The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions)


By Amy Spalding

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Filled with romance, rivalry, and passive-aggressive dog walking, Amy Spalding delivers a hilariously relatable story about how even the best-laid plans sometimes need to be rewritten.

What’s the only thing that could derail overachiever Jules’s perfect senior year? Alex Powell–former member of boy-band sensation Chaos 4 All and newest transfer to Eagle Vista Academy.

Alex seems cool enough when he starts spending time with Jules. In fact, he turns out to be quite the romantic (not to mention a killer kisser). And after getting over the initial shock that someone like Alex might actually like like her, Jules accepts that having a boyfriend could be a nice addition to her packed schedule. That is, until Alex commits the ultimate betrayal, which threatens to ruin her high school career, and possibly her entire future.

This. Means. War.


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Every day I C U in the hall

C U drinking coffee @ the mall

Every day I fall and fall

More in <3 with U

But each time I C U passing by

I get tongue-tied cuz I'm way 2 shy

Ur so special and I don't know Y

I just can't say 2 U

Want 2 B Ur Boy

Want 2 C U smile

Want 2 hold Ur hand

And hang out 4 a while

Want 2 B the 1

Ur 2 good 2 B true

Hope U want me 2 B Ur boy 2

—Chaos 4 All, "Want 2 B Ur Boy"


Even though it's only the second day of my senior year, the routine's familiar. When a new student starts at Eagle Vista Academy, one of us gives them a quick tour and at least the illusion of a friendly face in the crowd. The school is expensive, so I think the Reception Committee is an attempt to make new kids tell their parents they were warmly welcomed. Parents therefore immediately feel like they got their money's worth.

I joined the Reception Committee when I was a freshman, so I've done this more times than I can count. I'm notified a day in advance to be at the guidance office before first period begins, and when I show up, I get the new student's schedule.

But this morning is not like any of the other mornings.

To be fair, it wasn't to begin with. We have our first meeting of the Crest after school, and Mr. Wheeler will announce who's been selected as newspaper editor in chief. If it's not me… well, I can't think about that outcome right now. Needless to say, I'm in no shape to be the best possible liaison a new student deserves.

Much less this new student.

Though maybe it isn't him. There must be other Alex Powells besides the Alex Powell.

Ms. Guillory, the guidance administrator, clears her throat. I look over to her and realize I may have been zoning out for more than a split second.

"Of course we pride ourselves on all students enjoying an excellent but typical high school experience here," she says. "But with some students, it's important we pay special attention to that."

I know then that it is the Alex Powell.

"I'll be back on time," I promise her as I dash out of the office. Luckily my best friend, Sadie, is at her locker when I run up.

"You look panicked," she says.

"Look at this." I hold up my liaison packet right in her face. "Look at it, Sadie. Don't read it out loud, but look at it."

"Oh my god," she says. The packet's still in her face, so she's a little muffled. "Alex Powell."

"I said not to read it out loud."

"Jules, you should know I can't follow a command like that. Wait, so do we know if it's the Alex Powell?"

"Stop saying his name," I whisper. "And, yes. I think so, at least. I don't have one hundred percent confirmation yet."

"Can you imagine?" Sadie checks her reflection in her locker mirror and fluffs her violet hair. "One day you're one-fifth of the biggest boy band in the country, and then—how many years later? Two?"

"Two," I say. Two years ago, it felt as if you couldn't go anywhere without hearing "Want 2 B Ur Boy." Two years ago, everyone knew Chaos 4 All. Two years ago, Alex Powell was famous.

"Jules, this is a big responsibility," Sadie says. "You are welcoming a teen idol to our school."

"He's not a teen idol anymore," I say. There'd been at least a couple of songs after "Want 2 B Ur Boy," but they hadn't been so universally beloved. And then it was like Chaos 4 All had never even existed.

"Mom says once you're famous, you're changed," Sadie says. "For good."

Sadie's parents are actors, so her mom would know.

"I have to go," I say. "I can't be late to welcome him. I should never be late to welcome someone on their first day, but—"

"But especially not Alex Powell," she says. "Go."

