+a contemporary young adult novel+

Chapter One

For what it’s worth, Pearl’s a family name. One that’s been winding its way down the middle-name channel of my maternal line just fine until I arrived after an unreasonably-short labor and Mom spit out the first name that popped into her head. Labor-and-delivery-brain cannot be counted on, no matter the circumstances. I’m sure there are scientific studies.

But my first name is only half the problem. I’m sure I’m the only Pearl in existence with the last name of Harbet.

And it’s the first day of high school. Time to call roll. Time to brace myself.

“Pearl Har-?” The teacher squints at a folder she’s holding nearly at arm’s length. She’s already removed her glasses and put them on again. “Harb-?…Harbor?”  Oh . . .  Pearl  Harbor?” Mrs. Downing is new to the school and clueless. And I already despise World History.

“That would be Har-BET.” BET…BET. It’s my standard response, and I wonder how many days this week I’m going to have to give it.

But the classroom is quiet. No exploding torpedo blasts from the left. No bombs detonating off to my right. Really? Not a single Pearl Harbor sound effect accompanying my name being called? Are my fellow students finally bored with the whole thing? We’re in high school now. Do I dare hope that we’ve matured?

“New guy just walked in.” Vanya Pelt’s whisper is punctuated by a jab in the back. She’s the only one that I let halfway get away with that. When you know someone as long as we have you make allowances.

I duck my head back toward her. “I think your words were sufficient, thank you.” I turn to gaze at him like everyone else, but can’t pass judgment due to Hawk Donahue’s shock of red hair. And I mean shock literally. His tomato-red afro is electric, and it’s blocking my view of some of the more important features of the new guy. I notice the front of his T-shirt, though: gray with the words ‘got altitude?’ in black bold. I’m not sure from where I’m sitting, but the i dot looks like it’s replaced with a little airplane that’s soaring upward.