South Hills Sidekick: Uninvited by Leah Spiegel & Meg Summers
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 18, 2012)
When Alley started her senior year at Upper St. Clair in the South Hills area, it was supposed to be the usual drag of hanging out with people who spent more on one outfit than Alley did on her entire wardrobe. That was until Kirsten, a girl in their clique, suddenly goes missing and the only people who seem to care are her friends. All evidence leads to the new comer Shane, a cocky and self-pretentious person in Alley’s opinion, but the police seem uninterested so she and the rest of the girls start a little investigation of their own. But they are nowhere closer to finding Kirsten than when they started and now they had the police’s attention; just not in the way they expected. The girls have to start over and discover that maybe it wasn’t an outsider who took Kirsten, but someone within their own clique who has something to hide; a secret that just might have gotten Kirsten killed.
My Review: I have to begin by saying that I first fell head-over-heels in love with Leah Spiegel’s writing when I read Foolish Games. This lady has an amazing way with story telling and bringing the characters and story to life effortlessly. She also has an amazing talent with the Young Adult genre and no matter what your age, you will quickly become engulfed within that tingle of first love.
Uninvited is the first book in the South Hills Sidekicks trilogy. When I first began reading, I was reminded a bit of the television series Pretty Little Liars (I know, this is also a book series, however I have not read the books yet, just watched the tv show, so can’t compare to the books, lol). There is a group of friends: Val, Kayla, Libby, Alley and Kirsten. Alley is basically a friend by association – meaning she is Val’s best friend and since Val is one of the “important” people, Alley gets to be in the “popular” group at school. In any case, Kirsten is the ring leader and when she suddenly goes missing, all heck breaks loose and her friends will stop at nothing to discover what happened to her – even if it means putting their lives in danger.
The characters in Uninvited are absolutely awesome. Each one has such a unique personality and are so “real” that is it as though they are people you have met. Val is an absolute hoot. She comes off as a bit ditzy, though she means well. She is the one who really pushes for the girls’ investigation into Kirsten’s disappearance. Needless to say, she gets the girls into quite a few predicaments.
Alley is the main character and I couldn’t help but connect with her instantly. She basically raises herself after the death of her mother, as her father drowns himself in his work. Alley is her own person and is very straight-forward, stubborn and courageous. When Shane pops into the picture, Alley’s life takes a spin-dive into unknown territory.
Who is Shane? He is the hot guy who suddenly appears at the girls’ school. He is seen talking with Kirsten before her disappearance and the girls are sure that he is somehow connected. What they discover, however, is something that truly shocks each one!
If you love YA Uninvited is the perfect book for you!! Once I began reading, the pages honestly flew. I actually finished this book a couple of months ago and though I am just now getting around to writing a review for it, the story and its characters still stand out very vividly in my mind. This is a story that had me laughing, yearning, at the edge of my seat and put me in such a relaxing and happy place that when I finished reading, I had to immediately snatch up the second book in the series!!
It was an unusually bright day for the end of August in the South Hills area just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Soon it would be grey and overcast until May of next year. It was one of the most overcast cities in the United States, and it should be depressing, but I actually found the constant greyness comforting.
What I couldn’t handle was the truly depressing fact that it was the first week of high school at Upper East High. I didn’t know why I was sighing up a storm as I drummed my fingers along the steering wheel in the middle of bumper to bumper morning rush hour traffic on Route 19. I mean it’s not like I was scared to go to school. I wasn’t a victim who got bullied every day, or the shy loner who had to sit alone at lunch. In fact, I think some of my classmates would have loved to switch places with me because I hung out with them. The most popular, beautiful, richest students the school had to offer. Only problem was, I didn’t belong with them.
I blamed my best friend Val. Who knew that when I became friends with her in third grade over NSYNC I would find myself surrounded by people wearing daily outfits that cost more than my entire wardrobe? It was just one of the downsides of having a best friend who outshined most of the student body.
Finally, there was a break in the traffic, and I was pulled out of my dismal thoughts when the school came into view. The central, three story high windows of the building reminded me of Seattle Grace Hospital from Grey’s Anatomy which was fitting considering all the surgeons’ children went to school there.
