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Kill All Happies
By Rachel Cohn
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This is it. Graduation. And Vic Navarro is throwing the most epic party Rancho Soldado has ever seen. She’s going to pull off the most memorable good-bye ever for her best friends, give Happies-the kitschy restaurant that is her desert town’s claim to fame-a proper send-off into bankruptcy, and oh yes, hook up with her delicious crush, Jake Zavala-Kim. She only needs to keep the whole thing a secret so that her archnemesis, Miss Ann Thrope, Rancho Soldado’s nightmare Town Councilwoman and high school Economics teacher, doesn’t get Vic tossed in jail.
With the music thumping, alcohol flowing, bodies mashing, and Thrope nowhere to be seen, Vic’s party is a raging success. That is, until Happies fans start arriving in droves to say good-bye, and storm the deserted theme park behind the restaurant. Suddenly what was a small graduation bash is more like Coachella on steroids with a side of RASmatazz pie. The night is so not going as planned. And maybe that’s the best plan of all.
Copyright © 2017 by Rachel Cohn
Cover design by Marci Senders
Cover art by Shutterstock
All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
Designed by Marci Senders
Text from Lindsay:
Hey, dumbslut. Don’t throw a party just to impress a guy.
This is the story of how I never listen to my big sister.
The face of evil looked so pretty in the moonlight. You’d want to kiss her unless you knew better. Then you’d want to suffocate her.
With a fitness-freak figure, corn-silk blond hair tightened into a bun, and wispy tendrils framing her former beauty-pageant–winning face, people sometimes wondered why the attractive Annette Thrope, Rancho Soldado High School’s resident economics teacher, had acquired the nickname “Miss Ann Thrope.” They would stop wondering if, for instance, they saw her as I did that night, backlit by a full moon, packing heat and ready to rumble. The pretty lady with the blackest of hearts had arrived at the theme park party ready to do what she did best: ruin everyone’s good time.
I found Thrope standing outside the open driver’s side door of the Chug Bug, a former VW bus that Jake had spent the past year of his life painstakingly repurposing into a beer truck. The Chug Bug had fueled the opening hours of my senior class party at Happies restaurant, but was now parked at the empty edge of the old Happies theme park’s Ravishing Ravine, its headlights offering a faint glimpse into the abyss down below. I didn’t know how the Chug Bug had gotten there, but I assumed Jake had moved it to this secluded spot deep in the park as a precaution after the Happies fanatics had stormed the party and dismantled the gates. Anyone besides Thrope would admire the Chug Bug (pimped-out beer cruiser—what wasn’t to love?), but if the police arrived next, their vehicle appreciation might quickly wane once they realized that the Chug Bug had been serving the Rancho Soldado High School senior class of underage drinkers all night long.
More fearsome than the potential intrusion of official law enforcement, though, was actual vigilante law enforcement: Thrope. Her eyes were ablaze and she had a rifle slung over her back like she was a late-middle-aged Annie Oakley. The founder of Rancho Soldado’s Ladies Rifle Club never traveled unprepared. Nice way to break up a party: pack a weapon and hold the beer truck hostage. Always gunning for popularity, our Miss Ann Thrope.
“Victoria,” she hissed. “Are you responsible for this mess?”
My party was so not a mess, unless by “mess,” Thrope meant a couple hundred newly graduated, highly inebriated classmates reveling in Happies’ previously abandoned theme park along with hordes of hardcore Happies fanatics. The crowds roamed the grounds now dotted with litter, puke, and empty bottles, but the real “mess” this night was my gnawing fear that some drunk dumbfuck would light a campfire on this parched, drought-stricken desert land on the California-Nevada border and close out Happies one last time with a literal blaze of glory.
Dear Rancho Soldado High School Class of Two Thousand and Awesome:
You’re welcome. Because yes, I personally made this party happen. May tonight’s infinite supply of rocky road ice cream nourish your hearts, tingle your cavities, and give you forever-fond memories of Happies after it’s demolished to make way for whatever big-box store brings big-time suck to our town in its place. Love and easy does it on the orange marmalade Jell-O shots (thanks, Emerson Luong!),
Your pal and classmate, Vic Navarro
I couldn’t let this party take a death dive into Grinchtown just because the ultimate party pooper had arrived. I told Thrope, “If by ‘mess’ you mean ‘amazingness,’ then yes, I’m responsible.”
Before she could fire another round of accusations at me, Zeke, my night’s unexpected companion, dared to ask her, “Um, that’s a pellet rifle you have there, right, Ms. Thrope?”
