Formats and Prices
- Trade Paperback $13.99 $18.99 CAD
- ebook $7.99 $9.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 15, 2011. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
The Clique . . . the only thing harder than getting in is saying goodbye.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Pretenders
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author's intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at email@example.com. Thank you for your support of the author's rights.
A LETTER FROM LISI
It is November 29, 2010. I am staring at my computer screen, faced with one of the biggest challenges of my writing career—and believe me, there have been many. But this one feels more insurmountable than all of them combined, times ten. Because my editor just asked who I would like to dedicate this final Clique book to. And I seriously can't decide.
My parents for teaching me to love and nurture my inner freak? Yes. My brother and sister for the lifetime of laughter? Yes. My husband for keeping me calm when I am spinning like Johnny Weir without the skates? Yes! The little creatures in my house who kiss me every morning before I go off to work? Mmwah! My ah-mazing editors for their brilliant guidance, contributions, and schedule-juggling? Yes! Yes! Yes! The publicity and marketing teams who remind you that I exist? Absolutely. My publisher and producer for backing me? Indeed. The team at Warner Premiere for turning the Clique into a movie? Certainly. The cast and crew who brought it to life? Uh-huh. My kick-butt agent for being so much more than a kick-butt agent? Given. My attorney and his team for making me feel like family instead of a client? Yup! My friends at MTV for the most inspiring and hilarious years of my life? Of course. Brilliant novelists who fill me with awe? Sure. My BFFs, who have watched me, year after year, vanish into the "cone of silence" while I work on another book; who have heard me say, "This is the last time I will fall of the face of the earth, I promise"—only to watch me disappear again? Definitely. Spell-check for making it seem like I was listening in English class instead of daydreaming? Yesiree. The teachers, librarians, booksellers, bloggers, magazines, newspapers, and critics who have supported this series? You betcha. The parents and grandparents who have bought my books and encouraged their kids to read? One hundred percent. The chai tea latte–makers, gum-sellers, food delivery guys, sushi chefs, musicians, scented-candle manufacturers, and Internet inventors who have made it possible for me to stay in my office chair for nine hours a day? Roger that.
Clearly, hundreds are final-dedication contenders. But only one can be worthy. So what does that mean? Is it a sign? Is the universe telling me it's not time to end the Clique? Should I keep writing about the Pretty Committee until I have managed to thank everyone who needs to be thanked? I'll admit, I've considered it. But once again, as sad as it is, I have to stand by my decision and leave while the party is still going.
I know you are disappointed. I have read your letters (thousands) and the comments on my Blah-g (thousands and thousands). But it's time.
In 2002, when I began the Clique, pop culture was different. Materialism was trendy. The more designer initials on a handbag the better. "Who are you wearing?" was more important than what you were wearing. Green stood for money, not the environment. It was a time of excess, and everyone was proud to wear their wealth on their silk sleeves. Friends were upgraded like cell phones and girls seemed more loyal to a lip-gloss brand than their besties.
When I started writing The Clique, I wanted to show you how despicable bullying, snobbery, and elitism are by creating a character—Massie Block—who worked tirelessly, and often heartlessly, to maintain her alpha status. My goal was to show you that the so-called perfect girl is far from perfect. And that, more times than not, she's more insecure than the no-so-perfect girls—Claire Lyons and Layne Abeley. You got it wayyyy before the grownups did. I knew you would.
Now, eight years later, things are very different. The economy has tanked. Snatching up a killer pair of boots from Target or H&M has become a bigger source of pride than a $5,000 handbag. National security is the new insecurity. And I pray that the fatal reports of bullying (cyber and live) have forced you all to take an honest look at how you treat others.
I don't feel as compelled to shine a light on shallow behavior as I did in 2002, simply because there is less of it. Is it gone? Sadly, no. But it's not as ubiquitous as it used to be. I also think Massie and the Pretty Committee have learned a lot about themselves and the true meaning of friendship. Are they perfect? Puh-lease. Who is? But they are more grounded than they were when the series began. So am I. Are you?
