Solving For Ex

1 crush on your best friend +
1 gorgeous, scheming new girl +
1 Mathletics competition =
1 big mess

SIMPLIFY.

Ashley Price doesn’t have much in life after being bullied so hard she had to leave her old school to live with her aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh. But the camera she borrowed from her best friend and secret crush Brendan, and her off the charts math abilities, make things a lot more bearable. Plus, since Brendan is the captain, making the school Mathletes team should be easy.

But when gorgeous new girl Sofia rolls in and steals Brendan, Ashley’s place on the team, and her fragile foothold on the Mansfield Park Prep social totem pole, it’s on. Sofia is everything Ashley left her old school to escape. The only thing Ashley didn’t count on is Sofia’s sexy twin brother Vincent.

Vincent is not only the hottest boy in school, he’s charming, sweet, and he’s got his eye on Ashley. He’s also not taking no for an answer. There’s no real reason Ashley shouldn’t like Vincent, but with the
battle lines being drawn between her and Sofia, Ashley’s not sure which side he’s on. Or which side she wants him to be on.

She does know Sofia is trouble with a capital T, and she’s determined to make Brendan see it.

SOLVING FOR EX is a YA contemporary romance that remixes Mansfield Park as Clueless meets Mean Girls in a crazy mix of high school society, mathletic competition, and teenage romance.

Read Excerpt

“Sofia,” he said, and my heart stopped. No way he was talking about her. “Grab the pink pages. Those are the competition-grade problems. Those are the ones Ashley’s about to do and show you all how she can totally kick my ass.”

I beamed and hoisted myself out of the seat and strode toward the stage steps. I basically freaking bounced up there. I knew I didn’t look like Sofia, but hell if I didn’t feel like her, all bouncy and feisty and gloating.

It felt surprisingly good. Maybe I needed to channel my inner bitch more often.

“Why don’t you just have huge copies of these or something?” Sofia complained as she copied the problem on the board.

Brendan laughed. “We’re not as rich as your old school, apparently. And even if I wanted to use our funding for it, it’s more fun to do it this way, don’t you think?”

She half smiled and repeated under her breath, “More fun. Right.” Obviously this was a girl who hardly ever had to write anything out by hand. Even though her symbols were all off, her spacing weird, and the curlicues on the ends of the integral symbol that opened the problem way too flowery, I knew before she was done writing it out how to solve it. I watched Brendan’s face for the same recognition. It took him a few seconds longer, but he got it too.

We shared a glance and a grin, each held up three fingers, pulling each one down in unison as we mouthed “three, two, one…” then lunged at the boards with our dry-erase markers. The pungent scent of the ink and the mad squeaking filled the air for thirty seconds before I stepped back, fully confident when I shouted, “Pi over four!” I knew I’d completed the work faster than Brendan. But he stepped back at exactly the same time, raising his arms triumphantly and turning in a slow circle, his hair falling in his face.

I hadn’t seen him look so damn happy since that last Saturday before school started.

“Haha, yeah, okay, but let’s see who’s right,” I said, my hands on my hips. And checking the other four teammates. Mildly interested in our little competition, they were all copying the problem in notebooks and trying to sketch an answer for themselves.

“Nah, it’ll take these clowns forever to get something.” Brendan grinned. “Sof, what do you see for the answer to this one?” She flipped all the way to the back of the packet, then looked at me, her mouth wide and her eyes popping open. “Pi over four. Well,” she said, “I guess we know who the smartest girl at this school is.”

“No, no, I just have a good tutor.” I tilted my chin up at Brendan, remembering all the tricks he’d taught me last year for working the problems speedily. Thinking about all the time we’d spent together, and all the trash talking that had turned into gentle pushing around that I was always wishing would turn into something else.

“Oh, whatever, Miss ‘I-don’t-like-to-be-the-center-of-attention.’ You totally owned that! Look at you!” She smiled like the freaking Cheshire cat, but there was an edge to her voice that I knew was something other than friendly.

“Okay, that was awesome.” Brendan cleared his throat behind me and my little impromptu stare down with Sofia was broken. I wasn’t confused at all about her, even if Brendan was. She was just waiting for me to completely screw up so she could move in for the kill.

