If, like us, you can’t get enough of musicals and are constantly on the hunt for your next favourite read, Emma Lord’s new YA novel, When You Get the Chance, is here to make all your bookish dreams come true.
Inspired by the hit musical, Mama Mia, When You Get the Chance follows aspiring broadway star, Millie Price, as she sets to uncover the identity of her mother after stumbling across her father’s secret online diary from the year she was born.
Start reading When You Get the Chance right today with this exclusive extract (but be warned, it will leave you wanting more…)
When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord
I get about as far as “Dear Millie Price, we are delighted to inform you” before I emotionally black out like I’ve just been whiplashed by a rainbow and drop-kicked into a river of glitter. I slam my phone down on the nearest table, jumping to my feet.
“It’s happening,” I gasp.
“Can it happen somewhere else?”
In my defense, I forgot I was in the library. But also in my defense, Oliver Yang would be annoyed with my existence in any room in this school, and likely every dimension hereafter.
Sure enough, he is fixing me with the same patented Stage Manager Scowl I’ve watched evolve since we first started mutually irritating the hell out of each other freshman year. In the beginning it was far more pronounced—all furrowed brows and tight lips, aimed with the intent to burn. But after three solid years he’s adopted a much more impassive micro-scowl, either because he’s too cool for a full one or because the two of us get on each other’s last nerves too often to warrant it.
I grab my sheet music off the copy machine and glide over to his table, brimming with the kind of excitement that even he and that irritatingly handsome face can’t puncture.
“Finals are over,” I say, jamming a finger down on his open physics textbook.
He pulls it closer to him, out of my reach. “I’m taking this one late. I had to sit in for all of the auditions.”
Ordinarily he wouldn’t spare so many words for me, but there’s a slight warning in his voice—a reminder that he’ll be helping make the casting decisions and it would be in my best interest not to pester him any further. But he’s spent the last three years pestering me, so it only seems fair to get in a few last jabs now that my theatrical fate is safely out of his hands. Some of the casting decisions our theater teacher has made for me over the years likely have less to do with me looking the part of “Townsperson #7” and more to do with Oliver holding a Millie-shaped grudge.
“Well, I’m done with finals,” I tell him cheerfully, sitting on the edge of his table.
“Woo,” Oliver deadpans without looking back up.
“And with this school.”
I toss my hair back behind my shoulders, fully aware that the swoosh of curls is every bit as much a good comeback as any verbal one. But Oliver isn’t looking at me, focused on closing his physics textbook and jamming it into his backpack. I scoot myself off the table as he heads out.
“You’re not even going to ask why?”
Oliver sighs. “I have a feeling you’re going to tell me whether I want you to or not.”
I twist my lips shut. The thing is, I really shouldn’t waste this kind of news on Oliver, who prides himself on his ability to pretend I don’t exist. But I’m in what my aunt Heather calls one of my “Millie Moods,” when everything is just so much that it feels like it’s going to spill out of me if I don’t find a place to put it. And unfortunately for Oliver, it’s the last day of school, and he’s the only person within a reasonable radius.
“Fine. I won’t tell you, then,” I decide.
Oliver pivots toward the exit of the school. “Oh no,” he says flatly.
I follow him out onto the sidewalk, where he’s crossing the street to get to the science wing of the school. To be clear, it’s not that I want to continue to have him in my line of sight, but getting on Oliver’s nerves is a cherished pastime of mine. And if this really is the last time I’m going to see him, I want to leave an impression. I want him to look up at my face on a Broadway marquee five years from now and remember exactly what it was I said to him before my big bouncy curls and Heather’s old nineties mom jeans walked into the West Village and out of his life for good. I want him to remember my—
Oliver’s hand wraps around my elbow and yanks me back just as a taxi whizzes past, close enough that I let out a yelp at a volume extremely embarrassing for a native New Yorker. Even more embarrassing, though, is the fact that I am now pressed chest-to-chest against Oliver. Worse still, when I open my eyes, I discover that my face is buried directly into his neck.
We both step back at the same time, his face as red as mine feels.
“What the hell were you thinking?” he demands.
My brain is too busy trying to delete the firmness of his bicep and the smell of his shampoo to formulate a worthy response.
“Thanks,” I mutter, crossing my arms over my chest to hide the fact that I’m shaking.
Oliver stands there for a moment, his weight shifting between his feet. “Fine,” he relents. “What is Her Majesty freaking out about?”