As long as I write, I will always fill my books with goofiness. That's one thing that will never change. Because that's who I am. And I can't thank you enough for accepting me; for coming back month after month; for joining the biggest Clique in the world; for being final-book dedication worthy.
And so, A Tale of Two Pretties is for _________. My loyal, brilliant, always improving, wonderfully imperfect reader. You were, are, and always will be the wind beneath my freak flag. Until we meet again…
I ah-dore you!
Insert your name in BIG, BOLD letters.
CAM FISHER'S DRIVEWAY
Friday, December 24th
The frigid night air smelled like fireplaces, pine, and anticipation.
"Just one more second," Cam called from inside his garage.
Claire stomped her candy cane–inspired red-and-white Keds against the asphalt driveway to stay warm. But her chattering teeth had nothing to do with the winter weather and everything to do with excitement.
"And keep your eyes closed!"
She shut them so hard her lids shar-pei'ed, showing Cam that he was a go-the-extra-mile kind of guy and (if she was being Christmas Eve honest) because she was a wee bit nervous. He'd given her gifts before: gummies, burned CDs, framed photos… but never anything that required closed eyes and a garage.
Suddenly, the door lifted with a creaky groan. "Okay. Open!"
Either Rudolph's nose had hanged itself or Cam had replaced the regular garage light with a red bulb. At first the dim glow made it hard to see, but once her eyes adjusted, Claire giggled nervously. "What is this?"
"What does it look like?" Cam asked from behind a microphone, an electric guitar strapped across his green henley. He looked like Justin Bieber minus the cotton swab hairdo.
Harris, his older brother, sat at a rickety drum set behind him, while Massie's ex, Derrington, stood off to the left, with a bass. But the biggest shock was Layne Abeley, who wore a plaid fedora, a long black blazer, black baggy slacks, a white skinny tie, and a saxophone.
"Introducing Garage Band," Cam said.
Claire applauded. The musicians bowed.
"FYI," Layne said into her microphone, "I'm not only the backup vocalist, I'm also the wind section."
"Ha!" Derrington smiled. "She said wind section. Prrrrrrerpt."
Harris laughed at the fart impression.
"Ready?" Cam called. "Introducing, Gummy Claire." Garage Band lifted their instruments. "Five, six, seven, eight."
Harris began drumming a four count, Derrington plucked his bass, and Layne clamped down on the reed mouthpiece and blew. They sounded a like a rock version of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Cam leaned toward the mic and Claire's insides squinched. What if he was bad? What if he was good? What if she blushed? Was she supposed to dance? Sway? Clap? Cry? Throw her bra onstage? Because she didn't have a bra, just a tank top, and she wasn't about to take it off and—
Her crush began to sing.
This Christmas I know for sure,
I've got a fever and you're the cure.
This isn't Florida, it's the cold W-C,
But I'll keep you warm my little gummy…
Was this really happening? Claire felt so awkward and special at the same time she didn't know where to look. Cam's blue eye? His green one? Or Layne's wind-filled cheeks? She dug deep into the pocket of her blue puffy coat and pulled out a sour reindeer, the limited-edition seasonal special at Sweetsations Candy Shoppe.
Gummy, Gummy, Gummy Claire,
Everything sucks when you're not there,
You inspired me to write this ditty,
And even won over the Pretty Committee…
Cam said he wanted to exchange Christmas gifts, but she hadn't expected this Jo Bros–like serenade. A jolt of affection—or was it the limited-edition sugar rush?—made Claire's crush levels soar higher than a reindeer in a rocket.
I stand before you with my guitar,
Cause I'm not old enough to drive a car,
When I am, ride shotgun with me,
Off into a sunset of sweet candy.
Gummy, Gummy, Gummy Claire,
Everything sucks when you're not there.
The song ended with a soulful wail from Layne, and the Garage Band bowed.
