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In her usual style, Fredericks revels in the most stressful -- and in this instance, mysterious -- year of high school.
Four students, who have formed a study group to prepare for the SAT exam, sustain each other through the emotional highs and lows of their junior year in high school.
They never list the names. Just the numbers.
Every year the school posts the SAT scores in the lobby, where anyone can see them. But they don't put the names -- like Jeff Stein got 2340, Susie Chen got 1160. They just put the numbers and let you guess who got what.
Which, of course, is what everybody does.
It's easier than you think. Like some kids, the math geniuses and future physicists, you can pretty much figure out they're the 2300s. If someone gets 2400, it always comes out who it is. "Oh, don't tell anyone, but I got 2400." Yeah, right. Next day everyone's like, "He got 2400. He's going to Yale."
And it's not too hard to figure out who's at the bottom of the list. Who got in the 1200s -- when they give you 600 points just for writing your name. You think of the stoners, the jocks, kids who just say, "Screw it." Because some kids do. They say they don't care what they get, and they mean it.
Then there's everybody else, all clumped together in the middle. The pretty goods, the fines...also known as the not good enoughs, the not quite acceptables.
Last year when I took the PSATs for the first time, I told myself I wouldn't look at the list.
But I did. And there it was: my score. This is where you are, Max. This is how much you count for.
Sometimes I think, What's worse? Doing just okay, or totally bottoming out? There's a weird honor in completely screwing up, in scoring so low that no college'll take you except the ones that take everyone, including mental cases and paint eaters. The kid at the top has that spot all to himself. But so does the kid at the bottom.
When you're trying to figure out who got what, you remember -- who looked happy the day after you got the scores? Who looked bummed out, who was crying?
Mr. Crowley, our college adviser, always says, "The top colleges can only take so many kids from Dewey." Only a few of you, maybe even only one of you, are going to get to go to Yale or Harvard."
In other words, like it or not, you're all in competition with one another.
Pick Up Your No. 2 Pencil. Begin.
In New York everybody knows everybody else. Well, there are all these people you totally don't know -- like cabdrivers and the freaks in the park -- but they don't count. The people who count, the kids who go to your school or schools like your school, we all know one another. It's like a club. "Dalton, check. Prada, check. Summers in Europe or the Hamptons, check." We all want the same things and we all do the same stuff to get them.
Like college. You can pretend you don't want to go to Yale or Harvard or Brown -- but you do. Unless you're a nose picker. In life there are those who count and there are nose pickers. Very few people actually count for anything -- even though everybody likes to think they do.
Anyway, I'm not surprised when I walk into the SAT prep class in the last week of summer vacation and there's at least three other kids from Dewey.
Without even thinking, I size them up.
Daisy Stubbs. Plays b-ball, dates b-ball. Heavily into saving things, from the planet to the guy at the party who thinks it's a cool idea to mix tequila and schnapps. I've been to a lot of parties where Daisy's holding somebody's head while they puke. She's a lot of guys' dream, but I never saw the big deal.
Strictly state school. No threat.
Of course, next to Daisy is her best bud, Max. Max is a little guy. Those who can't play, write for the school paper. He'd probably tell you it's all about the game, but it's like, dude, girls in shorts? Who are you kidding?
Max is smart. He could be thinking Ivies. Maybe Columbia.
Then there's Jane Cotterell. When she came to our school last year, we were like, "Sweet, Julia Cotterell's daughter and she passes for a babe." But Jane speaks
to no one. Shy or stuck-up? Can't tell. Guess when your mom's a movie star, you don't mix with the little people.
Possible threat. But only because of Mom.
I take a seat, look around. No sign of the teacher, and it's almost time to start. While we wait, I open my notebook and start a list, "Five People I Don't Know Who Count."
1. Bill Gates
2. Quentin Tarantino (or Steven Soderbergh)
And maybe, just maybe, Jane Cotterell.
I really, really hope they don't make us go around and say our names. I hate that. Somebody always asks, "Hey, is your mom Julia Cotterell?"
I have two standard answers: "Um, yeah" or "No, but I get that all the time."
I hardly ever do "Um, yeah," because then you get, "Oh, I loved her in Persuasion," or "She totally deserved the Oscar that year." And then what do you say? "Thanks"?
My mom would be so on me right now. There are three kids from Dewey here, and she'd be like, "Why don't you say hi? Why don't you talk to them? They don't have fangs, for God's sake."
Mom, believe me, Daisy and Max would find me utterly boring, and Leo Thayer is a BP who talks only to other BPs.
Where is the SAT guy, anyway?
Just when I'm thinking Is this class ever going to start? this bald guy sticks his head in the door and gasps, "Can't find the booklets. Stay put, I'll be right back...."
