Hi everyone! Happy Wednesday! Today I am beyond thrilled to welcome author Sonia Hartl back to the blog as we reveal the cover for her sophomore novel, Not Your #Lovestory! Sonia is no stranger to Pop! Goes The Reader as she was kind enough to lend her voice to the 2019 Her Story: Ladies In Literature series as well as share the cover for her debut novel, Have A Little Faith In Me, on the blog back in February 2019! Have A Little Faith In Me, a novel about sex education, informed and enthusiastic consent, faith, female friendship and much more was one of the best novels I read last year and one I’ve recommended to countless people so being asked to host the cover reveal for Sonia’s next novel means the world to me.
Coming to a book store and library near you September 1st 2020 from Page Street Kids, Not Your #Lovestory follows the story of Macy Evens, a YouTuber whose life is turned upside down when her supposed “meet cute” with a relative stranger goes viral and everything – including her burgeoning relationship with the shy boy next-door – is impacted. Sonia’s work has already proven warm, charming, empowering and insightful and has been called “bitingly funny” by Publishers Weekly, so I couldn’t be more excited to read what she writes next! Please read on to see the cover of Not Your #Lovestory as well as to read an exclusive excerpt from chapter three of the novel at the conclusion of the post!
About Sonia Hartl
Sonia Hartl is the author of Have A Little Faith In Me (Page Street, Fall 2020). When she’s not writing or reading, she’s enjoying pub trivia, marathoning Disney movies, or taking a walk outside in the fall. She’s a member of SCBWI and the communications director for Pitch Wars. She has been published in The Writers Post Journal and Boston Literary Magazine. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two daughters.
Cover design by Kylie Alexander
Title Not Your #Lovestory
Author Sonia Hartl
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Publication Date September 1st 2020 by Page Street Kids
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● IndieBound ● Barnes & Noble
When Macy Evens meets a boy named Eric, she’s smitten but not head-over-heels. He’s funny but also kind of a jerk. They hit it off, though she never gets his number, so Macy’s sure she’ll never see him again.
Until she finds out a stranger witnessed their supposed “meet cute” and live tweeted it to a captive online audience. What started as an innocent thread gained retweets, until now, Macy and Eric are a viral sensation. Her YouTube channel has never been more popular, but the masses aren’t clicking her subscribe button for reviews of old VHS tapes. They only care about her not-actually-a-relationship with Eric.
While he’s more than happy to milk his newfound fame, Macy is worried about how this unwanted attention could impact her real relationships — especially with the shy boy next-door, Paxton, who she’s actually developing feelings for. With Macy’s faux-romance going viral, the whole world is watching to see what she does next. And so is she.
The bell above the door dinged and I hopped off my stool, expecting a customer. Instead Paxton Croft strolled in through the front entrance. His soft brown hair curled around his ears, which stuck out in an elfish way, and he was wearing…Oh my God. Was that a giant bunny sewn across the chest of his T-shirt?
Midnight poked her head out of the closet/break room and smirked. Elise dropped her wrench on the concrete floor and wandered over with her hands in her pockets. The image of a snake slithering up on a mouse popped into my head. Poor Brady kept sneaking glances at Paxton, like he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to laugh or not.
“I know what you’re all probably thinking.” Paxton’s hazel eyes sparkled as he gestured to the bunny on his shirt, as if any of us could look away from it. “Let’s just get it out of the way so we can all get back to work. Go ahead. Give me your best shot.”
“Someone forgot to tell you that you’re too old for Baby Gap,” Elise said.
“You’re the reason why swipe left was invented,” Midnight said.
“You look like you failed first grade for the twelfth year in a row,” I said.
“Seriously?” Paxton leaned against the wall with a bored expression. “I told you to give me your best shot and that’s all you could come up with? Pathetic.”
Elise screwed up her face. Challenge accepted. “You’re like a human version of the free box at a garage sale.”
“You look like you collect two-dollar bills,” Midnight said.
“Like you’re auditioning for the part of ‘sassy old lady’ in a Hallmark movie,” I said.
“All right. That’s enough.” Paxton gave us a slow clap. “Everyone, back to work.”
