BY: SHANNON KENNEDY

Be careful what you wish for ~ you may get it!

Sarah Flynn’s fondest desires come true when she makes the varsity cheer squad at Stewart Falls Academy. And wonder of wonders, her dream guy, Jason Phillips, the football captain, finally has time for her. He claims to “love” her as much as she adores him. However, things aren’t as perfect as they seem.

No matter how hard she tries, she can’t make him happy. As the days go by it grows harder and harder to explain her constant injuries. She knows she shouldn’t be battered by someone who supposedly cares about her, but how can she change Jason? And more importantly, can she get out of this relationship alive?

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: Asking for It by Shannon Kennedy is the story of Sarah, a 16-year-old girl who loves riding horses and cheerleading at her school. She is doing her best, in spite of the other things she must deal with in her in her life, to make the most of things. She is dedicated to being a cheerleader and the responsibilities of school, but practice, homework, and babysitting her batty sister are putting a lot of pressure on her. And so is having her first real boyfriend. With a mom who drinks too much, a stepdad who talks down to her, and a snotty nosy little step- sister dubbed “Princess Priss” who steals her things and gives them away, it seems like Sarah has enough trouble in her life. Her real dad is her only hope, but being the daughter of a military man has its own problems.

When a series of unexplained accidents start happening to Sarah, everyone begins to wonder what is going on. Is it her step-dad Bruce or maybe her older brother Warren? Could be it be the snotty girls on the Cheer Squad? Who is hurting Sarah? And why? That is the question on everyone’s minds. As the incidents escalate to more severe accidents, it becomes clear that time is running out. Soon Sarah may get hurt in a way she can’t recover from. Sarah knows whose responsible, but she’s not talking. Will she say something before it’s too late? This is a truly great read.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Asking for It by Shannon Kennedy gives a chilling look into the world of domestic abuse and violence. We hear so much about battered wives these days, we tend to forget that this can happen to those who aren’t even married. I was a little appalled to think it could happen to a sixteen-year-old junior in high school, but as I read the book, I realized that it probably happens more than any of us realize.

Asking for It is a compelling look at not only domestic violence, but also at child abuse, both physical and verbal. When we think of child abuse, most of us think of physical abuse both sexual and non-sexual. But this story makes it clear that verbal abuse and outright neglect can be just as damaging, if not as visible. I feel like every young girl and her parents should read this book. It is realistic and thought provoking and teaches a very important lesson—that abuse is not okay under any circumstances. I, too, think this is a great read.

CHAPTER 1

Stewart Falls, Washington,

Wednesday, August 22nd, 10:23 am:

I looked at the ragged line of klutzy, soon-to-be-fourth-and-fifth-graders, in shorts and T-shirts, determined to become elementary school cheerleaders. Had I ever been this clumsy? Gawd, I hoped not. I pasted on what I hoped was a cheerful smile. “That was a great start.”

“Hello, Sarah. We’ve been here since Monday,” a chunky brunette told me, all snark in a “Hello Kitty” T-shirt and pink shorts. “We suck.”

“Not as bad as I did at my first practice,” my partner, B.J., a newcomer to Junior Varsity said, smacking her gum. “I super-sucked.”

Five of the six girls giggled and pushed at each other. The sixth, Ms. Snark, cracked a smile.

“B.J., don’t say that.” I glared over my shoulder at her. “They’ve been working really hard and cheerleading isn’t easy.”

“Yeah.” B.J. blew a huge pink bubble, popped it and pulled the gum back into her mouth. “What I said, Sarah. It’s hard and they—“

“Suck!” our group chorused. More giggles and outright laughter.

I planted my fists on my hips. “That’s not the Highlander way. Our creed is, “We’re the best of the best.”

“Yup,” B.J. said. “Even when we—”

“Suck!” they all yelled.

I saw Hailey Collins, the Varsity Cheer captain, give us the evil eye before she turned back to the award-winning middle school group of tweens and teens who’d been cheering and dancing for the past three years. I’d hear about the “sucking” incident later, but maybe there’d be a natural disaster like a major earthquake and she’d forget all about us.

By lunch-time when cheer camp ended for the day, our mini-squad was in step. They could all do the grapevine part of the dance in line and turn at the same time. Most importantly, they obviously all felt they were part of a team, their team. They hugged both me and B.J. before they bolted for their parents’ cars.

I grabbed B.J.’s arm when Hailey and Abbie started toward us. “Don’t leave. They’re the leaders of Varsity.”

“And their crap doesn’t stink.” B.J. tossed her head, bright red waves tumbling down, even though Hailey decided we were all supposed to braid our hair for cheer practice. “We’re as good as they are. Tell them to get lives, Sarah.”

“I can’t do that,” I whispered. Not when I knew what would happen if I lost it with the two of them. Hailey was the Drama Diva of the Academy and nobody wanted to be on her bad side. I hastily put on my best smile when the two seniors got closer. “Hi.”

“Your group really got it together today,” Abbie said. “Nice job, Sarah.” She nodded at B.J. “Have we met?”

“Nope. I transferred into the Academy last spring and Sarah talked me into trying out for cheerleading.” B.J. popped her gum. “I’m like her understudy.”

