaring at me, she growls, “It’s the Seminar, asshole. Everyone wants to.”

See what I mean? She’s got this course on a pedestal, and it’s so nerdy it makes me a little protective of Future Autumn, when she’s out in the world, battling her Hermione Nerd Girl battles. I give her my best smile. “Okay.”

“Are you worried about coming up with something original?” she asks. “I could help you.”

“Come on. I moved here when I was fifteen—which I think we can agree is the worst time to move from Palo Alto, California, to Provo, Utah—with a mouth full of metal and no friends. I have stories.”

Not to mention I’m a half-Jewish queer kid in a straight and Mormon town.

I don’t say that last part, not even to Autumn. It wasn’t that big a deal in Palo Alto when, at thirteen, I realized I liked the idea of kissing guys as much as kissing girls. Here, it would be a huge deal. She’s the best of my best, yeah, but I don’t want to risk telling her and finding out she’s only progressive in theory and not when a queer kid is hanging out in her bedroom.

“We all had braces, and you had me.” She flops back on her bed. “Besides, everyone hates being fifteen, Tanner. It’s period emergencies and boners at the pool, zits and angst and unclear social protocol. I guarantee ten out of fifteen students in this class will write about the perils of high school for lack of deeper sources of fiction.”

A quick scan through the Rolodex of my past gives me a lurching, defensive feeling in my gut, like maybe she’s right. Maybe I couldn’t come up with something interesting and deep, and fiction must come from depth. I’ve got two supportive—maybe overly supportive—parents, a crazy but wonderful extended family, a not-too-terrible-although-dramatically-emo sister, my own car. I haven’t known a lot of turmoil.

So I balk, pinching the back of her thigh. “What makes you so deep?”

It’s a joke, of course. Autumn has plenty to write about. Her dad died in Afghanistan when she was nine. Afterward, her mom—angry and heartbroken—cut ties with the Mormon Church, which, in this town, is a huge defection. More than 90 percent of the people who live here are LDS. Being anything else automatically leaves you on the outskirts of the social world. Add into the mix that on Mrs. Green’s salary alone, she and Autumn barely scrape by.

Autumn looks up at me flatly. “I can see why you wouldn’t want to do it, Tann. It’s a lot of work. And you’re lazy.”

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