For Ages
8 to 12

Honest June: The Show Must Go On is a part of the Honest June collection.

June can't tell a lie - and that made for a lot of drama even before she joined her school musical! Tween readers won't want to miss this relatable and magical new series. Honestly.

June has a hard time telling the truth when it isn't what people want to hear. But she's trying to be honest with herself, and auditioning for the school musical is a step in the right direction! It's what she wants -- even if her parents have other ideas. 
 
But the drama is brewing offstage, too, and on the night of the play, June's secret blog is released to the whole school. ALL of the inner secrets that she's been desperate to keep to herself are unleashed! Will her friends and family forgive her for the lies? Or is her carefully-constructed life going to come crashing down?

An Excerpt fromHonest June: The Show Must Go On

CHAPTER ONE

Bikes. Park. Noon? the text message from Lee said.

Lee Noel and I have had some of our best times together on bike rides. We’ve ranked the best movies and music videos of all time. We’ve talked about where we go when we die. We’ve made drive-by scavenger hunts that have taken us through our entire subdivision. So of course when he asked me to go for a bike ride on Saturday, the day when I had no field hockey practice and no major tests to study for, I thought that we could spend hours talking and riding. Then maybe he’d ask me to sit on a bench and he’d sit next to me, nervously, and he’d hand me a flower he’d picked from by the river and say that the flower was just as beautiful as I am. And then he’d confess his true feelings for me and ask that we get married when we’re older and raise our family near our parents and grandparents in Featherstone Creek. Or we’d just ride bikes. Whatever.

Yeah, sure, I answered, eager to hang out with him, but wondered if something was up.

At least I knew one thing for sure: I think Lee is someone special. But no one knows that.

Lee and I had been close friends for years. But lately, I’d felt our relationship was changing. We were getting older, more mature, and it felt like our friendship was also moving in that direction. We were having more in-depth talks about the future, the world. He’d been asking to come to Sunday dinner every week. Yes, my mother’s cooking was good. But was he really just there for the food?

The truth of the matter here was that Lee was my best guy friend who I’d started to see as more than just a friend. But if I told him that, a few things could happen. One, he could confess he feels the same way. Or two--gasp, ugh, ack!--he could say “I like you, but I don’t like you like you.” And then things would be different. He wouldn’t come over for Sunday dinner anymore, he wouldn’t text me funny videos of squirrels twerking, we wouldn’t ride bikes together, and we wouldn’t go to our lake houses together and hang out all day. The potential for option two to happen was enough to make me want to keep my mouth shut.

And I couldn’t just ask him directly if he felt the same way. That would automatically make things weird. I couldn’t say what I was feeling, either. I didn’t exactly understand what I was feeling. I was only eleven years old! I was hardly an expert on relationships yet. Besides that, I had other issues--things that were weighing much more heavily on me than just a potential crush on my best guy friend.

The heaviest thing on my mind is this: I can only tell the truth. About everything. About the weather, my grades, my preference for chicken over steak, and, of course, who I might have a crush on. And this predicament, or superpower, depending on who you ask, is all thanks to one woman. Victoria.

I met Victoria a couple of months ago, at the fun house at the Featherstone Creek Festival. She claimed to be a fairy godmother, and she put a spell on me that makes me tell the truth. I literally cannot lie. When I try to lie, she gives me signals that she’s watching and that I need to be honest with people. Say I’m talking about how I don’t like asparagus, even though I really do. All of a sudden, I’ll get hit with a sneeze attack. It’s like Victoria has sprinkled pepper all over my lunch. The only way to get it to stop is to confess that I really do like asparagus. In other words, tell the truth. In fact, the only way she’ll lift the spell entirely is if I tell the truth entirely. To everyone. No matter what.

I’ve tried to hold back truths that would hurt people, or at least not say them out loud so that other people could hear them and possibly be hurt. I like making people happy. I get joy out of seeing others happy. So instead I write my truths down in a secret blog, to keep people’s feelings from being hurt. Which has worked--whenever I have to confess something embarrassing or something that’s not ideal about myself or anyone else, I write it down before it comes spewing out of my mouth.

