Jake, Reinvented

Pleased with the current performance of his individual titles, Hyperion has purchased another of Gordon's Young Adult titles, currently scheduled for an October release.

Jake, Reinvented is a novel losely based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic, The Great Gatsby. According to Gordon, this means "It's about popularity, social status, and, especially, wild, wild parties." Obviously, the classics aren't all bad!

This project has been a kind of a long-term challenge for Gordon. He's been toying with it, off and on, for years, and Hyperion recently gave him the go ahead, so the writing began. It promises to be an interesting tale.

From the Book:

Chapter One

On a scale of one to ten, this party was at least an eight. It was in full swing by the time we crashed it. Not that you can ever crash when you're with Todd Buckley. Todd's invited everywhere, and he brings who he pleases. Quarterback's privilege.
The carpet smelled like beer already, so I knew the festivities had been going on for a while. The stereo must have set somebody back a few bucks because, when the bass was cranked, you could feel the air move. The floor was moving too, under the stomping feet of a mob of dancers. Arms and legs jostled the shiny keg, which sat in a little kid's inflatable wading pool by the living room/dining room.
As we watched, Nelson Jaworski staggered across the room and hit the wading pool face-first in a tidal wave of ice and slush. There was a roar of laughter until the big lineman sprang back to his feet, snatched up the keg like it weighed nothing, and reared back to heave it through the picture window.
Todd and I joined the stampede to stop him.
"Take it easy, buddy," Todd soothed. "If you trash the keg, it means we're out of beer."
The logic was fairly straightforward, but what got through to Nelson was the fact that it was coming from Todd. "Yeah, yeah, I'm cool, I'm cool."
By that time, somebody had the brains to wave a full cup under his nose. He surrendered the keg into the arms of the three guys it took to set it back in the pool.
Todd was laughing as we pushed through the crowd. "What do you think, Rick? This is what you've been missing."
I worked as a camp counselor in the summer, so I skipped the first two weeks of football practice that our team always had before the start of school. I was a little out of the loop. "This guy Jake - he moved here while I was away?"
Todd smirked. "Coach thinks he dropped straight from heaven. He's a long-snapper. That's all he does."
"No way!" Coach Hammer didn't let anyone get away with doing only one job. Even Todd, his precious superstar, played nickel back and anchored the on-side kick coverage team.
"No bull," Todd assured me. "Coach got sick of watching Nelson heave the ball twenty feet over your head, and now he's got a guy who does nothing but snap long. I'll introduce you."
I was the kicker and backup QB. Second fiddle to Todd. Story of my life.
Since I was with him, I was in on the endless procession of high-fives and backslaps that our quarterback seemed to draw like a magnet as we toured the party.
Everybody was there - most of the football team, their girlfriends, the cheerleaders, and a bunch of their boyfriends and friends, the cooler people from student council, and a collection of athletes from basketball and track. I noticed some sophomore girls whose names I didn't know – they’d really filled out over the summer; and a few guys who played in their own rock band. It was the guest list that really made this bash what it was. If I could put together the party of my dreams - not that my parents ever left me alone in the house for more than five minutes - this was exactly the kind of crowd I'd want. I marveled at how a newcomer like Jake Garrett could waltz into town and instantly know all the right people to invite.
I turned to Todd. "Do you see him?"
Todd shook his head. "Must be upstairs."
"Don't his parents notice that there are fifty kids going nuts in their house?" I asked.
"Jake's dad's out of town five days a week," Todd explained. "His mom lives in Texas somewhere." He picked up a slice of pizza from a table that was loaded with the stuff, folded it expertly, and took a bite. "Last week," he mumbled, "I dared Nelson to do ten beers and ten slices in ten minutes. Puked his guts out from Mr. Garrett's bedroom window. Killed a rosebush."
I had to laugh. As quarterback and kicker, Todd and I entrusted our lives to Nelson on the football field. And he delivered. But off the field, it would take two of that guy to make a half-wit. Right now we could see him totally passed out on the living room couch. Someone had stuck a plastic daffodil up his nose. They never would have tried it if he was awake.
I nudged Todd, but his attention was definitely elsewhere. He was having a little non-verbal communication with one of the sophomore girls. This was the real reason Todd loved these parties. It had nothing to do with who barf-bombed a rosebush. The ladies loved Todd, but not half as much as he loved them. Never mind that Todd had been going out with Didi Ray for over a year now. On a scale of one to ten, Didi was a twelve on a bad day. This sophomore was in the low sevens, tops. But the sophomore was here, and Didi was not. And mostly, Todd was Todd.
They began to close the distance between them, moving in that trance-like state that is so dramatic and all phony. It would have been a really romantic moment except for the three guys standing on their heads against the wall trying to chug upside down while a cheering section bellowed encouragement. I think they were betting on the outcome. My money was on more dead rosebushes.
