Charlie Bloom is happiest behind her camera, unseen and unnoticed. When former classmate Olly Samson gets in touch out of the blue, asking her to take backstage pictures of his new band, she takes him up on it. Charlie dreams of becoming a photographer, and it’ll be good experience.
But Olly’s band, Fire&Lights, isn’t playing ordinary gigs. They’re stars on the rise, the hottest boy band in the countryand Charlie is immediately catapulted into the band’s surreal world of paparazzi, sold-out arenas, and screaming fans. Soon enough, she becomes caught between Olly and Fire&Lights’ gorgeous but damaged frontman, Gabriel West. As the boys’ rivalry threatens to tear the band apart, Charlie stumbles on a secret about the bandand herselfhidden within the lyrics of their new #1 single.
Music. Fame. Heartbreak: Chris Russell's Songs about a Girl is the perfect next read for anyone who has ever wanted to say, “I'm with the band.”
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Songs About a Girl
By Chris Russell
Flatiron BooksCopyright © 2017 Chris Russell
All rights reserved.
Olly Samson was a normal eighteen-year-old, in almost every way.
He used to live around the corner from me, on Marchwood Avenue, before he left school. He was easygoing, a nice guy, and always seemed to have plenty of friends. He was more into singing than football, which did make some of the boys wary of him, but other than that there was nothing that unusual about him. Just another face in the hall. The thing is, it didn't make sense that he would have noticed me, because he was two years above me and I tend to go out of my way not to be noticed.
Dear Charlie ...
I stared again at his message on my screen, searching for signs it might be a prank. He didn't seem like the kind of person who would send this as a joke, but the things he'd written about me ... I found them hard to believe.
Like I was saying, Olly was pretty much a normal eighteen-year-old. Nice to everyone, never caused any trouble, did his own thing.
He just also happened to be a member of the biggest boy band on the planet.CHAPTER 2
NEWSFLASH: GABRIEL WEST IS BACK ON THE MARKET!!
Fire&Lights heartthrob breaks up with supermodel girlfriend
That's right, F&L fans ... Gabriel West is finally single again!! Ella Mackenzie got papped leaving his hotel last night on her own, and today her press agent revealed that Ella and Gabriel have definitely broken up, and this time it's for good.
This is amaaaaazing!! Gorgeous Gabriel is single, AND it's only two months until Christmas.
On top of all that, after teasing us for over a year with singles and EPs, Gabriel, Olly, Yuki, and Aiden are finally releasing their first full-length album, SONGS ABOUT A GIRL, in less than seven weeks. Stick 13 Dec 2013 in your diaries, people!! So. SO. EXCITED. Do you have tickets to the tour?? Comments below!! :) :) xxx xox FIRE&LIGHTS FOREVER xox The best Fire&Lights fan blog on the web!!
The usual crowd of Year Eight girls was huddled round their phones, squealing, their voices bouncing back and forth across the cafeteria. It was part of their daily ritual to read their favorite fan blog aloud over lunch, but today they were being particularly ... well ... squeally. I could hardly concentrate on my book.
"She wasn't good enough for Gabriel anyway."
"I heard all her pictures are Photoshopped."
"Gabriel's definitely better looking than her. He's way out of her league."
Thanks to Olly Samson, Fire&Lights fever had started early at our school. But even the fact that Olly had once worn a Caversham High tie wasn't enough to make him the most popular member of the band around here. Like it did everywhere else in the country, that honor went to unofficial front man Gabriel West.
"His hair is amazing."
"I think it's his eyes. Amber eyes are, like, super rare."
"Imagine holding his hand."
More squealing. I fired off a message to Melissa.
Just finished lunch. Where are you?? xx
"Emmy has tickets to their concert on Saturday," another girl was saying. "She's made a banner just for Gabriel."
"God, he is so hot, it makes me want to die."
Sighing, I closed my book and packed it into my school bag.
I swear, some days it felt like I was the only girl in the world who wasn't in love with Gabriel West.
