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Friday 4 March 2016

☀ Pearl - Deirdre Riordan Hall

Thank you for joining us on the Virtual Book Tour for Pearl, a Contemporary Young Adult novel by (, Skyscape, 354 pages).

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis and excerpt below.  Read the first two chapters with Amazon Look Inside.

Pearl is FREE on Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner's Lending Library.

Author Deirdre Riordan Hall will be awarding a print copy of Pearl to three randomly drawn winners via Rafflecopter during the tour.

Synopsis | Teaser | About the Author | Giveaway


Run fast and run far, unless you’re fearless. Unless you’re courageous. I’m not, but I’d like to be.

Pearl Jaeger is seventeen and homeless after drugs, poverty, and addiction unraveled the life she shared with JJ, her formerly glamorous rock star mother.

This moment of happiness is fleeting; someone will take it from me.

When tragedy brings a chance to start over at an elite boarding school, she doesn’t hesitate. Yet the only salvation comes from an art teacher as troubled as Pearl, and she faces the stark reality that what she thought she wanted isn’t straightforward.

I trace the outline of my reflection in a window. I am no more than a replica of my mother. This is not the self-portrait I want to paint.

Through the friendships she forms at school—especially with Grant, a boy who shows Pearl what it means to trust and forgive—she begins to see a path not defined by her past. But when confronted with the decision to be courageous or to take the easy way forged by her mother’s failures, which direction will Pearl choose?

