Monday, June 15, 2009

Guest blog and excerpt - Breaking Up Is Hard To Do by Anne Dayton & May Vanderbilt

Captain's Log, Stardate 06.15.2009

Breaking Up is Hard to Do
by
Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt


Ana, Christine, Riley, and Zoe have grown closer than ever over the past few months, but summer is over and it's time to put their friendship to the test.
It's been a little over a year since Christine Lee's mom passed away in a tragic car accident. Now her dad is engaged to Candace--"The Bimbo"--and Christine couldn't be less thrilled. When her attitude starts to take a toll on her schoolwork, the administration forces her to attend counseling sessions. At least she gets to skip gym class!

But with her father's wedding inching closer, Christine is growing even more bitter. To make matters worse, the Miracle Girls are beginning to drift apart. Christine's anger and the pressures of high school threaten to break the girls up when they need each other the most. Will they find a way to join together to help Christine come to terms with her mother's death . . . and her father's remarriage?

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Excerpt of chapter one:



Breaking Up Is Hard To Do



FaithWords (April 16, 2009)




Chapter 1


It looks like a cheerleader’s soul exploded all over the gym.” I scrunch up my nose and catch a glimpse of my nose ring. It still surprises me to see it there.

Ana laughs at my joke, but Zoe rolls her eyes and starts clapping loudly, probably to cover for our silence. The bleachers shake as everyone around us gets pumped up on school spirit. Everywhere you look, there’s garnet and gold bunting, streamers, and posters — one of which is misspelled. At least I don’t think the cheer- nerds meant to say “Starfish Have School Sprit.” It’s bad enough that our mascot is the Starfish, but if people find out we have “sprit” too, we’ll be the laughingstock of the county.

It’s first period of the first day back in school. I rarely feel all that peppy on a very good day, and I’m certainly not chipper on a day like this. At least we were allowed to sit with anyone we wanted. The only requirement was that we had to sit by class. So here are the Miracle Girls, after an incredible summer together, parked under the big “Sophomores” sign. Woo.

The cheerleaders tumble onto the basketball court as the band cues up to play our fight song. Riley trails behind the tumblers, galloping sideways and “sparkling” her fingers at the crowd. The doctors don’t want her tumbling this year. I give her a nod. She waves back.

“Go, Riley!” Zoe shouts. As a sophomore, Zoe doesn’t get to play her piccolo at the pep rallies. That’s a “privilege” reserved for the seniors.

“You guys,” Zoe groans at us, “cheer for Riley at least.”

Ana obliges, but she’s careful to look cool doing it. She claps her hands gently, as if she’s at a golf game, and lets out the occasional scream. I give Zoe a look. I know we all changed some over the summer, but I’m still Christine Lee. I couldn’t care less about school spirit. That’s never going to change.

The cheerleaders separate out by grade level and begin to lead each section in a chant. Riley stands in front of us and kicks off the cheer for our grade. We all know it from last year, and Ana and Zoe scream along with the rest of our class. The object is to be the loudest class and earn the title of having the most sprit. Which is really an honor, let me assure you. A real treat.

S- o- p- h- o!” Riley yells.

M- o- r- e- s!” the crowd screams with her.

“Sophomores. Sophomores. Sophomores are the best!” The juniors and seniors are doing the same thing, yelling as loudly as they can, while the freshmen just look confused. Sheer pandemonium reigns. That part isn’t so bad.

“Scream!” Zoe yells at me over the fuss. “We have to be the loudest!” Zoe is wearing a long lavender skirt and some kind of loose tie-dyed top. Her red hair falls in a long curtain down her back.

“Sophomores!” Ana screams at the top of her lungs, getting into it now that the noise level in the gym is reaching decibels that can be heard two counties over. Ana spent a good part of the summer shopping in San Francisco with her mom, and she looks like a J.Crew ad. Since when did she care about clothes? With her new wardrobe, her sun-kissed hair, her deep tan, and the fact that she’s shot up two inches, she looks nothing like the lonely little freshman I met a year ago.

Ms. Lovchuck comes out on the gym floor, and the cheer dies. I’ve never been so happy to see our principal. She stands at the podium and adjusts the mic for a moment. We all sit down. Well, everyone else sits down. I wasn’t exactly standing.

“Students, welcome to another exciting year at Marina Vista High School!” Ms. Lovchuck pauses, as if expecting a roar of applause. She sighs at the silence, then trudges onward. She begins to drone on, making boring announcements about new school initiatives and rules.

