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Autoboyography
Author: Christina Lauren

CHAPTER ONE

The end of our final winter break seems almost like the beginning of a victory lap. We’re seven semesters into our high school career, with one last—token, honestly—semester to go. I want to celebrate like your average guy: with some private time and a few mindless hours down the YouTube rabbit hole. Unfortunately, neither of those things is going to happen.

Because, from across her bed, Autumn is glaring at me, waiting for me to explain myself.

My schedule isn’t complete and classes start up in two days and the good ones fill up fast and This is just so like you, Tanner.

It’s not that she’s wrong. It is just like me. But I can’t help it if she’s the ant and I’m the grasshopper in this relationship. That’s the way it’s always been.

“Everything’s fine.”

“Everything’s fine,” she repeats, tossing her pencil down. “You should have that printed on a T-shirt.”

Autumn is my rock, my safe place, the best of my best—but when it comes to school, she is unbelievably anal-retentive. I roll onto my back, staring up at her ceiling from her bed. For her birthday sophomore year—right after I moved here and she took me under her wing—I gave her a poster of a kitten diving into a tub of fuzzy balls. To this day, the poster remains sturdily taped there. It’s a super-cute cat, but by junior year I think the innocent sweetness of it had been slowly sullied by its inherent weirdness. So, over the motivational phrase DIVE RIGHT IN, KITTY! I taped four Post-it notes with what I think the creator of the poster might have intended it to say: DON’T BE A PUSSY!

She must agree with the edit because she’s left it up there.

I turn my head to gaze over at her. “Why are you worried? It’s my schedule.”

“I’m not worried,” she says, crunching down on a stack of crackers. “But you know how fast things fill up. I don’t want you to end up with Hoye for O Chem because he gives twice as much homework and that will cut into my social life.”

This is a half-truth. Getting Hoye for chem would cut into her social life—I’m the one with the car; I chauffer her around most of the time—but what Autumn really hates is that I leave things to the last minute and then manage to get what I want anyway. We’re both good students in our own way. We’re both high honor roll, and we both killed our ACTs. But where Autumn with homework is a dog with a bone, I’m more like a cat lying in a sunny window; if the homework is within reach and doing something interesting, I’ll happily charm it.

“Well, your social life is our priority.” I shift my weight, brushing away a trail of cracker crumbs stuck to my forearm. They’ve left a mark there, tiny red indentations in the skin, the same way gravel might. She could stand to spread some of her obsessiveness to room cleaning. “Autumn, my God. You’re a pig. Look at this bed.”

She responds to this by shoving another stack of Ritz in her mouth, crumbling another trail onto her Wonder Woman sheets. Her reddish hair is in a messy pile on her head, and she’s wearing the same Scooby-Doo pajamas she’s had since she was fourteen. They still fit . . . mostly.

“If you ever get Eric in here,” I say, “he’ll be horrified.”

Eric is another one of our friends and one of only a handful of non-Mormon kids in our grade. I guess technically Eric is Mormon, or at least his parents are. They’re what most people would call “Jack Mormon.” They drink (both alcohol and caffeine) but are still reasonably involved in the church. Best of both worlds, he says—although it’s easy to see that the other Latter-day Saints students at Provo High don’t agree. When it comes to social circles, Jack Mormon is the same as not Mormon at all. Like me.

A few dry flecks of cracker fly out when Autumn coughs at this, feigning repulsion. “I don’t want Eric anywhere near my bed.”

And yet here I am, lying on her bed. It’s a testament to how much her mother trusts me that I’m allowed in her room at all. But maybe Mrs. Green senses already that nothing will happen in here between me and Auddy.

We did that once, over winter break our sophomore year. I’d lived in Provo for only five months by that point, but there was an immediate chemistry between us—driven by a lot of classes in common and a comfort from our shared defector status with the Mormon kids at school. Unfortunately, the chemistry dissolved for me when things got physical, and by some miracle we dodged the post-make-out awkward bullet. I am not willing to risk it again.

She seems to grow hyperaware of our proximity at the same moment I do, straightening and pulling her pajamas down her torso. I push up so I’m sitting, leaning against the headboard: a safer position. “Who do you have for first?”

Autumn looks down at her schedule. “Polo. Modern Lit.”

“Same.” I steal a cracker, and—like a civilized human—manage to eat it without dropping a crumb. Scanning down my paper with an index finger, I feel pretty good about this last term. “Honestly, my schedule isn’t too bad. I only need to add something for fourth.”

“Maybe you can add the Seminar.” Autumn claps joyfully.

Her eyes are flashlights, beaming their thrill into the dusky room: She has wanted to take this course since she was a freshman.

The Seminar—I’m serious; when the school references it in newsletters or announcements, they even capitalize it like that—is so pretentious it’s unreal. WRITE A BOOK IN A SEMESTER, the catalog cheerfully dares, as if that could happen only in this class. As if the average person couldn’t throw together enough words in four months. Four months is a lifetime.

Students who apply need to have completed at least one advanced placement English course and have a minimum of a 3.75 GPA for the previous term. Even if that includes seventy kids in our grade alone, the teacher only enrolls fourteen.

Two years ago, the New York Times wrote an article and called it “a brilliantly ambitious course, earnestly and diligently directed by the NYT-bestselling faculty member Tim Fujita.” (I know that direct quote because the piece was printed out, enlarged to about five thousand times the original size, and framed in the front office. My frequent gripe is the criminal overuse of adverbs, which Autumn thinks makes me petty.) Last year, a senior named Sebastian Brother took the Seminar, and some big publisher bought his manuscript. I don’t even know who he is and I’ve heard his story a hundred times: He’s a bishop’s son! He wrote a high fantasy novel! Apparently, it was amazing. Mr. Fujita sent it to an agent, who sent it to people in New York, and there was some sort of civilized warfare for it, and boom, now he’s across the street at BYU and apparently delaying his mission so that he can do a book tour and become the next Tolkien.

Or L. Ron Hubbard. Though I guess some Mormons might take issue with that comparison. They don’t like to be lumped in with cults like Scientology. Then again, neither do Scientologists.

Anyway, now—other than BYU football and the sea of Mormons—the Seminar is the only thing anyone ever talks about anymore when they mention Provo.

“You got in?” I confirm, not that I’m surprised. This class means everything to Autumn, and apart from already meeting the actual requirements, she’s been devouring novels nonstop in the hope that she’ll get a chance to write her own.

She nods. Her smile stretches from sea to shining sea.

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