Friday, August 26, 2016

Excerpt: How to Make Out by Brianna R. Shrum

How to Make Out by Brianna ShrumHow to Make Out
by Brianna R. Shrum
September 6, 2016
284 pages

Goodreads Summary:
Sixteen-year-old Renley needs three thousand dollars for the math club’s trip to New York City, and she knows exactly how to get it: she’s going to start a how-to blog where people pay for answers to all of life’s questions from a “certified expert.” The only problems: 1) She doesn’t know how to do anything but long division and calculus. 2) She’s totally invisible to people at school. And not in a cool Gossip Girl kind of way.

So, she decides to learn to do . . . well . . . everything. When her anonymous blog shifts in a more scandalous direction and the questions (and money) start rolling in, she has to learn not just how to do waterfall braids and cat-eye makeup, but a few other things, like how to cure a hangover, how to flirt, and how to make out (something her very experienced, and very in-love-with-her neighbor, Drew, is more than willing to help with).

As her blog’s reputation skyrockets, so does “new and improved” Renley’s popularity. She’s not only nabbed the attention of the entire school, but also the eye of Seth Levine, the hot culinary wizard she’s admired from across the home-ec classroom all year.

Soon, caught up in the thrill of popularity both in and out of cyberspace, her secrets start to spiral, and she finds that she’s forgotten the most important how-to: how to be herself. When her online and real lives converge, Renley will have to make a choice: lose everything she loves in her new life, or everyone she loves in the life she left behind.



1. How to Do Long Division

I prefer classrooms I can’t set on fire. Not that I’ve started a slew of classroom fires in the recent past, but if I have to pick between solving for x or setting off the smoke alarms in home ec, I’m going with the numbers. So while every­one else is stirring batter the teacher constantly refers to as “beautiful,” I’m chewing a whole finger off and praying to the culinary gods that somehow this gel in front of me will transform into a cake.

Mr. Cole harrumphs as he hurries past me. Like he’s afraid if he lingers, my cooking-AIDS will infect him and he will be banished to the woodshop forever.

“That is Jell-O,” someone says beside me.

I frown, but don’t turn my head. “Thanks.”

“I’m just saying, if you’re trying to get a passing grade, that’s not the way to do it.”

My teeth grind against each other. “I’d like to see you do better.” I rip my eyes away from the substance that can only be described as gloop and turn to face my heckler. He raises an eyebrow and my mouth goes totally dry, so what comes out next is pretty much a croak. “Oh. Seth, right?”

This is a ridiculous thing to say. We’ve talked here and there in class; it’s obvious I know who he is. But he nods, pretending he thinks my question is serious.

“So you probably did do better,” I say under my breath, and he chuckles. Of course he did. Seth Levine could blink at raw eggs and flour and turn them instantly into a three-tiered feat of caketacular engineering. (And he could probably blink at just about any girl in the school and turn her instantly naked. Myself included. I’ve had this terrible low-level crush on him from afar since like the ninth grade.)

“It looks . . . salvageable.”

I laugh out loud. “Is that what you’d call it?”

“You just need, like, two more cups of flour.” He reaches for a bag across the table and rips it open. “And maybe—”

I snatch the bag away from him. “Thanks. But I think I can make a cake.”

He rolls his eyes (his beautiful brown eyes) and steps backward, holding up his hands in a mock gesture of sur­render. “Bake away. Sorry I said anything.”

I snort and turn back to my bowl, annoyed at the flour. But he’s right. So I tip the bag, and a steady stream flows into the . . . fine, Jell-O.

I hear the tiny sound of doom before I see it. A rip. And the whole thing tears. A flood of white powder assaults the bowl and puffs up in a cloud, coating the entire table. I just stand there, holding the empty bag, blinking at the bowl, which used to be green.

From the corner of my eye, I see Seth snickering and tapping his flour-coated fingers on the counter. I look over at him and sigh.

“You win,” I say. “And I’m going to fail. I have a 98 percent in freaking calculus, but I’m going to fail cooking.”

He narrows his eyes and glances over my shoulder. I follow his gaze and see Mr. Cole making his way through the rows of students, marking a piece of paper as he goes. This is it.

When I turn back around, the bowl in front of me is . . . green. And the batter is perfect. I blink at it several times and think for a moment that maybe the cooking gods have heard my plea. But then I see Seth’s bowl, look­ing suspiciously white and flour-mountain-laden. I shoot him a look as Mr. Cole rounds the corner and he shakes his head minutely.

“Renley,” I hear behind me. The way Mr. Cole says my name is similar to the way one would say “sewer rat.” I turn and stare up at him, holding out my green bowl like a peace offering.

“Oh!” he says and smiles, scribbling on his paper. “Beautiful!” Of course it’s beautiful. “Perhaps, Miss Eisler, baking is where your heart truly lies.”

I blink, trying to avoid looking at Seth, who is barely holding back a snicker. “I—yes. Cakes and pastries are my passion.”

“Mmhmm.” He takes a step farther and raises an eye­brow at Seth. “Mr. Levine. What have we here?”

“Broken flour bag. I’m much better friends with a skil­let than a mixing bowl, sir.”

“Apparently.” He jots down a few things but keeps a pleasant smile on his face. No sense upsetting the only culinary wizard in his class, I’m sure.

When he scuttles out of earshot, I lean over and whis­per, “You didn’t have to do that. I could have handled it.”

Seth laughs and stirs the flour clump absently.

“I mean, I would have failed. But . . . well . . .”

“You’re welcome,” he says, grinning.

I roll my eyes.

“Really, though, I have ulterior motives,” he says quietly.

My heart thumps suddenly and wildly. Is he kind of hitting on me? Is this flirting? This is totally flirting.

“Oh yeah?” I say. “What are those?” Keep your sentences short. Don’t say anything stupid.

“Well, I figure since I helped you out, you might be able to help me out with something.”
Brianna Shrum
About the Author
Brianna Shrum lives in Colorado with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband and two uber-hyper, superhero-obsessed little boys. She thinks chai tea is proof of magic in the world, and loves all things kissy, magical, and strange. She'd totally love to connect with you, so you can find her online at or saying ridiculous things on Twitter @briannashrum.


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