Guest Post & Excerpt: The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker by Kat Spears

 “A painfully honest and powerful depiction of the changing nature of friendships in the face of hardship and an exploration of what it means ‘to be human and alive.’” 
Booklist on Breakaway, STARRED Review 
“A compelling debut told with swagger and real depth.” 
Kirkus Reviews on Sway, STARRED Review 
“There’s not a single canned emotion to be found...A rare study of growing pains that gives equal weight to humor and hardship.” 
Kirkus Reviews on Breakaway, STARRED Review 

From the critically-acclaimed author of Sway and Breakaway, Kat Spears returns with THE BOY WHO KILLED GRANT PARKER (St. Martin’s Griffin; September 13, 2016), a high stakes young adult contemporary story of a city teen who moves to a small town and finds himself head to head with the local bully. With her newest novel, Spears pens a relatable story about social hierarchy in high school and exploring your identity when things don’t go quite as planned. 
Luke Grayson’s life might as well be over when he’s sent to live with his Baptist pastor father in rural Tennessee after getting kicked out of his DC private school. His soulless stepmother is none too pleased to have him, and Luke’s bad boy status has done him no favors with his new principal or the local police chief. He’s also an easy target for Grant Parker, the local golden boy with a violent streak, who has the community of Ashland under his thumb and Luke directly in his crosshairs. 
But things go topsy-turvy when, after a freak accident, Luke replaces Grant at the top of the social pyramid. This fish out of water has suddenly gone from social outcast to hero in a matter of twenty-four hours. For the students who have lived in fear of Grant all their lives, this is a welcome change. But Luke’s newfound fame comes with a price. Nobody knows the truth about what really happened to Grant Parker except for Luke, and the longer he keeps living the lie, the more like Grant he becomes. 

This explosive coming of age story delves into the labels put on us not only by society but the ones we put on ourselves, and the work it takes to find out who we really are underneath all the lies. As school starts back up again and teens once again deal with the jungle of high school, THE BOY WHO KILLED GRANT PARKER is the perfect fall young adult read. 

KAT SPEARS has worked as a bartender, museum director, housekeeper, park ranger, business manager, and painter (not the artistic kind). She holds an M.A. in anthropology, which has helped to advance her bartending career. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her three freeloading kids. She is also the author of Sway and Breakaway

Additional Praise for Kat Spears: 
"As in her debut novel, Sway, Spears showcases a talent for creating believably flawed characters seeking connection in the aftermath of tragedy." 
Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review on Breakaway 
“This sad yet hopeful romance will appeal to readers of Steven Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.” 
School Library Journal on Breakaway 
“Spears develops Jesse’s character so thoroughly readers will believe they know him. A compelling debut told with swagger and real depth.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review on Sway 
“Perspective is handled beautifully…Readers will be torn between wanting a guy like him around to make things happen and wanting to fix him so he isn’t that guy anymore, and they’ll be heartened when he ends up a little of both.” 
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books on Sway 
Kat Spears debut novel is, quite simply, a delight. It has all the ingredients for an engaging and witty read, laced with honesty and insight that’s refreshingly real. If anything, Kat Spears may just be the one with some very valuable sway; get ready to be sold.” The Children’s Book Review on Sway 
“Spears’ debut novel sets an update on Cyrano de Bergerac in a contemporary high school, with noir undertones. Jesse’s first-person narration is raw, honest, and marks his growth over the course of the novel. A gritty take on the male high-school experience.” Booklist on Sway 
“At first glance, this novel seems like a typical Cyrano de Bergerac-type story, but it’s much deeper than that, touching on topics such as parent abandonment, disabilities, bullying and love. An engaging story that will stay with readers long past the final page.” School Library Journal on Sway 

