The Wolves Are Waiting


By Natasha Friend

Formats and Prices




$22.99 CAD


This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 22, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

From award-winning author Natasha Friend comes a compelling investigation of sexual harassment and the toxic and complicit structures of a small college town.

Before the night of the Frat Fair, 15-year-old Nora Melchionda’s life could have been a Gen-Z John Hughes movie. She had a kind-of boyfriend, a spot on the field hockey team, good grades, and a circle of close friends. Of course there were bumps in the road: she and her lifelong BFF Cam were growing apart and her mother was trying to clone her into wearing sensible khakis instead of showy short skirts. But none of that mattered, because Nora always had her dad, Rhett Melchionda, on her side. Rhett was not only Nora’s hero, but as the Athletic Director of Faber College, he was idolized by everyone she knew.

Now, Nora would give anything to go back to that life. The life before whatever happened on the golf course.

She doesn’t want to talk about it—not that she could, because she doesn’t remember anything—and insists that whatever happened was nothing. Cam, though, tries to convince Nora to look for evidence and report the incident to the police. And then there’s Adam Xu, who found Nora on the golf course and saw her at her most vulnerable. She ignores it all, hoping it will all go away. But when your silence might hurt other people, hiding is no longer an option.

The Wolves Are Waiting begins in the aftermath of an attempted assault, but reaches farther than a story about one single night or one single incident. What Nora and her friends will uncover is a story that spans generations. But it doesn’t have to anymore.




SHE WAS LYING ON THE GROUND, SPREAD-EAGLE, breathing in the scent of earth. There was a horrible taste in her mouth, like metal and olives. She turned her head to the side, gagging. Just thinking about olives made her want to hurl.

“I think you got it all out,” a voice said.

Who was talking? She tried to look, but light stabbed her eyeballs. She tried to swallow. Her tongue felt thick and furry. Weird. Could a tongue grow fur overnight? She needed water.



Let me get you a drink.

I don’t drink.

Not a drink drink. A pop… Sprite? Coke?

A pop? Who said pop instead of soda? And what was this fragment of conversation?

“Nor. Open your eyes.”

She tried again. More daggers of light. Better to stay here, in the dark.

“Nora.” A hand on her shoulder, squeezing. “Wake up. You’re scaring me.”

That’s when she recognized the voice. It was her best friend, Cam.

Her thoughts began to crystallize. What was Cam doing here? They were mad at each other. They’d had a fight last night… about… something. There was a boy… in a red shirt. Or had Cam been wearing the red shirt? Now her brain was as furry as her tongue. A furry tongue, for eff’s sake. How was that possible? She really needed something to drink.

Mountain Dew? Root beer?

Root beer, please.

Ice or no ice?

Ice, s’il vous plaît.

You’re cute.


“Nor. Please. Look at me.”

Why was root beer called beer anyway? It didn’t have alcohol. And was it actually made from roots?

“Nora.” A poke now. An actual poke in the ribs. And another.

She opened her eyes. “Stop that!”

“Good. You’re alive.”

Everything was so bright. Painfully bright. She had to squint to see Cam’s face looming over her. Cam’s hair was every which way. Her mascara was smudged.

“Oh, hey, raccoon eyes,” Nora murmured.

“Shut up,” Cam said. “It’s your fault. I’ve been sitting here all night making sure you weren’t dead.”

“Huh,” Nora said, lifting her chin. There was a dull ache at the base of her skull. “Where am I?”

“You’re on the Faber University golf course. Ninth hole.”

The Faber University golf course? Nora didn’t golf. And what was this pain? Had someone clubbed her on the head?

“I got a text,” Cam said, “from your phone. Saying you needed help. There were these guys—”

“Guys?” Nora sat up. The green grass swam in front of her eyes. “What guys?”

“I don’t know,” Cam said. “Adam Xu doesn’t know, either.”

“Adam Xu?”

