When plunging enrollment forces two rival high schools to merge, two class presidents must work together to make the schools unite. But when a mutual crush emerges, they'll both have to figure out what they want and where their loyalties lie before they become the most hated people at school.
Meg Williams is on the way to making her dreams come true. As the incoming Junior class president for Hirono High School, all she needs are a few more As and an excellent college recommendation letter, then she can leave Huntersville, California, and her ghosts behind.
Or, at least she was on track until the school district decided to combine Hirono with their rival, Davies High School. Now, Meg is wandering the pristine hallways of Davies High, her life plan threatened by Hirono’s queen mean girl, Freya Allenson, and the maddeningly perfect Chris Chaves, Davies High School’s class president.
When it turns out Huntersville’s Golden Boy won't just step down, Meg begrudgingly accepts that they’ll have to work together for the year. Worse still, escalating pranks between the rival classmates and a developing crush threaten to throw Meg even further off course. As homecoming draws near, both Meg and Chris will have to decide where their loyalties lie.
An Excerpt fromThe Homecoming War
“I can’t believe they’re forcing this on us. This was not the plan.”
“Definitely not the plan. Definitely hate it.”
Nadiya and I stood still and squinted up at the freshly christened Huntersville High building. The nervous pit that had been growing in my stomach since the announcement last week that Hirono High was being combined with our rival, Davies High, was expanding by the second. The district had been too cheap to spring for new signage before the school year started and instead opted to hang a vinyl banner in front of what used to be Davies to welcome everyone. Guess the school board wasn’t joking when it said it was strapped for cash.
“We’re going to get so many complaints.” Nadiya stamped her foot, and I would’ve laughed, but this was serious. I’d already heard from no less than half of Hirono’s junior class about how much it sucked to have to change schools. If given the choice, some of my classmates would probably rather have gone to class with the toxic mold at Hirono than show up here.
Worse, I kind of agreed with them. But I was junior class president, the bridge between the administration and the student body, so it wasn’t like I could put Yeah, it blows in an email and send it off.
Instead, I had to be diplomatic, and so far, it wasn’t going great.
“This was supposed to be our year,” said Nadiya, Hirono’s junior class vice president, then started listing off all the supposed-to-happens on her fingers, her electric-blue manicure flashing in the sunlight: “Planning homecoming, student-store policy revisions, updating the dress code . . .” Nadiya’s general energy was always around a sass level seven, but when she was mad, it could crank up to ten. If someone didn’t calm her down soon, she’d be in the school board president’s office threatening to tie herself to the old building until they revised their verdict. “We were going to make all the important decisions that we’d write about on our college applications. Instead, we’ll be dealing with this.”
“I’m sure we can still do some of that.” I tried to sound enthusiastic as the buzz in the parking lot picked up around us. Nadiya and I had arrived early to greet our classmates and try to win over a few of the Davies students to our voting bloc just in case new elections were held for our combined school.
Instead, we wound up with a front row seat to everyone pointing out that the former Davies Kraken was still proudly outside of the school while the Hirono Mustang was in a junk heap next to our now sealed off old building.
“Hi, Meg,” a fellow junior on the debate team called to me from the back of the parking lot.
“Happy first day!” I waved back, mentally cataloging that she and her boyfriend hadn’t arrived together, which may mean that the rumors of their breakup were true. I’d avoid mentioning him to her until I was sure. Wouldn’t want to alienate anyone on the first day.
“Satan’s favorite Barbie at three o’clock,” Nadiya mumbled out of the side of her mouth.
I turned to see Freya Allanson walking directly toward us and tried to stop my lip from curling. As usual, she was perfectly put together, with her slick blond ponytail and her long features just a little too pinched to be pretty. “Of course she’s here early. Probably with a list of grievances, too.”
“Where do we think she got that sunburn she’s calling a tan?”
“Likely in hell, but she’ll probably say Barbados.”
I smiled, waved, and put my sunglasses on so she couldn’t see me looking for a place to hide. I didn’t feel like dealing with Freya’s backhanded compliments or outright jabs about how I won class president only because I was “lucky” or because “diversity is in now.”
The idea that I won because people like me and I’m good at this job never crossed Freya’s mind. Harder still was knowing that she’d managed to pull about 25 percent of the votes, which meant that a good chunk of Hirono’s junior class agreed with her.
I was just about to dig deep and accept the fact that I didn’t know Davies’s layout well enough to hide when someone pounced on my shoulders, sending my pulse racing as my knees locked to keep me from collapsing.
“Got you!” Riley Fischer, our class secretary, shouted, and they bounced around to face me and smiled like they’d won a prize.
“Riley. Are you trying to kill me?”
“Sorry, Meg. Didn’t you hear me calling for you? I’ve been yelling from the front door for, like, five minutes.” Riley’s face faltered slightly as they looked at the two of us.
