Makeovers by Marcia

Makeovers by Marcia

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by Claudia Mills

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Pretty is as pretty does

Pretty, popular Marcia Faitak is not her usual self. Over the summer she gained five pounds, and when school begins, Marcia, desperate for an invitation from Alex Ryan to the October dance, goes on a diet. In art class, she's supposed to bring a red apple to life on paper, but all she wants to do is eat it. Mr. Morrison


Pretty is as pretty does

Pretty, popular Marcia Faitak is not her usual self. Over the summer she gained five pounds, and when school begins, Marcia, desperate for an invitation from Alex Ryan to the October dance, goes on a diet. In art class, she's supposed to bring a red apple to life on paper, but all she wants to do is eat it. Mr. Morrison doesn't like her work anyway: disdainfully, he calls her drawing of a beautiful girl "Barbie." Worse than art is social studies. This is the year that kids have to choose their community service project. When Ms. Williams signs up Marcia to work at the local nursing home, she's aghast. What can she possibly do for a bunch of old people in wheelchairs? Since experimenting with makeup is Marcia's favorite activity, her half sister suggests "Makeovers by Marcia."

In the fifth and final story in Claudia Mills's funny, philosophical series about the West Creek Middle School kids, Marcia discovers the nature of true beauty - and even learns to draw it.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Marcia Faitak is not looking forward to the beginning of school. Pretty and popular, she's spent the summer with a broken ankle caused by her friend and love interest, Alex Ryan. Now she faces starting eighth grade five pounds heavier, with an obvious pimple—the absolute worst thing that's happened to her in her entire life. When their social studies teacher assigns a project that forces the kids to visit a nursing home, Marcia and her friends worry that the old people will smell funny, talk too much, or not talk at all. In this fifth and final book about the West Creek Middle School gang, Claudia Mills writes with good humor and a terrific ear for young teens' dialog. Mills avoids stereotyping elderly characters by focusing on what makes each nursing home resident unique. The mother whose son was killed by friendly fire in Vietnam, the woman who wants nothing to do with the young visitors, and the fiery red-head who loves Elvis are candidates for Marcia's beauty makeovers and her friend's oral history project. While Marcia's life as an eight-grader is full of the normal ups and downs of school dances, mean teachers, and a wise step-sister, her community service project teaches her a thing or two about true friendship and lasting beauty. Makeovers by Marcia, an appealing middle-grade novel, can be read independently or as part of the West Creek Middle School series. 2005, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 9 to 12.
—Augusta Scattergood
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Marcia Faitak enters eighth grade with pimples and five extra pounds, the latter due to her immobility over the summer from a broken ankle. Her immediate goal is to improve her self-image and make Alex Ryan invite her to the October school dance. She gathers advice from books, friends, and her sister, but her efforts to impress Alex are clumsy, and she reminds him that he caused her injury. Marcia has other challenges-her incredibly picky art teacher, her disgruntled French teacher, and community service at a local nursing home. While her friend Lizzie records the residents' histories, Marcia offers the ladies makeovers and learns that beauty has more to do with personality and outlook than with physical appearance. This lesson carries over into her own life and helps her to become a better artist, more comfortable with herself, and more empathetic. Best of all, Alex finally asks her to the dance. As she gets ready for the big night, she receives news that one of her friends at the home suffered a heart attack, and Marcia makes the tough decision to be with the dying woman. This humorous, appealing tale is realistic, touching, and evenly paced. Pair it with Ben Mikaelsen's Petey (Hyperion, 1998), another intergenerational friendship story.-Alison Grant, West Bloomfield Township Public Library, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Yikes! What could be worse than gaining five pounds and having two prominent pimples on your face the day before starting 8th grade? Maybe having your social studies teacher assign you to community service in the local nursing home, with the idea of applying your mom's Jay-Dub's cosmetic makeovers to frail, 90-year-old women. Teen girls will sigh empathetically with pretty, popular Marcia in this fifth and final story about the West Creek Middle School kids. In her desperation to get cute Alex to invite her to the October dance, she goes on the grapefruit diet and her matchmaking talent works great for her best friend and the elder, wheelchair-bound Mavis, but not herself. Terrific title with spot-on dialogue, characters, humor and a realistic premise that bridges age preconceptions. Especially funny is the episode of trying pine nuts as an aphrodisiac. Though it can be read independently, fans of the first four will giggle, groan and gush as they relate to Marcia's angst. As unblemished as a good makeover. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
West Creek Middle School Series , #5
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File size:
157 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Makeovers by Marcia

By Claudia Mills

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

Copyright © 2005 Claudia Mills
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3457-2


The scale had to be wrong. Marcia Faitak stepped off, then stepped back on again with her eyes squinched shut. When she forced herself to open them and look down, the red numbers on the digital display read: 110. At five foot three, she weighed one hundred and ten pounds. If the scale wasn't broken, this was the single worst thing that had happened to her in her whole entire thirteen and a half years of life.

The towel! The towel wrapped around her head had to weigh at least a pound, damp as it was from drying her shoulder-length dark hair. Marcia dropped it on the bathroom floor and checked the scale again. Still 110. A person couldn't weigh the same with and without a heavy, wet towel on her head. Could she?

Marcia bounced slightly on her toes: 112, 109, 111 — then 110 again. She had weighed 105 in May, before her accident on the trail at seventh-grade outdoor ed. Now, after six weeks of lying on a chaise longue with a cast on her ankle, followed by a family vacation on a cruise where all they did was eat, apparently she had gained five pounds.

