For Ages
12 to 99

There are more than 10 things to hate about prom, but the worst thing is when your lovable best friend wants to go with someone else. Don't miss this sweet, charming rom-com from the author of Caught in a Bad Fauxmance!

Ivelisse Santos has had Joaquin Romero’s back since their first playdate. Not just next-door neighbors, they’re platonic soulmates.
     At least, that’s what Ive thinks, until Joaquin decides to ask Tessa Hernandez, the same girl who stole Ive’s boyfriend, to prom. Sure, the head cheerleader and the star baseball player going to prom together makes more sense than Joaquin and Ivelisse—leader of tech crew—would. But that doesn’t mean it should actually happen.
     What’s worse, Joaquin wants Ivelisse’s help planning an elaborate promposal. As much as she wants to say no, she'll take all the quality time with Joaquin she can get before graduation. Even if it means watching her best friend fall for somebody else. Somebody who isn’t her.

An Excerpt from10 Things I Hate About Prom

Chapter One

There’s nothing worse than working a double shift on the last day of spring break.

Except turning around to find a guy you barely know holding up a sign that says PROM?

My jaw locked the second the bell over the door chimed. Most weekends I don’t get a moment to breathe. The rush at Casa Y Cocina is constant from brunch all the way through dinner, the hours passing by in a mad flurry of fritura samplers, piña colada mimosas, and crumpled dollar bills. But today was unusually slow. Like, keep-­an-­eye-­out-­for-­tumbleweeds slow. Tío Tony even gave me the green light to head home at two if no one else came in after I finished wiping down my tables. The last time he let me dip early was when I chipped my tooth nose­diving to save a plate before it hit the ground. Nepotism isn’t a word in the Santos family dictionary.

I can feel Tío Tony’s glare on the back of my head as my gentleman caller, Chris Pavlenko, sets the box under his arm on a table so he can get down on one knee.

Chris’s brow quirks, his hot-­pink duct tape sign halfway into the air when he pauses. “You’re Ivelisse, right?”

Wow. A promposal from a guy who isn’t even sure who I am. Shakespeare could never.

The temptation to say no is strong. Chris is usually stoned on days that end in y, and last month he almost drank a beaker of liquid iron because he thought it was green-­apple Gatorade. But even if he doesn’t immediately smell the lie, roll call in chem tomorrow will be a pretty big giveaway.

I take my time replying. Opening my mouth too soon could lead to (a) projectile vomiting, (b) saying something I’ll regret, or (c) saying something I regret while projectile vomiting. So I take a deep breath, decide to use the rational part of my brain, and nod instead.

Chris grins, his eyes half open and tinged pink. “Sweet.”

The smell of weed and stale tortilla chips comes with him as he shifts closer to me, overpowering the usual smell of sautéed onions and cilantro wafting from the kitchen.

“So, you down?” Chris asks as he holds the sign up over his head.

“To go to prom?”

“Yeah,” he says in the same tone one might say, “Duh” or “No shit, I’m holding a sign that says PROM?

My cheeks flush as I choke out a laugh, scratching the back of my neck just to give my hands something to do. It’s not like he walked in here to ask Tío Tony or one of the fry cooks to prom but asking me makes just as little sense. In the four years we’ve known each other, Chris has said maybe ten words to me. Five of which were Did you do the homework? You can’t blame me for being shocked that prom? is the eleventh.

“Ivelisse,” Tío Tony barks, wiping down his knife as he slowly approaches us. “You good?”

“Yep, fine,” I reply to keep the peace. Tío Tony’s heart may be made of marshmallow fluff, but he definitely gets a kick out of leaning into his “bulging muscles and intimidating tattoos” exterior. I wouldn’t put it past him to lift Chris up by the scruff of his neck and toss him onto the street like a rag doll.

“Oh!” Chris exclaims with a grin, as if there isn’t a six-­foot-­five man with a meat cleaver glaring at him. “I brought these.”

He gets up off his knees to grab the box he set aside. My nose wrinkles as he pulls up the lid with a lazy wave of his hand, the hairs along my arms rocketing to attention as a familiar scent wafts over me.

The peanut butter cookies make me recoil like a vampire would at garlic. Any hope I had of getting through this inter­action without throwing up is long gone. I’m not afraid to admit that a box of cookies can strike the fear of God into me—­not when one wrong move could land me in the emergency room with anaphylactic shock.

I jump back as Chris takes a tentative step toward me, nearly tripping over a broom. He frowns, glancing from me to the box. “I guess you don’t like peanut butter?”

At this point, expecting him to remember my nut allergy would’ve been too much to ask.

“I’m allergic.” I take another step back for good measure. “Really allergic.”

“My bad,” he replies as he closes the box. “Anna likes these, so I figured you might like them too.”

All the nerves that calmed within me when Chris put the cookies away come again. “Anna?”

He nods, picking his PROM sign back up and wiping some dirt off the R. “I asked her yesterday.” He wrinkles his nose, picking at a dust clump that’s now stuck to the tape. “But she said no.”

