quotes Elisquared likes

"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green



Book Information

Title: Star Wars The High Republic: Midnight Horizons
Authors(s): Daniel José Older
Publication Date: February 1, 2022
Edition: Hardcover, eBook; 496 pgs
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
SourceRockstar Book Tours
PurchaseAmazon - Kindle - B&N - BAM! - iBooks - Kobo - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.

Tour Schedule

Week One
2/1/2022 - Mythical Books - Excerpt/IG Post
2/2/2022 - Daily Waffle - Excerpt
2/3/2022 - Living in a Bookworld - Excerpt
2/4/2022 - Sadie's Spotlight - Excerpt/IG Post
2/5/2022 - Writer of Wrongs - Excerpt

Week Two
2/6/2022 - YABooksCentral - Excerpt
2/7/2022 - #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog - Excerpt
2/8/2022 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review/IG Post
2/9/2022 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
2/10/2022 - @lexijava  - Review/IG Post
2/11/2022 - Wishful Endings -Review/IG Post
2/12/2022 - Kait Plus Books - Review/IG Post

Week Three
2/13/2022 - Nerdophiles  - Review
2/14/2022 - Eli to the nth - Review/IG Post
2/15/2022 - The Desert Bibliophile - Review/IG Post
2/16/2022 - Dr Roha Tahir - Review/IG Post
2/17/2022 - A Bookish Dream - Review/IG Post
2/18/2022 - @coffeesipsandreads - Review/IG Post
2/19/2022 - BookHounds YA - Review

Week Four
2/20/2022 - Karen Dee's Book Reviews - IG Spotlight
2/21/2022 - Two Chicks on Books - Excerpt
2/22/2022 - @jypsylynn - Review/IG Post
2/23/2022 - @thebookishfoxwitch - Review/IG Post
2/24/2022 - The Momma Spot - Review/IG Post
2/25/2022 - Eye-Rolling Demigod's Book Blog - Review/IG Post
2/26/2022 - @drewsim12 - Review/IG Post

Week Five
2/27/2022 - Two Points of Interest - Review
2/28/2022 - onemused - IG Spotlight

The Summary

Centuries before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, in the era of the glorious High Republic, the Jedi are the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy!

After a series of staggering losses, the Republic seems to finally have the villainous Nihil marauders on the run, and it looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Until word comes of a suspected Nihil attack on the industrial cosmopolitan world of Corellia, right in the Galactic Core.

Sent to investigate are Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy, along with Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram, all fighting their own private battles after months of unrelenting danger. On Corellia, Reath and Ram encounter a brazen young security specialist named Crash, whose friend was one of the victims of the Nihil attack, and they team up with her to infiltrate Corellia’s elite while the Masters pursue more diplomatic avenues. But going undercover with Crash is more dangerous than anyone expected, even as Ram pulls in his friend Zeen to help with an elaborate ruse involving a galactic pop star.

But what they uncover on Corellia turns out to be just one part of a greater plan, one that could lead the Jedi to their most stunning defeat yet….
My Review

In true Daniel José Older fashion, Star Wars The High Republic: Midnight Horizons is action-packed with a lot of nuanced emotions set throughout.  It is important to mention that this is the 3rd book in an interconnected series, and part of a large overarching arc focused on the High Republic, a time of the Jedi, set a few hundred years before The Phantom Menace.  Due to that, I think it is important that you have read the first two books (Star Wars The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray and Star Wars The High Republic: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland) before diving into this one.  Luckily, all three authors do a great job of both connecting each story and setting them apart.  Midnight Horizons is where things are getting very serious.

This is a page-turner, with great pacing, pushing you through the story with high stakes surrounding all of the characters, both familiar and new.  Set on Corellia, which many Star Wars fans will be familiar with, the Nihil, this time period's Jedi enemy, have made an appearance hitting a Core world, which doesn't sit well with anyone in the Republic. Jedi Masters and Padawans are dispatched to deal with this threat.  