I wasn’t wealthy like them. My dad didn’t make an insane amount of money, but our house was located just inside the school district’s line or else I might have been fortunate enough to go to Mount Lebanon (a much more laid back school in my opinion).
I just didn’t look like a girl from Upper East High, maybe if I were a model or at least tried to be wafer thin then I could blend in, but I was considered cute at best. I had brown, layered hair; blue eyes with specks of gray; when I smiled I had a right dimple. That might sound pretty, but at 5’2”, it’s just cute.
Refocusing on the parking lot around me, I jerked my second hand, green Jeep Wrangler, which my dad had recently bought for me as long as I could keep up on the insurance payments, into the first available spot right between all the BMWs, Lexuses and Volvos that filled the school’s parking lot. Grabbing up my navy blue North Face book bag, I took a deep breath and exited the jeep.
As a senior now, I had perfected the art of blocking out the deafening sound of the cars flying by on Route 19, which was practically in the school’s front yard. So much so, I didn’t notice the loud roar of an engine building in the background until it snuffed out even the sound of my flip flops against the pavement. Glancing over my shoulder—not a second too soon—I quickly backed out of the way when a guy on a chromed out Harley swung in front of me and parked in a space.
Planting his feet on the asphalt, he pulled his helmet off, revealing cropped, sandy brown hair and dark, brooding eyes which he used to glare over his shoulder at me.
“Not look where you’re going much?” I grumbled under my breath when I realized he had no intention of apologizing. With a roll of my eyes, I just shrugged it off and continued toward the school. Glancing through the glass doors of the entrance ahead, I could see Kayla and Libby waiting and felt the dread of a new year sink back into place.
The school’s library filled the backdrop behind them as they greeted some of my classmates coming through the front entrance. Both girls had a silver tray holding intricate cupcakes made to look like pink, blooming roses.
“Alley.” Kayla smiled, as I made my way through the crowd, and offered me a cupcake. “You’re invited to Kirsten’s Sweet Eighteen.”
Kirsten Moyer was the most self-proclaimed popular girl of our school. I had heard a rumor that she was having a Sweet Eighteen party but I thought they were joking.
“Thanks.” I nodded and took one out of politeness.
Looking at the cupcake to avoid conversation, I noticed a black rubber bracelet was wrapped around the base of it, like the yellow ones made famous for raising cancer awareness, but this bracelet was embossed with Kirsten’s name instead. I knew the “charity” bracelet was for the party, an access pass to the event.
“Girls, look who’s back!” My mood instantly lifted as I heard my best friend announce her entrance. The sight of Val was the first thing to make me crack a smile all morning. I knew jealous girls liked to use dumb blonde jokes when referring to her, but Val’s enthusiasm was just what I needed to bring me out of my bleak thoughts.
The guys liked to call her “The Amazon” because she was 5’10”, had layered, honey blonde hair, and the body of a Sports Illustrated Model. Wearing a strapless pink mini, she scuttled forward in her matching platform Christian Louboutins, with her arms opened wide, but quickly lost her footing and came reeling forward at us like a customer diving into a sale at Barney’s on Black Friday.
Kayla quickly cleared out of the way in a protective stance over the tray of desserts but Libby, who was closer to the wall, didn’t have time to react as Val collided into me creating a domino effect. After being rammed into Libby, we all ended up on the ground with cupcakes falling everywhere, including on us.
“Lord have Mercy,” Kayla said from overtop of the crash site. “Kirsten’s gonna flip.”
I did a quick inventory on the state of my t-shirt and jeans and realized they were now splattered in pink frosting like the Jackson Pollock painting. All three of us were covered in icing but Val was wearing pink so you could barely tell. The fact that she made it through practically unscathed made me laugh. “Way to make an entrance, Val.” I snorted.
“I’m glad one of us thinks this is funny,” Libby grumbled as she sat up and shook her arms which were caked in icing. “What the heck, Val? If you don’t know how to wear them, you can always just give them to me.”
Val, who was not known for being the most coordinated person, got her footing and stood back up again. “You saw me coming from like a mile away,” she said, as if that explained everything. “Why can’t you be more like Kayla here?”
