Blog Tour - Deleted Scene + Giveaway: BY THE BOOK by Amanda Sellet

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 12th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women. So when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair. As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.

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by Amanda Sellet

I’m not sure how I decided that what BY THE BOOK really needed was a paintball scene. Probably it was in response to early readers pointing out that the characters needed to do more than sit and chat over warm beverages and lovingly described baked goods. (But why?)
Whatever the inspiration, I quite enjoyed this encounter between Mary and Alex, which got the axe when the rest of the chapter was cut. For everyone who expressed a desire for more Mary and Alex interactions, here you go!

Deleted scene from BY THE BOOK: Paintball!

Bracing the paintball gun between my knees, I pulled off the helmet and placed it on the ground. Sweet relief! I breathed deeply of air that didn’t smell like plastic and fear. It occurred to me I could lurk here indefinitely and my friends would be none the wiser, as it was far too dark inside Cosmic Paintball for them to remark my absence.
The moon was high; a cooling breeze dried the sweat at my temples. If only I had a book to read. And possibly a place to sit. A little water would not have gone amiss either. Still, it was a distinct improvement on being blown to smithereens by cackling children. I started to shrug off the heavy sweatshirt, but had only removed one sleeve when a sudden noise arrested my progress.
A door sliding open: that had been the sound. Not the heavy clank of the one through which I’d escaped, but a lighter whoosh, from somewhere ahead. I heard the rustle of plastic and jingle of keys as a shadowy figure stepped onto the sidewalk. He paused to shift his purchases from one hand to the other before looking at his phone. The light from the store frosted his hair silver, though I knew the real color was closer to gold.
I held myself utterly still, willing him not to glance my way. Tucking his phone back into his pocket he took a single step and then stopped, pivoting slowly until his eyes met mine.
Glasses, I thought. Alex Ritter wears glasses. Because given the way my luck was running, of course it was he; I’d recognized him at once, even in profile. I wondered if the glasses were for reading or night vision – or perhaps he needed them all the time but chose to wear contacts out of vanity? If so, he was probably embarrassed I’d uncovered his secret.
And yet when I considered his expression – the glint in his eye and slight twitch at the corner of his mouth – it suggested a different reaction. Surprise, yes, and curiosity, but mostly amusement, especially as his gaze tracked downward, coming to rest near my shoes.
It was then I recalled the gigantic fake gun and massive helmet I’d set down– not mention the paint-splattered sweatshirt I was still half-wearing, one sleeve flapping loose at my shoulder. A pair of wire-rimmed spectacles seemed rather discreet, by comparison.
Alex ambled across the empty parking spaces that separated us. “Did you just rob a bank?”
I shook my head, painfully aware that the truth was only marginally less absurd. “Paintball.” His eyebrows flicked upward. “What are you doing here?” I hastened to ask, before he could say something obnoxious.
He raised the shopping bag. “Buying rabbit food for Phoebe.”
“What do you mean, like carrots and celery? Is that all she eats?” No wonder she was so lithe and lissome.
Alex gave me a funny look. “Pellets. For Phoebe’s rabbit. Whose name is Max.” He tipped his head back. “From the pet store.”
“Oh.” Sure enough, it was a pet store; I could just make out the wire grid of cages through the front window.
He leaned closer, lifting one hand to touch my hair just above the shoulder. “Looks like you took a direct hit.”
I frowned at the acid green blotch, trying to scrape it off with a thumbnail. Wonderful. If only I had a clown nose to complete the effect.
“It washes out,” Alex assured me. I had the feeling he was trying not to laugh. “Are you going to the lake after this?”
He was talking about Potter Lake, half-an-hour outside Millville. Every year around this time the upperclassmen held a gathering there, famous enough even I had heard of it. The word ‘no’ was half-formed on my tongue when I remembered Arden’s coyness about our post-paintball plans.
“Maybe,” I said instead.
“A woman of mystery. I like that.” He gave me one of his heavy-lidded smiles. “Maybe I’ll see you there.” He spoke as though we were part of the same milieu, but that wasn’t the most surprising part.
You’re going to the lake?”
His eyes narrowed. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“You don’t seem like the outdoorsy type.”
“You realize you’re talking to a former Boy Scout?”
“No way.” I glanced from his meticulously coiffed curls to the neat button-down shirt (undoubtedly selected for the way that shade of blue matched his eyes). He’d rolled the cuffs and left it untucked, but the ‘casual’ effect was offset by clear evidence of ironing.
“What?” He smoothed the front of his shirt.
“I’m trying to decide if you’re a fop.”
Alex shook his head as though he had water in his ears. “A fop?”
“Dandy, popinjay, coxcomb.” I waved a hand. “Etcetera. Not someone who camps.”
“Maybe I was in it for the uniform.” He glanced at me sidelong. “I still wear the shorts – on special occasions.”
“You do not.”
“Wouldn’t you like to know.”
I chose not to dignify that with a response. “I better go.” 
“Don’t forget your battle gear.”
His faux-solemn tone didn’t fool me; growing up with Jasper had honed my ability to detect teasing in all its forms. Let him laugh; he was probably still miffed because I’d impugned his wilderness skills.
“Maybe I’ll see you later,” Alex called after me.
Not if I see you first, I silently replied. As I rounded the corner, he fired off one more shot.
“Did I mention that I know how to start a fire?”
Was that a double entendre? Considering the source, I decided the answer was almost certainly yes.

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Books | Amanda Sellet

Amanda Sellet | HMH Books
Debut author Amanda Sellet had a previous career in journalism, during which she wrote book reviews for The Washington Post, personal essays for NPR, and music and movie coverage for VH1. These days she lives in Kansas with her archaeologist husband and their daughter.

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