And just like that the panic about my fleeting mortality—and the fact that I expressly forbade him from calling me “Her Majesty,” along with a slew of other unflattering nicknames—is all but forgotten. “I got into Madison Musical Theater Precollege,” I exclaim loudly enough to stun a flock of pigeons into immediate flight. “Partial scholarship. I’ll start next semester for senior year, so I can finish up high school and start getting college credit at the same time.”
I’m not exactly expecting him to congratulate me. So far his highest praise of my performance ability was when I overheard him saying to our teacher, “I guess she’s the only one who can belt that high G,” during sophomore year. But I’m at least expecting a little more than a head tilt and a “Huh.”
“‘Huh’?” I repeat. “Did finals really eat up your last brain cell?”
“No,” he says drily. “The glittery disco pants you wore auditioning with ‘Super Trouper’ took care of that.”
“That was insurance,” I tell him. “Donna or bust.”
“We’re not doing Mamma Mia,” he sighs for approximately the eighteenth time this month.
Oliver is sworn to secrecy on what the school picked for the fall, but I have my sources. Namely that Mrs. Cooke’s been humming “Money, Money, Money” in the hallways way too often for it to just be a consequence of the public school system underpaying its teachers. That, and Mamma Mia is closing its limited Broadway run next week, which means the rights will finally be up for grabs again, three long years after Oliver crushed my dreams of doing it.
See, freshman year we lost the rights to the other show we were planning to do at the last second. As it is my responsibility as someone with excellent taste in both music and cuffed overalls, I suggested Mamma Mia as a replacement. I had more than half the theater kids on board, but before I could so much as say “Voulez-Vous,” Oliver convinced Mrs. Cooke we didn’t have the “resources” and talked her into waiting another year.
Which is, of course, when the Broadway revival was announced, and all our hopes of getting the rights went out the window right along with my last few shreds of patience for Oliver meddling with my plans.
“You’re just mad that you’re going to have to teach someone to train a spotlight on me for ‘The Winner Takes It All.’”
“You’re that confident you’re gonna get a lead?”
I raise an eyebrow at him. Even with Oliver’s scheming against me, we both know there’s no way I’m not in consideration for a lead. My occasionally overblown ego aside, I’m the best singer this school has.
Or had, I guess. Because I’m out of here.
“I don’t need confidence. I’ve got a three-octave range.” I wrinkle my nose. “Not that it matters now.”
Oliver shakes his head, letting out a breath that may or may not be a chuckle.
“What’s so funny?”
He stops just outside the building, his eyes grazing me—the jeans, the floral combat boots, the hand-cut crop top. The immaculately styled eyebrows and cherry-red lip balm and meticulously heated curls. I know I look good, only because I’m in the business of looking good. My rule is to never leave the apartment unless I look and feel like a rock star, because the thing I learned about living in New York before I fully understood what it meant to be a New Yorker is that things are different here than they are everywhere else. There’s this nonstop hopefulness, this weird charge that never leaves the air, like anything can happen. Like your destiny is constantly right around the corner. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to get caught in the same old pair of black leggings and white sneakers everyone else owns when I meet mine.
But Oliver is decidedly not appreciating that sense of destiny when he looks at me, because all I see when his eyes meet mine is a faint smirk.
“Just thinking about the stuff the theater department will finally get done with all the peace and quiet.”
“Ugh,” I say, throwing up my hands. He’s been a lost cause since day one. “See you never, Oliver.”
He seems unconvinced of this but still says, “Fingers crossed.”
I let him have the last word only because I am feeling generous. After all, my future just got set, and his is being stuck here chasing after props backstage and busting the stagehands for smoking pot in the rafters for another year. Meanwhile I’ll be rubbing elbows with future Broadway stars and getting the kind of education I’ll actually use in the real world, full offense to algebra and all the other genres of math.
He disappears into the building, and half a second later, I take off. Sprinting in the late June heat with the cement hot enough to cook an Instagram influencer’s entire brunch plate is admittedly not the brightest move, but I can’t help myself. I’m in the full grip of the Millie Mood now. I scramble up the four blocks to my apartment and take the stairs up to the fifth floor two at a time, pausing only to bang on Teddy’s door across the hall.
He goes to a fancy private school, so he’s been out for summer vacation for the last week. Odds are he is on his couch eating his infinitieth bowl of Reese’s Puffs in iced coffee, the kind of lawless behavior only a kid with two extremely busy award-winning brain surgeons for parents can get away with.
“It’s happening!” I call through the crack in the door.