In some ways, it’s been a blessing. Since I’ve been telling people my honest opinions out loud to their faces, I’ve been doing fewer things to make other people happy and more things that I want to do. Following my own passions, like writing for the school newspaper. Picking out my own clothes.

In other ways, it’s been a curse. I told my dad that I didn’t necessarily want to be a lawyer like he is, and it didn’t go over too well. Granted, I told him by making a scene at a restaurant, like a baby having a temper tantrum. I really gotta work on my delivery.

With all truths, there are consequences. Some are good--admitting you’re lost and need directions, then getting those directions and finding your way. Or admitting you can’t do something, and having someone teach you how. Some truths cause disagreements. For example, I like pears and someone else doesn’t, and now we have to end up debating which fruit makes for a better snack.

But the hardest consequence to deal with is rejection. Someone saying your hopes and dreams are never happening. Someone saying you can’t do what you want to do. Someone out there trying to prevent you from living that truth.

So with all that uncertainty, all that potential for disaster, what would you do?

In my case, I have to tell the truth, of course. No matter what it costs me.

Unless it’s about Lee. That’s a truth I’m not ready to let out yet.

 

CHAPTER TWO

I put on my favorite sweatpants and hoodie over a white T-shirt and pulled my hair back into a bun. I jammed my feet into my white slip-ons and walked toward the garage to grab my bike. When I opened the garage door, Lee was already in my driveway, pulling up to my house wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. And Timberlands.

“Timbs to go bike riding?”

“We’ll be by the river,” he said. “It could get muddy.”

“Right . . . ,” I said, looking down at my white shoes. “These won’t work, then.” Leave it to Lee to be spontaneous and not tell me the plan ahead of time.

I went back inside to the mudroom to change them out for my older black Nike high-tops. “All right,” I said, walking back toward my bike, feeling even more uneasy about what was in store for me and Lee. What were we going to do by the river? Were things about to get messy? “Let’s head out.”

We rode side by side down our street to the main road that took us toward the park. I let Lee take the lead as I admired the leaves hanging above the road--they’d already begun to change colors, and I found a rainbow of reds and browns along the edges of the sidewalks. I looked at Lee from behind. Did he get, like, two inches taller since last time I saw him?

We hung a right and headed toward the park at the base of the river, where families had gathered to watch the geese dance around the lake and kids took turns on the slide and the swings. The weather was still warm enough on this November Saturday to only need a light jacket, and the snack cart that sold coffee and ice cream was still open, even this late in the season. “The park’s hopping today,” I said. “Remember how many times I’ve fallen on those monkey bars? I almost broke my arm once!”

“Once?” Lee said. “Maybe a few more times than that!”

We pedaled our bikes toward the river path, and then dismounted and started walking them toward the creek. “So, what’s up?” he asked me.

What’s up, he asks. Hah! Well, the truth is, in addition to trying to make my mark as a sixth grader at Featherstone Creek Middle School, including being the next great field hockey all-American and a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist for the school newspaper, I’d been desperately trying to craft an escape from this God-blessed truth-telling curse. It had come this close to ruining my life these past couple of months. But I couldn’t tell him all of this . . . and I couldn’t lie. I’d give him the short version.

“You know, school, field hockey, the usual. What’s up with you?” I responded.

“You know, school, grandparents . . . Mom and Dad sent me another package the other day. Apparently, they’re trying to come back for the holidays.” Lee’s parents were in the military and currently stationed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. While they’d been gone, Lee had lived with his grandparents for the past five years.

“So, uh,” he continued, “what’s up with your girl Nia? You see her lately?”

“No,” I replied. “I just got off punishment, so now that I’m free again, I’ve been trying to focus on school. Not so much time for hanging out.”

“I feel you,” Lee said. “But she’s your best friend, isn’t she?”

“Yeah, it’s just . . .” I was aware that Victoria was watching me. She’s always watching me, fact-checking my every word. If I lied, she would remind me to change my tune--her fairy dust sent me into an unavoidable sneezing fit. I liked to avoid the excessive achoo-ing if possible. “I just . . . I needed to get my ducks in a row for school. Haven’t had the time.”