I feel Daisy's notebook nudge my hand. I look at what she's written.
"It's a sign. Let's split."
I write, "Can't. Must learn secrets of a, b, c, d, or e."
Daisy scribbles some more.
"a. This is lame.
b. This is boring.
c. This sucks.
d. All of the above.
e. LET'S SPLIT!!"
Last year Daisy and I both said prep was elitist and sick, and we swore we wouldn't do it. Then we got our PSAT scores, and well, I guess things change.
I tell myself everyone does prep. Even Tory McEwan, who got the one perfect score in the school last year, did prep. There's no shame in it.
I just feel...disgusting, that's all.
The SAT guy is back. He pants, "Just a few more minutes, I'm arranging for backup."
Then he disappears. Leo Thayer makes a big show of looking at his watch. "That's ten minutes gone. This one class costs a hundred dollars, this guy owes us each ten bucks."
A girl with pink fingernails who obviously thinks Leo is hot says, "Totally."
I tell myself I don't hate Leo Thayer because he's one of the Beautiful People and so many women think he's hot. I tell myself I hate Leo Thayer because he's an egotistical schmuck.
And I almost believe myself.
Then Daisy says loudly, "Screw the ten bucks. Let's just walk out."
Well, someone had to say something.
I mean, God, we were all just sitting there like, Oh, please, Mr. Brilliant SAT Man, share your wisdom with us. We have paid you hundreds of dollars for the wonderful privilege.
And those who don't have hundreds of dollars, well, screw them.
And those who don't go to private school, screw them, too.
I said to my parents, "Doesn't it bother you, just a little, how unfair this is? How the whole system is completely and disgustingly rigged?"
And they were like, "Yeah, but you're going anyway."
Last year Coach said she would bench me if I didn't quit arguing with the refs all the time. So I've been trying not to lose it so much. But this whole scene is just too obnoxious. I say it again: "Let's walk out."
If this were a movie, this would be the part where the crowd rises up with a huge roar and burns something down.
But all that happens is Leo Thayer rolls his eyes and says...
"What, because the guy didn't show?"
Because yeah, I'm annoyed the guy is late, but that doesn't mean Daisy gets to piss on the whole thing. I know exactly what she's thinking. And I'm sorry, I know some kids go to lousy schools and never learn to read -- but how is me screwing up my SATs going to help?
I tell her, "You think there shouldn't be any test at all. Colleges should just take us because we're nice and kind to animals. Not 'cause we're...smart or anything."
Daisy cocks her head like she's thinking about it. "Well, if we're so smart, how come we have to pay some jerk to teach us how to take a freaking test?"
She looks me right in the eye, and I have a weird flash. Some party where this girl was following me around, all boo-hoo, because...I don't know, she had ideas. She got herself totally trashed, and Daisy took her home. When they were leaving, Daisy looked back at me, and I was like, Not my problem. Daisy gave me this look: Whose problem is it?
I said then and I say now: not mine.
Although it's seriously pissing me off that this guy is so late....
Probably most of the kids here think Daisy's kidding. Yeah, she says "Let's walk out," but she doesn't really mean it.
Except she does. She totally means it.
I look around the classroom. Here's what I see: a bunch of kids who know the whole college game is stacked against kids without money and connections.
And...a bunch of kids with money and connections.
All of a sudden Daisy gets up, goes to the front of the class, and says, "Everyone who thinks the SATs are bogus, the time for pizza is now."
Okay, Max. Here's where you stand up....
I think of my dad: "Hey, how was SAT prep?" "Uh, well..."
Then all of a sudden I hear this little, tiny voice: "I'll come." I look toward the voice, see...Jane? Jane Cotterell?
Daisy sees her too, smiles at me like, Insanity time...
And that's that. If Jane Cotterell's walking out, I certainly have to. I stand, say, "I'm up for pizza."
The rest of the kids stare down at their notebooks. I go stand with Daisy and Jane at the door. Daisy looks back at the class. "Last chance."
Then Leo says, "Screw it," and gets up.
And before anyone has a chance to do anything, Daisy yells, "Sayonara," and we run out the door.
This is wild.
I've never done anything like this. Just leave and slam the door, good-bye!
I've seen people do it. My mom used to do it all the time when she was fighting with my dad. I wanted to tell her, "Hi, Mom, this is not a movie, we're not your audience...."
Except this time we're the ones everyone's looking at. I guess they think we're crazy. I should feel embarrassed, but I don't. It's like, You're the fools.