“You’d better hope it is, young man,” said Thrope, in a threatening teacher tone that implied, You may not have been my student yet. But you will be. Since school let out all of yesterday, Zeke had advanced to high school junior. Thrope walked closer to him, sniffing for alcohol. He exhaled loudly and she quickly retreated back to the Chug Bug. (Boy breath. Not beer breath. I’m guessing.) Then her gaze narrowed onto my face again. “If this is your party, Victoria, I hope you’re ready to see it end. Badly.”
How badly could it end? Happies was already over. Throughout the park, partygoers were celebrating the Last Call at Happies, before our desert town’s most beloved institution was razed to make way for a Monster Mall. I’d worked so hard to ensure Thrope didn’t find out about the hastily organized party, but now that she was here, I thought, So what? I’d own up to my responsibility, and then some. I told Thrope, “No way am I going to let you ruin my party.”
If this party was a mess, it was my mess, and I had it under control.
Mostly under control.
Partly under control.
Not really at all under control.
But what could Thrope do to me now? Give me detention? I’d already graduated. It’s not like I was counting on her for a college recommendation letter. I’d already been rejected from the one university I’d applied to.
“A beer truck serving minors?” asked Thrope. “Your idea?”
“Pretty much!” I admitted. The Chug Bug had been one of my better economic brainstorms, if I did say so myself. Because of all the money and exposure he’d be getting from it tonight, I felt very confident that the Chug Bug’s owner, Jake Zavala-Kim, would be giving me a very generous thank-you. A cash percentage would be nice, but the orgasms would be even better. Once upon a very delicious memory, Jake and I made out while we were locked in the walk-in ice cream freezer back when we both worked as waitstaff at Happies. That random encounter never progressed beyond lip-locking and ass-groping before some jerk had to unlock the door from the outside, but now that I was leaving town for good, I planned to get the deed done and make sure Jake remembered me when I was gone. Really, really remembered me.
“Well, then,” Thrope said. “I guess now’s the time for you to see how I deal with underage drinkers.”
Before I could respond, Zeke said, “Sing-alongs?” It was definitely not the time for joking, but it was impossible not to be inspired by the locals’ favorite song being sung by an assembly of drunken celebrants in the park’s nearby Pinata Village. Zeke sung along with them:
On the LA to Vegas
hop hop hop
Tummies ready for yummies
At everyone’s favorite dessert in the desert
stop stop stop!
Happies Happies Happies
Super burgers then ice cream with a toy
Where your happiness is our
joy joy joy
So come to Happies…hop hop hop!
Bold move for a junior, Zeke! Miss Ann Thrope hated nothing more than Happies. Thrope despised a lot about her students—when they were tardy, when they wandered school during class periods without hall passes, when their superior opinions didn’t gel with her misinformed ones. Actually, like many high school teachers, what Thrope loathed most was students, period. But what really drove Thrope crazy was when students defiled her classroom with Happies restaurant evidence: Happies sandwich wrappers, Happies drink containers, Happies french fries spelling out FUCK YOU on a desk with a ketchup-drawn heart around the message. Thrope was a notorious health nut, but even that didn’t explain the level of hatred she had for all things Happies. It made no sense. She’d once been a Miss Happie!
Encouraged by Zeke, I joined in on the song’s last line. So come to Happies…hop hop hop! On cue, Zeke and I hop-hop-hopped to the last line of the song. Take that, Thrope!
My persistent worry about someone setting a campfire in the park was misplaced. The fury rising on Thrope’s face could easily have sparked one instead. But rather than verbally respond, Thrope let out a little chortle, and then she leaned down and into the open door at the Chug Bug’s driver’s side.
“NOOOO!” Zeke and I both yelled, realizing what she was about to do.
Thrope released the Chug Bug’s parking brake.
The beer truck lurched forward suddenly, but slowly, creaking as it inched along the road. Zeke and I lunged toward the front of the truck to try to stop its movement, but Cardio-Queen Thrope sprinted to the back of the truck faster and gave it a forceful nudge.
Creak. Rock. Roooooll.
As carelessly as a tiny marble going over a toy mountain, the Chug Bug dropped over the side of the road. But louder. Much, much louder. The truck tumbled down the hill—RUMBLE! BOOM! THUNK!—before landing vertically at the bottom of the ravine. CRASH! The truck was smashed, totaled, dunzo. Yet, somehow, its faceup lights still worked, illuminating the sky like a fucked-up Bat-Signal.