“He’s the one who texted me. To say you were in trouble. He said there were these guys—”

Adam Xu texted you.”

“Yeah. From your phone. He didn’t have my number.”

Nora felt her head bob. The motion made her dizzy.

“You need to thank him,” Cam said. “He chased the guys away with a baseball bat.”

Baseball bat. Adam Xu. Golf course. It was all so confusing.

“Also… I found your underwear hanging from the flagstick.”

Nora blinked. “What?”

“The flagstick.” Cam pointed. “That yellow thingy poking out of the hole. Your underwear was hanging off it.”

“My underwear.” Nora felt a little sick. She looked down at herself. Black scoop neck. Jean miniskirt.

“I put it back on you.”

“Oh.” Nora nodded. Cam had put her underwear back on, like she was a baby or a grandma in a nursing home. She should be embarrassed. She was embarrassed.

“Nor,” Cam said gently.


“Do you remember anything about last night?”

“The frat fair,” Nora said without hesitation. She was still wearing her blue wristband, the one that allowed unlimited rides.

“What did you do at the frat fair?”

“Rode the Yo-Yo.” That was an easy one, too. She remembered soaring over everyone’s heads, the wind in her hair. She remembered squeezing her knees together so no one could see up her skirt.

“What else?” Cam said.

“I ate funnel cake,” Nora said. She could picture it: the greasy disk of dough as big as her head, heaped with powdered sugar. “It made me really thirsty. I had to wait in line all over again to get a drink.”

Cam put a hand on Nora’s arm. Her raccoon eyes were comically wide. “What did you drink? Rum? Vodka?… Tequila?”

“No, Camille.” Nora was annoyed. Cam knew she didn’t drink alcohol. Ever since that sleepover at Becca Bomberg’s house the last day of ninth grade, when the three of them drank an entire bottle of Manischewitz and Nora projectile-vomited into a potted plant on Becca’s porch. “I had a root beer.”

“A root beer,” Cam repeated.

“Yes.” Nora raised her chin triumphantly. “In a red cup. With ice.” She remembered this clearly now, holding the drink in her hand, lifting it to her lips. The bubbles had tickled her nose.

Cam was looking at her funny.

“What? You think I’m lying?”

“No,” Cam said slowly. “I think you’re telling the truth. But…”

But. Nora did not like this but.

“When I got here… you were passed out.”

“Passed out,” Nora repeated.

“Like… comatose.”

“Ah,” Nora said. As though this explained everything, when, really, it explained nothing. Ah.

She turned her head and barfed onto the beautifully manicured grass.



1) Sometime last night, her best friend passed out on the ninth hole of the Faber University golf course in the presence of three unidentified males, one of whom REMOVED HER STARS-AND-STRIPES UNDERWEAR and hung it on the flagstick.

2) Adam Xu chased the guys away with a baseball bat before texting Cam from Nora’s phone to say, Nora needs you. (Seriously, Adam Xu. Boy most likely to spend every Friday night of high school playing Dungeons & Dragons in his basement. Tragic. But hello? Fending off villains with a Louisville Slugger? Surprisingly badass.)

3) Nora swore all she drank was root beer—and Cam believed her, because best friends tell the brutal truth—and yet, Nora remembered nothing between drinking the root beer and waking up on the putting green. Which meant—holy shit—anything could have happened.


It was crazy, because Nora Melchionda was literally the last person in Faber, New York, Cam would expect to find passed out on a golf course, pantyless, beside a puddle of her own puke. Chelsea Machado? Yes. Anna Golden? Definitely. But Nora was the girl in the front row of American lit with her hand in the air, or on the bleachers with her dad on a Saturday afternoon, eating kettle corn and cheering on the Blue Devils. Nora and her dad were insanely close. He would have stroked out if he’d seen her half-naked on the ninth hole, so it was a good thing Nora had told him she was sleeping over at Cam’s. Even though she’d never actually slept over. Because Cam and Nora had a fight.

