‘Nice Try, Jane Sinner’: Read an excerpt from Lianne Oelke’s debut novel

How do you get over one of the lowest points in your life? How do you let go of your past so you can move on to your future? Those are just some of the questions Lianne Oelke explores in her debut novel, Nice TryJane Sinner.

As readers will quickly learn, the titular Jane Sinner had recently attempted to end her own life, however neither her deeply religious parents nor her sister want to discuss what happened and what might have led her down that path. So in search of some change in her life, Jane decides to move out, finish high school using community college credits and compete on House of Orange, a low-budget reality TV show run by fellow student Alexander Park as part of his school project.

But in searching for a way out of her current life, Jane finds that she’s slowly finding a way back in.

Check out an exclusive first look at the book’s cover, as well as an excerpt from the upcoming novel.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner hits bookstores Jan. 9, 2018. Preorder it here.

Excerpt from ‘Nice Try, Jane Sinner‘ by Lianne Oelke



I’m not a particularly good daughter, but I sat through a month of therapy for my parents’ sake. I’d like to think they got more out of it than I did. Couldn’t have been too hard. Any system that requires the patient’s family to pay someone else to care about her is fundamentally flawed. But I digress. If my decision to stop attending therapy means James Fowler High School no longer welcomes me as a student, I guess that’s on me.

The novelty of playing hooky has worn off, and I’m desperate to fill my time with something other than introspection, the occasional afternoon stocking groceries, and Mario Kart.


Bonnie just texted me. She wants me to burst through the clouds like the beautiful ray of sunshine that I am and come to a party tonight where everyone is apparently super super stoked to see me again. I told her it’s too dangerous. I have been known to blind others with my relentlessly sunny disposition. I may be desperate for a change, but I’m not desperate enough to face a party full of ex-classmates. Bonnie is a better person than I will ever be, so she promised to stop by later for whatever garbage I’ll be binge watching on my laptop.

So that’s nice. It’s also nice to write in here. I haven’t written in this journal for months. It’s kind of funny that the only time I don’t write in here is when a therapist says I should. But I needed a break from myself. Understandably, I think.


SunMar6Ditching school five months before grad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s too late to catch up now. I dropped the ship, that ball has sailed, Jane Sinner has left the building. Everyone is still a little scared to ask what I’m going to do now because they know I have no fucking clue. The parents certainly didn’t see this coming. They’re still scrambling to find “the window God must have opened, since he closed this particular door.” I’m old enough to close doors on my own, thank you very much. But the parents don’t want to hear that. They want to hear me say, “Why yes, I’d love to come with you to church this morning.” Not “I can’t, I have to catch up on a variety of reality television shows.”

They thought if Bonnie came over for lunch after the service, it would encourage me to at least shower and put on a bra by the time they got home. It didn’t.

Apparently, Bonnie’s fashion choices are rubbing off on Carol. They both decided to wear skinny jeans and fluorescent baggy sweaters to church, which annoyed the parents. Carol kept getting her sleeve caught in her lasagna while we ate.

DADI wish you would have come with us this morning, Jane.

MOMYou used to love going to church.

        I also used to love running around half-naked with crayons up my nose because I thought they looked like fangs. I take comfort in knowing people can change.

DADYou know, the best way to move on is to get back in the swing of things. There’s nothing wrong with taking some more classes. You could use more structure in your life. Some order.

        It’s like he didn’t even notice that I had divided my salad into a rainbow of vegetables.

JSYou’re meowing up the wrong tree.

DAD(Sigh.)Barking, Jane. It’s barking up the wrong tree.

BONNIECats chase small animals up trees too, you know.

DADYeah, well. You don’t want to end up like your Aunt Gina, Jane. You can’t make a decent living for your kids by sitting at home all day, “being funny” and writing Lord knows what for the internet

JSI don’t have kids, Dad.

MOMOh, please. Can’t we all just get along for one meal? Bonnie, how have you been lately? Is school going well for you?

I guess that’s why they invited her over. Not only is she a conversational buffer, she’s also a reminder that even bisexual girls with tattoos can have their shit together, so why don’t I?

BONNIEYeah, school is going okay, I guess. We all miss Jane.

CAROLJanie’s gonna go to community college instead. That’s what the guidance counselor thinks she should do, anyway.

Oh really? She didn’t mention that to me.

That’s because I’m not going.


Well, you can’t just not go back to school!

JSThanks, Obvious McObviouspants.

DADWell. You can at least go to the information session tomorrow. It’ll be good for you to explore your options.

