Jason Forbes is loved and adored at his high school. Everyone craves attention from him, even if it’s negative. He hates every minute if it. He hates how he’s treated; no one knows what brews beneath the surface of how unaffected he seems. He fights the adoration but can barely square up against popularity’s clutches.
When a new girl enters his high school, unaffected by his status, he is drawn to her. He soon finds out her reason for being there and now he must find a way to face the monsters of his past that grown and expand in size and the monsters of hers who literally try to kill him.
Targeted Age Group:: 16-21
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I initially started this book whilst I was in high school. I was always so fascinated about how popularity worked and how it affected people. At my school, there were cliques, yes, but there was no one who was inherently popular–no one who 'ruled' the school. So I got to thinking, what would it be like for someone who hated being popular to suddenly be thrust into the limelight? I figured it must've been annoying, but also, it must've felt good to know the power you have. And there Popularity Rules was created, I love playing on the character's imperfections based on what I saw around me.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters stemmed from my wanting to write in a male POV for once. How unaffected he was, was as a result of my trying to delve into his background and discuss why he is the way he is. Avery, the other main character, was developed out of my love for a strong female character, but in her strength she is weak, so I loved the realism as well.
I was being held against my will.
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it sure felt like it.
The school was ablaze with chatter now that the lunch bell rang. The crowds of people seemed to part ways for the small group of us walking together. Today, no one seemed to share my need for silence. Everyone chattered excitedly. On one side, Gina was blabbering about some newly released shoes she just had to get; that, to her, was the world. Marc was talking about some cute girl he had met over the weekend.
“Jason, are you even listening to me?” Gina’s shrill voice rang as we sat down. I swear, as of late, every time she spoke, she sounded as if she was shrieking.
I rolled my eyes toward her. “Yeah, you said something about some shoes.”
She nodded and shot right back into the conversation, and I went right back to ignoring her. She was really starting to annoy me with her inability to appreciate my need for meditative silence.
In the stereotypical high school we were once sitting in, they labeled us as the “popular people”. It wasn’t as if we chose it; they bestowed it upon us. I guess it was because we walked differently or spoke differently. I didn’t feel any different from anyone else; we were all similar, but with different circumstances. And as much as I’ve tried to free myself from the label, people kept adding more.
Once, I was labeled a womanizer, that one stuck. I didn’t even talk to many girls. Gina flipped at that one. Apparently, girlfriends hated anything that made them appear “less than”. In fact, I wasn’t even sure why we were together at this point. Maybe because of an unspoken rule that our little sect of “populars” had to date within their enclosed circle—an impenetrable one at that.
I finally broke out of my reverie when I heard them speaking of a new girl, although I tried my best not to frown upon others who co-existed outside of our realm and to resonate that with the others, there was certain disdain in their voices toward her. As if she wasn’t good enough to be at a school that was barely hanging on by a thread.
“Wait, what are you guys talking about again?” I piped up. Everyone stopped talking and turned to me as if I was their leader or something. I gritted my teeth in frustration.
“Well,” a boy, whose name I can’t remember, started, “there’s a new girl here…”
I waited for a moment to see if he would continue, but he didn’t. I sighed and made a subtle attempt to roll my eyes at the absurdity. At this school, if you were sitting by yourself you either had some seriously contagious disease or you were new, I guess. I followed where they pointed and saw her. She looked so thin and fragile and her hair was like a thick curtain around her face. I couldn’t get over the blue-black hue it had.
In an instant, her head snapped up and her eyes met mine. My eyes widened at the startling orange-brown color of her eyes. I forced myself to look away. The people at the table did too, mirroring my moves.
I would’ve been irritated if I wasn’t so baffled. There was something about this girl that made me feel weird, I didn’t dare look over to the table again. If she would be here long enough, she wouldn’t be a pariah long.
“Hey, did you hear about that new movie…?” someone along the line queried, making me relax a little.
I tried to block everything out once more and focused on my clasped hands on the table. A few moments later, I stood, announcing to everyone that I’d be getting something to eat. These people made it seem like that statement would be a defining moment of their days, and I fed right into it. I felt the stares on my back as I walked toward the lunch line.
I wished everyone didn’t make as big of a deal about me as they already did.
My head snapped up at the sound of an unrecognizably soft voice in front of me, speaking to the cashier. If I wasn’t mistaken, the girl ordered water—just water. Something about her delicate voice made me want to protect her. I eased my way beside her, and she looked up. My eyes widened in surprise as the same girl from across the room stood in front of me.
“Uh,” I started, scratching the back of my neck uncertainly, suddenly unsure of what I wanted to say. “Are you sure that’s all you want?”
She continued to look up at me, as if making a mental picture in her head. I waited for her to respond, but she never did. After a moment, she took the receipt from the cashier and moved to the next line. I stood still for a minute, still dazed by what happened.