Claire let go of the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, and then broke into wild applause. Forget the Gondola Wheel at Rye Playland: The Fisher garage, with its shelves stocked with tools, bike helmets, and old video games, its cracked cement floor, oil stain patches, and single red bulb, was officially the most romantic place on Earth.
"Merry Christmas," Cam said sheepishly.
"Merry Christmas." She smiled, wishing everyone would stop staring, wondering what she should do next. Because she had zero-minus-a-thousand ideas. "That was awesome, you guys," was all she could manage under such extreme pressure.
"I still think Sax Appeal is a better name," Layne harrumphed, laying her instrument in its foamy case.
"I like Who Cracked Wind," Derrington joked, wiggling and fanning his booty.
When everyone stopped laughing, Harris tossed his drumstick in the air. "Okay, it's Wii time."
"You got Call of Duty: Black Ops?" Layne asked.
"Pearl Harbor Trilogy—1941: Red Sun Rising?"
"Yup," Harris said.
"Shadow of the Ninja?"
He glanced at Derrington in a where-did-you-find-this-girl sort of way and then nodded yes.
"Layne likes," she said, loosening her tie. "Let's do this."
Harris led them into the house, leaving Claire and Cam alone. They had been alone zillions of times but never post-serenade. Suddenly neither one of them knew where to look. So they giggled.
"Wanna sit?" Cam finally asked. He gestured to a worn blue trunk in the far corner by the lawnmower.
Claire lifted the measly present she got Cam and joined him. Why didn't she think bigger? He had filled her heart; she'd filled an elf-covered gift bag.
"I really loved that," she said, kissing him on his Drakkar Noir–scented cheek.
"It was fun," he said modestly. Exhaling a puff of breath into the cold garage he asked, "Do you want to open your gift?"
"You mean there's another one?!" Claire asked, the needle on her Guilt-O-Meter exploding to bits.
Cam reached behind the trunk and presented her with the same elf gift bag.
She showed him hers and they laughed like their old selves again. "Wanna open them at the same time?"
He nodded. "On three," he said. "One, two…"
"Three!" Claire called, digging in.
Cam did the same. "Uh-oh."
"I know," Claire began. "It's not even close to what you got me. I wish I—"
He was smiling mischievously. "Just open your present."
Claire pushed aside the tissue and gasped. He had given her an old-fashioned candy dispenser filled with red and green M&Ms. Only instead of M&M, the candies read C&C, for Claire and Cam. Her gift to him was nearly identical. Only she had a picture of them printed on the candies—the one Massie had taken over Thanksgiving weekend.
After a thank-you lip-kiss, they both cracked up again.
Fluffy flakes began falling outside the garage. The quiet street was snow-globe beautiful. Claire's teeth began chattering. If the moment had been any more romantic they would have taken down the tree and called it Valentine's Day.
"There's one more thing in the bag," he said.
"Cam!" Claire's cheeks burned with single-gift guilt.
"Don't worry; it's something for both of us." He twirled a loose thread from his shirt around his finger, then yanked.
Claire pulled a glossy card from the tissue. " 'Photography lessons for two'?"
He nodded. "Every Friday for the next ten weeks."
"Cam! It must have cost—"
He lifted his palm to silence her. "It was free. My dad got it for my mom's birthday but she has Current Events Club on Fridays so…"
"This is the best!" Claire didn't know what she loved more: the chance to learn about shadows and light and aperture and transparency or the guaranteed date she'd have with Cam every Friday night! Her insides began soaring all over again and then, as if hit by a missile—Missile Block!—they came crashing down.
"What?" asked Cam, picking up the trouble signal. And then, realizing, he said, "Oh. Oops."
