If you’ve picked up a book by Aminah Mae Safi, you know that she writes wonderfully diverse and inclusive YA contemporary novels. From Not the Girls You’re Looking For to Tell Me How You Really Feel, her narratives are consistently packed with humor and warmth. Safi’s latest, This Is All Your Fault, takes aim at our bookish hearts with the story of three teen girls on a mission to save their favorite indie bookstore. It’s a little bit Empire Records, a little bit The Breakfast Club and definitely not to be missed.
Here’s the full description from Safi’s publisher:
Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him.
Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.
Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day.
When Rinn, Daniella and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with. And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.
We’re excited to reveal the gorgeous cover, which was designed by Liz Dresner and features art by Carina Lindmeier, followed by an exclusive excerpt of chapter one below!
Feiwel & Friends will release This Is All Your Fault on June 9th, 2020, and you can pre-order it here.
Chapter One: A Variety of Beginnings
8:17 A.M., Wednesday
Daniella pulled up to the parking lot of Wild Nights Bookstore and Emporium with her music as loud as she could possibly take at eight in the morning.
Daniella was not, as a rule, a morning person.
It hadn’t helped that she had gotten a message from Eli the night before while she was out, and, in the aftermath, had gone from sociably drinking to basically annihilated by tequila.
Wild Nights Bookstore and Emporium was closing.
She parked on a street that was three blocks back from the store, because she liked that walk from her car to the door. The distance between her own space and her work life. She didn’t like to park close. She liked to transition, to ease into the role. It didn’t matter to Daniella that the air was sticky with early-morning humidity, she took her time gathering her stuff out of her passenger seat. She drove an old Mustang from the seventies that she’d managed to pick up from a graduating senior girl for a song. She didn’t even need more than liability insurance on the thing because it was made of solid Detroit steel and either she was going to go out in a blaze of glory or she was going to take out whatever car she hit like a tank.
She’d been teaching herself how to fix up the old boy. It had vinyl seats and a big boat wheel. The radio was a dial with buttons that jumped the red notch down the line when she selected one of the preprogrammed buttons. The engine rumbled as she drove, and the whomping mess of a car made her feel like she had a space that was hers and that would always be hers.
Which she needed right now, because she’d just found out one of her favorite ways to get out of the house was closing down and there was nothing that she could do about it. Daniella pulled up the emergency brake and shifted the gear into first before turning off the throaty, muscly engine. Daniella started thinking how she liked her cars the way she liked her boys, but that felt like too obvious a piece of humor this early in the morning, so she buried the joke down deep and didn’t laugh.
Daniella pulled the strap to her tan leather satchel over her shoulder and pulled the bag and herself out of the car. The bag snagged for a moment on the gearbox and then the e-brake, but Daniella kept pulling, kept using momentum to get everything out in one solid swing.
The satchel came to an abrupt stop against Daniella’s hip, but she wasn’t thrown off balance by it. The thwack against her leg was grounding, if anything. She was here, in this body, in this incomprehensible life.
Daniella took a deep breath, trying to keep a wave of nausea at bay. She’d thrown on a pair of cutoff black denim shorts, some Docs, and a worn-in, soft T-shirt that read Visit Crete on it, complete with a cartoon of a minotaur on it. And this wasn’t from a quick road trip through Crete, Illinois. This was from actual international travel. Yia-yia had brought it back for Daniella when she and Mom went back to the motherland for a trip without Daniella or any of her siblings.
These were her favorite, threadbare clothes, and she needed that when she had to deal with a hangover. She opened the front flap of her bag and began digging through, past her notebook—her secret notebook, leather-bound in black—trying to find her keys to the front door of Wild Nights Bookstore and Emporium. She was the only high school employee with her own set. And they were nearly all high school employees. For reasons that were beyond Daniella’s comprehension, the only employee at Wild Nights who was an adult with a master’s degree was the manager, Jo.
Actually, Jo was the only adult, full stop.
Even Rinn Olivera didn’t get a set of keys. At least Daniella would always have that.
Wild Nights Bookstore was still closing though. Daniella took another deep breath because she was not going to throw up and she was not going to cry. She was also not going to tell anyone. She’d promised Eli she wouldn’t.
She was going to handle herself, and she was going to open the damned store.
But her mind was still screaming. Wild Nights was closing, was closing, was closing.
Daniella didn’t know how she was going to make it through the morning without telling anyone. Luckily, she was opening the store, which typically gave her time to think.