The cashier took my order and didn’t seem oblivious to my supposed “charm” as the girl was. I hurried to the other line to at least have time to be in the small inaccessible cloud she seemed to occupy. There was something different about her than that of the other girls here.
“Jason.” a girl behind me called.
I tore my gaze away from the back of the girl’s head and toward the female, now batting her mascara-coated eyelashes at me.
“What’re you getting?”
I looked down at the receipt, momentarily forgetting what I had gotten. “Just a sandwich, why?”
She held up her receipt in the air and grinned. “That’s what I got too! Isn’t that great?”
I tried not to roll my eyes at her and instead muttered an unconvincing, “Yeah, that’s awesome.” The mystery girl hadn’t turned to look at me once throughout the exchange. I managed to keep a polite smile on my face as the girl behind me babbled on; I resisted the urge to check my watch. I made it to the front of the line and spoke engagingly with the server to avoid talking to Ms. Blabber.
My eyes, on their own accord, traveled over to where mystery girl was seated. She had the water bottle pressed to her lips, and like before, her eyes met mine. This time, she started choking on the water. I chuckled, a little amused. At least she finally had a reaction.
“What’s so funny?” Gina questioned as I sat down once more.
I shook my head, trying to hide the smile. They exchanged looks between each other as if I was crazy and started speaking once more. The girl didn’t look in my direction for the rest of the lunch hour.
Gina only got to press her lips to my cheek as we departed for lunch, I could tell that she wanted a better kiss, but I didn’t feel up to it. Not that Gina wasn’t pretty; she was gorgeous, in fact, and I’m not just saying that she was because I felt obligated to (In hindsight, I was a little obligated to, but back then I never felt like I was). Her caramel-colored hair, rich brown eyes, shiny teeth, and remarkable petite figure were amazing. Still, there was just something missing.
Chemistry class was one of the less infuriating ones of the day, I actually thought the teacher was interactive, and I could at least pass for the most part. I couldn’t wait to just leave everything outside the classroom door. I made it to the room just in time and the teacher shot me a disapproving glare. I settled into a seat near the window and inhaled the smell of the musty rain. I closed my eyes and tried to relax before class began, that is until I heard Mr. Pierce speaking about a new student.
My eyes popped open, one at a time. The same girl from lunch stood there eyeing the class warily. The grip she had on the bag was so forceful that I raised a brow at how tense she was.
Mr. Pierce rubbed his hands together to signal he was ready. “Would you like to introduce yourself?”
The mystery girl stood there, looking at us all emotionlessly. Someone in the room cleared their throat uncomfortably, and a few snickers flew around the room. That overwhelming urge came again to protect her; but before I could do something embarrassing, Mr. Pierce told her to sit, and he began speaking about some upcoming experiments.
“… for today though, I want you guys to make a switch in lab partners,” he said, and when no one moved, he clapped. “Get to it!”
There was a frenzy of people moving around and scrambling to get an appropriate partner and not a slacker—even the slackers didn’t want to be paired with themselves. When all the chaos died down, I noticed that about five girls were crowded around my seat. I chose not to look for a partner because I knew I’d be trampled with requests, anyway. I was even beginning to sound cocky. I looked up at the girls in bewilderment until I heard Mr. Pierce sigh loudly.
“Everyone, sit down, I’ll pair you myself.”
I let out a sigh of relief and listened to the names being rattled out. When he finally reached my name, I hoped it wasn’t some horribly obsessed girl in the class. Then he called a name I hadn’t recognized—Avery Sanchez.
The girls frowned and turned back around, facing the whiteboard. As I had expected, the girl with the blue-black hair dawdled to where I sat, I tried smiling at her, but she ignored me and pulled a chair closer to where I sat, albeit, still pretty far away. I watched as she pulled out a notebook and began writing in an elegant script. She wrote, without pausing, until Mr. Pierce excused himself to get something from the supply closet.
“I’m Jason,” I said, holding my hand out for her to shake.
I pulled my hand back after a moment and rubbed the back of my neck. Avery didn’t look away from the white-board once. I pulled in a deep breath and tried again.
“How do you like it here?”
She let out an irritated breath, and I sat back in my seat, smiling slightly. Another reaction; can’t say I was doing too badly.
After quite a while, Mr. Pierce returned wearing a smug smile, and I heard someone comment about how he must’ve just snogged the new young librarian. I shook my head at their cheekiness, but I had to agree that she was worth looking at. The class was called to order after the conversation was getting too rowdy. Mr. Pierce pulled the various chemicals from the white plastic box and passed them around the class. Next, the test tubes were passed around and the remaining chatter died down. Apparently, the experiment was a serious one.
We all snapped our goggles on and pulled on our gloves. I turned just in time to see Avery pulling her hair back into a long ponytail. The smooth mocha color of her skin captivated me—it not clashing with her hair; the small knobs in the second piercing of her ear and the dangling hoops in the first ones. Her brows were neatly arrayed, and her lashes were long. She was something to look at.