I try to zone out, but out of the corner of my eye I see movement and turn to watch a scrawny guy with mousy brown hair climb over people, coming toward us. Oh no. Marcus Farcus. I lean forward to peek at Zoe, and her face is bright red.

“Hey, Marcus.” I wave at him and fl ash a big debutante smile.

“Christine, always a pleasure,” he says in a hushed tone.

Zoe shoots poison darts out of her eyes.

“Zoe, I’m so glad I found you,” he says, pushing past and forcing himself into a nonexistent space next to Zoe. “This school is crazy.”

Marcus moved into the house next door to Zoe this summer. Well, technically, he moved into a section of the woods next to Zoe and then bulldozed it and built a giant McMansion in the old growth forest. Of course, it was Marcus’s parents who actually did all those things, but that hasn’t kept Zoe from holding it against Marcus. Unfortunately, Marcus latched onto Zoe, who’s too nice to tell him to go away, and has been following her around like a puppy dog. “Maybe you should sit with your class,” Zoe says quietly, shrugging his arm off her shoulder. I stifl e a laugh. She’s so annoyed with him that she could scream, but she’s still trying to be kind.

“Nah,” he says, gesturing toward the freshman section dismissively. “I’ll get to know them eventually. I’d rather be with you.”

“Thanks,” Zoe says, her voice flatter than a pancake.

Poor kid. He never had a chance. His parents gave him a rough start in life. If your last name is Farcus and you have a son, the only name in the world you can’t give him is Marcus. That’s very clear. And if you do, you’re violating the laws of the social universe, condemning him to outsider status forever. Parents willing to do that to their child are obviously not right in the head.

“Hey, Marcus,” Ana says, raising her hand in a wave that makes Zoe cringe. Ana fi nds Marcus as annoying as the rest of us do, but she has this weird sympathy for him since he’s new in town. Far too charitable, if you ask me.

“And without further ado, I give you your quarterback, Zach Abramo!” Ms. Lovchuck screams. She steps away from the podium and gestures at a huge painted piece of paper with a fighting Starfish on it. The gym fills with noise, Zach bursts through the paper, and the crowd goes wild, as if it is an actual feat to tear a piece of paper. My stomach suddenly feels pumped full of lead.

“What’s up, Marina Vista?” Zach screams. All the clueless sophomore twits around us clap and whistle for him. At least this creep is a senior. Unless he fails, this is the last year we’ll have to deal with him. I watch Riley. All the other cheerleaders jump and cheer for him, but she remains completely still. After what he did to her, I have to fi ght the urge to stand up and shout, “Coward! Traitor!”

“This year we’re going all the way to State with our mighty fighting Starfish football team!” Zach pumps his fist in the air. The thunderous applause nearly bursts my eardrums. We really should have reported Zach to the police, or at least told everyone exactly what he did, but Riley asked us not to. She’s trying to forgive him.

“Woo! Go, Marina Vista!” Zach yells, ending his little speech. Everyone but the Miracle Girls cheers for him, and he drinks it in. As he struts to the side of the gym, Ashley Anderson, Riley’s ex-best friend, gives him a hug. They’ve been dating all summer, which makes me twice as ill, so I try to focus my eyes on the floor. The band starts to play our fight song again, and the cheerleaders lead us in a chant that spells out Starfish.

A group of girls next to me lean toward each other and form a huddle. I lean back a little to see if I can hear what they’re saying.

“It was Zach’s,” a scratchy girl’s voice says.

Ooh, dirt on the quarterback. This could be good.

“She doesn’t look like she just had a baby,” a girl says. I recognize the voice as Hailey, a decent sketch artist from my art class last year.

“When a girl disappears for five months, it can only mean one thing.” The first knowing voice sounds smug, and it suddenly hits me what — I mean who — they’re talking about. “That’s why she got her hair chopped off.”

I clench my fist. First of all, everyone knows Riley dropped out of school last year because she fell off a cliff, not because she was pregnant with Zach’s baby. Second, what does that have to do with her hair? And who do these girls think they are, anyway, talking about this stuff in front of anyone, but especially in front of us? Don’t they realize they’re sitting behind, like, Riley’s best friends?

“He said he wouldn’t marry her, and she went crazy and started chopping at her hair, like Britney.”

