Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Blog Tour: Coin Heist


ABOUT COIN HEIST: The last place you’d expect to find a team of criminals is at a prestigious Philadelphia prep school. But on a class trip to the U.S. Mint—which prints a million new coins every 30 minutes—an overlooked security flaw becomes far too tempting for a small group of students to ignore. United by dire circumstances, these unlikely allies—the slacker, the nerd, the athlete, and the “perfect” student—band together to attempt the impossible: rob the U.S. Mint. The diverse crew is forced to confront their true beliefs about each other and themselves as they do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Told from the revolving perspectives of four teens, each with their own motive for committing a crime that could change all of their lives for the better—that is, if they can pull it off.

ABOUT ELISA LUDWIG: Elisa always knew she wanted to be a writer, when she was nine, she founded her own newspaper, The Elisa Bulletin, which she printed on her dot matrix computer and sold for 10 cents. She covered a range of stories from the Rubik Cube trend to reviews of Duran Duran albums. Her focus changed when she took a creative writing course in college and she was able to hone her craft of “making stuff up”. During a workshop, the author Julia Glass recognized Elisa’s innate ability to channel the teen experience and suggested she write YA. Since then, she’s never looked back and couldn’t be happier. Aside from writing, Elisa enjoys making ice cream, biking, Cape Cod, Scrabble, and flea markets. She lives outside Philadelphia, PA. For more information on Elisa and her books visit: http://www.elisaludwig.com

Excited for a sneak peek? Here you go:


