My boyfriend, Max, and I are lying on his twin bed, limbs tangled, foreheads pressed together, trying to catch our collective breath after a dizzying  forty-five-minute make-out session, when he says the three most terrifying words in the English language:

“I love you.”

Instinctively I recoil, my spine stiffening.

“Stella?” Max says, running his hand along the curve of my hip, pulling me back toward him. “Did you hear me?”

I mumble something along the lines of “mm-hmm” and try to paste on one of those mysterious Mona Lisa smiles.

Max scoots even closer and rolls slightly so that his mouth tickles the outside of my ear. “I said, ‘I love you,’ ” he whispers throatily.

I respond the only way I know how: by pulling his face against mine and kissing him deeply.

Max isn’t the first boy to tell me he loves me, but he is the first who seems to notice that I don’t say it back. My best friend Kat would point out that this is because when most guys say “I love you,” what they’re really saying is “Let’s get naked.” She warned me about Max from the start. I thought he only asked me out because he was looking for a date to the junior prom, but Kat said I should be careful, because Max had never dated a girl for fewer than six months, not even freshman year.

Excerpt© 2009 by Lara Zeises

About the book:

When Stella Madison’s food-loving parents help her land a summer job at the local newspaper, there’s only one catch: she’s expected to write about food. Luckily, Stella has Jeremy, the hot new intern at her mom’s restaurant, who’s more than happy to help. But where does that leave Stella’s boyfriend, Max, who recently dropped the L-word? And could her separated parents be cooking up romances of their own?

What people are saying:

“Sweet Life is brimming with teen appeal. Zeises has created a refreshing protagonist sure to captivate readers, who will enjoy following along as she learns about romance through food, and vice versa.”–School Library Journal

“Stella Madison’s summer of food and love is a great read full of broken hearts, broken promises, and broken eggs. A must for anyone who eats.”—E. Lockhart, author of The Boyfriend List

“This book’s got all the right ingredients: friends, family, boys, and food. The perfect summer read!”—Sarah Dessen, New York Times bestselling author of Lock and Key and Just Listen

Released: October 2010 in paperback (July 2009 in hardcover)

About the author:

Lara M. Zeises is the author of three novels for young adults. Her first, Bringing Up the Bones (2002), was named an honor book for the 2001 Delacorte Press Prize Competition. Her second, Contents Under Pressure (2004), began as her thesis project at Emerson College, where in 2001 she earned her MFA in creative writing. It has been named to the 2006 International Reading Association’s Young Adult Choices list (among others) and was voted the 2006 Delaware Blue Hen Teen Book Award winner. Lara’s third novel, Anyone But You (2005), was a Teen People Top 10 Pick. An excerpt from that project helped earn Lara a 2005 Emerging Artist Fellowship in Literature-Fiction from the Delaware Division of the Arts.

In addition to writing, Lara teaches part-time at the University of Delaware, where she received her BA in English-Journalism. She also facilitates creative writing workshops for both teens and adults.You can learn more about her by visiting her website at