by Jessie Rosen
Release Date: November 11th 2015
Full Fathom Five Digital
Summary from Goodreads:
From the moment Laura Rivers steps foot into Englewood High, she notices the stares—and they aren’t the typical once-overs every pretty new girl endures. The students seem confused and…spooked. Whispers echoing through the halls confirm that something is seriously off. “That new girl looks just like her,” they say.
It turns out Laura has a doppelgänger, and it isn’t just anyone—it’s Sarah Castro-Tanner, the girl who killed herself by jumping into the Navasink River one year ago.
Laura is determined not to let the gossip ruin her chances of making a fresh start. Thanks to her charming personality and California tan, she catches the eye of Englewood’s undisputed golden boy, Charlie Sanders, and it’s only a matter of time before they make their relationship official.
But something is making Charlie and his friends paranoid—and Laura soon discovers it has to do with Sarah Castro-Tanner.
What really happened to Sarah? Why is Charlie unraveling? And how does Laura Rivers fit into it all?
After all, she’s the dead ringer for a dead girl.
Charlie’s first morning back at Englewood was as busy as any. He owed Principal Hayden a plan for the Volunteer Core’s winter trip, Coach Stanley the results of his latest physical for the soccer scouts who were already swarming, and Mrs. Smelson his application for student representative to the district school board. And then there was the requisite time spent floating around the halls and catching up with friends about the last few weeks of summer.
Charlie didn’t like to admit it, but he was pretty much a celebrity in the halls of EHS. For the past two years, he’d led the soccer team to state and national victories, and this year he would serve as captain. All the hard work and sacrifice was paying off. In nine short months, Charlie’s high school career would be over and his real life would begin, hopefully with a full ride to his first-choice college.
Right now it was hard to believe he’d ever fought his mom on the decision to leave their comfy home in Toms River for a tiny apartment in this rich soccer mecca. He hadn’t wanted his hobby to uproot their little family of two, but Pattie Sanders had turned out right, as always—it had been worth it. Applications still needed to be finished, but Charlie’s grades were right where they needed to be. Now it was all about what he did on the field, and that was the easy part. It’s nice to feel so confident and relaxed at the start of senior year, Charlie thought to himself as he slipped into Ms. O’Malley’s room. It had been a long, long time since he didn’t have something making the insides of his body churn.
Within seconds, that comfort was gone.
“Charlie, raise your hand for Miss Rivers to see,” Ms. O’Malley said seconds after the first-period bell rang. He lifted his hand as he followed her gaze to the front of the classroom. Then his mind went blank.
Standing in the doorway was… No. How could it be? Charlie clenched his stomach to stop the sick feeling from crawling any higher up his insides. Wait. Of course not. This wasn’t her—it couldn’t be. She was gone. Plus, this girl had blond hair, not black. This girl’s face was round, not long, and her nose was completely different. So then, what was it? The way she was staring? The shape of her body? Or maybe it was her eyes? Something about this girl reminded Charlie so much of her.
He let his hand fall back down, flashed a quick smile, and then looked away. You’re the only one seeing it, Charlie thought to himself. You’re looking for it. Get her out of your head. It’s been long enough.
“Mr. Sanders, Miss Rivers,” O’Malley bellowed from the front of the room.
Before he knew it, the new girl was sitting directly in front of him. He was pretty sure she’d said something cute. There was a chance he’d said something clever back. All he knew for sure was that her name was Laura Rivers, and she was from Southern California. Could she see him staring at her face? Had other people stared, too? They must have. They must have all stared. That is, if they all remembered her half as well as he did.
Forty-five minutes later, Charlie was kicking himself as he watched Laura Rivers walk toward her next class. He’d invited her to sit with them at lunch. He couldn’t explain why, but in two short hours he’d have to—to Kit, Miller, and Amanda.
Charlie may have been the ringleader of their foursome, but he did very little without the approval of the other three members of their set. In fact, the fifty-minute English class that just ended was the first time they’d been apart since 7:30 a.m.
The morning started like it had every single school day in the six years they’d been best friends—except that today, for the first time, Charlie was their ride in the 1996 Pontiac Grand Am convertible he saved his rec-soccer-coaching money to buy for his seventeenth birthday.
Kit and Miller were waiting on the curb between their two houses when Charlie pulled up. Kit was fidgeting with her cellphone while telling a mile-a-minute story to Miller. Miller was half asleep and fake-listening while chugging an orange juice that Charlie knew he would later leave in the back of the convertible car. Without missing a beat, Kit saw Charlie approach, grabbed the almost-empty carton out of Miller’s hand, and tossed it in the trashcan next to the curb. What would Miller do without her? Charlie thought.
“Were you two out here waiting for Bertha’s boob-mobile? If so, I can just meet you at school…”
“I hope I never see that crazy bitch again,” Miller said as he climbed into the back of the car.
