"Wickedly funny. Ballsy and bold. An authentic adolescent narrator who you can't help but love. I found myself thinking about Gates long after I finished the book. I think this will be Gleacher's breakthrough book."
-- James Frey
“PARADISE RULES is hilarious, disturbing, and stylish. Gleacher writes about the untapped subject of the gray area created when a teenage boy and an older woman enter a sexual relationship. Gleacher writes about this taboo sexuality in an adventurous fashion through a 17 year old narrator who bursts with heart even during his most mischievous moments."
-- Pittacus Lore, author of the New York Times
bestseller, I AM NUMBER FOUR
"PARADISE RULES is alternately sweet and dark, exploring an older woman's sexual relationship with a teenage boy. We see the opposite all too often and Gleacher's take is unique, navigating all the confusion and destruction, yet there is humor woven into every beautiful page."
-- Jill Kargman, author of SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A NUT
"PARADISE RULES is one of the funniest and provocative coming of age novels I've ever read. Once again Jimmy Gleacher has managed to be simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious."
-- Carolyn Karasyov author of THE INFIDELITY PACT
i wish I could say I was a victim but I willingly played into the devil’s hands. My reasons weren’t always right and my justifications weren’t just, but my weaknesses were common. My name is Gates and I’ve been sexually deviant since the day I hit puberty. In the last week I almost killed one man and swindled a fortune from another but those are not my greatest sins. I’m seventeen years old and I may have just ruined my life.
I go to public school here in Boulder, Colorado, and just finished junior year. Everyone calls me Casper because I never hang out but people like me so I’m considered a friendly ghost. Nicknames are cool unless they’re stupid like mine. I also caddy at a country club and my nickname there is Fun Buns. Being a teenager can be a bitch like that but I’ve had it pretty easy. I don’t really look funny and I play a varsity sport so all I really need to do is keep my head down and do my time until I can go away to college.
I have two best friends. A girl named Melanie and a guy named Timmy Timmy Timmy. Timmy Timmy Timmy’s real name is just Timmy but his OCD makes him repeat the final word of every sentence three times so everyone calls him Timmy Timmy Timmy or 3T’s for short. Most kids would probably want to chug a bottle of drain cleaner if they had the same affliction but Timmy Timmy Timmy’s the best looking guy to have ever walked the halls of Boulder High. He’s literally a model and half the time he isn’t even in school because he’s working in New York or Los Angeles or Miami or anywhere else they need someone good-looking. He makes more money than our principal.
Not many kids want to hang out with Timmy Timmy Timmy. Speech impediments and high school go together like explosive diarrhea and international plane flights. But every month 3T’s picture is either in a fashion magazine or on the cover of a clothing catalogue so no one ever messes with him because if they did he’d steal their girlfriend faster than they could say Abercrombie & Fitch Fitch Fitch.
My other best friend is Melanie Vanleer and she’s the reason I’m sitting here today writing this all down. Until a few days ago Mel and I were a couple and for a while everything was perfect until she wanted to have sex. She’s two inches taller than me and can hit her driver two hundred and fifty yards. She’s a jock but not a tomboy because she likes to wear dresses and paint her nails. We started hanging out the spring of our sophomore year when we both made the varsity golf team. I was the number one player and she was the number five player, on the boy’s team. Some of the older guys kinda hated us for that so they ostracized us but we were outcasts by then anyway. She was an oversized jock in a world where girls were sticking toothbrushes down their throats to stay undersized and I was the loner who missed an entire year of school because his mom Chernobyled and got shipped off to the loony bin. But we had golf and the game was as much a diversion for Mel as it was for me and in each other we found a partner for our escape.
At first we didn’t kiss or flirt or even flirt with flirting but then I fell for her. She’d never be a cheerleader and she’d always be big boned but she was a beautiful athletic girl and more importantly had a soul worth loving. All the other girls in our school, even the smart and nice ones, still seemed like a work in progress while Mel carried herself like a finished product. There’s probably five hundred places I could start this story but I’ll begin from only twelve days ago when Mel and I were playing golf and she hit her ball in a sand trap. Mel was wearing a periwinkle skirt and a white sleeveless top and her arms and legs were already tan. Her shiny black hair was tied into pigtails with periwinkle ribbons. Periwinkle made her blue eyes brighter so she wore the color often. Mel was no dummy. When we got to the bunker we found her ball in a deep footprint that someone should have raked. Mel laughed at her bad luck when a lot of other people would have cussed. I picked up her ball, smoothed out the footprint and carefully placed it back in the original spot.
