Extracts

The Callback by Maddie Ziegler

The glittering sequel to Maddie Ziegler's debut, The Callback sees Harper loving life in her new group, the . But with her spot on the dance team, school, and a starring role in the school musical, will Harper be able to keep her balance?

The Callback book with dance paraphernalia

“Yes,” I said. I’ll do it.”

Mrs. Elliott’s face lit up.

With Mrs. Elliott thanking me profusely, I left the room to go to lunch.

“Ack!” I bumped right into Lily. She was waiting in the hallway. She usually met me after English so we could walk into lunch together. I’d met Lily the day of my DanceStarz audition, and I was happy she’d made the Squad too. And we went to the same school—so we were newbies there, too. We didn’t have any of the same classes, but at least we got to have lunch together.

“Oh, sorry you had to wait for me,” I apologized. “Mrs. Elliott wanted to talk to me.”

“I didn’t mean to spy, but that didn’t look like talking,” Lily said. “That looked like dancing!”

I lowered my voice into a whisper.

“It was,” I whispered. “That was so unexpected.”

I told her how Mrs. Elliot had asked me to be in the school musical. And how I’d said yes.

“Harper, it sounds fun, but aren’t you already crazy busy?” Lily asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “I probably should have said no, but…it actually sounds really cool. It’s just one dance. Plus, I’ll be a solo dancer! And I love The Little Mermaid!”

“I love The Little Mermaid too,” Lily agreed—and then I realized something. Maybe Lily would want the chance to be in the musical, herself.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so selfish,” I said. “Do you want to try to dance in the show? We can ask Mrs. Elliott.”

“Uh, no, thank you,” Lily said firmly. “I have enough with the Squad and helping at Sugar Plums. The store is getting so busy!”

I was happy the store was doing great. Lily moved here because her parents bought a really cute frozen yogurt store. It was right next to DanceStarz, which made it super convenient for us to go over after lessons. Lily’s parents even let me test out new flavours sometimes, like this berry hibiscus one I was now obsessing over.

“I’ll come watch you in the play, though,” Lily said. “A dance solo! Ooh, I wonder what you’re going to wear! Maybe you’re a mermaid!”

“Maybe!” I said. “Or maybe I’m something awful. Like an enormous clam.”

“Maybe that’s why the other dancer dropped out. She was like, I am not wearing an enormous clam,” Lily said. We both started laughing.

I was still smiling when I walked into the lunchroom. We sat with Riley, who was one of the other three girls on our dance team. Our other teammates, Megan and Trina, went to our rival school. The three of them had been dancing together since they were little, and their nickname was the Bunheads. If you think it was hard being new in that situation – you’re right.

Despite all that, at our first competition, we’d come together and come in third! I think we were getting along a little better outside of the studio too, which was nice.

Riley was sitting with her friend Naima, who also went to DanceStarz and was on a different dance team. I put my lunch on the table and Lily and I sat down across from them.

“Look who’s awake from her nap!” Riley laughed.

“Huh?” Lily looked back and forth at us, confused.

In the excitement of getting to do the solo dance in the play, I’d forgotten about the falling-asleep-in-class part. Ugh.

“Oh, you didn’t hear?” Riley said. “Harper fell asleep in English and she was, like, drooling all over her desk.”

“WHAT? I wasn’t drooling,” I protested as Riley and Naima were cracking up.

“And making little snoring noises,” Naima said cheerfully.

“Our teacher was like, ‘Harper! You are embarrassing your- self! Wake yourself up!’”

“That is not what happened,” I assured Lily while pouring my granola into the yoghurt a little too aggressively. Granola spluttered over the side.

“How would you know that if you were asleep?” Riley asked.

She had a point, but I did not even want to think about it.

“And then Mrs. Elliott made her stay after class!” Naima said, like it was some hot take. “Harper, did you get in trouble? Did you get detention?

“Detention?” Riley asked. “Uh-oh, do you have to miss Squad rehearsal? Should I text Megan and Trina that you’re not coming?”

She pulled out her phone to text the other two Bunheads and waved it at me tauntingly.

“Ahem.” one of the lunch monitors appeared behind her. “Cell phones need to stay in your locker. If I see that again, I’ll have to give you detention.”

Lily and I glanced at each other, but then had to look away so we wouldn’t crack up.

“Sorry,” Riley muttered and shoved her phone back into her pocket.

“Karma!” Lily said. “You might be the one getting detention, not Harper.”

“Whatever,” Riley muttered.

“Harper, if you didn’t get detention, why did Elliott make you stay after? Ooh! Is she going to flunk you?” Naima said breathlessly. “If you flunk English, will your parents be like, Oh no, Harper is grounded from all extracurriculars, and then you’ll get kicked off the Squad, and no offence, that would be great because I could try out for your spot!”

“Gee, thanks, Naima, for your support. But I’m not flunking English,” I said, aggressively stirring my yoghurt so hard it spilled over the edges. “And I’m not giving up my spot.”

“Yeah, nobody’s taking Harper’s spot,” Lily declared. “Harper is one of the very best dancers in the whole studio.”

“Do you think you’re going to get the solo, Harper?” Naima asked me, totally putting me on the spot.

“I…” Before I could come up with an answer for that, Riley jumped in.

“Megan is getting the solo,” Riley said. “It’s totally going to be Megan.”

“I think it’s going to be Harper,” Lily said. “Have you seen her newest turn series? It’s epic.”

“All five of us are good competitors,” I said diplomatically. “We all might have a shot.”

“Uh, not Riley!” Naima said, a little too cheerfully.

Riley looked sadly at her hand. I did feel sorry for her. Her hand was definitely healing, but still not 100 per cent.

At our first competition, things had gotten a little stressful. The Bunheads’ former best friends, nicknamed “The Bells,” had joined a rival team, Energii. Right before DanceStarz was about to go on, there was drama and Megan had accidentally stepped on Riley’s hand. We had to change up our whole routine at the last second. Riley had healed enough for her to dance, but only as long she didn’t put pressure on her hand, which meant she still couldn’t do any of her show-stopping tricks she was known for, like her hand-walking and handsprings. Not to mention her jazz hands.

“Riley is still a good dancer,” I pointed out. “So are Lily and Trina.”

“Oh, you know it’s pretty much going to be between you and Megan,” Naima said. “Everyone on our team is talking about it. Most people are betting on Megan.”

Vanessa was going to assign each of us a solo dance we would work on ourselves. After we learned it, she would have us “audition” for the solo part in the next competition.

“I’m going to try my best,” I said, and took a sip of my lemonade juice pack to calm down the butterflies in my stomach. “I’m sure we all will.”

Any solo you get to perform at a competition is a big deal. But this one felt even more special. Since the Squad was the first ever select team at DanceStarz, this would be the FIRST EVER solo in the entire history of the Squad. The person who got this solo would basically be making DanceStarz history!

And I wanted it.

I wanted the solo really badly.

Lily kicked me under the table, and then tilted her head toward the clock over the lunch table. 11:10! We had a tradition, ever since the first time we met. We both watched the clock until it turned…

11:11—make a wish! I saw Lily close her eyes. I closed my eyes too and made a wish.

I wished I would get the competition solo.

I wondered if Lily was wishing for that, too.

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