“Excuse me.” Midnight held up a hand. “I believe I’m the shift supervisor here, and I’ll tell everyone when it’s time to get back to work.”
“I believe you gave that title to yourself, and no one cares.”
She flipped up her middle finger and went back to her paperwork. Now that the show was over, Elise got bored and resumed working on the almond-colored refrigerator that probably wouldn’t be worth the price to fix it for a flip anyway. Paxton grinned at me. We’d been friends (and occasional coconspirators) since we’d started working here at the same time — me on the video side and him on the repair side — but most people thought he worked on the video side of the store since he spent so much time over here.
“Macy Mae, back from the big city.” He reached up, fingers skimming the ends of my short hair. I’d cut it the day before the game, not having the patience to grow it past my chin. “I bet your mom was one of those obnoxious fans who tried to get everyone to do the wave.”
“Correct. What’s all this about?” I pointed to the comically large shirt bunny.
“Gigi made it for me, and you know I can’t tell her no.”
“Ah. Say no more.”
Gigi had been a Bee for the last two years, and she was also the wife of Paxton’s grandma Lisbeth. Everyone loved Gigi, but Paxton loved her best. Even though Gigi and Lisbeth had been married since they were legally allowed, a lot of people in town still acted like they were similar to Gram and Peg. Just gals being pals. The VHS rental store wasn’t the only thing ass-backward about Honeyfield.
Paxton and Gigi raised rabbits together for the county fair competitions and he always said it was the thing that saved him, though he never elaborated beyond that. Most everyone assumed it had to do with his parents. They spoke about it in whispers around town. Like there was a car accident and they died, but he survived, and that was why he lived with his grandma and never learned how to drive. No one wanted to ask him directly in case it was a sore subject.
Paxton made his introductions to Brady like we didn’t all go to the same school that had less than a hundred students. Total. Paxton clapped a hand on Brady’s shoulder. “Don’t let the girls take advantage and stick you on rewind duty all day.”
“I don’t mind doing it.” Brady’s voice was featherlight.
Paxton raised his eyebrows at me, and I stifled the urge to laugh. No one wanted to be on rewind duty. Literally no one. But if Brady didn’t mind . . .
“Leave him be,” I said to Paxton. “If he likes to rewind, let him rewind.”
“See how they pretend to be friendly?” Paxton asked Brady, winking at me. “Are we doing movie on the lake tonight?”
“I’m in. I’m sure Elise is too. Do you want to come, Brady?” I asked. “It’s a lot of fun.”
“Sure.” Brady hunched his shoulders, like being addressed directly made him squirm. “I’m not sure what movie on the lake is, but I guess I’m one of you now.”
“You have to experience it to really know,” Paxton said.
Movie on the lake was a lot less glamourous than we made it sound. Mostly it involved Paxton breaking into the park’s storage unit and snagging two paddleboats, tying them together, and sitting in the middle of the lake with his laptop. But since our rental store was the hub of entertainment in this town, we had to make our own fun.
I called toward the closet/break room. “Midnight, you in for movie on the lake?”
She came out of her hovel and shrugged, a gesture that for Midnight was practically akin to jumping up and down with excitement.
“What’s tonight’s feature going to be?” I asked. “And don’t say Jaws.” Paxton had this weird obsession with watching tragic water movies on the water. He said it gave the experience atmosphere. We’d already run through the first three Jaws movies.
He frowned. “What’s wrong with Jaws?”
“I’m all Jaws’d out. And Midnight is too.” She gave a noncommittal grunt, which I took as a sign of agreement. “Pick something else.”
“Joke’s on you, because I already picked something else — The Perfect Storm.”
Midnight and I groaned in unison, but we’d go, because what else were we going to do? I hopped on the stool by the register, letting my feet dangle just above the floor. I spun the stool side to side while I opened the YouTube app. Just one more check, then I’d put it away for at least an hour.
Paxton wandered around the counter, close enough for his T-shirt to be a whisper on my shoulder. “How’s the register running? Midnight said it was acting up last night.”
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to wait for the lunch rush to find out.” I set my phone aside. “Hey, Elise.” She popped her head up from the refrigerator. “Want to rent a DVD and spare us all from The Perfect Storm tonight?”
