As some of you know, my first novel Popular is being published in the UK and Ireland on July 7th of this year and it's recently had a re-design for its front cover, which I wanted to share here. I'm incredibly excited for the release and to be working with the honestly amazing team at Penguin.
As term begins at Mount Olivet Grammar School, south Belfast, the teachers are totally pushing the importance of doing well in the GCSEs and A-Levels, working hard, being upstanding members of the school community, making their families proud and making sure that the rugby team bring home the Ulster Schools Cup this year.
For some of the boys, this is all good - along with the news that their favourite chippy is now doing super-size portions at lunch-time and that they've finally been allowed to put a poster of Megan Fox up in the Sixth Form Centre. Well, not so much allowed, more the fact that none of the teachers have noticed, yet. Apart from Dr. Kirk, who's more concerned with barking things like "Do your top button up!" and "Get a hair-cut, muppet!" at the male students than taking down a poster. They're also itching to make sure that they fulfil the Headmaster's faith in them and that the First XVs bring home the Cup this year, even if they have to personally stamp over the faces of their all-boys rival, Imperial Academy.
But, for the girls there are far more pressing concerns than sports and studies - namely the rumour that fifth-year popular girl, Kerry Davison, is throwing a Marie-Antoinette themed Sweet Sixteenth in three weeks, with staggered arrival time for her guests depending on how much she likes you and the news that a super-hot American has just transferred into the school from, like Connecticut or California, or somewhere basically in that general area. He definitely looks like Zac Efron - before he got all, like, old and stuff. High School Musical 2 Zefron; not Me and Orson Welles. Rumour has that Catherine O'Rourke nearly peed herself and rattled off a Hail Mary when she ran into him outside the Spanish department. She hasn't been this embarrassed since she turned up wearing velour hot pants to gym class.
Sailing far above the Debating Society, the Young Unionists Association and the Current Affairs Club, the popular kids of Mount Olivet occupy a privileged position in the school hierarchy. Think of it as being a bit like France before the Revolution - when ugly, smelly people were kept in their place, while the gliteratti with money, soap and fashion sense shimmy around at the top, cackling at fuglies. Good times.
In Upper Sixth, the ugg-loving, back-combing Cecilia Molyneux is about to commence her reign of glamorous terror as President of the Social Committee, but it's the fifth year popular clique which really grabs everyone's attention. Its queen-bee is the beautiful, icy and sophisticated Meredith Harper, "the girl who has everything." They say her closet is larger than most other people's houses and that she once amused herself by planting a condom in the President of the Christian Union's pencil case. Ironic considering Meredith herself is permanently out-of-reach for the school's male population. Well, it's not as if she's the first power-hungry woman to harness the potential of being a virgin-queen, is it?
Her besty and fellow Maloner is Cameron Matthews, the only boy in the popular group - tall, snobbish, thin and funny, he's even more afraid to step outside the confines of Malone than Meredith is. Balmoral Avenue is basically his Berlin Wall. No-one's sure if he's lying or not, but he swears he once broke out in hives when he accidentally entered Finaghy.
The group's foul-mouthed but fabulous "it" girl is Imogen Dawson, a blonde English bombshell, who used to live in London. She has a 6ft 2 rugby boyf and eight pairs of Louboutins. She does have a tendency to punch you in the arm if you irritate her, though, so best to be careful. The group's other blonde is Kerry Davison, whose curls are as famous as Imogen's punches and Meredith's Birkin. The proudest moment in life was when she won "Best Hair" award at the end of year party in June.
Finally, there is Catherine O'Rourke, the girl the others torture to amuse themselves. A klutz with a good heart and zero common sense, Catherine is determined to show her friends that she's worthy of being in the popular crowd; they're determined to show her that it's funny when she falls on her own face at lunch time.
Anyway, with the new transfer student, Kerry's impending Sweet Sixteenth drama, Imogen Dawson's one year anniversary with rugby hotty, Stewart Lawrence, Mark Kingston's weird hatred of Meredith Harper and the dozens of rumours - some true, some not, some both - Mount Olivet Grammar School is on fine form this September. In the cafeteria, the changing rooms, the form rooms, the buses and the BBMs, everyone's already trying to guess who's in, out, coming out, going up, going down, dating, cheating, lying and trying to cope....
Welcome to Malone!