Four stepsiblings from two opposite sides of the world are sharing a summer together in one strange city: Los Angeles.
NYC fashionista girl Annabel is determined to hate LA, where her dad and his family have relocated. But just when Annabel thinks her summer is beyond ruined, she gets a surprise from Down Under . . . and let's just say he's a good kisser.
Lucy misses her home country, Australia, but thinks LA isn't so bad after all. If she could only get her stepsister Annabel on board to loving LA too and get that weird Wheaties boy to stop staring at her!
Wheaties, boy-genius, doesn't mind where he's spending the summer, so long as lovable Lucy is nearby. He's trying not to worry about how his dad and stepmother's marriage problems will affect his living situation. And he'd really like to know the secret of that Ben dude's swoony appeal to the girls.
Ben, the Aussie athlete god, would rather be spending his school break playing footy with his mates back in Melbourne. He'd also really rather not have his dad's loud girlfriend sharing their American vacation. And he'd definitely like to know how he got interested in the pretty Annabel girl all over again.
Told from the alternating points of view of Annabel, Lucy, Wheaties, and Ben, Two Steps Forward is funny and genuine and shows how love can create all kinds of families.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Rachel Cohn is the bestselling author of You Know Where to Find Me, Gingerbread, Shrimp, Cupcake, Pop Princess, and, with David Levithan, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares as well as the tween novels The Steps and Two Steps Forward. Born in Washington, DC, she graduated from Barnard College in New York and has lived on both coasts. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her at RachelCohn.com.
Read an Excerpt
Two Steps Forward
By Rachel Cohn
Simon & Schuster Children's PublishingCopyright © 2006 Rachel Cohn
All right reserved.
Bubbe says I should try to take five deep breaths before I snap at my mom. Bubbe would know. She had years of practice raising my mother and learning how impossible Angelina could be.
"Annabel, you're sulking again," Angelina said. My mother was actually trying to put on lipstick while the baby squirmed in her lap and the plane bumped through turbulence.
One . . . two . . . three . . .
"Am NOT!" I snapped, even though I was. I grabbed my baby half sister from Angelina's lap and kissed the baby's soft, warm head. Pretty soon Ariel's little head is going to look like a prune from all the times I use it to shut my mouth when it wants to lash out at our mother.
Better to sulk than all out fight, I suppose. My mom and I hardly ever used to fight but now "GO AWAY!" and "How dare you speak to me in that tone?" are like the foundation of half our conversations. She says it's because of my teenage hormones, which it's NOT. She is the problem, not me. She starts the fights with me, just like she starts them with Harvey, my stepdad. Angelina has so many fights with him that now we're on our way from New York to Los Angeles to spend the summer away from him, to give Harvey and Angelina "space," as she says. Like they've tried so hard on "together" before needing "space." They've been married barely a year.
Angelina reached for the floor and lifted my purse -- a sweet little Prada knockoff from Canal Street, ten dollars after bargaining the guy down from fifteen, thank you very much. She unzipped the purse and was about to put her hand inside it, right in front of me!
"Don't touch my bag!" I snapped, again. I grabbed my purse and placed the baby back on Angelina's lap to keep my mother's hands busy and off my stuff. I mean, I can't believe she did that right in front of me. Does she not know a fourteen-year-old girl's purse/backpack/EVERYTHING is sacred space, completely off-limits to the mother species?
Angelina shook her head. Her shiny honey-colored tresses, the pride of so many shampoo commercials, fell perfectly into line along her shoulders. "Oh, teen moody girl, so sorry. I just wanted a compact mirror to put on my lipstick. Relax. It's not like I was looking for your diary or anything."
"I don't keep a diary!" God, how uncool does she think I am, anyway? Diaries: how common.
Angelina pointed out the window, like she could distract me from my rising fury. "Look, the Rocky Mountains. Won't be long till Los Angeles now, Annabel baby."
La-la land. So-la-what! I wanted Sydney, Australia. That's where I was supposed to be spending my summer.
