All my life my mother has been hovering over me, afraid to let me experience ANYTHING. So I got really good grades, graduated from high school when I was sixteen, and escaped to a new lifemy own lifeat college.
All my life my mother has been hovering over me, afraid to let me experience ANYTHING. So I got really good grades, graduated from high school when I was sixteen, and escaped to a new lifemy own lifeat college.
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THE ALPHA BET
By Stephanie Hale
FluxCopyright © 2010 Stephanie Hale
All right reserved.
Chapter One"It's a dorm, Mom, not the Playboy Mansion," I whisper in her ear, hoping she'll stop throwing her evil eye looks around at all the kids in my new dorm.
"Tell that to the girl over there using doilies to cover her chest," she says, turning away disgustedly.
At the exact moment I turn to check out the doily girl, who is actually an adorable blonde wearing a crocheted bikini top and jean cutoffs, she raises her arm and tosses something in my direction. She covers her perfectly glossed lips with her hand in horror, and a second later, something smacks against my forehead and explodes. A water balloon. Mom screams like she's been shot while I stand dripping into the cardboard box full of clothes I'm carrying.
This is not exactly how I pictured my first day of college.
"Are you alright?" Mom asks, once she realizes it wasn't her that was hit.
"Physically, tiptop. Emotionally, not so much," I reply, dropping my box and using the end of my T-shirt to wipe the water off my glasses.
"Oh my gosh. I'm, like, so sorry," the blonde says, rushing up. She's wringing her hands like crazy and I know she really is sorry. "Marcus was right behind you and I was trying to get him," she explains.
"You need to get a better aim," Mom practically growls at her while scrutinizing her bikini top, for nipple showage no doubt.
"It's okay, really. I'm Grace Kelly," I say, holding my hand out to the blonde. She looks confused. It's a look I'm familiar with. You say Grace Kelly and most people automatically think of an elegant, poised beauty cut down in the prime of her life, not an unfashionable, four-eyed drowned rat.
"I'm Star," she says, coming to her senses. We shake hands and I try very hard not to dribble water all over her.
"We better get you to your room," Mom interrupts, obviously not hot on the idea of me bonding with Star. I can almost hear Mom's mind whirring, terrified by the thought that if I became friends with Star, I'd start borrowing her tops.
"I really am sorry," Star says, walking away. I mouth, "It's okay," and roll my eyes in Mom's direction. Star winks and smiles, then rushes away, having spotted her intended target.
"I still can't believe they put you in a coed dorm," Mom says nervously, watching Star pummel Marcus with a water balloon. I quickly bend down to pick up my soggy box so she doesn't see the smile on my face. Cohabitating with the opposite sex practically makes me a full-fledged adult. I can't give her any clue how excited I am about my new living situation or she'll yank me back to the minivan for another lecture about how sixteen is just too young to go away to college. And there is no way I'm leaving here. I shrug my shoulders and adopt a look of defeat so she thinks that I am just as distressed about coed living as she is.
I've been trying to disguise how excited I am all morning. It's hard considering I've wanted to come to McMillan College since I was twelve. That was the year I started competing in the state science fair that is held annually on campus. I fell in love with the old brick building that houses the most state-of-the-art science lab in the country. I couldn't get here to soak up all the unlimited knowledge soon enough. As last year's winner of McMillan's prestigious science fair, I won a four-year scholarship. Luckily, I had enough extra credits to graduate high school early. My dream is about to become reality. I know that Mom is proud of my academic achievements; it's just the moving away part that she isn't so jazzed about.
We make our way through the hallways packed with coeds hugging hello, exchanging numbers, and flirting shamelessly. I'm in heaven. Mom might soon be in need of a defibrillator because I don't think her heart can take much more. She's behind me muttering something about STDs under her breath. For some reason, Mom doesn't think I'm ready for college yet. It took my dad and me all summer to convince her that I would be okay on my own. After much pleading, I reminded her that I would only be forty-five minutes from home and so busy with the science club that I won't have time to get into trouble.
She's always been a little overprotective. To the point of social asphyxiation. I never wanted to worry her, so I didn't participate in many high school extracurriculars. I came to college to learn more and push myself intellectually, but getting away from Mom's stranglehold on my social life won't be a bad thing either. I know she means well, but I still need to make my own decisions.
"Here it is," I shout, unable to control the volume of my voice upon finding my dorm room door. This moment is the culmination of all my hard work the last sixteen years. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and savor this monumental moment. No more obnoxious little brother, no more unchallenging high school classes, no more interruptions while I study. From now on if I want to go on a twelve-hour study binge, I can. I won't have someone bugging me to eat or rest my eyes. I am officially the boss of myself. I hear Mom impatiently shifting the box she is carrying on her hip.