We talked to Pastor Ron this morning, and he thinks that finishing your diploma at Elbow River is a good idea.

The parents are Pastor Ron’s biggest fans, so if he thinks an idea is good, my parents think it’s great. I think he’s all right (for a pastor), but I’m not convinced he’s the most qualified authority figure in my life, considering that my apathy toward his church was the domino that broke the camel’s back. I’d tell the parents that, but they get frustrated when I use idioms incorrectly.



Carol told me I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I told her to bite me.

CAROLNo one says that anymore, Janie! And stop tagging embarrassing pics of me on Facebook. Mom always has to comment on each one. She’s on a roll this morning.

JSI can do what I want.

I took Carol’s Pop-Tart out of the toaster and ate it in front of her to drive the lesson home.

JSRespect your elders.

I’d like to say I’m going to the info meeting because I care about my parents’ happiness. But really it’s because I’ve racked my brain trying to answer the question Well, what else are you going to do with yourself, Jane? and I’ve got nothing. Just restlessness and understimulation and this constant hum in my body from energy wasted on Netflix. I need to run a marathon or something. I hate living in limbo.


From a distance, Elbow River Community College looked half-decent. Up close, it was just a fresh paint job and decorative glass designed to look like windows. I distrusted it already. It was bigger than I imagined. Not that my imagination has been getting a chance to shine lately.

I stopped in the bathroom on my way to room 213. You can tell a lot about an establishment from its bathroom maintenance. This bathroom looked like it was recently renovated as cheaply as possible. Small, but cleanish. No get out while you can! Or jake s. is full of chlamydia n lies! scrawled on the stalls. I did find a pamphlet tucked behind the tampon dispenser, featuring a girl with a perm and a turtleneck holding a pregnancy pee stick too close to her face. It was called Tracy’s in Trouble! I would have stayed and learned a thing or two, but I was late as it was.

The classroom had twenty other potential students in it, all of whom looked even less excited to be there than I was. A middle-aged man leaned awkwardly on the teacher’s desk. His ass barely grazed the wooden surface, the same way cautious girls hover over public toilets. Maybe it was the stiffness of his pressed slacks that wouldn’t allow his legs to bend. He was the kind of tall that constantly invites strangers to comment on how tall he is.

TALL GUYThe weather is fine up here, thank you.

I wasn’t going to say anything.


He’s also the kind of guy that makes me cringe every time he says something remotely modern. Even “cool.”

TALL GUYAs I was explaining to everyone else here, when we started at three—

Yes, I know I’m late. Thanks for the reminder, though.

TALL GUY—you can call me Mr. Dubs. That’s short for Mr. W, which is short for Mr. Wickershnitzel.

That’s probably for sure not his real name, but he didn’t expect me to remember it anyway.

JSNice to meet you.

MR. DUBSLikewise, Ms. …

JSSinner. Jane Sinner.

Anyone who addresses me as “Ms.” or “Miss” is automatically someone I would rather not talk to. I resisted the urge to check my phone to see if the hour was up yet.

Mr. Dubs explained that he’s the Youth Re-engagement Program Admissions Coordinator and High School Integration Adviser. Or something to that effect.

MR. DUBSYou should have all received an email with links to our new website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram accounts. Here at Elbow River we believe in building a sustainable community, materially and mentally, so I’m excited to let you know we’ve recently committed to a paperless future!

The students broke into a scattered applause. Just kidding. They didn’t.

MR. DUBSHowever, we still have a ways to go, and for now I’m required to hand you this piece of paper. I apologize.

The girl in front of me passed the paper back. Under the Elbow River logo the hashtags #COMMUNITY #SUSTAINABILITY and #FREEDOM were printed. I couldn’t wait to make fun of this place to Bonnie. Mr. Dubs spent the next hour going over the school philosophy (“We believe in philosophy, not policy”). I started a tally of how many times Mr. Dubs used the word sustainability in his talk but gave up after sixteen. He also reviewed the logistics of completing a certain number of high school credits over the spring term. He said it’s possible to study through the summer term as well, if we’re interested in earning college credits too. But if I attend community college, I’ll want to get out as quickly as possible.

After the talk came the application form, which was broken down into three sections: name, address, and credit card information. I didn’t fill it out. I got the feeling Elbow River was the Venus flytrap of last-resort education and it would clamp down on any student with a pulse. Even students like me. I was half-afraid Mr. Dubs would pull me aside to discuss my “history.” But I can’t be the only one with a “history” here. The other prospective students seem normal enough, but they’re all here for a reason, too.