“Please, yes.” She came over to spin the rack and smacked her gum, scanning the titles as if she didn’t already have them memorized by heart. “Are you ever going to get DVD copies of the movies you have on VHS?”
The guy who owned this place didn’t bother with doubling up on movies. He didn’t even live in town. He likely had a private jet and permanent home-plate seats at Kauffman Stadium and so many businesses that he forgot this one existed. We didn’t even know his name. None of us could read the signature on our paychecks. Occasionally we’d get a movie back where the tape had worn thin, broken, or made static lines appear on TV screens, and Midnight always fired off an email using the only contact address we had, asking for a replacement, and a week later a DVD of that title would show up. It was a weird system, but at least we had jobs.
Elise eventually decided on Dirty Dancing. “It has a lake scene—don’t bitch,” she said to Paxton. He poked her on the nose, and she batted his hand away, laughing. While I rung her up, she blew a bubble the size of her head and stuck a hole in it with her tongue, coating her lips in sticky pink goo.
The register popped open after a few bumps with my fist. I spun my stool toward Paxton, my knees gliding across his waist. I hadn’t realized how close he’d been standing. “It’s working fine. Midnight just doesn’t have the touch.”
I picked up my phone again, unlocked the screen, and nearly dropped it.
“What happened?” Paxton put a hand on my shoulder as he leaned over me.
My breath whooshed out. Somehow my rom-com review had hit one hundred thousand views. In an hour. I thumbed through my other videos. The most recent ones had gone over the fifty thousand mark. What? How?
Brady stopped rewinding and looked over his shoulder as Elise rushed around the counter. I must’ve looked like my soul had unhooked from my body and gone floating into the ether, because that was just about how I felt.
My fingers and toes tingled as I handed my phone to Elise. “I…uh…”
“Holy fuck. Our girl Misty Morning is Internet famous.” Elise let out a whooping laugh. She grabbed Brady’s hands, and he froze while she attempted a little spinning dance with him. “Her latest video hit one hundred thousand, baby.”
“Congrats,” Paxton said, like he didn’t really mean it. He had an aversion to all things social media. He went online to get movies, and nothing more.
“I can’t believe this is happening.” My voice came out breathy and light.
I felt weightless and terrified all at the same time. This was everything I’d been dreaming of and working toward. That moment when I could start earning an income stream from my videos. It was something I brushed off to my friends, and never said out loud, in case I couldn’t do it. In case I failed. I just said I did them for fun, and I did, but I also really, really wanted to make it. To call myself a YouTuber and mean it.
But I had no idea what prompted the sudden surge in my views. I hadn’t expected to get close for another year. Maybe two. My heart soared as I turned back to my phone and started scrolling through the comments. Maybe I’d find some clue in there to explain my left-field success, something that flipped the switch so I could repeat it.
I flicked to the first comment. DISGUSTING, bold and capitalized. Yikes. And okay, I made Molly Ringwald’s hair out of some red Vanna’s Choice yarn that Gram had lying around, but we couldn’t all afford real wigs, Sharon. All the big videos had nasty comments though; maybe that meant I had arrived. I deleted Sharon’s comment and moved on.
Except the next few comments were some variation of questioning my morals, my upbringing, my looks. All the sound around me washed out. I could only hear my pulse pounding blood into my brain. I scrolled until I landed on one that said, a quickie at kauffman stadium? shame on you. my kids go there.
“Everything okay?” Elise stopped celebrating and rested her chin on my head. “Jesus, those comments are vile. The Internet is full of trash people. Ignore them.”
I couldn’t though. My tongue stuck to the roof of my dry mouth as I opened my other apps. I hadn’t hooked up with anyone, but I’d definitely been at Kauffman Stadium. How did they know that? I posted all my videos as Misty Morning under R3ntal Wor1d.
My Instagram had much of the same, but I used my real name there. How did they link that to my YouTube? I kept them separate on purpose. I quickly made my account private and went over to my Twitter. At some point between flipping through apps, Elise or Paxton had gone to get Midnight. They huddled around me like a protective shield, not daring to speak while I tried to find the source of this nightmare.