Those Padawans are who really shine in Older's story.  While the Jedi Masters are very reminiscent of what fans are familiar with, having to pursue more diplomatic, old-fashioned avenues of protection and investigation, the Padawans are free to diverge from this path and delve into subterfuge.  The reason I enjoy the YA series set during this time is because of these Padawans.  Not yet completely beholden to the Jedi way quite yet.  As such we get some surprising insight and hole-poking into the way things are/should be that make for an interesting story.

I loved the newest character introduced, Crash.  I think she really added an interesting outside perspective, especially from a non-Jedi point-of-view who is trying to figure out who really is benefiting from the Nihil presence on Corellia.  The main protagonists are Reath and Ram, my two favorite Padawans.  These two have popped up in the previous books, so this story really helps their character arc come full-circle, especially Reath.

This is a solid conclusion to Phase I (yep, there are Phases here with The High Republic series) of the YA books, and drop some really interesting plot points for set-up in the next Phase, and the rest of the overall series.  Daniel José Older can write a Star Wars book any day, and it will be such a fun read, just as Star Wars The High Republic: Midnight Horizons was highly enjoyable.

Final Rating


Chapter 6

Zeen Mrala and Lula Talisola sat across from each other in meditation position, like they had so many times before.

Zeen wasn’t sure when they’d stopped sitting side by side during these sessions and started sitting face to face. She just knew that it felt more intimate this way, more right.

As always, an infinite skyscape seemed to open up between them, like the whole wild galaxy came to life in their connected minds, from its giant spinning planets to the tiniest drops of dew on each trembling leaf.

“Do you feel me?” Lula asked, and Zeen knew she was smiling. They both were.

“Always,” she said. It was true. Even those rare times when they were far away from each other—like during the Republic Fair, when all hell was breaking loose and thousands of people cried out in fear and pain—Lula’s presence still felt like a beacon amid the chaos. It wasn’t that Zeen knew exactly where her friend was, just that she could feel her, her warmth, and it had calmed her, guided her through the carnage until their physical bodies actually found each other.

But Zeen felt something else, too—it had been growing inside her for months, and she had no idea what to do with it, even what to name it.

Fear maybe. Or perhaps love.

Whatever it was, she was pretty sure it was about to explode. She was about to explode.
Lula had been put in charge of the task force. For a Padawan, that was an incredible honor. It meant she’d probably be knighted soon. She didn’t look happy about it, though. Lula was the most ambitious person Zeen had ever met, but it didn’t seem to come from ego—she wasn’t trying to get ahead of everyone else; she just loved learning, loved challenging herself, loved the thrill of forward motion. Zeen knew Lula had been trying to slow down, let each step of the journey be what it had to be, but this kind of honor would’ve lit her up a few weeks ago.
In the briefing room, she just looked sad. And Zeen’s own first thought had been a selfish one: Lula would be knighted, and then what? What room would there be for a random girl from nowhere in the life of a Jedi Knight? The Jedi weren’t supposed to form attachments; they didn’t marry and settle down. They had more important things to do.

Zeen hated the bitter tone in her own thoughts; she should’ve been happy for her best friend in that moment. And what did it mean that Lula didn’t seem happy, either? Only that Zeen was trouble, pure trouble, in her favorite person’s life. A distraction.

That was when Zeen had decided to go to Corellia with Ram and Master Sy. She would get away for a bit, and maybe things would make sense when she got back.

She had instantly regretted the decision, but it was too late.

“Leaving will be good,” Lula said a few minutes later, when they’d both opened their eyes. This was what they did, almost every day: They sat. They let the universe reveal its shimmering secrets around them through meditation, and then they spoke, quietly, gently, being as true as they knew how to be, about whatever was going on that day.

“I’m not sure,” Zeen admitted. “I’m . . .” Was it fear she still felt? Not exactly. Just a discomfort. Uncertainty. But then . . . maybe that wasn’t hers. “Are you?”

“I . . .” Lula didn’t usually come up at a loss for words, but now she trailed off. “I don’t want our hunt for Krix to become who you are.”

