A smart and funny modern day 13 Going on 30 from New York Times bestselling author Jen Calonita! A tween girl finds out it is like to be 22 when she jumps in time with the help of a mysterious TikTok filter.
Turning 12 1/2 shouldn't be the most exciting birthday in the world. It's a half birthday after all. But Harper is thrilled because she is getting the biggest gift of all: her parent's approval to finally get social media accounts.
Except when she goes to post her first photo, there is a filter she has never heard of before. One that shows you what you will look like when you are older. Curious, Harper clicks on it...but ends up flash forwarding in time to when she is 22.
She will quickly find that being in her twenties means the freedom she always wanted, money for the glow up she didn't know she needed and working for her idol! But Harper soon discovers a lot more has changed than she expected—including the person she wants to be. Will Harper be able to use the filter to get the life of her dreams? Or will there be more glitches?
An Excerpt from12 to 22
“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling twenty-twooooooo!”
It’s a few minutes shy of seven a.m. and I’m belting out Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs.
Don’t worry. I’m not waking anyone in this house. We’ve all been up since five, when my little sister, Reese the Wrecker, climbed out of her crib and turned on the TV in my parents’ room at full volume.
“Twenty-two! Wa-hoo!” I sing louder, and hear a familiar growl come from my bed.
The small lump could easily be mistaken for a pillow. I pull back the covers and stare at the white Cavalier King Charles/Chihuahua puppy who is shooting me daggers with his soulful brown eyes.
“Morning, Milo,” I say, scratching him behind his long, floppy speckled brown ear. That stops his growling for a moment. “Is this too early for you?”
My best friend, Ava, spotted Milo at a shelter when she was volunteering there and knew I’d be obsessed with him. I’ve always loved Chihuahuas and Cavalier spaniels, but knew if I ever got a dog, it would have to be a rescue. There are just so many pets out there waiting for homes!
My parents weren’t thrilled with the idea of letting me adopt Milo with a toddler in the house, but Ava helped me write a lengthy speech to persuade them. She’s really good at speaking her mind, while I have a hard time even telling a server at the diner how I want my eggs cooked.
Ava’s speech worked. I talked about how much I’ve always wanted a dog (fact!), and how responsible I am (I’m an epic big sister), and how I’d do all the dog walking, feeding, playing, etc., and they caved and said I could adopt him as a twelfth-birthday gift last November. Now they love him as much as I do and so does Reese, even if Milo is slightly terrified of her toddler tantrums.
“You know you love Taylor as much as I do, even at the crack of dawn.” I start to sing again, and Milo starts to growl some more. I’m not sure why. Who doesn’t want to hear me sing about how twenty-two is the age when I’ll be happy, free, confused, and lonely all at the same time? Okay, maybe not confused and lonely, but I’ll take the magical, freedom-filled part of being twenty-two in a heartbeat. It sounds incredible and looks it too, in Taylor’s “22” video. In the video, she spends the whole time hanging with friends at the beach and then they go to a huge party. There’s no math tests or homework when you’re twenty-two. Just fun. The good news is at twelve and a half, I’m more than halfway there!
“Sing it with me, Milo!” I tell my puppy, who answers me by stretching, circling the blanket, and then burying his head under one of the pillows.
“Fine, be that way,” I tell him, covering him back up so that he can sleep in total darkness. “Maybe I should have done a Billie Eilish song this morning. That would have fit your foul mood.”
Billie songs are for days when I’m feeling angsty, like last Thursday, when I had to write an essay for English on Call of the Wild. I was so mad about what happens to Buck in the book I wrote an extra page and a half. But today I’m feeling fine, which is why it’s a Taylor kind of morning. I turn back to my desk, where I’ve got my phone on a small stand and a ring light casting the perfect warm glow onto me and the mirror I’m staring into. I adjust the black hat I have on my head, make sure the camera can see my shirt--it says NOT A LOT GOING ON AT THE MOMENT (which is a shirt Taylor wears in the “22” video), yell to Alexa to start playing “22” again, and then press record on my phone.
I hum the music as I apply a thin layer of black mascara on my left eye. I’ve already applied a McIntosh-red lipstick similar to the one Taylor has on in the video, lined my eyes in black liner, and given them a wing tip. To finish the look, I pick up a pair of red heart-shaped sunglasses and put them on as I sing a few more lines; then I end the recording. I stand back, satisfied at the look I see in the mirror--classic Taylor.
