Ever wondered what it's like to write a book? I kept a weekly journal of my time writing Undeclared, beginning with the first page, all the way to the final proof. If you're so inclined, you can check it out here:
Andi sits three seats in from the aisle about halfway between the front of the class and the doors. The chairs beside her are empty and I sit in the middle one, leaving a seat free on either side.
“Hey,” I say casually, not looking at her as I find my phone and turn it to silent.
I hear her move, see her knees shift slightly as she turns. Then freezes. “What are you doing here?” she whispers after a stunned second.
I catch a whiff of her shampoo and a glance out the corner of my eye confirms her face is clear of makeup and she thought sweatpants, flip-flops and a long-sleeve Oakland A’s shirt was a nice outfit.
“What are you doing here?” she repeats.
“I needed the credits.” And Bertrand made me, but she doesn’t need to know that. I reach into the canvas bag and pull out the first book, a thin soft cover title with film reels pictured on the front and Film Theory & Criticism for Beginners written in silver script. I pretend I’m reading and am not thrilled she’s talking to me in public.
“So you picked—”
We both jerk in our seats at the alarming stage whisper that comes from over my shoulder. I twist around to see Marcela dropping into the seat beside me, everything about her Andi’s polar opposite. Her bleached hair has been painstakingly straightened to hang past her shoulders and heavy bangs brush against her brows. She’s wearing bright red lipstick, a black and gray plaid schoolgirl dress, and red platform heels.
“I need a favor,” she says, dispensing with any preliminaries. She strums her fingernails on the wooden arm of the seat between us, the sparkly polish glinting in the overhead light.
I look away from the nails so they don’t hypnotize me. “What?”
“We need to start dating again.”
I sit up straighter. “I meant, What do you mean you need a favor? not, Which favor did you need? And in any case, no. Firm no.”
“Have you forgotten Chrisgiving?”
“What’s Chrisgiving?” Andi asks, leaning in curiously. “Combination Christmas and Thanksgiving?”
“It’s—Yes!” I say, pleased someone finally gets it. Then I sour again. “Still no,” I say to Marcela, who looks ready to argue. Last fall, while pretending to date, we’d hosted the inaugural—and doomed—Chrisgiving turkey dinner at my apartment. We were joined by Nora and Crosbie and Nate and his date, and by the end of the night, all relationships, real and pretend, were in tatters.
Marcela leans past me. “Who are you?” she asks Andi.
“Andi,” Andi replies.
“You two know each other?”
“No,” I answer. “I just sat here and she started flirting with me.”
“Oh God,” Andi says.
“Don’t feel bad,” Marcela tells her. “Everybody makes mistakes.”
“But only idiots make the same mistake twice,” I point out. “And trying to convince the same guy of the same stupid lie is a mistake. Also, why do we need to fool Nate again? Aren’t you two dating?”
“No,” she replies. “He’s an asshole. And we’re doing this precisely because he’d never believe I’d do the same thing again, and he’d totally believe you would.”
“I don’t like this logic.”
“Just come to the coffee shop tonight. I’ll give you a free brownie.”
“I don’t want your brownies.” I do, but I won’t admit it.
“What do you do with the brownies at the end of the night?” Andi asks.
Marcela and I look at her weirdly, but the conversation is interrupted when the instructor arrives at the front of the class and begins arranging papers on the table. I don’t think she knows the microphone is on because we can hear every shuffle and bump and her muttered rehearsal of the introduction to what’s probably her first-ever lecture. She’s curvy and cute, wearing some sort of retro dress and dark-framed glasses.
“See you tonight,” Marcela says, standing.
“Aren’t you in this class?”
“Yep.” Then she leaves.
Andi and I watch her go, then I turn back. “What was that about the brownies?”
“The volleyball team’s having a bake sale,” she says. “And I don’t know how to bake.”
Andi was always the kid who brought packaged cookies and store-bought pies to school events. The one time she and her mom tried to bake something the fire department had to visit their house twice and the grocery store ended up giving them a free cake.
“When’s the sale?”
“Tomorrow afternoon. But forget the sale—what happened at Chrisgiving?”
My stomach grumbles and I want to ask more about this bake sale, but I also want to tell someone my version of the Chrisgiving story. “I made an amazing dinner,” I tell her, because that part always gets overlooked when someone recounts the tale. “With the best gravy ever.” I study my shoes. “Then some stuff came up and people got mad and ruined Chrisgiving.”
“What came up? The mistake you can’t make twice?” She peers down at my crotch. “Is it the gon—”
“No,” I snap, defensively covering my lap with the text book. “And don’t say that here. I mean, I’m not going to make that mistake again either, but it wasn’t with her.”
Andi nods at the seat Marcela had just occupied. “She’s really pretty.”
“Yeah, she’s hot.” I’m about to say how she’s in love with Nate but won’t admit it and I’m not interested in that drama, but then the instructor, Ms. Shaw, taps the microphone, clears her throat, and pushes her glasses up her nose. We sit through the stilted introduction and talk about foundation of film and deeper thinking until she turns off the lights and cues up a black and white movie. I close my eyes and drift off to thoughts about how maybe this class won’t be so bad after all.
A sharp elbow in my ribs jars me painfully awake. I blink and look around, trying to orient myself. Students stand and stretch, collecting their bags and climbing the stairs to the exits. The lights are on, the screen is dark, and Andi’s looking at me with a raised eyebrow. “Sleep well?”
I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. “I like this class.”
She rolls her eyes and stands. “Move.”