When we get out to the hallway, and we see the SAT guy -- still looking for his stupid books -- and Daisy says, "Run for it," we get nuts running down the hall, charging down the stairs, and someone, I think Max, starts laughing because it's so nuts, and then we're all cracking up, even me, and I'm worried because I'm running so fast I'm going to fall down and break my neck, and we jump down the last few stairs, and Leo shoves open the door and waves us all through, and suddenly we're out on the street and we're free and...
And I think, Maybe we are crazy. But crazy's really good.
Then Leo says, "Okay, now what?"
Max and Daisy look at each other. If no one says anything, we'll all just walk away....
I say, "You could come to my house."
One of my basic rules in life: Never ever turn down a chance to meet a famous person. So when Jane asks us over, I immediately say, "Sure."
Daisy says, "Yeah, cool." She's so psyched she got us all to walk out she'll agree to anything: "Take a swim in the reservoir? Yeah, cool...."
Only Max looks doubtful. Probably thinking he's too dorky to meet Julia Cotterell. He's right -- but I'm not going to let that stand in my way.
Frankly, I thought once we were out of there, Daisy and I would go and hang on our own. We don't know these guys. And when it comes to Leo, I seriously don't want to know him.
But somehow we're all going to Jane Cotterell's house. Not that Jane is so terrible. But I don't know her, and I have no idea what to say to her. I know she used to hang with Lily Previn, but they don't seem to be buds this year.
And of course, Jane's insanely gorgeous, and I can't speak to insanely gorgeous females. The most I can manage is, "Uh, duh..."
She really looks like her mom, with this cloud of black hair, huge gray eyes. Thin, perfect skin -- she's like from another planet where they build everyone perfect. Whereas I'm from a planet where they build everyone short and weird looking.
You don't want to be supremely uncool and say, "Hey, I saw your mom in the newspaper." But I don't know what else to talk to her about.
The only other thing I know about Jane is what everyone knows about her. And that you really can't talk about.
What people say about Jane is that her stepfather watches her naked. They also say she lets him.
I have to admit, sometimes I look at Jane and the thought of her naked and being watched is not the worst thing to think about.
Then I look at her face, the way she never really looks anyone in the eye, and I feel like if that's true, it's really ugly, and someone should do something.
Copyright © 2006 by Mariah Fredericks
Excerpted from Crunch Time by Mariah Fredericks Copyright © 2005 by Mariah Fredericks. 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.
Posted October 26, 2013
Posted February 22, 2012
A perfect suspense story for teens. It will hit every college-bound high school student where they live: in the land of test scores and academic competition. Offers an excellent look at teenagers who find themselves dealing with the usual social (popularity) issues, but also the dehumanizing aspects of having their personal worth measured in numbers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2010
"Max grins. 'We should have numbers on our butts.' He turns to Daisy. 'Hi, I'm a two thousand. Nice to meet you.'
In a haughty accent she says, 'Sorry, I only date twenty-one hundreds and above....'"
To be honest, I've never cared for any standardized tests. Not the MCA, not the ACT, so obviously not the SAT. (Yes, I have not even taken the ACT, and I will pass them, it's just that I never get the whole reason why people freak about it.)
When I moved to US on August 2007, it was a bit weird (to me anyway). They (the school) insisted on me using Number 2 pencils, and I had to use the wooden pencils (I only use mechanical ones or pens back in Indonesia). So when I saw this cover, it grabbed my attention at once.
Daisy and Max are best friends--Daisy is poor and well (let's face it) her grades are just average. She plays basketball good, though. Max, on the other hand, is smart though geeky.
They both came for the SAT prep class, and found Leo Thayer and Jane Cotterell from the same school.
Leo Thayer is one of the BP--Beautiful People--and he knows it. Worse, he always hits on freshmen girls and well, break their hearts. In short, of course, a jerk. Jane Cotterell is the daughter of Julia Cotterell, the movie star. Right, Jane is also the rich kid with the popular mom without any friends. The SAT Prep guy didn't show up, so Daisy (not caring about the test at all), walks out. Inviting anyone who'd come with.
Then the four of them started their own SAT prep group in Jane's house.
But then they figured out that someone cheated. Someone cheated the SAT.
Was it Daisy, the poor girl who needed the scholarship?
Leo, who wants the perfect score?
Max, who needs his father off his back?
Or Jane, so she doesn't ruin her mom's reputation?
What I love about the book: The characters--Mariah Fredericks showed us all 4 characters' minds, and each of them was great. It was funny--hilarious, actually--and smart. :D
What I dislike about the book: I didn't dislike anything! (I wonder why I haven't found any book that I have anything to point out that I dislike...?) This is one of my favorites!!!