“Standout lips, a dot of blush, and some eye-popping black liner,” I tell Milo as I unclip my phone from the holder and watch the video, which I’ll later sync to the actual Taylor song so you can’t hear my bad vocals. (No one wants to hear those.) “I think I’ve nailed it. Maybe tomorrow I’ll tackle the look Taylor has at the end of the video, when she’s wearing the cat headband. I think Reese has one I can borrow.”
Milo growls again.
“Don’t worry. Reese isn’t in here, and neither are any cats,” I promise just as the door to my room bangs open and a toddler comes racing into the room. Looks like I spoke too soon.
“Harper UP!” demands Reese. She’s wearing her favorite tee, with a dog on it that looks like Milo. I gave it to her for her second birthday. A juice stain covers the dog’s ears on the shirt, and there’s already something blue on Reese’s pink pants. Nothing stays clean on this kid for long. Her green eyes lock on my phone, and her whole face lights up. “Harper? I SEE it?”
My phone is Reese’s favorite thing in the world to hold. And drop. She’s cracked the screen on my phone once already, and it hasn’t worked exactly right since. No way I’m handing it over, kid. I quickly hide it behind my back. With my other hand, I push the makeup on my desk out of the way so that my sister can’t get her hands on that either. I’ve still got a huge mascara stain streaked across my white desk from the last time she invaded my room.
“I see IT? PUL-EEZE? I SEE IT?” Her pudgy hands reach out to grab it. Suddenly, she stops and turns toward my bed. “ME-LOW? ME-LOW here?”
Uh-oh. She’s on the hunt for Milo now too. Time for some evasive maneuvers. “Reese? Want to sing Tay Tay?”
My sister hears the magic words and stops babbling. Her voice lowers to a whisper. “Tay Tay?”
“Yes!” I take off my heart-shaped glasses and balance them on her nose. They’re way too big for her face, which looks adorable.
While I always dreamed of having a sibling, I thought we’d be close in age so we could trade war stories about middle school and do each other’s makeup like in Netflix movies, but Reese and I are almost ten years apart. My mom didn’t think she could have children after me, and then, suddenly, nine years later, she had Reese. I adore her. She’s cute--when she isn’t being all Wreck-It Ralph and destroying things--but it’s hard to have much in common with someone whose vocabulary consists of a few dozen words and whose favorite show is about talking dogs. But there is one thing we can both agree on: a love of Taylor.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling twenty-twoooo,” I sing to her.
“Two!” Reese parrots.
“Twenty-two? What happened to twelve?” my dad asks as he appears in the doorway.
Reese sees him and squeals, throwing off the sunglasses and grabbing his legs. “No ME-LOW,” she reports.
Dad ruffles her hair. “He’s hiding, huh? I can’t blame him, or Harper for hanging in her room all morning to make videos.” He gives me a pointed look.
I fix the pillows on my bed. “Hey, I like Paw Patrol and Cheerios as much as the next person, but if I have to get up early, I want to use my six a.m. hour wisely.”
“Taylor today?” Dad points to my look, and I nod. “How’d your new video come out?”
“Good.” I proudly pull my phone out of my back pocket to show him what I just shot. I keep the phone out of Reese’s reach. (“I SEE IT?” she yells.)
“Wow, you look just like her, just with brown hair,” Dad says, watching my clip.
“Don’t I?” I hide my phone from Reese again. “I keep telling you TikTok is for more than dancing-baby videos.”
“Uh-huh,” says Dad, already distracted by Reese and moving out of the room.
Do it now, Harper, a little voice in my head says. Maybe it’s Ava’s since she’s been coaching me to be more assertive. Tell Mom and Dad why you’re old enough to post on social media! I race after Dad.
“You can learn a lot on there about cooking, travel, health tips, and pet care,” I say, but I’m not sure he hears me. Reese is babbling away, the hair dryer is whirring in the next room, and Dad is looking busy. Is now the right time for me to try out the new speech I’ve been practicing with Ava? I think about what I want to say again: I want to create content that teaches people how to re-create the makeup looks they see in videos in less time than it takes to sing the whole song. People post about makeup, but I want to show them how to actually get the look without having to spend a year’s allowance, which is possible when you break down the looks step-by-step and use affordable beauty products.