I rush back to the guidance office, where I appear to have beaten Alex Powell. I've been trying to picture him, but in my head he's still fifteen with perfectly floppy hair straight out of a photo shoot.

"Welcome back, Miss McAllister-Morgan," Ms. Guillory says with a sigh, and I think I'm supposed to realize I shouldn't have dashed off, even briefly. It probably wasn't the most professional move, but today shouldn't call for standard operating procedures.

All right, of course today should. That's why standard operating procedures exist.

"And good morning, Mr. Powell," Ms. Guillory says, looking past me.

I turn my head very slowly in a calculated swivel.

Alex Powell, the Alex Powell, is standing right inside the swinging doors.

"Good morning," he says with a little grin.

Great. Just great. He's still cute. He's not floppy-hair-straight-out-of-a-photo-shoot cute, but real-life cute instead.

And real-life cute is so much better.

"You're in good hands," Ms. Guillory tells him with a little gesture to me. "Good luck on your first day."

She takes a seat and looks to her computer, and normally this is when I jump in seamlessly. But I'm still marveling that he's here.

"Hey," he says to me, and I try to reconcile the famous fifteen-year-old with the person standing in front of me, who seems now like he'd want to be someone's man, not their boy.

Oh my god, why am I thinking stuff like this like I know him? Seeing someone on TV and the Internet doesn't equal knowing him. We're strangers.

He's tall—I'm bad with guessing heights, but I think over six feet—and he's filled out. His dark hair used to be styled very precisely. Now it's grown out just a little, and a wavy chunk falls over his forehead in a way that makes me want to lean over and brush it back.

Oh my god, Jules, no! Do not think of touching Alex, his hair, or his forehead. You're a professional. Professionals keep their hands to themselves, even inside their brains.

"Miss McAllister-Morgan," says Ms. Guillory, and now I wonder if I was just standing there gaping at Alex Powell.

When you live in LA, people being famous isn't the biggest deal. There are Sadie's parents, of course, and a few kids show up only toward the end of the year when their TV shows aren't shooting, and Nick Weber was on a Disney show as the annoying little brother back in grade school. But the TV kids only talk to me if they're talking to Sadie, and I've barely spoken to Nick at all.

And yet now I have to speak to Alex. I have to speak to Alex with authority. Because I'm on the Eagle Vista Academy Reception Committee. I'm the vice president of the Eagle Vista Academy Reception Committee.

"Hi, I'm Jules McAllister-Morgan. I'm your Eagle Vista Academy Reception Committee liaison. What's your name?"

Obviously the question is not one I need to ask.

"Alex," he says with a broad smile that takes over his entire face. "Alex Powell. Thanks."

I take that in like new information.

"Nice to meet you, Alex." I pause to beam my practiced welcome smile. I've learned from mainlining America's Next Top Model marathons with my friends that the giveaway of a fake smile is not involving your eyes, so I make sure mine crinkle up a little.

In general—not just with my expression—I think it's incredibly important to project the right image. Since today I was on liaison duty and I'm awaiting the newspaper editor announcement, I made sure to wear one of my more professional outfits. My structured gray top goes perfectly with the subtle floral pattern on my A-line skirt, and because my black flats are brand-new, there's not even the hint of a scuff on them yet. My blond hair is pulled back into a low ponytail, not only to keep it out of my face but also to give the impression I don't care about frivolous things like my hair.

"I'll take you around so you'll know where your classes are," I continue. "It can be a little confusing with a few in different buildings."

"Okay, cool," he says, even though nothing having to do with the Eagle Vista Academy Reception Committee could realistically be taken as cool. "Here's my schedule."

He starts to hand it over, but I hold up my copy. "Part of the job."

"You're very prepared," he says in a voice that almost sounds like flirtation. So I remind myself of who I'm dealing with here. This is Alex Powell. Alex Powell probably has developed flirtation superpowers. Maybe Alex Powell was born with flirtation superpowers.

The voice has nothing to do with me.

"So you've got calculus first hour—that's in Maywood Hall, the main academic building, through the courtyard. Most of your classes are in there; let me show you."

