STOP PRESS: Love Song WON at the RONAs – both the Young Adult Romantic Novel category, and the overall Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2107. I’m so pleased and proud for Nina and the boys. It was quite an event and you can read what I did and didn’t say at the ceremony here.
A million girls would kill for the chance to meet The Point, but Nina’s not one of them.
Nina’s had her heart broken before, and she’s not going to risk it again with a rock star. But now she’s the new assistant to the lead singer’s diva fiancée, and she knows it’s going to suck.
This is a book about a girl, and a band, and broken things. When a delicate heart encounters one of the ‘Top 10 Hottest Humans’, it’s a recipe for disaster. But sometimes taking a risk can result in making something beautiful, too.
(There’s a trailer of me talking about the book on Maximum Pop, here.)
Love Song was hard to write, and contains so many of my teenage feelings about love and heartbreak and falling in love with music. Which is why I’m so pleased and grateful that it’s found its fan club already.
“Love Song is an intelligent and thoughtful read which handles the all-consuming emotion of a first crush rather beautifully.” Judging panel, the Goldsboro Romantic Novel of the Year award 2017
“An uplifting love story. Martin Chilton, The Telegraph, The best young adult (YA) books of 2016
“… turns the ultimate teen dream into a wholly believable and unputdownable contemporary romance, with some fabulous outfits and a great soundtrack to boot.” Fiona Noble, the Bookseller, Editor’s Choice, April 2016
“A one-night read. There’s really only one direction to go: a bookshop. ” Alex O’Connell, The Times, Children’s Book of the Week“… perfect for anyone dreaming of living the rock star life.” Charlotte Heathcote, S Magazine, Sunday Express
“It’s close to being perfect Young Adult fiction” The Bookabelles
“One of the funniest, most touching, romantic YA novels ever, smart and warm.” Amanda Craig, author and journalist
“For anyone who ever fell in love with a pop star, Bennett helps bring that dream to life.” (The Sun)
“This fun, feisty, fabulous novel is a total blast.” (Heat)
“Nothing compares to the love story I’ve read in this book” Serendipity Reviews
“a really entertaining, well-written, feel good contemporary” The Bookbag
“I flew through it; hot boys, tantrums and a delicious peek at life in the fast lane of fame.” Melinda Salisbury, author of The Sin Eater’s Daughter
“I’ve loved all of Sophia’s books – she writes teenage reality with such honesty and generosity and style – but this is my favourite.” Susie Day, author of The Secrets of Sam and Sam
“A ‘wonderful, compulsive read. I was caught in its spell.” Eve Ainsworth, author of Crush
“I loved this book! Funny, romantic and smart, Love Song is a total treat.” Cat Clarke, author of Undone
“Love Song is like a chart-topping hit: fun, thrilling, and totally addictive” Maximum Pop
“If I could, I would give Love Song six stars out of five” Anna, Goodreads
“Bliss in book form.” Sister Spooky
“I fell in love with Love Song the way I fell in love with the Fantasy genre. Deeply and wholeheartedly.” Sally at The Dark Dictator
Here’s an extract from Chapter 1. I hope you like it.
By now, the boys were in position at the back of the room, ready for the fans to file past them for the meet-and-greet. Two bodyguards stood nearby, arms folded, making it clear that nobody was getting close unless they wanted it to happen. Meanwhile, dark-dressed members of the entourage bustled about, getting us all into something approaching an orderly queue.
Ariel and I were about halfway down, which gave us plenty of time to watch the boys in action. They certainly weren’t painful to look at, though they didn’t look like any real boy I knew. Over the years each of them had developed his own sense of style. Connor used to look like an angel who’d just stepped out of a Renaissance painting. Then he had his peroxide hair cut super short and now he was more like a visiting alien. He emphasised the effect in a silver t-shirt and spray-on jeans. Angus, the guitarist, was black and moody from slicked-back quiff to biker-booted toe. George, the frizzy-haired drummer, wore a sleeveless vest to show off his bodybuilder physique. Jamie’s silk shirt was probably a one-off by a designer mate of his. I knew this because Ariel and Mum had had a long conversation about it over breakfast.
The Point were famous for their jokey friendship, and it was one of the things Ariel loved most about them. There was lots of laughter and silly gestures, kisses, hugs and stupid faces. They hit their mark for every photograph – eyes front, smiling – and all the fans walked away beaming.
‘I feel sick,’ Ariel moaned, clutching her tummy as we moved forward.
‘Not long now,’ I murmured.
‘I know. That’s why.’
It was Deadpan Blonde’s turn. She sauntered across the floor, handed her details to the photographer’s assistant, and walked over to the spot where the band were standing. She already had Connor Clark’s full attention. He was looking her up and down like she was a lobster in a restaurant and he just ordered lobster.