Oops? Oops was "I dialed the wrong number." Not a call to arms, which is exactly what would happen if Claire ditched out on Friday night sleepovers with the Pretty Committee. She was finally an accepted member of the group. Turning her back on that would mean war, under the best of circumstances. But now? When Massie was reeling from the news of her father's recent financial crisis? When Claire was the only one who knew? Bailing would be a kamikaze mission. But Friday night photography with Cam…
The self-help podcast she and Massie had listened to the night before—"Putting the U in Nutshell"—came to mind. After a multiple-choice quiz, Claire had been deemed a "sympathy-stresser": someone who takes on other people's problems as her own. Massie was a "resist-rejoice": change was unimaginable, but once she tried it on, it fit like couture.
In a nutshell, Claire needed to learn to put her own needs before the needs of others (class with Cam) and have faith that Massie—after an apocalyptic freak-out—would eventually respect Claire's pursuit of photographic excellence and might even welcome her back when the ten-week course was through.
Or she could play the bad-sushi card every Friday night until April, and hope no one called her bluff. Which, considering the options, was, without a doubt, the smarter choice.
THE BLOCK ESTATE
Saturday, December 25th
"We're opening presents in five minutes," Kendra called from the kitchen.
Butter-soaked whiffs of basting turkey greeted Massie as she descended the stairs, a warm pug in her arms and last year's Balenciaga scarf draped over her shoulders.
"Don't get too excited," she told Bean's wagging tail. It was just a Thanksgiving novelty candle, meant to fill the house with the smell of home cooking for those incapable of doing it the old-fashioned way. Kendra had lit one last night, too, hoping to minimize the trauma caused by Inez's furlough. But nothing could replace the housekeeper's gourmet cooking, or change the fact that the Blocks had spent Christmas Eve eating General Tso's chicken from a Chinese take-out restaurant, just like their Jewish friends had. Or that on Christmas Day they'd be microwaving the leftovers.
But the worst part? The Block estate was icier than Jake and Vienna's breakup thanks to the high cost of heating a mansion in December. Who knew? It wasn't until Kendra had pointed out that cooler temperatures tightened pores that Massie got on board with a capital Gawd.
Unfortunately, the explanation hadn't satisfied Kristen the way it had Alicia, Dylan, and Claire when the sporty blonde couldn't stop shivering at last week's sleepover. So Massie had said that Al Gore had called her father, and as a personal favor asked him to turn down the heat. That seemed to warm Kristen's insides. But little else.
Massie stopped in the scantly decorated oversized living room and sighed. "Is my name Freddy Krueger?" she asked the pug.
Bean's ear twitched.
"Then why am I living in a nightmare?"
The Blocks had a tree, but hiring Sven, the Holiday Cheer Coordinator, to give it the Rockefeller treatment was no longer an option. So now the thin pine—which was leaning left from the unevenly distributed weight of its ornaments—took the rock out of Rockefeller and left only the fell.
Gone were the glitter-dusted floors, the festive playlists, the well-dressed party guests, the candy-cane chandeliers, the ruby-and-emerald window treatments, the gingerbread doghouse, the grazing reindeer, the gold-tipped mistletoe encouraging Love, Actually moments from visitors, the illuminated trees, the snow machine, the ice sculptures, the bustling caterers, the cute valet boys dressed as toy soldiers… and Massie's will to live.
She swallowed back a tear like it was a cinnamon skinny latte and shuffled in her Tory Burch sheepskin moccasins to claim the spot in front of the fireplace—the room's sole source of heat. A single log burned, giving off weak gasps of warmth, like it, too, had given up. And worst of all—worst of all!—there was just one gift under the boughs, sitting alone like Jennifer Aniston at a couples' retreat.
Bean jumped from Massie's arms and ran circles around the tree, because she could. I know money is tight, Massie thought, glaring at the single strand of lights that adorned the crooked tree. But how poor could we possibly be? Unless… what if Mom and Dad are doing this to teach me a lesson? What if we aren't poor at all? What if this is a continuation of that snoozer lecture Dad gave me a few months ago, about how it's tacky to buy a third car because so many people are struggling these days. And the importance of saving money… or whatever it was that made me yawn so hard my mascara ran.
