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We Built This City

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On sale Apr 02, 2024 | 5 Hours and 38 Minutes | 978-0-593-66425-4
Age 10 and up | Grade 5 & Up
Award-winning author Cat Patrick returns with a charming tale full of first crushes and new friendships, as one girl learns a little more about who she is and who she wants to be all while on the road trip of lifetime.

It’s the summer of 1985, when air guitar, jelly bracelets, and huge hair are all the rage, and twelve-year-old Stevie is finally old enough to go on her performing troupe’s annual cross-country tour. Twenty-six teen cast members will lip-synch and dance their way through more than twenty cities, and Stevie and her best friend, Wes, can’t wait—for more reasons than one!
THE FIRST TIME I saw Joey, I fell out of a maple tree. 
     It was a summer Saturday morning, and my best friend, Wes, and I were waiting for Synchronicity rehearsal to start at an Episcopal church downtown. A few of the older kids in the cast weren’t there yet, and the director—Wes’s mom, Margo—was pacing around the community room, muttering about curfews, respect, and the ultimate threat, calling parents.
     Wes and I fled so Margo wouldn’t make us do chores like wiping down the star boxes or ironing costumes. The following week, everyone thirteen and up would leave for August tour, but Wes and I weren’t old enough yet.
     “Brandon’s so lucky,” I said, meaning my older brother. Our mom had labeled every piece of his clothing with his initials. I wanted my clothing labeled! “I can’t wait until we can tour.”
     I laid my hand on my peeling sunburnt thigh and let a wandering ant climb aboard, then relocated it to a nearby leaf. Afraid of heights, I was saddled on the thickest, lowest branch, back against the rough trunk, bark poking me in the spine. Wes was two levels up, sneakered feet dangling high overhead.
     “Totally,” he said before popping his gum. “I want to go somewhere new. I’ve never been anywhere.”
     “Me neither. Except the time my family went to Iowa to visit my grandparents. A tire blew on the highway, and we almost died.”
     “How old were you?”
     “Like three. We hadn’t met yet. I don’t even remember it; they just told me.”
     “Doesn’t count, then.”
     “Duh.”
     Wes and I had known each other since we were five, when our moms were on a bowling team and threw us in the kid corral at the bowling alley together; anything before that didn’t matter.          “It’s good you didn’t die, though,” Wes said. “Hey, want to go to Time-Out later? I found a bunch of tokens under Shannon’s bed.”
     “Sure, there’s a lip-synch battle in the atrium. I heard my brother talking about it.”
     “Rad, so a lot of people will be there. Even . . .”
     “Who?”
     “Those girls might be there,” he said carefully. I didn’t respond at first. “Did you hear me?”
     “Yeah, so what about the Jennifers?” I asked, ferrying another confused ant to safety. Jennifer T. had just moved in across the street at the beginning of the summer and was already best friends with Jennifer R., who we went to elementary school with.
     “They like swimming, and you do, too.”
     “So? You sound like my mom.” I rolled my eyes. My mom was always trying to get me to talk to people. She said I was shy, and that shy people got ignored in life, but I talked plenty to my family, Wes, and my castmates. “I don’t need more friends. I’m fine with you.”
     “Okay,” Wes said. He could probably tell I felt weird, because he changed the subject. “What’s for dinner tonight?” He ate at our house more than at his own.
     “Ham and pineapple,” I said, mock gagging as a tan station wagon pulled into the parking lot, squeaking over the speed bump before it stopped. The car windows were down, so I could hear Casey Kasem introducing the next song on the American Top 40 Countdown. “The Eastridge car pool’s here.”
     “Oh yeah?”
     I smiled, knowing what Wes wanted to know. Leafy branches were in his way of seeing whether his big-time crush was part of the car pool. I noted the kids as they climbed out of the car: brothers Shane and Trevor Buchanan, Cassandra Schwartz . . .
     “Tuesday’s with them,” I said, giggling. Wes had been totally in love with Tuesday Thomas since forever. “Tuesday and Wes, sitting in a tr—”
     “Knock it off.”
     “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
     “For reals, knock it off.”
     I opened my mouth to continue to do the opposite of knocking it off—but then someone I’d never seen before got out of the station wagon, and it felt like my whole world screeched to a halt. I didn’t even care that there was, like, a whole colony of ants on my legs.
     “Who is that?” I asked quietly.
     The first thing I thought was that the boy looked like a model in a shampoo commercial. His dark hair shined as if he’d combed it three-and-a-half seconds ago, and it was parted down the middle, longer in the back, feathered to perfection. He was dressed in the kind of outfit that every boy I knew wore every other day—a white ringer tee with dark blue sleeves, tan dolphin-hem shorts with white piping, and tall sports socks with white high-tops—but the mystery guy somehow wore his clothes better.
     “Who’s who?” Wes asked.
      “You’re an owl,” I murmured, watching the stranger. I wondered if he had soft skin; I’d never wondered about a person’s skin before.
     “No, because owls have great vision, and I can’t see a thing.”
     “You shouldn’t climb up so high.”
     It was a miracle I was able to carry on a conversation with Wes, I was so distracted. While the boy and Shane joked around, the station wagon idled, the music still playing, a soundtrack to the moment.
     I watched as Shane introduced the boy to another cast member—the boy extended his hand confidently. He was cute and polite! Shane laughed at something the boy said; he was funny, too! I giggled like I’d heard the joke, heart beating fast, jittery all of a sudden. And the music didn’t do anything to chill my urgent and immediate crush feelings because no matter when, no matter what song, music totally made everything more emotional.
     The new kid ran his hands through his shampoo-commercial hair before saying something, making everyone around him bust up. I laughed like I was part of the conversation.
     “What’s so funny?”
     “I don’t know. He knows Shane.”
     “Who knows Shane?”
     “I don’t know! It’s a new kid!”
     The cutest new kid I’ve ever seen in my life.
     The new kid who’s going inside the community room right now.
   “Let’s go in,” I said quickly, wanting to know the new kid’s name . . . and everything about him! Where had he come from? What grade was he going into? Where did he live? (Probably Eastridge.) How did he know Shane? How did he know about Synchronicity? What was he like? Was he actually a shampoo-commercial model?
     “But all of the high schoolers aren’t even here yet,” Wes groaned. “My mom will make us do something.”
     “But Tuesday’s here,” I countered.
     “Okay yeah fine let’s go.”
     I carefully turned around so I could climb down using the knots in the trunk as a ladder. The station wagon moved to the exit, waiting to make a left onto Central Avenue—so my soundtrack was almost over. But just as I missed my footing and fell backward, landing with a thud on the hard ground below, the wind knocked out of me, the song changed.
     From his high perch, Wes looked horrified. “Dude! Are you okay?”
     I couldn’t speak but gave him a double thumbs-up: proof of life. He nodded and scrambled to a lower branch. As I lay there waiting for my lungs to refill, waiting for Wes to help me up and assess the damage, the new song, one I knew this time, faded into the distance as the station wagon drove away.
     Turn around, bright eyes
     I definitely didn’t want the new kid to turn around and see me on the ground, and maybe I was concussed from the fall, but I took the song as an indication that something good was coming. Something romantic.
     That’s why, two years later, that song was first.
 