* * *
The little bird was hopping about on the edge of its nest, wings twitching. I adjusted the dial on my camera lens, shifting the focus, and zoomed in on its face. It was a sparrow, or a thrush, or something, and it came back to this spot every lunch break, around the same time. I could tell it was the same bird because it had a little orange spot on its back, just visible beneath the brown.
"... I know, it's like Crouch actually thinks we care about some war from, like, a hundred years ago."
"I don't even listen, I just sit there."
"Yeah, me too."
The voices passed behind me, and I kept my gaze fixed on the viewfinder. The bird twitched its little head.
There was a sudden peal of sharp laughter.
"What's she doing?" "I dunno."
"Same thing she always does."
The back of my neck bristled. I moved to squeeze the shutter, but the bird bolted.
"Anyone have any cigarettes?"
I lowered the camera and glanced over my shoulder. A group of girls was leaning against the railings outside the old science lab: Aimee Watts, Gemma Hockley, a few others. Aimee looked me up and down, and I tugged my hat over my ears.
"Hey, Charlie!" she called across the courtyard. "What are you doing?"
Aimee wore heavy eye makeup and had a habit of tying her hair back into a tight, angry bun, making her face look taut and severe.
I clicked on my lens cap.
"Nothing," I replied.
Aimee folded her arms across her crinkled school shirt. "Doesn't look like nothing."
One of the girls fished a cigarette from her bag and lit it. They began passing it around, blowing the smoke high into the air. I turned to walk away, and my phone beeped at me.
Aaaargh so sorry!! A message from Melissa. In art studio with miss woods
"Aw, she's leaving," said Gemma, as I made my way out of the courtyard. Aimee called after me.
"Hey, Charlie, where you going?" I sped up my walk.
"Stay and have a smoke ..."
Ducking down a narrow alleyway, I pressed my back against the wall and tapped out a reply to Melissa.
What are you doing with miss woods??
I could still hear the girls laughing round the corner.
Reorganizing art cupboard. Dull as. She was like "please, it won't take long" and I was all like "I DO HAVE A LIFE U KNOW" I smiled.
Sucks to be you
Anyway, I MISS U she wrote back. Also, I have a fun plan for ur birthday. Tell u after school xxxxxxx
I frowned at the message. We had already made plans for my birthday.
Which meant Melissa was up to something.
* * *
"Did you see the fan blog, Charlie? Today's blog? Oh my God, Gabriel's single again ... praise the Lord."
The main road through town was buzzing with traffic. Students flew across the street, ducking between cars and yelling at one another. Drivers honked as they passed.
"Just imagine," Melissa continued, "if he was your boyfriend. GOD."
Melissa Morris was a bony whirlwind of arms and legs who almost never stopped talking. We'd been neighbors and best friends for years, ever since Dad and I first moved to Reading, and for as long as I could remember we'd walked to and from school together.
She had a teeny, tiny obsession with Fire&Lights.
"I mean, think about it. You and gorgeous Gabriel ... it could totally happen. He said in Teen Hits that he likes long dark hair — check — and big brown eyes — check — and you're easily pretty enough. Me, I'm a bit ginge, so I'd have to dye my hair ..." She paused for breath. "Course, I'm saving myself for Aiden, as you know. Apparently he quite likes gingers."
We stopped at the traffic lights, and I thought of Olly's message sitting secretly on my computer. It felt wrong, keeping something so huge from Melissa, but I had to get my head around it first. I had to decide what to do.
Then I would tell her.
"Well," I said, poking at the crossing button, "Aiden would be lucky to have you. Ginger or otherwise."
Melissa grinned, exposing her newly straightened teeth.
"Ooh!" she said. "I almost forgot. Your birthday."
I eyed her from beneath the tattered edge of my hat.
"What about it?"
"I know exactly how we should celebrate."
The lights turned green, and we stepped together onto the road.
"But we already have plans. We're going for pizza."