Teaser: Excerpt

Chapter 7

     A note to go to the administration building appears, taped to my door, penned in Connie’s script. I don’t know how getting kicked out works, but the wires and cords that hold me to the earth warp and wiggle as I contend with the tequila hangover. I am not ready for classes or being vertical or landing wherever it is they send homeless private school failures. I brush my teeth twice, the mint toothpaste yielding to the sharp taste of tequila, lingering in my throat.
     As I follow the path to the building, the blur of Halloween night haunts me. I berate myself for drinking too much and for making a fool of myself in front of Grant.
     I struggle to pull open the heavy wooden door, nearly closing it on my shoulder and backpack with a foreboding feeling like I missed a sign that said, Turn back, you’re about to get your ass handed to you. A susurrant hum comes from the depths of the building, like in a church or water flowing over rocks in a brook, like futures are made and broken here. Then a phone rings, startling me.
     “Yes,” asks the woman with a tight black bun streaked with silver, seated behind an oak desk.
     “I received a note to come down here this morning.” I show it to her.
     “Ah, yes, Justine Baptiste, your advisor. I’ll let her know you’re here.”
     The beginning of relief washes through me as I take a seat on the edge of a plush chair. I’ve learned to be cautious around people with titles and secretaries. Because Uncle Gary and Aunt Beverly enrolled me late, I didn’t get to choose my classes, so perhaps she wants to meet me and see how the semester is going. Wishful thinking.
     “You must be Pearl,” says a tall woman, extending her hand. Braids twine together at the back of her head and reach down to her waist.
     “Pearl, PJ, yeah,” I say, looking down at my chest as if the name tag from the first day is still there.
     I follow her down the corridor to an office with a desk, table, and filing cabinets piled with papers, pamphlets, and books. Looking down on the papery mess is an oil painting of a woman, her gaze even, her lips pursed; bold blocks of color surround her, a village perhaps.
     Justine follows my line of vision and smiles. “My grandmother painted that portrait of my mother and her sisters, back in Haiti,” she says, pointing. She sighs as she settles in her chair and folds her arms across her chest. “I understand you were enrolled last-minute?”
     “Yeah, I um—”
     “You must be exceptional,” she says, the word lengthening on her tongue.
     “Actually, no. I was—”
     She holds up her hand. “When I found out I had a last-minute advisee, without a transcript, I thought it best not to ask questions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for asking questions, but—” She nods as if she knows it’s better I keep my story to myself. “Your transcript finally came in on Friday, and I was able to apply your science credits. So, unless you really enjoy biology, you can switch out to fulfill another requirement or an elective. We didn’t have any humanities or art classes left open when I created your schedule, but there have been a few openings since then.”
     “In what?”
     “Well, there’s Econ, Psych 101, and an art class. Painting IV. Rasmus Shale,” Justine says, cocking an eyebrow in my direction.
     I shrug mildly. “OK.”
     She glances at her computer and then swivels the monitor toward me. “I see here you have numerous art credits under your belt, so you have permission for that level class, if you’re interested.”
     “Definitely. I mean, I draw mostly, but I love painting too.” “How much do you love painting?” she asks measuredly.
“A lot. I love art,” I say, uncertain where she’s driving the conversation.
“This class sees a lot of withdrawals. There’s a reason for that, but
     OK. Painting IV it is.” She taps away at the computer. “Rasmus Shale,” she repeats. “Trial by fire, as they say.” She locks me in her gaze, and then her lips spread into a thin smile. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
     That wasn’t much of a vote of confidence, but I take my newly printed schedule and exit.
     “Nice to meet you, Pearl, and good luck, you might need it.”
     Unfortunately, I do need the good luck, because I’m five minutes late for first period, which used to be bio, with an ancient teacher who forgave tardiness because the clock in the classroom was slow and she couldn’t see it, but now my schedule directs me to the art building, on the opposite end of campus.
     I walk up the three flights of stairs to the top level. The floorboards creak beneath my feet, and the dust motes, always written so poetically, dance in a shaft of light. The door at the very end of the hall hangs halfway open, and a man’s accented voice booms.
     “You will not waste my time or materials. You will worship this canvas, this brush, and these colors as if they are the only means by which you will be fed, clothed, and sheltered.”
     When I push the door all the way open, I watch as he takes the canvas from a student’s easel and tosses it on a table. I edge into the room. The floor creaks, and he turns sharply in my direction, then stalks over to me.
     I brace myself.
     “Who are you?” He has a broad forehead and white hair swept back, in need of a trim. His bearded face, the hair going white at the roots, conceals any suggestion he knows how to smile. He’s tall, pur- poseful in his movements, like a great beast that requires a lot of energy to move, but his tongue is fast, sharp.
     “I’m Pearl Jaeger.” I clear my throat. “PJ. My advisor found I already had science credits, so she said—”
     He puts his hand up to silence me. “I do not care. If you want to take this class, you will show me why you are here.” He gestures around the room. “Find an available easel. We are doing still life. Get to work.”
     There are a half dozen available easels to the six already occupied. A dark-haired figure stands at the other end of the room. I walk cautiously toward her.
     “Charmindy?” I ask, surprised to discover my roommate, queen of AP classes, is in the art studio.
     “Sh,” she says, almost below a whisper. “Can’t talk now.”
     “Quiet,” the teacher bellows. “When you are in here, you are work- ing. I will only say it one more time. Embody the canvas, the brush, the oil, the lines and curves. There is no separation.”
     I study Charmindy’s vessel of flowers and the way she’s captured the light exactly as it is in the image tacked to the top of her easel. On a table in the middle of the room a shallow box contains more photos and clippings of famous still life paintings. I select one with a bowl of fruit and gather paints and other supplies before I get started. Just as I’m about to touch brush to canvas, a hand grips mine tightly. Gray eyes, the color of the sky in winter, bore into mine.
     “You do not sketch first?” he asks, surprised. “Oh, was I supposed to?” I ask, my hand still suspended in his. The evidence of years of painting has fossilized underneath the line of his fingernails.
     “No. It is not allowed,” he answers, not taking his eyes off mine. “Continue.”
     I sense Charmindy watching us, but as he releases my hand, she’s intent on her canvas.
     I step back, just to be sure my assessment of the light, shadows, and highlights was accurate, before I apply thin spheres of paint to the canvas, forming the base of the fruit. I continue, adding layers and dimensions, losing myself in the motion of creating stillness. Instead of a chime or bell, like in the other buildings, Shale barks at us when the class is over.
     I hustle to clean up my space and then dart out of the classroom, not wanting to be late for my next class or endure any more of Shale’s wrath. I try to catch up with Charmindy, but she’s already gone.
     Instead, Sorel catches up with me, claiming she’s cutting class. “Come with. Woods. Smokes.”
     The workload, compared to public school, has me so busy I hardly have time to sneak off with Sorel. She assures me I’ll get used to it and will eventually have time to not get into trouble, her way of saying go to the woods, smoke, or sneak to her boyfriend’s dorm at night, along with whatever other rules she breaks. With her, it’s just a game to see how far she can push the limits. For me, it’s a matter of not being kicked out and landing on the street.
     “You look like you could use one,” she prods after I tell her no. “I just transferred into an art class. Painting IV.”
“Tell me you don’t have Shale.”
“I have Sh—”
     “Badass. But you need a cigarette. I didn’t survive Painting I. He’s known around here as the Norwegian Nightmare.”
     I start to follow her, but then spot Charmindy outside Cullen Hall, the mathematics building. “I have to go. Catch up with you later.” I know I’ll see Charmindy back at Viv Brooks, but I’m shell-shocked from Shale’s class and need info.
     “Charmindy,” I call.
She stops on the steps.
“Can’t be late. I know what you’re going to ask me, and I promise I’ll tell you later.” Then she disappears through the door.
     Each week I write my mother letters, pouring my insides out, describing Charmindy, Sorel, and Grant, the minutiae of days, answering questions I wish she’d ask. Normal questions, like how are you, to inquiries about the secret garden of my heart. Today I describe Rasmus Shale, the frontier of his eyes like everything they’ve seen can only be expressed through oil on canvas. I tell her he terrified and ignited me in equal measure. Something about that classroom, his hardcore reaction to that poor kid and his canvas, his inquisition when I didn’t sketch first, and the latent poetry of paint makes me want to go back tomorrow.
     I sign my name at the bottom of this latest letter just as Charmindy enters and collapses on the bed, her bag still strapped across her shoul- der. “Can you wake me up next June? No, scratch that, in two Junes. No, wait; I have eight years of higher education after graduation. Just wake me up when you start to see gray hairs, OK?”
     “Only if you tell me why I didn’t know you took a painting class.” I stuff the letter in an envelope, doubtful I’ll hear back from JJ.
     “Because I’m a glutton for punishment.” She sits up, planting both feet on the floor. “Obviously I love painting, and he’s the best.”
     “Never heard of him.”
     “That’s because you focus more on fashion and sketching and less on the oil painting community. He’s a rock star. A guru, a legend.”