The required aptitude test came last. Maybe I’d discover a hidden talent for Sustainable Basket Weaving or Intergenerational Social Media Communications. A girl can dream. It took Mr. Dubs more than twenty minutes to troubleshoot the Wi-Fi so we could do the test online. I browsed the bulletin board outside the classroom while we waited.

Three flyers for Recreational Ceramics. Four for a car share with a picture of a man holding a cat under each arm. One handwritten Post-it note saying “smile, ur beautiful!” I can’t stand that sort of senseless optimism. And one flyer for Optimism Club. I might have trouble fitting in here. The only notice that caught my interest was for a reality show:


My name is Alexander Park and I’m a film student. I’m looking for new and returning Elbow River students to compete in my YouTube reality show: House of Orange!

Three guys and three girls live in a Big Brother type house and compete to win my five-year-old VW Golf (perfect condition)! The house is located near the campus and has separate bedrooms. Rent is only $200 a month (utilities and internet included). Meet some new people, do some crazy things, win yourself a car! For details and to fill out an application, go to http://www.houseoforangeshow.com.

Students must be over 18 and enrolled in full-time studies for both the Spring and Summer terms.

Maybe Bonnie and I can fit House of Orange in with America’s Next Top Model and The Bachelorette this spring. I stuffed the flyer into my bra because these jeggings don’t have pockets. The ladies also made room for the Tracy’s in Trouble! pamphlet. Maybe community college could teach me something after all.


I spent the bus ride home trying to figure out how to tell the parents what I’m going to do. I have to play my cards right, or it won’t work.

As soon as I walked into the kitchen, Mom turned toward the stove and began rapidly stirring a pot.

How’d it go, then?

She is really quite terrible at pretending to be casual about things she cares about.

JSAll right. Not great. I don’t know.

DADWell, don’t a-worry, we’re making a-curry!

JSCurry is not Italian, Dad.

DADYou think you’re so smart, don’t you?

I opened a cupboard and grabbed some clean plates for the table.

MOMSo, Jane? Do you think it’s… a possibility?

DADYou know, Jane, when God closes a door, he—

JSHe opens a window, I know.

DADNo need for that tone, Jane.

JSI just don’t know if it will work.

MOMIf you decide that education is no longer a priority for you, we could discuss other options. Like pitching in more around the house. Maybe paying rent.

I set down four shiny glasses next to four shiny plates. Hiccups of doubt followed me around the table, but I said it anyway:

JSI’ll go to Elbow River. But only if I move out.

Mom set her spoon on the counter with a sharp click.

DADThat’s not happening.

MOMYou could go back to James Fowler in the fall.

JSBut all my friends will have graduated already.

MOMYou can always make new friends! You can be such a nice girl when you make the effort, Jane.

This is why I can’t talk to the parents. They think you can get friends in high school the same way you get chips from a vending machine. Put in a little niceness, and some kid pops out ready to double-check your homework and paint your nails at a slumber party. Niceness is not a valid currency in high school.

JSIt’s not that easy, Mom. I’m not going back there.

Friends or no friends, the Legend of Jane Sinner will linger in the halls of James Fowler for years to come. All I want is to put some distance between myself and that story. Between myself and anyone who thinks of me that way. All the parents want is for me to stabilize, to become the girl who used to exist but doesn’t exist anymore, for everything to stay the same forever and ever, amen.

MOMI suppose you could study online.

And never have a reason to leave this house? I’ve wasted far too much time here lately.

JSI don’t think so.

MOMWe’re just concerned for you, is all. It might be too much for you right now, what with—

JSI know. And I appreciate your concern. But I really need some space… to focus on my studies.

It’s not easy being diplomatic. As if on cue, they looked at each other, took a deep breath, and exhaled my name.


I wonder if they know they’ve slowly merged into the same person in two different bodies.

I can’t believe I said this, but—

JSI’ll go back to youth group.

They immediately softened. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to play the Prodigal Daughter card, but as far as I know, nothing can trump it.

PARENTSOh, Jane. That would be so good for you right now. Good friends, Christian support—

JSOnly if I move out.

Awkwardly trying to fit into conversations that aren’t the right size or shape for me while dying of boredom every other week is not ideal, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for my freedom. Mom picked up her spoon and resumed stirring, turning her back to hide the tiny smile inching across her face.

Well, that’s something to consider, isn’t it? Why don’t we sleep on it?



Obviously I’m not going to tell them about House of Orange just yet. One step at a time.