A new student might have gone unnoticed for days or weeks
(maybe months if he played his cards right) at my old school.
Washington, DC, was such a transient city that people were
always coming and going. But in Ashland, I might as well
have been wearing a bell announcing myself as a leper.
People stared and spoke in low voices to each other as I
passed in the hallway.
If I heard laughter, I assumed it was directed toward me,
as if every thing about me was under scrutiny—my clothes,
my hair, the way I walked, the Mount Vesuvius– like stress
pimple that had erupted on my chin that morning.
The only thing I had going for me, maybe, was that my
appearance was almost depressingly average. I might as
well have been wall paper. And that was exactly the way I
wanted it—to blend into the background and go unnoticed.
I managed to fi nd the offi ce without asking anyone for
directions, and the receptionist greeted me in a southern
drawl so outrageous it seemed like it had to be a put-on.
“I’m Luke Grayson,” I said. “I’m new here.” Captain Obvious.
As a stranger in Ashland, I stuck out like a boner in
“Well,” she said, the word gusting out as she folded her
hands on the desk and pressed them into her bosom, “I go
to your daddy’s church, and I never knew anything about
Pastor Grayson having a son until we got word you were
coming. Of course, he’s such a busy man, what with all the
goings-on we’ve had since Easter. Three funerals in as many
months. Never a good sign if a church has more funerals
than baptisms, wouldn’t you say?”
the boy who killed grant parker 5
I wouldn’t, but I kept my mouth shut and tried to convey
concern in my expression, though it was a lie. The tardy
bell rang as she droned on about the business of my dad’s
church, and I feigned interest, while in my mind all I could
really focus on was the fact that I would now have to enter
class late and be even more of a spectacle than I already
“Principal Sherman wants to have a quick visit with you
before you start the day,” the receptionist said, once it was
obvious I was going to fail miserably at making small talk,
and then she picked up the receiver of the ancient desk
As I was shown into the principal’s offi ce he came
around from behind his desk to shake my hand and gestured
for me to take one of the hard- backed chairs, though
a leather couch along one wall off ered a more comfortable
option. He was middle- aged, with the paunch of a former
football player, and his doughy hands clashed with the tailored
suit he wore. His desk was an ocean of polished oak,
and my chair was at least a few inches lower to the ground
than his so that I felt small and insignifi cant sitting across
from him. I disliked him immediately, feeling that he would
have been more at home on a used- car lot than in a high
school administration offi ce. And once he started talking, I
knew the disproportionate height of the chairs and the size
of the desk were both power plays, his intention to make
whoever sat across from him feel powerless.
“So, Mr. Grayson,” he said as he crossed one leg over
the other, shot his cuff s, and twitched his hand to settle a
heavy gold watch against a meaty wrist. “How are you settling
6 kat spears
“Uh. Fine, I guess.” My response came out as a wavering
question since I wasn’t sure how well I should have settled
in during the fi ve minutes I had been at Wakefi eld High
He just nodded at my answer, as if it was the response
he had been expecting but wasn’t really interested in
whether it was true.
The ocean of wood between us housed only a phone and
a pen holder with a faux- bronze nameplate on the front of
it. The name leslie g. sherman was inscribed on the
plaque. I wondered what the “G” stood for and how he felt
about having a girl’s name. I could only assume the “G”
stood for something worse than Leslie. I was distracted with
trying to think of a name worse than Leslie that started with
a “G”— Garfi eld? Grover?— when he startled me with his attack
“Since it’s your fi rst day here I’m not going to make a
federal case out of it, but we do have a student dress code.”
He was looking so pointedly at my chest that I couldn’t help
but steal a self- conscious glance at my Death Cab for Cutie
T- shirt. My stepmom, Doris, had already made a federal
case out of my shirt that morning at breakfast.
“Oh. Really?” I asked innocently.
“Yes. Really,” he said with such condescension that
I wondered if he had kids of his own who hated him.
“T- shirts with printed designs have been strictly forbidden
since the Columbine tragedy.” His expression conveyed the
very real concern that my T- shirt would inspire a Columbinelike
“Okay,” I said as I tried to think of what shirts I owned
the boy who killed grant parker 7
that didn’t include printed designs. Did a Georgetown University
sweatshirt count as a printed design? I wasn’t sure.
But it didn’t seem the right time to ask.
“Mr. Grayson, I have a great deal of re spect for your
father,” the principal said, changing the subject abruptly.
He paused in anticipation after he said this, waiting for an
appropriate response. I was still shifting gears from Columbine
and printed T- shirts and I wasn’t sure what an appropriate
response should be, so the pause dragged on— from
awkward to painful.
Fi nally I said, “Thanks.” As if I was entitled to some
credit for how respectable my father was.
“Ashland is a strong Christian community, as I’m sure
you know since your father is a man of God.” I was starting
to get the sense that he had practiced this speech ahead
of time. Like he had an agenda and had worked out in his
mind how to approach it in a roundabout way.
“Yes. Strong,” I said, feeling like an idiot as I said it.
My eyes wandered around the room as I tried to think
of something clever to say to alleviate the impression that I
was a moron. A large framed print hung on the wall behind
the desk, the words the principal is my pal— that’s
the princi ple we live by displayed in colorful block
“I’ve been reviewing your rec ords from your previous
school,” he said as he reached forward to lift the papers in
front of him, the implied threat made all the more menacing
because it was an alarmingly thick stack of papers.
I wasn’t sure what to say. I deci ded to stay silent, not give
anything away in case some things hadn’t been committed
8 kat spears
to paper. Better to remain silent, not incriminate myself,
than to start off ering up explanations.
“Your grades were . . . unexceptional,” he said, maybe
still trying to be polite.
Unexceptional was putting it mildly, though I would
often argue with my mom that a C average was just
that— average. I didn’t aspire to be anything other than
I kept silent, not wanting to do anything that would
extend my stay in his offi ce.
“It seems that you also like to challenge authority,
Mr. Grayson,” Leslie said as he frowned at the second stapled
page of my permanent rec ord.
“I went to an all- boys school when I lived in DC,”
I said with an innocent shrug. “Pranks are just the usual
“This seems much more serious than pranks.” He
looked at me expectantly over the rims of his reading
glasses. “ These notes indicate that on one occasion there
was personal injury to another student and property damage
to the school. Does that seem like just an innocent
prank to you, Mr. Grayson?”
I shifted in my seat as I tried to let my anger dissolve
before responding. If I came across as snide and pissed, it
would just make the situation worse. But it was hard— the
way he called me Mr. Grayson, the way teachers do as if they
are showing a sign of re spect for students as grown people
when really they are just patronizing us.
As I waited for the acid to dissipate from my tongue before