He falls into step beside me as we walk out of the tiny administrative building and into the open courtyard. People make fun of the cliché of Los Angeles weather, but if you lived anywhere else, you'd have to feel jealous at least sometimes, wouldn't you? The sky is clear, and the sun shines down in golden rays, and it's as if the whole city wants to welcome Alex.

I do not blame the city.

"What year are you?" he asks.

"I'm a senior too. So Maywood Hall is the middle building; you just have to make a right and follow that path." I take a couple of steps ahead of him while pointing it out. "We can go in, but we have to stay pretty quiet."

"I can manage that," he says.

I hold open one heavy front door for him. He kind of brushes against me as he walks in, and while it's not the most boy contact I've ever had, it's close. It feels like a lot out of nowhere. Maybe it's why I forget to keep moving, and that's definitely why the hem of my skirt gets sucked in as the door swings shut.

"No!" I shout, even though it's too late.

Alex cocks one of his eyebrows. The move pulls his whole face into a smile. "What about staying quiet?"

I try to pull away from the door, but the door is stronger, and I can feel the waistband doing its best to pull down away from my waist. And I definitely do not want Alex Powell to see my underwear at all, but especially not today because tonight is Laundry Night. That means I am wearing my least favorite pair, which are pink-and-black leopard print, like my butt is a 1980s rock star. I only own them because Mom still holds out hope I'm secretly as cool as she is.

I think both Mom and I know the truth by now: I am not.

"Don't move." Alex swoops back in and throws open the door. My skirt does get displaced, but I'm almost positive I fix it in time to keep him from seeing even the tiniest sliver of hot pink and black.


"You didn't warn me how dangerous it is here," Alex says.

"There's actually nearly a zero percent crime rate on school grounds," I say.

"I was kidding," he says with a smile.

I check that his eyes are crinkled to see if it's a real smile, and they are, so it is. I can't believe Alex Powell is smiling at me. Technically, I guess Alex Powell is smiling at my dorkiness in the face of my Great Skirt Emergency, but it's still a smile of his directed at me.

"Sorry, I know, I mean, I should have known." I hear my voice and how I just sound like Regular Jules now, not at all like Eagle Vista Academy Reception Committee Vice President Jules. Time to reset. "There's a stairwell at each end of the main corridor. For some reason, freshmen clog up the right one, so I'd suggest using the left one when you can. Let's head back out so I can show you the other main academic building."

"Be careful this time," he says as I open the door. "This building clearly wants to feed on your clothes."

"Ha-ha," I say. Ha-ha? I meant to actually laugh!

"Hey, Jules? That's your name, right? It's Jules?"

"It's Jules, yes."

"Anyway." Alex stops walking for a moment and shrugs. Because he's so tall, I have to look up to watch the shrugging. "You can go ahead and say it if you want."

"Say what?" I ask, even though of course I know what he means. How would I even do that, if I deemed it polite? Hey, didn't you used to be famous? Hey, do u still want 2 B anyone's boy?

He exhales audibly. "I—never mind."

"Changing schools must be hard," I say, even though Ms. Guillory says we should never emphasize the bad parts of switching schools, only the fun ones, and even though I'm nearly positive that isn't what Alex means.

"I've done it a few times," he says. "It's not that big a deal. It's still the first week, only Tuesday. Could be worse."

"You're brave," I say without thinking. It earns me another real smile, though.

"Thanks for the tour," he says, "Jules."

Really and truly, I know this isn't actual flirting. But also really and truly, I like it anyway.

I show him Fair Park Building and the Mount Royal Building for the Arts, then walk him into the cafeteria. I explain where the various lines—entrées, salad bar, grill, smoothies—are, and then I circle him back to the administrative wing and explain how he can go to his advisor for anything he needs. This is always the last step of the tour—and usually by now I'm feeling that twinge of I should get to class so I don't miss anything else—but right now I wish the tour had several more attractions.

"So I hope that you've gotten an idea of how the school's laid out, and where to find anything you need," I say with my practiced smile. "And, again, you can always contact your advisor or any Eagle Vista Academy Reception Committee liaison."