     “Then why does he teach at a private school in the middle of nowhere?”
     “That’s what everyone wants to know. Tragedy? Delinquency? Angry ex-wife? I have no idea. No one does. But he believes enough in his students to stick around. At least that’s what I tell myself.”
     “Do your parents know?”
     Her eyes grow wide. “No. No way. Painting is my silent rebellion. They see my progress reports and grades, but I, um, I arranged it, as a special favor with my advisor and the art department, to keep it off the copy sent to them. I know it’s wrong, but that class is the only thing I have that’s for me. I started last year, taking art because I couldn’t cope with the pressure. I needed an outlet.”
     “Yeah, but odd choice if you’re looking to relieve stress, if it’s true that Shale is tough—”
     Charmindy lets out a laugh that borders on crazy, and her eyebrow lifts in question. “Tough? Brutal, vicious, honest. But if I’m going to go through all the trouble of concealing an art class, I’m going to take the best one available. When I found out who he was, basically this famous outlaw painter, I couldn’t say no.”
     “What’s he done?”
     She flips on her laptop. “What hasn’t he done? He started with skies, these crazy Norwegian winter storm clouds. It was intense. Then figures. There’s this entire catalog of beautiful men and women, they’re demure and lovely, but also somehow carry the ferocity of those skies he knew so well. Then there was a period with nothing, though I doubt someone like him stopped painting. Then out of nowhere, a paint- ing, black on canvas, appeared. It’s called The Starless Night. Then after that . . .” She leans back as gorgeous images rendered in thick lines tapering to thin, blending, moving, shifting my perspective of this stoic man, appear on the computer screen. “Then after that it’s like every- thing blew up, like he created the cosmos anew.”
     I scroll down to find his latest works. In each successive painting it’s like fire gives way to feathers to fish to ocean and sky. There aren’t words to describe it, other than awe.
     “See, told you. He’s—there are no words,” she echoes.
     “No words,” I repeat, wishing I could clear my schedule and spend twenty-four/seven working with Shale, because I want to paint that wordless feeling, permanently, into my life.

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About the Author

During her teens, Deirdre Riordan Hall traveled throughout the United States and Europe, developing a love for stories and a desire to connect with worlds—imagined or real—on the page.

She has written Sugar, To the Sea, Surfaced, and the Follow Your Bliss series.

When not spending time with her family, writing, or traveling, Hall is at the beach, pretending to be a mermaid.

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Enter to win one of three print copies of Pearl (USA and British Columbia only).

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