Zeen flinched a little. She knew her friend was voicing a very real danger. Still, it hurt. “What will you be when we catch him?”

“I . . .”

“Where will you go?”

“I figured I’d stay here,” Zeen said, because the truth was, After Krix didn’t seem like a real thing, and it wouldn’t until he was caught. She hadn’t given it much thought because it was possible they wouldn’t catch him for years, and it was possible they’d catch him the next day. What point was there in planning when so much was uncertain?

Lula smiled in that way she had that made her look like a little kid. “That would be amazing.”

Zeen returned the smile, but the sadness and uncertainty remained, and she still didn’t know if it belonged to her or to Lula. “I don’t know what it will be like, when the chase is over,” Zeen admitted. “I don’t know who I’ll be.”

“We can find out together,” Lula said. “The galaxy’s changing as fast as we are. I’ve been”—her face darkened— “trying to figure out who I’ll be, too.”

“You got put in charge of a task force, Lula. That’s practically unheard of for a Padawan. What’s wrong?”

An alert dinged over the speaker system, then Ram’s voice came through, breathy with nervousness and restrained giggles. “Um, Zeen Mrala we’re about to leave for Corellia without yo—”

Reath cut him off. “No, we’re not! Don’t listen to him, Zeen. He’s still practicing his jokes. But we are packing up the shuttle, so hurry up, please!”

Lula and Zeen rolled their eyes at each other, and then simultaneously got serious again.
Zeen didn’t want to go anywhere where Lula’s face wasn’t going to be across from her, ready with a thoughtful answer or calm silence. But Zeen was also desperate to get as far away from all this confusion and turmoil as possible.

“I don’t know,” Lula said. “To answer your question. It’s been on me the past few weeks. You’ve seen it. I still don’t have an answer.” She met Zeen’s eyes with that determined gaze, the one that meant victory was imminent. “But I will figure it out, I promise.”

Zeen smiled. She believed her. What else could she do?

Lula smiled too, and it looked real. “Now let’s get you sent off to Corellia.”

About the Author

Daniel José Older, a lead story architect for Star Wars: The High Republic, is the New York Times best-selling author of the upcoming Young Adult fantasy novel Ballad & Dagger (book 1 of the Outlaw Saints series), the sci-fi adventure Flood City, and the monthly comic series The High Republic Adventures. His other books include the historical fantasy series Dactyl Hill Squad, The Book of Lost Saints, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, Star Wars: Last Shot, and the Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher, including Shadowshaper, which was named one of the best fantasy books of all time by TIME magazine and one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read. He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, The World Fantasy Award, the Andre Norton Award, the Locus, and the Mythopoeic Award. He co-wrote the upcoming graphic novel Death’s Day. You can find more info and read about his decade long career as an NYC paramedic at http://danieljoseolder.net/

3 winners will receive a finished copy of STAR WARS THE HIGH REPUBLIC: MIDNIGHT HORIZON, US Only.




Book Information

Title: The Temperature of Me and You
Authors(s): Brian Zepka
Publication Date: January 25, 2022
Edition: Hardcover. eBook, audiobook; 416 pgs
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
SourceRockstar Book Tours
PurchaseAmazon - Audible - B&N - BAM! iBooks - Kobo - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.

Tour Schedule

Week One
1/17/2022 - YA Books Central - Excerpt
1/18/2022 - The Reading Devil - Excerpt
1/19/2022 - BookHounds YA - Excerpt
1/20/2022 - Books Are Magic Too - Review
1/21/2022 - Reading Wordsmith - Review
1/22/2022 - Nonbinary Knight Reads - Review

Week Two
1/23/2022 - Do You Dog-ear? - Review
1/24/2022 - Lexijava - Review
1/25/2022 - Nerdophiles - Review
1/26/2022 - Bri's Book Nook - Review
1/27/2022 - viasreads - Review
1/28/2022 - onemused - Review
1/29/2022 - A Bookish Dream - Review