When I stared at the seat ahead of me instead of looking out the window, Angelina said, "I don't get the sullen face. Your father and I went to extraordinary effort so you could have a summer with him and his family. I thought Lucy had been upgraded from unwanted stepsister to your best friend. Last summer you couldn't wait to be on the plane to spend summer vacation with her."
Last summer Lucy and my other family lived in Sydney.
Last summer was winter in Sydney, but in that upside-down world, my other family -- my other life -- worked great, with no need for a location change. Sydney was where Jack, my dad, had that elusive thing called a "stable marriage" with Lucy's mom, Penny, who I didn't like at first on account of her kidnapping my dad across the world and all, but now I like her fine. She is totally in love with my dad and I have to respect Penny's good taste. I just would have liked visiting Penny and all The Steps that came along with her better in her native country, Australia, in my adopted other-home city.
I miss you already, Sydney! That city has cast some kind of spell on me. It's like New York is my first love, but I will totally cheat on it for Sydney. It has to be the most beautiful city I've ever been to. New York is obviously the most exciting and important city ever, but it's all skyscrapers and pulsing energy and grunge, where Sydney is light and lush, with beaches and vistas, great weather and -- weirdness -- friendly people. And hello, shopping! New York has the fashion mecca of "the four Bs" as I call them -- Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf, Barneys, and Bendel -- but since I'm on a highly unfair and measly allowance, I'm lucky to afford a fake designer bag on Canal Street. I bet there is no good place to shop in LA that does not involve skinny socialites or teen starlets whose fashion trends I most certainly will not be following anytime soon.
Why did the parental units have to ruin everything by deciding to move the base of family operations to Los Angeles? At New Year's, Jack and The Steps moved to LA for Jack's career -- he's a talent manager who represents some successful, and apparently getting much more successful, Australian comedians -- and to be closer to me. Then Angelina decided we should spend the summer in LA because she might have acting opportunities there, and also, Wheaties, Harvey's son, goes to LA in the summers to stay with his real mom. My mom adores her stepson; she just didn't want his father, her husband, as part of the LA package.
The only thing to look forward to about getting to LA would be the quality of the airport greeting from Lucy. The louder and more embarrassing, the better. My stepsister and I like to one-up each other with airport greetings in front of swarms of people, preferably using loud, inappropriate drinking songs we learned from the Internet.
Last summer when I arrived in Sydney, Lucy was waiting for me outside customs, but what I saw first was the sign attached to her feet, which were about shoulder level to my dad, standing next to her: HEY ANNABEL, WE'RE RIGHT HERE! Lucy's head was close to the floor, her mouth grinning at me from the bottom of her handstand.
Lucy is like the upside-down, Australian-sister representation of me. She even wears the same size, so we can share clothes. Two wardrobes are always better than one, even if my clothes taste is more advanced than hers, although . . . grr . . . some tees look more advanced on her than me as Lucy's got more "boozies," as our toddler sister Beatrice has learned to say. That's what Australian people do for some reason, cut off words and end them in "ie," which is how "bosom" becomes "boozies" (at least in The Steps' Aussie vocab) or "kindergarten" becomes "kindie," or whatev-ie.
But what I lack in the boozies department, I more than make up for in fashion sense, and since Lucy has no vision when it comes to putting outfits together and accessorizing, I am there to fill that gap for her. We balance each other out somehow, like she's the other half of me. I would just like my half of the boozies, please. Anytime now, God, anytime.
I was trying to figure out how Lucy would be waiting for me at the airport this time around -- would there be a costume, some form of glittery signage, or maybe a live band like I got for her when she came to visit me in NYC? -- but Angelina forgot about my sulk and dove into chatter mode, probably from the two coffees she'd consumed since takeoff from JFK. My mom is just one talkathon person; she cannot respect a good trance that's trying to tune her out. That's why she always gets cast in commercials for communications equipment like cell phones and long-distance services, because she is incapable of just being quiet. "I've got two auditions already lined up in LA! Ever since the Fresh4U commercials started airing, my agent's been getting a ton of calls. Maybe LA will be my big break, baby! Maybe I'll break free from commercials already and land a pilot or a feature! I've always thought if I could just spend more time in LA, I could get the work I want." She squeezed my hand and I decided to be nice and squeeze back, just a little. Angelina's so pretty and, much as it pains me to admit, she is basically a very nice mom when she's not being nosy. It's hard not to occasionally fall under her spell, even when I am monster annoyed with her.
