Payback (Fearless, Book 6), by Francine Pascal
When I finished "Kiss" I wondered what the title of "Payback" could mean. After all, not much happened for anyone to be paid back for in "Kiss." I guessed that maybe it was Heather, paying Sam back somehow for choosing Gaia, or maybe Ella getting payback for Gaia surviving the doctor?
It turns out that it's neither.
Gaia and Sam are prevented from pursuing whatever it is that they have going on between them by Sam's need to get caught up on his studies. The storyline says that Sam is studying for finals, which sound like they are imminent, but New York University's final exams are actually in the middle of December and as "Payback" opens, it is the day after Thanksgiving. That is soon, but not as soon as the story makes it seem. Sam has to force himself to stay away from Gaia because he knows that he would willingly derail his educational plans for her. He sends Gaia an email saying that the developments of Thanksgiving were interesting but that he had to focus on his studies and that he would be back in touch with her after finals.
Additionally, since Gaia was not terribly together at the time, and Ella lied and said that Gaia was wandering around outside the hospital hallucinating about Sam, Gaia is not sure that she and Sam even kissed. And with Sam staying away from her, she cannot ask him in person. The vaguely worded email makes things worse and her social anxiety keeps her from emailing him back and asking, as well.
Gaia leaving in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner woke Mary up to the damage her drug use could have on her life, and she has decided to get clean. She told her parents about her drug use and they are being very supportive of her attempts to straighten up.
Meanwhile, Gaia has been approached by Tim, someone she barely knows, about a party that he is having at his place. At first, she has no interest in going, but when a jealous Ed needles her about it, she agrees to go, and Ed promises to meet her there. She figures that the party will be a waste of time and invites Mary for the pointing-and-laughing potential.
Gaia shows up on time, and meets a model-worthy young man named Charlie. Since the arrivals of both Ed and Mary are delayed, Gaia spends a lot of time at the party with Charlie. Heather sees Gaia and Charlie together and everything kind of goes to hell from there.
This book is actually a fairly grim one, as it deals not with the superheroics and what looks like, from my best guess, it may be shaping up to be a plot on selective breeding from the previous books, but one that is, or should be, part of every teen's awareness these days. Acquaintance rape.
One of the girls at the party was clearly raped. She stated that she said, "no." That makes it rape. Heather also had sexual contact with Charlie, and she cannot remember having said, "yes." This also makes it rape. Any sex without conscious (some even use the term "enthusiastic") consent on the part of both of the parties makes it rape. I actually suspect that Heather is given a date-rape drug in a beer that she drinks at the party, but that is never spelled out by Pascal.
The overall plot moves forward as well. Sam keeps fighting his desire to spend time with Gaia, which may have disastrous consequences for their relationship once Ella sees Sam for the first time.