Week Three
1/30/2022 - Celia's Reads-blog - Review
1/31/2022 - More Books Please blog - Review
2/1/2022 - Zainey Laney in all 3 - Review
2/2/2022 - Emelie's Books - Review
2/3/2022 - The Momma Spot - Review
2/4/2022 - @drewsim12 - Review
2/5/2022 - @thebookishfoxwitch - Review

Week Four
2/6/2022 - Book-Keeping - Review
2/7/2022 - Eli to the nth - Review
2/8/2022 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review
2/9/2022 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
2/10/2022 - _BookBound_ - Review
2/11/2022 - My Fictional Oasis - Review
2/12/2022 - Kait Plus Books - Review

Week Five
2/13/2022 - For the Love of KidLit - Review
2/14/2022 - popthebutterfly - Review
2/15/2022 - @jypsylynn - Review
2/16/2022 - Wilted Pages - Review

The Summary

Sixteen-year-old Dylan Highmark thought his winter was going to be full of boring shifts at the Dairy Queen, until he finds himself in love with a boy who's literally too hot to handle.

Dylan has always wanted a boyfriend, but the suburbs surrounding Philadelphia do not have a lot in the way of options. Then, in walks Jordan, a completely normal (and undeniably cute) boy who also happens to run at a cool 110 degrees Fahrenheit. When the boys start spending time together, Dylan begins feeling all kinds of ways, and when he spikes a fever for two weeks and is suddenly coughing flames, he thinks he might be suffering from something more than just a crush. Jordan forces Dylan to keep his symptoms a secret. But as the pressure mounts and Dylan becomes distant with his closest friends and family, he pushes Jordan for answers. Jordan's revelations of why he's like this, where he came from, and who's after him leaves Dylan realizing how much first love is truly out of this world. And if Earth supports life that breathes oxygen, then love can only keep Jordan and Dylan together for so long.

THE TEMPERATURE OF ME AND YOU is the story of first love, and the lengths we'll go to figure out our hearts. What starts as an electric, chance encounter at a Dairy Queen quickly evolves into a heated romance, a journey of trust and identity, and a ticking clock for survival.
My Review

A charmingly unexpected book from debut author Brian Zepka, The Temperature of Me and You combines the trials of new love with the trials of new...superpowers?  That's right, when Dylan Highmark meets Jordan Ator literal sparks fly because Jordan is a boy made of hydrogen who can literally combust.  Intrigued?  

The sci-fi elements added is a really fun layer, but also works as a vehicle for a statement on not fitting in.  This is something Dylan himself has experienced by being one of the only openly gay kids at his high school, but also just by being a teenager.  We meet Dylan after he's already come out to not just his friends, but his family and his classmates.  So while this isn't a coming out story, the readers do get to see small snips of that experience, both the good and the bad.  I really appreciate LGBTQ+ books that feature characters who are past the coming out aspect of their lives.  Coming out stories are very important and play a role in validating LGBTQ+ people, but it is just as validating to read a book where the character  is already presented as living their true lives.  I'm making it sound very serious, and this book has so much humor, but I wanted to highlight this aspect because I think it was well-done.

I felt that Dylan was a really fun main character.  The teenage voice (and speaking as a not-teenager, I might be way off) rang really true for me; I want to be friends with Dylan, as well as his two besties, Kirsten and Perry.  Snarky, yet adorable, Dylan is a strong personality, acting as both a follower and a leader in different situations.  There are some pop culture references in text that may not age well. But for a modern book, they help set the scene in several places, and I liked that aspect of Dylan's character because who hasn't used pop culture to reference their own lives?

At times the sci-fi element was a little hand-wavy, with very light explanation of the how/why Jordan is how he is, but the humor and romance makes up for that.  This is more of a contemporary romance with a sci-fi flair, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  There are some twists and turns, keeping the plot interesting and the action moving.  I did think that the story was slightly unbalanced, with most of the action happening in the last quarter with a very quick wrap-up.  But that didn't stop me from enjoying the book and falling in love with Dylan and Jordan falling in love.

