Get ready for the perfect new rom-com to take center stage in your life! Simonverse series author Becky Albertalli is bringing us a whole new loveable cast of characters who literally thrive on the drama in Kate in Waiting, a new novel about daring to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight in love, life, and, yes, theater.
Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theater rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.
But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off-script. Matt Olsson is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.
Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship.
Read a sneak peek of Kate in Waiting below and don’t forget to preorder the book here to get this stunning necklace!
It really feels like an ending, in every way possible. With the curtains pulled closed, the stage might as well be another planet. A well-lit planet full of giant foam set pieces, inhabited only by Andy and me—and Matt.
“It’s now or never,” whispers Andy. He doesn’t move an inch.
Neither do I.
We just sort of stand there, in the shadow of a papier-mâché Audrey 2.
There’s nothing sadder than the end of a crush. And it’s not like this was one of those distant-stranger crushes. Andy and I have actually talked to this boy. Tons of words, on multiple glorious occasions. No small feat, since Matt’s the kind of gorgeous that usually renders us speechless. He’s got one of those old-timey faces, with blond hair and pink cheeks. Our friend Brandie collects Coca-Cola merch, and I swear the vintage ad in her bathroom looks exactly like Matt. Thus the nickname. The ad says, “Thirst stops here.” But in our case, the thirst doesn’t stop.
It’s basic Avril Lavigne math. We were the junior theater counselors. He was our cute townie vocal consultant. You truly could not make it any more obvious. And for a full six weeks, he’s been the sun in our solar system. But he lives up the road from camp, in Mentone, Alabama.
Which is just about a hundred miles away from Roswell, Georgia.
So Andy’s right. Now or never.
Deep breath. “Hey. Uh, Matt.”
I swear I can feel Anderson’s surprised approval. Damn, Garfield. Just going for it. Get yours.
I clear my throat. “So. We wanted to say goodbye. And. Um. Thank you.”
Matt slides a sheet of music into his tote bag and smiles.
“For the vocal consultation,” I say. “And everything.”
Andy nods fervently, adjusting his glasses.
“Aww, Kate! You too. So cool meeting you guys.” Matt hoists his tote bag over his shoulder, shifting his weight toward the door, just barely. Exit posture. Crap. I’m just going to—
“Can we take a selfie?” I blurt. I’m already cringing. You know what would be cool? If my voice would stop shaking. Also, Anderson. My dude. Anytime you want to step up, be my guest.
“Oh, sure,” Matt says. “Let’s do it.”
We squeeze into the frame, curtain tickling our backs, and I stretch my arm out at the up angle, just like Anderson trained me. And we smile. I mean, I’m trying to. But I’m so flustered, my lips are trembling.
It’s worth it. Even if I come out looking like a dazed fangirl, it’s worth it. Raina and Brandie have been begging for photographic evidence of Coke-Ad Matt’s cuteness, and God knows Instagram’s yielded nothing.
But this picture isn’t for the squad. Not really. Honestly, they’re both just going to make fun of us for having yet another communal crush. According to Raina, Anderson and I are enmeshed, which basically means we’re codependent. Apparently some people believe falling in love is a thing you’re supposed to do on your own.
And yeah, Raina aced AP Psych so hard, she’s practically a licensed psychologist already. But here’s the thing she doesn’t get. It’s not about Matt. Or Josh from last summer, who had very strong opinions about breakfast. Or Alexander from the summer before, who was really into being from Michigan. It has nothing to do with any of them.
It’s about Anderson and me. It’s about scheming in the prop closet and reading way too much into every flicker of eye contact. It’s about brushing our teeth six times a day, always prepared for the unexpected makeout scenario. And in the end, when the makeout scenarios never materialized, it hardly mattered. It didn’t matter. Because the makeouts weren’t the point.
The giddiness was the point.
And I feel like this all sounds like a Bit Much, but that’s just Andy and me. We bring it out in each other. And truthfully, summer crushes make for a surprisingly fun and robust team activity.
Less fun now that summer’s over. Now it’s just that sinking-boat feeling of a crush lost too soon. A crush cut down in its prime.
But that boat’s so much less lonely when your best friend’s on board.
Five minutes into junior year, and I’m done. No, seriously. Let’s burn this whole year to the ground.
For one thing, I can barely keep my eyes open. Which doesn’t bode well, seeing as I haven’t even entered the building yet. Or left the school parking lot. Or even unbuckled my seat belt.
And it’s Anderson’s fault.
