Suzy K Quinn
Queen Bee - Pre-launch Sample
Updated: Jan 4, 2022
Lovely readers! I am writing children's / young adult fiction this year, and THIS is my latest book - Queen Bee, aimed at school-aged girls (but fun for adults too). Please have a read, and feel free to email and let me know what age group you think it suits best. Love you! xx
St Valentine’s is a school for nice young ladies. All the girls here are kind and considerate to one another. Yeah, right.
When new girl, Scarlett, joins St Valentine’s School, she’s eager to make friends. Little does she know that queen bee, Lottie, decides who’s in or out. If Lottie doesn’t like you, no one likes you.
And Lottie doesn’t like Scarlett.
But Scarlett is no pushover. She’s strong. And she may just end up taking Lottie’s crown.
‘A fascinating look at school-girl relationships, and what a heart-warming ending! You’ll want to read this over and over again.’
‘When a young queen bee is born, she seeks out rival queens and kills them.’
This is what pupils are supposed to wear at St Valentine’s School for Girls:
Navy blazer with St Valentine’s logo
Navy skirt (must cover the knee)
Black leather lace-up shoes (no sports shoes, Velcro or heels)
Stiff collared shirt and tie
Hair must be tied back in a navy hairband.
Here’s what I wore on my first day:
A blue tie-dyed t-shirt (not quite navy, but not far off)
Jeans (dark indigo with no rips)
Cowboy boots (the only black leather shoes I own)
Obviously, I should have worn school uniform, but my mother forgot to order it on time.
When I arrived at the school gates, everyone stared at me, open-mouthed.
The St Valentine’s girls wore perfect, navy uniforms with shiny black shoes. Their school bags matched. Their hairbands matched. Their gleaming ponytails swung as they walked.
My hair sat in a frizzy, red cloud around my shoulders, having fought against three hair elastics and won.
It was crazy how different this place was from my New York school, where boys and girls turned up in their own clothes, shouting, laughing and whizzing along on scooters.
When I was halfway across the basketball court, a short, shrivelled woman charged towards me.
‘Excuse me!’ The woman flapped her hands like she was trying to put out a fire. ‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’
‘I’m the new girl,’ I said. ‘Scarlett King. It’s great to meet a teacher –’
‘I’m not a teacher.’ The woman’s forehead pinched into a riverbed of wrinkles. ‘I’m Mrs Brawn. The office manager. And I can’t possibly let you into school dressed like this.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘Mom … I mean, Mum didn’t order my school uniform on time. She works long hours and –’
‘Are you American?’ asked Mrs Brawn, sounding suspicious.
‘No, I’m British,’ I said. ‘But we lived in New York for five years so I guess … I suppose I’ve picked up the accent.’ I gave a little laugh. ‘You know, it’s funny. In the US, they thought I sounded British. But here, everyone thinks I’m American.’
Mrs Brawn didn’t smile. ‘You can’t wear those clothes here.’ She smoothed her clipped, grey hair around her sticky-out ears. ‘Miss Miel would never allow denim into St Valentine’s school.’
‘Who’s Miss Miel?’ I asked.
‘The headmistress.’ Mrs Brawn looked appalled. ‘We’ll have to find you something from lost property. Come this way.’
Mrs Brawn led me through a warren of corridors, and into an office that smelt like disinfectant. Then she pulled out a plastic box of stained clothes and rummaged inside.
‘You’re very tall,’ said Mrs Brawn, like I was being tall on purpose. ‘And thin. I’m not sure anything in here will fit. We need to make sure your knees are covered.’
Mrs Brawn handed me a grey skirt, then frowned at my messy red hair. ‘Now what can we do about your hair? It isn’t tied back. Or brushed.’
I put a hand to my red curls. Many good brushes have been lost in these tangles.
‘I was running late this morning so –’
‘Timekeeping is very important at this school,’ said Mrs Brawn.
I swallowed. ‘Okay.’
I’m not good with time-keeping.
In the end, I had to wear a skirt five times too big around the waist, just to make sure my offensive knees were covered. Then I was marched along more corridors to a gloomy-looking classroom.
‘You should come here for registration every morning,’ said Mrs Brawn, pulling the classroom door open. ‘In America, you would call this a homeroom. But here, it is a form room, and Mrs Singh is your form teacher. Do you understand?’
‘Yes.’ I nodded.
Mrs Brawn called into the classroom: ‘Mrs Singh? I have the new girl for you. I found her wandering around the playground in denim and cowboy boots. She’s still wearing the boots, I’m sad to say. But I’ve smartened her up the best I can. She’s American.’
I felt totally exposed as I walked into the classroom.