She posed between him and Angus, legs casually crossed, doing a peace sign. Both of them were practically drooling. They spoke to her briefly and that strong emotion from earlier suffused her face. Whatever they said, it had obviously made the four-thousand-mile trip worthwhile.
Ariel was being lined up to go over already, and I hadn’t even noticed.
It didn’t take a big detective to work out who was here for the band, and who was just here as a chaperone. Ariel was wearing an oversize blue t-shirt she designed herself, with handwritten lyrics from her favourite Point songs, surrounded by glitter doodles of their signatures. Her hair was dip-dyed sky blue from waist to shoulder – because Jamie often said his favourite colour was blue – and blonde from the shoulders upwards, because once he said it was yellow. I was in one of my old painting shirts and the first pair of shorts I could find.
‘Go on. Have fun!’ I said, pushing her forwards.
She hesitated, looking terrified. ‘Come with me?’
For the sake of speeding things up, I took her hand and we walked across the brief expanse of carpet towards the band.
The boys looked over at us and smiled. ‘Where d’you want us?’
And there we were, face to face with the most famous faces on the planet, and I kind of got why Ariel was so nervous. I wasn’t a fan and even I was practically having an out-of-body experience. It was like meeting the Queen, or walking on the Moon: definitely happening, and yet somehow impossible.
Ariel was lost for words, but the band had done this a thousand times before. Angus and Connor scooted up one way and Jamie and George went the other, leaving spaces in the middle for Ariel and me.
‘Oh, I’m not in this,’ I explained.
I had just spoken to the collective Point. Weird. Weird. I said human words to them, and they understood.
‘Sure you are,’ Jamie said, with a sultry grin, motioning me next to him.
‘No, really. I’ll just take a picture.’
He shrugged, moved in a little and put his arm around Ariel. She stared blankly ahead. Anyone else might think she was brain dead, but I could see her emotions were in lockdown: she was too overwhelmed to think.
While the photographer lined up the official shot, I got busy with my camera. I got into position in front of them and framed the shot so the boys and Ariel filled the screen. It looked bizarrely familiar after seeing their faces, just like this, on videos and posters. Now here was my sister’s face right in the middle of them, as if I’d Photoshopped her in.
‘Loving the hair,’ Jamie said, picking up a strand of it and laying it across his upper lip like a moustache. ‘Great colour.’
‘I know,’ Ariel breathed, happily.
Meanwhile, George gave her bunny ears, Angus scowled seductively, and Connor did his ‘Connor-face’ thing, which was his mysterious middle-distance stare. The photographer snapped the official picture. I took mine. And it was over.
Except it wasn’t.
As soon as the photographer nodded that she’d got the shot, Ariel suddenly got her courage from somewhere.
‘Thank you for the tickets,’ she said shyly, turning to Jamie.
‘Um … the tickets?’
‘The ones you sent for today. I did the video about your proposal.’ He still looked blank. ‘The one saying how romantic it was. And you wrote back, remember?’
‘Um … yeah … sure.’
My heart lurched. It was obvious, to me at least, that Jamie didn’t remember at all. Getting his note was the greatest moment of my sister’s life, but to him, she was just another loved-up girl in a long queue of them – not as glamorous as his fiancée and not even as cool as Deadpan Blonde. My heart ached for her.
Move on, Ariel. Jamie clearly has no idea who you are.
‘Come on,’ I said, gently. ‘Let’s go.’
But Ariel stood there, glowing with the joy of standing next to her idol. Nothing would make her move if she could help it.
‘Did I hear you right?’ said a voice from behind me. I spun round. Sigrid Santorini was directing the beam of her film-star smile straight at my sister. ‘You did a video about us?’
‘Yes,’ Ariel whispered, staring at her shoes.
‘Well, aren’t you THE MOST?’ Sigrid laughed, fluttering her fingers, so the diamond flashed in the light. I caught sight of Angus watching it with the faintest hint of a sneer.
‘What’s your name?’ Sigrid asked.
‘Ariel,’ she breathed.
‘And where are you from?’
Sigrid’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Croydon? Really?’
Yeah, that area of South London Sigrid would so obviously have heard of. But she seemed intrigued, or faked it well.
‘You’re so fascinating,’ she said. ‘Jamie, baby, we must get a picture. Us two with little Rachel here, with that beautiful blue hair. Isn’t she charming? Would you like that, Rachel? My assistant can take it and put it on Instagram. Pamela!’