It was stupid. Cam had wanted to go to a party at Kyle Tenhope’s house. Nora hadn’t. Nora had wanted to go to the frat fair, a fundraiser the Faber fraternities hosted every fall on the town green, to raise money for local charities. Cam thought the frat fair was lame. How many times could you play “smack the rat” before dying of boredom? But Nora insisted. Nora got up on her high-and-mighty give-back-to-the-community horse. Cam called Nora a goody-goody. Nora called Cam a social lemming.

Cam said, “I just want to have fun. Have you heard of fun?”

And Nora—classic Nora—said, “Riding the Yo-Yo is fun.”

And Cam said, “Fine, go to the stupid frat fair. I’m going to Kyle Tenhope’s rager.”

And Nora said fine. Which is why Cam hadn’t been there when Nora rode the Yo-Yo and ate funnel cake and drank root beer. Cam had only shown up later, on the ninth hole, after the text from Adam Xu.

Which didn’t mean Cam was a bad friend. She wasn’t. Cam and Nora had known each other their whole lives, literally. Cam’s mom, Imani, and Nora’s mom, Diane, had met in pregnancy yoga class back when Cam and Nora were the size of jelly beans. Cam and Nora had been born thirty-six hours apart in the same hospital. Besides the fact that Cam was biracial and Nora was white, they were basically twins. Because Cam didn’t have any siblings of her own, Nora was it. Who else was Cam going to fight with? That was just part of the package. But when it came down to it, Cam would do anything for Nora.

She would wipe the puke off her face.

She would rescue her underwear.

She would offer, when Nora finally woke up and made it back to Cam’s house, to inspect her best friend’s pubic area for bruising or forced entry.

Cam wasn’t squeamish about body parts. Her mom was an obstetrician-gynecologist. Imani had taught her, from a young age, to use the proper names for her anatomy. Vulva. Labia. Clitoris. Not “pee pee,” or “down there.” When Cam was in sixth grade, Imani had gone so far as to bust out a hand mirror, to show Cam which part was which. Yes, Cam knew this was weird. But she was glad she got a hippie feminist ob-gyn for a mother. Imani had taught her everything there was to know about the female body, so whenever Cam needed that information as a reference, she would have it.

And the time, apparently, had come.


ADAM XU ATTENDED NEITHER KYLE TENHOPE’S PARTY nor the fraternity fair on the town green. He hadn’t even heard about the party. He had known about the fraternity fair—a person would have to be living on the moon not to know about the fraternity fair—but he didn’t go. He had felt no need to put himself in that position. Wandering the game booths would have been fine. Riding the Ali Baba and chucking candy apples from the top of the Ferris wheel would have been okay, too. But at some point in the night, one of the guys would bring out a bottle—whatever they could find in their parents’ liquor cabinets—and pass it around. To avoid drawing attention to himself, Adam would take a few sips. Fifteen minutes later—bam. His face would heat up and start to tingle. His eyes would go bloodshot.

It wouldn’t take long before someone would say, “Dude. What’s wrong with you?”

Then someone else would yell, “Look at Xu! He’s plastered!”

At which point, everyone would turn to stare at his red, pulsing face.

He hated when that happened.

It actually had a name; he’d googled it once. “Asian flush syndrome.” Technically it was a genetic condition that affected 36 percent of East Asian people. The reaction in Adam’s body was the result of an accumulation of acetaldehyde, a metabolic by-product of the catabolic metabolism of alcohol. Not that he would ever try to explain that to the guys on the baseball team. They had only just started asking him to hang out with them. He didn’t want to ruin it.