Melissa squinted at this and raised a single finger.
"Or," she said, "or ... we could get dressed up and hit the school dance."
I cocked my head at her.
"Erm ... earth to Melissa?"
"Come on," she said, throwing her hands in the air.
"You're sixteen in four days! That's a huge deal. You can't spend your biggest birthday yet just, like, sitting around with me eating endless garlic bread."
"Actually," I replied, "that sounds amazing." She stuck her tongue out at me. "Besides, you're the only person I really want to spend it with."
We reached the pavement, and Melissa stopped in front of me. She had a pained look on her face.
"I know, and normally I'd feel the same way, but ..." A smile tickled the side of my mouth. "What's this really about?"
Melissa chewed her lip. Her cheeks turned pink.
"OK, fine. There's a boy."
"A boy? Since when was there a boy?"
We started walking again.
"You see, this is why the school should never have separated us for double Geography: it's prime catching-up time. I miss you so much on Monday afternoons, Charlie, it's not even funny. Plus Miss Walker makes me sit next to Snotty Barwick, and he smells of cheese."
I poked the top of her head.
"Hello, Mel? Who's the boy?"
She fiddled with a clip on her backpack.
"Khaleed, from Computer Club."
I racked my brains. From what I could remember, Khaleed was a year below us and at least six inches shorter than Melissa.
"Do you even like Khaleed?"
Melissa started to say yes, then stopped herself.
"Well, sort of. Not really." She scrunched up her face. "He has nice ears."
"Anyway, that's not the point," she continued huffily. "You'd feel the same way if you'd just had your braces taken off. I'm fifteen years and five months old, and I have never kissed a boy. It's beyond tragic."
Our road, Tower Close, was approaching up ahead. I took a deep breath and grabbed Melissa's hand.
"OK, then," I said. "We'll go to the dance. For you. But you'd better get that kiss."
"Yay! You're the best," she said, squeezing my fingers.
"Naah," I replied, squeezing hers back.
"And we are gonna have a LEGENDARY night," she said with a little skip. "I guarantee it."
"When have we ever had fun at a dance?" I asked. Melissa tapped a finger against her lips.
"Umm ... how about two summers ago, when they had that epic sweet shop? That was fun."
I stared back at her.
"We spent half that night watching Becky Bates spewing pink gunk into a Dumpster."
Melissa looped her arm through mine.
"See what I mean? Fun times."
Arm in arm, we turned off the main road and onto Tower Close, the sound of traffic fading away behind us. Our street was, as always, still and serene. Mown lawns, silent houses.
"So, if you had to save any member of Fire&Lights from a burning building," said Melissa, "which one would you pick?"
Regardless of how many times I told her I wasn't into them, Melissa would still ask me these questions. Every single day.
"I really haven't given it much thought."
"Well, you should. You never know when you might unexpectedly bump into a pop star."
I raised an eyebrow at her.
"A pop star on fire, you mean?"
She shrugged, matter-of-factly, and hummed a quick tune. We were nearly at our gates.
"You coming in for hot chocolate?"
"I can't. I've got that chemistry homework."
It was only a white lie, but I felt it in my chest.
"Oh God, yep. Fractional distillation." Melissa clicked her gate open. "Message me when you're done, OK?"
"You bet," I said, watching her peel off down the garden path, singing as she went.
* * *
Dad was frowning over a pile of papers when I walked past his study. He worked from home on Mondays.
"Oh, hello," he said as I drifted by his door. "Good day?"
"Mm-hmm," I replied, sweeping past him and disappearing up the stairs.
In the safety of my bedroom, I slid my laptop from its drawer and dumped my school bag under the desk. As the computer whirred to life, I tried to imagine what Melissa would do when she found out I'd been sent a private message by a member of Fire&Lights. She might actually explode.
Opening the browser, I went straight to Facebook, opened my inbox, clicked on Olly's message, and took a deep breath.