Super sweet, very funny with an action packed ending, The Temperature of Me and You by Brian Zepka is a great addition to the YA contemporary romance scene.  I think it can bring both lovers of romance and lovers of sci-fi together under one book.  Also, let me just say the cover is gorgeous, and should get you to pick it up just on aesthetics alone.  Definitely worth an add to the To Be Read list!

Final Rating



I have four main takeaways from my chemistry test today. First,  the symbol on the periodic table for oxygen looks like the number  of interesting things that happen in my life on a regular basis. The  symbol for sodium, Na, represents my history of romance—not applicable. The symbol for radon, Rn, stands for my thoughts on when  I want a boyfriend—right now. And the symbol for ununhexium,  Uuh, is my response when people ask me if I am going to do something about it. 

The most life altering decision I’ve made in the past year is  to proclaim that I prefer hard ice cream over soft serve as a Dairy  Queen employee. 

Speaking of which, another hour and tonight’s shift will be over.  My friends and I have been talking about chemistry class while I  pretend to wait for customers I not-so-secretly hope won’t show up. 

“The only answer I knew was hydrogen,” Perry says, shoveling  a spoonful of her large Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard into her  mouth.

“Well, duh. The symbol for that one is literally just an H,” I say. “You got oxygen too I hope, right?” Kirsten asks. 

Perry rolls her eyes, digging deeper into her Blizzard. “Yeah, I  think. I put Ox for that one.”
Kirsten smiles and shakes her head. “It’s an O. That’s literally  the easiest one.” 

“What? I thought O was for olerium.” 

“Olerium?” I ask, twitching my head. “Is that even a thing?” “Of course it’s a thing. But it wasn’t on the test,” Perry counters. “Yeah, because it’s definitely not a thing.” 

She laughs. “Are you serious?” Crushed Reese’s Cups line her  bottom row of teeth. Kirsten reaches across the table and puts her  hand over Perry’s mouth. “Close this,” she says, laughing. “No one  wants to see that.” 

“I’m sorry,” Perry says, grabbing a napkin and wiping the corners of her lips. “At this point, who cares? When will I ever need  those elements in my actual life?” 

“Um, this very second as you breathe them in,” Kirsten answers. “So technical.” 

Perry tries. She really does. And when I say tries, I mean tries  everything she can to not do schoolwork and still pass. Like, when  the three of us got together last night to complete the chemistry  worksheets for our test today, Kirsten and I actually did the work  while Perry spent the night trying to find the answers on Google and  replying to message boards that haven’t been active in five years. 

Unlike Kirsten, who is banking on her good grades for college,  Perry is piling all her hopes into a cheerleading scholarship. She’s  on a regional all-star cheer team in addition to the school team. I’m sure she could do both cheer squads and do well in school at the  same time. But Perry says she would rather be amazing at one thing  than average at a bunch of things. So she chooses cheer over school. 

“Dylan, can you make my Blizzard now?” Kirsten asks, spinning  around in her seat. 

“Here, you can finish mine,” Perry says, slamming her ice cream  onto the table. Her chest rises as she holds in a burp. Kirsten is without a doubt the prettiest girl in the junior class.  And, in my opinion, all of Falcon Crest High School. Me, a skinny  gargoyle who is teetering on okay in the looks department, and Perry,  a confused meerkat who is above average in the looks department  but loses major points for her lack of any common sense and basic  human functionality, are not who you’d expect Falcon Crest’s own  Elle Woods to associate with. 

I lift my arms off the service counter and stand up straight. I  push my hands into my lower back to stretch myself into a normal,  upright human position. 

My elbows are red from not moving once during my shift. To no  one’s surprise, I haven’t had a single customer all night. It’s January  and twenty degrees in Falcon Crest. Even my manager knows how  pointless staying open year-round is because he leaves as soon as I  get here after school. Which, by the way, is probably illegal because  I’m sixteen and operating a store by myself—but I don’t ask questions.  Perry and Kirsten don’t count as customers because they come here  whenever I am working to get free ice cream and keep me company. 