“What did you say, Harper?” Dad asks, turning to look at me as Reese tries to wriggle out of his arms.
Nope. Now is not the time. “Nothing.” I twirl a strand of brown hair around my finger. I guess I’ll save my TED Talk on “Why Harper Deserves to Post Online” for later.
“If it’s about social media,” Dad says, “you know the deal--you can watch all the videos on TikTok you want, but you can’t post anything online or have followers on any platforms till you’re thirteen.”
I sigh. “I know.” Never mind that Ana and Zach, my two best friends, have had accounts since they were ten. We’ll also just forget that I’m pretty sure I’m the only seventh grader in Havervill, Massachusetts, who can’t post on social media. Mom and Dad have this magic “thirteen” number in their head, and they won’t budge. My parents are forever giving speeches about how toxic social media can be for kids. I’m lucky they even let me have the usual apps (that was eleven-year-old me’s battle). They don’t want me zoning out and staring at videos all day, which I get. “Don’t watch life--go live it,” my mom is always saying. And I know she’s right, but the minute the clock strikes twelve on my birthday in the fall, I’m going to make like Cinderella, start posting, and shout my username to the world. (Harperness13. Like “happiness” plus my age in six months.)
Only Six. More. Months. It’s torture!
“Hey, just think of all the videos you’ll have ready when you finally can post,” Dad says as he swings Reese around and makes her laugh. “I know the world is going to love them. Pretty soon, you’ll have more followers than that Blake girl you like so much.”
A snort escapes my lips. “Blake Riley? Not possible.”
“Why not?” Dad asks, sounding affronted. “You’ve got a good idea here. From what you’ve shown me, all that Blake girl does is talk about lip liner.”
Blake is a beauty influencer on TikTok that I love. Her videos aren’t produced or phony. They’re just her in her room testing new beauty products that she breaks down by steals, values, and total splurges (I can never afford those items on my allowance). She’s only twenty-two and is already one of TikTok’s top earners. A year ago, no one had heard of her. She was a college cheerleader who was cut from the squad junior year. Bummed out that she couldn’t dance and cheer for an audience anymore, she joined TikTok and started making beauty videos and now she’s got over seventy million followers and has over four billion likes. Billion! She dropped out of college when all these major clothing and makeup brands started paying her to be an ambassador. Now she’s living in some high-rise apartment in New York with other TikTok stars creating content, and she’s starting her own affordable beauty line. I’m definitely going to buy everything she makes because she knows what she’s talking about. Blake is so gorgeous it’s depressing. She’s flawless, like her makeup and hair. There’s also talk of her starring in a new Netflix movie and maybe even launching a singing career. All because of TikTok.
Mom sticks her head out of the bathroom. “Honey, Blake Riley does way more than talk about lip liner.” A curling iron is wound around a strand of her black hair, and her tan face is bare except for a swipe of blush on her cheeks. “She was just named the face of beauty for a skin care line and a major beauty company.”
How and why does my mom know these things? Because she works at UMass Lowell College, where she runs the school publicity department and handles their social media accounts. She knows a lot about social media (which is why she’s so leery of me being on it). My dad works at the college as a history professor. They commute to work together and bring Reese to the campus day care.
“And she’s done all that in less than a year online.” Mom shakes her head. “There is no way that girl sleeps.”
“NO sleep!” Reese says, starting to squirm out of Dad’s arms at the thought of being put back in the crib. “No nap now! Nap later!”
“Not you, Ree,” Dad says, kissing her nose and making her squeal.
People say Reese is my mini me--dark hair, freckles spreading across her nose and cheeks--but I don’t see it. Our baby pictures are completely different. She has Mom’s warm, tan complexion and these huge eyes and amazing lashes, while I do not. Plus, I was born with curly hair that has since straightened, while her hair is full of super-tight curls. She also has a bit of a temper, while Dad swears I was the easiest baby on the planet. Reese is anything but easy.
“By the time I’m allowed to post, people won’t even be using TikTok anymore,” I lament. “I wish I were Blake Riley.”
Mom grabs my chin and gives it a shake. “You are amazing just as you are, Harper Lancaster. Twelve and a half looks good on you.”
I just smile. If only I was thirteen . . . or twenty-two. Now, that age would look good on me!