It was time I wrote my reply.CHAPTER 3
Dear Olly ... many thanks for writing to me.
I sighed and deleted my opening sentence for the fourth time. What did I think this was, a job application?
Hey, Olly, cool to hear from you.
That was even worse. One thing school had taught me was that I, Charlie Bloom, was a very long way from cool.
I dropped backward onto my bed, arms folded. I had waited nearly two days to respond to Olly's message, and this already felt like two days too many. I scanned through his words again on the screen, trying to make sense of everything he'd said. There were two main things about his message that confused me:
First, why on earth would he even remember who I was?
Dear Charlie ... you might not remember me, but ...
(I might not remember him? Barely a day went by when I didn't see Olly's face smiling back at me from a backpack or a pencil case.)
... but i was a couple of years above you at Caversham High. Not sure if you follow Fire&Lights, but that's what i'm up to now, and i wanted to ask you something about your photography. I was looking through your gig pics, the ones you took of that school band, and they're amazing!! Thought you might be up for taking some backstage photos for us sometime ...??
Second, and more important, did he really want me to come and take photos for his band? The chart-topping Fire&Lights? I wasn't a real photographer, for a start, I was just a school-kid with a secondhand camera. And the shots I took at the Diamond Storm gig were all right, I suppose, but they couldn't be good enough for a professional band ... could they?
I clicked through to my photo archive and scrolled down to July. There were about forty photos from that night, the night near the end of term when Diamond Storm had played the school hall. Everyone knew Diamond Storm was The Best Band At Caversham High, but they'd decided you couldn't be a proper rock band unless you had a proper photographer.
As it turned out, I was their only option.
And although Diamond Storm posted the photos all over their blog, and some of them even got used in the school newspaper, I couldn't help but feel that I'd be out of my league shooting a world-famous band like Fire&Lights.
Way out of my league.
... Our management team has this new thing going on, read Olly's message. They have pro photographers taking all our concert pics, but they figure someone closer to our age would be better at the fun stuff backstage ... you know, for the fan page of the website.
I didn't know much about Fire&Lights, but I did know that their fans were obsessive and fiercely loyal. If I agreed to this, what would happen if I did something wrong? What if they didn't like my pictures, or the fact that some random teenage girl — who wasn't even a fan — was getting to hang out with their idols? My name would be out there, on one of the biggest websites in the world, for anyone to see, and the idea of all those people knowing who I was ... It closed up my throat just thinking about it.
... We're playing Reading Arena next Saturday, so i thought you might fancy coming along & giving it a go? P.S. Have sent you a friend request, hope that's cool.
One thing you could say about Olly was that he clearly hadn't let the fame thing go to his head. He was acting almost as if I was the famous one.
But I wasn't famous. And I wasn't really a photographer.
Which meant there was really only one thing I could say.
Hi, Olly, thanks for writing to me. Great to hear from you, and congratulations on the band. That's a really amazing offer, but ...
I paused and looked out the window. Marchwood Avenue was only a stone's throw from my house. Olly would have taken pretty much the same route to school as me every day, dodging the crowds on the Peppard Road or taking a shortcut through the golf course.
Apart from that, we lived in completely different worlds.
... but I don't think I can do it. I've got loads of schoolwork on, and anyway I don't really think I'm good enough yet for something so big. It's nice of you to ask, though. Good luck with everything, Charlie.
My cursor hovered over the Send button. All I could do now was hope that I wasn't making a huge, huge mistake.
* * *
"You said yes. TELL ME YOU SAID YES."
I had told Melissa about the message. She was taking it ... badly.
"Well, it's not quite as simple as that, M —"
"Not quite as simple? As what?! What?"
Melissa clenched her gloved hands, her frantic breath turning into steam in the frozen air. It was another chilly winter morning, very nearly November, and the trees on the roadside were tinged frosty white.
"I'm just ... I'm not ready for something like this."
Melissa stepped in front of me.
Excerpted from Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell. Copyright © 2017 Chris Russell. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
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