The girl in dark clothing emerged from the shadows and dutifully took Sigrid’s phone. While Pamela nudged me out of the way so she could get a good shot, Sigrid squeezed herself next to Jamie, manoeuvring Ariel in front of her. Standing to one side, I glanced back at the queue. This was all taking precious time from the meet-and-greet. The remaining girls did not look happy. Nor did Angus, whose moody pose was morphing into something like disgust.
Sigrid adjusted her hair so it cascaded over one shoulder, and her pose so she was perfectly three-quarters on. She sucked in her cheeks and turned on her million-dollar smile. Wham! It was like switching on floodlights. She radiated joy. It was almost as if there was an aura of light around her.
In fact, there was an aura of light around her, bright and flickering. And a strange, unpleasant smell.
The word was out of my mouth before I knew I was shouting.
‘OMIGOD! WHERE?’ Sigrid yelled.
I gasped. It seemed to be all around them. Somehow, the banner behind the band had caught light. It was disintegrating super-fast, sending gossamer-light, glowing specks of fabric floating through the air.
Adrenaline pumped through me. Nononono …
I’d been here before. My little sister in a flimsy witch’s cape, going up in flames in front of me. Not now. Not again.
I thought of Aunt Cassie, and how quickly she’d reacted all those Halloweens ago when Ariel’s cape had brushed the top of a burning candle. For an instant, I pictured Mum howling Cassie’s name, but I pushed the image away. It wasn’t helpful now. What mattered was to make sure Ariel was safe.
I reached forward, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of the way. With lightning speed, the lurking bodyguards did the same for the boys, taking two each and bundling them through the crowd to the nearest exit. Around us, the meet-and-greet descended into chaos. Alarms went off. Girls screamed. People started running in a stampede for the doors. I was about to follow them when behind us, somebody shouted.
‘HELP ME! SOMEBODY, HELP ME!’
I looked back. Sigrid was still rooted to the spot, paralysed with shock. The banner had almost burned itself out but she was staring down at the trailing sleeves of her white dress, where little flames were licking upwards, burning their way through the cotton like advancing armies of light.
‘WATER!’ she screamed. ‘I NEED WATER!’
As I glanced around for something to put out the fire, I noticed that at the back of the stampede, several people had paused to get their phones out and video the scene. Way to go. Don’t help – just put it on the internet, why don’t you? Meanwhile, Sigrid whirled her arms in terror, and the flames rose higher, like burning wings.
There was a table nearby, covered with a big dark cloth and set with bottles of mineral water. The girl who’d taken the Instagram picture grabbed one of them and sprayed it in Sigrid’s direction. Only a few drops reached her and they did no good. The girl reached for a second bottle, but before she could get hold of it, I’d grabbed the cloth underneath and sent the lot flying.
‘WHA—?’ Sigrid gasped, horrified to see the precious bottles falling.
I rushed over to her with the tablecloth held out in front of me, and wrapped her in it, wrestling her to the floor as I went. I rolled her over inside the cloth and threw myself on top of her for good measure.
‘OW! GET OFF ME!’ she shouted. ‘HEY! What are you doing?’
‘I need … to stop … the air …’ I panted, straddling her with my body. After Ariel’s Halloween terror, I knew more than I wanted to about how to put out a person on fire. The best way was to wrap them in something thick and heavy, fast, and keep it there until all the flames were out.
The ground shuddered under the weight of heavy footsteps.
‘Oi! You!’ a gruff voice shouted. ‘Get away from her.’
Sigrid’s frightened eyes flicked to something in the distance behind me. I glanced back to see a bodyguard the size of a small hatchback bearing down on us both, as flecks of ash landed on our skin. Beyond him, Jamie hovered anxiously, helpless and terrified.
‘You! Move!’ the guard repeated.
Before I could explain what I was doing, his strong hand hauled me off Sigrid and dumped me face down on the ground beside her. My shoulder hit the floor with a crack. A big, heavy knee dug firmly into the small of my back.
It hurt. A lot.
‘Get off my sister!’ Ariel yelled desperately, trying to pull him away.
He ignored her, and kept the knee where it was. ‘You all right, miss?’ he asked.
Well, obviously not. But he wasn’t talking to me, he was talking to Sigrid.
‘I … no. OW. My hand …’ she moaned.
‘Don’t worry. It’s under control now,’ he said, pressing down on me even harder.
With my head squished against the carpet, my vision went blurry. All I could really see was flashes of coloured light bouncing off the Malteser diamond as Sigrid flexed her fingers to check her left hand was OK, while Jamie crouched consolingly beside her now the big, bad teenager was out of the way.
At least I hadn’t paid four hundred dollars for the privilege of being here today. I made a mental note never again to try and save the life of a celebrity.
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