EhMaGawd, that's it! This is all an act. They are trying to scare me straight. Phew times a thousand to the power of ten!
Massie peeked behind the brocade couch in search of her real presents as her father limped in.
"Happy Christmas!" William said, clearly still sore from his attempt to climb a ladder in cashmere socks. He'd been trying to hang mistletoe above the front door when he slipped off the top rung and twisted his ankle.
Or had he? Maybe it was all part of the performance. In which case, bravo!
"Merry merry!" Kendra bellowed, her silky white robe fanning out behind her like a superhero cape as she raced to remove William's slippers before he put them on the couch. Red nail polish was smeared on her cuticles.
Massie winced. "Mom, are you a carpenter?"
"Then why are you working with nails? Did that trainee at Serenity Spa do that to you? I told you to stick with Olga!"
"Massie," William said warningly. "We're all working to cut back."
"… And cut! That's a wrap. You've made your point." Massie smiled. "Lesson learned. I'll save my money. Now can we puh-lease go back to normal." She shivered. "Before my tongue freeze-sticks to the wand in my lip gloss."
"What lesson?" Kendra lifted a steaming mug to her mouth and blew. The floating coffee grounds spread like rats in a tenement house.
"You know exactly what lesson," Massie said, intent on making them confess before this scene caused lasting damage to her psyche. "I get it okay? Just—" Her iPhone pinged. "Hold on."
Landon, her high-school crush, had sent a text.
Landon: Merry Xmas.
A photo of a square box, wrapped in pearly pink paper with an oversized silver bow, filled her screen and melted her heart. Finally, someone who understood the true meaning of Christmas.
Landon's holiday budget had clearly been bigger than hers. The eighty dollars Kendra gave her wouldn't even cover the cost of that box, let alone whatever was inside. And she still had the Pretty Committee gifts to think of. Massie had had to cancel her order for five personalized, monogrammed, butter-leather messenger bags she'd seen Gwyneth wearing as she GOOPed around London. Instead, she'd gone trick-or-treating at the Saks cosmetic counters and stocked up on the free samples. The PC would receive unflattering shades like Digi-Dazzle and the accompanying let's-pretend-we're-going-to-St.-Barts-this-holiday beach bags, while Landon would get a homemade gift certificate that entitled him to an afternoon of shopping with Massie as his style consultant.
She was about to write back to Landon when William cleared his throat. "You know the rules, Massie: No texting by the tree."
Massie set down her phone. "My bad, I thought the 'tree' was a coat rack."
William ignored the dig, plastering a smile on his face. "Present time!"
Kendra handed the lone gift under the "tree" to her daughter, and Massie tore it open, anxious for this charade to end.
Inside sparkled a small black diamond that hung from a gleaming white-gold chain that someone like Kristen or Claire would have been satisfied with. Massie searched the box for the matching earrings and bracelet. She found nothing.
"Isn't it the diamond you wanted?" Kendra asked, her smile faltering.
William waited for her answer, an expectant look on his face.
"Yeah, thanks. I love it." Massie held the diamond up to the light and tried to turn her downward-facing mouth into something resembling happiness. Ever since she saw the entire set of black diamond jewelry in the Barneys catalogue, she had envisioned the drop earrings glistening in tandem with her shiny brown hair and the thick bracelet anchoring her tiny wrist. The necklace—the least impressive member of the group—was a Jessica Simpson piece. It didn't thrive being single.
Flashes of Christmas Gifts Past danced across her mind. Just last night she had flipped through her special Moleskine notebook where she detailed all the gifts she received each year: the exclusive Birkin bag from last Christmas, the walk-on role for Hannah Montana the year before that, the trips to London and Bermuda, the MacBooks and iPods, and the dozens of Jimmy Choos and Pradas that had peeked out from her stocking year after year. At least five pages would be crammed with gift descriptions each holiday. This year, unless she wrote in really big letters, her holiday haul list would read like a
- On Sale
- Feb 15, 2011
- Page Count
- 224 pages