Adam Sass’s upcoming book The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers won’t hit shelves until this Fall, but its charming premise and fairytale feel mean that it’s a title that anyone who enjoys a good romantic comedy needs to put on their to-be-read list immediately.
This breezy contemporary YA romance from the author of Surrender Your Sons follows the story of the titular Micah Summers, an artsy teen who runs a popular Instagram full of drawings where he sketches out fairy tale versions of every guy he’s ever had a crush on. But since he’s too nervous to ask any guys out for real, that’s where they all stay—imaginary. Until an ill-fated meeting with “Boy 100”, which inspires him to embark on a Prince Charming-like quest to find true love in real life.
Here’s how the publisher describes the story.
Micah is rich, dreamy, and charming. As the “Prince of Chicago,”—the son of local celebrity sports radio host known as the King of Chicago—he has everything going for him. Unfortunately, he’s also the prince of imaginary meet-cutes, since he’s too nervous to actually ask boys out.
Instead, Micah draws each crush to share on Instagram with a post about their imaginary dates. Ninety-nine “boyfriends” later, his account is hugely popular, and everyone is eagerly awaiting Boy 100. So is Micah. He’s determined that Boy 100 will be different. This time, Micah will sweep the boy off his feet, for real!
So when Micah flirts with a hot boy on the L who’s wearing a vegan leather jacket and lugging a ton of library books, he is sure this is Boy 100. But right before he can make his move and ask for the boy’s number, the guy rushes off the train, leaving behind his pumpkin-embroidered jacket. The jacket holds clues to the boy’s identity, so Micah and his friends set off on a quest to return it. Along the way, Micah will discover that the best relationships aren’t fairy tales. In fact, the perfect fit—and true love—might be closer than he thinks.
The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers won’t hit shelves until September 20,, 2022, but in honor of Pride Month, we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from this charming queer romance to help tide you over until then.
Vanishing into Audrey’s hectic crowds allows my humiliation to fade. These people don’t know or care how horrifically I just embarrassed myself in front of Andy McDermott.
Deeper inside the brick-walled café, my sister, Maggie, waves to Hannah and me in a mob of other lost souls waiting for their lattes. She already ordered ours. Despite our family having enough money for an ample wardrobe, Maggie and I end up wearing the same things all the time like we’re cartoon characters. With choppy chestnut hair and skin as pale white as a marble column, Maggie is dressed in her typical head-to-toe athleisure. I’m in my white gay uniform: fashionable joggers and a cheap black tank covered in paint smudges. Meanwhile, Hannah is far more style sensitive, dripping in yet another Instagrammable ensemble: jeweled, horn-rimmed glasses and a teal pencil skirt with matching short-sleeved blouse.
Hannah and I budge through a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd to wait against the bar with Maggie.
“Why were you two outside staring into a trash can?” my sister asks.
“Another discarded Boy 100,” Hannah says with a pitying glance.
Maggie’s expression deflates. “What was wrong with that one? Just pick a crush already and post it. Your followers are gonna get bored waiting.”
I stiffen. Maggie is headed into her second year of college for sports medicine—an artist and influencer she is not.
“What’s that look for?” Maggie’s lips tighten. “Oh, I should mind my own business?”
I shrug and wave my hands through the air as I search for the most delicate way to put this: “I’m trying to find The One. I can’t ‘just pick a crush already.’ ”
Maggie holds up “Fine, do it your way” hands, and Hannah sneaks farther down the counter to find her friend Elliot, a short, chubby, white barista with shaggy, hay-colored hair only a few shades darker than his complexion. He announces the next drink—“Cinnamon cold brew!”—while people complain about how long they’ve been waiting. Several of them loudly remember that cinnamon cold brew being ordered long after they ordered their much-easier-to-make drinks. Everyone is a coffee expert, apparently.
While Elliot mutters apologies and returns to his milk steamer, I spot my unmade chai among a line of cups that stretches down the bar all the way to the register.
Poor guy. The line is utterly endless, utterly hopeless.
Maggie turns to me with a crooked eyebrow. “Let me guess,” she asks, “you threw away your sketch without letting Hannah or anyone else see it?”
I blow her a kiss, praying she doesn’t pry the whole story out of me. Luckily, I didn’t crush on Andy long enough for anyone but Hannah to know about it.
“I don’t get it with you and not showing anyone your stuff,” Maggie says.
“It’s just a thing I’m weird about, okay?” I ask. “What did you think all those private art classes last year were about?”
Maggie shrugs. “I know, it’s just been a while, and with Instaloves blowing up, I thought you got over that hurdle of showing people your stuff.”
“Instaloves’ followers don’t know it’s me.”