Adam often wondered if moving to Faber in fourth grade had been part of the problem. If he had started in kindergarten with everyone else, maybe he wouldn’t have had to work so hard to fit in. But by the time he arrived, groups had already formed. There was a reigning Adam—Adam Courtmanche—who was tall and blond and captain of every dodgeball game. Adam Xu, small and klutzy, could never be just “Adam.” He would forever be “Adam Xu.” The Adam on the sidelines. The lesser Adam. It didn’t help that 99 percent of the students at Faber Central School were white. Nine times out of ten, Adam Xu would be partnered with Fumi Ikemoto for class projects, even though Fumi was Japanese American, not Chinese American, and they had no more in common than their school and their town and the fact that no one ever invited them to parties.

All that changed freshman year, when Adam Xu shot up six inches, gained some muscle, and made the JV baseball team. Suddenly, people started to see him as someone other than a wimpy, uncoordinated nerd. Now he was an athlete, a role he took seriously. Instead of going to the fraternity fair or to Kyle Tenhope’s party, Adam spent Friday night alone, hitting baseballs on the Faber University golf course. Not real baseballs—those were too loud—but the Precision Impact Slugs he’d ordered online. They glowed in the dark. So did his bat. Whenever he made solid contact, the night-vision camcorder he’d jerry-rigged to the top of his bike helmet quivered, but it never fell off. The quality of the videos was decent.

Nobody, not even Adam’s parents, knew what he did in the middle of the night. They thought their son was in bed. Adam’s mother had been known to check on him at odd hours, opening his door and peering across the room to make sure he was sleeping. He always took the necessary precautions, stuffing his comforter with pillows before climbing out the window, leaving his phone behind.

Adam’s mother was obsessed with sleep. She wanted him to get ten uninterrupted hours a night so he could be his optimal self. He had tried once, after reading an article about adolescent brain development, to explain to her that the sleep cycles of teenagers were different from those of adults. He couldn’t go to bed early because he could not shut off his brain. But his mother wouldn’t listen. Sleep deficiency, she said, was linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Did he want to have a stroke at age fifteen?

Adam loved his mother. He respected her. But lately, her presence in his life had begun to chafe, like a too-tight necktie.

Hitting balls in the dark was only a minor rebellion, but it helped. With every swing, he felt looser. The Precision Impact Slugs were filled with sand. They didn’t make the satisfying crack of a baseball sailing through the air. Their sound was a heavy, labored wump. But Adam appreciated the wump. Because the Slugs traveled only a few feet, they forced him to hit dead center, with the barrel of the bat, to avoid cutting or rolling.

As he hit, he didn’t just think about form or bat speed. He thought about fourth-grade gym. Until he moved to Faber, he had never picked up a bat or a glove. Mr. Milner must have smelled it on him, because that first day of the baseball unit, he put Adam Xu last in the order. Which was actually a good thing. Adam got to observe the first twelve batters, so that by the time he came up to the plate, he had a fair handle on what to do: swing the bat, hit the ball, and run. His first two strikes had been embarrassing. He swung and missed in dramatic fashion, spinning in a full circle on the first pitch, falling down on the second. Then, by some miracle, instead of striking out, he connected, hitting a weak dribbler up the third-base line. He ran like hell, cutting left at first base and heading to second because the third baseman bumbled the ball.

That’s when it happened. The kid playing first, a floppy-haired loudmouth named Kevin Hamm, yelled, “He didn’t touch first! He missed the bag!”

And everyone on Adam’s team started yelling, “Go back! Touch the bag! Touch the bag!”

So Adam ran back to first base, squatted down, and touched the bag. With his hand.

If he closed his eyes, he could still hear the laughter. It was the funniest thing they had ever seen. The Chinese kid touched the bag! Touched the bag! Literally! Hahahahahahahaha!

The feeling of disgrace never left him. Adam tended his shame like a small plant, watering it, pruning it, vowing to himself that he would learn everything there was to know about baseball so that, one day, he could wipe the smirks off everyone’s faces. One day, he would earn their respect.

Wump. Last spring, he’d finally done it.

Wump. He’d made JV.

Wump. This year, he would make varsity.


The sound of laughter, deep and low. It took him a moment to realize this wasn’t a memory bubbling to the surface of his brain. He was hearing it in real time.