After scrolling through my clogged-up mentions, I found it. Dozens of pictures of me at Kauffman Stadium. Sort of blurred out, but not enough. Anyone who knew me, who knew I was going to the game (which was everyone in town), would’ve been able to identify me. Or at least identify the seashell shirt Gram had made for me. Not to mention all the unblurred pictures I’d posted myself to Instagram. The images appeared to be taken from the row of seats behind me. I clicked on the picture of the person who had started a hundred-thread tweet about my supposed romance at the ball game, and vomit rose up in my throat.
She didn’t have her pink bow on in her picture, but I still recognized Jessica Banks as the woman who’d sat behind me. Who had encouraged Eric to escort me to the bathrooms. Who dropped her phone as soon as I looked at her, but I thought she’d been taking pictures of the field. She hadn’t. She’d been taking pictures of me.
I scrolled to the top of the thread, and the photo was one of me trying to awkwardly wipe ketchup off Eric’s shirt. She’d captioned it: This is how meet-cutes happen in the movies, y’all. She followed it up with heart-eye emojis around Eric’s shirtless picture. Ew. He had to be young enough to be her son.
A whole series of our every move followed, all of them captioned with exclamations to make it seem like there was more going on than what had actually happened. Every time his arm brushed mine (did people know how small those seats were?), every time I looked over at his bare chest, and when I showed him my rom-com video. At least that answered how everyone had found my YouTube channel. She didn’t bother to blur out my phone screen.
She even rewrote the whole fly ball catch. She took a picture of Eric with the ball, and then him handing it to me, with the caption, He gave her the fly ball. Now that’s love. That pissed me off more than anything. I’d caught the ball on my own, thank you very much.
The worst one, the most damning picture, had been taken of me and Eric walking down the short hall toward the bathrooms. When he had his hand on the small of my back. The picture had been cut off from just the right angle, so it looked like the hall only led to the women’s room. The shot came from directly behind us, by the popcorn cart. Jessica must’ve followed us there. She’d captioned the picture, They’re going to the bathroom. TOGETHER. OH EM GEEEE!!! It had over 900,000 likes and 300,000 retweets. Followed by a picture of me and Eric leaving the bathrooms.
I couldn’t have been in there for longer than five minutes, and even though I was aware of how quickies worked, no way could anyone believe we’d had sex in the time it had taken me to pee and wash my hands. I checked the time stamp on the one of us walking away from the bathrooms. She’d held on to that picture for twenty minutes before posting it. Plenty of time. She knew exactly what she’d been doing.
I searched for Eric Dufrane, just to see if he’d been identified yet. If not, at least I could warn him so he wouldn’t get the shock of his life. I searched for him on Twitter, and what I found turned my blood to ice. He had forty thousand Twitter followers under the handle @baseballbabe2020. His bio had one sentence: catching fly balls and feelings.
And he’d retweeted Jessica’s thread.
I wanted to scream or throw up or disappear or all of the above at the same time. My phone had become this living being trying to choke the life out of me. I threw it against the wall, cracking the screen. I might’ve started crying, or not. I had no clue. I couldn’t feel my face.
“Take the rest of the day off. I’ll cover you.” Midnight gave me an awkward shoulder bump. She was definitely not the hugging type, but she was trying. It offered me no comfort.
“I…I’m sorry. So sorry.” Paxton held my gaze as devastation and something darker replaced his normally gentle humor.
His arms came around me and I stiffened to keep from curling into him, from letting go and completely losing it right there in the middle of the store. He immediately dropped his arms and stepped back. Not in a mad way, but like he sensed I needed the space to hold it together.
“I’m taking her home,” Elise said. It wasn’t a request. She led me out to her truck and opened the door, depositing me in the front seat like I was an injured kitten she’d rescued from the side of the road. “Your mom will know what to do.”
No, she wouldn’t. This was beyond her. Beyond any of us. In a matter of hours, amateur Internet sleuths had dug up my real name, my YouTube channel, and all my social media accounts. Every time someone googled my name, that was what they’d see.
And I couldn’t do a thing to stop it.