Daniella was supposed to get to the store right at eight, even seven, on a morning that she opened so that she could set up the bookstore right. But nobody ever came into the store directly at opening at nine—which, now that Daniella thought about it, really wasn’t a good sign, as far as business went. And, anyway, Daniella was usually the one closing at night, so she often got everything organized then—that way it would take her the least amount of time to open the next morning. She was lucky that she never really had to take opening shift while there was school, but, then again, that also meant most of her day was taken up by school.
Summers were different, though. They always had been. So much more time to fill. So much more creativity required to get out of the house and stay out.
Daniella’s jet-black aviator sunglasses slipped down her nose, and she squinted for a moment due to the pain of the sun against her eyes. The air was that heavy kind of humidity that permeated the entire area as soon as April rolled into May. They were into June now, so when she inhaled, Daniella got a taste of her own car’s vintage exhaust and the kind of fumes that only came out of buses or trucks. Industrial-grade smog. A real Chicagoland smell. Daniella pushed her sunglasses back up, unused to having a hangover, much less a workday one. She swatted at a mosquito she felt prickling at her leg.
Normally, Daniella led a carefully segmented life. Weekdays were filled with school. Evenings filled with work. Saturdays were workdays, too. But Saturday evenings were for going out. Sundays were for recovery, while her mom went to church and Daniella claimed she had too much schoolwork to catch up on.
But Daniella wasn’t doing her homework. Sundays were mostly for Daniella to devote to her own church of sorts—her poetry. Daniella wrote while her mind was still fuzzy and impressionable from the night before. When she didn’t have the energy to censor herself or overthink her words. When she could just write and believe in her words enough to not stop every other word, wondering if she’d gotten it right, wondering if she had done enough. She’d post it throughout the week. Photos of what she’d written on paper. Sometimes she’d doodle. But mostly it was her words scrawled across a page.
The spins overtook Daniella for a moment. She reached out, steadying herself on a nearby parked car. It took two counts for the spinning to stop again. Daniella reached back into her bag and mercifully found the store keys, despite the fact that her sunglasses blocked her ability to see any real depth into her purse. She’d been searching by feel and had grabbed at her notebook more times than she cared to in a public setting. Nobody knew about Daniella’s poetry, and she was planning on keeping it that way.
She hadn’t figured out how to compartmentalize her life for nothing.
Daniella crossed the narrow, flat street, under the speckled shade of the big, circular buckthorn trees. She rounded the corner and made it to the front door of Wild Nights Bookstore and Emporium.
AJ Park was sitting against the curb. AJ was one of those devastatingly handsome artistic boys, with hair that flopped into his eyes and clothes that were perfectly worn in. He looked like the kind of kid who could reveal the mysteries of the universe in his deep, dark eyes.
Daniella preferred boys who held no mysteries and carried no depth. They were the kind of boys who were good for one thing and one thing only. The kind of boys who a girl only needed liability insurance for. Destroy or be destroyed. AJ was too thoughtful to be the kind of boy who drew Daniella’s interest. And AJ seemed to see nothing in Daniella but another one of his three sisters. They could be friends in perfect safety.
But even AJ didn’t know about Daniella’s writing.
Daniella hadn’t meant to become a great secret keeper. But she had learned early that information was not just power—it was safety. So she kept from AJ, too, that Wild Nights Bookstore was about to close.
According to Eli, at least.
Daniella had to assume that she could trust Eli, that he wasn’t exaggerating for effect or lying by omission, but that wasn’t an assumption made lightly or easily by Daniella. Ever.
“What’s up?” AJ stood; he brushed some of the asphalt rubble from the back of his pants.
Daniella shrugged. All she had to do was compartmentalize this one thing. Just one more segmented section of her life. Easy. “The same.”
“You close last night?” asked AJ.
“No, didn’t you hear? Jo trusted Eli to close. Alone. Told me I could have the evening off. I guess she decided to trust him. Or try out trusting him.” Daniella hoped her worry didn’t show on her face. Eli was a hell-raiser, but he was basically harmless. He liked to give Jo shit and then do everything that Jo asked. Or at least, that’s what Daniella had always assumed. She’d hate to give him the benefit of the doubt now, at the end things, when he didn’t deserve it.
A troubled expression crossed AJ’s face. “Shouldn’t he be here, though?”
Daniella shoved the key into the lock, but it was old and it got stuck as she tried to turn it.
While Daniella almost had the door unlocked and she’d almost made it through this conversation with AJ. She just had to hold on to this secret for a little while longer. She just had to finesse the key and—there it was—the tumblers would turn and she could shove the door open.
Daniella breathed a sigh of relief as she walked into the store and the bell that hung on the door jingled. She flipped the sign at the front from CLOSED to OPEN. Everything in Wild Nights was still manually operated. “If he closed last night, I don’t mind him coming in a little late. It’s not only me in here. You made it on time.”
