Carrie Mesrobian's first novel, Sex & Violence, was met with the kind of critical success debut authors pipe-dream of. Called one of the best books of 2013 by Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, it was a finalist for the American Library Association's William C. Morris Award for best debut young adult novel. Her second novel from Lerner Publishing Group, Perfectly Good White Boy—pitched as "another powerful and wrenching portrait of a teenage boy on the precipice of the new American future"—will be released October 1.
Ravishly received an advance copy of the book, and has excerpted the first section below. Intrigued? Pre-order Mesrobian's book here. And stay tuned for more exclusive excerpts from female-authored tomes.
I stood in the back of the barn, in front of a pile of boxes marked “Tools,” watching the party go on. The senior girls’ spring party was usually down by the old railroad trestle bridge off Highway 10, but this time it was out on someone’s farm, so they’d decided to make it a goddamn hoedown or something. The barn looked like a normal barn—red, kinda faded—but it didn’t have a tractor or any animals, no haystacks or anything, just the boxes and a sound system and sawdust on the dirt floor, not to mention packs of screaming girls dressed like slutty cowgirls, in cowboy boots and bandanas and super-short shorts and long braids flying everywhere. It was loud as hell, and the circle around the keg was ass-deep in douche hockey player dudes. Eddie had ditched me for that Libby sophomore chick he was into, and I was regretting leaving the house for this shit. Eddie wouldn’t have found the place without me; it was only by luck that I’d known where it was, since I’d gone hunting on the property last November.
I pushed my way through the douche hockey dudes to get another beer. I’d paid seven bucks for this stupid cup, and Eddie had brought his tent and shit; I might as well get loaded. But I’d barely finished the cup when the senior girls started dancing and screaming to this terrible country song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and so I had to get out of there.
It was dark, and the moon wasn’t out. I could see just a little of the farmhouse in the distance, past the rows of parked cars. Everything felt still and silent and good in the cool air. Like maybe this would be fun, maybe I could handle this whole thing after all, after my weeks of being a social hermit, sitting at home, avoiding unpacking boxes in our new place with my mom. Eddie hadn’t expected me to say yes to coming to this party, even. He was used to me disappointing him in that way lately.
I walked toward the cornfield, which was nothing but dirt the same color as the night, trying to find the tree where Grandpa Chuck and I had nailed up the deer stand last November. Wondered if the handholds were still there. Grandpa Chuck didn’t believe in those ready-made stands; you built it yourself, was his opinion. You brought some wood and made do. Enough crap to haul out there as it was, he said.
But I wasn’t out in the fresh air five seconds when a god-damn Frisbee smacked me in the face so hard I dropped my beer. My nose gushed blood. People were laughing and yelling, but I couldn’t see who it was. But it didn’t matter, because it hurt so bad I wouldn’t have been able to throw down anyway. Since the whole thing with Eddie back in February, I’d made a deal with myself I’d never hit anyone again.
Which was good, because it was this cute senior girl who’d thrown the Frisbee. She had a big ponytail, short denim skirt, really, really tight American flag shirt. Cowboy boots. It took me a second to recognize her through everything hurting and all the blood, but I knew her from school. Hallie Martin. She went out with this douche hockey player guy who always walked around with his mouth half open. Dan. He looked like a Dan too.
But now she was all over me, saying stuff like, “Oh, Sean, I’m so sorry...Your nose is bleeding! Oh my god, I’m soooo sorry...” Over and over she said sorry. While I said nothing back not just because it hurt but also because I was kind of in shock. Because Hallie Martin was a year older. And how did she know my goddamn name? I only knew hers because she lifeguarded with Eddie at the YMCA. That, and you just knew the names of hot girls, generally. It was the kind of information that just downloaded naturally, along with stuff like who was playing Monday Night Football that week or when duck hunting season started or whatever.
I let her drag me away from everyone, her holding one of my hands like I was five years old, my other hand pressed over my bleeding nose, until we got to her little tiny red girl-car. A Kia, for fuck’s sake. She dug around in the console, which gave me a minute to catch my breath. Also to check out her ass. Which was shitty of me, but whatever. She handed me a bunch of Dairy Queen napkins, and I mopped my face with them, trying to calm the fuck down. I wasn’t really down for girls hovering around me like this, even if they were a foot shorter than me, like Hallie Martin; it made me feel like a total chump. Plus I was getting blood all over my shirt. I didn’t want to drip it on her and her cowgirl outfit too.
“I’m so sorry!” she said about a million times. I nodded at her, turning away and pinching the bridge of my nose, making blood rain down the back of my throat. I didn’t want to spit blood while talking and look like more of a freak. “I’m Hallie,” she said, turning around with me.
Like I didn’t know!
She moved like she wanted to shake my hand. But I was holding bloody napkins in one hand and my nose in the other, so it was a little hard.
“Sean,” I said.
“I know who you are,” she said. “You’re kind of hard to miss.”
Which wasn’t good to hear.
“You’re a year behind me in school, right? You’re friends with that kid Eddie, right?”
Well, that was a little better than being Violent and Crazy, the labels everyone probably gave me, along with the side-eye, since the thing in the library went down in February. Though it made me feel like Eddie’s butt boy.
“I totally love that kid,” she said. “I lifeguard with him at the Y. He’s so funny.” I nodded. I was out of things to say.
The bleeding was pretty much done too. Just a trickle. She handed me another napkin from her car; I looked at her ass again. God. Then we both stood there, like, duh, how did this even happen?
I stared at the blob of bloody napkins in my fist. “There’s a trash behind the house,” Hallie said, grabbing at my elbow. I could feel her fingernails. Long and sharp, making me shiver. Christ.
“Come on,” she said.
We started walking then. Like we were together. I was feeling a little less dumb, though I still worried there were boogers and blood all over my face. But Hallie kept talking.
“Carenna doesn’t have keys to the house, because it’s her uncle’s farm, but we set up a bunch of recycling and stuff for later.” Carenna was another hot senior girl. She was homecoming royalty, but not the queen. One of the runners-up. Hallie was cuter that Carenna Whatever-Her-Last-Name-Was, but she hadn’t been in the homecoming court. Clearly there was no justice in this world.
“You guys really planned this out, huh?” I asked.
“Well, it’s our last year together, you know? I leave for Madison this August, so we had to start early. And a spring party is kind of an Oak Prairie tradition, you know? Carenna thought it wouldn’t be so big, though. This place is hard to find. Or so we thought.”
“Wasn’t that hard to find. I went hunting out here in November,” I said. “My grandpa and I built a deer stand up in that tree over in that cornfield.” I pointed and she looked, not that there was much to see in the darkness. “Eddie and me found the place no problem.”
“Lucky for you, huh?” she said. Smiled at me. She was pretty damn cute. And she was right: I was pretty damn lucky. And goddamn, it felt good. Things were moving in a positive direction at crazy speeds, light years away from the funk I’d been in, sitting around our shitty rental, not wanting to unpack boxes or settle in. I sneaked a look at her, down at the top of her head, as we walked. Her hair was shiny and golden and her pony-tailed bobbed as we walked past the dark fields.
“People shoot at deer in cornfields?” Hallie asked. Like she thought I was some kind of crazy lunatic.
“Well, I was up in the deer stand when I shot mine, but yeah.”
“You shot it from a tree?”
“I owe you a beer, Sean,” she said. “Come on.”