Despite her not seeming as if she cared about her looks, she looked gorgeous. I mentally slapped myself; I had Gina, and I needed no one else. I tried to ignore her as best as I could and went copying down the instructions onto the loose paper I’d gotten. Avery didn’t seem to need my help, anyway; she already started to mix her chemicals.
I hurriedly crammed the sentences together and poured a sizable amount of unnamed liquid into the test tube. I grabbed the powdered substance and shook some into the test tube without measuring it. I was just hoping to catch up to Avery, who was moving rapidly. I stood back a distance and watched the mixture bubble up. I smiled in smug satisfaction as Avery turned to look at my test tube. My smile fell, however, as she took it up.
“What are you doing?” I whispered loudly.
As soon as I spoke, the contents from the test-tube overflowed on her hand. I was even more surprised as she shrieked and released her hold on the test-tube, making it crash into bits and pieces on the ground. I saw her clutching her hand and almost fighting tears. There was a red blotch on her hand where the contents of the test-tube had touched her. With little thought, I grabbed her hand from where she clutched it to her chest and held it under the faucet in the back.
Before long, a sizable crowd had gathered behind us and Mr. Pierce pushed his way through them. He glanced at Avery and his eyes widened at how the rash looked. “What happened?” he asked, standing a safe distance away.
She turned her attention to me and her eyes blazed. “You were being an arrogant ass,” she said, seething; the soft tone of her voice made the words sink deep in my skin.
A petite girl tapped me on the shoulder and I reluctantly released Avery’s hand. She flipped her hair over her shoulder as soon as I turned around. “You are so brave.”
There was nothing brave about holding someone’s hand under the faucet to stop a potential chemical burn, but I didn’t dare say anything. I just smiled at her. I caught the last part of the conversation Mr. Pierce was having with Avery. He was suggesting that I accompany her to the nurse’s office. I didn’t miss how quick she bristled.
“That’s fine, I can find it myself,” she snapped, her soft voice bouncing off the walls, almost.
Mr. Pierce, thankfully, shook his head at her. “I can’t let you go alone.”
Without waiting for her to respond, I grabbed both our bags, turned to a guy from our little inconsequential group, and asked him to clean up the mess we’d made. I wasn’t even finished with the sentence when a girl from the class quickly offered. I muttered small thanks to her and led Avery out the door.
“I don’t need your help,” she said rather calmly.
“I wasn’t asking to help,” I replied, keeping my gaze directly in front of me. “I’m sorry about your hand though.”
She didn’t respond and was acting as if she hadn’t heard me when, in fact, she was just a few feet away. The nurse’s office stood right beside the school, in a compact building by itself. I guess something about it seemed inviting to students who wanted to get out of school; it was their safe haven. Apparently, the rain didn’t affect Avery. The light drizzle only seemed to make her walk slower.
“Don’t you have some other girls to attend to?” she snapped as we stepped onto the patio of the nurse’s office.
I was surprised, I mean, at first, she was completely shutting me out but now she took joy in snapping at me. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Avery used the hand that wasn’t searing red to hold on to the knob of the door while she narrowed her eyes at me. “God, you’re so cocky. I bet they swoon over your ‘luscious’ hair and ‘gorgeous’ eyes. And you know what, I bet a guy like you has a rock hard stomach.” she said sarcastically, letting go of the knob and feeling my stomach. I cringed inwardly at the disbelief that coursed through her eyes.
For a minute, all the ice was gone, and I saw fear as clear as day imprinted in her eyes. She was afraid of something, of someone. I could’ve read everything going on in her mind through her eyes if the nurse’s door hadn’t been flung open abruptly.
“Jace,” Gina said, with her brows pulling together. “What’re you doing here?”
I gestured to Avery. “Chemistry experiment gone wrong.”
Gina looked over to Avery with innocent eyes. “Wow, that looks bad. I think we’ve got something to soothe the pain.”
Avery glanced at me uncomfortably. “You’re the nurse?”
Gina looked at her in confusion, then burst out laughing.
“No sweetie, I volunteer here.” I watched as Gina pulled her along into the much-needed warmth of the nurse’s office.
The middle-aged nurse took one look at Avery’s hand and began bustling around for some rash cream. Gina took the opportunity she had to walk over to where I was and tip-toe to reach my lips. I was acutely aware of Avery standing a short distance away. Instead of pushing her away, I wrapped my hands around her waist, she was my girlfriend, after all, I had to make her happy. I knew what Gina was doing anyway; she was marking her territory, telling Avery to back off without speaking.
She pulled away from me first and smiled. “I didn’t expect that,” she commented, snaking her hands into my hair.
I looked over her shoulder to see Avery staring at a small cot in the corner angrily. She was right, I was an ass.
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