I wasn’t really worried that what she thought about me would affect what Brendan thought about me. Was I? We were best friends. I didn’t think anything could ever change that.

“Let’s move on to the writtens,” Brendan continued. “I liked your work at the boards, and I know that’s the part of the competitions that gets filmed and everyone cheers for, but the writtens haul in more points than anything. Okay?”

After a fast bathroom and water break, we each took separate desks, plunked down in the attached chairs, and began scribbling when Brendan started the timer.

“Look, Brittany, do you want to get into Columbia or not?” Brendan said, when the girls started whining. I smiled as I ducked my head. He could pull out the authority when he really had to. I hoped it was the competition with me had made him feistier, and not Sofia’s general stupidity.

Damn. I really hadn’t realized just how much I hated that girl until Mathletes.

We all bent our heads over the fifteen written questions. The point for these wasn’t to show work, but just to see who could complete it with all the right answers the fastest. Brendan slapped his down first, then, as I was walking up to Brendan’s desk to put mine down, Sofia slapped hers down in front of me.

I guess I’d been operating under the assumption that she didn’t really know what she was doing, even though I knew she’d been on the team at her old school.

I guess I’d been assuming wrong.

Brendan raised his eyebrows at her, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He bobbed his head as he ran his finger down the sheet of paper, then looked up at Sofia. “Perfect,” he said.

She beamed, then squealed a little. It made me want to rip her throat out.

“Well, I think we have a contender for first chair here, team.” Brendan called down to everyone else in the chairs. The girls shrugged and went back to their test. They didn’t care what position they were, as long as they could stick this whole delightful experience on their resumes. The three boys wore expressions that ranged from “I can’t believe a girl is beating me” to “raging hard-on.” I guess a girl as hot as Sofia knowing her way around a math test was like a geek fantasy.

I guessed right, because for a split second, Brendan was looking at her the same way. Freaking fabulous.

As much as I wanted him to be mine, he never had been, and I’d never tried to change that. Still, I knew that no matter how hard I tried to swallow that damn lump in my throat, I couldn’t hold back the tears burning at the corners of my eyes.

“I’m just gonna…use the restroom. Again. We’re almost done, right? I’ll meet you in the parking lot,” I mumbled as I stooped down, picked up my bag, and started heading up the carpeted aisle to the back doors.

I knew I was dragging my tennis shoes along the ground. I stared down at the laces, focusing on the crisscross pattern, trying to make myself concentrate on anything other than the weird aching in my chest. I knew I was pouting. I didn’t care.

Something small and glinting silver skittered away from across the red carpeted aisle and under a seat. I knew from the color that it wasn’t a mouse, thank goodness, or I would have seriously lost it. I hesitated for another second, but kept walking. And it happened again. The white rubber of my shoe’s toe box hit another silvery something. I raised my eyes to the sloped red-velvet carpeted aisle and saw the whole thing dotted with silver. I bent down and picked one up, squinting at it in the dimmed lights, already turned down by the janitors.

They were chocolate Hershey’s kisses. I looked at the other kids, packing up their stuff and passing their papers forward to Brendan. “Did one of you losers do this?” I tried to keep my tone playful but I was really kind of freaked out. This was the weirdest thing I’d seen at Mansfield Prep in a long time. Ever, actually.

But at least it stopped the tears. The weirdness of Brendan and me and Brendan and Sofia and what was right or wrong, normal or weird, up or down was momentarily erased by an auditorium aisle full of artfully arranged chocolate spaced a foot apart in a repeating diamond pattern.
Stepping around the chocolate, I walked all the way up the aisle and out the auditorium door. I followed the trail, continuing through the breadth of the hallway, past the band and choir rooms, woodshop, and all the downstairs classrooms. The pattern of silver dots continued up one stairwell around the turn, and down the wide first-floor hallway.

They were hard to tell apart from the metallic-specked white tile of the floor, so I was actually kind of surprised when the pattern stopped abruptly halfway down the hall. Right in front of my locker.

I quickened my steps and then, from around the corner, stepped Vincent, scaring me half to death. I clutched my chest and squeaked a little when I heard a cough from behind me. The whole Mathletes team had followed me up into the hallway.
“Vincent, what the hell…?”