This is what I sent to Alexander Park:


NAME: Jane Sinner

AGE: 18

DOB: June 6

PROGRAM/ COURSE: psychology

HOMETOWN: calgary










WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME? draw, eat, watch substandard television programming



WHAT (OR WHOM) DO YOU VALUE MOST IN YOUR LIFE? competence, autonomy, absurdity, abstract nouns in general, steak, the people who slaughter cows so I don’t have to

WHAT REALLY ANNOYS YOU? poor grammar, penciled-in eyebrows, most displays of emotion, ballpoint pens

FAVORITE TV SHOW? America’s Next Top Model

FAVORITE BOOK? the internet


WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RELIGION? My thoughts are too profound and complex to be adequately dealt with here

WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF? pain, middle age, the bottom of the ocean

WHAT GOALS DO YOU HAVE FOR YOURSELF? to become a well-adjusted and self-aware individual






HOW DO YOU PLAN TO COPE WITH THE STRESS OF SCHOOL AS WELL AS A REALITY SHOW? I plan to not get stressed in the first place






Technically I’m not eighteen yet, but almost eighteen should be close enough. I don’t know if high school students qualify for the show, so psychology seemed like as good a fake area of study as any. I’ll do that program or whatever that allows me to take college courses too. If that’s not good enough for some shitty community college show, it’s not like I have anything to lose. And if I’m going to be spending my spring attending some shitty community college, I might as well become a reality show superstar. Move over, Bachelorette.


I filled out and submitted all three sections of the Elbow River application. It left a lot less to creativity than the House of Orange form, although it did make an effort to at least appear interesting. All the titles and headers are typed in what looks suspiciously like the Twitter font. I swear, their marketing department must be run by the kind of parents who think wearing a baseball cap backwards and having a Hotmail account will help them fit in with their children. Is this really the sort of establishment I want to entrust with my future?

Well, what else are you going to do with yourself, Jane?

For starters, I can revise my history. That’s what I’m doing here, isn’t it? Rewriting my story so it no longer revolves around the Event. So it no longer stars some washed-up nihilist too uncomfortable in her own skin to do anything worthwhile. People already talk about me behind my back. Maybe it’s time I give them something new to talk about.



The parents made another attempt to persuade me to live at home. It was just a formality, really. They know as well as I do what happens when I make up my mind. “Why would you ever move out when you could have free room and board plus family support right here? You shouldn’t be alone. Let us do your laundry and provide you with furniture and cook you macaroni and cheese with REAL CHEESE and chew your face off every time you come home later than we think you should and let you know when you’re actin’ sassy and love you more efficiently by seeing you EVERY DAY and living in the same house FOREVER.” So. Pros and Cons of moving out:


PROS                                           CONS

freedom                         macaroni and unreal cheese


The decision basically made itself.

I guess they do have a point about money, though. I’m no mathematician and I’m certainly no economist, but I think this formula is on point:


reduced standard of living (student loans + part-time job)

= affordable housing


Two hundred dollars a month is all I can afford to pay for rent, and as far as I know, two hundred dollars won’t get me anything besides a room on House of Orange. Unless, perhaps, I’m okay with living in some hoarder’s closet, smothered in poorly trained cats and breathing musty thrift store air until my lungs collapse.



I met Alexander Park today and saw the house. He emailed me back thirty-two minutes after I sent him the application, asking for an interview. This means that either I am incredibly awesome or Alexander Park is desperate for people. When I got the reply I still wasn’t sure if this was all a joke, and if it was serious, just how seriously it was being taken. House of Orange could mean nothing more than a lonely fourteen-year-old with a GoPro. I don’t know how old Alexander Park is, but he has more than one GoPro. He also has four cameras on loan from the school, several computers, and a team of fellow film students wearing orange baseball caps embroidered with the letters hoo. Alexander Park introduced me to each one, but I don’t remember all the names. I took a tour of the house, and it’s not too bad. The house is a ten-minute bus ride from the school, and it’s located in a reassuringly mediocre neighborhood. AP’s parents own the place and usually rent it out to students. It’s not a big house, but there are six “bedrooms,” three up and three down. I have to admire the creative use of curtains and large shelving units. Not exactly conducive to privacy, but privacy’s not the point. There’s a bathroom on each floor, a living room, a large dining room, and a tiny kitchen with counters possibly made from recycled pylons. Also, orange shag carpet. Everywhere.

The team asked me the sorts of questions one asks on a first date, then talked for a while about the technical aspects of the show. They said enough to convince me it’s legit. At least, as legit as a group of film students can make it.