Maggie and I have this argument at least once a month, so she either has selective amnesia, or she’s trying to wear down my resolve like a hostage negotiator.
Hannah waves me over, so I leave Maggie to post her running stats to Instagram Stories.
“Maggie getting under your skin?” Hannah asks with a hint of a smile.
“A liiiittle.” I groan. “She won’t let up about me not showing anyone my sketches.”
“She just wants to toughen you up. Maybe get you to finally ask out one of those boys?”
Acid returns to my stomach, and I feel the blood leave my face. Hannah must have ray vision for when I’m Feeling a Certain Type of Way, because she takes my hand.
“Was it that bad?” she asks.
I sigh. “I couldn’t do it. I almost did it, but . . . how am I ever gonna keep myself together around a boy to have a basic conversation? Like, my body fully rejected the whole situation.”
Hannah rises on her tiptoes to kiss my forehead. A pleasant chill travels down my neck. “I’m sorry I don’t have any advice,” she says. “I’m not a chaser. I’m the chasee. Join me on this side!”
We laugh and then groan. At least we have each other.
As we wait, Elliot’s manager emerges from the kitchen behind him. She’s an imperious, sunburned white woman in a crisp, neat button-down with her ponytail pulled back tightly, the way that balds ballerinas from traction alopecia. “Elliot, when’s your break?” she asks.
“In ten minutes,” he replies, never once pausing his breathless work. The manager says nothing. She surveys her remaining employees, but all of them look too harried to have the bandwidth to take over for Elliot.
“Uh, I could just skip my break and keep going,” Elliot says, defeated.
“Thanks for being a team player,” the manager says, giving Elliot’s shoulder a chipper little squeeze like they’re best girlfriends. Hannah throws death glares at the manager as she disappears into the kitchen without offering to help.
I wince at the endless crawl of drinks still to be made. I’m exhausted on Elliot’s behalf. All these summer crowds, and we’re not even at Taste of Chicago levels yet.
In just over a month, the historic lakeshore food festival will draw citizens out from under their air conditioners to feast on samples from some of the trendiest food-makers in the country (by law, Chicagoans do not recognize New York in this assessment). The Taste is fabulous if you’re there to taste. However, if you work in food service, it’s the stuff of nightmares, as it takes a sweltering, angry city and magically triples its population overnight.
The Taste is gonna drive poor Elliot nuts.
Although right now, he seems unshakable by this chaos. Or maybe he’s just steady like that. I wouldn’t know. He’s newer in town. We go to different schools, so we mostly know each other as Hannah’s other gay best friend. Frankly, I get enviously silent whenever his name comes up.
Not that he’s ever done anything to deserve those feelings. Last summer, he and Hannah met interning at the same vet clinic. She couldn’t emotionally handle all the sick and homeless pets, but it’s Elliot’s dream job, so he coached her through the hard stuff. It only took them a month to become as inseparable as she and I have been since birth.
Of Hannah’s two best friends, he’s the sweet one. He’d never dream of being weird about showing Hannah his artwork.
That’s probably why Elliot has a boyfriend, and you don’t.
My fingertips turn tingly and numb. To distract myself from today’s rejection, I open Instaloves and scroll through my old sketches. There’s Headphones Boy dancing by himself on the L and my story about the bohemian apartment in Boystown we would’ve shared, creating music and art every day. Then there’s AP Bio Boy with the high-and-tight haircut, who bumped into me after his late basketball practice. In that post, I changed his sport of choice to skiing, and he swept me off to an Alpine chalet where he confidently schussed me around the mountain at twilight.
I started Instaloves for myself, but surprisingly, other people found my posts and connected with the anonymous, whimsical drawings. People seemed to need the fantasy, especially when the world isn’t built around love like ours. Queers have to make our own magical stories from scratch, and I’m going to do whatever I can to help queer people dream.
A weary world deserves a little dreaming.
“Maybe Maggie’s right,” Hannah says. “Fish that old drawing out of the trash and give it a redo. I want you to keep your momentum. People are excited for Boy 100!” Her brassy voice carries so loudly, it can be heard over the whistle of Elliot’s milk frother. A few people spin around with nosy interest.
“No so loud,” I whisper, my neck retreating into my shoulders like a turtle. “I don’t want Elliot to overhear it’s me.”
“Oh no . . .” Wincing, Hannah glances at Elliot as he free-pours a cappuccino. “I told him.”
“I didn’t know, like, zero people could know.”
“What’s wrong now, Baby Boo-Boo?” Maggie asks, rejoining us. My back tenses like a cat at her favorite nickname for me—as in Crybaby Micah got another boo-boo. I ignore her.