"Like you," he says.

"Like me," I say, dismissing the warmth or whatever tone his voice sounds washed in. "I'm vice president, so I'm always available to help."

"That's a big responsibility," he says. The tone is still there. "If the president dies, you've got to step up."

I already barely know how flirting works unless I'm observing others, but then throw Alex Powell into the mix? I literally just stand there, again, staring at him.

I do decide, however, that it's marginally better than saying ha-ha again.

"Thanks for the tour," he tells me.

"Part of the job," I say, again, and even though I think I'm just going to inwardly cringe, I outwardly cringe a little too. Get it together, Jules! "Good luck."


The spot next to Sadie in women's history is, of course, open for me, and I slip as quietly into the room as I can manage. I don't know why I bother, because I'm still getting out my textbook and notebook when she throws her pen at me.

"Was it him?" she whispers, if you can call it that. Sadie's volume only seems to turn down so far.

I nod and keep my attention on my desk, even though I can't wait to share everything with her.

"What was he like?"

"Miss Sheraton-Hayes." Ms. Cannon doesn't even bother to hide a sigh. "If you'd like to talk to Miss McAllister-Morgan, might I suggest after class or at lunch?"

"Great ideas," Sadie says, somehow not sounding sarcastic even though no one else could pull off that feat. "Sorry, Ms. Cannon."

I wait until we're in the hallway after class to broach the subject. "He was actually—"

"Hang on." Sadie's attention is completely on her phone. "Everyone's texting. Did you get a picture of him?"

"A picture?"

"With your phone?"

"I couldn't take a picture of"—I stop myself and drop my voice to a whisper, a real whisper, not a Sadie-style one—"Alex Powell with my phone."

"Jules!" She swats me on the arm. "What good is it having my best friend on the Reception Committee if it doesn't benefit me in any way?"

"It's really not supposed to benefit you in any way," I say.

"He's in Em's calculus class," Sadie says. "Imagine being in calculus, doing calculus stuff, with Alex Powell."

I check my phone as well, even though that's against Eagle Vista Academy rules. There's nothing about today that doesn't feel like an exception. "Em just texted. She says that no one is making a big deal out of him being here. Maybe people don't really remember."

"It was only two years ago," Sadie says. "Wait! Why am I checking in with Em? I haven't even debriefed you yet!"

"I have to get to class," I say. "I haven't even been to my locker yet."

"This is totally worth being late for," Sadie says, but I fear tardy slips far more than Sadie does, so we split up for now. Em's in my Latin class, which is my next class, and she raises her eyebrows at me as I sit down.

"You heard, I assume," she says. "Or you checked your texts for once."

"Yes and yes," I say. "I was his liaison this morning."

"He seems normal," she says.

"Completely. He was really nice."

"And hot," she says. "Very hot."

"I didn't notice," I say for some reason, and Em's eyebrows find new heights. "No, I noticed. Obviously I noticed. I don't know why I said I didn't."

"Because you're a professional, and you take your liaison duties very seriously."

I'm pretty sure Em's being sarcastic, but it's true that I do.

"Jules, will you ever forgive us?" Sadie deposits a cupcake on top of my notebook before sitting down next to me at our lunch table. "In the Alex excitement, you were totally forgotten."

"Nah, Jules is never forgotten," Sadie's boyfriend, Justin, says.

"They're choosing newspaper editor today," Sadie says. "You're not worried, are you? You're obviously getting it."

"I'm not obviously getting it," I say as Em and her boyfriend, Thatcher, sit down. "Natalie could get it."

"Pffffff, Natalie." Sadie waves this absolutely true possibility off with a flick of her wrist. "Wheeler would be insane to pick her."

"He wouldn't be," I say, because we are as evenly matched as two competitors can be. We both have perfect GPAs, we've both been on the honor roll throughout high school, and we both have a solid mix of extracurriculars. "But thank you for the cupcake."

"Is there just one cupcake?" Thatcher asks with hope in his eyes.

There is, but I split it with him mainly because I don't want to make him sad but also because maybe karma will reward my generosity with the editor position. I'm not entirely sure if that's how karma works, but I'm willing to sacrifice half a cupcake to find out.

