This stunning novel by E.R. Frank explores what happens when the truth is worse than the rumor.

Twelve-year-old Alex loves her small alternative school. She hangs out with her best friend, Tim, every day, and Simon is the coolest teacher—he’s even starting a soccer team just for them. And then Stacey comes to town. With her tongue ring and air of confidence, Stacey immediately shakes things up in the classroom. Alex is drawn to her at first, but when Stacey starts rumors that ...

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This stunning novel by E.R. Frank explores what happens when the truth is worse than the rumor.

Twelve-year-old Alex loves her small alternative school. She hangs out with her best friend, Tim, every day, and Simon is the coolest teacher—he’s even starting a soccer team just for them. And then Stacey comes to town. With her tongue ring and air of confidence, Stacey immediately shakes things up in the classroom. Alex is drawn to her at first, but when Stacey starts rumors that something is going on between Alex and Simon, trouble brews. As the class and Tim begin to believe Stacey’s rumors, Alex starts to doubt what is really true herself.

This explosive tale about school politics, relationships, and the frictional power of suggestion is “sure to spark heated discussions” (SLJ, starred review).

When a new girl at the private school Alex attends starts rumors about Alex's favorite teacher, Alex and her eighth-grade classmates are not sure how to act around him or with each other.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A tomboyish 12-year-old feels comfortable at her high school until a new student insinuates that there is more than friendship between her and another classmate, and claims their teacher is a pervert. PW wrote, "The author invites readers to explore the large gray area between truth and falsehood," addressing the topics of teen sexuality and child abuse. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Twelve-year-old Alex leads a normal life until the new girl, Stacy, shows up one day at school. A teacher asks Alex to show her around. They become close after Stacy entrusts Alex with a deep secret. Although Alex recognizes Stacy's differences, she stays close friends with her. One of the first things Stacy lets Alex know is how she believes their teacher, Simon, has feelings for Alex. Alex thinks the idea of her teacher liking her is absurd, but cannot convince Stacy of this. Stacy soon begins to spread rumors about Simon liking Alex. One day Stacy gets hurt badly and has to be rushed to the hospital. Alex soon learns that the secret Stacy told Alex is a lie. When Alex gets very upset over the whole ordeal, Simon comforts her. Alex goes over to Stacy's house to see her after the accident, and Stacy gets upset while she is there, explaining to Alex how Simon touched her sexually after she got hurt. Given Stacy's affinity for lying, Alex refuses to believe her. Alex knows there's a line that adults should not cross with children, but what she knows to be the truth gets twisted with the lies everyone else believes. In this novel Frank uses emotions to inform the reader of the uncertainties involved with facing molestation as a young child. She takes an uncomfortable subject and writes a terrific narrative. Frank also makes it appropriate for the classroom by writing on a young adult level and by avoiding unnecessary details. 2003, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, Ages 12 up.
—Sarah Tuten
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May, 2003: Alex loves Simon, her eighth-grade teacher at her alternative school, just as she loves soccer and her best friend, Tim. But when a new student named Stacy arrives, everything changes. Stacy starts rumors that Simon has a crush on Alex, and interprets every gesture he makes as proof. It starts everyone wondering, even 12-year-old Alex, and slowly poisons her relationship with Simon, Stacy, and even Tim. Alex longs to confide her worries to her parents, but can't quite summon up the words. When finally Stacy accuses Simon of molestation, matters come to a head, and the police come to investigate. Yes, Alex admits that Simon has hugged her and touched her sometimes—but she neglects to point out that it was not sexual in any way, and in the end a bitter Simon leaves the school, as do Alex, Tim, and Stacy. Alex belatedly comes to understand the difference between telling "the real truth. Not just the facts." With her understanding parents' help, she realizes that Stacy was being sexually abused by her own father, and that her accusations were really a cry for help. Frank, author of the all-too-realistic and impressive Life is Funny (reviewed in KLIATT, March 2000) and America (reviewed in January 2002), doesn't shy away from difficult topics, and this novel is no exception. She conveys Alex's confusion convincingly, and in the end readers will sympathize with everyone involved. An excellent way for teachers, counselors, and parents to open up discussions of what constitutes sexual abuse, and a gripping read for younger adolescent girls. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003,Simon & Schuster, Pulse, 197p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Paula Rohrlick
This book deals with the thin line between teacher and student relationships. Based on my experience, the description of the private school is quite accurate, from the physical description of the building to the teacher. The only problem I had with the book was that parts seemed highly unlikely, such as when Simon (the teacher) tells Alex to wait for him in a McDonald's and then he leaves to make out with his girlfriend. Nevertheless, overall Frank has outdone herself. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Atheneum/S & S, 208p,
— Kortney Hartz, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Alex, an eighth grader in Forest Alternative school, is the only girl on her school's soccer team, and best friends with Tim, a boy she has known all of her life in this novel by E.R. Frank (Atheneum, 2003). Alex finds her life changing dramatically after Stacy, a new girl, arrives at the school. Stacy challenges Alex's relationship with Tim and with their non-traditional teacher, Simon. After a class camping trip, Alex learns that there are rumors circulating around school. Stacy inflicts her dysfunctional unhappiness on everyone, and the power she wields with her fantasies causes friction among the kids and the adults connected with the school. The narrator, Jessalyn Gilsig, presents a very credible voice for Alex, and her innocence and naivete come through clearly. There is a limited attempt made to differentiate characters, but since Alex is the narrator, it would have been more effective if the other characters had not been given different voices. There are many conversations in this story, and listeners may find the constant "s/he goes" instead of "s/he said" very distracting, even though it's the vernacular of those speaking. That phrase is much more effective written than spoken. Young adults who enjoy the gritty realism of Frank's stories will respond positively to this recording.-Lynn Evarts, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, WI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Alex is 12, teetering on the cusp of puberty, and enormously happy with her life. She attends an alternative school where she has the best of all teachers, Simon, whose unconventional familiarity has won over his entire class. When Stacy arrives, full of attitude, Alex is drawn to her--until Stacy begins to insinuate that Simon’s interest in Alex goes beyond the teacher-student relationship. Alex’s present-tense narration allows readers to get inside her head as she struggles to sort out the truth, adding enough ambiguous detail that the reader becomes as confused as Alex. Alex’s unsophisticated voice is just right, as are the changing attitudes of her classmates, torn between affection for Alex and Simon and willingness to believe Stacy’s accusations. Frank’s focus on the highly combustible environment of a classroom full of pubescent children and the chaos one abused teen can bring to those around her is subtly done, and will be immediately recognizable to her readers. (Fiction. 11-14)
From the Publisher
Booklist, starred review Gripping...unsettling.

