Site Loader

Breaking News

Cover Reveal: EX MARKS THE SPOT by Gloria Chao

Cover reveal! This latest YA novel by acclaimed writer Gloria Chao takes readers on a soaring adventure through love, loss, and the lively streets of Taiwan. Get ready for Ex Marks the Spot by Gloria Chao, coming January 21, 2025!

For Gemma’s whole life, it has always been her and her mom against the world. As far as she knew, all her grandparents—and thus her ties to Taiwanese culture—were dead. Until one day when a mysterious man shows up at her door with two shocking things: the news that her grandfather has just recently passed, and the first clue to a treasure hunt that Gemma hopes will lead to her inheritance.

There’s just one major problem: to complete the hunt, she has to go to her grandfather’s home in Taiwan. And the only way Gemma can get there is by asking her ex and biggest high-school rival, Xander, for help. But after swallowing her pride, she finds herself halfway across the world, ready to unearth her life-changing prize. Soon Gemma discovers that the treasure hunt is about much more than money—it’s about finally learning about her family, her cultural roots, and maybe even finding true love.

Filled with ingenious puzzles, a vibrant Taipei setting, and a delicious romance, Ex Marks the Spot is an exciting adventure by award-winning writer Gloria Chao, perfect for fans of Loveboat TaipeiThe Inheritance Games, and Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes.

Check out the cover and read a sneak peek below. Plus, remember to preorder your copy here!

Psst! Want to learn more? Scroll down to hear about Ex Marks the Spot from the author herself!

Cover design by Kaitlin Yang, Cover illustrations by Jacki Li 

I don’t want to fight with him anymore, so I retrieve my last dried seaweed pack and hold it out as a peace offering.

Xander takes a few pieces. I’m not sure if peace has indeed been made or if he’s still salty—emotionally, that is. Physically, he’s licking the seaweed’s salt flecks from his lips. Lips that I’d never noticed before as being just a shade darker on the lower half—maybe because he nibbles on it when he’s thinking?

Not that I’m noticing that. Or his lips. It was just because of the salt, that’s all.

“Do I have something on me?” Xander asks, watching me watch him. His tongue swipes a lap around his mouth. His full, soft, now wet mouth.

“Did I get it?” he asks, his tongue still licking.

“Yes!” I blurt out too forcefully.

“Jeez, okay, sorry. You were just staring really intently.”

Please dear god don’t let my cheeks be red.

Luckily, Xander doesn’t notice and he’s apparently not emotionally (or physically) salty because he retrieves the Hello Kitty cards from his backpack. “Jian Hong Dian?” he asks, already shuffling.

He taught me Jian Hong Dian, or Pick Up Red Dots, earlier, in which the objective is to, of course, pick up as many red cards as possible.

As we begin our first round, his eyes are focused on the cards as he says, “I used to play this with my grandfather.” He hadn’t told me this earlier.

“Did he like games?”

“Not usually. But there were a few exceptions. This, Sudoku, Ken Ken—though maybe he was just tricking me into doing more math.”

I wonder if Gong Gong liked any of those, or if he and Xander’s grandfather played any games before their falling out.

After a few back-and-forths, a red ace appears—the most valuable, coveted card. And Xander flipped it over, meaning it’s mine for the taking if I have a nine.

I slap down the nine of hearts. Thirty points in one go.

Xander groans, then throws three of his cards onto the tray table face up. “Seriously? I had three nines, and you just had to have the last one?”

He playfully makes a grab for the red ace, and I spring for it. We’re pushing, grabbing, laughing. When I manage to snatch the red nine, red ace, and two of Xander’s nines, I extend my prizes in the air as I use my other elbow to push him back by the chest.

His arm wraps around me, reaching for the cards. His face is inches from mine.

When I realize just how close we are, I freeze. Then he also freezes. Even the air around us seems to still.

His mouth slowly curves into a smile. One I last saw four years ago. It’s not confident or mischievous or playful. It’s . . . shy.

It’s not at all what I expected. Is it possible I’m not the only one who can hear my heartbeat in my ears or is aware of the location of each and every one of our limbs, hairs, cells?

“Gemma,” he says, low, husky, almost guttural. I can practically feel each syllable. I’ve never heard that timbre from him, let alone when he says my name, and it raises goosebumps along my skin.

I hold my breath waiting for what’s coming next, both from anticipation and from not wanting to move a muscle lest it spook him.

His phone rings. The sudden sound and vibration startle us both.

He moves away first. “Sorry,” he says as he checks his phone. When he sees who the caller is—which I can’t see because of how he’s angling the screen—he frowns.

“I have to take this.” He stands swiftly and walks out of the train car.

As I sit alone still holding the cards, I can’t help wondering, what just happened?

Hear from the author!

EX MARKS THE SPOT is my love letter to my culture, to my parents’ and grandparents’ home of Taiwan, and to puzzles and games and puns. I packed this story with my favorite Taiwanese sights and food, and I’ve never been so hungry while writing before! And as a child who would create treasure hunts for her family, writing this book was a dream come true.

This is a story about Gemma figuring out who she is, where she comes from, and where she’s going. It’s an epic adventure full of twists, family secrets, and a will-they-won’t-they, rivals-to-lovers romance. It also showcases the beauty of Taiwan and what family, culture, and roots can mean. The puzzles build upon each other, and many can be solved by the reader if they wish.

I hope you enjoy embarking on this adventure with Gemma!

Penguin Teen