I shift my legs so she can squeeze past, then gather up my things and follow her out of the room. A peek at my watch says it’s just after lunch.
“What are you up to now?”
“I have practice.”
“When are you going to prepare for this bake sale?” I ask, hoping to prolong our contact for reasons I don’t care to analyze.
“I’ll go to the store tomorrow morning and get some cookies. The sale’s not until the afternoon.”
“You’re buying them?”
“You know I got that safety warning from the fire department about using ovens. Why are you so fixated on this? Are you hungry?”
“Let me help you,” I blurt out. I really don’t want to think about why I’m saying this. How Kellan 2.0 is supposed to be looking forward but all I can think about is our past.
She frowns. “With what?”
“Baking the cookies. I know how to cook. Plus I have a kitchen I don’t share with forty people.”
“And in exchange, you can tell me what that movie was about. And the title. And do we have any assignments due?” There. That’s a good cover story.
Andi sighs. “Kellan, if you’re not going to pay attention, you should just drop—”
I gasp. “You fell asleep, too!”
She tries to keep a straight face. “I watched the first half.”
A group of guys from the track team call out my name as they pass, jostling each other in an effort to vie for prime placement in the pack. I say hi and instinctively reach for Andi to make sure she doesn’t run away.
She jumps as my fingers brush her arm. “What are you doing?”
“Ah…” We’ve obviously touched before, though outside of that last summer, we hadn’t made a lot of physical contact that didn’t involve trying to kill each other. “That was an accident.”
“Okay. Whatever.” She stops near the entrance to one of Burnham’s multiple food courts, the smell of fast food and coffee wafting out. “I’m going to get a falafel before practice.”
“What about tomorrow? Are you coming over to make cookies?”
She squints at me and I hope I don’t seem desperate. Normally I don’t have to try too hard to get a date, and this isn’t even a date, it’s baking. But it’s Andi, and that makes everything harder.
Burnham College #2
Kellan McVey is Burnham College’s most prolific athlete, partier, and ladies’ man—and that’s just how he likes it. Returning to reign for his third year, he wants nothing to change. Then Andrea Walsh shows up.
It wasn’t too long ago that Andi and Kellan were lifelong friends, mortal enemies, and, for one hot summer, more. Then Kellan left and Andi stayed behind.
Kellan thought he’d moved past that last summer’s heartbreak, but with Andi sitting next to him in class, befriending his friends, and battling for the same once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity, he’s starting to remember why he hated her…and why he loved her.
Kellan has a long list of reasons that falling for Andi again is a terrible idea, though every new moment together challenges that theory. But Andi’s all too familiar with Kellan’s love ’em and leave ’em approach—and she’s found someone else to get serious about.
Burnham’s campus king has never had to fight for a girl, but if he wants Andi to give him another chance, he’ll have to do the one thing he’s never had the nerve to do: admit it.
Approximately 91,000 words
Undeclared is a Recommended Read at Dear Author!
Because it was told from Kellan’s point of view, I had a really good handle on his motivations so I was more inclined to cut him some slack when he messed up. His occasional cluelessness and his reticence were far more understandable from inside his head. Still, I also felt like I had a good idea of what made Andi tick as well – there’s plenty of action and dialogue to show where she is coming from and I really appreciated the showing being featured above any telling. (Read the rest of the Dear Author here!)
Rachel Blaufield at HappyEverAfter USA Today called Undeclared "true perfection." Honest!
Mostly, the best aspect of this was how true to college life it felt. College is a time of experimentation and learning who we are — Kellan and Andi definitely did a lot of this precise thing, and I couldn’t have been prouder. It made their story that much more authentic.
Undeclared is the often hilarious story of how Kellan McVey grows up, discovers things he thought mattered don’t matter quite so much, and realizes the love of his life was always in his life. Funny, fast paced and addictive, this is New Adult at its best. –AllAboutRomance.com (Read the rest here!)
The tale is frenemies to lovers, and childhood best buddies to something more, but it’s not straightforward realizing-there-was-always-something-there. The childish banter between them is almost like siblings, then in the slow change to building a relationship, they have no idea what to say to one another. I enjoyed this so much. – Joanna at Red Hot Books (Read the rest here!)
Undeclared is another shining effort from Julianna Keyes. I loved seeing Nora and Crosbie again (he’s still up to his illusions!) but I fully loved getting to know Kellan better. There is a lot of depth and heart to him, if only he isn’t afraid to show it. – Sarah at Treat Yourself With Books (Read the rest here!)
Watching the pair stumble along and find their way was hard, heartbreaking, but also sweet and sometimes steamy. They fight constantly in the beginning, and that leads to some other passionate encounters...
– Alyssa at The Eater of Books (Read the rest here!)
Undeclared is so much fun. I can never get enough of the witty dialogue and hilarious situations… Both Undecided and Undeclared feature complex characters dealing with realistic problems. It's motivating and entertaining watching them navigate the tough moments while not forgetting to have some sexy fun. – Eileen at BookCatPin (Read the rest here!)
The balance between Kellan figuring out what kind of person he wants to be and his romantic tension with Andi is great… The situations seemed realistic, even in the most romantic, awkward, or absurd of times. –Jasmine at Not A Picky Reader (Read the rest here!)
I loved Andi and Kellan’s familiar back and forth banter that only comes with a life long friendship. Undeclared is a 4.5 star book that I highly recommend everyone read! – Christin at Steph and Chris Book Review (Read the rest here!)