The Fresh4U commercials. Oh, yes, the reason why I can't show my face at my new school next fall, ever. I'm starting ninth grade at a posh girls school in Manhattan where Angelina also went to high school. It's like a rich-mean-girls school, but only for smart ones. The school was definitely not my first choice, but with Angelina and Harvey having so many problems the last year, I didn't want Angelina worrying about my high school choice, too. It was easier to agree to go to her alma mater, where we knew I would get in, than to put us all through the application process for a bigger range of schools. But as if the having to wear a uniform, the NO BOYS factor, and the not knowing anyone at this notorious den of snobby girls doesn't make me dread the approach of September enough, lucky Annabel also gets to start her new school as the legacy daughter of the new spokeswoman for a new brand of feminine products called Fresh4U. YAY, wave cheer!
Feel your freshest self. The commercials air every minute on every channel in the universe. I hear my mother's voice saying that in my sleep now. What does that mean, anyway, Feel your freshest self? I don't even want to think about it. My big fashion statement next year at my new high school will probably be the paper bag I'll be wearing over my head. Maybe I'll slap a Gucci logo on the paper bag so all the snob-girls at my school will think I'm leading some new, designer-label fashion trend. PAPER BAG, by Annabel Schubert, for Gucci.
Maybe LA isn't such a bad idea, after all. Maybe I can apply for asylum and live permanently with my dad and The Steps. Jack and Penny hardly ever fight -- in fact, when they're not dealing with kids kids kids, they're usually making out, which is soooo gross, but also sort of sweet. And it could be cool to live with Lucy and go to school with her, and to be around to watch baby Beatrice grow up. If I was there in person, I could mold Beatrice's fashion tastes from a young age, and she could become like my perfect-style protege. I've tried with Lucy, and it just is not going to happen. If I lived with them, my other stepbro, Angus, and I could make our shared fave mac and cheese dinner together every night, because we are the vegetarians in the family. Angus would keep me honest, because he is much more serious about it than me. I mean, I love animals -- who doesn't? -- but I also love chicken cacciatore, even if I try not to eat it. Angus loves fish more than anything and knows more facts about creatures that live in water than probably the whole marine biology department at Sydney University does. Don't ever order a Filet-O'You-Know-What if you're at Mickey Ds with Angus or you will see one major screaming fit. Which I totally respect.
But there's also something funky about staying with Jack and The Steps. Like it's all fun, but it's a vacation. It's real life, but not really, because in real life, I have a mom who makes rules, I have my own bedroom, and I have my own life with my own friends back in Manhattan. I always know that no matter how much fun I have with The Steps, I will be leaving again.
I know that Angelina is scared that I could possibly one day ask to live with the other family permanently, because every time I returned from visiting them in Australia she would sing me this terrible rap she made up: "Sydney and Dad/are not so bad/but remember/there's no better place to be/than in NYC/with me me me!" She must have sensed that I was fantasizing about living with them as I stared out the plane window to LA, trying to ignore her, because suddenly Angelina sang out, "Ben!" dropping the word she knows can sidetrack me from mad to glad in an instant. And I admit, for a moment, I fell for it; I stopped thinking about stupid LA and feel your freshest self because I was sighing and picturing Lucy's former stepbro and the crush of my life, Ben, and let's pause for a moment of silence at the mention of his name and breathe in, out, Ben Ben Ben like yoga people go om om om.