“Oh, so that’s why you don’t know the Academy way,” Hailey informed her. She waved at the long, low brick buildings at the far end of the campus. “The elementary and middle schools are part of the Academy and their students adhere to the same rules we do.”

“You don’t say.” B.J. played dumb and acted real innocent, but I knew it was a con. “Wow, I’m impressed.”

Hailey shuddered dramatically. “And nobody at the Academy says ‘“suck.’”

“Even when they know they do?” B.J. widened emerald green eyes and tried to sound even more naïve. “What a load of bull—”

I elbowed her. “I’m sorry, Hailey. It won’t happen again.”

“Till the next time something sucks,” B.J. said.

That earned us an even harsher frown from Hailey. “Have you read the Academy handbook? The gum has to go. You’re expected to set a good example for the rest of the school, B.J.”

“Gee, I didn’t know school was in session.” B.J. smacked her gum again. “I thought this was August, but then I’m not blonde.”

Oh my Gawd! She was so busted.

Hailey narrowed sky-blue eyes and folded her arms. She’d dressed up for today in thin blue sweats and running shoes, but then she always looked like a teen model. We weren’t any competition for her. B.J. and I barely topped five feet. We weren’t tall or glamorous like Hailey. She wasn’t even sweating under her makeup, like I was. And despite the braid, black strands of hair stuck to my face, while Hailey’s sunshine gold hair gleamed in her own perfect braid that fell halfway down her back.

She gave B.J. the kind of frown that sent most of our Junior Varsity squad racing for the locker room. B.J. didn’t flinch. Dropping her voice to a snarl, Hailey demanded. “Do you know who I am?”

“No. God in a cheer uniform or just the witch of Stewart Falls Academy? Or is there a better way to spell it? Maybe with a capital B?”

“I can have you off your squad in a phone call.”

“Promise?” B.J. pulled out her cell and offered it to Hailey. “Want me to push the buttons for you? Or can you manage all by yourself?”

“Please, Hailey.” I knew I catered to her whims and she had a lot of them. I still didn’t want B.J. off my squad. “B.J.’s the best flyer I’ve got and she’ll learn about SFA. We’re all committed to helping her do things the Academy way—I swear.”

“And getting on J.V. when she just arrived,” Abbie said, with her quick smile. “That’s amazing. She’s got the drive you tell the squads that we want SFA cheerleaders to have, Hailey, and to model for the students here.”

Hailey glared at B.J. again. “All right. If your captain’s willing to stick up for you and my assistant is, too, I can wait to get rid of you.”

I watched her stalk across the lawn that we all called The Green to the driveway where her boyfriend, Jason, waited in his sports car. Tall, tawny-blond, and a super-hot football star, I dreamed about him more than I ever admitted.

“Be careful,” Abbie told us, her cobalt-blue eyes worried. “Hailey’s been on a roll this summer. Two of the varsity girls are on the verge of quitting, and the three guys already have. I can’t wait till Coach Olson gets back from vacation.”

Abbie didn’t allow either of us to ask who would replace the missing cheerleaders on the advanced squad. She walked off, tall and graceful. She’d led the girls’ basketball team to State last year and said they’d kick butt again this season.

“She’s cool,” B.J. said. “And she likes you.”

“Only because I took her cousin cookies and visited him every week he was in the hospital and rehab after that car accident last May. A lot of his friends were too busy to see Timber during the summer.”

“Yeah, well Queen Hailey’s a real hag.” B.J. headed over and picked up our sports bags. “Her boyfriend’s a creep, too.”

“Jason Phillips? How do you figure? He’s gorgeous. Everybody says he’s fab.”

“He certainly thinks so,” B.J. said. “But he’s a loser. The whole time Hailey bitched you out, he kept ogling you.”

“Ogling?”

“Leering. Undressing you with his eyes like Liz says.” B.J. popped her gum one last time then spit it into a nearby garbage can. “Come on. Ringo’s waiting. Believe me if he looked at another girl the way that Jason looked at you, I’d take him to the vet to be neutered with my puppy.”

I smiled, wondering if Jason actually had looked at me. Had he really seen me? “I’ll tell Ringo you said that.”

“He knows,” B.J. told me, walking beside me toward the parking lot and her boyfriend’s truck. “I don’t share. Never have. Never will.”

She tossed our bags in the back-seat of the pickup and climbed in next to the huge, blond, surfer boy behind the wheel. Big lip-lock as if they’d been apart for years, not three hours since he dropped us off.

When they came up for air, B.J. said, “I’m starving. Let’s go grab a pizza at Parthenon’s.”

“I can’t,” I said. “I have to get home and babysit.”

“Give it a rest. We barely do anything because you have to take care of Princess Priss,” B.J. said. “Who has her now? Warren?”

“No. He’s off in Bellevue doing his internship. It’s my mom’s day off, but she told me to be home right after camp to—”

“Then, she can take care of her husband’s kid instead of dumping her on you.”

“We could get the pizza to go,” Ringo said. “We’ll grab some sodas and eat at Sarah’s.”

