Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here
- Pages: 288 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Razorbill
- ISBN: 9780698197497
An Excerpt From
Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here
This is one of the hardest things I've ever had to write.
After five years, six seasons, ten Emmy nominations, and countless amazing experiences on and off the set with the family I’ve made here, the Lycanthrope High story has come to its conclusion. While I have no control over the decision, I could not be more proud of the extraordinary talent both in front of and behind the cameras who have collectively made this show what it is.
Write to the network if you want, but you know they’re just a bunch of old white dudes in suits, right? All I’m gonna say is that they may or may not have almost fired me for making Connor Korean-American.
But look. You know that from the very beginning, I’ve been thinking about you guys—the superfans, the cosplayers, the people who wrote letters to me saying that Luke’s death helped them with their own grief, or that Gillian and Reginald inspired them to end their abusive relationship, or that Marissa and Connor were the first complex main characters who looked like them that they’d seen on one of their favorite shows. That stuff means more to me than any critic’s opinion.
And in my own bittersweet way, I’m glad to end here, while the characters are beloved and the plot hasn’t jumped the shark. I don’t want the show to overstay its welcome. It’s kind of cool! Like the James Dean of shows, very much including the bisexual experimentation. (Wiki it.)
When you think about it, the ending is somewhat natural—graduation day was near, and then they were gonna go off to college. It’s uncertain, yes, but life is uncertain. (Tangentially related: As most of you read on my blog, I have a new baby, and it turns out babies happen to be relatively high maintenance.)
It’s been an incredible run, more than my seventeen-year-old nerdy self could have hoped for in his wildest dreams, and you guys are to thank for making it happen. I made this show for you. And don’t worry. I’m counting the minutes—perhaps when the kid’s older, anywhere between being a tiny poop monster and a thirty-four-year-old finally moving out of our basement—until I can make another one for you.
Not to get sappy, but all I did was tell people how to hold the camera. It’s you guys who gave it a soul.
Be back soon. Promise.
—John St. Clair, creator of Lycanthrope High
“It absolutely sucks," Avery says, beating out Jeffrey Dahmer for the understatement of the century. (His, after his arrest, was “I really messed up this time.”)
Ave jams an impossible amount of textbooks into her backpack. She’s the only one in the whole hallway who cares that the bell is ringing. It’s kind of her personal brand.
She continues, “It one hundred and fifty percent sucks. But—God, Scarlett, you look awful.”
My eyes are puffy, and my throat’s so sore from crying that I can barely tell her “No shit.” I stayed up all night with the rest of the heartbroken Lycanthrope community, trying to strategize a way to get it back on the air. The first stage is denial, right? That’s half of us, writing passionate letters to the network. The other half—people I used to see on Tumblr every day—are blackballing the show and moving on.
Not only was I one of the more popular fic writers on the board, but I’d livetweet the show every week at eight, amassing a pretty damn big following for a non-famous teenage girl who wasn’t posting butt selfies. Every Monday from eight to nine p.m., I actually mattered. That was like my real life—all the stuff around it was just temporary, unfortunate background noise.
The worst part is, the sixth season finale didn’t wrap anything up—it was some dumb monster-of-the-week about Greg’s robot stepmom. We don’t even know who ends up with whom. Even if John St. Clair tells us at some convention, which is what show runners generally do, it’s not the same. He made the characters so real that it’s simply unfair just to cut us off like this.
“I know you’re bummed, but this means, maybe, just hear me out, that you can . . . invest in real people, not fictional people”—Avery sees what I am about to say and cuts me off—“and not a bunch of randos on a message board who are probably all sketchy old men.”
“You really need to stop DVRing To Catch a Predator.”
Ave should be more supportive, considering we first became friends when she sat behind me in AP English. I worked on Lycanthrope fanfics in my notebook and caught her reading over my shoulder. She reads for fun a lot; she’s maybe the only person at school who does that as much as I do. But other than the architectural skill she displays by managing to fit every math textbook ever written in her book bag, Avery isn’t at all artsy or creative. I think that’s why we get along. Combined, we’d be Supergirl.
Ave is the only reason I can sit at the lunch table with the Girl Geniuses, a small clique of overachievers who run on Adderall and fear and have gears you can always see turning. No wonder they’re maladjusted; it’s uncomfortable seeing people try that hard, you know? Like, we don’t want to see your gears. Put them away. It’s their parents’ fault for flogging them like the workhorse in Black Beauty. Take the shivering mess of Jessicarose Fallon, for instance. This summer her parents sent her on a “volunteer” trip to Argentina for a cool $5K so she could write a heart-wrenching college essay about how she ran out of Luna bars on day three. They also named her Jessicarose, so it’s hard to fault her for having the eyes of a crazy person. In fact, a lot of the Girl Geniuses have a mash-up of two names, like Tanya-Lynn Gordonov. Perhaps their parents were on Adderall when they named them.