Even though hearing his name could instantly conjure an image in my head of his tight footy god calves and his beautiful face of green eyes and rumpled mess of brown hair, I was not going to let Angelina manipulate me into a happy mood so easily. I met Ben my first time in Australia, a year and a half ago; he was my first kiss and all, but it's not like we've kept up our little romance after all this time and across so much distance between New York, where I live, and Melbourne, where he lives. (Lucky Melbourne!) And if Angelina knew anything about true love instead of about ruining love relationships, her specialty, she would know not to tease me about him.
So I asked Angelina, "Aren't you worried that we've abandoned Wheaties?" because I think she should feel very guilty about separating us from Harvey's son, even if Wheaties is a dork. But he's our dork.
Wheaties and I went to the same school until the end of this last term. We're the reason our parents even met. He has a real name -- Alan, or Al -- but everyone at school called him Wheaties because he's a scrawny, brainy boy who's got to be the last person you'd ever see pictured on the cereal box draped in sports medals. Our class was big into irony during seventh and eighth grades. Wheaties kind of grows on you, though. I almost wish he could come to that all-girls school with me in the fall.
Angelina snapped back, "You know perfectly well that Al's arriving in LA not long after we are so he can spend the summer with his mother and that, of course, we will be seeing a lot of him! And I don't appreciate your tone, Annabel. LA is going to be great, with or without your attitude problem." She put on the movie headphones so now she could ignore me. She is so deluded.
Seriously -- what could LA offer that could beat Sydney? Other than the hope that somehow during a summer away from New York and Harvey, Angelina's Fresh4U commercials might stop airing before I start high school in the fall?
I did appreciate that Angelina's LA plans meant I will be close to Jack and especially to Lucy, but at the same time, the whole idea of spending a summer in LA, away from Harvey and with no idea what, or who, we will be going back to, filled me with dread. Bubbe says being filled with dread is part of my family heritage from her side, along with knowing not to wear stockings with open-toed sandals or blue jeans to the ballet at Lincoln Center.
When our plane landed at LAX, all I could think was: Lucy, please have a great airport scene planned to cheer me up and take away this dread. I knew my girl Luce would come through for me. But as Angelina and I emerged from the arrival area with the baby in a stroller and a ton of luggage, we were greeted by . . . NOBODY! I asked Angelina, "Where are they?" thinking maybe Angus would suddenly sprout from hiding beneath a potted plant or Lucy would round the corner wearing a white balloon outfit and aiming a paintball shooter. Angelina said, like it was nothing, "Oh, didn't I tell you? Penny offered to pick us up, but I'm renting a car from the airport so I told them not to bother." Thanks for consulting me first, Mom, thanks a lot.
Breathe breathe breathe Ben Ben Ben oh love of my life; who cares about Sydney or even LA? I wish I was spending the summer in AUSTRALIA with YOU, where it's winter and I could wear great sweaters and snuggle close to you like in a Ralph Lauren ad and not think at all about this stupid summer my mom has planned, all because her marriage is a disaster.
From the rental-car window, LA looked like an alien universe. The baby must have known our new city was all wrong, because she started screaming in the car as we drove through the traffic-mobbed, palm-treed streets, with what felt like a layer of brown smog covering our car. YUCK.
I hate LA.
Copyright ©2006 by Rachel Cohn
Excerpted from Two Steps Forward by Rachel Cohn Copyright © 2006 by Rachel Cohn. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really expected this book to be better, after all Rachel Cohn, one of my favorite authors wrote it. Maybe its the fact that all the characters are young, like going into high school. But still this book I wasn't crazy about.
Noticed how both gingerbread and the steps are absolutely tiny, but their sequals are like twice as long? I thought that might be a *good* thing because you know how it is with good books, where you don't want it to end? Not the case here. Too much extra info, felt as if I was wasting time (not all the time, but there were some long discriptions that really needed to be editied out). Hope the next time she makes sequals they could be more CONCISE. However, the book wasn't that bad. Time consuming, but not terrible.
i loved this book. i think it's cool that annabel is an american with aussie stepsibs. it's also cool how the kids are like all related in some way. it's neat. i can relate to lucy cuz my own sister's a fashionista like annabel. this was a great book. anyone 10up should read it.