It Should Have Been You
Barnes & Noble
Published by: Page Street Kids
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Seventeen-year-old Clara Seibert ghostwrites an advice column for her school’s newspaper. She’s funny, feisty, and cares deeply about making a difference in people’s lives, but her own personal problems threaten to overwhelm her. Five months ago, her piano prodigy twin, the center of her parents’ universe, was murdered.
Soon threatening emails start to arrive at her staff inbox. Convinced that her stalker blames her for her sister’s death and is out for revenge, she decides to undertake her own investigation.
Despite the danger she’s in, Clara is determined to continue to live her life. She falls hard for a new boy at school, and she tries to help a reader involved in an abusive relationship.
Time, however, is running out for Clara. Will she be able to solve the murder and save herself?
“From the first sentence, through all of the twists and turns to the surprising ending, this book will hold you in its grasp and not let go.”
—V.M. Burns, author of The Plot is Murder
“It Should Have Been You will keep you guessing right up until the final twists. Readers will relate to the teen heroine who must clear her name, protect herself, and come to terms with complicated family relationships. A compelling addition to the YA mystery pantheon.”
—Beth Fantaskey, author of Buzz Kill and Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
“Gripping and relevant, It Should Have Been You captivates readers with its authentic voice and well-crafted mystery. At once innocent and wise, Clara is a protagonist worth rooting for as she searches for the truth about her sister’s death. Important issues like domestic abuse and survivor’s guilt are handled with a well-tuned sensitivity that is never dogmatic or depressing. A fast-paced, sometimes harrowing, ultimately satisfying story you won’t forget.”
—Jessica Freely, author of All the Colors of Love
“A compulsively readable mystery full of suspense and laced with romance, as well as an important warning for teen girls.”
—Christina Hoag, author of Girl on the Brink
“It Should Have Been You takes readers on a compelling psychological journey of obsession and its effects. Readers will benefit from advice-columnist Clara’s girl-power attitude as they turn the pages to uncover the real villain. Issues of identity, fame, and artistic talent add depth to a compulsively readable mystery. Lynn Slaughter has written a winner!”
—Lee Tobin McClain, Ph.D., bestselling author of Sizzle
“To be a teen suspected of murder is bad enough. To be a twin suspected of the brutal slaying of your talented sister is the other side of alienation. Join Clara on her quest to find Moira’s killer and prove her innocence.”
—Barb Miller, author of The Impostors
Years ago, I had an adult student who shared with me that her twin had been murdered as a teenager. The crime had never been solved, and the FBI had kept in touch with her for years afterward, apparently concerned that the killer might go after her as well.
Her story stuck with me, and out of that grew the idea for It Should Have Been You. I started thinking about survivor’s guilt, and how much worse it would be if you’d had a troubled relationship with your murdered sibling and had grown up feeling like an afterthought in your own family.
In addition, my experiences of writing a nonfiction book on teen rape and counseling teens in abusive relationships inspired Clara’s concern with this issue.
Finally, since my background is in the arts and writing, I guess it’s not surprising that Clara’s murdered twin was a pianist, and Clara loves to write. In I’ve always thought it would be fun to write an advice column. I got to do that vicariously through Clara who ghostwrites an advice column for her school newspaper.
Once I decided to kill her, the rest was surprisingly easy.
I waited in the dark, my back pressed against the cool exterior stones. When she stopped playing, I knew what the silence meant. She was scribbling another note in the margins of her music.
I tapped on her studio window. She startled, dropped her pencil, and snapped her head toward the sound. Rising from the piano, she took a few tentative steps, the hike in her shoulders disappearing when she saw it was me. Her hand lifted in greeting and gestured towards the back door off of the kitchen.
I stepped inside. She smiled. Only the slight twitch in her left eye let me know she was less than thrilled to see me.
She led me back to the love seat in her studio.
“You scared me,” she said. ‘What’s up?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to. I was on my way home and thought I’d return this to you.” I pulled out the biography of Horowitz.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” She walked over to her bookcase and shelved it with the other biographies of renowned pianists. She had an extensive collection. Alphabetized, of course.
“Extremely well written. So where is everybody?”
“My parents are at rehearsal, and Clara’s up in her room listening to that insipid jazz she’s so crazy about. She knows not to bug me when I’m practicing.”
“I didn’t mean to interrupt either. How’s it going?”
She shrugged. “Good. Having a little trouble with the last movement, but…”
“Mind if I sit and listen for a minute?”
“That’d be great.” She jumped up and eagerly moved to the Steinway. I wondered if she was relieved she didn’t have to make any more small talk. Who knew where that would lead?
