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Unconventional

THE WRONG SIZE TREES


There is a very specific sensation, right in the pit of your stomach, that comes from realizing that because you sent that stupid confirmation email from your stupid phone on the stupid bus while you were thinking about the stupid history essay that was due yesterday, you put a hyphen in the wrong place…and now, instead of having a box of inflatable three-metre-high palm trees sitting on your doorstep, you have three boxes of inflatable metre-high palm trees. You have, essentially, palm trees that wouldn’t impress a toddler…never mind the seven hundred book, film and comic fans who will be pitching up just in time to look down – literally – on them.
And this very specific, palm-tree-related sensation?
It’s not good.
It’s not good at all.
There is only one person I want to talk to right now, so I dig my phone out of my bag on the hall floor and dial her number.
“Angelo!” She draws out the “o” of my surname the way she always does when she answers. “What’s up?”
“Help!”
“What did you do?”
This is Sam through and through. Straight to the point.
“I did a thing.”
“You did a thing.”
I nod. Two hundred miles away in Leeds – and at the other end of the phone – my best friend can’t see it, but I’m nodding anyway.
“Lexi…” Her voice sounds way calmer than I feel. “What did you do?”
“The palm trees.”
“Yes?”
“I shrank them.”
“You shrank the palm trees.” Down the line, I can hear that Sam has gone very still – like someone who’s just realized they’ve wandered into a minefield. “Shrank them…how?”
“I have really bad grammar?” I say, hoping this somehow makes it less bad.
“These palm trees. These are the inflatable ones, right? The ones your dad had you order.”
“Yes.”
“The ones that are supposed to be lining the walkway?”
“Yes.”
“In three days.”
“Yes.”
“Shit.”
Another thing about Sam. She tends to say what she thinks.
In fairness though, that was the first thing that went through my mind too.
That, and: Dad’s going to kill me.

I kick the closest box. I hate the palm trees. I do. I hated them from the second Dad told me he wanted the first convention of the year to have a theme in the registration area. A tropical theme.
“Palm trees? It’s not very…fantasy-y, is it?” I’d said, poking my chopsticks into the box of noodles between us on the table. “Doesn’t exactly go with the guests we’ve got.”
Dad had waved at me vaguely. “That’s the point. Anyone can bung a couple of plastic rocks in reception and say it’s the Moon or Mordor or…wherever.”
“As opposed to plastic palm trees, you mean?”
“Lexi.” He’d put his chopsticks down on his plate and frowned. “Look. Last season, people said we were good. I heard them. Good. It’s not enough! This year, I want people saying we’re spectacular. I want people to talk about
Max Angelo conventions with a look, you know. That look. Awe and wonder. This year, next year…every year.”
“You stick a load of palm trees in reception, Dad, and you’re going to get them talking about you with a look. And not a good one.”
“We’ll see.”

“Send them back. Send them back and he’ll never know,” says Sam.
“I can’t! The courier’s already gone.”
Gone is too gentle a word for it. He dumped the boxes on the doorstep, shoved a manifest in my hand and was back in his van and zooming off in a cloud of dust before I could even open my mouth.
Sam whistles tunelessly, then makes a humming noise like she’s thinking. After a long, long, long pause, she says, “Well, then. You’re just going to have to own up, aren’t you?”
“Thanks for your help, Samira.”
“Good luck…”
I hang up on her before she can make any more helpful suggestions.
I eye the boxes.
They’re still there.
I try closing my eyes, turning round three times and looking again.
Still there.
She’s right.
I’m going to have to tell my dad. And it is not going to be pretty.

Hundreds of photos judge me on my way up the stairs to Dad’s home office at the top of the house; pictures going all the way back to when he first started running fan conventions. I mean, now Dad is “Max, the boss of Angelo Events” – the best events company around – but then it was just him and a few friends getting together in a pub to talk about books they loved. After a couple of these chats, more people started turning up, and within a few years those little get-togethers had turned into weekend-long conventions. The whole history of it plays out across our walls: photos of Dad surrounded by writers, artists, film stars…all of them beaming out at me as I plod up to his office.
It’s his life and he’s proud of it, and I guess I am too. His company runs all kinds of big events now – like that celebrity wedding last year, the massive one in Venice? That was Dad’s company. And the one the year before that – the one with the castle and the snakes that made all the papers? Dad’s company. But the weddings and the conferences, that’s not what he cares about, not really.
What my dad cares about, what he insists on planning and arranging and running personally (with a little – or a lot – of help from yours truly)? It’s still the fan conventions; the ones that run from Easter through to Halloween every year.
The first one of which is in three days.
And it looks like I’ve already managed to screw it up.