“Yeah, right.” Libby huffed as she got up. “I can’t believe I’m going to be seen like this on the first day of school.”
Trying not to roll my eyes, I swear I heard a click as I turned and caught a few of the “uninvited” taking a pic or two on their cell phones further down the hallway which would have been funny if I wasn’t in the middle of the crash site.
“It is what it is.” I refocused on the mess and wiped half of a cupcake off the side of my jeans. “You know she didn’t mean it.”
“Easy for you to say.” Libby huffed. “This dress actually cost a lot of money.”
Yeah, probably enough to pay my car insurance for the next three years, but it’s not exactly something I would go around boasting about because it was ridiculous. What a waste of money. Looking down at the mess, I held up my hand and asked, “Could someone please help me up?”
A strong, firm hand wrapped around mine, and before I could even register what was happening, I was gingerly lifted up onto my feet. Looking up in surprise, I realized it was the guy from the parking lot. At second glance, he looked taller and more ripped now that he wasn’t sitting on his massive motorcycle. His fitted, black leather jacket hung comfortably over his wide shoulders, and there was a hint of amusement in his once brooding brown eyes.
“Make a habit out of not watching where you’re going, much?” he muttered.
My mouth just dropped and I realized how this must have looked with me on the ground and the other two standing, but before I could even explain, the guy turned and headed in the direction of the office.
“Who is he?” Kayla asked me in a hushed voice, mistakenly thinking I knew the guy, as we all watched him drift further down the hallway.
“Who cares.” I narrowed my eyes, remembering it was him who almost ran me over with his Harley.
“He’s yummy,” Val said.
“He’s something,” I added and noticed the time. “We’re going to be late for our first mod if we don’t hurry.” Thankfully, it was the first day and I didn’t need to get to my locker or we would have never made it to chemistry on time. All four of us walked down the hall getting ready to go in opposite directions.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you, Val,” Kayla said. “Kirsten wants us all to go shopping after school to help her pick out the perfect dress, you interested?”
“Yeah, I’m in, Alley?” Val, who was always one to include me, turned to see what I thought.
I’d rather gouge my eyes out than watch Kirsten try on dress after dress. But not being able to think of a quick enough excuse for why I couldn’t go, I mumbled, “Sure.”
“We’re meeting up at Posh after school,” Kayla explained then headed left with Libby down the hall. “See you guys there.”
“Bye.” Val looped her arm through mine and we headed down the hallway to the right for our first mod. She waved to people as we made it past the last few doorways. Despite her quirkiness, people tended to gravitate toward Val, unlike myself. Trying to be a good sport, I smiled a few times with her; enough that it literally hurt.
“Alley and Valerie,” a familiar voice sang when we entered the room to our chemistry class. It was a typical chemistry lab with charcoal colored tables split down the middle with two rows of three. Each table was equipped with two Bunsen burners, a try of cylinders, four stools that faced the board, and a periodic table. Around the room were floor to ceiling glass cupboards that held various items we would use this year.
Leaning against a lab table in the front of the class was the owner of that familiar voice, Trent Ledford. “What happened to your clothes?” His hazel eyes twinkled as he casually looked us up and down. Trent was known as being the biggest flirt in school. His charming face, Greek godlike physique from playing soccer year round, and wicked grin didn’t help to dispute the theory.
“Haven’t you heard this is the new fashion craze?” I jokingly rolled my eyes.
“As enthralling as the latest trends are, Ms. Mitchel, I still have a class to teach.” Mrs. Cotter appeared from the back. “Everyone’s already been paired with a partner, except for our new student, Shane, who just registered today, so you two can join him in the back.”
Following her gaze, my heart suddenly fell. Really, God? Going shopping with Kayla, Libby, and Kirsten wasn’t bad enough? Guess not, because there, looking like a professional wrestler with his massive shoulders and upper body hugged tightly in a gray t-shirt, was the biker guy. I didn’t know if he was even paying attention to what the teacher had to say as our eyes locked in a penetrating glare; he seemed unable to hear the chattering and gawking going on around him.