I studied her as she launched into the opening notes of Barcarolle. She was beautiful. Not as beautiful as her music, but close. Her dark curls cascaded down her long spine. She swayed to the music, lost in its beauty and power.
I congratulated myself on how thoughtful I was, letting her die doing what she truly loved. All those dramatic speeches I’d fantasized giving her weren’t going to happen. Surprise was everything. She’d never know what hit her.
Moura played on, oblivious as usual to everything except her music.
Like I said, it was surprisingly easy.
Five Months Later
There are 132 steps from my locker to our high school newspaper office. I know, because I’ve counted them.
“Hey,” I said to Brett, at step 29. We’d gone out a few times last spring. Until he suddenly lost my phone number. Permanently.
His eyes darted around, as though he were searching for cover. “Hi Clara,” he mumbled and sped past me.
When I turned the corner at step 57, Emily, Monica, and Amber were huddled together giggling. They fell silent and stared at me. Then they turned their backs and started whispering.
I tried not to look like I was hurrying, but I was. Forty-four steps to go.
Oh God. Was that Lester Thompson hurtling toward me?
“Hey,” he said, as he fell in beside me. “You’re lookin’ fine.”
“Gee thanks. Is that a new tattoo on your neck?”
He pulled a toothpick out of his mouth. “Satan’s spawn. What do you think?”
“It’s certainly big.”
“Yeah, I got a great deal on it. So, like, I was thinking, you want to go out Friday night?”
I pulled up to an abrupt stop at 117. “Lester, why would you possibly want to go out with me? I’m not exactly your type.” I pointed at my pale blue hoodie and jeans. “See? No black.”
He crinkled his forehead. “Yeah, but babe, you’re so pretty, and like…a dangerous chick.”
Great. Now I was Leonard High’s new pinup girl for danger—Date her if you dare. “Thanks, but I’m not your babe. And I’m about as dangerous as your grandmother.”
“Not what I’ve heard.” He ran his tongue along his lower lip.
Eww. “Don’t tell me you believe everything you hear.”
“Oh, come on.” He grabbed my arm and stroked it. “A tattoo of Satan would look great right here.”
“Leave me alone.” I wrenched my arm free and pushed past him.
“Bitch,” he yelled after me.
I shivered and kept walking. Almost there.
Three. Two. One. I thrust the door open and spun inside, relieved to be back in this broom closet of an office with its ancient radiator.
As I booted up my computer, Lester’s voice calling me a bitch echoed in my brain. Funny. I used to think I was pretty nice. But it was getting harder and harder to be Ms. Warm-and-Friendly when half the student body treated me like a leper who’d escaped from the colony.
I reached for my backpack, pulled out my compact mirror and stared glumly at myself. I didn’t get it. How did one lone zit in a heart-shaped face scream “dangerous”? I scrunched up my face and tried to look bad-ass.
CJ poked her head in the door. “What the hell are you doing?” she boomed out. Her vocal volume seemed designed to make up for being vertically challenged. She claimed to be five feet, but that was a definite stretch.
“Practicing looking tough. You know, changing my image. Getting that ‘Mess with me, and I’ll kick your butt’ look.” I gave her my best hairy eyeball.
She giggled. “Trust me. This is not a good look for you. You don’t look scary—just deranged.”
“Not what I was going for.” I tossed my mirror on the desk. ‘So what’s up with you?”
“Covering the Spanish Club meeting. They have the best food. Want to come?”
“Bring me something? I want to work on my column.”
She must have heard the slight tremor in my voice. “You okay?”
I swiveled my chair around. “Not really. Lester Thompson just asked me out—said he wanted to date a dangerous chick.”
CJ gave me a hug. Then she snorted, and her shoulders shook.
“Are you laughing?” I pulled back to look at her.
“I can’t help it! He worships Satan, for God’s sake. The thought of the two of you together… well, it’s hilarious.”
“Maybe for you. How would you like to be known as ‘a dangerous chick’?”
“And this matters because… why? The guy’s a douche. And he’s like one of the biggest dealers around.”
“You really don’t know? You’ve led a sheltered life.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Now you’re kidding.”
She bit her lip and blushed. “Sorry.”
“The last few nights, I’ve been getting these weird phone calls. When I pick up, there’s no one there. You don’t think it could be Lester, do you?”
“No idea. But I thought you changed your phone number.”
“We changed both of them—my cell and our landline after… you know….” I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to push away the memories of those threatening calls we’d received in the days after my sister’s murder.
“Well, shit,” she said.