His office door is closed, but he’s obviously heard me coming because I don’t even get the chance to knock before it swings open.
“How was schoo…no, sorry – sixth-form college?” he says, stepping back so I can get inside. The floor is awash with paper. It actually looks like a paper tsunami just came through here. “Don’t touch anything,” he adds, hopscotching back to the desk. “There’s a system.”
“It was fine.” Which isn’t quite true, strictly speaking – but seeing as my last term report is somewhere under this lot, and he’s not even opened the letter about yesterday’s meeting with my form tutor (mostly because I hid it behind the bread bin downstairs), I don’t think I need to worry too much about him catching me out on this one.
“Great. Look, I need you to… Wait…” He ruffles his hands through his hair like he always does when he’s remembering something. “I know I had it a minute ago…” He starts scouring the piles of paperwork, looking for that one specific printout with yet another job for me to do…
This is my moment. While he’s distracted.
“Dad?”
“Mmm.”
“Dad.”
“Yes, yes, that’s definitely me.”
“About the palm trees…”
“Oh. Yes. Right.” He pauses; stoops and picks up one sheet, then shakes his head and puts it back down again – on the wrong pile, but I’m not going to stick my neck out.
“The courier’s just dropped them off, and—”
“Could you call Davey and ask him to come deal with them?”
“Davey?” Davey is Dad’s PA. His actual PA in his actual company office. The one who works for Dad because it’s his job and he gets paid, rather than just because he has the privilege of sharing a load of Angelo DNA like I do. “I thought…”
“No. You were right. Scrap the palm trees. Terrible idea. What was I thinking? Davey’ll take care of it.” He hops over another pile of paper to reach his desk, and turns his laptop to face me, pointing at a photo on the screen. It shows the main entrance to a large convention centre, in the rain. And lined up in a neat row leading up to the doors, dripping gently are…guess what? “Besides,” he says, “Comic-Con did it last month.”
Huh.
“Lexi?”
“Yep.”
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, nothing.” I study my fingernails intently. “Why d’you ask?”
“It’s just…that sounded like a laugh.”
“No. No…”
I can’t hold it in much longer.
“You, umm, want a cup of tea?” I take a step towards the door. He’s already back peering at his piles of paperwork.
“Tea? Yes. Cup of tea would be…” He tails off, and I could wait around till next Tuesday but it won’t make any difference: he’s forgotten I’m here.
I gulp down the rest of the laugh, close the door behind me – and by the time I’m halfway down the stairs, somewhere in a room on the other side of the country, Sam’s phone is already ringing…

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Lexi Angelo is a Convention Kid - she's got a clipboard and a walkie talkie to prove it.

Aidan Green is a messy-haired, annoyingly arrogant author and he's disrupting her perfect planning.

In a flurry of awkward encounters, lost schedules and late-night conversations, Lexi discovers that some things can't be planned... Things like falling in love.

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Book Information

Age
14+
Key Stage
KS4 E
BIC
E3N79
Paperback
ISBN: 9781409590156
Extent: 464
Dimensions: 198 x 130mm

Maggie Harcourt

Maggie Harcourt was born and raised in Wales, where she grew up telling stories. She now lives just outside Bath, and spends most of her time trying to convince her family that she knows what she's doing - but she's still telling stories.

Visit maggiehaha.tumblr.com/ to find out more.

Maggie Harcourt on Twitter

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“The UK's answer to Rainbow Rowell.”
“A sweet romance, great, relatable protagonists and an awesome setting! I totally recommend this novel to everyone who loves Rainbow Rowell’s books!”
“If you are looking for a brilliant book about conventions, friendships, relationships and a lot of cute moments this is the book for you. It's so wonderful.”
“You need this book in your life... Unconventional is beautifully crafted, full of fandom greatness, and is sure to make you feel good. A definite must read.”
“An entertaining tale of errors and misunderstanding.”
“If you want the UKYA Fangirl, here it is. Unconventional is pure fun.”
“A slow‐burning YA romance set in the world of fan conventions and cosplay. Lexi can always be found at conventions hiding behind her clipboard but when disorganised debut author Aidan Green tests her organisational skills to the very limits, she realises that love has its own schedule.”
“Unconventional is the swooniest swoonfest.”
“The ultimate love story for the age of the fandom... It will leave you breathless.”
“A fresh comic romance set on the convention circuit, with lots of fun nods to the UK YA scene.”
“Romantic, unashamedly geeky, smart and funny.”
“I loved the book as it reflected on life, love and family throughout the book.”
“The best book ever!”
“Relatable and funny.”
“Maggie Harcourt has once again written a book filled with hilarious one-liners, fabulous friendships and a swoon-worthy romance.”
“A brilliant look at the world of conventions and falling in love”
“I enjoyed the book, it was a good read and I enjoyed the different characters and identities. Also I liked the book as it related to both their relationship and the conventions.”