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Authors: Micol Ostow

Crush du Jour

BOOK: Crush du Jour
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Crush du Jour

How NOT to Spend

Your Senior Year


Royally Jacked


Ripped at the Seams


Spin Gontrol




South Beach Sizzle


She’s Got the Beat


30 Guys in 30 Days


Animal Attraction


A Novel Idea


Scary Beautiful


Getting to Third Date


Dancing Queen


Major Grush




Love Undercover


Prom Crashers


Gettin’ Lucky


The Boys Next Door


In the Stars


Available from Simon Pulse

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 2007 by Micol Ostow

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

SIMON PULSE and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Designed by Ann Zeak

The text of this book was set in Garamond 3.

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Simon Pulse edition October 2007

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Control Number 2007928438

ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-5027-1

ISBN-10: 1-4169-5027-3

For my father, who worships Paul Prudhomme


Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Sixteen
About the Author


My mother always tells me not to bite off more than I can chew.

“You run yourself ragged, Laine,” she says. “You've got too much on your plate.”

She’s wrong.

I’ve got an appetite for achievement, fine. That much I’ll give her. But these days, that’s par for the course. I mean, college applications are up by, like, a million percent. It’s a cutthroat competition. It used to be that your GPA or test scores were the most important aspect of your candidacy, but now they’re just the appetizer, or a playful sort of
. You’ve got to bust your butt on extracurricular activities and knock it out of the park with your interview
and essay questions. And if you happen to score well on an advanced placement exam or two? Well, that’s merely the icing on the cake.

If I sound like a girl obsessed, there’s a reason. My parents split when I was little, and when it comes to tuition, it’s really just Mom and me footing the bill. And while my mother’s got a great job as the chief restaurant critic for the
Philadelphia Tribune
, we’re not exactly millionaires. I need to qualify for financial aid if I’m going to go somewhere other than Penn State.

Talk about type A, right? A junior in high school, and my cups—and my transcripts—already runneth over. Between AP courses, SAT prep, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs, I don’t have a lot of free time. But, you know, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

I can stand the heat. Trust me, my life sometimes feels like one major pressure cooker.

My mom would love it if I spent this summer at the pool club with my best friend, Anna, who’s working as an au pair for a Cabana Club couple, flirting with boys, and lazing in a lounge chair. That’s
what I did the last three summers, despite being highly allergic to sun. Anna and I had a good time—no, make that a
time—but times have changed.

But maybe I was having a little too much fun. When it comes to boys, I guess I have sort of a love-’em-and-leave-’em reputation. I can’t help it: I see a cute guy and I immediately go all mushy. It’s a disease. But now that we’re revving up for senior year, it’s time to get serious. I’m way too busy to let a guy distract me. No matter how yummy he is. I mean, I do date, but it’s never anything serious. I reserve my seriousness for college planning and all things related. Crushes are just a tasty little candy bowl to dip into when I’m running low on spice in my life. Or, if my life is a giant sugar cookie, then crushes are the rainbow sprinkles on top. If life is like a pizza, then crushes are the pepperoni topping. If life is … a cheeseburger, then crushes are a side of fries.

You get the point. I may like my french fries (and I do), but they’re never going to take the place of a solid main course.

I know some girls think I have my priorities mixed up. And I’ve been called a
tease by some of the boys I’ve dated, boys who wanted to be more than a side dish in the menu of my life. But college isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky fantasy, and as I’m constantly reminding Anna, too many cooks spoil the broth.

My life, my broth. Boys will have to be back-burnered.

For now.


You’re probably wondering why I pepper my vocabulary with so many cooking puns.
Ha!) Or maybe you’re curious as to why I’m named Laine. The answer to both of those questions is sort of the same.

Laine Harper. That’s me. My mother—clearly hallucinating on the aftereffects of some major drugs—named me after her favorite restaurant in New York City, the one that inspired her to worship food enough to want to write about it, extolling its many tasty virtues.

That’s right—I’m named after Elaine’s, the scary Upper East Side outpost that caters to the Manhattan literati.

I don’t care how fancy the place is—I’m
named after a
. Don’t try to tell me that’s not weird. I have no idea how she got my father to go along with this lunacy.

I suppose it could have been worse. I could have been called Emeril.

Whatever. The point is, Mom was off critiquing haute Philadelphia eateries and Dad was just, well, off. I was all alone. Had been for quite some time.

Being on her own, a girl develops some hobbies. Early on, while Mom was playing Iron Chef judge, I was left with little to rely on beyond my own grilled-cheese-making skills. Around age eleven, I dragged out my childhood Easy-Bake Oven and experimented with my own creations, like Easy-Bake quiche and Easy-Bake biscuits. Some projects were more successful than others, but an artist knows that mastery of the craft requires a willingness to take risks.

These days, I was well beyond cooking with a twenty-watt lightbulb. I wasn’t exactly Emeril, but I knew my way around the kitchen. If I hadn’t taught myself the basics, I probably would have starved to death ages ago. The fancy cookies that Mom brings home from some of her restaurants
never enough to keep a growing girl coasting through the late stages of puberty.

That simply wouldn’t do.

Obviously, cooking was two parts survival tactic, one part yet another garnish on my college applications. I’d even figured out a way to turn something that most people saw as a carefree hobby or just a chore into yet another fascinating Thing About Me that would distinguish me from the hordes of other qualified students madly rushing forward with their own collegiate agendas.

While Anna and our other friends squeezed in tanning sessions around diaper duty at the Cabana Club, I was going to be leading a cooking workshop for preteens at the local community center.

Or so I hoped; I still had to actually audition for the gig. But, I mean, come on. It was a done deal. This job was right up my alley. I’d been babysitting for neighbors’ kids for the past few years, so I had plenty of experience with kids. And, while I admit that my style in the kitchen can best be described as … whimsical, I would think whimsy would be a quality that my supervisor—and my students—would appreciate. Any
monkey can follow a recipe. But being able to improvise in the kitchen? To think on your feet?
takes some serious skill.

Bravery, too. A heaping spoonful of bravery. And maybe a dash of foolhardiness as well. Then blended together slowly, left to simmer over a low flame, and eventually served at room temperature.

Bon appétit!

The good thing about Anna being at the pool all day was that, as much as I missed our gossip sessions, she wasn’t around to distract me. I needed to focus and practice in the kitchen if I was going to wow the people at the rec center enough to get the job. Mom’s name carried a certain amount of weight, but it wasn’t, like, a given that the position was mine. To be honest, I was really into my practice sessions, and I quickly fell into a comfortable routine of disregarding trivialities like brushing my hair or even changing into actual clothing as I floated through the kitchen well into the early summer evenings.

“Tell me you just changed into your pajamas, and haven’t been wearing them all day,” my mother said one night when
she was unexpectedly blessed to be home by ten.

I couldn’t lie to her. I still hadn’t even brushed my teeth that day, but somehow, I wasn’t embarrassed.

BOOK: Crush du Jour
3.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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