I hear the telltale sounds of Teddy hoisting himself up from his parents’ absurdly large couch. “Which it?”
“It!” I exclaim, turning to my own apartment door. I wedge my boot in the bottom of it and lift the knob up with my palm to get it open without unlocking it, a habit that drives my aunt and dad nuts. But I don’t have time for keys. I leave the door open for Teddy, sweeping through the front hall of the apartment, which my dad has dubbed “The Millie Hall of Fame.” The color of its walls is constantly changing depending on whatever mood my aunt is in, but the rest has stayed the same: wall-to-wall photos of me from infancy to present form, from pudgy baby Millie to hammy toddler Millie to stage-hopping teenage Millie, only briefly interrupted by the 0.2 seconds during puberty when I was shy.
Right now the walls are a charming turquoise, which does nothing to make me want to gag any less. It’s not that I don’t appreciate my dad’s enthusiasm for my antics. It’s just that I am committed to fully reinventing my image every six months, so I have no greater enemy than my past selves, each of them reminding me of the lesser version I was before.
“Dad Dad Dad Dad,” I call.
Any other parent would hear the calamity of me knocking the door open and running through the hall and immediately assume there was a fire, but my dad just glances up from his laptop with his usual mild-mannered smile.
“How was the last day of school?” he asks, adjusting the glasses that seem to be perpetually dipping down the bridge of his nose.
You would think that being the youngest of the dads in my cohort would mean that Cooper Price had one iota of cool, but that, it turns out, is something I must have inherited from my mysterious mom. At thirty-seven years old, my dad is somehow as Dad™ as it gets, complete with a wardrobe of half-zips and khakis, a tech job that he’s described to me and Heather a thousand times without either of us understanding what he actually does, and a book about golf that for some reason lives in our bathroom even though I’ve never once seen him play.
“The last last day of school!” I crow. “Look.”
My dad squints down at the phone I’ve just thrust in his face. “What’s this?” he asks. “Did you get a part in the school show?”
“No, better.” I fully hand the phone to him, hopping on the back of the couch and tapping my foot against it impatiently. “Read it, read it, read it.”
It’s about then that Teddy wanders in, his hair a big floppy mess, his sweatpants far too large for his skinny, overly tall frame. He has to wear a uniform to school, so during the summer he rebels by becoming a full-time Muppet.
“Which it?” he asks again, and it’s clear by the rough edge to his voice that we are probably the first sentient creatures outside of the geocaching app he’s hooked on that he’s spoken to all day.
I grab him by the shoulders, shaking him back into full consciousness. “Madison. Pre. College.”
Teddy’s eyes widen. “Oh,” he says, his breath decidedly smelling of peanut butter, chocolate, and coffee.
A second later, my dad echoes him: “Oh.”
This is marginally better than Oliver’s “Huh,” but still not cutting it.
“So?” I prompt him, releasing Teddy fast enough that despite being a full eight inches taller than I am, he stumbles into the couch.
“Mills…” my dad starts.
The door to my aunt’s room creaks open. Heather’s messy topknot bun emerges first, followed by the rest of her, blinking at the commotion. “What is occurring out here?” she asks, her hands wrapped around a steaming-hot cup of tea despite it being a bajillion degrees outside. To be fair, she works late, so this is basically breakfast time for her.
“I got into Madison,” I squeal.
Her eyebrows fly up into her bangs. “No shit?”
“You knew about this?” my dad asks, turning to her.
“I didn’t know she applied, I just know what it is,” says Heather, padding over to us in the ratty old Ugg slippers we both have to match. “The school in Los Angeles, right?”
“Yup. All musical theater, all the time. Singing core, acting core, dancing core…”
I begrudgingly put some emphasis on that last one, because despite all my efforts, I don’t fully qualify as a triple threat. I may have pipes that can match pace with Megan Hilty’s and the kind of acting ability to bring strangers to tears, but my feet could definitely use some work.
“But it’s across the country,” says my dad. “And it’s—basically college. So you’d have to live there.”
“Well, yeah. But it’s okay, I just need parental permission,” I say, grabbing my phone back from him so I can show him the school website.
But then my dad looks at me with an expression I very rarely see but immediately recognize: the one that means I have flown too close to the sun.
“And you’re gonna give me parental permission … right?”
My dad runs a hand through his hair, glancing back down at his laptop like something’s going to pop up on the screen and give him a way out of the conversation. I should probably give him some room to think, but that’s not necessarily my forte.
Copyright © 2021 by Emma Lord
Get your copy of When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord here.