Thrope said, “That is how I deal with underage drinking, kiddos.”
Zeke looked at me, and I looked at him. There really was only one response. “Fuuuuuuuck,” we both said. The sight was horrific, yet bizarrely compelling.
The commotion had caused a swarm of partygoers to come forth to see what had happened, which was more worrisome. The Chug Bug was possibly about to ignite and explode on this drought-ridden land where there was no clear exit path out of a dangerous fire’s way for the gathering crowd.
Thrope was the one at fault here. But everyone knew it was my party, my idea…and my mess, indeed. Would I go from party hero to party pariah? Had I taunted Thrope into unleashing this destruction? All that beer gone to waste! I feared everyone would blame me—particularly Jake.
It’s true. The beer truck was destroyed and the whole park was in danger of igniting, but my true worry was: Would this incident prevent me from getting some at the end of the night? Yes, I am that shallow.
Unconcerned about the destruction she’d caused, Thrope swaggered off on her warpath without so much as a smug look of self-satisfaction back in my direction. She slung her rifle over her shoulder and walked resolutely to face off against my classmates and the Happies biker gang now descending on the Ravishing Ravine. The founder of the Rancho Soldado Ladies Rifle Club was on the hunt.
“What are you going to do now?” I called to Thrope, but what I was really wondering was where the hell were Slick and Fletch? There was no crisis I couldn’t handle so long as they were on deck with me.
Thrope removed her rifle from its sling and cocked it onto her shoulder. She turned back around to tell me, “I’m putting an end to this party once and for all. It’s time to kill all Happies.”
Since kindergarten, we did things in threes. Victoria Navarro, Genesis Fletcher, and Mercedes Zavala-Kim, aka Vic, Fletch, and Slick. Team Cuddle Huddle.
Yet, there was our Fletch, standing alone at the podium of our high school graduation ceremony, delivering a solo valedictorian speech. Slick and I did not have the academic qualifications to help her. We weren’t in the honor society. Not Merit Scholars. Not even in the top 10 percent of our class rank. We were more like top 30 percent (me) and barely squeaking into the top 50 percent (Slick). Fletch would have to emote from up there at the podium without her two BFFs, who could only watch her from the audience, choking back tears of pride.
But Slick and I were more than happy for Fletch to lead us into the future. No one else in Rancho Soldado High School’s graduating class even approached Fletch on the scale of godliness. She had come so far to get here. An orphan adopted from an African refugee camp at the age of five by a newly married couple doing humanitarian work, Genesis didn’t speak a word of English when she first arrived in America. She was too small, malnourished and had already witnessed the worst the world had to offer before she’d even stepped one tiny foot into a schoolroom. Now look at her. She was nearly six feet tall—long, lean, and gorgeous. She could have been a fashion model but she’d opted to defer her merit scholarship to Yale so she could follow in her parents’ footsteps. She’d spend the next year doing humanitarian work in the country of her birth.
As Fletch pontificated about kindness, strength, dignity, and responsibility, Slick texted me from the T–Z row of chairs, several rows back from my L–N row. Gawd, I’ve never been so proud.
I typed back. No shit. Her awesomeness defies the law of gravity.
Slick: I swear I can feel the universe tilting as Fletch speaks.
Me: I can’t believe her new head.
What couldn’t Fletch pull off, including this epic show?
Slick: Seriously. You also had no clue she was going to do it?
Me: Nope. Big violation of the Cuddle Huddle code, but forgivable.
Slick: We probably would have tried to talk her out of it.
Slick: I love our baldy so much.
A tear fell onto my phone, making it difficult for me to type on the wet surface. My determined fingers managed to bang out the message anyway: OUR BALDY IS GOING TO RUN THE WORLD ONE DAY!
Fletch had arrived to the graduation ceremony with a shocking new look. She’d razor-cut her hair in honor of her imminent departure for Africa the day after next. Her new head of hair was barely that, about the length of a pinky fingernail—just the moon part. Her new do was fierce, bold, miraculous—just like her.
I turned around to catch a glimpse of Fletch’s parents in the stands. Reverend Doctor Cedric Fletcher was standing in the aisle, recording Fletch’s speech on his phone, weeping, while Fletch’s mom, Dr. Erika Fletcher, #1-ranked pediatrician in Las Vegas magazine, sat on the aisle seat next to him. They were a family of benevolent overachievers. It was always interesting to see Fletch and her parents standing side by side. Fletch had her mom’s dark skin tone and her dad’s height, none of their facial features, and all of their confident, articulate mannerisms.