If you were wondering, I have a shining 2.9 GPA out of . . . I guess 4.0? Infinity? Whatever Jessicarose Fallon has.
“Okay, fine,” Ave relents. “But have you considered maybe they’re all just your Tyler Durden?”
I’m about to shoot back some sassy answer when Ave jerks her head in a quick spasm toward the end of the hall, where Gideon Maclaine is leaning against a locker and messing with his iPhone. He’s alone, as usual.
“Look! A flesh-and-blood human,” Ave says pointedly.
“You’ve been obsessed with him since the second grade!” She grins. “Maybe he can replace Lycanthro—”
“Don’t say it. I can’t even hear the title right now; it’s too hard.”
While the other girls at school threw themselves into boyfriends, I threw myself into shows. I started with the ones that are Taken Very Seriously, starring conf licted antiheroes who cheat on their wives and curse a lot, occasionally at the same time. But the problem was, I never really watched an episode and thought: I want to mess around with these characters, bend their world, go inside their heads. I usually just thought: Sure. I get it. Men do coke and/or have sex with their twentysomething brunette mistresses but still love their kids or whatever. I don’t need to do a deep dive into that guy’s head. I’m not someone that show thinks about.
Then I found Lycanthrope High, and everything totally changed. That sounds melodramatic, because I still have arms and legs, but everything else totally changed. It’s about a boarding school called Pembrooke Academy where the student body is not-so-secretly 50 percent werewolves, and a scholarship student named Gillian finds out she’s a loup-orateur, the only girl in her generation who can settle the war between werewolves and humans. There’s a diverse cast of wisecracking misfits and love triangles and saving the world and all that good stuff.
Most of all, though, it’s obvious—not just on the show, but in interviews and podcasts and at conventions—that John St. Clair thinks about me. Or, you know, girls like me. Amazingly, a straight white dude is designing his show specifically for bored, sexually frustrated high school girls (and some guys) who get straight Cs because their pointlessly large imaginations are uncontrollable tsunamis that wipe out any structure in their paths. For once, we don’t have to adjust our expectations to wedge ourselves into an audience. We are the target audience. I love Lycanthrope and the characters down to my bones, in a way I can’t even articulate, the way you love your family or your best friend.
Avery sat through one episode, one time, and thinks she gets the appeal but it’s “not her style.” Meanwhile, she made me and my mom, Dawn, sit through all thirteen episodes of Cosmos, and we were bored to tears, but on the bright side, we agreed on something for once. Dawn—a person who named her daughter after Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, a person who watches reruns of Sex and the City so religiously that when I was little I used to confuse the theme for the eleven o’clock news—thinks Lycanthrope High is lame.
“I’m just trying to get you to look on the bright side!”
“Did you hit your head? We live in New Jersey. There is no bright side. If you want to use that expression here, you have to say, ‘Look on the smog.’”
Melville, New Jersey, is the perfect place to have a pretty mediocre life for, like, seventy years and then die. In fact, that might be on the welcome to melville sign you see when you get off the turnpike at Exit 6A, right above Population: 5,500 Empty Funyuns Bags, 1 Bored Jewish Girl.
As for Melville High School, where Ave and I go—it’s pretty much the opposite of magic. The English language isn’t innovative enough to have a word for that, really, other than some four-letter ones I’m not going to deploy because I’m a ~*~LaDy~*~*. MHS is all guys with neck tattoos and girls who post Kim Kardashian quotes on Instagram, and the 60 percent of us who actually graduate end up working at Target or the gas station or something.
No thanks to Mr. Barnhill, our guidance counselor, whose soaring, inspirational college admissions advice is to “be realistic.” (Some real Chariots of Fire stuff right there.) When Mr. Barnhill asked me how my extracurriculars were, I didn’t say anything, because as far as school is concerned, I’m the president of the Misanthrope Society. Also the only member. He told me to consider community college, and I left with a pamphlet about identifying herpes.
You know the kind of person who rolls his or her eyes at a TV show or a book and goes, “That would never happen”? I’m the opposite: I walk around all day waiting for a reason to suspend my disbelief. There’s a ghost in the girls’ locker room? Great; let’s find out if she’s a murdered former prom queen out for revenge. The entire town of Melville, New Jersey, is directly over the Eighth Circle of Hell? Awesome. I shotty the crossbow.