“Perr, next time I’m making you a kid-size because you never  finish what I give you,” I say. 

“How dare you,” she says, squinting at me.

“What do you want, Kirsten?” I turn and walk toward the rattling ice-cream machines, staring at the colorful menu above me  decorated with pictures of ice-cream cones and candy labels. 

“Hey, did Jimmy escape out the back door or something?” Perry  asks. She stands and looks down the hall to the bathrooms. “I’ll just finish Perry’s ice cream,” Kirsten replies, grabbing the  cup from the table. 

“He’s in the bathroom,” I say. Jimmy is an unfortunate soul from  another school who’s been directed here as a possible boyfriend  candidate for me. But my thoughts about that are represented by the  symbol for the element nobelium, No. 

“Yeah, he’s been in there for twenty minutes,” Kirsten says. “He  must really not be interested in you.” 

“Or dropping a big ole you know what,” Perry says, crossing her  arms and laughing to herself. 

“Ew! Stop!” Kirsten shrieks. “I’m eating.” 

“I don’t know why you brought him here,” I whisper. “I told you  I stalked his Instagram and I wasn’t interested.” 

Perry shrugs. “Sometimes people are different in person.  Savanna said he was single and looking, so I’m helping you out,”  she whispers back. “Plus, Kirsten and I agreed you guys would look  cute together.” 

“First of all, I don’t know why we would take a recommendation  from Savanna Blatt. She is mean to all three of us and is most likely  using this to screw us over somehow. He probably has a STD of the  throat or something!” 

“As I am sure you’re well aware, nice boys are in short supply  in this town. You take what we can get.”

“It’s too forced and awkward for me. I’m not in the mood for  Perry Love Connections tonight.” 

“Every day is a day for a Perry Love Connection, my friend.” Perry has made it her personal mission to get me a boyfriend.  But sometimes I would appreciate it if her mission had some standards attached to it. 

“He’s been rude this entire time.” 

“He really has,” Kirsten says, nodding. “He hasn’t even acknowledged me yet.” 

“See,” I say, gesturing at Kirsten. “I can’t date someone who  doesn’t acknowledge my overachieving best friend. If Kirsten can’t  get acknowledgement, then I have no chance.” 

“Ugh,” Perry grunts. “How does it always end up you two against  me? Let’s just see how he is when he gets back.” 

“And how he smells,” Kirsten says with a mouth full of ice  cream. Perry and I roll our eyes in unison. 

The bathroom door clicks, and Perry and Kirsten sit up as if  they were misbehaving. Perry smirks at me while shimmying her  shoulders. 

“Watch . . . he won’t talk to me,” Kirsten blurts at the last second.  Perry smacks her arm, shooting her a look. 

Jimmy rounds the corner from the bathroom hallway and plants  himself next to the service counter. I take a few steps away from  him toward the other end. Perry smiles. It’s quiet for a few seconds. 

He’s so out of place. Even if I did like him, he would never mesh  well with the three of us. He looks like a church boy who just came  from Sunday service or something. He’s wearing thin, slip-on brown  leather shoes that I swear my dad also owns, khaki pants, and a button-up shirt that’s tucked in. Meanwhile, my shaggy, curly hair  is reminiscent of a tumbleweed, and ice cream is splattered across  the front of my shirt and arms. Kirsten’s long brown hair rolls down  her back in knotty waves. Perry’s blond hair is tied on the top of her  head into a baseball-size bun with a polka-dot scrunchy. They are  both wearing leggings, sneakers, and their cheerleading hoodies. 

“Did you want anything?” I ask, tapping my fingers on the counter. I want to fling a spoonful of hot fudge at Jimmy to mess up his  clean-cut image. 

“Nah, I’m good,” he says. “Did I hear you guys talking about  chemistry?” 