“What do you think she did with the baby?” Hailey asks, giggling. As the band plays the final notes to our fight song, it hits me. No, these girls probably don’t know that Riley is our friend. We spent all summer together, just the Miracle Girls, and it was an amazing time, goofing around at Zoe’s house with the horses, going down to the beach to watch Riley surf, hanging around with Ana and Dave — unending days of fun, far far away from the pressures of school. The Miracle Girls have become everything to me.

But these girls don’t know that. Riley became our friend at the end of last year, just before her accident. No one at school knows the first thing about our incredible summer together, or the secrets in our past that make our bond special.

“Probably gave it up for adoption. A lot of people do that and then pretend it never happened.”

I can’t listen to this anymore. Anger floods my veins, and the whole world drops away. I don’t know where I am or what is going on around me. I only know that I must defend Riley. I stand up and lunge at Hailey, grabbing her shirt and pulling her out of her seat.

“That . . . is . . . not true.” I hiss at her, my nostrils flaring. Hailey and her stupid friend stare at me, eyes wide.

“What?” She tries to lean away from my face, but I have her shirt balled up in my fists.

“Nothing you said is true.” I feel something tugging at my right arm, and then my left. Ana and Zoe are pulling me back. I grab Hailey’s shirt tighter, but they begin to overpower me, forcing me to let go.

And then it’s like I come to. Somehow, the entire jamboree has screeched to a halt and everyone is staring at me. I swallow and slide down into the bleachers, but it’s too late. Ms. Lovchuck points at me viciously with her thin, crooked finger, then points at the gym door.

I know what she means, and I begin to pick my way over people, tripping on bags and shoes and jackets. I fight the impulse to say, “Pardon me, freak show walking.” Everyone is staring at me as I plunk down the stairs. When I get to the door, I glance back one last time at the Miracle Girls and see Zoe’s worried face. I know what that look means. Like me, she’s worried that being back at school means everything is about to change.

Just great, Christine. It took you less than one hour to completely ruin this year too.



And now, here’s Anne and May!

First of all, we'd like say a huge thanks to Camy for having us over! We're Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt, the writing duo behind The Miracle Girls series. The second book in our series, Breaking up is Hard to Do, just came out and it opens with a very embarrassing moment for the main character. We thought it would be fun to relive our most embarrassing moments from childhood!

Anne:

I was in junior high, and I was in a production of The Nutcracker. Now, I’m totally uncoordinated, and I am not at all graceful. I was no good at ballet, but for whatever reason I loved it. Well, one day at Nutcracker rehearsal, I started to feel sick, I decided to just power through it. I could make it to the end of rehearsal, and then I’d deal with pesky things like oncoming stomach viruses. Besides, the Nutcracker Prince was practicing with us that day, and he was HOT.

You can see where this is going. Halfway through a run-through of a scene, I started to feel like I really needed to run to the bathroom, but I was determined to make it to the end of the run-through, so I bit my lip, concentrated on the floor, and counted down the beats until the music would be over. And then I puked all over the floor, right in the middle of the dance studio.

I’ll never forget the look of disgust on the Prince’s face. I ran to the bathroom, but it was too late. I think some of the other girls must have cleaned up the puke for me, but—here’s the good part—instead of hiding out in the bathroom until my mom came for me, like any normal person would have done, I decided I would go back to the rehearsal and hold my head up high and show them all how tough I was by continuing on. I acted like it was no big deal, and when they kept asking me if I was okay, I said “I don’t understand why people keep asking me that, I’m fine.” They were like, ‘uh, because you just puked in font of us?’ But the show must go on, and I, along with my horrified friends, spent the rest of the hour dancing around the puke stain on the floor. Ballet at its finest.

May:

According to my Teenage May, the one thing my parents ever did right was buy a house next door to Chris Holland, the hottest kid in my class. In eight grade, he FINALLY noticed me and we started "going together," which really meant that I would go over to his house and we'd jump on the trampoline. It was very very romantic, I assure you. Every year, our school hosted a dance and Chris and I made plans with a few other couples. The whole night was a fairytale. My bangs were perfectly pouffy. My dress was loud and tacky. Chris was a vision in one of his dad's old suits.

Afterward Chris' mom picked us up in her mini-van and drove us to the bowling alley because we thought it'd be fun to bowl in our formal clothes. And that's when things went south. I ran out too far in the bowling lane, slipped, and fell flat on my back. As my ball went flying and my dress went everywhere, I just laid there and shut my eyes, thinking about how I could never go to school again. Then, a huge cheer went up from my lane. There is a God. I had bowled a strike.

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