Mel said, “Um… I may not be the high school state champion for the third consecutive year but I’m pretty sure that’s a no-no.”
“Paradise Rules, baby.”
“Baby?” She laughed. “That’s pretty racy talk for such a prude. What the hell is Paradise Rules?”
“Paradise Rules. If you don’t like your lie you can fix it with no penalty.”
“Oh, you mean cheating.” Mel picked up her ball and dug her foot into the sand to make a new, deeper print and then put the ball back. I loved her for doing that. She opened up the face of her wedge and swung straight down at the ball and it popped onto the green and rolled right past the hole. It was a good shot and I loved her for that too. I loved her for calling me Prude and for wearing periwinkle and for using the word hell. I loved her for everything that made her who she was.
We walked up on the green and Mel squatted behind her ball and tried to determine which direction the grain would break her putt. She made a good roll at it but missed the cup on the low side by a couple of inches and she shook her head as she flipped the ball up with the back of her putter and caught it in midair. Something came over me and I blurted out, “You don’t know me, Mel. Not the real me.”
“I don’t?” Mel held the flagstick a few feet from the cup and casually stood with a hand on her hip and one foot crossed behind her ankle. I placed my ball on my mark and my hand was shaking but Mel didn’t notice because she was staring west at a long horizontal cloud covering the foothills nearby. She smiled but wanted me to putt so we could move on to the next hole. The girl loved to play fast and I loved her for that. She glanced at my ball as a signal for me to hurry up and wasn’t taking my attempted confession seriously.
I relaxed, sank the putt and we started walking to the next tee but Mel stopped short and turned on her heels and grabbed the front of my shirt. “You got three seconds to say whatever the hell it is you’re trying to tell me.”
I tried to make her let go but she was really strong. “Jesus, Mel. Calm down.”
“The fuck I will. You’ve been beating around the bush for the past three months that you want to tell me something, so tell me.” She caught me completely off guard and that had been her plan, playing it cool on the green with her hand on her hip as she stared into space all the while waiting to pounce. She’d make a great hustler, another reason to love her. All I was getting was reason after reason after reason to love her so I decided if she gave me one more reason I would tell her the whole sordid truth.
“It’s nothing, alright?”
“Pussy,” she said, and let me go. And that was the last reason I needed to love her: my girlfriend called me a pussy.
So I had to tell her, I wanted to tell her, I’d been dying to tell her but it didn’t seem realistic to tap her on the shoulder and just lay it all out. So I guess that’s what this story is all about: how I was finally able to spill my rotten guts.
We finished the round in peace and I got on my bike and rode to Harmony’s Rest, a retirement home where I read to senior citizens. Phyllis, the woman who gave me the volunteer job, was waiting with a copy of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening
. She was seventy-five and not too many years away from living in the home herself but she was pissed at me and any woman who’s angry, young or old, is a force to be reckoned with.
Phyllis greeted me with a scowl and a pointed finger. “What made you think you could read them a book about the mafia and I wouldn’t find out? These people are fragile. You can’t fill their heads with hit men and pistols. Mrs. Green woke up the entire floor screaming in the middle of the night because she thought a man named Carlo was trying to lock her in the trunk of his car.” She crossed her arms, lowered her chin and stared me down, but then in a friendlier tone added, “If you’re not going to follow my rules, this won’t work.”
I felt badly about Mrs. Green but everyone hated The Awakening
and asked me to sneak in “racier” material. “Can I at least read them something from this century?”
Phyllis handed me The Awakening
and said, “My way or the highway… Carlo.”
I headed to the dining hall where an elderly group eagerly awaited the finale of Mob Slob
, a shoot-’em-up comedy about the bumbling son (Carlo) of a mafia kingpin who botched hits on purpose because he didn’t want to murder anyone. We had one chapter left and the crowd wanted to know if Carlo was gonna flip to the feds but instead they got The Awakening
After a few pages everyone was asleep except for an old blind man named Cliff who wore big black boxy sunglasses that hid half his face. Cliff always sat right next to me and we were pals. He covered his ears and said, “Stop! What happened to Carlo?”
“The gig is up, Cliff.”
He grimaced. “It was Greeny, wasn’t it? I knew she was a weak link.” One thing about retirement homes, the people move slowly but the gossip doesn’t. “Bring in something saucy tomorrow. I’ll handle Greeny.”
I looked around the room. Two of the napping seniors had drool dripping down their chins. “I can’t, Cliff. I promised Phyllis I wouldn’t.”
Cliff patted my knee and said, “There’s...