“Dakota, we need to talk.” My dad, dressed up in his lawyer uniform—blue suit, burgundy tie, white shirt with extra-extra starch—leaned up against the Calacatta marble countertop in our kitchen.
A typical morning in my house: My parents were up at five a.m. to go to their krav maga class, and I did my jogging thing. We were all showered in our respective bathrooms by six-thirty and now we sat, as we always did, with our green smoothies (antioxidants! iron! calcium!) and espressos from my dad’s imported Italian machine—he liked to remind us that it was the absolute best, engineered by the company that makes Alfa Romeos. (He had one of those, too, in the antique car collection that took up an entire climate-controlled building next to our house.)
Sometimes I think my dad wished I'd been engineered by Alfa Romeo, too—it would have made his job easier.
I mean, it wasn’t like that for my older sister Hansen. Everything she did was automatically okay—even though she didn’t always strictly follow their plans. She’d been home from Brown over the weekend, so there was a big flurry of activity before she arrived, getting her room ready, making dinner reservations at her favorite Japanese place downtown, and then she showed up and said she was in the mood for tapas so we went to Amada instead, everyone going along and ordering patatas bravas like it was nothing, when I was really craving toro, but of course nobody asked me. Everyone worshipped Hansen, even though she chose Brown over Harvard, a Development Studies program over Econ, a new boyfriend with earrings the size of dinner plates over her rugby-playing high school boyfriend Chase. It used to drive me nuts, a little, how it was so effortless for her, but the way things were going lately? I was kind of glad that she was around to help balance the crazy of my parents.
“You just have to tell them to back off,” she’d said to me. “You need to set some boundaries.”
Easier said than done.
Now that she was back at school, the full laser beams of their attention were focused squarely on me and what was going on at Haverford Friends. I could see it glinting in my dad’s steel gray eyes.
“I know what you’re going to say, Dad,” I countered. “I’ve thought this through, and I don’t think suing the school is a good idea.”
My mom laughed, a loud chirp that shook her shoulders, though it barely moved her tightly sprayed scoop of hair. “Sue the school? Hardly. That coconut has been tapped. No no no.”
“What then?” I asked.
“What your father is trying to say is that Haverford Friends can’t possibly deliver the goods with no money in the budget. And you shouldn’t have to compromise your dreams because of someone else’s criminal activity, Dakota.” She rubbed her forehead, where there were still natural furrows. She was not one for Botox or Restylane—and so far, a macrobiotic diet and exercise six days a week had kept her looking youthful.
My dreams? All I knew was that I was supposed to go to Harvard, and I hadn’t really thought beyond that. Well, that’s not entirely true. When I was a little kid, I’d had that silly dream, to act and sing on Broadway. But my parents said it was a dead end, professionally, so they told me to grow up and set that fantasy aside.
“So you’re going to help? You’ll work with the rest of the parents’ committee to raise the money?”
My dad shook his head. “No. We had a conference call last week, and it’s not going to work. No one wants to contribute to a school going through a federal investigation. And frankly, it’s a bad investment because chances are it won’t be here in another year.” That’s when he pulled a brochure out of his inner suit jacket pocket and handed it to me.
“Bertrand Academy?” I said, reading the cover. “New Hampshire. What is this? A boarding school?”
“Eleven percent of graduates go to Harvard. Eleven percent.” He paused, like a lawyer addressing a jury, to let that sink in.
I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I wasn’t smart enough for Harvard, and no amount of extracurriculars or special tutors or gifts to the school could change that.
“We spoke to the admissions director there, and she said she couldn’t make any promises, and it’s probably too late for this term, but if we got her your test scores and transcripts this week, she could schedule you in for an interview." My dad winked at me, proudly, like he'd already won his case. "Mom and I looked at your schedule, and it seems like the 18th would be a good day for you. Mom can take off that day, too, so we can book the flight today.”
Of course they'd looked at my phone. And you know what? That wasn’t the thing I was most freaked out about. “I don’t want to go to boarding school.”
My mom held up a manicured hand. “Honey, this isn’t just any boarding school. It’s the boarding school that delivered five presidents and just about every CEO of every important Fortune 500 company. It’s the best foundation you could possibly have.”
I’d always thought HF was the best foundation. At least that’s what I’d been told. “I don’t want to switch schools. I’m in the middle of everything.”
“That’s why you’d start in the fall. If you’re worried about Dylan breaking up with you, I wouldn’t. He knows he’s got a good thing going. I can talk to his father if you want…”
“No!” I practically shouted. I hated when my dad tried to meddle in my love life. If I could even call Dylan a love life. At one time, I’d had a crush on him, definitely. But these days I could barely hold a conversation with him. All he ever wanted to talk about was lacrosse and video games. I wasn’t even sure I was attracted to him anymore, not like I’d say that in front of my parents, who would freak out—they loved me dating a State Senator’s son. We were HF’s resident power couple, and my parents, themselves popular in high school, wouldn’t accept me dating someone beneath my social station. “It’s not about Dylan. It’s about school work…”