Mrs. Dr. Fletcher also wept, probably as much with pride as with grief, for she’d been the one washing, combing, oiling, and braiding Fletch’s hair since her Genesis was a little girl.
I sent a text to my dad, sitting in the row ahead of the Fletchers. Record the end of our girl’s speech on your phone, ok? (I could record it on my own, of course, but I was too busy texting.) The Reverend is crying so hard his phone is probably shaking and I’m sure he’d appreciate a better recording.
On it, Dad typed back. I found my father’s face in the audience, and watched him raise his phone to record. I lifted a thumbs-up in his direction, and that seemed to be Dad’s cue to sob. Sitting next to him on either side, my twenty-three-year-old twin siblings, Lindsay and Chester, lifted their middle fingers to me, and I laughed. They’d be in tears by the end of the ceremony, too. If they had any decency. I sighed. They didn’t. My people, bless ’em.
Fletch told the audience, “As Winston Churchill once said: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ I love you all. Congratulations, and happy graduation!”
The graduating class jumped to its feet, applauding wildly at the conclusion of Fletch’s speech. That is, I jumped to my feet, as did Slick, and Fletch’s ex, Olivier Farkas. So I flailed my arms, inviting our classmates to join us, and they politely accommodated me, rising to their feet to cheer. Not for nothing was my hometown nickname “General Navarro.” My academic class standing may have been lukewarm at best, but I knew how to rally troops. Standing O for our girl, who deserved no less.
Next, Principal Carillo returned to the podium. “Thank you for the inspiration, Genesis Fletcher. Just excellent.” He beamed at Fletch, who sat down at her seat on the dais of honored guests and nodded at him serenely, as if to say, Of course it was excellent. I would accept no less from myself. Principal Carillo returned his gaze to the graduating class. “Now, please join me in welcoming Rancho Soldado’s mayor, the Honorable Jerry Finkel.”
Our mayor stepped to the podium as several classmates whooped and hollered for him, shouting out “Mayor Jerry!” The seniors doing the whooping were definitely those with the silver flasks hidden beneath their graduation gowns, but the sentiment was sincere, sober or not. Everyone loved Mayor Jerry, except Miss Ann Thrope, who was sitting in the front row so I couldn’t see her face, but was probably scowling at Mayor Jerry’s warm reception before he’d even said a word. Thrope, who was also the Town Council chairwoman, had spent the past decade battling every initiative Mayor Jerry had tried to pass for the town’s benefit. No wonder he was retiring. He had better ways to spend his time than futile efforts to better our town and being bullied by Thrope. He was giving up his mayoral seat to focus on his men’s novelty shirt store, Tunics of Virility, to enjoy his impending fatherhood, and to write Doctor Who fanfic.
Sartorially, Mayor Jerry had gone all out to honor the occasion of the last Rancho Soldado High School graduating class under his jurisdiction. It was the first time I’d seen him not looking like a hobo. He usually dressed in dirty, baggy, holey pants and a loud Hawaiian shirt picturing palm trees or surfers or half-naked hula girls. But today, he wore a pair of beige chinos that were about an inch too short on his legs but actually fit around his waist—the pants may even have been new!—and a wrinkled pink-and-green-striped oxford shirt. The too-short pants’ length gave a good glimpse of his sockless ankles and open-toed man sandals. He might have looked fashionably faux preppy except for his ivory-colored, 1970s-style wide necktie that was loose around his neck and fell closer to his rib line than his stomach. His shoulder-length, mangy salt-and-pepper hair was not brushed—thank God, or I really would have worried about him—but it was pulled back in a ponytail, tied with what appeared to be red Christmas wrapping ribbon.
Mayor Jerry held out his arms to us and smiled. “Ya made it!” he said, and the class cheered.
Text blast from my sister, Lindsay: Ha-ha! Someone just asked Jon Z-K for an autograph!
I turned around again to see Slick’s parents, Jon and Selena Zavala-Kim, sitting in the row ahead of my family. Someone’s grandma stood in the aisle, fanning herself with her hand, while Jon Z-K signed what appeared to be the graduation ceremony program handout. Slick’s head was also turned around to witness this abomination. Ugh, Slick texted me. Her father was a local celebrity, and it was impossible not to recognize him today. His weirdly handsome face (weird because he was a dad) loomed large over the occasion, prominently displayed on a large highway billboard in the distance behind the football field. Wearing a loud vintage bowling shirt, Jon Z-K was the advertising face of Tunics of Virility. Everyone suspected Mayor Jerry spent more on that billboard than he earned at the store in a year. (The mayor was probably the only independently wealthy trust fund baby in mostly working-class Rancho Soldado.)
