THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU: A Novel
By Lily Anderson
St. Martin’s Griffin
On Sale: May 17, 2016
Hardcover: 9781250079091 / $18.99 USD
eBook: 9781466891722 / $9.99 USD
Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West—and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing—down to number four.
Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books—well, maybe not comic books—but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.
The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on—and they might not pick the same side.
Ben West spent summer vacation growing a handlebar mustache.
Hovering over his upper lip—possibly glued there—was a bushy monstrosity that shouted, “Look out, senior class, I’m gonna tie some chicks to the train tracks and then go on safari with my good friend Teddy Roosevelt. Bully!”
I blindly swatted at Harper with my comic book, trying to alert her to the fact that there was a mustachioed moron trying to blend in with the other people entering campus.
“I know I should have made flash cards for the poems that Cline assigned,” she said, elbowing me back hard, both acknowledging that she wasn’t blind and that she hated when I interrupted her monologues about the summer reading list. “But I found Mrs. Bergman’s sociolinguistics syllabus on the U of O website and I’m sure she’ll use the same one here.”
The mustache twitched an attempt at freedom, edging away from West’s ferrety nose as he tried to shove past a group of nervous looking freshmen. It might have been looking at me and Harper, but its owner was doing everything possible to ignore us, the planter box we were sitting on, and anything else that might have been east of the wrought iron gate.
“So,” Harper continued, louder than necessary considering we were sitting two inches apart. “I thought I’d get a head start. But now I’m afraid that we were supposed to memorize the poems for Cline. He never responded to my emails.”
Pushing my comic aside, I braced my hands against the brick ledge. The mustache was daring me to say something. Harper could hear it too, as evidenced by her staring up at the sun and muttering, “Or you could, you know, not do this.”
“Hey, West,” I called, ignoring the clucks of protest coming from my left. “I’m pretty sure your milk mustache curdled. Do you need a napkin?”
Ben West lurched to a stop, one foot inside of the gate. Even on the first day of school, he hadn’t managed to find a clean uniform. His polo was a series of baggy wrinkles, half tucked into a pair of dingy khakis. He turned his head. If the mustache had been able to give me the finger, it would have. Instead, it stared back at me with its curlicue fists raised on either side of West’s thin mouth.
“Hey, Harper,” he said. He cut his eyes at me and grumbled, “Trixie.”
I leaned back, offering the slowest of slow claps. “Great job, West. You have correctly named us. I, however, may need to change your mantle. Do you prefer Yosemite Sam or Doc Holliday? I definitely think it should be cowboy related.”
“Isn’t it cruel to make the freshmen walk past you?” he asked me, pushing the ratty brown hair out of his eyes. “Or is it some kind of ritual hazing?”
“Gotta scare them straight.” I gestured to my blonde associate. “Besides, I’ve got Harper to soften the blow. It’s like good cop, bad cop.”
“It is nothing like good cop, bad cop. We’re waiting for Meg,” Harper said, flushing under the smattering of freckles across her cheeks as she turned back to the parking lot, undoubtedly trying to escape to the special place in her head where pop quizzes—and student council vice presidents—lived. She removed her headband, pushing it back in place until she once again looked like Sleeping Beauty in pink glasses and khakis. Whereas I continued to look like I’d slept on my ponytail.
Which I had because it is cruel to start school on a Wednesday.
“Is it heavy?” I asked Ben, waving at his mustache. “Like weight training for your face? Or are you just trying to compensate for your narrow shoulders?”
He gave a half-hearted leer at my polo. “I could ask the same thing of your bra.”
My arms flew automatically to cover my chest, but I seemed to be able to only conjure the consonants of the curses I wanted to hurl at him. In his usual show of bad form, West took this as some sort of victory.
“As you were,” he said, jumping back into the line of uniforms on their way to the main building. He passed too close to Kenneth Pollack, who shoved him hard into the main gate, growling, “Watch it, nerd.”