 
TUESDAY, JULY 30, 1985

Dear Mr. Kasem,


     My name is Stephanie Finnegan, but most people call me Stevie. I’m going into eighth grade at McKenna Junior High in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but first I’m leaving tomorrow for a four-week tour with the performing group I’m in, Synchronicity! I’m really excited! Anyways, I’m writing to you with a song for your Long-Distance Dedication segment.

     I’d like to dedicate “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler to my crush, Joey. I’ve liked him for two years, but I think it’s finally time to tell him.
     Last week, after a cast party, a bunch of us snuck into the cemetery to find the legendary Green Eyes gravestone, and I was so totally freaked out by being in the graveyard at night because—I don’t care if people say it’s dumb—I believe in ghosts, and Joey was majorly nice to me. I grabbed on to his arm really hard when this kid Josh pretended to see a ghost behind me, and Joey didn’t pull away, and he didn’t laugh like his friends when I started shaking.
     I heard “Total Eclipse of the Heart” the first day I met Joey, and even though it’s kind of older now, it still makes so much sense for us. Like the part that talks about being terrified until she sees the look in the guy’s eyes was exactly how I felt at the cemetery! Joey looked at me so kindly and asked me if I was okay when I was scared and even told Josh to knock it off, which was like so cool. And he pulled this other girl up when she tripped over a tombstone. He’s so chivalrous!
     I really hope you’ll play my Long-Distance Dedication to Joey.

Sincerely,
Stevie Finnegan


PS: Smell the paper! I used grape ink. I hope you like it.


 
 
“A 12-year-old girl learns about friendship and romance during her lip-sync performance group’s 1985 summer tour… A sweet, exuberant story.”—Kirkus

"In a road-trip novel that’s …deeply joyful, Patrick captures the thrills and anxieties of performing onstage—and all the complicated relationships that go on behind the scenes. The prose is at times darkly funny and at others affecting…Though Stevie’s attempts at first romance take center stage, it’s most rewarding to watch her confidence grow as she slowly builds connections with her castmates and realizes that strong friendships can be as vital as first love."—The Horn Book
Cat Patrick is the author of Tornado Brain, a critically acclaimed Summer 2020 Kids' Indie Next List selection, and several books for young adults, including Forgotten, Revived, and The Originals.