Mayor Jerry read his speech from his phone, but everyone knew the phone was really there just in case he got a text from Sheriff Cheryl, whose wife, Darlene, was due to go into labor any minute. Mayor Jerry was the sperm donor.
Mayor Jerry said, “Today we’re here to celebrate our town’s latest graduating class, but also to confer an honorary degree on one of Rancho Soldado’s most distinguished and beloved townspeople. Her name has been synonymous with Rancho Soldado since her grandparents’ first highway pie stand so many years ago. It was that road stand’s famous RASmatazz pies that eventually gave birth to the Happies restaurant and then the sorely missed Happies theme park. A lot of you might not know that this high school where we’re celebrating today is actually the second incarnation of Rancho Soldado High School. The original building burned down during a particularly bad brush-fire season sixty years ago, and one of its students opted to go work at the family restaurant rather than wait for the new school to be built. She took her own damn time about it, as she would say, but a few months ago, I’m delighted to tell you that at the young age of seventy-five, Ms. Bev Happie passed her GED test.”
More hoots and hollers from the audience. Go, Bev! Hell yeah, Bev! (Nothing honored Bev more than cursing.) Mayor Jerry continued, “Today we pay tribute to her and the proud legacy to Rancho Soldado that the Happies institution brought us all. Beverly Olivia Happie, could you please step forward now so I may confer on you your freaking high school degree!”
This time there was no need for me to rally the audience. My classmates and everyone in the stands immediately rose to their feet, clapping and cheering, as Bev Happie walked from the dais to the podium, wearing a cap and gown with Happies insignias stitched around the collar. Mayor Jerry, grinning, moved the tassel on Bev’s mortarboard from the right to the left, and then handed her a diploma.
Bev Happie was a member of our graduating class! Obviously, we were the greatest graduating class in the history of Rancho Soldado High School.
It took a few minutes for the claps and cheers to die down and the crowd to return to its seats so Bev could address us.
“Damn it,” she said, laughing. “You’re giving me a hell of a cry.” She cleared her throat and wiped tears from her cheeks. “Thank you, Mayor Jerry, and thank you, Rancho Soldado, for giving Happies its treasured home since my grandparents’ time.” She looked down at the graduating class. “And you kids,” she said fondly. “You little bastards. I love ya!” Many shouts of We love you too, Bev! “Generations of Rancho students have worked at Happies, and it’s been your youthful energy that kept it alive so long. Never had a family of my own. Didn’t need to. You were it. I’m sorry to say that, as you know, Happies closed for good last week. But its memory will live long in our hearts. And you will always be my family—loved, appreciated, occasionally cursed upon when you leave freezer doors open and the ice cream thaws. Thank you, Rancho Soldado. I couldn’t be prouder to be one of your high school’s graduates.”
There was not a dry eye in the house. And it wasn’t mere choked-back sobs resounding across the football field. It was more like waves and waves of weeping wails.
That’s when I knew. As Mayor Jerry hugged a sobbing Bev Happie, I realized she was at the perfect moment of vulnerability. It had been clear for a while that the Happies restaurant was going under and wouldn’t survive the year, and I, its former worst waitress, had relentlessly campaigned for Bev to allow the senior class to retire the restaurant in style, to no avail. Until now. I would beg her one last time to let me throw a senior class party at Happies.
Now was the right moment to pounce. This time she’d say yes.
“No,” said Bev. “Absofuckinglutely not.”
After the ceremony, Bev was all but tackled on the football field. Tackled by love. Herds of graduates and their families couldn’t leave the festivities until they’d gotten one last hug and signature kiss on the cheek from Bev Happie. I was one of the stragglers at the end of the love parade. I’d waited till I knew Bev would be exhausted but also coasting on goodwill. Then, I’d made my move, going in for a hug, congratulating her, and on the down-low, saying, “Happies should have that one last party, don’t you think? Pretty fucking please, Bev?”
- "A fun read featuring a diverse cast of characters and a lot of heart... relatable and entertaining."—School Library Journal
- "A bawdy and colorful outing that may draw fans of Bridesmaids and Broad City."—BCCB
- "An entertaining and easy read, populated with quirky characters and absurd circumstances."—VOYA
- On Sale
- Apr 10, 2018
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers