If you’ve been following me at all, you probably know by now that I am a complete Drama Nerd. I have been in dance and theater from the age of 3 and majored in Theatre Arts in college. So, every single thing about Gail Nall’s new book Exit Stage Left makes me giddy with enthusiasm. I want all young adult readers to get a copy and love on it. Today, Nall shares a little school scene excerpt from her novel for the “Back to School” theme. I hope you enjoy it. Oh, and please feel free to leave a comment and scroll on down for links to get your copy when it's released in just a couple days.
In this funny and sweet digital-original novel perfect for fans of Fame, Casey works to find a new passion after her dreams of becoming a Broadway star are ruined.
Casey Fitzgerald has always been an actress. She's known it was her destiny ever since she snagged the role of "apple" in her kindergarten's production of The Food Pyramid. But when she doesn't get the lead in her performing arts high school's production of The Sound of Music, she begins to question everything. Not getting the lead means no recommendations, and no recommendations means she can kiss good-bye any chance of getting a scholarship to the prestigious New York College of Performing Arts.
“Casey Fitzgerald!” Ms. Sharp’s voice booms across the room. “You look lost in dreamland. Are there ponies? Maybe rainbows and unicorns and violins and not paying attention. So, if it isn’t too much trouble, would you please come back to the dismal real world and join your assigned partner for today’s exercise?”
Partner? I glance at Amanda, who’s got her desk pulled up next to Harrison’s. She shakes her head and points to her right . . . at Trevor. Who is looking at me again. Well, as best he can anyway, with that floppy blond hair hanging in his eyes.
“Greaaaat,” I say under my breath.
Harrison rolls his eyes in typical Harrison style. He has no concept of relationships and sort-of-relationships and how they end and why people who were in sort-of-relationships shouldn’t be doing acting class projects together.
“This century, Casey. Time is a-ticking,” Ms. Sharp says in the semi-deadly voice she usually reserves for the last week of rehearsals.
I scoop up my stuff and slide into the empty seat next to Trevor.
“Rainbows and ponies? More like practicing your Tony acceptance speech. I was in the front row, right?” he says with his usual killer smile.
And this is why I can’t be acting class partners with him. Because it’s completely confusing. That smile and those eyes and I want to push his hair out of his face so badly that I have to sit on my hands. I was so sure back in June that we couldn’t be together. So I called it off and spent the summer learning my audition song and memorizing an entire play (it doesn’t matter what Amanda says—it is too entirely normal to memorize every line of the show you’re auditioning for).
“Don’t you wish,” I mutter. Because I don’t trust my mouth to say anything else. Otherwise, I might find myself spending way too much time with him in the props room. Which kind of happened a lot last year. And the year before.
“So I was thinking—”
“What are we supposed to be doing?” I look past him toward Ms. Sharp, as if that’ll answer my question.
“Uh . . . creating character sketches to use for improv next week.” He leans over the notebook on his desk, hair in his eyes. Again.
He looks up and gives me that smile. He could probably score a toothpaste commercial with it. (But it does not affect me—at all.) “For us. You probably have a list of characters for the whole year.”
I smile back. Stupid traitor face. I’m a professional—I should have complete control over my expressions. “Only for the next two months,” I tell him. It would’ve been more, but Harrison and Kelly threatened to hold an intervention for my weekly method acting. I mean, come on, we go to an arts school. I operate on the assumption that the administration expects us to be a little different.
“Don’t tell me you’re quitting,” he says.
I wave a hand. “No way. I just have to rein it in a little until Kelly gets over me outing her crush on Ian Grimes when I was doing fortune-telling last week. And of course that brought up Harrison’s old grudge from my cat week freshman year, because he can’t let anything go.”
Trevor laughs. “That was classic.”
Yeah, it was, but then Harrison wouldn’t talk to me for two days. Apparently I scarred his reputation when he tripped over my “tail” and ended up crashing face-first into the freshman lockers. Anyway, just because my friends get embarrassed doesn’t mean I need to choose another route to dramatic success.
And at least Trevor appreciates it. It’s interesting how well we get along when we aren’t together.
Trevor reaches over and tugs my Save the Whales shirt. “This is cute. Are you some kind of activist this week?”
First, there is nothing even remotely cute about this T-shirt. It’s a size too big and is completely shapeless and came from Goodwill. Second, he’s flirting with me. Third, I’m having a hard time not flirting back.
“Vegetarian,” I say to my notebook. “So, characters. I think I’ll test-drive my Hollywood Diva next week.”
“Test-drive?” He laughs. “Case, you don’t even have a license.”
He called me Case. Which makes him laughing about my real, true, 100 percent genuine fear of driving not quite as bad.
I poke him with my pen. He grabs it and folds his fingers around my hand. Just as I’m wondering if a little distraction isn’t a good thing, Gabby slides up the aisle toward Ms. Sharp. And Trevor’s eyes flick over to her.
I pull my hand back and bite my lip to keep from saying anything. He looked at her for only a split second, but it was long enough to remind me of exactly why we can’t be together. I study his profile as he starts to write something, and try to figure out why it is I keep coming back to him. This is how it’s gone between us since my freshman and his sophomore year, when we were both cast as leads in The Music Man. He looks at me with those eyes and flashes that smile, I flirt, he flirts, we get together for a little while, he starts looking around, we fight, I break it off, he goes out with other girls, I start to regret ending things with him, and then he always comes back.
But not this time. This time, I refuse to go past the regretting-it part. I have too much on the line this year to be distracted by Trevor—the one who is so insanely good at distracting me—and all the drama that comes with us.
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Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail is the author of the middle grade novel BREAKING THE ICE and the co-author of YOU'RE INVITED, both from Aladdin/S&S. Her young adult debut, EXIT STAGE LEFT, will be published by EpicReads Impulse/HarperCollins on September 8, 2015. Forthcoming middle grade novels include YOU'RE INVITED TOO (February 16, 2016) and OUT OF TUNE (Fall 2016), both from Aladdin/S&S. You can find her online at gailnall.com and on Twitter as @gailecn.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.