Today is an exciting day because it marks the US release of Sophia Bennett's young adult novel The Look, and she's dropping by the blog to share an exclusive excerpt. Win. It also happens to be my birthday. Also a win. I'm thrilled to have the chance to celebrate with Sophia, and I'm going to hand the reins of Supernatural Snark over to her now to introduce the snippet!
• • • • • • • • • •
When I wrote the first draft of The Look, Tina di Gaggia didn’t exist. Then I decided I needed a fashion character with a bit of bite, and she just … appeared. A little bit Tyra Banks, a little bit André Leon Talley, a little bit Cruella de Vil, she was such fun to write and even though she’s very slightly er, evil, I would love to be her for just one day.
In this scene, Ted has just been almost run over by a bus while out visiting art galleries in London. She also lost her dad’s hat, which she was wearing to cover her recently shaved head. She’s recovering from the experience when she finds herself in the middle of a crowd of eccentric-looking people, all heading in the same direction. Dazed, she follows them, and finds herself at the entrance to Somerset House, where they hold London Fashion Week.
I lean against a pillar and remember the rush of wind when that bus passed me. I never did say thank you to that man in the suit. I wonder why he stared at me like that.
And then I notice someone else staring. A little woman, just a few feet away. She’s the most extraordinary sight, but she’s looking at me as if I’m the strange vision.
“JEANS E-BERK,” she says loudly as soon as she catches my eye.
Is she talking to me? Is she trying to sell me jeggings? Is she deranged? Looking at her, it wouldn’t be too surprising.
She is wearing a calf-length dress made out of leather patches held together with orange zippers, a gold silk Puffa jacket, a skull-print scarf so famous that even I now know it’s by Alexander McQueen, and boots with four-inch metallic gold platforms heels.
“Please tell me you’re a model,” she drawls in an exotic, American-type accent that I can’t place.
“Er, well, I suppose I used to be,” I say. I’m not sure I should be talking to escaped psychiatric patients in the middle of the street, but her eyes are holding me in a hypnotic grip.
“Thank God. Of course you are. Jeans E-Berk. Do you know her?”
“Oh sweet mercy! Of course not personally. She was an actress. In the sixties. Á Bout de Souffle. Breathless to you. Jean Seberg!”
“Oh! Jean Seberg!”
“Ah! So you know her?”
She sighs, very, very deeply. “This is going to take a long time. You don’t have a show, do you?”
“What, here? No. I don’t even have a pass.”
Her eyes widen. “Perfect!”
She puts a firm hand on my elbow and guides me into the doorway of a gatehouse to one side of the archway. It’s quieter here. She seems slightly less crazy now.
“Delicate face. Killer hair. Jean’s who you remind me of right now, but there are so many others. Sinéad, Aggy. Of course, Aggy . . . But you’re unique. And so young. What are you? Fifteen — nearly sixteen? How long have you had your hair like that?”
She got my age right to the month, practically. Nobody does that.
“Er, about two weeks,” I admit. “Except it wasn’t this long before.”
Oh sweet mercy indeed. I’m explaining the obvious about hair growth to some French-movie-obsessed, age-guessing weirdo. Why? Shut up, Ted. I wish Ava were here.
It’s only at this point that I fully realize what the woman’s looking at. I’ve been so busy thinking about the bus and the fedora, then being accosted by a lunatic, that I’d forgotten how I must look now that the hat’s not there. My hair is still less than a centimeter long. I must seem a bit . . . freaky.
“You’re incredible,” the woman says. “Who are you signed with?”
“Model City,” I say, “but —”
“Ah! Cassandra! How is she? We haven’t spoken in a while. She must be ENCHANTED with you. What have you done?” She looks at me accusingly.
“Er . . . nothing?”
“Nothing? No shoots? No campaigns?”
Oh! That kind of “what have you done?” Not the kind Dad gets from Mum when the answer is “I didn’t mean to, and anyway I can fix it.”
“No,” I answer. “I tried, but it didn’t work out. Then I got my head shaved and school started, so —”
“Wait! Does Cassandra know about this? Did you tell her?”
“My GOD! I’m a GENIUS! I’ve got you all to myself, you DARLING! Don’t tell anyone. Don’t say a word. I’m going to tell them. No, I’m going to show them. Stand there. Not there — in the light. There!”
She shoves me around until she’s got some daylight on my face, whips out the fanciest phone I’ve seen in my life, and takes a couple of headshots of me. I know by now not to try and pose. This is one of those “just stand there” moments. Plus, I don’t really have any idea what’s going on.
When she’s done, she shoves her phone back in her bag, which is a vast, leather, studded affair, and holds out her hand.
“Tina di Gaggia. I make the next trends happen and, baby, YOU are the next trend. What are you doing right now?”
“Er, going home.”
“Are they expecting you? Is it urgent?”
“Not exactly, but —”
“Have you ever seen a catwalk show?”
• • • • • • • • • •
Can she be a supermodel and a super-sister? She finds her answer in just one look.
Two sisters, both beautiful in different ways: Fifteen-year-old Ted has got "The Look." That's what the scout for the modeling agency tells her, and she can't believe her luck. But just as Ted's jet-setting off on her new career, Ava is diagnosed with cancer. Can Ted be a supermodel and a super-sister? Or will she have to choose between family and fame? With their worlds turned upside down, the girls have to look past appearances, look deep inside, to figure out what really matters