Finally, this bizarro situation starts to make some sense. Chris spends more time sighing over Anna Adebayo’s perfume than he does taking notes. If he spent that time actually listening to her or paying attention to the pins on her backpack instead of trolling “How to Get Girls” subreddits, he’d know she’s a lesbian.

“So . . . you decided to ask me instead?”

Anna and I don’t have many other friends at Cordero High besides each other, which is how we prefer it, but that doesn’t make us interchangeable. I guess proximity makes me his runner-­up.

He shrugs, giving up on the dust clump and flipping the sign around to face me once more. In the new light, I spot the patches where tape has been pulled off. Sticky residue spells out Anna.

“You seem chill.”

At least I have that going for me.

The silence goes from awkward to strained to painful as excuses sit on the tip of my tongue and die when I open my mouth. If Chris wasn’t actively stoned, he might call out my hesitance. Instead, he grabs a cookie for himself, not noticing when I put a safe distance between us. Even a crumb could send me down a dangerous spiral. Though breaking out into hives would be a very effective way of getting myself out of this situation.

Maybe I can sneak off and camp out in the kitchen. Hiding from my problems isn’t the solution I need, but I do my best thinking after a long, cathartic scream into a bag of frozen corn. There’s a reason freezer screams are the backbone of the service industry. Plus, it’ll give me time to think of an excuse or, better yet, an escape plan.

“I actually—­”

“Chris!” another voice cuts in before I can finish.

My heart leaps from the pit of my stomach as my best friend and saving grace, Joaquin, sweeps Chris into the bro-­iest of bro hugs.

“I thought you lived up in Anchor Heights?” Joaquin asks without missing a beat.

“Y-­yeah, I do.” Chris gives Joaquin a bleary once-­over before glancing at the front door, as if to confirm he didn’t materialize out of thin air. “I was just—­”

“Oh, I meant to ask you,” Joaquin interrupts, wrapping an arm around Chris’s shoulders and guiding him toward the door. “I had this issue with my bike last week, and one of the guys mentioned you might know what the deal is.”

Their voices trail off as Joaquin leads them to where his bike is locked up out front, letting the door shut behind him. I collapse onto the chair beside me, heaving a sigh with every bit of breath I have left in me.

“Ivelisse,” Tío Tony calls out yet again, hovering by the entrance to the kitchen. “No more boys allowed unless they’re paying.” As if I had any choice in the matter. His thick gray mustache bristles as he peeks through the front window, jutting his chin toward Joaquin. “Except for El Conejito.”

Over a decade of friendship and Joaquin still can’t shake off the nickname my abuela gave him when we were six. My family watched in awe as Joaquin happily nibbled on his carrot sticks instead of begging for more cake like the other sugar-­high six-­year-­olds at my birthday party.

In our defense, he does have rabbit teeth.

I give Tío Tony a nod and sink back into my chair, massaging my temples in hopes of fighting off the steadily building headache. The smart thing to do would be to haul ass and slip out the rear exit while Chris is distracted, but I never make smart decisions when I’m under extreme duress.

Thankfully, Joaquin was smart enough for the both of us in that moment. My heart has stopped pounding and my headache has subsided to a dull throb by the time he returns, sans Chris Pavlenko, wearing a cocky smirk that tells me I’m never going to live this down.

“So,” he singsongs as he drops into the chair across from me. “Seems like you had fun while I was gone.”

I’m still too mortified to do anything other than groan and let my head fall onto the table with a thump.

“Gotta say, I didn’t see this relationship coming but it makes sense. Y’know, since you two have”—­he pauses to do a drum roll on the table—­“chemistry.”

His corniness is enough to bring me back from the dead. “Shut up,” I snap as I lean across the table to smack his shoulder.

He tries to appear wounded, holding a hand over his heart, but he can’t hold in his giggles. “Don’t fight your feelings anymore, Ive. This could be the beginning of a beautiful romance.”

I roll my eyes as I slump back into my seat. “I’m sure my grandkids would love to hear about how their grandpa only asked me to prom because the girl he asked first said no.”

Joaquin lets out a hiss. “Oof. Okay, never mind, that’s harsh.”

That’s an understatement, and I didn’t even tell him about the peanut butter cookies. As sad as it is, having a close brush with death the first time a guy asked me out since freshman year is a very appropriate metaphor for my love life: dead on arrival.

Using a dishrag to protect myself from any stray crumbs, I take the box Chris left behind to the kitchen and write out a note for the line cooks to help themselves.

“He did say I was chill, though,” I add. Joaquin snorts, immediately trying to cover it up when I turn to glare at him. “What? You don’t think I’m chill?”

He scrunches up his nose in thought, waving his hand from side to side. “On a scale of one to ten, I’d say you’re like a . . . four?”

Great, so I don’t have that going for me.

I go to whack him with the dishrag—­a very chill response—­except he catches the tail end of it before it can hit him. “Jesus, you’re fast,” I mumble as he lets go of the towel with a shit-­eating grin. “Did you get any radioactive spider bites over break? Because you can’t get a tan and superpowers in the same week. That’s just not fair.”