I open my eyes and fling open the door to my new life while exclaiming, "Home sweet home."
Unfortunately, the weight in my box shifts just enough to throw off my already limited balance. The wet box collapses and my clothes go toppling into a heap in the middle of the floor, with my granny panties landing on top. I'm so focused on shoving my pathetic underwear back into the soggy box that the naked people on the bare mattress don't really register in my brain until I hear Mom scream. She drops her box and goes running down the hall. I just stand there, granny panties in hand, staring at the naked couple in shock.
"Are you Grace Kelly?" the naked girl asks, unflustered. She is stunningly at ease even though I just barged in on her having sex. She smooths her chestnut curls behind her ears, then props herself up on her elbow underneath the guy, who I just noticed has a very large dragon tattoo on his left buttock. I can't stop staring at it.
"I said, are you Grace Kelly?" the girl repeats. I hear her, but it's like I've been transported to another world. I've never actually seen a boy naked. I Googled the word "penis" once, but I chickened out and slammed my laptop shut before I could see any results. Hopefully he won't get up because I think I would pass out if he did.
"Stop checking out my boyfriend's ass," she shouts. I jerk myself out of my trance to see her smiling while he nuzzles her neck. She seems so sophisticated that I can't help but wonder what she is doing in the freshman dorm.
"Yes, I'm Grace Kelly Cook," I say, holding out my hand. The girl just giggles without reaching out to shake my hand.
"Those are hot," the guy says, laughing at the panties in my outstretched hand. I jerk my hand into my pocket to hide them.
"Don't be a dick, Aaron," the girl says, smacking her boyfriend on the butt. "I'm Jentry," she says, her striking green eyes apologizing for Aaron's comment. Her boyfriend is still pretty much laughing in my face. I realize that I must look even more ridiculous than normal from the water balloon incident.
"Can you, like, give us a minute?" she asks. When I realize I've just been standing here, staring at them, I pretty much want to die of embarrassment. What kind of a first impression have I made on the girl who is going to be my roommate for the next nine months? My face burns as I quickly kick some of my clothes to the empty side of the room.
"Oh, sure. Sorry," I say, scurrying out the door. I pull it shut tight so that they can have their privacy. I lean my head back against the cold metal door and try to steady myself. I'm shaking from making such an idiot out of myself.
I guess the postcard of the half-naked guy she sent me this summer telling me she was backpacking across Europe, as a reply to my get-to-know-me letter, should have tipped me off that she was so mature. My letter to her had been a three-page dossier of my life and achievements (excluding my age) to date. She must have thought I was such a dork. And now I bust in on her having sex with her boyfriend. She's probably calling the housing office to request a room transfer right now.
That was so not how I envisioned meeting my roommate. I hope she isn't mad because I kept staring at her boyfriend's butt. They must be really serious to be having sex. I think it would be cool to have a boyfriend, but I'm not ready for all the sex stuff yet. It would be nice to be kissed though, just to know what it feels like. There are just some things that Google can't explain.
I make my way down the hall past the unfamiliar faces. I know that I should be introducing myself to people, but it seems like everybody already knows each other, so it's kind of awkward.
McMillan requires all incoming freshmen to arrive a week early to acclimate themselves. That means that these students just met each other, yet they look like they have been friends forever. I've always been a little lacking in the social-networking arena. I had hoped that with McMillan being a small university, you wouldn't have the typical cliques. I thought maybe I could be successful not only academically, but also socially. I don't have any illusions of grandeur about being named homecoming queen or anything; I just don't want to spend another four years only being known as the girl who throws off the grading curve. But no one seems to see me. I continue down the hall, dropping my eyes to the floor. This is why I've always preferred books to people.
Wait a minute. I'm going about this all wrong. I'm doing exactly what I did in high school. How can I expect to get different results when I'm not willing to reconstruct my hypothesis? I can't believe I haven't thought of this sooner. Almost everything in life can be applied to the steps of the scientific method. First, I have to ask a question, then I do background research, construct a hypothesis, test with an experiment, and analyze my results to see if my conclusion is true or false. I glance around the hallway and notice that the most obvious difference between myself and my fellow coeds, besides the fact they aren't soaking wet, is that they are more outgoing.
I've never been particularly good at approaching people. I don't want them to think I'm a total stalker, but I don't have much time to do background research right now. My hypothesis (which is always written as: If _____ (I do this), then ______ (this) will happen, is: If I am friendly and approach people, then the possibility of making new friends will happen.
It is time to perform my experiment and collect the data. "Hi, I'm Grace Kelly," I force myself to say to a blonde hanging a dry-erase board on her door. I subtly wipe my suddenly damp hands on my pants just in case she wants to shake hands. I know that perspiring is just the body's way of cooling itself down, but that doesn't make it any less embarrassing.