Elliot’s hands move between drinks as gracefully as a dancer. Without dropping speed, he glances at me and whispers, “It’ll be our secret! Your Instaloves sketches are gorgeous—congrats.”
Warmth rises in my cheeks. Reluctantly, I smile. “Thank you, Elliot.”
“Brandon’s the art critic, but I think they’re awesome.”
My smile dies. Translation: I also told my boyfriend, and he thinks you’re trash.
I try not to growl. I guess it’s fine if Sweet, Perfect, Never-Makes-a-Mistake Elliot knows.
He dumps ice into a tray of four large iced coffees, but as he calls out the order, the tray dips. He steadies it, heaves a sigh, and blows a curl out of his eyes. As he calls out the drinks again, a large, mustachioed man barges through the crowd and thrusts an open cup of coffee at him. “This is cold!” the man grunts, and Elliot flinches.
The tray tips again.
I hold my breath, but Elliot balances it.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Elliot says patiently. “I can make you another one.”
“And wait another thirty minutes?” The man scoffs at the crowd, as if he expects us to join him in attacking Elliot. “How about you make it right the first time?”
“I’ll pour yours fresh right now. It’ll take a sec—”
“Just refund me.” Again, the man thrusts his coffee at Elliot.
His hands twitch.
The coffee tray drops.
There’s nothing to do but watch all four drinks plummet to the floor, exploding one after the other like water balloons. Everyone leaps backward, including Elliot, who slaps his hands to his mouth as he surveys the aftermath: the area around the counter is a bloody battlefield of creamed coffee, ice cubes, and decapitated lids.
“I’m soaked!” the man with the mustache barks. I only see faint dark splashes on his pants. He’s being a total drama queen.
Elliot was doing so well with the drinks; he was a blur of productivity. Now he’s standing there in shock, everyone watching him angrily, all because this ogre barged into his space.
The manager emerges once again from the kitchen. Her nostrils flare at Elliot. “Clean it—I’m taking over bar.” As she fastens her milk-stained apron, Elliot rushes to fetch a mop.
“That kid better pay my cleaning bill,” the man shouts.
The manager nods as she steams milk. “We’ll make it right, sir.” Narrowing her eyes, she spins on Elliot, who is wheeling a mop bucket from the back. “Elliot, this is like the hundredth time with you. It’s gonna have to start coming out of your check.”
Elliot doesn’t speak. His lower lip quivers as he huffs deliberately slow breaths.
My heart implodes for him. An hour ago, this was how I looked: silently begging the universe to make me disappear.
Anger rises in me like a balloon.
That cretin made Elliot spill those coffees, but now Elliot has to pay for it?
I step forward into the sea of spilled coffee and ice cubes, and I thrust two twenty-dollar bills at Mr. Mustache. “Hey, it was an accident. Get them cleaned on me. Take your bad attitude over there; see if they’ll put up with you. Oh, and your coffee went cold because you put cream in it. That’s what cream is supposed to do.”
I swear, the man’s mustache turns white as a smattering of customers applaud behind him. He snatches the bills from my hand and stalks off, muttering, “Millennials . . .”
“We’re Gen Z, by the way!” I yell after him.
Hannah and Maggie watch me with surprise. I’m a little surprised at myself.
I just confronted a stranger! That’s a first.
Elliot works too hard to be spoken to that way, and even if he wasn’t working hard, he doesn’t deserve that attitude. No one does. Elliot smiles in my direction before rounding the corner with a bucket and a wet floor sign. “Thank you,” he whispers as he mops.
“Gay solidarity,” I whisper. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Prince Charming after all, huh?”
As Elliot’s compliment hits my ears, my fingertips buzz. My feet aren’t fidgeting. No weight shifting back and forth. Strangely, my shoes are firmly planted on the ground.
I can’t help smiling.
Just now, in a room full of people, I tapped into something strong. Confidence?
Suddenly, everything makes sense. I can’t be the chasee like Hannah. If I wait for someone else to make the first move, I’ll be waiting forever. I’ve got to be Prince Charming. I don’t have to be nervous, dateless Micah Summers when I ask out Boy 100. I don’t have to worry what people think of me. It’s a role I can play.
Instaloves is me playing an anonymous role, so why can’t I play someone else in my mind if it helps silence my nerves asking the next boy out? Not, like, pretending to be someone I’m not, just a little mental switch to get my confidence up.
Whoever you are, Boy 100, wherever you are, get ready to meet the prince!
EXCERPT – THE 99 BOYFRIENDS OF MICAH SUMMERS by Adam Sass . On sale September 20, 2022 Copyright © 2022 by Dovetail Fiction, a division of Working Partners Limited.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.