Cat lives outside of Seattle with her family but was born and raised in Wyoming. You can find her online at catpatrick.com. View titles by Cat Patrick

About

Award-winning author Cat Patrick returns with a charming tale full of first crushes and new friendships, as one girl learns a little more about who she is and who she wants to be all while on the road trip of lifetime.

It’s the summer of 1985, when air guitar, jelly bracelets, and huge hair are all the rage, and twelve-year-old Stevie is finally old enough to go on her performing troupe’s annual cross-country tour. Twenty-six teen cast members will lip-synch and dance their way through more than twenty cities, and Stevie and her best friend, Wes, can’t wait—for more reasons than one!

Excerpt

THE FIRST TIME I saw Joey, I fell out of a maple tree. 
     It was a summer Saturday morning, and my best friend, Wes, and I were waiting for Synchronicity rehearsal to start at an Episcopal church downtown. A few of the older kids in the cast weren’t there yet, and the director—Wes’s mom, Margo—was pacing around the community room, muttering about curfews, respect, and the ultimate threat, calling parents.
     Wes and I fled so Margo wouldn’t make us do chores like wiping down the star boxes or ironing costumes. The following week, everyone thirteen and up would leave for August tour, but Wes and I weren’t old enough yet.
     “Brandon’s so lucky,” I said, meaning my older brother. Our mom had labeled every piece of his clothing with his initials. I wanted my clothing labeled! “I can’t wait until we can tour.”
     I laid my hand on my peeling sunburnt thigh and let a wandering ant climb aboard, then relocated it to a nearby leaf. Afraid of heights, I was saddled on the thickest, lowest branch, back against the rough trunk, bark poking me in the spine. Wes was two levels up, sneakered feet dangling high overhead.
     “Totally,” he said before popping his gum. “I want to go somewhere new. I’ve never been anywhere.”
     “Me neither. Except the time my family went to Iowa to visit my grandparents. A tire blew on the highway, and we almost died.”
     “How old were you?”
     “Like three. We hadn’t met yet. I don’t even remember it; they just told me.”
     “Doesn’t count, then.”
     “Duh.”
     Wes and I had known each other since we were five, when our moms were on a bowling team and threw us in the kid corral at the bowling alley together; anything before that didn’t matter.          “It’s good you didn’t die, though,” Wes said. “Hey, want to go to Time-Out later? I found a bunch of tokens under Shannon’s bed.”
     “Sure, there’s a lip-synch battle in the atrium. I heard my brother talking about it.”
     “Rad, so a lot of people will be there. Even . . .”
     “Who?”
     “Those girls might be there,” he said carefully. I didn’t respond at first. “Did you hear me?”
     “Yeah, so what about the Jennifers?” I asked, ferrying another confused ant to safety. Jennifer T. had just moved in across the street at the beginning of the summer and was already best friends with Jennifer R., who we went to elementary school with.
     “They like swimming, and you do, too.”
     “So? You sound like my mom.” I rolled my eyes. My mom was always trying to get me to talk to people. She said I was shy, and that shy people got ignored in life, but I talked plenty to my family, Wes, and my castmates. “I don’t need more friends. I’m fine with you.”
     “Okay,” Wes said. He could probably tell I felt weird, because he changed the subject. “What’s for dinner tonight?” He ate at our house more than at his own.
     “Ham and pineapple,” I said, mock gagging as a tan station wagon pulled into the parking lot, squeaking over the speed bump before it stopped. The car windows were down, so I could hear Casey Kasem introducing the next song on the American Top 40 Countdown. “The Eastridge car pool’s here.”
     “Oh yeah?”
     I smiled, knowing what Wes wanted to know. Leafy branches were in his way of seeing whether his big-time crush was part of the car pool. I noted the kids as they climbed out of the car: brothers Shane and Trevor Buchanan, Cassandra Schwartz . . .
     “Tuesday’s with them,” I said, giggling. Wes had been totally in love with Tuesday Thomas since forever. “Tuesday and Wes, sitting in a tr—”
     “Knock it off.”
     “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
     “For reals, knock it off.”
     I opened my mouth to continue to do the opposite of knocking it off—but then someone I’d never seen before got out of the station wagon, and it felt like my whole world screeched to a halt. I didn’t even care that there was, like, a whole colony of ants on my legs.
     “Who is that?” I asked quietly.
     The first thing I thought was that the boy looked like a model in a shampoo commercial. His dark hair shined as if he’d combed it three-and-a-half seconds ago, and it was parted down the middle, longer in the back, feathered to perfection. He was dressed in the kind of outfit that every boy I knew wore every other day—a white ringer tee with dark blue sleeves, tan dolphin-hem shorts with white piping, and tall sports socks with white high-tops—but the mystery guy somehow wore his clothes better.
     “Who’s who?” Wes asked.
      “You’re an owl,” I murmured, watching the stranger. I wondered if he had soft skin; I’d never wondered about a person’s skin before.
     “No, because owls have great vision, and I can’t see a thing.”
     “You shouldn’t climb up so high.”
     It was a miracle I was able to carry on a conversation with Wes, I was so distracted. While the boy and Shane joked around, the station wagon idled, the music still playing, a soundtrack to the moment.
     I watched as Shane introduced the boy to another cast member—the boy extended his hand confidently. He was cute and polite! Shane laughed at something the boy said; he was funny, too! I giggled like I’d heard the joke, heart beating fast, jittery all of a sudden. And the music didn’t do anything to chill my urgent and immediate crush feelings because no matter when, no matter what song, music totally made everything more emotional.
     The new kid ran his hands through his shampoo-commercial hair before saying something, making everyone around him bust up. I laughed like I was part of the conversation.
     “What’s so funny?”
     “I don’t know. He knows Shane.”
     “Who knows Shane?”
     “I don’t know! It’s a new kid!”
     The cutest new kid I’ve ever seen in my life.
     The new kid who’s going inside the community room right now.
   “Let’s go in,” I said quickly, wanting to know the new kid’s name . . . and everything about him! Where had he come from? What grade was he going into? Where did he live? (Probably Eastridge.) How did he know Shane? How did he know about Synchronicity? What was he like? Was he actually a shampoo-commercial model?
     “But all of the high schoolers aren’t even here yet,” Wes groaned. “My mom will make us do something.”
     “But Tuesday’s here,” I countered.
     “Okay yeah fine let’s go.”
     I carefully turned around so I could climb down using the knots in the trunk as a ladder. The station wagon moved to the exit, waiting to make a left onto Central Avenue—so my soundtrack was almost over. But just as I missed my footing and fell backward, landing with a thud on the hard ground below, the wind knocked out of me, the song changed.
     From his high perch, Wes looked horrified. “Dude! Are you okay?”
     I couldn’t speak but gave him a double thumbs-up: proof of life. He nodded and scrambled to a lower branch. As I lay there waiting for my lungs to refill, waiting for Wes to help me up and assess the damage, the new song, one I knew this time, faded into the distance as the station wagon drove away.
     Turn around, bright eyes
     I definitely didn’t want the new kid to turn around and see me on the ground, and maybe I was concussed from the fall, but I took the song as an indication that something good was coming. Something romantic.
     That’s why, two years later, that song was first.
 