He turned his head. The sky over the golf course was clear, full of stars. The sound would be easy to follow.


He walked quickly.

Partyers? he thought.

He remembered the fair. It would be over by now. But the college students were probably just getting started.

He saw figures up ahead, dimly lit by the moon. Three of them… no, four. One was flat on the ground.

The closer he got, the clearer the scene became. One of the figures was holding something in the air. A phone? Another was bent over the body on the ground.

“Dude, she’s completely out.”

The third was—wait. Was he taking off his pants?

“Hey!” Adam shouted. He hadn’t planned to. It was pure instinct.

The three figures turned. They were big, way bigger than Adam. For a second, he panicked. But then he remembered the bat in his hand, and something took over—some strange, subterranean part of him.

“Ting xia lai! Huai dan!”

He was yelling in Chinese, words his mother yelled at their dog, Bao Bao, for chewing on the furniture—Stop it! You bad egg! Between Adam yelling and the glow-in-the-dark baseball bat slashing Z’s through the air like Obi-Wan’s lightsaber, he must have freaked them out, because the figures took off running.

Three of them were gone.

One was still lying on the ground.

Adam did not realize, at first, who she was. He saw only that her clothes were half off.

“Hey,” he said. “Are you okay?”

No response.

His head spun. Was this a crime scene? What was he supposed to do? The girl was so still, so utterly motionless, he was almost afraid to touch her.

But he did. He had to. He knelt down to brush the hair off her neck so he could check her pulse.

And there she was.

Nora Melchionda.

The rhythmic throbbing of her heart against his fingertips.

Nora Melchionda with the golden braids and the triple-pierced ears and the eyes that crinkled into aqua slits when she smiled. No-ra-Mel-chi-on-da. Her name was a waterfall of sounds.

Okay, fine. Yes. Adam had never admitted this to anyone—but it was true: He loved everything about her. Nora Melchionda. No-ra No-ra No-ra-Mel-chi-on-da.

She probably didn’t remember, but in fourth grade, the day before winter break, his milk carton exploded when he tripped over a chair and went flying. He had been living in Faber for only a week, and already he was on the floor of the cafeteria, covered in milk. Everyone was staring.

“You okay?”

He had looked up, and there she was, squinting down at him. She was wearing the ugliest sweater he had ever seen, a reindeer head covered in pom-poms and sparkles. He could do nothing but nod.

“Up you go.” She reached out a hand and yanked him to his feet.

He nodded again, in thanks. She was four inches taller than he was. Maybe five.

“Here,” she said, thrusting a fresh carton of milk into his hand and smiling a dazzling smile full of braces. “Merry Christmas.”

This time he managed to say it: “Thank you.”

“No prob.” She shrugged. “I’m lactose intolerant. I always give away my milk.”

That was the first thing Adam learned about Nora Melchionda: She was lactose intolerant; she always gave away her milk.

He discovered other things, too, over the years. Countless details, like how she bit the nails on her left hand but not her right, and how green apple Airheads were her go-to candy, and how she loved classic rock. There was so much to be learned about a person just by paying attention. Not that Adam was a stalker or anything. He wasn’t. He was merely an observer, a quiet satellite in Nora Melchionda’s extraordinary orbit, gathering information.

It didn’t take a genius to see that Camille Dodd was Nora’s best friend. They were inseparable. And all Adam had to do was listen when Nora read her personal essay out loud in freshman English to learn that her favorite movie was The Fighter, based on the real-life story of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward. As for knowing her astrological sign—Aquarius, the water bearer; intelligent, unyielding, grounded—he just had to watch every year on February 2, when Nora’s friends decorated her locker and showered her with gifts and cupcakes from the Blue Bird. Nora always laughed and did a silly birthday dance in the hall, not caring who was watching.