We used to share a bigger table with a bigger group of girls, but then people started getting boyfriends, and friends of boyfriends started joining in. So instead of being clustered together at one of the long tables, the huge group split up among the smaller round tables on the other side of the cafeteria. Now it's just Sadie and her boyfriend, Em and her boyfriend, and me. I've decided it's for the best that boys can't be my focus right now, because this smaller table comfortably seats five. A boy wouldn't just be crammed into my way-too-busy life; he'd have to be crammed into the seating arrangement as well.

"Hey, Jules?"

I look up to see that Alex Powell is standing near our table. Very near. Other tables have noticed too. It feels as if more than half the cafeteria is looking our way. But I think it feels that way because, literally, more than half the cafeteria is looking our way.

"Hi," I say in perfect liaison tone. "Do you need any help navigating the cafeteria?"

"No," he says, and smiles. Actually, he's already smiling, but he smiles more. Alex's smile possibilities seem vast and unending. "I navigated it pretty well. Cool if I…"

He nods at the table, and of course on one hand it's obvious what he's suggesting. But on the other, I cannot believe this is what he is suggesting, so I don't say anything.

"Sit down," Sadie tells him. "Justin, get him a chair."

"You don't have to sit with me because I'm your liaison," I say. "There aren't any liaison rules about lunches or anything. There are barely any liaison rules at all."

"Jules, stop saying liaison," Em says.

Justin returns with a chair that he somehow makes fit around the table. Alex drops his tray on the table and sits down next to me as if it's something he does every day.

"The nachos were a good choice," Em says with a nod to his lunch tray. Alex wouldn't have any idea that to someone not in our little circle, that was a lot for Em to say and he should feel special.

"That's a relief." Alex grins, and I can feel how it's very much in my direction. I wish he would use his special powers elsewhere. Obviously in no real world is Alex Powell flirting with Jules McAllister-Morgan, but it's so easy to forget that for whole seconds at a time. Plus I have no real experience to go by, unless you count Pete Jablowski, who kissed me two summers ago at gifted camp and then ran away.

(I actually do count that.)

"Where did you move from?" Sadie asks. "Was it somewhere colder?"

"Ann Arbor, Michigan, most recently," he says. "So, yes."

"Why did you move?" she asks.

"My dad's job," he says. "It happens a lot."

"Oh, I'm Sadie," she says. "This is Justin, Thatcher, Em, and of course you know Jules."

I know to Alex it must look like I'm part of—well, not a popular crowd, but at least a cool one. Everyone could fill their own square in some sort of person bingo. Em's in all black in the way that's not gothy but artsy and intimidating, Thatcher's glasses are orange, so everyone knows he's really comfortable with himself, Justin—who looks like the skater that he is—has a tattoo on his right bicep because his older sister is a tattoo artist, and Sadie generally exudes cool but also specifically has very violet hair as well as a tiny hoop through her nose.

It's fate that this is my crowd and that these are my friends. Sadie's parents and my parents are best friends, and have been since before we were born. We were destined to be best friends, which is why our lunch table most certainly looks like A Lot of Cool People, plus me, wearing J.Crew.

I don't think it's ever too early to put forward a professional appearance.

Sadie's questions seem to have ended for at least the moment, which is good because I trust Sadie's good intentions but not necessarily her ability to refrain from asking about obvious topics of interests. So I'm a little relieved that Alex has a chance to eat his nachos, and also that he's not forced to confront his past as a singing and dancing dreamboat.

He looks over at me right as I think the word dreamboat, and I have a split second of thinking he has magical mystical mind-reading powers. "So what are the liaison rules?"

I'm nearly as sure that he's teasing me as that he doesn't have any psychic abilities, but I'm not positive. I force myself just to smile and not inform him of the required liaison bullet-point items and time limits. How does anyone deal with boys full-time? I'm exhausted trying just to be normal.

Talk turns to the usual subjects as people finish eating, and I stay quiet for an assortment of reasons, like Alex's presence, like that Sadie generally carries enough conversation for all of us, like my memorized multi-item list of why I'm the best choice for newspaper editor.