 
TUESDAY, JULY 30, 1985

Dear Mr. Kasem,


     My name is Stephanie Finnegan, but most people call me Stevie. I’m going into eighth grade at McKenna Junior High in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but first I’m leaving tomorrow for a four-week tour with the performing group I’m in, Synchronicity! I’m really excited! Anyways, I’m writing to you with a song for your Long-Distance Dedication segment.

     I’d like to dedicate “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler to my crush, Joey. I’ve liked him for two years, but I think it’s finally time to tell him.
     Last week, after a cast party, a bunch of us snuck into the cemetery to find the legendary Green Eyes gravestone, and I was so totally freaked out by being in the graveyard at night because—I don’t care if people say it’s dumb—I believe in ghosts, and Joey was majorly nice to me. I grabbed on to his arm really hard when this kid Josh pretended to see a ghost behind me, and Joey didn’t pull away, and he didn’t laugh like his friends when I started shaking.
     I heard “Total Eclipse of the Heart” the first day I met Joey, and even though it’s kind of older now, it still makes so much sense for us. Like the part that talks about being terrified until she sees the look in the guy’s eyes was exactly how I felt at the cemetery! Joey looked at me so kindly and asked me if I was okay when I was scared and even told Josh to knock it off, which was like so cool. And he pulled this other girl up when she tripped over a tombstone. He’s so chivalrous!
     I really hope you’ll play my Long-Distance Dedication to Joey.

Sincerely,
Stevie Finnegan


PS: Smell the paper! I used grape ink. I hope you like it.


 
 

Reviews

“A 12-year-old girl learns about friendship and romance during her lip-sync performance group’s 1985 summer tour… A sweet, exuberant story.”—Kirkus

"In a road-trip novel that’s …deeply joyful, Patrick captures the thrills and anxieties of performing onstage—and all the complicated relationships that go on behind the scenes. The prose is at times darkly funny and at others affecting…Though Stevie’s attempts at first romance take center stage, it’s most rewarding to watch her confidence grow as she slowly builds connections with her castmates and realizes that strong friendships can be as vital as first love."—The Horn Book

Author

Cat Patrick is the author of Tornado Brain, a critically acclaimed Summer 2020 Kids' Indie Next List selection, and several books for young adults, including Forgotten, Revived, and The Originals.

Cat lives outside of Seattle with her family but was born and raised in Wyoming. You can find her online at catpatrick.com. View titles by Cat Patrick