“Obviously not,” Nadiya said, clutching her chest, then immediately pulling her hand away so she didn’t wrinkle her crisp white tuxedo shirt.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, smiling, and elbowed Nadiya. Riley had been a trickster since we were in the second grade, but they had a heart of gold. Nadiya was really only mad that they scared her and probably forced her to forget whatever she was planning to say to scare Freya off. “How was your summer?”
“Fairly excellent. Spent most of it working at Mayfield. Like my suntan?”
“Mayfield? What tan?” Nadiya asked, looking for even a hint of sun on Riley. “You are still exceedingly pale.”
“Jewish summer camp four hours from here.” Riley shook their dark shaggy hair out of their eyes and smirked like they couldn’t wait for the punch line any longer. “The tan I got from working in the kitchen for three meals and two snacks a day, far, far away from the pool, horseback riding, or anything even remotely fun.”
“So, basically, you wish you’d stayed home and been bored with us?” I asked as the three of us watched the parking lot fill up.
“Pretty much. Nadiya, how was your summer?”
“Let’s see. I spent it being bossed around at my mom’s office and watching Bengali soap operas with my grandma while helping my little cousins with their math workbook. So, pretty exciting.”
“What about—” Riley stopped as Nadiya looked around them toward the parking lot. In fact, it felt like the entire class stopped to watch a red vintage Mercedes convertible pull into the lot, its speakers blaring some old-school music. The wind whipped the driver’s hair around in the impossibly cool way that people’s hair moved in car commercials and not the way it actually got destroyed in convertibles. As the car crept toward the front of the lot, a guy, standing next to the open door of his big truck, shut it, obviously freeing up a spot so the convertible driver could park.
“Clever,” Nadiya mumbled as all three of us realized what had happened. The driver had managed to reserve a good parking space up front without having to show up early or actually do anything to get it.
“Who is that?” Riley asked as the driver shut off his engine and got out to do some kind of complex handshake-hug with the guy who’d saved his space.
“Is that—” Nadiya started, and then stopped as the driver turned to face us.
The first bell rang, and my stomach dropped three inches as students began to file inside. I’d underestimated the Davies junior class president. My social media research had turned up that he was a baseball player who had an awesome sweet sixteen party for his entire class this summer that people were still talking about. (What? Don’t judge me. It’s not my fault some of his friends have open profiles with too much personal info on them.) But I didn’t know about the classic car, which made my vintage-sunglasses collection look mundane. That entrance put me and Nadiya’s smile-and-wave plan to shame.
“That’s him.” I sucked in my breath and tried not to panic. Even with big black Wayfarer sunglasses on and from twenty-five yards away, he was unmistakable. “Let’s go inside.”
“Good thinking. Establish dominance. Make him come to us.” Nadiya tugged Riley’s arm toward the door as if ignoring him had been my plan all along.
“Okay,” Riley said, then grinned. “But then will you tell me who convertible hottie is?”
“Sure, but you aren’t gonna like it,” I said, refusing to glance back at the parking lot. I knew who was there, and the internet hadn’t lied. Chris Chavez was undeniably cooler than us.
And he had excellent taste in sunglasses.
“Oh, come on.” I had wandered down the wrong crimson-and-gold-striped hallway. Again. Sure, I could admit that Davies was bigger, newer, and shinier and had better air-conditioning, but I missed the old, dented hallways of Hirono. Here everything was so sterile that it was impossible to remember which of the five hallways in this wing would take me to the atrium.
Any minute now, the bell was going to ring, and I would be late for Life Skills, just like I was late for Precalculus and American History—another shining first impression for me, courtesy of a school district too cheap to have an orientation for upperclassmen. At least half of Hirono High would be late right along with me.
I turned in a circle, trying to pick which of the hallways I should attempt next, when I spotted Riley, huddled with someone in a corner.
“Hey, do you know where room fourteen-B is?” I asked.
Riley jolted upright. I realized they were talking to Spencer Lam and tried not to wrinkle my nose. Spencer was walking trouble. He thought it was hilarious to torment me in the third grade. The pranks only stopped after I took matters into my own hands: I’m not proud of it, but I snapped and filled his entire desk cubby with wood chips. Then, to be sure he got in trouble, I typed a note to our teacher saying that Spencer had put the chips there so he could throw them at her later. It was diabolical. I never told him what I’d done, but I’m pretty sure he figured it out, because after that, Spencer treated me with a healthy dose of respect bordering on fear.
“Hey, Meg,” Riley said, trying to look less guilty. They had zero poker face. The two of them were up to something.
A crooked grin plastered to his face, Spencer said, “Hey, Prez. How do you like our new school?”
“I’d like it better if I wasn’t lost all the time.” I shrugged, trying to figure out what angle he was working. “And I love that the Davies Promise is plastered everywhere.”