“Well, you shouldn’t worry about that. If need be, you could repeat eleventh grade, just to make sure you had everything in place,” my dad said.
“I can’t repeat eleventh grade.” The idea was hideous. Hansen had said it herself: The sooner you get to college, the sooner you can be your own person.
“There’s no stigma. It’s very common when people transfer to Bertrand,” my dad explained, patiently, like he was talking to an elderly client. “The curriculum is so sophisticated that some students need a catch-up.”
“I can’t. I won’t. Besides the 18th is in two weeks and I have exams, I have papers. We have the prom to plan, and the yearbook...”
My mom raised her eyebrow at my dad and nodded subtly, like Let me do this. “Don’t you see that you’re holding onto a sinking ship, Dakota? Haverford Friends might not be around next fall, and even if it is, there will be cuts. There will be fewer teachers, no activities, no SAT prep.
“I’m already taking private SAT prep,” I pointed out.
“But you might want to avail yourself of the school’s SAT prep as well next year. You never know. You want to have options. The point is this: you’ve worked way too hard to give up everything now. Also, Bertrand is not too far from Brown, and Hansen said she could come visit you on the weekends. Or you could visit her when you don't have to study.”
“You talked to Hansen about this before mentioning it to me?” That was the ultimate.
“I wanted her input,” my mom said.
“How about my input? This is my life!”
“You’re getting all worked up,” my dad said, setting down his espresso glass with a tiny little clink. “I told you we should wait on this, Monica. At least until after the school day. Now she’s going to be distracted.”
“You’re right. I will be distracted.” I nervously ran both my hands through my hair, messing up the twenty minutes I’d spent arranging it. “You guys don’t understand. I have enough to worry about right now. I don’t want to think about switching, and even if I did, I can’t handle applying to some other school. It’s too much work.”
“We can take care of it for you,” my dad said.
“That would be cheating.” Was he losing his mind? “Besides, I’m responsible for too many things. People are depending on me, and it would be selfish for me to just bail out. I’m the council vice-president. Ms. Coyle said I’m supposed to help keep up the spirits of the students.”
“She said that?” My mom shook her head in disgust. “That’s her job. Your job is, simply, to be the best. And you’re doing that, sweetie. Which is why I don’t want you to throw it all away out of some misplaced loyalty.
“It’s not misplaced. I’ve been at HF since pre-kindergarten. You always told me that I had to wear my colors proudly. And I’m doing that.” They were the ones who encouraged me to care so much. They were the ones who told me to get so involved and devote myself to the school’s motto. And now they wanted me to throw all of that away and think only of myself.
My dad looked at his watch. “We need to get going, Monica. Dakota, we’ll talk about this later. I suspect you’ll be home earlier than usual?”
Of course they were leaving mid-conversation. Of course they were going to waltz off and leave me here while the anger crept up my throat and choked me. The simple truth of it was, they owned DAKOTA CUNNINGHAM. They’d get it trademarked if they could.
“I might stay to work on the prom,” I said. There were no plans for council to meet, but with my other activities canceled, I was in no hurry to come back here. Especially not now with this new kick they were on. Boarding school? Really? And yet, I knew, no matter how hard I tried, or what arguments I made, that I’d never convince my parents. They were professional debaters. They would always, always win. I mean, really? I might as well start packing my bags.
“Right. Prom! I can’t wait. You have to make the most of these memories while you can.” My mom looped the strap of her leather briefcase over her shoulder and leaned down to kiss my forehead at the same time. “It’s going to be chilly today. Don’t forget an extra layer. And make sure you send that thank-you note to Aunt Lisa. There’s some kale and quinoa loaf in the fridge for dinner you can heat up when you get home.”
“Okay,” I said.
When they were gone and the garage doors had rumbled shut and the house was quiet, I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t really have time, but the urge was stronger than reason.
Up in my bathroom, I shut the door out of habit and undid my hair, then pulled it back extra-tight. I stared at myself in the mirror. The parts were all there, the face everyone else saw. But what they didn’t see was the rage boiling underneath. It was ugly and there was no makeup to cover it, no cream to make it burn less. If I didn’t do something, it was going to kill me.
And then? I did what I always do. I leaned over the toilet and made myself gag. My hands were shaking, my skin was clammy, and the taste was putrid. I felt small and helpless against the reflexes of my body. Throwing up was weak. It was something that girls with no discipline did. But when it was all over I felt a sense of calm settle over me. I lay back on the bathroom floor, the tiles cool and smooth on my skin. I forgot, for a moment, about Bertrand, and Dylan, and my parents, and school, and student council,.
Maybe I liked having a secret from my parents. Maybe I liked knowing I was just as flawed as everyone else. Either way, this, right here, was the only thing that was mine. The only time I could be myself. Dakota Cunningham without the caps.

Don't Miss Out:

Check out Hiver and Cafe ( http://hiveretcafe.blogspot.ca/ ) for the next tour stop!

 The book is going to be available for FREE to download June 7th - 9th, Look for the hashtag #StealThisBook for more details.

Twitter chat with Elisa, hosted by Mary at BookHounds (@maryinhb) on June 8th at 8pm EST.

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