Competing with a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hager Hadley Daniels’s life seems perfect… Before the beginning of sophomore year of high school, Hadley and her family move to a beautiful beach town, where she makes amazing new friends and lands the boyfriend of her dreams—Nick Jenkins. He’s the kind of guy every girl swoons over, and it isn’t long until Hadley discovers some are still swooning. A famous ex-girlfriend makes matters more complicated… After some time dating, Hadley and Nick form a deep bond. But insecurity sets in when Hadley discovers her boyfriend once had a huge crush on her friend—who just happens to be the beautiful former teen TV star, Simone Hendrickson. The past is the past—or so they say… Hadley confronts Nick, who confesses about his history with Simone. Though he claims to only have eyes for Hadley now, it’s hard to believe—especially when she’s blindsided with the news that Nick and Simone kissed after school. Now Hadley must determine who is telling the truth. Love, betrayal, friendship…who needs soap opera drama when you’re busy competing with a star? Praise: “Hadley our teenage heroine has many of the insecurities, which inflict most of us at this young age…A lovely story, with some good lessons about friendship, self-esteem and relationships, perfectly pitched for teen/young adult readers.” From author Jane Hunt. “…Hager's main character is representative of every teenage girl. The author really nailed the reality of a young girl's early high school years. I think this is a valuable read for girls ages 12-18.” Review from Readers’ Favorite book reviews. “…The story gives you so much insight into the minds of teenage girls and makes you realize that deep down, everyone has the same insecurities and everyone goes through the same things in life. Despite these insecurities and fears, the main character stands up for herself. This is such an important message for teen girls!” Amazon customer review
Author Krysten Lindsay Hager Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends...Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like. and Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2). Her work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Bellbrook Times, and on Living Dayton.
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Two days passed and Nick hadn’t called again. I couldn’t blame him. After all, I had pushed for him to be honest and then had bailed on him. I’m sure he was mad at me for telling him he could tell me the truth and then I punished him for it—and he would be right. I couldn’t handle the icky feelings, and instead of being a big girl and dealing with them, I came home from school and retreated into the world of books. A world where people were kidnapped, jewels were stolen, but nobody’s heart ever got broken because in my favorite series, The Raven Chronicles, Raven’s boyfriend, Fernando, was ever faithful and loyal and would never even look at another girl. He was the perfect book boyfriend. In other words, he was fictional and didn’t exist.
I saw I had a text from Simone. Oh great, maybe she was asking for my blessing to go out with Nick, or if I was still planning to go to Watson High School next year so she could make out with him in a different hallway from my locker.
Simone: Are you mad at me? Nick said you’re upset because you found out he used to like me.
Oh fabulous. He told her the whole gross story. Well, of course he did, seeing as how he was always over with her clique and he could tell the love of his life anything.
Me: Whatever. It’s not important.
Simone: He said he hasn’t talked to you in days because you hung up on him and won’t return his messages.
Me: It’s not a big deal.
Simone: It is to him. You hurt him. You know I don’t like him, right?
Me: Did you ever?
Simone: Can we talk about this on the phone? I’m calling you.
I had no choice but to pick up. “Okay, I’m going to be honest with you,” Simone said after I answered the phone. “He was super crazy about me and honestly, it freaked me out a little. And did I think about going out with him? Not right away, but yeah. I thought about it, but he only started to look cute to me once he was with you. I know that sounds super bad, but I didn’t notice him until you guys were a thing.”
“What?” I asked. It felt like my stomach plummeted several stories down.
Then the most beautiful sound in the world came along—the final bell. I grabbed my bag and rushed out the door to my locker, where I ran into Reagan O’Hara, Nick’s gorgeous ex-girlfriend. “Watch where you’re going, spaz,” she said, glaring at me. “Exactly where are you in such a hurry to get to anyway? I can’t imagine that you’d have plans.”
I could have said, “Off to meet my boyfriend, you know, the guy you used to badmouth me to,” but no, I took the high road and said, “Excuse me,” and kept going.
“Whatever, loser,” she said. My shoulders tensed. As I tried to ignore her and tell myself it was just jealousy, I couldn’t pretend that her words didn’t hurt. I had been considered kind of a loser at my old school in Goodacre. I had had one super close best friend who I did everything with, Lexi Irvin, and when she moved to Dallas, it was as if I had been abandoned. So yeah, I had felt like a complete loser in Goodacre, but now I was here in Grand Haven, with new friends and a new positive outlook on life. I had a new best friend, Charlotte Lidstrom, and had become friends with former teen TV star Simone Hendrickson and her best friend, Asia Milanowski.