I don’t respond. Instead, I stare at Perry, raising my eyebrows,  and wait for her to say something since this is her guest after all. “We were,” she says. “We had a test on the periodic table and  had to match all the elements with their symbols and stuff. Dylan  over here aced it. Didn’t you, Dyl?” She smirks. 

“We did that stuff, like, freshman year at my school,” Jimmy  says. 

I resist the urge to roll my eyes again. “I thought it was fine,” I  say. “I don’t know about acing it, but I didn’t bomb.” “I aced it,” Kirsten says. 

“Nice, man!” Jimmy exclaims. I jerk my head back at his enthusiasm. “Right on.” He extends his arm and puts his palm up. I scan  it with my eyes, tracing the lines on his skin. He leaves it in the air  for what I’m assuming is a high five. 

I want to melt into a puddle like a vanilla ice-cream cone, be  washed up with a mop, wrung out, and never be seen again. Kirsten  and Perry’s lips curl in, ready to burst from laughter knowing I’m going to have to partake in this bro moment. I take a few steps  toward him, because he’s too far from me to reach, and lightly tap  his palm with mine, inwardly cringing. My teeth are clenched. “Thanks,” I say, clearing my throat. 

He inspects his palm, then wipes it on his pants. I must’ve left  some sticky residue on his hand. At least the interaction wasn’t a  total waste. 

Perry lets out her laughter in the form of a burping grunt. “Yikes,” Jimmy says to me. “Not hard to see why you did better  on the test than those slobs.” He laughs to himself, then taps my  arm with the back of his hand. 

“I said I aced it,” Kirsten says, squinting at him. Jimmy ignores  her comment. 

I retreat on to my phone, wondering how long this guy is going  to stand here for. 

“Oh!” Perry gasps. “Our newest paint-by-numbers kits just  shipped.” 

“Yay!” Kirsten squeals. “Right on schedule.” 

We try to complete a new paint-by-number piece each season.  We just completed our Christmas-themed canvases last week. But  we finished past our deadline, or rather Kirsten’s deadline, and  didn’t get to see the finished products before the holiday. As a result,  Kirsten forced us to order our spring kits earlier than expected so  we wouldn’t fall behind again. 

“You can’t just paint on your own?” Jimmy asks. “You need little  numbers to tell you were to put a color?” He laughs. “No, actually, I don’t need the numbers,” Perry snaps. “It’s just  more relaxing that way. I’d like to see you try.”

“Doesn’t mean you’re actually good at painting.” 

“What the—” Perry stands. 

I clear my throat. “I need to start cleaning up to close the store,”  I lie. “Everyone should probably go.” I exhale. 

“What?” Perry asks. “But we—” 

I slice my neck with my hand and glance at Jimmy. She nods. 

“Good idea. I can wait around after everyone leaves if you want?”  Jimmy asks. 

I blush. “Um, no, it’s okay. Closing the store takes a while,” I lie  again. “You don’t have to stand here that whole time.” He nods. “Here, take my number.”
“Uh,” I start. I stare at him, my mouth hanging slightly open. “Your phone?” He shakes his phone in his hand. 


I pull my phone from my pocket and punch in my code. He says  his number for me to save, but I type 555-555-5555. 

“Got it. I’ll text you mine,” I lie again. 

“Sweet.” He gives me a head nod and walks past Kirsten and  Perry without saying anything. 

“Bye!” Kirsten screams. She turns her attention back to me.  “What a rude boy.”
“Well, I don’t like him,” Perry proclaims, throwing up her hands. “I would hope not,” I say, and fling a straw at her. “That was  your pick. Thanks for putting us through that.” 

“You better have some self-respect and not text him,” Kirsten  says. “I’ve taught you better.” 

“I’m not going to. I didn’t even type in his number.”

“Oh, you’re a player,” Perry says, winking. 

“Shut up. I can’t deal with you guys anymore.” 

“His shoes were so weird,” Kirsten says, crossing her legs. “If  he was going for classic vintage, he completely missed the mark.” “Right? He looked like an old creeper,” Perry says. She straightens her back. “Oh my gosh.” Her eyes widen. “What if he is a creeper  and gets mad when you don’t ever text him and he stalks you and  kills you? Remember that school assembly we had where the cop  talked about that girl who was killed by the guy who found her  through social media?” 

