Jennifer Armentrout may be best known for her New York Times best-selling romances, but this May, she’ll release a YA coming-of-age story. In The Problem with Forever, Mallory Dodge’s (nicknamed “Mouse”) troubled childhood taught her that silence is the best way to go through life. Although her trauma technically ended four years ago, she’s facing a whole new set of problems — leaving the comfort of homeschool for senior year in a public high school. To complicate things even further, she runs into an old childhood friend, Rider Stark, on the first day of classes — who used to be her protector back then. But it turns out, Rider might need more help than Mallory does.
Check out EW’s exclusive cover reveal and a sneak peek inside the book, below. The Problem with Forever hits shelves May 17.
EXCERPT FROM THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER by JENNIFER ARMENTROUT
Mr. Santos appeared at the front of the speech class like there had been a trap door in the ceiling he’d fallen out of. That took talent. “All right, kiddos. We’re going to start class off with a little exercise.” He clapped his hands together, startling the boy in the front of the room that had already drifted off to sleep. “When it comes to public speaking, practice is key. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Trust me.”
A tingling started in my fingers as I straightened.
“When I was your age—”
“A century ago,” someone muttered.
Santos shot the kid a droll look. “Cute. Anyway, when I was your age a few decades ago, the thought of talking in front of a bunch of people made me want to vomit.”
“Yikes,” murmured a girl.
There was a good chance I was going to hurl, myself.
“So it was something I had to work at. We all do. That means we’re going to kick off with a quick introduction.”
“Oh, s—,” Rider muttered under his breath. He of all people would know why this was impossible for me.
Santos continued, oblivious to the fact that I was staring at him with my eyes peeled so wide it was like I no longer had eyelids. “Each of you will stand up, face the class, give us your name, and tell us one thing you like—keep it classy, folks—and one thing you don’t like. Again, PG-rated.”
Laughter followed, but the blood was draining from my head so fast I felt dizzy. No. I had weeks to prepare for this. Talking in front of the class was not supposed to happen today or tomorrow or next week.
“Mallory.” Rider called my name in a whisper.
My hands gripped the edge of the desk as my pulse did its own version of house music. My throat was tightening up as my eyes swung in his direction. Hector and Paige’s faces were a blur. A chair scratched across the floor and my gaze followed the sound.
A guy was standing, hitching up his pants. As instructed, he faced the class. “My name is Leon Washington.” A big grin covered his face. “I don’t like cheese. And I like the chicks in the vids.”
Chuckles and giggles rose while Santos shot him a look. Leon plopped down, and up went a girl. My breath was coming out in fast gasps. Paige sat at the end of the first row, Rider at the second, and me at the end of the third. There were seventeen chairs in front of me, two empty.
My wide gaze darted to Rider. Understanding was etched into his expression, in the hard set of his jaw. His gaze darted to the girl who was now standing.
“I’m Laura Kaye.” She brushed shoulder-length brown hair back from her face as she turned to the class. “I… um, I like driving with loud music on. And I don’t like…” Her cheeks flushed pink. “And I don’t like gossiping b——s.”
Mr. Santos sighed.
The class erupted into laughter.
Laura sat down with a satisfied smile on her face.
There was a good chance I was going to have a heart attack as another guy stood, his face already the color of a tomato.
“Mallory,” Rider whispered, and my panicked stare drifted to him. Over his shoulder, I was aware of Paige watching us. “You can do this,” he said in a hushed voice. “You can.”
His eyes held mine, and he stared at me like his words alone held the power to convince me, but he was wrong. I couldn’t do this. The plug at the top of my throat turned into a seal. Oh God, there was no way I could get any words out. Pressure clamped down on my chest, seeming to completely cut off my airway. An all-too-familiar icy burn splashed across the base of my neck.
I couldn’t do this.