“School for geniuses, Kenneth,” Harper called. “We’re all nerds.”
Kenneth flipped her off absentmindedly as West brushed himself off and darted past Mike Shepherd into the main building.
“Brute,” Harper said under her breath.
I scuffed the planter box with the heels of my mandatory Mary Janes. “I’m off my game. My brain is still on summer vacation. I totally left myself open to that cheap trick.”
“I was referring to Kenneth, not Ben,” she frowned. “But, yes, you should have known better. Ben’s been using that bra line since fourth grade.”
As a rule, I refused to admit when Harper was right before eight in the morning. It would just lead to a full day of her gloating. I hopped off of the planter and scooped up my messenger bag, shoving my comic inside.
“Come on. I’m over waiting for Meg. She’s undoubtedly choosing hair care over punctuality. Again.”
Harper slid bonelessly to her feet, sighing with enough force to slump her shoulders as she followed me through the front gate and up the stairs. The sunlight refracted against her pale hair every time her neck swiveled to look behind us. Without my massive aviator sunglasses, I was sure I would have been blinded by the glare.
“What’s with you?” I asked, kicking a stray pebble out of the way.
“What? Nothing.” Her head snapped back to attention, knocking her glasses askew. She quickly straightened them with two trembling hands. “Nothing. I was just thinking that maybe senior year might be a good time for you to end your war with Ben. You’d have more time to study and read comics and…”
Unlike the tardy Meg, Harper was tall enough that I could look at her without craning my neck downward. It made it easier to level her with a droll stare. Sometimes, it’s better to save one’s wit and just let the stupidity of a thought do the talking.
She rolled her eyes and clucked again, breezing past me to open the door.
“Or not,” she said, swinging the door open and letting me slip past her. “Year ten of Watson v. West starts now. But if one of you brings up the day he pushed you off the monkey bars, I am taking custody of Meg and we are going to sit with the yearbook staff during lunch.”
“I accept those terms,” I grinned. “Now help me think of historical figures with mustaches. Hitler and Stalin are entirely too obvious. I need to brainstorm before we get homework.”
Lily Anderson is an elementary school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California. THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU is her debut novel.
“There’s a lot to enjoy in debut novelist Anderson’s geek-positive update of Much Ado About Nothing, including intense comic book fandom, a cheating scandal, student council drama, themed dances, and two central characters engaged in an epic love-hate relationship. Readers familiar with the Shakespeare will enjoy Anderson’s riffs on the original’s plot points as Trixie and Ben get their nerdily-ever-after ending.” —Publishers Weekly
“This is the kind of book that would get lost with you in a comic book shop. It would stay up late with you for a midnight release movie. It would let you practice your moves in a fighting game, before things got started. Basically, this book is the geeky best friend you’ve always wanted. A hilarious, heartfelt book that treats pop culture and Shakespeare with the same reverence and adoration, The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You a perfect geeky read that I wish I’d had in high school. If you could rate books on a scale of comic book conditions, this book would be MINT.” —Eric Smith, blogger and author of The Geek’s Guide to Dating
“This was a super fun retelling of Much Ado! I absolutely loved the voice in this book and the banter was A+++++.”
—Ashley Herring Blake, author of Suffer Love
“I raced through the arc of this fast paced, smart, funny high school mystery inspired by Much Ado About Nothing! Trixie Watson’s senior year at her high school for the gifted and talented goes wildly awry. First, her lifelong nemesis has a surprising change of heart about her and second, a cheating scandal involves one of her closest friends. Trixie’s evolving romance was pitch perfect and the mystery of the cheating kept me hooked until the last page. This is a sweet, intelligent and clever story. The dialogue is phenomenal! Highly, highly recommend!” —Karen Fortunati, author of The Weight of Zero
“I loved The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You. It’s not only fun and witty—it’s also generous and big-hearted. And as a bonus, it’s thoroughly appreciated of fandom culture AND has good parental relationships.” —Jennifer Mason-Black, author of Devil and the Bluebird