It could be intimidating hanging out with Simone since she was popular, pretty, and famous. Sometimes I felt invisible next to her, and unfortunately, hanging with Simone sometimes meant spending time with people like Reagan or Simone’s other friends, Pilar Ito and Morgan Kemp. Morgan was the ultimate mean girl. I swear, even if she told me she loved my outfit and was hooked up to a lie detector test saying she was telling the truth, I still wouldn’t want to risk it and I’d go home and change. But today I was not going to worry about Morgan, Reagan, or any of that. I was just going to focus on my first date with Nick.
Until I rounded the corner and ran into Simone, who was waiting for me at my locker with Morgan and Pilar.
“Hey, Hadley,” Simone said. “Wanted to return your lucky bracelet. Let’s hope it helped me pass my math test.”
She handed me my heart and natural stone charm bracelet and I slid it on my wrist. Morgan looked down at my hands and made a face.
“Why are you wearing such dark nail polish?” she asked me.
My face got warm. “I thought the color was pretty when I saw it in the store. I’ve never seen this shade of purple with so much blue in it.”
“Guys aren’t into weird nail polish colors,” Morgan said as she fluffed her long curly blonde hair with her red polished fingers.
Great, so even my nail polish was wrong. Could I do anything right?
“Here comes Nick,” Pilar said, and the girls all got quiet.
“Hey, guys,” he said, coming up and nodding at them. I started to curl my fingers under so he wouldn’t notice my dark polish—the color that up until a few minutes ago I thought was unique and beautiful was now making me feel like a little oddball.
“Cool color,” Nick said.
“I like the blue. It’s very you,” he said, and then he reached over and intertwined his fingers with mine. Take that, you dark nail polish haters.
“So are we all heading over to Scoops together?” he asked.
Simone played with a strand of her long blonde hair, but didn’t say a thing.
“Yup, we thought we’d go over with you guys,” Morgan said, smiling up at him with her gleaming white teeth.
Wait, what? No, not cool. This was our first date and I knew I’d feel awkward talking to him around a group—a group judging me on what I said, did, and apparently even the colors I wore.
“So you don’t miss your old school? Or anyone back home?”
“Who? Lexi’s in Dallas now.”
He shifted. “I dunno, some guy or somebody you used to date.”
I shook my head.
“You know, I heard you guys ran into Jack Brogger a couple weeks ago. How can I compare to that?”
I tried to hide my embarrassed smile. Everyone teased me about my insane crush on Jack who was my favorite pop star and I had no idea Nick knew about all of that.
“Jack’s cute, but…”
“Don’t even tell me he’s not your type. I heard all about your love for him from Asia and Simone.”
My face was getting so warm now. “I admit I do like him a lot, but you know…”
“What? He’s not here, so you’re stuck with me until he comes back to town?”
“My type is someone who is sweet and someone I can talk to about anything. I think Jack’s more into the club scene. From what I’ve read anyway,” I said, not sharing that I had Jack’s name on a Google Alert so any mention of his name came across my radar—or my phone to be more accurate.
“Sweet? Usually that’s what girls say before they tell you there will be no second date and then you enter the friend zone,” Nick said.
“Nope, I’m a girl who appreciates the sweet guys. I’d much rather go out with a guy who’d spend his sixteenth birthday with his grandpa than a guy who would take me to a big concert or a club,” I said. “I’d pick the thoughtful guy every time.”
Nick stopped walking and looked at me. “You know, I don’t tell a lot of people about everything that’s going on with my grandpa. It’s been so hard to watch his decline—his life changed overnight with that stupid surgery. I run into Pilar at the home a lot and she’s never once asked what’s going on. Maybe she doesn’t want to be nosy—I dunno. But you’re the first person I’ve shared all that stuff with.”
I smiled. “I’m glad you did.”
“Me too,” he said, and kissed me. Okay, this was officially the perfect first date.
We walked to the end of the pier and he put his arm around me. “You know, forget what I said about the fancy dinner thing. I think this was seriously the best first date ever,” he said.
“That’s what I was thinking.”
“You didn’t even ask me to take a selfie with you,” he said. “Simone and Morgan and those girls are always taking so many selfies here on the pier, I’m not even sure they notice the water around them.”
“I got caught up in the moment and forgot all about taking pictures,” I said. “But would it be lame if we took one? I feel if we don’t, this moment didn’t happen.”
He started to laugh. “Okay, sure. That’s what I like about you. You were in the moment and not just posting crap online so all your friends could see it.”
“Yeah, but that’s what everyone does.”
“Exactly, and I like that you’re not just like everybody else.”