Marianne Musgrove

As a soldier’s daughter, Romola has changed schools five times, always having to make new friends … and now enemies. Meanwhile, Sebastian’s mum is about to make the biggest mistake of their lives, unless Sebastian can find his dad in time to stop her.

Thrown together by chance, these two thirteen-year-olds set out to even the score. But once that big old ball of revenge starts rolling down the hill, there’s not an awful lot they can do to stop it … or is there?

If you found the perfect way to pay someone back, would you do it?BGR_Teachers_Notes



The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge by Marianne Musgrove
‘Revenge is sweet and not fattening.’
– Alfred Hitchcock

Chapter One
Friday morning, 15 April
Subject: Urgent!

Hi Dad
You there? Found out something really bad. Went a bit mental. Did something extreme. Possibly maybe went too far. Please call ASAP on mobile. I’m not home. I’m in Canberra.
Last few months’ emails bounced back. Really hope this makes it through.
Love Seb


‘Those who plot the destruction of others often perish in the attempt.’
– Thomas Moore

Chapter Two
Friday evening, 15 April

‘Mum, you’re doing the lipless thing again.’

We’re in the car parked outside Riley’s place and Mum’s staring out the window, lips pressed together so tightly they’ve disappeared inside her mouth. If she’s not careful, her entire face will be sucked into itself like a black hole.


She blinks, releasing her lips with a smack. ‘Sorry, I was miles away.’

‘You don’t have to worry about me, you know. I’m not going to stuff things up like last time. This is the new and improved me, remember?’

New And Improved Romola
is cool, calm and collected
does not feel compelled to share bizarre factoids she has read on the internet
laughs in a delicate, feminine way that does not sound like a cross between a vuvuzela and a seal giving birth
always observes others closely so that she can fit in and
MOST important of all: does NOT draw attention to herself

‘It’s not that, darling,’ says Mum. ‘I was thinking of something else.’ Her lips disappear again and I realise she’s not worrying about me, she’s worrying about Dad. The fears I’ve tried so hard to bury the past few months unearth themselves. Dad. Afghanistan. Stray bullets. Bombs. If I don’t get these bad thoughts under control, they’ll multiply. Believe me, I know, and since I’m not a huge fan of bad thoughts, I do a little trick I like to call burialisation.
Step One: Imagine a cemetery.
Step Two: Dig a hole.
Step Three: Throw in any bad thoughts or feelings.
Step Four: Cover with dirt.
Step Five: Erect a headstone.
Step Six: Walk away. Congratulations, you are now free of your bad thoughts!

Only this time they’re not being as cooperative as normal and I’m forced to beat them back down with a shovel.

‘I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation why Dad didn’t Skype today,’ I say, giving Mum a reassuring smile. ‘The internet’s probably fried or he had to go off base for some reason. I’m sure he’s okay.’

Mum turns to me, her brave face firmly in place. ‘You’re absolutely right, Romola. Now, go inside and enjoy yourself. You look lovely.’

I take a quick look in the mirror to make sure everything’s in order. I’m wearing the purple and red friendship band Riley made for me and some jeans Paige said were cool. My hair is in a loose bun on the top of my head the way I’ve seen Amal wear hers. It’s held in place with my peacock feather comb but it keeps slipping out – probably because I have so much hair. (I can sit on it if I tip my head right back. One day, I’m going to cut it off and have it made into a wig so that when I go grey, I can wear my wig and always have long brown hair.) As I reposition the comb, it occurs to me that this is precisely the kind of weird thing New And Improved Romola would not talk about. I file my wig plans under ‘Topics To Avoid’ and open the car door.

‘Oh, and love,’ says Mum, touching my arm, ‘there’s nothing wrong with the old Romola. And you didn’t stuff up anything, okay? What happened at school last year wasn’t your fault.’

‘Hm,’ I say, not wanting to get into it. School Last Year takes up a whole row of headstones in my imaginary cemetery, right next to School The Year Before and School The Year Before That.

‘Thanks for the lift, Mum. See you at 10.30.’

I climb out of the car awkwardly, trying to balance a tray of cupcakes, a gift and my bag. As I bump the door shut with my hip – thunk – faint party sounds filter out into the street: music, chatter, the occasional shriek of laughter. It’s time to attend the first birthday party I’ve been invited to in eight years.

Excerpted from The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge. Copyright © 2012 by Marianne Musgrove. Excerpted by permission of Random House Australia. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.