Dozens of faces stared at me.
‘Welcome, Scarlett.’ Mrs Singh gave me a warm smile, dimples appearing in her chubby, brown cheeks. She wore the kind of stretchy, comfortable clothing you buy with your groceries and had a loose ponytail glittering with grey sparkles.
I noticed posters about feelings and emotions on the walls and a cosy corner with beanbags and a bookshelf.
‘Hi.’ I gave the class an awkward wave.
‘I’ll be your form tutor, Scarlett,’ said Mrs Singh. ‘I teach personal and social education and I’m also school counsellor. So if you ever want to talk to someone, I have a private office right over there.’ She pointed to a brown door.
‘Thank you,’ I said.
‘Are you American?’ Mrs Singh asked.
‘Um, I’m not exactly from America.’ I heard the door slam behind me. ‘My family are from London, but we lived in New York so –’
‘Girls!’ Mrs Singh turned to the class. ‘Are we going to make Scarlett feel welcome?’
‘Yes, Mrs Singh,’ the girls chanted.
‘Wonderful,’ said Mrs Singh. ‘Now, where should I sit you?’ She looked around the class. Her eyes fell on a short, perfectly groomed girl, with a pointy face and shiny brown hair.
‘Yes, Mrs Singh?’ the girl trilled.
‘You’ll look after Scarlett, won’t you?’
Lottie looked at me. Really looked at me, her sharp, blue eyes taking in my messy hair, saggy, skipping rope skirt and scuffed cowboy boots. She nudged the large, blonde girl beside her, and they both shared a smile.
The blonde girl muttered, ‘Yee ha!’
Then Lottie sat up extra straight, cleared her throat like she was making a speech and said:
‘Actually, Mrs Singh, I’m quite busy with the dance competition right now. So maybe it’s better if someone else looks after the new girl.’
Mrs Singh frowned. ‘But really Lottie, you’re our head girl –’
A hand shot up at the back of the class.
‘I’ll look after Scarlett,’ said a cheerful girl with a long, black fishtail braid.
‘Thank you, Amina,’ said Mrs Singh.
The girl gave me a huge smile, showing very white teeth. She had dark brown skin, and her uniform was a little baggy – probably because she was so skinny. There was a crossword puzzle on her desk and she held a pen shaped like a feather.
Beside Amina sat a very pale, overweight girl with lumpy, brown hair that made her look … well, sort of old. She seemed a little frightened.
When I reached Amina’s desk, the pale girl said: ‘Greetings, Scarlett. Did you eat hot dogs for lunch in New York? Did you watch Broadway shows at the weekend? Did you wear your own clothes to school? Did you play baseball?’
Amina laughed. ‘Give Scarlett a chance to sit down, Marianne.’
‘It’s fine.’ I smiled back. ‘I don’t mind the questions at all.’
At least someone was being friendly.
After registration, I was taken to an empty classroom to complete maths and English tests. Then the bell rang for break time, and I was sent into the playground with the other girls.
That’s the worst part of starting a new school – break and lunchtime. At first, you have no one to hang out with.
I wandered around the school grounds for a while, feeling lost and out of place. Then I stumbled across a dance studio. It was right behind the science block, doors wide open, with a ballet barre, mirrors and shiny rubber floor.
Some girls were inside the studio, practising a really boring looking dance routine.
As I came closer, I saw Lottie, the head girl.
‘Hey!’ I waved from the doorway. ‘Wow, this studio is so cool. I’m glad I found this place. I love dancing. Can I join you?’
Lottie frowned, and all the other girls stared.
Then the large, blonde girl beside Lottie said: ‘You’re the new girl, right? Your family moved into that massive house at the end of our street.’
‘Err … I mean, maybe. Our new house is pretty big –’
‘My dad sold your family that house,’ said the girl. ‘He works in property. You have a swimming pool, right?’
‘Sort of,’ I said. ‘Actually, the pool is … I mean, does it really matter where I live? I just wondered if I could dance with you.’
‘Sorry,’ said Lottie. ‘We don’t take cowgirls.’
Her friends held back smirks.
‘Oh, right.’ I gave a good-natured smile, looking down at my boots. ‘My school uniform didn’t come in time, so … believe me, these boots are temporary. I can take them off for dancing –’
‘You can’t dance with us,’ said Lottie.
‘Why not?’ I asked.
‘Look, can you just go away,’ said Lottie, fixing me with hard blue eyes. ‘We’re trying to practise for a very important dance contest.’
I stood there for a moment, not quite knowing what to say. I’ve had my fair share of rejections in life, but usually, people are nicer about it.