ALEXANDER PARKSo, do you have any other questions?

JSWell, where exactly are you going with this?

APWhat do you mean?

JSYou said the show would air on YouTube.

APRight, episodes every two weeks.

JSFor whom?

HOOCAP 1Anyone.

JS(That’s lazy marketing.)Don’t you have a target audience, like other college students?

HOOCAP 2Yeah. Those.

APWe’re going to promote it within the school—advertisements in the paper, commercials at basketball games—things like that. Elbow River has been quite supportive of the idea. This show is our baby. I’m going to make sure it’s done properly.

JSSo how can you afford to give away your car?

API’ll just get another one.

I see.

APSo what do you think?


APThe car is the grand prize, of course, and to win it you simply have to be the last person standing, but there will be other incentives along the way. Movies, hockey tickets, books. Things students normally can’t afford.


APPizza, home-cooked meals…


APReally? Great! That’s great. I’ll give you some time to look over the paperwork, etc…


I’ve told the parents I’ve found a place, but I haven’t mentioned the “conditions.” I’ll do that later. They asked if I’ll be living with girls, because of course college-age boyz (and even worse, college-age men) have no place intruding on a young woman’s personal space. I told them I’ll be living with girls, which is true enough.



I got a call from Mr. Dubs today.

MR. DUBSGood morning, Ms. Sinner. This is Mr. Dubs from Elbow River calling. How are you?

JSFine, thanks.

MR. DUBSCool! That’s great. Well, I have some great news. Your application has been approved!

JSWhat? Oh. Good.

MR. DUBSI’ll be your adviser. I’ve sent you a friend request on Facebook—feel free to message me anytime, you know?

Speaking of Facebook, Bonnie only had a few minutes to chat before her class started, and I needed to know if she was coming over after school or if I should just catch up on America’s Next Top Model without her.

JSYeah. Sure. Hey, I’ve got to go—

MR. DUBSYou know, we’re really happy to have you as a student. We think you have great potential. Elbow River is such a cool place to really grow as a community-oriented individual, you know?

JSYeah. Sounds cool. But right now I’m in the middle of… making… lunch…

MR. DUBSHey, how about I send you a T-shirt? We just reinvented our mascot to better reflect our evolution as a community.

JSOkay, sure.

MR. DUBSWhat are you making for lunch, Ms. Sinner?

JSUh… donuts.

Cool! That’s great. Well, you’re officially a Greaser now!


MR. DUBSAn Elbow Greaser! Ha-ha.

JSMy donuts—

MR. DUBSWe’re going to have a great year, Ms. Sinner.

JSThey’re… burning—

MR. DUBSOh, and Ms. Sinner?


MR. DUBSLike us on Facebook and you’ll get ten percent off your online textbooks!

26 April 2017 | 3:30 pm

Nivea Serrao

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Amy Tan pokes fun at her new book cover

Amy Tan, the best-selling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement, will make her foray into nonfiction this October with the forthcoming memoir, Where the Past Begins. In the book, she’ll explore her own past and the secrets of her family’s history, linking them both to her beloved novels.

EW can exclusive reveal the cover for Where the Past Begins, below, as well as a quirky video from Tan, above, in which the author explains more about what readers can expect from the memoir — and pokes fun at her own book jacket.

The official summary for Where the Past Begins is as follows:

By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, she gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels. 

Tan explores shocking truths uncovered by family memorabilia—the real reason behind an IQ test she took at age six, why her parents lied about their education, mysteries surrounding her maternal grandmother—and, for the first time publicly, writes about her complex relationship with her father, who died when she was fifteen. Supplied with candor and characteristic humor, Where the Past Begins takes readers into the idiosyncratic workings of her writer’s mind, a journey that explores memory, imagination, and truth, with fiction serving as both her divining rod and link to meaning. 

Where the Past Begins hits shelves Oct. 17.

25 April 2017 | 3:17 pm

Isabella Biedenharn

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Holly Black is back for a new series — see the cover now

Fans of Holly Black’s of faerie tales won’t have to wait too long for their latest fix! The Darkest Part of the Forest author has a new series.

The Cruel Prince, the first in the Folk of the Air series, drops in January 2018.

The book — which you can see the exclusive cover reveal for below — tells the story of Jude, the oldest of three siblings stolen and raised in the High Court of Faerie after their parents’ murder. Ten years later, the 17-year-old wants nothing more than to be one of the fey, but not only is she mortal, but many of the Faerie, like Prince Cardan, dislike humans.