Val gently tugged me along, bringing me out of my thoughts. In typical Val fashion, she smiled and said hello to a few of her friends on the way down the aisle before we finally took the only available seats on either side of the new guy.
He sat confidently with his black leather jacket draped over the back of his chair. I was just about to bury the hatchet and introduce myself, when his eyes dropped to Val’s pink, glittery Christian Louboutins and he muttered, “Nice shoes.”
“I know, aren’t they fabulous?” Val marveled at them.
I was just about to explain to her what he really meant when he snickered. “Yeah, Dorothy called, she wants them back.”
Now Val might be overly enthusiastic, but I loved her for it, so I wasn’t going to let some stuck up jock put her down. I opened my mouth to ask him what kind of self-respecting, straight guy notices shoes anyway, but Val beat me to a response. “Well, you tell Dorothy that if she wants them back, she’s going to have to pry them out of my cold, dead hands.”
His face pinched at the unexpectedness of her comment, but instead of encouraging her, he just blinked and then shook his head.
Val clicked her heels together three times and said, “There’s no place like Prada, there’s no place like Prada.”
I sunk down just a fraction on my stool, but thankfully, our conversation was interrupted because Mrs. Cotter began to instruct the class on how to use our lab equipment properly. “Remember, never use a clear liquid to put out a fire and be advised that we have a fire extinguisher in the back of the room. Now, I would like for you to start out by practicing lighting your burners.”
“Ladies first.” Shane offered up the pack of matches in his gigantic hand, bringing my attention back to our lab partner.
“Oh, goodie, I’ll go first.” Val grabbed up the matches before I could stop her.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” I said hesitantly. Val wasn’t exactly good with anything that came with safety instructions. Before I could stop her, she struck a match and quickly flung the dud onto the table. Shane eyed me warily when she actually lit the next match but once again flung it on the table.
Quickly snuffing out the flame with his thumb, he snatched the packet of matches from Val’s hand. “Here, take these before she burns down the school.” He tossed them over to me and then paused as if pondering whether or not I could light a match. He then raised his eyebrows in sarcastic relief when I lit the burner in seconds.
“Those things light up really fast!” Val gulped.
He leaned over causing the side of his warm body to press against mine. I got a whiff of spearmint on his breath before he lowered his voice and asked, “Is she…special?”
“No.” I glared back at him. “She’s just a little prone to accidents.” Okay, more like the class klutz, but I didn’t like what he was implying about my best friend.
Glancing down at my crusty t-shirt and jeans, it finally seemed to dawn on him what had really happened earlier. “Wait…how did you end up on the ground then?” His eyes lit up with the memory.
“I tried to catch her,” I answered dignifiedly since he seemed to be enjoying the little incident way too much.
“And how did that work out for you?” He grinned.
“Not how I had anticipated, obviously.”
“I can hear you,” Val sang.
“You two are quickly becoming the most ridiculous girls I have ever meant.” He cracked a smile.
“It’s only first period.” I sighed. “Give it a couple of classes…”
At the end of our mod, Val air kissed me on either side of my cheeks like how the French do and gushed, “Chow, darling.”
Shane lifted his eyebrow in my direction as if to say, I doubt I’ll find anyone as silly as the two of you, before he grabbed up his jacket and left.
Knowing I had “Hitler” for my next mod— at least, that’s what everyone called him behind his back—I quickly made my way out of the chemistry room. The next class was clear on the other side of the school, and I still had to make a short run by my locker so I could unload all my back to school items. Finding my assigned locker took longer than I had anticipated and I was quietly darning myself for not doing this when I first arrived.
After I was done, I hoisted my book bag over my shoulder and sighed in relief that the strap wasn’t ripping into my shoulder any longer. I slammed my locker door shut and then rushed back down the hallway. Passing the office to my right, I continued to the other wing where Libby and Kayla had gone earlier. Rounding the door to the classroom, I instantly bumped into something tall and hard. Flustered, I backed up and swore under my breath when it hit me who I had run into. Shane glanced over his shoulder with a scowl on his face, but it instantly dissolved with the irony of the situation and he raised an eyebrow.
“We just keep running into each other, don’t we?” he said, only loud enough for me to hear.
“I guess so,” I mumbled.