Because Anderson Walker knows I need seven hours of sleep to not be a zombie demon on Xanax, and yet. And yet! This mess of a boy let himself into my house, into my room, and turned on my lights at five thirty a.m. Because he needed my input on his first-day-back cardigan choice. Navy blue with brown buttons, or navy with navy buttons. “Just give me your gut reaction,” he’d said.
My gut reaction was hurling a pillow at his face.
Now, almost three hours later—right on schedule—he’s spiraling again in the parking lot.
“You’re sure the navy’s okay?”
“Andy. It’s fine.”
“More than fine. You look perfect.”
And he does. He always does. Anderson’s honestly too cute for this earth. Smooth brown skin, dimples, and a short, tapered Afro, not to mention big brown eyes behind plastic-framed glasses. And he’s got that nautical schoolboy aesthetic down to a science: crisp button-downs and cardigans and rolled-up pants.
He rubs his cheeks. “I just don’t want to look like trash. It’s the first day of—”
But he’s drowned out by trap music blasting out of a Jeep. Make way for the fuckboys.
Unfortunately, Roswell Hill High School is fuckboy ground zero. Mostly the suburban athletic subtype. Fuckboius jockus. No joke. Just stand in the hallway and put your arm out for two seconds, and you’ll hit a fuckboy, right in his mesh athletic shorts. They’re everywhere, armies of them, all in RHHS team gear. So prolific we had to give them a not-so-secret code name. F-boys. Which doesn’t exactly obscure the meaning, but at least it keeps Brandie’s innocent ears from exploding.
I glare at the Jeep through Anderson’s passenger window. The driver keeps cupping his hands around his mouth, megaphone-style, to holler at groups of girls who walk by. The f-boy mating call. But his car door’s flung wide open and is therefore blocking my door.
The sheer audacity of f-boys.
“Kate.” Anderson pokes me with his keys, but I snatch them. I love his Funko Rapunzel keychain so much, it almost makes me want to learn to drive. Almost.
Our phones buzz simultaneously. Text from Raina or Brandie, no doubt.
Andy glances at his screen. “Come on, they’re already down there.”
Okay, that gets me moving. We’ve seen Raina a few times since camp ended, but Brandie left for Mexico the day before we got back. Which means it’s been over six weeks since the full squad’s been together.
Anderson grabs my hand to help me over the gear shift, and then we cut through the parking lot, bypassing the front entrance entirely. Instead, we head for the side door, which has direct access to the theater hall. Straight to Ms. Zhao’s room, where all the usual suspects have gathered.
Honestly, we theater kids are as instantly recognizable as f-boys. Though it’s not so much about the clothes in our case. It’s more like an aura. My brother said once that theater kids walk around like we’re each under our own tiny spotlight. Pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.
It’s true, though. Like, there’s none of that forced nonchalance people have about the first day of school. Instead, we have Margaret Daskin and Emma McLeod near the accessibility elevator, butchering Newsies, and Lindsay Ward gasping into her phone, and Colin Nakamura using Pierra Embry’s head as a drum. And of course, Lana Bennett’s delivering an urgent lecture to Kelly Matthews, who I can only assume made the mistake of referring to the school musical as a play. There is literally nothing Lana Bennett loves more than explaining the difference between musicals and plays to people who . . . clearly know the difference between musicals and plays.
Brandie and Raina are relatively chill, though, just leaning against the back wall, reading their phones. I think it’s generally understood that, out of our squad, they’re the ones who mostly have their lives together. I used to go back and forth in my head about which one of them was the mom friend, but the truth is, they’re both the mom friend. They’re just the mom friend in different ways. Raina’s the bossy mom who makes everyone stay healthy and hydrated and on top of their schoolwork. Brandie’s the soft mom who’ll let you cry all over her cardigan when your crush starts dating an f-girl from the volleyball team.
Today they’re so distracted, we’re practically nose-to-nose before they notice us.
“Boo,” I say.
They both look up with a start, and Raina’s eyes go straight to Anderson’s keys in my hand. “Kate, did you drive?”
I laugh, tossing the keys back to Andy. “Yeah, no.”
“Didn’t you say you were going to—”
“Yup. And I will.”
Raina narrows her eyes.
“I will! Really soon.”
Technically, I could take the driver’s test tomorrow—I’ve had my permit for almost a year and a half. But I haven’t taken the plunge. And I’m not exactly dying to, either. At the end of the day, I’m really a passenger seat kind of person.