When Jude defies the youngest son of the High King to win a place in Court, she finds herself a part of palace intrigues. Only with the Faerie Courts on the brink of civil war, the teenage mortal must make a dangerous alliance if she wants to save her sisters… and Faerie itself.

But that isn’t the only treat, Black has in store for fans. Artist Lara Wirth — a.k.a. ArmageddonPainted — painstakingly recreated the book’s cover on herself using body paint. And now you can watch the whole process in the video below.

The Cruel Prince hits bookstores January 2018. Preorder it here.

Exclusive Excerpt from ‘The Cruel Prince‘ by Holly Black

As dawn breaks, I open the windows to my bedroom and let the last of the cool night air flow in as I strip off my Court dress. I feel hot all over. My skin feels too tight, and my heart won’t stop racing.

I’ve been to Court before many times. I’ve been witness to more awfulness than wings being torn or my person insulted. Faeries make up for their inability to lie with a panoply of deceptions and cruelties. Twisted words, pranks, omissions, riddles, scandals, not to mention their revenges upon one another for ancient, half-remembered slights. Storms are less fickle than they are, seas less capricious.

Like, for example, as a redcap, Madoc needs bloodshed the way a mermaid needs the salt spray of the sea. After every battle, he ritually dips his hood into the blood of his enemies. I’ve seen the hood, kept under glass in the armory. The fabric is stiff and stained a brown so deep it’s almost black, except for a few smears of green.

Sometimes I go down and stare at it, trying to see my parents in the tide lines of dried blood. I want to feel something, something besides a vague queasiness. I want to feel more, but every time I look at it, I feel less.

I think about going to the armory now, but I don’t. I stand in front of my window and imagine myself a fearless knight, imagine myself a witch who hid her heart in her finger and then chopped her finger off.

“I’m so tired,” I say out loud. “So tired.”

I sit there for a long time, watching the rising sun gild the sky, listening to the waves crash as the tide goes out, when a creature flies up to alight on the edge of my window. At first it seems like an owl, but it’s got hob eyes. “Tired of what, sweetmeat?” it asks me.

I sigh and answer honestly for once. “Of being powerless.”

The hob studies my face, then flies off into the night.


I sleep the day away and wake disoriented, battling my way out of the long, embroidered curtains around my bed. Drool has dried along one of my cheeks.

I find bathwater waiting for me, but it has gone tepid. Servants must have come and gone. I climb in anyway and splash my face. Living in Faerie, it’s impossible not to notice that everyone else smells like verbena or crushed pine needles, dried blood or milkweed. I smell like pit sweat and sour breath unless I scrub myself clean.

When Tatterfell comes in to light the lamps, she finds me dressing for a lecture, which begins in the late afternoons and stretches on into some evenings. I wear gray leather boots and a tunic with Madoc’s crest—a dagger, a crescent moon turned on its side so it rests like a cup, and a single drop of blood falling from one corner embroidered in silk thread.

Downstairs, I find Taryn at the banquet table, alone, nursing a cup of nettle tea and picking at a bannock. Today, she does not suggest anything will be fun.

Madoc insists—perhaps out of guilt or shame—that we be treated like the children of Faerie. That we take the same lessons, that we be given whatever they have. Changelings have been brought to the High Court before, but none of them has been raised like Gentry.

He doesn’t understand how much that makes them loathe us.

Not that I am not grateful. I like the lessons. Answering the lecturers cleverly is something no one can take from me, even if the lecturers themselves occasionally pretend otherwise. I will take a frustrated nod in place of effusive praise. I will take it and be glad because it means I can belong whether they like it or not.

Vivi used to go with us, but then she became bored and didn’t bother. Madoc raged, but since his approval of a thing only makes her despise it, all his railing just made her more determined to never, ever go back. She has tried to persuade us to stay home with her, but if Taryn and I cannot manage the machinations of the children of Faerie without quitting our lessons or running to Madoc, how will he ever believe we can manage the Court, where those same machinations will play out on a grander and more deadly scale?

Taryn and I set off, swinging our baskets. We don’t have to leave Insmire to get to the High King’s palace, but we do skirt the edge of two other tiny islands, Insmoor, Isle of Stone, and Insweal, Isle of Woe. All three are connected by half-submerged rocky paths and stones large enough that it’s possible to leap your way from one to the next. A herd of stags is swimming toward Insmoor, seeking the best grazing. Taryn and I walk past the Lake of Masks and through the far corner of the Milkwood, picking our way past the pale, silvery trunks and bleached leaves. From there, we spot mermaids and merrows sunning themselves near craggy caves, their scales reflecting the amber glow of the late-afternoon sun.