Publishers Weekly Sure to spark heated discussions.

SLJ, starred review Convincingly genuine.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781481448109
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/26/2015
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,449,563
  • Age range: 14 years

Meet the Author

E.R. Frank is the author of America, Friction, Wrecked, and Dime. Her first novel, Life Is Funny, won the Teen People Book Club NEXT Award for YA Fiction and was also a top-ten ALA 2001 Quick Pick. In addition to being writer, E.R. Frank is also a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. She works with adults and adolescents and specializes in trauma.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The first time we all meet Stacy, it's just a regular morning.

Our teacher, Simon, is in front of the room, shuffling flash cards. He leans back against the science counter, mixes the deck a couple of times, and hooks one ankle over the other, the way he always does. Then he holds up the first word.

"Ology," he says out loud, so we can hear how it sounds. I write, the study of. Things are quiet while pencils scratch, sounding just like gerbils making a nest out of cedar chips and Kleenex. Simon holds up the next one. Astro. On a test he'll put them together, and we'll have to figure out that astrology means "the study of stars."

"Ichthy," Simon says. Fish, I write, and then I kick Tim and make a gagging face to remind him how we remember that one: Fish tastes icky....ichthy. But Tim doesn't kick back, even when I kick him again, and then I notice there's this massive hush in the room. I look up to see a girl standing in the doorway. The new girl. Simon told us she was coming, but up until this second I'd forgotten all about it.

She's got shiny black hair down to her behind and gray eyes that take up her whole face, and she's as skinny as I am. She's wearing a purple-and-black turtleneck and jeans that look brand-new, and she grins at everybody like she's totally psyched to meet us. She's got a gap between her two front teeth.

"Hi," she goes. "I'm Stacy." I see a flash of silver in her mouth. A tongue ring. "Let's get this party started."

And that's how it begins.

Copyright © 2003 by E. R. Frank

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