“Double shit.” I eked out a smile. “But don’t worry. I’ll be fine. You need to go cover that meeting and write such an amazing article that Tony can’t help but notice you.” Tony Sweigart was our newspaper’s swoon-worthy editor-in-chief. He looked like Chris Hemsworth. I wasn’t one of his fans, but he had plenty of them, including CJ. Half the girls in our class had crushes on him.
She shrugged. “Like that’s going to happen.”
“Hey, don’t sell yourself… short.”
“Okay, okay—Go! You’re gonna be late.”
After CJ took off, I turned back to my computer and imagined sending Lester’s ask-out to my mental trash bin labeled “Awkward.” Just as I was typing in the password to access my column, Wolfman dropped by to pull up some stats on the basketball team, but he didn’t stay long. Neither did CJ when she returned with a heaping plate of enchiladas for me. I was the only one who preferred working in the office rather than hanging at Starbucks. Or going home.
By the time five o’clock rolled around, my eyes were starting to glaze over. I pulled out my thermos and poured myself a cup of hot chocolate laced with hazelnut coffee, enough of a perk-me-up to tackle the email that had just come in:
Dear Since You Asked,
My boyfriend and I have been together for the past nine months. He’s everything I ever dreamed about – romantic, thoughtful, and a great kisser!
Lately, though, he’s been acting kind of distant, and spending a lot of time talking with “Kimberly,” a girl from his neighborhood he’s known forever. Then on Sunday night, my BFF’s sister told me he was at the movies with Kimberly, and they were all over each other.
When I confronted him, he insisted his mother “made him” take her out, because she’s a family friend going through a hard time. He says he still loves me and wants to be with me, but Kimberly’s his friend, and he also needs to spend time with her right now.
What should I do? This just doesn’t feel right.
I twirled my pencil, liking the feel of its ridges against my fingertips. After a few minutes, I typed:
You think it doesn’t feel right? You know it doesn’t feel right because it’s not.
Your skunk of a boyfriend may be a great kisser, but it’s only his aftershave that’s covering up the smell of what he’s shoveling.
Kimberly may be having a tough time, but does your A-1 kisser really expect you to believe that his mother ordered him to cheat on you to “comfort” Kimberly?
It’s up to you, but if it were me, I’d be running, not walking, away from this relationship. For one thing, it’s getting mighty crowded, what with Kimberly and your boyfriend’s mother horning in on the action. Why not un-confuse yourself by finding a nice guy who wants to be your friend first and foremost?
- Since You Asked
I read my response several times, changing a word here and there. I couldn’t help giving myself a thumbs-up after I pressed “Save.” Yup, I was definitely getting my mojo back. Time to send a silent prayer of thanks to the Writing Gods who were clearly hanging in with me.
Maybe I couldn’t solve my own problems, but it sure felt good to lose myself, even for a few hours, in someone else’s. When I was writing, it was like I could push all my anger, guilt, and grief over Moura’s death into a tiny room, turn off the lights, and close the door.
Moura and I hadn’t had much in common—well, other than our looks. We weren’t identical, but we might as well have been—same dark, curly hair, wide mouths, and violet-blue eyes that people always commented on. Lately, though, I’d been thinking there was something else we’d shared. Writing catapulted me into the zone, and music seemed to take her to another universe, where everything else fell away.
Moura. I could still see her, still hear her, playing her beloved Chopin, the notes pouring out like rain from the heavens. My eyes burned, and I pressed the heel of my hand against my forehead.
My twin would never play the piano again. She’d never go to Juilliard or fall in love and get married.
So why was I still around? Why did I get to write and hang out with my BFF and binge on Law and Order reruns and ice cream from the Mellow Moose? It didn’t make sense.
I took one of those deep cleansing breaths the therapist had taught me. Keep going. Focus on now. You can do it. Pretty lame, but hey, it was all I had.
Peeking into the adjoining classroom, I spotted Mr. Bradford, our advisor, who almost always stayed late, too. Just knowing he was around made me feel better. With his stooped shoulders and button-down shirts that looked like they’d never seen an iron, Mr. B. looked like a crumpled pretzel with a bad comb-over. But he was one of my heroes. He’d never given up on the newspaper business—which wasn’t dead yet, but was definitely on life support—and these past five months, he hadn’t given up on me either.
I emailed my response to Mrs. Rivera, our senior counselor who checked my columns over, then scrolled through my column inbox to see if anything new had come in. That’s when I saw it: “Confidential for Since You Asked.” Nothing very unusual about the message heading—nearly everyone who writes thinks their problem, and especially their identity, is highly “confidential.”
But this wasn’t a typical request for help. For one thing, it was only seven words long:
It Should Have Been You