Title: In Real Life
Author: Jessica Love
Release Date: 1st March, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
In Real Life playlist - listen as you read!
"The story manages to find its heart when it focuses on Hannah and Nick's relationship. The warmth and intimacy of their friendship is convincing, and readers sighing over their long history will root for their relationship." Kirkus Reviews
"My best friend and I have never met.
We talk every day, on the phone or online, and he knows more about me than anyone. Like, deep into my soul. But we've never actually seen each other in real life.
Sometimes, when I'm talking to Nick, I wonder how we managed to get ourselves into such a bizarre, complicated friendship. At first glance, our relationship probably doesn't seem all that odd. Like right now, it's the Friday afternoon that kicks off the spring break of my senior year. I'm lying out next to my pool with my feet dangling in the chilly water, my back flat on concrete, and I'm talking to him on the phone. This is how I spend pretty much every Friday from 3:30 to 4:25-ish, before he goes off to band practice and I have one of my various school or family obligations. Sounds pretty normal.
But the thing is, Nick lives in a different state, 274 miles away. Yes, I looked it up.
"Ghost," he says, because he never calls me Hannah, "you know I will do anything for my best friend, and this is no exception. I'll have this girl killed for you without a second thought. Just give me twenty-four hours."
I laugh as I swish my feet back and forth in the pool. "There's no need to resort to murder. It's just a stupid student government trip. I'll be over it by the end of the week."
As tempting as it is to plot Aditi Singh's violent end, the only reason she applied to go to the national leadership conference when it should have been a given that the senior class president (aka me) was going was because I got into UCLA and she didn't, so a big ol' middle finger to her. But she can't see my middle finger, because she's in Washington, D.C., for spring break and I'm at home with no plans like a big loser.
"Well, if you change your mind," Nick says, "just let me know. That's how much our friendship means to me. The code word is 'Platypus'. Just say it, and - poof! - I'll make her disappear."
I sit up and pull my feet from the pool, crossing them in front of me. "And how can you do that?"
"Hey, I live in Vegas. I have connections to the mob. Everyone here does."
"You're a senior in high school, and you live in a tract home in Henderson. You're not exactly Al Pacino."
"You don't know. Everything I've told you for the past four years could be a front. I need to have a cover. No one suspects the quiet, nondescript white boy."
"You're right. There is a lot I don't know about you. I mean, there are any number of huge secrets you could be keeping from me." I say it just because I'm playing along, but it's not true at all. I'm pretty sure I know everything there is to know about Nick Cooper.
I know when my sister met his brother at a concert four years ago and they told us we should start talking online, he thought I was one of his brother's friends playing a joke on him until I e-mailed him a picture. I know in the middle of junior year, he shaved his head when his favourite English teacher started chemo. I know the gravelly scratch of his voice when he wakes up in the middle of the night to answer one of my random "I'm bored, talk to me" phone calls. I know the hole in the sleeve seam of the lucky Rage Against the Machine t-shirt he inherited from his brother, Alex, since I've seen so many pictures of it. I know his middle name (Anthony), the date and time he was born (September 24 at 3:58 A.M.), and his favorite color (gray). And he knows more about me than absolutely anyone else, even the über-embarrassing stuff. We've IM'd, texted, sent a million pictures, mailed each other packages, video-chatted, and talked on the phone.
We've just never been in the same place at the same time.
I don't think it's strange to be so close to someone I've never met. Yeah, he's in Nevada and I'm in Southern California, but I talk to him more than to people I've been in classes with since kindergarten. I do wish we could go to the movies together or something normal like that, but we watch the same movies at the same time and mock them over video chat, which is pretty much the same thing.
On the other end of the phone, his laugh abruptly and his voice changes. "Secrets? What kind of secrets could I have?"
"Who knows!" I try to sound shocked and serious, but I can't keep a laugh from creeping in. "For all I know, you do have a secret mob life. Do you have some sort of gangster name I'm supposed to call you?"
His voice lightens again when he realizes I'm joking. "Oh yeah. Knuckles Nick. Or, no. Wait. Nick the Click."
"What does that even mean?"
"I know nothing about mob names, Nick the Click. But rhyming names do make mobsters seem a bit less murder-y."
There's a shuffle, a thump, and a squeak on his end of the phone, and I imagine him collapsing backwards onto his twin bed. "I just hate that you're still bummed over missing out on the trip."
"It's not that I'm bummed, it's just...I followed all the rules, Nick. I did exactly what I was supposed to do. Serving four years as class president means I go on that trip, not Aditi Singh. Onetime vice-presidents don't get to go! It's supposed to be my year. She broke the rules, but she got picked. How do you break all the rules and get what you want like that? It isn't fair."
"Well, you know what they say...'Life's not fair?'"
"Well that, too. But I was thinking rules are made to be broken."
CREDIT: In Real Life by Jessica Love; Courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books