Brandie hugs me. “Your hair looks so cute!”
So maybe Anderson’s five-thirty wake up call paid off. Normally, my hair’s a notorious mess. It’s that halfway point between blond and brown, and left to its own devices, it’s almost recklessly wavy. But right now, it’s what Anderson calls white-girl-on-YouTube wavy. I do think it’s worth the effort every now and then, given that I’m a person whose overall attractiveness is highly hair-correlated. But now I feel like I’m broadcasting to the whole world how hard I’m trying.
“How was Mexico?” I brush the ruffled sleeve of Brandie’s dress. “I love this.”
She smiles. “It was great. Really hot, though. How was camp?”
“I mean, none of our campers died.”
“Well done,” Raina says.
“And.” I press my hand to my heart. “Matt knows our names.”
“Cokehead Matt?” Raina grins.
“Okay, that’s blasphemy.” I scrunch my nose at her. “I’m serious, he’s like an old-timey dreamboat—”
“Which they’d already know if someone was capable of taking group selfies without decapitating people.”
“Um, it’s not my fault Matt’s six feet tall,” I say. “Did I mention he’s six feet tall?”
“Literally ten times,” says Raina.
Anderson turns to Brandie and Raina. “Did I tell you he knew how to pronounce Aeschylus? On the first try?”
“Sounds like boyfriend material,” says Brandie.
“God yes,” says Anderson. “Don’t you want to just, like . . . wear his letterman jacket and let him pin you—”
“—to a bed?” Raina asks.
Anderson bites back a smile, and then shakes his head quickly. “Anyway.” His eyes flick back to Ms. Zhao’s door. “No updates?”
“Nothing,” Raina says. “Not even a clue. Harold thinks it’s going to be A Chorus Line.”
Anderson whirls to face her head-on. “Why?”
“Gut feeling?” Raina shrugs. “Ginger intuition?”
“Is ginger intuition a thing?”
“I mean, according to Harold.”
Harold MacCallum: world-class jellybean. Sunshine in boy form. Raina’s boyfriend. They met about a year ago in this online trans support group Raina moderates. Harold’s cis, but his twin sibling is nonbinary, and he actually lives pretty close to us. He’s super shy, and kind of wonderfully awkward. Raina gets this smile in her voice whenever she talks about him.
“Okay, well I have a theory,” Anderson says. “It’s a medieval year.”
“Hear me out. Last year was West Side Story. Freshman year was Into the Woods. And they did Bye Bye Birdie when we were in eighth grade.”
“I don’t get it,” says Brandie.
“I’m just saying. The PTA is super cheap, right? So we’re just cycling through two sets of costumes. We’ve got the fifties costumes and the medieval costumes, and they alternate them so no one catches on. Just watch. Any minute, Zhao’s coming out with the sign-up sheet.” Andy’s enjoying this now—drawing out the info, dimples activating. “And you’ll see. It’s a medieval year. Mark my words. Cinderella, Camelot—”
“Or it’s going to be A Chorus Line,” I say, “and you’re going to feel like such a dumbass.”
“Yeah, but.” He lifts a finger. “A Chorus Line in medieval clothes. Follow the money, Garfield. Follow the money.”
Raina and I snort at the exact same moment. But before either of us can make the requisite wiseass remark, Ms. Zhao’s door creaks open.
And the whole corridor goes silent.
Anderson grabs my hand, and my heart’s in my throat. Which makes zero sense, since there’s no suspense here. It’s the same every year. Ms. Zhao announces the fall musical on the first day of school. Then I spend a week or two freaking out for no reason, playing the soundtrack on repeat, letting my daydreams run wild. It’s that same nonsensical thought every time. Maybe this is the year. Maybe this is when the switch flips. But the truth is, I always know exactly where I’ll find myself when the cast list gets posted.
Bottom of the page. Nameless part in the ensemble. I’m an absolute legend in the category of Nameless Parts in the Ensemble.
But somehow this moment gets me every time. The way everyone freezes when Ms. Zhao steps out of the theater room. The way she keeps her face impassive and doesn’t make eye contact with anyone until the sign-up sheet’s officially on the door.
At least that’s how it’s supposed to go.
But when the door flings open at last, it isn’t Ms. Zhao there at all.
Anderson’s hand drops to his side. “Holy fuck.”
Which is how I know I’m not imagining it.
It doesn’t compute, though. He’s not from Roswell. He’s not even from Georgia.