Just when Todd was a few feet away from his quarry, a hand with painted red fingernails grabbed him by the collar and yanked him to one side. It was cheerleader Melissa Fantino, who was no more than a six. But certain parts of her were pretty much off the scale. She dragged Todd into the bathroom, then slammed and locked the door behind them.
I was amazed. Melissa was Nelson's girlfriend. Messing with her was like gargling nitro.
I waited for the bathroom door to open. This was a joke, right? Those two would come giggling out, busting my chops for being so gullible as to believe that something was really happening in there.
The door stayed shut. I sure hoped Todd knew what he was doing.
With the only main floor bathroom out of service indefinitely, I headed upstairs in search of facilities. On the way, I passed two sleepers - one on the landing, and one draped across the top step. The second guy had a couple of friends with him, if you could call them that. They were laughing like maniacs while emptying a squeeze bottle of contact lens solution into the poor kid's open mouth.
When I finally climbed over that obstacle, I had to revise my estimate of the attendance at this party. There were about twenty people packed into the hall alone. But while downstairs was wild and crazy, the second floor seemed to be the designated chill-out area. The range of conversations was amazing - everything from baseball to the meaning of life. A bunch of guys from the JV football team were reciting the first Austin Powers movie line by line. I can't imagine how the subject came up, but there was a group debating the merits of Canadian bacon versus regular ham for breakfast. The Canadian bacon advocate was so impassioned that he looked like he was ready to start throwing punches if the argument didn't go his way.
I found a door that looked like the bathroom and threw it open. There was a high-pitched female scream, followed by an angry male voice: "Get out of here, man!"
Quickly, I retreated. I didn't know who the girl was, but the voice belonged to our fullback – after Nelson, the toughest kid on the team.
"Each year, the young salmon swim upstream, fighting the current, to spawn," came a deadpan voice behind me.
I wheeled. There, his face buried in an enormous bag of jalapeño-and-pineapple pretzels, sat Dipsy.
To this day I couldn't tell you his real name. We called him Dipsy - after the Teletubby, the green one with the phallic symbol growing out of his head - because he had a cowlick that stood straight up at attention. He said stuff like that all the time. You could never quite tell if he was serious, or if it came from whatever he was smoking. Although, to be honest, I never saw Dipsy smoking anything. It was just the simplest explanation for his weird personality and his perpetual munchies.
"Where's the bathroom?"
"Occupied," came the reply from the pretzels. His languid gaze traveled down the hallway of closed doors. “Everything’s occupied. Except –"
Without standing, turning, or missing a bite, he reached over his shoulder and tried the knob behind him. Locked. The brass was shiny and unscuffed – obviously new. And there was a keyhole – it was made for a front door, not a bedroom.
“Our host likes his privacy,” I commented.
“The great white shark is a solitary hunter, its isolation ensured by row upon row of razor-sharp teeth.”
“You’ve got to get the cable company to take Animal Planet off your TV,” I advised, adding, “Is Jake a friend of yours?”
He shrugged. “Are you a friend of mine?”
In fact, the bizarre remark almost made sense. In a way, Dipsy was everybody’s friend and nobody’s at the same time. He was kind of the misfit on the guest list since he wasn't really popular, or on any team or club or anything like that. Yet he was always there, shoulder to shoulder with the jocks and cheerleaders, with his ripped-up jean jacket and his inventory of junk food. He never seemed to mind the players cracking on him, which they did mercilessly. One time at the mall, a whole bunch of them lifted up Dipsy's rusty Fiat and turned it sideways in its parking spot, locked in by two other cars. The poor guy had to wait three hours for the people on either side of him to leave. But he never complained, and he always came back. And nobody tried to keep him away, which was more than you could say for the way Todd and his crowd treated a lot of other kids.
“Of course I’m a friend of yours.”
“Yeah?” He regarded me expectantly.
I guess I was supposed to present my resume to prove it. The truth was that, while I’d grown up with Dipsy, I didn’t know him very well. Part of that was Dipsy’s fault. He wasn’t exactly Mr. Communication – except maybe to Jacques Cousteau.
I definitely wasn’t his enemy. I didn’t pick on him like the other Broncos. Once, back when we were sophomores, Dipsy really came through for me in a tough spot. Maybe I should have shown my gratitude a little more over the years. But Dipsy didn’t seem to care. He was always too busy talking about manta rays.
“You’ve got a million friends,” I said finally. “We just can’t find you hiding upstairs in a bag of pretzels.”
He replied, “The remora bides its time on the coral reef, waiting for –"
I didn’t stick around for the rest of it. Partly because I wasn’t in the mood for Waterworld, but mostly because the bathroom opened up.
I had to run to beat out one of the Austin Powers cast. While I was washing up, there was an eruption of high-pitched screaming from the yard. I peered through the curtains. In the back, some football players had turned the hose on a couple of those sophomore girls.
I raced down the stairs and outside. I think kickers are natural team peacemakers, since coaches always send us in from the sidelines to intervene when the shoving starts. But when I got to the main floor, the two would-be firefighters - receivers on our team - had turned suddenly chivalrous. One was wrapping the waterlogged girls in throw blankets from the couch, while the other got them drinks. The keg was pretty low by this time, so while our tight end poured, this kid I didn't know pumped the handle on top to keep the beer coming.