All the children of the Gentry, regardless of age, are taught by lecturers from all over the kingdom on the grounds of the palace. Some afternoons we sit in groves carpeted with emerald moss, and other evenings we spend in high towers or up in trees. We learn about the movements of constellations in the sky, the medicinal and magical properties of herbs, the languages of birds and flowers and people as well as the language of the Folk (though it occasionally twists in my mouth), the composition of riddles, and how to walk soft-footed over leaves and brambles to leave neither trace nor sound. We are instructed in the finer points of the harp and the lute, the bow and the blade. Taryn and I watch them as they practice enchantments. For a break, we all play at war in a green field with a broad arc of trees.

Madoc trained me to be formidable even with a wooden sword. Taryn isn’t bad, either, even though she doesn’t bother practicing anymore. At the Summer Tournament, in only a few days, our mock war will take place in front of the royal family. With Madoc’s endorsement, one of the princes or princesses might choose to grant me knighthood and take me into their personal guard. It would be a kind of power, a kind of protection.

And with it, I could protect Taryn, too.

We arrive at school. Prince Cardan, Locke, Valerian, and Nicasia are already sprawled in the grass with a few other faeries. A girl with deer horns— Poesy—is giggling over something Cardan has said. They do not so much as look at us as we spread our blanket and set out our notebooks and pens and pots of ink.

My relief is immense.

Our lesson involves the history of the delicately negotiated peace between Orlagh, Queen of the Undersea, and the various faerie kings and queens of the land. Nicasia is Orlagh’s daughter, sent to be fostered in the High King’s Court. Many odes have been composed to Queen Orlagh’s beauty, although, if she’s anything like her daughter, not to her personality.

Nicasia gloats through the lesson, proud of her heritage. When the instructor moves on to Lord Roiben of the Court of Termites, I lose interest. My thoughts drift. Instead, I find myself thinking through combinations—strike, thrust, parry, block. I grip my pen as though it were the hilt of a blade and forget to take notes.

As the sun dips low in the sky, Taryn and I unpack our baskets from home, which contain bread, butter, cheese, and plums. I butter a piece of bread hungrily.

Passing us, Cardan kicks dirt onto my food right before I put it into my mouth. The other faeries laugh.

I look up to see him watching me with cruel delight, like a raptor bird trying to decide whether to be bothered devouring a small mouse. He’s wearing a high-collared tunic embroidered with thorns, his fingers heavy with rings. His sneer is well-practiced.

I grit my teeth. I tell myself that if I let the taunts roll off me, he will lose interest. He will go away. I can endure this a little longer, a few more days.

“Something the matter?” Nicasia asks sweetly, wandering up and draping her arm over Cardan’s shoulder. “Dirt. It’s what you came from, mortal. It’s what you’ll return to soon enough. Take a big bite.”

“Make me,” I say before I can stop myself. Not the greatest comeback, but my palms begin to sweat. Taryn looks startled.

“I could, you know,” says Cardan, grinning as though nothing would please him more. My heart speeds. If I weren’t wearing a string of rowan berries, he could ensorcell me so that I thought dirt was some kind of delicacy. Only Madoc’s position would give him reason to hesitate. I do not move, do not touch the necklace hidden under the bodice of my tunic, the one that I hope will stop any glamour from working. The one I hope he doesn’t discover and rip from my throat.

I glance in the direction of the day’s lecturer, but the elderly phooka has his nose buried in a book.

Since Cardan’s a prince, it’s more than likely no one has ever cautioned him, has ever stayed his hand. I never know how far he’ll go, and I never know how far our instructors will let him.

“You don’t want that, do you?” Valerian asks with mock sympathy as he kicks more dirt onto our lunch. I didn’t even see him come over. Once, Valerian stole a silver pen of mine, and Madoc replaced it with a ruby-studded one from his own desk. This threw Valerian into such a rage that he cracked me in the back of the head with his wooden practice sword. “What if we promise to be nice to you for the whole afternoon if you eat everything in your baskets?” His smile is wide and false. “Don’t you want us for friends?”

Taryn looks down at her lap. No, I want to say. We don’t want you for friends.

I don’t answer, but I don’t look down, either. I meet Cardan’s gaze. There is nothing I can say to make them stop, and I know it. I have no power here. But today I can’t seem to choke down my anger at my own impotence.

Nicasia pulls a pin from my hair, causing one of my braids to fall against my neck. I swat at her hand, but it happens too fast.