My heart’s lodged high in my throat.
Because Matt. Dreamboat Matt. Coke-Ad Matt.
“You guys okay?” Brandie looks concerned. “Do we know him?”
“He sees us.” Anderson’s voice is choked. “Oh God. What’s he doing here? What—hiiiii.”
He’s walking toward us. THE Coke-Ad Matt is walking toward us, blue eyes flicking between Andy and me. And holy shit. The thirst did not end there. It did not end. It did not, it did not. “Um. Hey.”
His faint Alabama accent.
“Are you . . .” I trail off.
“I just moved here.” He runs a hand through his hair.
“You . . .” I blink. “You go here?”
“I’m a senior.”
“Look at them. Look at their faces,” Raina murmurs to Brandie.
“Love at first sight,” Brandie whispers.
“Or some fucked up communal crush at first sight.”
Wow, guys. Love that subtlety. And that judgment! Raina doesn’t get it. Neither of them do, and I doubt they ever will. Here’s the truth: crushes are pointless without Andy. More than pointless, they’re painful. Crushing alone is like running lines without a scene partner. No one to play off of, and your voice sounds fake and loud.
But neither my voice nor my brain are even functioning now. The conversation only partially registers. I’m too focused on the fact that Matt just shook Brandie’s hand and introduced himself with his full name. Like a grandfather. It’s adorable.
I can’t believe he’s here.
I was heartbroken to leave him. It’s so dumb, because it’s not like we were even really friends with him. It’s not like we were staying up late with him, swapping secrets in bunk beds. We literally learned this boy’s last name five seconds ago.
But it felt like we knew him. And not just the correctly pronounced Aeschylus name-drop that got Andy so bonered. I don’t care about Aeschylus. I just feel so—I don’t even know.
Discombobulated. That’s the word.
Because here’s Matt Olsson, looking like he stepped out of an Archie comic. Sandy-haired and straightforwardly beautiful, standing right in front of us. He’s a senior in high school. MY high school. In my Roswell. Roswell, Georgia, twenty miles north of Atlanta, home of an impressively well-stocked Super Target, infinite Waffle Houses and a staggering number of f-boys.
He meets my eyes. “Your hair looks different.”
“This is so weird,” I say, barely out loud.
Matt laughs. “Yeah, I know. I was just coming down here for first period.” He gestures vaguely at the theater room. “I didn’t think—”
“You have Ms. Zhao for first period?” Anderson’s eyes widen. “Advanced Drama?”
Advanced Drama, better known as Senior D. No idea why, other than the fact that the class is for seniors, and people like saying, “Seen yer D.” It’s the class of legends, though. Zhao won’t even consider you unless you’re serious about drama. And apparently the first two months are strictly about trust building, because stuff gets pretty intense, and it only works if you’re vulnerable. Everyone says you basically come out of Senior D with an acting MFA. I don’t know if I buy that, but I do know that class bonds people for life. Andy and I have been aching to enroll since we were freshmen.
“Anyway,” Matt says. “I’m supposed to bring a form up to Mr. Merced’s office.”
“Right now?” Brandie nods toward the door. “But Ms. Zhao’s about to announce the musical. Like. Any minute.”
“Is it a secret?”
Raina whirls around to face him, eyes narrowed. “She told you, didn’t she?”
Matt smiles the cutest, tiniest guilty smile I’ve ever seen in my life.
“Tell us.” Anderson clasps his hands. “Please tell us.”
Matt tilts his head. “Should I?”
Okay, how is he already teasing us? How is he this cool? I’m still trying to get my brain to stop spinning, and here’s Matt, gently trolling the squad like he’s known us for years.
“So you’re saying if the musical was Once Upon a Mattress, you’d want to know that?”
“Motherfucker.” Raina looks as gobsmacked as I feel. Zhao told Matt the musical. Wow. So much for tradition. So much for pomp and circumstance and secrecy. She just . . . told him. She told Matt.
Coke-Ad Matt. Who goes here now.
Okay, help me out here, yoga warm-up exercises. Let’s do a subtle inhale. Hold for ten. Subtle exhale. Kate Garfield, you are cool as a cucumber. Totally not freaking out. Nope. No overload in this brain.
Matt looks at me and smiles.
Okay, yeah, now I can’t think straight, can’t even breathe straight, can’t even hold my head up, can’t even—
“I have to pee,” Andy whispers.
I nod slowly, finally catching my breath.
I have to pee.
It’s our magic escape code.
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