Despite being polar opposites, theater kids Kat and Stevie are best friends. When they sneak out of their suburban homes for a night in NYC, they’re expecting a thrilling adventure: eating at one of the city’s hottest restaurants, seeing a play, and generally enjoying a sense of freedom that isn’t often available to teens in the suburbs.
Except that’s not exactly what happens. As soon as they arrive, things start to go wrong. Their phones break, there’s family drama, and there’s a Pomeranian who’s making things very difficult. Over the course of the night, Kat and Stevie will crash parties, deliver dry cleaning, deal with unhelpful cab drivers, and confront what they want from their friendship — and their futures. Assuming, of course, they can make it to Grand Central Station by midnight.
In other words, it’s a classic night in New York City.
Morgan Matson is the bestselling author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults, and Second Chance Summer, which won the California State Book Award. Below, check out the gorgeous cover and read an exclusive excerpt from Take Me Home Tonight, out May 4, 2021. Preorder it from Bookshop!
“Hey,” I said, making a decision and sitting up, “let’s have a really fun night, okay? We have to shake this off. Maybe a movie? Your pick. And then we could see if maybe they’d let us back into Café Asiago.”
Stevie sat up as well. “They were pretty mad about the mint thing.”
“I thought they were free!”
“There was literally a sign that said twenty-five cents.”
“Which, clearly, I didn’t see!”
She laughed. “What’s even playing now?” She pushed herself off the bed, grabbing the blazer. “I’ll just put this away.”
“It’s really okay.”
“I don’t mind.”
I watched her go, feeling like it wasn’t really about the blazer and more about taking a moment to adjust to the new reality. I picked up my phone again, opening up my browser to look up movie times. As I did, I saw among my open windows the Echo Theater website. I clicked on it now, looking at the poster showing tonight’s premiere of Navel Gazing — a woman in a bikini, an orange held over her belly button.
I looked at the show information and was starting to scroll through the website when suddenly an idea — a possibility — occurred to me. I sat up straighter, my heart pounding, my thoughts racing.
It was a great idea.
We probably shouldn’t do it.
But it would be a lot of fun.
It would save Stevie’s night and make up for the fact that her dad wasn’t coming through for her. She’d have a birthday celebration to remember, as opposed to just feeling disappointed.
And also . . . it would give me a way to solve the problem that had been haunting me ever since Advanced Acting, about what I could do about the casting. It would fix things, and not just for me — for Stevie, too.
It was high risk . . . but also really, really high reward.
Stevie returned from my closet and frowned. “Okay, what’s going on?”
“What do you mean?”
“You look like you did that morning you kidnapped me and we went to Six Flags.”
“I didn’t kidnap you,” I said automatically. It was last spring, on a perfect bright and sunny day, and Stevie thought we were just going for coffee when I’d gotten on I-95 and headed for New Jersey. I knew if I’d told her at the time what we were doing she wouldn’t have agreed, but once we got there, we had a fantastic time, our parents never found out, and it was one of our top five best days.
“You kind of did.”
“I was just thinking . . . ,” I said slowly, trying to figure out in real time what to say and what to leave out, “that we should go.”
“Go where? Teri’s house?”
“No. Well — kind of. Why don’t we go into the city?”
“To New York?” Stevie stared at me. “By ourselves?”
“We can still do your dinner. We have the reservation, your dad left his card . . .”
“My mom is not going to let me go into the city alone. Not at night.”
“You were planning on going in alone,” I pointed out, helping myself to a sour gummy peach slice.
“Yeah, to meet my father at his office. Not to go gallivanting around Manhattan.”
“I can assure you we won’t gallivant. It will be a gallivanting-free zone.”
“You know what I mean. I don’t think your parents would be okay with it either.”
I knew they wouldn’t, but I didn’t want to focus on that right now. “So we won’t tell them. We’ll tell them we’re sleeping over at Teri’s. And we will sleep over there — we’ll just go into the city first.”
Stevie frowned, and I could practically hear her thoughts whirring, looking for the hole in the case. “What if my dad mentions something to my mom about the dinner?” she finally asked.
“Do they ever really talk that much anymore?” I asked, as gently as possible. Stevie shook her head. “I just think,” I said, leaning forward, “that we shouldn’t let our Friday be wrecked like this. Your dad has to work and Mr. Campbell is rethinking the casting, but so what? We can still have a great night, right?”
“You would do that for me?” she asked, her eyes a bit brighter than usual. “Go into the city with me to celebrate my birthday?”
I smiled at her. There was more to it, of course, but Stevie didn’t need to know it this very minute. Like with Six Flags, when she was asking things like why we weren’t getting coffee, why we were getting on the highway, where we were going, I’d just said New Jersey. Stevie handled things best in steps, and in the end, she’d loved Six Flags. We’d returned home happy and sunburned, Stevie’s new gigantic stuffed unicorn (she’d named it Travis) taking up most of the backseat. And I knew eventually she’d love this plan too. “Of course! We need to give you a proper celebration. It’s going to be great.”
“And you really, really think we should do this?” Stevie asked, and I looked her straight in the eye. It was like I could see her teetering between caution and excitement, and I knew all she would need was a tiny nudge to bring her over to my side.
I smiled, and when I spoke, my voice was full of confidence. “Absolutely.”
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