“Ah, cool,” he said, looking down at the front wheel of his bike. Was he . . . nervous? “So now that you’re free, maybe we should ask her to hang out with us sometime?”

I looked at him, searching for the real meaning behind his request. While we’ve all been friends since we were little, it was sort of understood that Lee was the outdoorsy, dirt-and-grime type of guy, and my bestie Nia Shorter was a fashion-and-beauty-tutorials-on-YouTube type of girl. Lee loved everything about being out in nature--fishing, bugs, mud. Nia did play basketball, and was quite good, so she wasn’t that prissy. Still, Nia would rather be at the mall than at the creek.

“What do you mean, ‘hang out with us’? Like, all together as a group?”

“Like, yeah,” Lee said, a quiver vibrating his voice. “I haven’t hung out with her in a while. We were in class the other day and I was, you know, thinking to myself that we should make more of an effort to, like, hang out all together.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I couldn’t remember the last time Lee went to the mall, and that was Nia’s favorite place to hang out. What were he and Nia going to do there? Sit on Santa’s lap and take photos? Why did he want to spend more time with Nia?

“Did she ever mention wanting to hang out with me?” Lee asked eagerly.

“I can’t remember,” I said. The truth. Especially because at one point Lee seemed to have totally fallen off Nia’s radar--she was asking about Lee’s best friend, Alvin Abramson, instead. But then she stopped asking about Alvin. Was she interested in someone else altogether? Or had she actually been interested in Lee all along?!

“Wait . . . so you want to hang out with Nia?” I repeated, still dumbfounded.

“I’m saying we don’t all kick it, and, like, why not?” Lee defended, shrugging. “You know, she’s cool.”

“Cool?"

“Yeah, June, cool. Don’t you think?”

Cool? I thought to myself. Like cool cool? Like cool and pretty cool? Like “cool, I want to be cool with her, too” cool?? My heart sank in my chest. My mouth felt dry. I felt like . . . well, I needed to be direct here . . .

“Are you saying you like her?” I asked Lee outright. I felt a stabbing pain in my chest as I said it out loud. I didn’t know if it was gas or jealousy but whatever it was, it was uncomfortable.

“I mean, I don’t know if I like her like her yet, but I also don’t know her that well. And I should get to know her better,” he said. “That’s all. And who knows? Maybe then I’ll like her some more.”

Lee had never expressed feelings about another person before in our conversations. I guess I’d thought that because we normally spent so much of our time together, I could be the only person he would have feelings for--he just didn’t have time to spend with other girls, between Creek’s Club and time with his grandparents.

I looked at him. My chest still hurt and my hands suddenly felt sweaty, slipping against the handlebars of my bike. I felt a sense of loss. Like my cat had just died. My imaginary cat, that is. I call him Rufus.

I didn’t know what to do. This feeling in my chest was something I didn’t want to linger for months on end while a possible new relationship between Lee and Nia grew. I had to deflect the situation. Maybe if Lee thought Nia wasn’t interested, he would back off? I pivoted.

“Well, I mean, I just don’t think that she’s ever said anything about you,” I said. Which was kind of true. My nose twitched.

“Yeah?” Lee said. “Again, another reason that we should get to know each other better. Spend some time together.”

It felt like my eyes were sinking deeper into my face. Did Lee seriously want to date Nia? Because all of us were a bit young for that. Right now, anyway. At least that’s what my parents had told me. But my mind jumped to what might happen between Nia and Lee in the future. I pictured them together. Like “boyfriend/girlfriend.” Like kissing. I wanted to unsee it.

I just couldn’t believe that, without even knowing it, my best friend had taken my crush away from me, right out from under my nose. But she had no idea what she’d done. Because she . . . really didn’t do anything. I mean, who knew if Nia even liked him back? Even if they did get together and start dating, maybe she’d end up breaking his heart and then he’d realize his one true love was me after all?

My thoughts were spiraling and I was starting to feel nauseated. I had to play it cool. Not lie, just be . . . neutral. I couldn’t shut the conversation down forever--Lee seemed determined. So I just had to end it for now, and maybe later on I could pretend Lee had never said anything to me about Nia in the first place.

Under the Cover