I turned to the shivering girls. "You'll have to excuse my friends. They get a little carried away at parties."
I don't think they even noticed I was there. They were the center of attention, and they couldn't have been any happier about that. The kid at the keg poured himself a cup and then one for me too. "Here you go, baby."
I personally think beer tastes like sand, but I accepted the drink. The music was too loud to go into a long explanation, especially to a stranger. I checked out the newcomer. He looked like he'd just waltzed off the pages of the J. Crew catalog, or maybe Banana Republic. I mean, nothing he was wearing was all that special - just a plaid shirt, untucked, over a white tee and khakis. But everything went together perfectly, and hung on him with that rumpled casual effect that you can't get by being casual. This guy worked at it.
We were kind of the odd men out, since there was definitely a love connection in the works between the receivers and the soggy sophomores.
I guess he saw me eyeing my beer with distaste. "There's more to drink in the laundry room, baby," he told me. "Booze, wine, soda. The washing machine's packed with ice."
I was impressed. "This guy Jake throws quite a party."
At first he looked as if he didn't understand. Then he said, "I'm Jake."
"Oh, sorry!" Feeling stupid, I fumbled to shake his hand. "I'm Rick Paradis."
"Rick the kicker!" he exclaimed. "I'm your new long-snapper, baby. We're going to be working together on the Broncos!"
An arm appeared around each of our shoulders. "I see you guys are getting to know each other."
It was Todd, looking pretty disheveled after his interlude in the bathroom. Melissa, his partner in wrinkles and lipstick smears, was in the dining room with some other cheerleaders, sending burning glances in his direction.
"A-choo!" On the couch, Nelson sneezed the daffodil out of his nostril and shook himself awake.
In one quick motion, I tossed my drink in Todd's face and wiped the lipstick off his mouth with my hand. Nelson was pretty wrecked. But only one girl at this party was wearing lipstick the color of stale doggy-doo. He wouldn't have to be Einstein to put it all together.
"What are you, crazy, Rick?" Todd sputtered.
Nelson took one look at us and lapsed back into his coma.
I didn't know how much I could say in front of Jake, so I just muttered, "You've got to watch out for yourself, man."
Jake gave us a knowing smile, like this was some juicy conspiracy that only the three of us were in on. "The word is you've got the hottest girlfriend in town," he told Todd. "Rumor?"
"Didi's the real deal," I supplied.
"You should have brought her," Jake told Todd.
Our quarterback shrugged. "I can have Didi any time I want. Tonight's all about -" He let his eyes wander appreciatively around the room. "You sure give great parties, man!"
Jake turned to me. "How about you, baby. Got a girlfriend?"
I shook my head. "No."
"Because he's an idiot," Todd finished for me. "Didi's best friend, Jennifer - goes to school with Didi at St. Mary's - she loves this guy! Guess who wants to be just friends."
"Nothing wrong with that," put in Jake.
Todd rolled his eyes. "Listen, Didi and Jennifer are more than inseparable. They're like Siamese twins. Half the time, when I go out with Didi, I'm stuck with Jennifer too."
"So I have to date Jennifer to make you happy," I finished for him. "There's a great basis for a relationship."
"Basis, shmasis," Todd scoffed. "Jen's hot."
And she was. But not for me. Us being just friends – that was Jennifer’s decision, not mine. Todd knew that better than anybody. He was the one who’d personally sealed the deal.
At that moment, a great laughing cheer went up in the house. I wheeled just in time to see Dipsy, in his underwear, running down the stairs in pursuit of three football players who had his pants. The crowd parted to make room for the thieves, who raised their catch over their heads like Olympic gold medallists running with the flag. Bellowing trumpet sounds, they tossed the Levis up onto one of the blades of the living room ceiling fan. Round and round went the jeans, legs dangling.
Dipsy made a couple of jumps at the fan, but Michael Jordan he wasn't. He disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a chair, all the while ignoring the dozens of people who were slapping and pinching his butt. When he finally got up there, someone cranked the fan to maximum speed. He made a couple of snatches, but his pants were whipping by so fast, he couldn't get the timing right. At last, he grabbed hold of a leg, overbalanced and fell into a pack of cheerleaders. Amazingly, they caught him - they practiced catching Melissa for their regular routine. But he was a lot heavier than she was, and the whole group keeled over under his weight. One girl conked her head on the edge of the pizza table, and her basketball boyfriend got mad and went after Dipsy. The poor guy was hopping around, trying to get his jeans back on, while staying ahead of this angry six-foot-three guy. Plants got knocked over. Pizza slid off the table and onto the floor. Drinks were spilling left, right, and center as the pursuer and the pursued bumped and jostled everybody.
Todd slapped me on the back. "It's going to be a great senior year!"
Jake was watching the goings on with unruffled calm. Like it didn't bother him in the slightest that his house was getting trashed. Very cool under fire, this new kid.
On a scale of one to ten, I bumped the party up to a nine.

© 2003 by Gordon Korman, Used with permission