“What’s this?” She’s holding up the golden pin, with a tiny cluster of filigree hawthorn berries at the top. “Did you steal it? Did you think it would make you beautiful? Did you think it would make you as we are?”

I bite the inside of my cheek. Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever. Valerian’s hair shines like polished gold. Nicasia’s limbs are long and perfectly shaped, her mouth the pink of coral, her hair the color of the deepest, coldest part of the sea. Fox-eyed Locke, standing silently behind Valerian, his expression schooled to careful indifference, has a chin as pointed as the tips of his ears. And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest, with black hair as iridescent as a raven’s wing and cheekbones sharp enough to cut out a girl’s heart. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

“You’ll never be our equal,” Nicasia says.

Of course I won’t.

“Oh, come on,” Locke says with a careless laugh, his hand going around Nicasia’s waist. “Let’s leave them to their misery.”

“Jude’s sorry,” Taryn says quickly. “We’re both really sorry.”

“She can show us how sorry she is,” Cardan drawls. “Tell her she doesn’t belong in the Summer Tournament.”

“Afraid I’ll win?” I ask, which isn’t smart.

“It’s not for mortals,” he informs us, voice chilly. “Withdraw, or wish that you had.”

I open my mouth, but Taryn speaks before I can. “I’ll talk to her about it. It’s nothing, just a game.”

Nicasia gives my sister a magnanimous smile. Valerian leers at Taryn, his eyes lingering on her curves. “It’s all just a game.”

Cardan’s gaze meets mine, and I know he isn’t finished with me, not by a long shot.

“Why did you dare them like that?” Taryn asks when they’ve walked back to their own merry luncheon, all spread out for them. “Talking back to him—that’s just stupid.”

Make me.

Afraid I’ll win?

“I know,” I tell her. “I’ll shut up. I just—I got angry.”

“You’re better off being scared,” she advises. And then, shaking her head, she packs up our ruined food. My stomach growls, and I try to ignore it.

They want me to be afraid, I know that. During the mock war that very afternoon, Valerian trips me, and Cardan whispers foul things in my ear. I head home with bruises on my skin from kicks, from falls.

What they don’t realize is this: Yes, they frighten me, but I have always been scared, since the day I got here. I was raised by the man who murdered my parents, reared in a land of monsters. I live with that fear, let it settle into my bones, and ignore it. If I didn’t pretend not to be scared, I would hide under my owl-down coverlets in Madoc’s estate forever. I would lie there and scream until there was nothing left of me. I refuse to do that. I will not do that.

Nicasia’s wrong about me. I don’t desire to do as well in the tournament as one of the fey. I want to win. I do not yearn to be their equal.

In my heart, I yearn to best them.

24 April 2017 | 3:01 pm

Nivea Serrao

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5 high-grossing page-to-screen adaptations

Book-to-movie adaptations are commonplace in Hollywood as studios turn to popular titles with built-in audiences when deciding which projects to greenlight. The desired end goal, of course, is to have a franchise like The Hunger Games or Lord of the Rings on your hands — both of which were based on popular novel series, and both of which became billion-dollar international film franchises.

These and more — like Jurassic Park, based on the classic Michael Crichton novel from 1990 — are well known page-to-screen projects, as examined in the Coinage video above. Take a look to see which five are among the high-grossing adaptations — one ran all the way to the top of the box office when it opened in 1994 and earned nearly $680 million worldwide, and the top earner is pure magic.

21 April 2017 | 7:43 pm

Dan Heching

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Listen to Dave Grohl and his mom discuss the ‘most embarrassing thing ever’

With her new book From Cradle to Stage, Virginia Hanlon Grohl joins a list of musician mamas (like Kanye West’s late mother, Donda) who have written books about raising superstars. Grohl’s son, of course, is Nirvana and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, who contributed the foreword to her book and joined his mother in the studio while recording the audiobook.

In EW’s exclusive clip from the recording session below, the Grohls recall a supremely embarrassing story (for Dave, at least) in which Virginia begged him to get up on stage and play drums at a jazz club for her birthday. Listen to it below.

From Cradle to Stageavailable now, also features stories from Dr. Dre’s mother Verna Griffin, Michael Stipe’s mother Marianne Stipe, Amy Winehouse’s mother Janis Winehouse, Adam Levine’s mother Patsy Noah, the Haim sisters’ mother Donna Haim, and The Beastie Boys’ Mike D’s mother, Hester Diamond.

21 April 2017 | 3:49 pm

Isabella Biedenharn

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