Posted November 6, 2008
Posted August 30, 2008
I enjoyed reading Crunch Time. It is a very inspirational book for students to read. It teaches a very important lesson on why cheating and lying is bad to do. If you are one that likes to read about the ups and downs of worrying about the SAT's than this book is great. If I could describe this book, it would be described as a train ride, a drama thrill, and an important lesson. I hope anyone who reads this book enjoys it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 16, 2008
I read the book called Crunch Time by Mariah Fredricks. Out of five stars I would give this book a total of three. It was an ok book overall. I only liked it as much as I did because I really enjoy reading. It was on and off and didn¿t keep my interest as well as it could of. Some parts were nice while others became tedious. Crunch Time is a group of four people Leo, Max, Jane, and Daisy who all agree to basically on one thing they all hate the SATs. After ditching their SAT prep class, they decide, to please their parents, to create their own study group. Everyone wants to do really good so they can make it into an Ivy League college. After weeks of practicing, getting to know each other and a few practice SAT tests they finally take the big test. Afterwards when everyone is relieved, or dissatisfied, with their scores, they learn the horrific truth someone paid somebody else to take the SAT test for them! This could ruin the Dewey High School reputation. Any college in their right mind wouldn¿t want to accept a possible cheater in their prided school. Everyone begins to point fingers and make conclusions on who the culprit is. Is anybody right? Is it the obvious or not so obvious? Read the book to find out and discover the truth. There were a few things that I really liked about the book but more that I disliked. To start with, the story was told in four points of view by the main characters. I mean that every so often the first person narrative would switch and you would be in that persons mind over everything that happened in the book. This made it really unique and interesting. Also the book kind of explained the thinking and life of a sophomore in high school. To go along with the good parts there has to be bad and unfortunately there is a few. There was a very significant time change and I barely caught on. That made it kind of hard to follow along. Also, it seemed as if the author forgot about what she was writing and stretched out that made it long and boring. The mystery part didn¿t even come until over half-way through the book. Overall I have read better and worse books. It was a fairly good book and I recommend you should give it a try.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 4, 2008
Posted July 31, 2007
I finished this book in 1 day. it was awesome. although I kind've wanted Jane and Max to get together in the end, I liked the ending. I didn't suspect the person who did cheat to cheat, but oh well. I really loved this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 25, 2007
Crunch Time has outstanding characters. I love how Jane, Daisy, Max, and Leo are all completely different, yet they form a bond. But this bond only got a chance to form because their SAT Prep class teacher could not find the booklets. Daisy, being the rebel that she is, stormed out followed by Max, Jane, and Leo. Jane is the movie star's daughter, Daisy is the rebel who does not follow the rules, Max is the typical guy with a crush on his best friend, and Leo is a total full-of-himself-jock. They are also stressed out for different reasons. This is a really creative way to write a book. I love the suspense of who cheated. I couldn't help but to take a peak to see who did--and I was shocked at what I saw. This book really portrays the stress put on students by both their parents and teachers to do well on the SAT.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 9, 2006
This book was funny, and really showed you the stress high schoolers go through! And it had a mystery twist. It looks long, but it goes really fast. There were four diffrent plots, from four diffrent people, and they had the same plots from diffrent eyes. I give it 5 stars.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 17, 2006
Daisy, Max, Leo, and Jane all have their own reasons to be freaking out over the upcoming SAT tests. Though they all go to the same school, only Daisy and Max have been more than acquaintances before the day when, at an SAT prep course, they decide to bag the formal classroom prep in favor of their own study group of four. Different but alike in many ways, they meet and prepare for the big score that will surely, irrevocably change what college they will get in to and therefore the rest of their life. Right? Mariah Fredericks has written a pithy, tight story about a very timely subject that all high school students-and their parents-will immediantly identify with. Alternatively funny and poignant, capturing the frenzy of high schoolers coping with all the current expectations surrounding SATs, college admissions and the pressures of just being a teenager in this day and age, this novel will ring true with all readers going through the circus that is higher level education today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 2, 2006
I love the characters in this book. I couldn't decide which person I liked the best, because they all were fascinating in their own way. They were so realistic that I felt like I was going through every awful and wonderful experience with them! (I even forced myself not to read ahead to find out who cheated, because--if it was one of them--I didn't want to find out!) The SATs suck, and I like how this book puts them into perspective.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 27, 2005
This is an amazing book, written in the point of view of four very different students at a prestigious and competitive NYC private school. They all ditch an SAT prep class at the beginning of their junior year of high school, and instead befriend one another and form their own SAT study group. After they take their SATs, it is discovered that a student at their school has cheated, and the group is caught up in the mystery of who did it while pointing fingers at each other. A great and well-written book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 10, 2011
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