After the warning bell rings, Alex walks side by side with me out of the cafeteria. "I just have to take a left to get back to Maywood Hall, yeah?"

"Correct," I say, accidentally in my perfect Eagle Vista Academy Reception Committee Vice President Jules voice. Even for me, I've been a severe dork in front of Alex at this point. "I'm going that way too, actually."

I now vaguely remember from glancing at his schedule this morning that we have Topics in Economics together, and I think American literature too at the end of the day. Obviously I didn't memorize his schedule on purpose; it's just hard not remembering when you have the same classes. If I were a question-asker like Sadie, I'd get to the bottom of why Alex is hanging around with me, but I'm keeping it all locked inside. Plus he's new, and I'm an expert on the school, so it's likely incredibly obvious.

And, anyway, by the time he selects a desk near Sadie and me in American lit, the last class of the day, my brain in overdrive mode has shifted from figuring him out to my Why Jules Should Be Newspaper Editor checklist.

"Are you nervous?" Sadie asks me. I know she means to whisper, so I'm okay that other people probably hear her. "He'd be crazy not to pick you."

I glance over at Mr. Wheeler, who takes roll call every day by "studying the classroom," which means we always get at least five minutes to talk while he squints around the room figuring out attendance. "We'll see. And, yeah. I'm nervous."

She leans over and tousles my hair. We're almost exactly the same age—I'm only a month older than Sadie—but I never mind when she takes care of me. "Text me as soon as you know. We can celebrate or mourn accordingly tonight."

"I'm not sure I can," I say. "Mom and I are making meatballs, so that'll take a long time, and I have a lot of homework."

"Try," Sadie says because she seems to have stumbled upon time-bending abilities I've never been able to manage myself. If I have meatballs and cellular and molecular biology to worry about, I have no idea how socializing can also be slotted in. "Also save me some meatballs."

"That much I can promise!"

"What's up?" Alex asks. "Being nervous, I mean. Not the meatballs."

"They're announcing newspaper editor after school today," I say, just loudly enough for Alex and Sadie to hear me. "And it's a really big deal to me."

"She'll obviously get it," Sadie says. "Jules is a very organized genius, if you haven't noticed."

"She's already a VP," Alex says. "Editor too? Is that allowed in the constitution?"

After the last bell rings, I file out with the rest of the class, even though Mr. Wheeler's classroom doubles as the newspaper office. I like putting away my books and getting out my special red notebook and folder that I only use for this.


  • Praise for The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions):

    "The sparks that fly between Jules and Alex, the ex-boy band star and newest addition to the senior class, are hot enough to make them a couple worth rooting for..."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "Characters and plot are painted in broad, bright strokes; Spalding has a quick, easy sense of humor..."—Publishers Weekly

  • "Spalding excels at creating flawed characters whose own issues and mistakes propel the plot forward...this book will appeal to those who want a gentle high school drama with a touch of romance."—School Library Journal

  • "The internal conflict between her drive to succeed and her attraction to Alex make Jules the most dynamic character...Jules's first-person narration pulls the reader into her thoughts and feelings, and her dialogue creates a sense of immediacy."—VOYA

  • "One of the funniest YA novels I've read...You'll love every minute of it."—BookRiot

  • "This is easily one of the funniest YA novels you'll read all year - maybe ever."—Paste

  • "Jules' hilarious dilemmas will appeal to every girl who's ever been thrown off her game by a crush (so, every girl). Amy Spalding writes endearing characters who stumble and soar in the most entertaining ways."—Melissa Walker, author of Unbreak My Heart

On Sale
Apr 5, 2016
Page Count
320 pages

Amy Spalding

About the Author

Amy Spalding is the author of several novels, including the bestselling We Used to Be Friends and The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles), which was named a best book of 2018 by NPR, the Boston Globe, Kirkus, and more.

Amy grew up in St. Louis and now lives in Los Angeles. She has a B.A. in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Webster University and an M.A. in Media Studies from The New School. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

Learn more about this author