“Are you kidding, Perry?” I ask. “Why would you say that?” What if he is though? It could totally happen. He knows where  I work and go to school and could probably figure out where I live  from my Instagram. Maybe I need to make my account private. “Calm down. He’s not,” Kirsten says, dismissing the claim with  a hand wave. “Savanna said she knows his family.” “Next time you see Savanna, tell her I’ll handle my love life from  now on,” I say. 

“What love life?” Perry asks. 

“My potential love life.” 

“It has great potential,” Kirsten says. 

“Thanks, Kirsten. I think so too.” 

“I don’t. You’re ugly and smell bad!” Perry yells, smiling. I laugh and scoop a pile of rainbow sprinkles into my hand, then  chuck them at her. She screams and runs to the other side of the  store. I keep throwing them as she tries to dodge. Kirsten remains  seated. She wipes the sprinkles that landed on the table into her  hand, escorting them carefully to the nearest trash can.

“Are you done?” Perry asks, brushing the sprinkles out of her  hair. 

“Yes, because I realize I have to clean this up now.” I thrust my  hands on my hips. 

I get the dustpan and broom from the closet and sweep up the  sprinkles. 

Kirsten stands. She clears her throat before speaking while her  facial expression morphs into a look of concern. “Dylan,” she says  in her announcer voice. 

“Here we go,” Perry mumbles. 

Kirsten is dead-set on being a news anchor or TV host of some  sort in her future life. I’ve done more mock interviews for her than  I can count. 

“Many people would be hurt after another lost chance at love,”  she continues. Her tone drops two octaves. She enunciates each word  slowly. “How are you coping right now?” 

“By considering myself lucky I lost that chance,” I say. Kirsten  inhales. But before she can get out another word, I keep talking.  “Can you guys go now for real?” I ask. “I want to finish cleaning  and get out of here.” 

“Fine,” Kirsten says, returning to her normal voice. Her shoulders dip. “Please text us when you’re done.” She pulls her keys from  her hoodie’s front pocket. 

Kirsten is the only one out of the three of us who has her license,  and I’m pretty sure she enjoys making everyone aware of it. Her car  keys have enough key chains, rings, and bracelets to fill every accessories store in the Philadelphia area. 

“See you tomorrow,” I say.

They leave, and I finish sweeping the floor. I wipe the counters,  tables, and the ice-cream machines. I refill the napkins, straws,  spoons, syrups, and candies. I empty the register and put the money  in a pencil case in the safe in my manager’s office. The entire cleaning process only takes about ten minutes because there were no  customers today. We close at 8:00 p.m. and it’s 8:10 p.m. I’m ready  to go, but as usual, my manager is nowhere to be found when it’s  time for him to lock up the store. 

While I’m waiting, I start picking at a piece of the plastic counter  that’s chipping off. I think about how it’s made of atoms and how  atoms are made of protons and electrons. How do people even come  up with this stuff? 

My favorite elements we had to memorize were californium  and americium. Mainly because they were super easy to remember,  but also because the people naming them were so over it they just  picked some obvious name. Like, what if I discovered an element  here at Dairy Queen? My teacher said elements are everywhere. I  could name it oreoanium. Although, that kind of sounds like some  weird sex thing people would rap about. 

The door clicks open. My daydreaming is broken at the perfect  time before my mind wanders any further into picturing various sex  positions involving Oreos. 

I look up, expecting to see my manager, but it’s someone else.

About the Author

Photograph by Lizzy J. Hall

Brian Zepka was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Brian worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Virginia where he provided support for programs addressing community health literacy and adolescent sexual health. He currently lives in Philadelphia and is a program evaluator for a nonprofit organization focused on chronic disease prevention. The Temperature of Me and You is his first novel.

3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE TEMPERATURE OF ME AND YOU, US Only.


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