answering, I thought bitterly of Steve Moyo, my under-

Guest Post by author Kat Spears:
(On how to read in the shower)
Whenever people ask me how it is possible that I read in the shower, my first response is always—yes, the books get wet. Rest assured I never read library books in the shower and I have always preferred to own books rather than borrow them from the library. I trash my books—dog ear the corners to mark my place, leave them open facedown with the spines cracking under their own weight, and write notes in the margins or underline passages that appeal to me. My mother is a librarian and she absolutely despises people like me. Of course, my treatment of books is not my first or last offense in the eyes of my mother, nor even my most egregious, so I don’t really worry about it.
Showering is just too boring for me to do without a book. Once I had small children and no longer had time for long, leisurely showers, I was surprised to discover you really can be in and out in five minutes if you aren’t reading. Until that point I was showering with one hand, the same way people read while they eat, and I can turn pages with the same hand that is holding the book—a critical skill for any devoted reader. I should also note that at a certain point during the shower I do have to switch hands, transferring the book from the dry to the wet hand so I can wash both sides of my body, and this is really when the book sustains the most injury.
Now that my children are a bit older and I can lock them in the attic with a box of dry cereal and an iPad, I have returned to reading in the shower. I’m a big fan of reading the books that I love over and over again. For books by authors like Jane Austen, R.L. Stevenson, Agatha Christie, etc. I usually have what I refer to as “shower copies.” These are books that are already wavy and brittle from being dampened repeatedly and the spine paper has started to lift and curl at the ends. I must own 50 or so paperbacks that are shower copies, all of my favorite mysteries and classic adventure stories. 
I should also note that reading in the shower and, thus, taking long showers, is my only personal failing when it comes to being environmentally irresponsible. I don’t use drinking water to keep my grass green and I almost never use plastic in my home if I can help it. So, despite being evil for my treatment of books, I have a pretty good record for my treatment of the planet.

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