“Sean! Be nice. You took that bus for five days and poor Bertha probably had serious back problems because of those boobs,” Kit said as she climbed in beside him. “Let’s go. Amanda is waiting.”
Leave it to Kit to defend the only bus driver in the world that got lost four times a week, Charlie thought as they sped off toward Amanda’s house.
Predictably, Amanda was not waiting at the curb. Amanda Hunter did not wait for people anywhere, ever. After two beeps, she finally appeared with a fake-apologetic look on her face.
“Happy first day, Carly!” she said as she approached the convertible.
Charlie had long since given up on convincing Amanda to drop the dumb nickname she’d given him when he’d first arrived at Englewood Middle School.
“Your name is Carly?” she had said when he introduced himself to her all those years ago.
“No, it’s Charlie!”
“Well, I heard Carly, so I’m calling you that…forever.”
Charlie had thought forever would last about a year, but he’d underestimated Amanda. That was a mistake he’d never make again.
“Hey, kids,” she said, and climbed into the front seat. “Thanks for leaving me the front.”
“Like we have a choice,” Miller said.
“Exactly,” Amanda responded.
Charlie glanced over at Amanda as she sidled in beside him. Sometimes it was impossible to look at her without seeing all the history that had passed between them, but today all Charlie could focus on was the fact that she was gorgeous. She probably spent an hour making her curls look like she just got out of bed and picking out her shorts and top, but Charlie saw right through it. Amanda cared deeply what other people thought of her. Charlie knew how she felt because he was exactly the same.
Amanda must have sensed his gaze because she reached out and gently touched her hand to his knee. “I have a good feeling about this year,” she whispered.
They had decided not to tell Kit and Miller that they’d been talking about getting back together. Kit would explode with delight at the thought of all the double dates in their future, and Miller would immediately inform the rest of the soccer team that Amanda Hunter was off the market again, courtesy of his best friend. Charlie wasn’t ready to jump back into things quite yet, despite Amanda’s very convincing ways.
“You know we’re the best when we’re together,” she’d said to him the other night as they lay on the couch in her pool house. She was right: when he and Amanda were great, they were really, really great. She was demanding and could be a brat from time to time, but underneath that tough edge was a girl who knew what she wanted and how to get it. Charlie always admired that about Amanda. She forced him to work harder to make all his goals a reality. He wanted them to get back to being the couple they were always meant to be, but they had been through more in two and a half years of dating than most people would experience in a lifetime, and it sometimes made Charlie wonder if he and Amanda were cursed.
He took her hand in his and gave it a quick squeeze as he backed out of her family’s long driveway and headed toward school. So what if Kit or Miller noticed? Right then, it felt right.
* * *
But now, as he caught Amanda’s face watching Laura Rivers slowly glide down the lunch line en route to their table, Charlie wasn’t so sure.
“You guys hear there’s a new girl?” Miller asked, his mouth half-full with the first of two meatball subs he’d grabbed from the cafeteria line. As usual, his timing was terrible.
Amanda glanced at Kit, who acknowledged the look, but quickly turned away. So much for Charlie seeing things that weren’t really there.
“Yeah. We have English together first period. I actually invited her to sit with us today,” Charlie said. He knew the Band-Aid approach was best with this group. Better to just rip it off so there was more time to deal with Amanda’s freak-out.
“You did what?” Amanda barked.
“What’s the problem?” Charlie was bluffing, and he knew that she knew it.
“Fine. Since no one else is going to say it…” she lowered her voice and leaned in, “she kinda looks like you-know-who.”
“I think she does, too, Charlie,” Kit chimed in. “But maybe that’s just because we’re paranoid…”
“You girls are crazy,” Miller said. “I don’t see it.”
“You don’t see anything, Sean,” Kit said.
Charlie had no interest in dwelling on the issue. “Her name is Laura and we all need to get over it,” Charlie said, mostly to himself.
The next second, she was standing inches from the table. Charlie looked over at Miller as he registered Laura’s features. Within a second, Charlie could tell that he saw it, too.
Charlie watched Laura nervously touch a chunk of her gold curls and felt his entire body clench. In that moment, any thought about moving on seemed ridiculous. Laura looked like her, yes, but the bigger problem was that Charlie found her totally captivating.
Jessie Rosen is a writer, producer, and performer. She grew up in New Jersey, attended Boston College in Massachusetts, and began her writing career in New York. Her live storytelling series Sunday Night Sex Talk has received national attention. She was named one of “The 25 Best Bloggers, 2013 Edition” by TIME magazine for her blog 20- Nothings, which was also named in “The 100 Best Websites for Women” and “The Top 10 Best Websites for Millennial Women” in 2013 by Forbes.
Rosen is the oldest of four girls, which gives her a special window into the minds of teenagers. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she’s working on film and television projects, as well as her next novel.