All those things had endeared Nora to Adam and made him want to know her better. He had once gone so far as to read an article entitled “What Attracts an Aquarius Woman,” where he discovered that “an Aquarius female loves a good conversationalist.” Although he had always felt too shy in front of Nora’s many admirers to strike up a conversation with her, if, by some miracle, they ever ended up alone, he would know what to talk about. The final boxing scene from The Fighter: “Head-body, head-body!” The ingredients in green apple Airheads: Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, but no actual green. Crazy, right?


But not as crazy as this: kneeling on the grass of the golf course at 1:27 AM, two fingers to Nora Melchionda’s neck, the closest he had ever been to her, and he couldn’t even prove what a good conversationalist he was. If she could see him on Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Live, talking about metamagic feats, she would know that he could articulate clear and intelligent thoughts without turning red in the face. But this wasn’t D&D Live. Not even close.

“Nora? It’s me, Adam Xu… from school… Can you hear me? Nora?”


He straightened her clothes, gently, careful not to touch any more of her body than he had to. He could have, of course—no one was there to see. But he never would. That was the difference between Adam and the Neanderthals he’d chased off with his baseball bat. Adam had loved Nora Melchionda since she was a scrawny ten-year-old kid, before she had any “body” to speak of—before every guy in Faber started noticing her. Just thinking about those three guys lifting up Nora’s shirt, pulling down her underwear, made Adam feel as unhinged as he had ever felt in his life. He wanted to tear through the night with his baseball bat cocked.

But no. He had stay focused.

He removed her phone from her pocket, and he held the screen to her face. Gently, he lifted her eyelids, and when the phone unlocked, he found her best friend’s number.

It’s Adam Xu. Nora needs you. Faber golf course 9th hole, asap.



She was standing in the middle of Cam’s bedroom, on the braided rug where she had stood a million times before. The whorls of purple and blue made her dizzy.

“Vajayjay?” Cam gawked at her.

“I’ll call it what I want,” Nora said. Her head was still throbbing. She’d chugged three glasses of water in Cam’s kitchen, but it hadn’t helped. “And you are not getting out that stupid hand mirror.”

“How are you going to see your pubic area without a hand mirror?”

“I’ll see it fine,” Nora said.

This was exactly like that time when they were twelve and Cam insisted on showing her how to put in a tampon—not just provide moral support from the other side of the bathroom stall like a normal friend—show. Cam’s comfort level with her body, her freakish lack of embarrassment, made Nora feel like a sixteenth-century nun. Privates are private. That’s what Nora’s mom always said. Unlike Cam’s mother, Imani, who said things like Own your pleasure, girls.

“Take some pictures with your phone,” Cam told Nora. “If you see any bruises or scratches, you’ll need documentation.”

“Okay, CSI Miami.”

“This isn’t a joke, Nor. You woke up half-naked on a putting green. You don’t remember anything. What if you were gang-raped?” Cam’s voice dropped to a theatrical whisper, and Nora rolled her eyes. Drama queen.


  • "This novel is a standout thanks to realistic, lively dialogue and chemistry between its characters (especially parents and siblings), carefully calibrated elements of humor and romance, and a thoughtful portrayal of changing friendships."—*Booklist (starred review)
  • "Gripping and resonant; a good pick for intergenerational book clubs."—Kirkus
  • "With gripping writing and topical social issues, this is a solid addition to any collection for young adults."—School Library Journal
  • Praise for The Wolves Are Waiting:

    A 2023 Bank Street Best Book


On Sale
Mar 22, 2022
Page Count
384 pages

Natasha Friend

About the Author

Natasha Friend is the author of several YA and middle-grade novels that tackle the truths of teen and tween lives. Her most recent YA novels are How We Roll and The Other F-Word (FSG), the latter received starred reviews from PW and Booklist and was named on the Rainbow List and ILA Young Adult's Choice Reading List. Natasha lives in Connecticut with her family and two crazy dogs. When she isn’t writing, she is reading, washing baseball pants, and wishing she was in a talent show.

Learn more about this author