‘Um … okay,’ I heard myself say. ‘No big deal.’
As I wandered away, Amina came hurrying over, smiling and waving.
‘Scarlett! There you are. We’ve been looking for you everywhere. Marianne and I thought you might want to play chess. We have our own travel set.’
‘Sure,’ I smiled. ‘That sounds great.’
My nickname at school is Little Miss Perfect. Which is funny, because my life is far from perfect.
My parents go to marriage therapy, I need a tutor to help with mathematics and I’m really short for my age. Also, I have bad eyesight and it’s getting worse.
Everyone thinks I’m perfect because I work really, really hard. I do extra schoolwork every evening, dance training at break times and Dad makes word games to help my vocabulary.
This year, I’ve already won the school swimming gala, a short story competition and an English award. Oh, and Miss Miel made me head girl.
I’m always top of the class, but only because I put in lots of extra work. I want to be the best. Winning is important to me. I come from a very competitive family.
My big sister wins everything, but it’s easier for her. She’s naturally clever and sporty. No one ever thinks Cassandra and I are sisters. Cassandra is tall, blonde and athletic, whereas I’m small and brown-haired with a pointy face and thin lips.
Maybe having Cassandra as a sister makes me more competitive. I don’t know. All I know is, I don’t feel that great about myself most of the time and winning makes me feel better.
Some people say I’m competitive about friendships too, but I don’t think that’s true.
Here’s the way I look at things.
Some people are A people, and some are B people. That’s not me being mean. It’s just how things are. You can’t be friends with everybody.
I’m not saying the A people are better than the B people. I’m just saying, you can only have so many important people in your life.
Farrah, Primrose and Sophie are my A people.
Farrah moved to Hiverstock three years ago and we just totally hit it off. She’s my very best friend. My number one. Farrah is tall and blonde like my sister, and really funny.
I’ve known Primrose and Sophie since nursery. We didn’t hang out as much until Farrah moved here, but now the four of us are always together.
Primrose has reddish-brown hair, which is nearly chin-length now. She used to have short hair, like a boy, and wear baseball caps and oversized hoodies. But since Farrah came along, Primrose wears ballet shoes and tight jeans like the rest of us and is growing her hair. I think because she’s sick of Farrah teasing her.
Sophie – how do I describe Sophie? She looks like a princess, with bright blue eyes and the longest brown, curly hair. She has amazing clothes and is always so well turned out. Just perfect. And she’s really sweet and kind. I can’t imagine her falling out with anyone.
So they’re my A girls. The ones I picked for my dance squad and invite to cinema dates and sleepovers. We spend every break and lunch together and go to the pizza park every weekend.
The pizza park is just the local park, but there are food places by the lake.
I suppose the park could just as easily be called the baked potato park or the hot sausage park. But since we all love the wood-fired pizza, we call it the pizza park.
In the summer, Farrah, Primrose, Sophie and I get pizza every Saturday and practise our dancing by the lake. There’s a big dance contest coming up, and we need every spare moment. Sometimes the girls moan about practising so much, but they understand we need to put in the time.
Then there are B people. The girls I invite to birthday parties and play sports with and that kind of thing. I like them, but they’re not part of my inner circle.
Everyone else – I don’t really notice.
Actually, that’s not true. I did notice someone today. The new girl, Scarlett King. Oh my god, what a show-off.
Of course, we’d all heard about Scarlett before she started school because her family bought the biggest house in the village.
Four Chimneys has seven bedrooms, a swimming pool, a garden kitchen and its own woodlands. Farrah’s dad told us all about it because he was the agent who sold it to Scarlett’s family.
‘That family must be doing well for themselves,’ he said.
Full of themselves, more like.
Scarlett asked to join my dance squad today. I mean, who does she think she is? Just because she has a big house, doesn’t mean she can just push her way in.
I was like, no, sorry. See you later.
Maybe it was a little unfriendly, but honestly, I have so many things on my mind right now – what with my optician’s appointment and the dance contest and everything.
Every year, the Dolores Rush Dance Academy holds a contest to find ‘exceptional dance talent’. Usually, only dance schools can enter, but Miss Miel knows Dolores Rush personally, so our school enters too.
Miss Miel chooses my squad every year for the contest. We haven’t won yet, but we have a great routine this year and the girls are working hard on their fitness. No one works as hard as me, of course, but they’re getting there.
Dance contest winners get huge cash prizes, so it’s a big deal. The best solo act also receives a scholarship to the Dolores Rush Dance Academy, but I’m not interested in moving schools. Nor are Farrah, Primrose or Sophie. We’re happy enough to win the money and stay at St Valentine’s.