“And if I hadn’t, you’d probably be more mad at me than at him.”
Daniella laughed. “True. But I expect more of you.”
“And why is that?”
“Because you’re much more handsome than he is.” Daniella winked.
AJ laughed. “Thanks, that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”
Daniella was glad he was laughing and distracted. “Like you don’t know you’re gorgeous.”
AJ rolled his eyes, like he really never had thought about it. Like his looks were something beyond his own power and therefore beyond his notice.
Daniella had nearly used that in a poem a thousand times—the beautiful boy who wore his extraordinary looks like an everyday pair of jeans and an old T-shirt—but every time, she had come to the conclusion that the irony was too clean and too simple, and she rejected clean and simple literary devices outright.
She liked old language and old forms. Purple prose, that’s what her English teacher had called it. And she certainly didn’t want to write poetry that could one day be studied in school and picked apart and dissected like a dead frog in a science lab.
Daniella liked purple prose. Mr. Fischer could go choke on his copies of Hemingway.
The bell jangled again, reminding Daniella which plane of reality she needed to be on right now.
“Hey guys—I’m here.” It was Rinn Olivera—a girl who was moderately internet famous, at least in the bookish corner of the universe. She had a mass of curls on her head, but they weren’t the wild kind. These were the kind of curls that had been curly method-ed into perfect, submissive ringlets. They bounced as Rinn walked and added to Rinn’s otherwise insufferable level of perfection. She wore one of those annoyingly pressed tennis skirts and a polo, like that was how actual humans dressed or something. All she needed was a ribbon in her hair and Daniella could have gagged on command.
Rinn was a walking, talking reminder that nobody was perfect, except for people who spent their days filming themselves for online content. Rinn bounced up to them—because it wasn’t enough to be a straight-A student and have an enormous, bookish following on the internet. She had to be all smiles and springing ringlets, too. “Hi, Daniella. Hi, AJ.”
This last part Rinn said a little bit breathlessly, because, as was obvious to everyone in the store and potentially on planet Earth, Rinn had an enormous crush on AJ.
Well, obvious to everyone but AJ.
“Oh, hey, Rinn.” AJ smiled his devastating but standard smile, and Daniella had to watch Rinn melt where she stood.
It was revolting.
Daniella’s stomach lurched. She was so not in the mood to deal with Rinn’s attempts at flirting. Daniella was not, on the whole, into love. And Rinn’s doe-eyed, fairy-tale kind of expression only made Daniella want to shake the girl and tell her that gallant knights were a thing the Victorians made up and to toughen up already because no matter who you loved, they were more likely than not to smash your heart into a million pieces.
But Daniella didn’t know Rinn well enough to tell her this.
And anyway, that morning, Daniella was barely in the mood to deal with anything other than a bottle of Pedialyte and a double dose of Pepto-Bismol. If she told Rinn that love was dead, she might end up telling her the bookstore was closing, too.
Daniella ignored Rinn and dug the Pepto out of her purse and popped a chewable into her mouth. Each spin was getting worse than the last. But she’d made Eli a promise and she was sticking to it, hangover or no hangover. Maybe there was something salvageable in the books that Eli hadn’t seen. Daniella had been tracking Wild Nights’ book sales for the past year. She knew them inside and out.
She couldn’t believe she’d missed something so huge.
“Okay, I’m going to go into the back and deal with some inventory. One of you take the floor, and the other one take the cash register.” But then Daniella realized that Rinn would take the floor just to try to hang around and flirt with AJ as he took the register, so she amended. “Actually, Rinn, could you take the register? You do such a good job.”
There. That would give AJ some space, for the morning at least. He never directly said he hated the cash register, but Daniella could tell that AJ enjoyed having the floor and time to himself in the mornings. Too much customer interaction too early really wore AJ out.
Daniella understood that—she hated most people. Her problem was, she needed them. She gained her own kind of boundless energy from being around other humans, even if they irritated her. There was a kind of poetic irony in being the kind of person who recharged around others but who resented having to recharge around them in the first place.
AJ shrugged and said something that sounded like sure as he walked off, receding into the safety of the unilluminated corners of the store.
Rinn’s face fell for a moment. Daniella wasn’t trying to thwart Rinn’s love story. She just didn’t care enough to help it along, either. Daniella felt a small lump in her throat, which she tried to swallow along with her mildly guilty conscious.
But then—in the road—a terrible screeching sounded. In Daniella’s experience, that could only mean one thing.
Imogen was here.