She turns around slowly and looks me up and down. "No, you're not," she says, slipping into her room and shutting her door in my face. A glittery star with the name Sloane flutters above her new message board. I resist the urge to defile the new board with an obscene message because that would just be immature. She reminds me of some of the mean girls at my old high school who took to calling me "Graceless" because of all the accidents I had. Lucky for me, they always wanted to copy my homework so they weren't ever too mean. So much for that hypothesis. You don't need to be a genius to analyze those results. But I'm not willing to conclude that my hypothesis is false. I definitely need to conduct more experiments with different subjects. Sloane's words still hang in the air, stinging my skin. I don't think I'll attempt another experiment until this one has had a chance to fade away.
I continue down the hall, sort of depressed. This day is definitely not turning out how I had imagined. My phone vibrates in my pocket. I don't even have to look at it to know that it's my mom calling to make sure I didn't get forced into a threesome. As if my life could ever be that exciting.
* * *
"We can't leave her here, Stan. She isn't ready," Mom pleads to Dad as I pile back into our minivan. We decided to grab some lunch and let Jentry have plenty of time to finish up.
"Marge, stop being so dramatic. Kids have sex. Whether you like it or not, it happens. Just because Grace Kelly's roommate is doing it doesn't mean she is going to. You underestimate your daughter," Dad says, then catches my eye in the rearview mirror and winks.
"Who'd wanna have sex with Grace Kelly anyway?" my little brother, Sean, snorts while elbowing me in the ribs.
"There are plenty of people who would gladly have sex with me!" I shout in my defense. Mom turns to Dad as if to say "I told you so." "Not that I would or anything," I add quickly.
"She's just so young," Mom stresses.
"You're right, Marge. Let's take Grace Kelly back home," Dad says, making my heart race. "She can attend community college, and then if she's really lucky, she'll be running the grill at Steak 'n Shake in two years." I try to catch his eye again to thank him for using reverse psychology on Mom but he's too busy navigating the dorm parking lot, trying not to make road kill of any coeds.
"You know I don't want to deny her this opportunity. It's just that she can be so naïve sometimes," Mom trails off.
"You know I can actually hear you," I smart off, deeply offended. "And I'm not stupid, you know," I defend myself.
"Oh, Grace, don't be so sensitive," Mom says, spinning around to face me. "Of course you aren't stupid. You're the smartest person I know. But there is a big difference between being book smart and being emotionally smart."
She is making no sense. Smart is smart. And you don't graduate high school two years early and get a full scholarship unless you are smart. I'm smart.
"I just don't want you getting in over your head," Mom says gently, clasping my hand.
"Chill with the drama, Mama," Sean pipes up. "It's not like Grace Kelly is going to be hitting keggers. The craziest thing she'll do on campus is close down the library." He snorts. I kick him hard. I've tried several times to convince myself how it is scientifically possible that Sean and I are from the same gene pool. My brain still won't accept it.
"Shut up, Sean," Mom scolds him. "Do you realize that you have never even spent a night away from us?" She asks, turning her attention back to me.
"It's not my fault you kept me sheltered," I yell.
"Sheltered? I used to beg you to make friends."
"That's not how I remember things," I say, turning to look out the window. The truth is that I don't ever remember being invited to stay all night with anyone, so it was a non-issue. I hear Mom sigh loudly.
"Just promise me that you won't try to impress people by doing things you aren't comfortable with. You are much younger than most of these other kids."
I really wish that she would stop reminding me of my age. I'm not exactly going to be volunteering this information at freshman orientation.
Mom suddenly lunges toward me, her body wedged in the middle console. She places both her hands on my cheeks and makes me look her in the eyes.
"Just promise me," she says passionately. "Promise me you won't drink, do drugs, or have sex."
"I promise, Mom. I promise not to have any fun in college."
Sean doubles over in his seat, laughing. The corners of Dad's mouth are upturned in a smile matching mine. Mom gives me a disappointed look and slumps back down into her seat. Very slowly, I uncross my fingers.
* * *
When we get back to my dorm room, the door is standing wide open. I take it as a good sign that Jentry didn't throw all my clothes into the hall. I peek inside to see all of my clothes are folded and placed neatly on my bed. Jentry is taping several black and white photographs over the desk that she has chosen as hers. Mom clears her throat loudly, causing Jentry to spin around. She comes barreling toward me at the speed of light. My first instinct is to run; I figure she's mad that I was staring at her boyfriend's butt, but my feet won't move, and I'm holding my laptop bag in one hand and my bookbag full of reference materials in the other, so I wouldn't escape very fast anyway. But instead of pummeling me when she reaches me, she throws her arms around me in a giant hug. I just kind of stand there because I can't hug her back with all this stuff in my hands. Besides, I'm not really all that familiar with friendly displays of affection.