He just smiled that patient smile and stepped toward me, holding out an envelope.

I took it from him as my stomach flipped and dropped. “Seriously, what is this?”

He laughed. “It’s not a bomb or anything. Just read it.”

I looked down at the envelope and back up at him what must have been at least three times, then slid my finger under the flap and opened it. Inside was a square of heavy cream cardstock that said:

“Now that I’ve kissed the ground you walk on,
Let me treat you like a princess on your birthday.”

My brain told me to roll my eyes, but my heart flopped around in my chest. And, damn me, a smile took over my face. I must have looked like an idiot. Yet here I was, standing in a chocolate-studded prep school hallway, holding a romantic note from the cutest guy in school. A guy who really liked me, who was begging me to let him throw me a party.

Yeah, okay. Of course I was smiling.

“What do you think?” He stepped even closer to me, but still didn’t touch me.

“Just a small party?”

“Small. I swear.”

“Like, less than fifty people?”

“I was thinking less than a hundred.”

I rolled my eyes, still smiling. Then I looked up in his. God, they were on fire. They set my insides on fire a little too. I sighed. “Fine. Yes.”

“She said yes!” Vincent pushed both his fists up in the air and turned a little circle in a victory dance right there in the hallway. The Mathletes exploded into applause, and someone even let forth a wolf whistle. I laughed and, without even thinking, stepped forward and hugged him around the neck, standing on my tiptoes a little to do it.

“Really?” he said in my ear, so low only I could hear it. I stepped back and dropped my arms. I shrugged.

“Sure, why not? Remember? You said it’d be good for me. Enjoy stuff.”

He smiled and slung his arm around my shoulder, letting his forearm dangle off of it. We walked back toward the crowd of Mathletes. It didn’t feel too bad, walking arm in arm with this guy. Not too bad at all.

Until I saw Brendan, staring at me like I’d just punched him in the gut.

But something like defiance rose up in me. Brendan wasn’t my boyfriend. He was still paying attention to me. Why did I even have a problem with Sofia touching his arm?

I shouldn’t. It was stupid. So, from that moment on, I was going to stop caring about any other girl touching Brendan’s arm or kissing his cheek.

Instead of dropping my arm from around Vincent’s waist, I curled my fingers around it, looked Brendan right in the eye, and said, “Vincent, do you mind driving me home today?”

There was obvious satisfaction in his voice when he said, “Not at all.”

And even though everything in me screamed that I didn’t want a party, that all I wanted was Mathletes and pancakes and foggy mornings and light-switch games, there was a small part of me that screamed something else. Namely, how sweet Vincent had been the last few weeks, and how good he smelled, and how kissable his lips looked right that second.

So I stretched up on my toes, leaned in to him, and planted a kiss low on his cheek, right at the corner of his mouth. Then I tried to ignore the low noise Brendan made when Vincent turned the slightest bit, pressing his lips against mine for a brief second before pulling away and smiling.

Then we walked out the doors hand in hand. And I didn’t even think about looking back.

Praise for Solving for Ex

Amazing! If you like Sarah Dessen you will LOVE this.

Emma Pass, Author

Acid, The Fearless

Putting a modern spin on a Jane Austen classic, Solving for Ex proves that brains can be sexier than brawn. In this complicated equation of high school drama, mean girls, mathletics, and romance, LeighAnn delivers yet another beautifully written young adult novel that authentically captures teenage emotions while also capturing the reader’s heart.

Nikki Godwin, Author

Chasing Forever Down, American Girl on Saturn, Falling from the Sky

Ashley is the kind of girl you want to root for, smart and capable and self-assured, despite of, or maybe because of, her vulnerabilities. And in Brenden, LeighAnn has crafted a boy worth of such a girl. Through all the heartbreak and angst of high school, their connection is undeniable and pressing. It’s elementary, dear readers – Solving for Ex is one must-read romance.

Jenny Kaczorowski, Author

The Art of Falling

If you only read one book in 2014, make sure it’s Solving For Ex! I sincerely doubt that you’d regret reading it; it’s intelligent, hilarious, intense and touching…Honestly one of the most amazing books I have ever read.

Luciana Scath, Blogger

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