When school lets out, I race back home to check my permanently open Lycanthrope tabs. As I’d feared, the boards have been swarmed with the worst kind of invasive awfulness: TV critics looking to interview “heartbroken cult fans” for articles. (No thanks—I’ve never seen fandom portrayed in any mainstream place as anything other than a weird cult, and fangirls as brainless idiots.) There are also countless culture bloggers shamelessly spamming the board with links to their immediately-churned-out “Best Lycanthrope High Episodes” roundups. Here and there, I do see some fix-its—fanfiction revisions of the end of the series—but none by my friends.
My best friends in the Lycanthrope fandom community are called the BNFs (Big Name Fans), and they’re fic writers too: xLoupxGaroux, DavidaTheDeadly, and WillianShipper2000. Fandom is weird like that, especially on Tumblr. You don’t have to know anyone’s first name, but you’ll be as sad for them when their mom dies as you’d be sad for someone IRL.
I gravitated to them through their super-high-quality fics. They were the top-read Lycanthrope fic writers on the board; their most popular fics had around 10,000 views. xLoupxGaroux appeals to the smart, snarky gay demo who dies for William/ Connor slash with only occasional glimmers of sentimentality. DavidaTheDeadly writes uplifting inner monologues from each character’s perspective, which gives people a break from the frequent super-darkness of the show. And Willian, a high school freshman in Kansas, excels at maybe the toughest and most oversaturated fanfic domain: your typical OTP (one true pairing) hetero romance. She splits her time between Lycanthrope and One Direction fandom, and she sometimes comes off totally basic, but her swoonworthy lines get Tumblr-ed to death. Some Lycanthrope fans can be judgy about mainstream fandoms like 1-D, but I’m not: Anything that could get a sixteen-year-old girl from some shitty town a six-figure book deal is something I’d scream proudly about from the rooftops.
xLoupxGaroux: Where have you BEEN.
Scarface: I’m sorry!!
I start crying. I’m not quite sure why. I think I’m afraid this is the last time we’ll all talk or something. Nevertheless, I manage to type:
Scarface: I’m crying, hahaha!
xLoupxGaroux: you are not literally crying.
DavidaTheDeadly: we don’t all have hearts of stone like you, Loup
DavidaTheDeadly: last week I cried every day. moaning myrtle of the ladies’ bathroom at work basically.
Davida and Loup are both older than me and have office jobs, which means they can—and do—Gchat all day but have to be careful with the open browsers.
DavidaTheDeadly: the thing is though . . . we didn’t know it was ending, and we don’t have source material for fics about the final episodes. oh brb boss is coming
xLoupxGaroux: What is it today? “Ride of the Valkyries”?
DavidaTheDeadly: “Single Ladies.”
Whenever the editor in chief at Davida’s magazine job approaches someone’s cube, Davida hums loudly to warn them to X out of anything inappropriate.
DavidaTheDeadly: haha btw scarface, pls thank your mom for e-mailing her confession and let her know it’ll be in the april issue
The delightful nugget to which she is referring: “I wrote a text to my ex-boyfriend: ‘I’ll pick up some condoms with the bread bowls.’ But I actually sent it to my daughter! Oops!—Dawn E., 35.”
Scarface: I can’t believe we don’t even know if Gillian ends up with William or Connor.
WillianShipper2000: Uhh Willian is obvs the OTP!
Willian’s ride-or-die for that pairing. Her Tumblr background is a shot of the two of them with “Now you have all of me” written on it in cursive, from that episode where William and Gillian had a big fight because he wouldn’t take her to prom. He wanted her to have a nice, normal teenage experience. She started crying and said he was letting the wolf part—the part that didn’t like responsibility—take over. The next day he showed up at her front door with a gift, a German shepherd puppy. “You were right,” he said. “But now you have all of me.” (Of course, Gillian realizes later on, when William leaves town after prom, that it was the guy part of him that decided to do it, not the wolf part. And the dog, Nina, dies bravely saving Marissa from a possessed frat house in the fourth season finale. I cried for a week straight.)
Scarface: Have you guys read any of the fix-its?
xLoupxGaroux: Some—none are particularly satisfying.
We agree that none of us want to give up writing Lycanthrope fic and that even though the finale sucked, moving forward we’ll stick with the canon storyline. We all promise to think on it, and nobody will jump ship until we’ve got some ideas.