Excerpted from THE ALPHA BET by Stephanie Hale Copyright © 2010 by Stephanie Hale. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Stephanie Hale is the author of Revenge of the Homecoming Queen (Berkley Jam, 2007), Twisted Sisters (Berkely Jam, 2008) and Spring Breakup (Berkley Jam, 2009). She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Hale resides in central Illinois. For more information about the author, visit her website at: www.StephanieHale.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Sixteen-year-old Grace Kelly Cook is so ready to start college where she can ditch her geeky high school image and finally get away from her overbearing, overprotective, over the top mother. After graduating early and earning a free ride to her dream college, it seems like all of Grace Kelly's dreams are coming true. But starting fresh is going to take a lot more than some strategic online searches. At the behest of her breezy, free spirit roommate, Grace Kelly agrees to rush the Alphas--the elite, friendly sorority that values academics more than good looks. It sounds like a match made in heaven and, much to her surprise, Grace Kelly finds that she's prepared to do anything it takes to become an Alpha--even if it means telling a major lie and jeopardizing her other friendships. On top of all that, Grace Kelly will have to complete the Alpha Bet--a secret set of alphabetical tasks--to prove her loyalty to the sisters and her dedication to the sorority. Between being a pledge, college classes, and navigating the murky waters of her first college crush Grace Kelly is in for quite a year in The Alpha Bet (2010) by Stephanie Hale. The Alpha Bet is a cute book about a girl facing the triple threat of college life, growing up, and understanding her family. All at the same time. While she's sixteen. That might sound like an unlikely scenario which, basically, sums up the overall feel of the book: improbable. While Grace Kelly was an adorable heroine, a lot of her personality never felt real. Even the fact that she went by the name "Grace Kelly" seemed odd--why not Grace? Why not Kelly? Why is her nickname when she gets one GK? (The names in the book in general were over the top for reasons that remain unknown.) The premise was interesting, but a lot of the actual Alpha Bet tasks were glossed over in favor of other aspects of the plot. It would have been fun to know more about all of the tasks, but it was not meant to be. The book also makes a big production of Grace Kelly's being a science geek only to unceremoniously drop that thread by the end of the story. While everyone loves a light read with a happy ending, The Alpha Bet was too saccharin and too simple; the "nice" characters were unerringly sweet and could do no wrong while the "bad" characters were awful. Although it was often overly simplified, Hale has created an interesting story that will pique the interest of any readers who find Greek life intriguing. Possible Pairings: Sea Change by Aimee Friedman, How To Steal a Car by Pete Hautman, Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor, Swoon at Your Own Risk by Sydney Salter
Amazing book! So good, Grace Kelly is so easy to relate too! I would give it 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars if I could!
this book was great i recomend it to anybody looking 4 a good read! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'!!!!!
Grace Kelly has no idea what she's getting into. She graduated high school early and now she's heading to college, roughly an hour away from home and her overprotective mother. At 16, she's ready to let life take control. She and her roommate decide to rush the Alphas. Grace Kelly admires the sisters, but unfortunately for her, she's asked to leave due to an altercation with another girl. She's not ready to let go of her dreams, so she creates the mother of all lies and worms her way back into the running. Now, the three pledges must complete the Alpha Bet, a series of twenty-six tasks set up by the sisters of the house. How far will she go to secure her rush spot? Grace Kelly knows that while her roommate took care to make her look like an Alpha, she's starting to feel like one, too. She's also feeling guilty about the lie she told to become accepted. What will the sisters do if her secret becomes public knowledge? This is a cute, fun read with romance, friendship, and one evil girl. I liked the relationships between Grace Kelly and her roommate, especially considering how they first met! I liked the tasks set by the sisters and the sisters themselves. I loved the geek-to-glam part of the book - and not just on the outside.
Grace Kelly has no idea what she's getting into. She graduated high school early and now she's heading to college roughly an hour away from home and her overprotective mother. At 16, she's ready to let life take control. She and her roommate decide to rush the Alphas. Grace Kelly admires the sisters, but unfortunately for her, she's asked to leave due to an altercation with another girl. Grace Kelly's not ready to let go of her dreams so she creates the mother of all lies and worms her way back into the running. Now the three pledges must complete the Alpha Bet, a series of 26 tasks set up by the sisters of the house. How far will Grace Kelly go to secure her rush spot? Grace Kelly knows that while he roommate took care to make her look like an Alpha, she's starting to feel like one too. She's also feeling guilty about the lie she told to become accepted. What will the sisters do if her secret becomes public knowledge? A cute fun read with romance, friendship, and one evil girl. I liked the relationships between Grace Kelly and her roommate, especially considering how they first met! I liked the tasks set by the sisters and the sisters themselves. I loved the geek to glam part of the book - and not just on the outside.