“I’d love that,” I told them. “But my mom isn’t good about me having company.”

“Hey, she can’t be mean to us, or to you when I’m there,” B.J. said. “I’ll rat her out to her mom and Liz in a heartbeat.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it.

B.J. claimed to be a tough street kid from Seattle, but ever since she moved in with my great-aunt Liz and her husband, Ted, I had a guardian angel. If B.J. hadn’t raised a stink about needing me with her while she did a ton of activities this summer, I’d have been Cinderella again.

Cooking, cleaning, laundry, and running after my stepsister had been my lot in life, during all my school breaks, forever but not this summer. Instead, I’d ridden my horse, taught horse camp, made money at my grandma’s stable, gone to movies, dog-clinics, and so much more. I would even be exhibiting Xanadu at the county fair this weekend while B.J. showed her puppy.

“Okay.” I pulled the pickup door closed. “Pizza! Let’s do it.”

***

Friday, August 24th, 5:30 pm:

The Evergreen State Fair opened on Thursday and ran from the end of August through Labor Day. This year my grandma’s 4-H Club, the Horse Heaven Angels, was scheduled to show our horses on the first Saturday. That meant we had a Friday night vet check. I was in luck, since my aunt Cathy volunteered to haul up my Arabian mare when she came to do the horsy inspections. I just had to meet them in the parking lot. No problem there.

My older brother loved going to the fair. He wasn’t into the exhibits. He preferred the carnival. He’d go through the booths, wasting money on trying to win prizes, then go on the most challenging rides to impress all the girls. This year he had company. Timber Watkins came along.

As soon as we pulled off the highway and Warren drove toward the horse gate, I said, “If you help me prep the stalls for the club, I’ll get you in through the exhibitor gate and then you won’t have to pay for parking.”

From the passenger seat, Timber glanced over his shoulder and smiled. “Sounds like a winner.”

“You’re easy.” Warren signaled for a right turn into the fairgrounds. “You didn’t even hold out for more chocolate chip cookies.”

“I’ll get them anyway and you don’t want Sarah doing ten stalls by herself.”

“Good point,” I said. “But you’ll have to wait till next week since I can’t make cookies up here.”

“No problem.” Timber grinned at me, laugh wrinkles around his night-dark eyes. “They’re worth it.”

At six foot, four, Timber was taller than most of the guys at Stewart Falls Academy. Thick, coal black hair curled around his tanned face. Rumors around school had it that his nose had been broken in a barroom brawl up in Pine Ridge, but he never admitted that. He was a scholarship student at our private school since he could play any sport and had taken the football team to state last year. He was a totally nice guy and he never complained when I showed up at his tutoring sessions last spring and summer. It was either that or stay home to babysit Priscilla all the time. And I’d do anything to avoid being with the brat. Who could blame me, well other than my mom and stepdad?

Two hours later, Xanadu was settled into a stall at the end of the barn. I’d bathed her on Wednesday afternoon and her chestnut coat still gleamed. While she ate her alfalfa and grass hay, I groomed her and explained how important the next day would be. She flicked her ears and kept on chewing.

“The higher the ribbons, the more money we make from the premiums. That’s how you get extras like organic carrots.” She nosed me at the sound of the “c” word and I handed her one.

She crunched it up like a horsy vacuum cleaner. Then, she nickered and nosed me for a second one. More treats while I fussed over her. I straightened out her flaxen mane and brushed it until each hair floated. Her white blaze and three white socks came next.

I heard a low yip and glanced at the front of the stall. B.J. stood in the aisle with her puppy, a black and white heeler mix. He’d jumped up on my tack trunk to see inside the stall. “What’s up?”

“Guard and I came to get you for supper,” B.J. told me. “Ted’s buying us whatever we want to eat and there’s a ton of food places. Liz says the fair only comes once a year. Let’s do it.”

“Okay.” I petted Xanadu again and promised to come back and check on her before the barns were locked up for the night.

When we headed through the carnival, Timber waved at us and hustled over to join us. “Hi, B.J. Where are you gals going to be? Warren and I will bring over Sarah’s suitcase. He says she’s staying up here for the weekend.”

I tipped back my head and stared up at him. “But, my mom said I have to be home every night.”

“And then Warren says you may not make it back in time for your horse-show classes.” Timber shrugged big, broad shoulders. “Hey, I’m just the guy who packs stuff around. Argue with your bro, Sarah, not me.”

I looked at B.J., then back at Timber. “I never argue with Warren. He always does what’s best for me.”

“Yeah. He’s a good guy.”

“Takes one to know one,” B.J. said. “We’re over by the dog park, Timber. Get Warren and come have supper with us.”

“You got it.”

After he left, I elbowed her. “What are you doing? I thought you and Ringo were solid.”

“We are and Timber’s not looking at me, Sarah. He’s stuck on you.” B.J. started walking away.

I stared after her then caught up with her in a couple steps. “He’s nice, but he’s not my kind of guy. I like him as a person, not a boy-friend.”

“Hey, you can do a lot worse than nice,” B.J. said. “Believe me, I know.”

“I’m holding out for hot and romantic.”

© 2013 by Shannon Kennedy