Cover reveal! Jo never heard of the label “practice girl”…until she was called one. And those two devastating words would irreversibly change the way she saw everyone–including herself.
Jo Beckett is looking for love. She’s fallen for a few boys, but for some reason, they’ve never fallen for her. One night, at a party she didn’t even want to go to, she finds out the truth. Those boys, who are on the wrestling team she manages, consider her just a “practice girl”—the popular term for girl who’s good enough to hook up with but not to date.
With this crushing revelation, Jo feels so many things–heartsick, ashamed, betrayed, and angry. But she refuses to let that label define her. In piecing her life back together, Jo is forced to unpack more uncomfortable truths about all her relationships–from her best friend to the boy she likes–that help her understand her real worth.
From the author of the acclaimed This Raging Light, Practice Girl is a heart-wrenching, relatable, and ultimately triumphant story about a girl who rejects her label and decides for herself who she is to the world.
Scroll down to see the cover of Practice Girl and read a sneak peek!
Ty slides the box of cereal over and considers me. I’m hoping he’s thinking about how we just crossed over a new relationship threshold, maybe doing a little obsessing of his own. What I really want is to believe that the tenderness he showed me as we climbed the stairs to his room, as he held my hand, took his time removing my clothes, made appreciative noises at the sight of my naked body, is still there now that we’ve done it. I cross my arm over my chest and grip my own shoulder even though I’m not naked anymore.
He leans over and pats my free hand. My stomach plummets into my feet. This friendly patting of the hand does not bode well.
“Jo?” he says, his eyes deep, the color of mountain earth.
“Can I ask you something?” I recognize the look he gets when he’s trying a new wrestling move—total concentration.
“Of course.” I arrange my face into its best approximation of attentive and extremely attractive.
He doesn’t meet my eyes. “Was that . . . okay?” he asks.
“Yeah. I mean, am I okay? Was it . . . satisfying for you? When we . . .” He tilts his head toward mine. “I just want to make sure I didn’t suck. That you weren’t like, ‘I wish he would hurry up and stop touching me like that’ or counting down the seconds until you could get away from me or something. I mean . . . when I put my finger on your—”
“No!” I cut him off.
“No? No, that was not good?” He leans forward, spoon in hand. Little droplets of milk hang at its edges. I would not be surprised if he produced a notebook from his pocket and started taking notes.
I put my hand over his to reassure him. “Yeah, Ty. It’s good. You’re good. Great.”
Ty’s face relaxes. “Okay, cool,” he says. “It’s hard to know, you know?” He resumes eating. Vigorously.
I want to tell him that it’s actually not hard to know, but I decide there’ll be time for that later.
Looking at him now with his pinked-up cheeks and shifty eyes, I’m pretty sure Tyler Martinez is actually into me, and what I had mistaken for ambivalence has been insecurity all along. It can’t be easy to be a guy. They’ve had to put themselves out there and risk rejection for as long as our social norms have been in place.
Now his face transforms from grave concern to his usual confidence. “I mean, I thought you liked it.” Ty chews on a huge, happy bite of cereal. “But you could have been faking or something.”
“Faking?” I mean, I was faking a little, adding some extra drama.
“I heard girls do that. I don’t know! I’ve only ever been with one other person and it was a couple years ago.” He points to my bowl. “You’re not eating.”
“You’re great, really.” I take a soggy bite. I hope more reassurance will take us out of the sex-talk zone, which is all full of skin and bodily fluids, and into the other one, where I find out where we actually stand. I know these are conversations that should happen before, but it’s like I forget or something.
“I’m so glad we’re friends, Jo,” he says after gulping down his sugar milk. “I want you to know that. Sincerely. You’re the coolest girl I know.”
I’m almost positive all the blood drains out of my face.
“But I’ve been thinking . . .” he says as he goes to the sink and rinses his bowl. “Maybe we should stop this before it gets awkward. It’s been amazing, but it feels like the right time, don’t you think?”