She remembered a joke Alex Ryan liked to tell. "Do you want to get rid of ten pounds of ugly fat? Cut off your head!" It didn't seem funny now. How could she start eighth grade tomorrow five pounds heavier, and with two newly erupted pimples, one on her forehead and one on her chin? The most important thing about eighth grade was that boys asked girls to go with them to the dances. In seventh grade, you just showed up with your friends and danced with whoever was there. What boy would ask a fat, pimply girl to go to a dance with him? Not Alex Ryan.

Back in her room, Marcia put on a pair of shorts — they were snug around the waist — and a bright blue, sleeveless, cropped T-shirt. She studied herself in the full-length mirror on her closet door. There was a visible bulge between the bottom of her T-shirt and the top of her shorts. She ripped off the cropped T-shirt and pulled on an extra-large T she sometimes used as a nightshirt. It hung down below her shorts, looking like a frumpy, baggy dress. Better that than let the world see the terrible truth about her protruding tummy.

Marcia picked up the phone and dialed her best friend, Sarah Kessel. Marcia knew that Sarah was monitoring two pimples of her own, lest they spoil her entrance on the first day of school.

Sarah started right in. "What are you wearing tomorrow?"

Suddenly Marcia wasn't sure she wanted to tell Sarah what the scale had said. "I don't know. What about you?"

"My white shorts, the new ones I got last week? And my yellow top, with the daisies on the straps. I heard there's going to be a new dress code this year that says you can't have bare shoulders. Is that dumb, or what? So I figure I better wear my sleeveless tops while I can. Your blue top always looks cool on you — the cropped one?"

It was the shirt Marcia had discarded on the floor. Should she tell Sarah or not? "I don't know. I think it makes my stomach look too fat."

There was a silence on the other end of the line. Did Sarah agree that the blue top made Marcia's stomach look too fat, but not want to say it? Sarah certainly wasn't rushing to contradict her.

Marcia plunged ahead. "I weighed myself."


"Very bad."

"How bad?"

"Very bad." She didn't know if she could say the number out loud.


"Worse." Marcia was sorry she had mentioned her weight to Sarah in the first place, but now that she had, she might as well cut short the guessing game. "One-ten."

"You're kidding."

As if anyone would kid about something like that. Marcia refused to dignify Sarah's comment with a reply.

"You don't look that fat." That fat. "But I can see why you don't want to wear the blue top. You're sure your scale's not broken?"

"I weighed myself like a hundred times."

"Maybe you broke the scale, weighing yourself so much." Sarah laughed.

Marcia couldn't make herself laugh along.

When she hung up, she was more depressed after talking to Sarah than she had been before. Maybe she should call Lizzie. Lizzie and Marcia were opposites in almost every way, but Lizzie had been a good friend over the summer, when Marcia was recovering from her accident. Of course, brainy, nerdy Lizzie didn't like swimming, bike riding, or tennis, so it was hardly a sacrifice for her to sit out everything and keep Marcia company.

Lizzie didn't seem to think looks were important. That was the first way in which she and Marcia were opposites. Sometimes Lizzie dressed like everyone else, but sometimes she wore crazy clothes — such as long white dresses she had found in somebody's attic, which somehow suited Lizzie better than blue jeans. So Lizzie wouldn't think it was the end of the world if somebody gained a few pounds. But tiny Lizzie probably weighed seventy-five pounds, fully dressed. Marcia felt huge and hulking next to her.

The phone rang. Maybe it was Alex Ryan! Stranger things had happened. Marcia snatched it up.

It was her second-best friend, Jasmine Nolin.

"Sarah just told me," Jasmine said, her voice full of sympathy.

"Told you what?" If it was what Marcia thought it was, she was absolutely furious at Sarah. It had taken her all of two minutes to call Jasmine. Marcia could only imagine how long it would take Sarah to call the whole school.

"You know." Plainly Jasmine thought Marcia's new weight was too horrible to mention directly. "But I have a diet that really works. It's amazing."

Marcia didn't want to ask, but she couldn't help herself. "What kind of diet?"

"Grapefruit. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A whole one, with no sugar. Something about the acid in the grapefruit burns up fat, sort of eats it away or something."

How much fat could grapefruit eat away by eight-thirty tomorrow morning? Marcia didn't even know if they had any grapefruit in the house.

As soon as she hung up, she headed for the fridge. One slightly dented grapefruit was hidden in the back of the crisper. Marcia cut it in half and started eating. The sooner the acid could start its burning, the better. The intense sourness of the first bite made her mouth pucker.

"I don't believe it," her mother said, coming into the kitchen from the deck. "My daughter, the potato chip queen, eating a grapefruit?"

Marcia's mom had every platinum-dyed hair in place and wore carefully applied foundation, powder, blush, lipstick, mascara, and eye shadow, even for a day at home in the middle of the summer. She worked as a sales representative for a cosmetics company called Just the Way You Are, JWYA, or Jay-Dub for short. The Jay-Dub ladies sold Jay-Dub cosmetics at Jay-Dub parties at other ladies' houses. Marcia had lost track of how many Jay-Dub parties she had helped her mother with.

One good thing about the Jay-Dub connection was that Marcia's mother had let her wear makeup to school since she was in sixth grade. And she got tons of samples for free.

"I'm on a diet," Marcia explained. "Jasmine says grapefruit burns fat."

Her mother eyed Marcia's hidden waistline. "I told you those greasy potato chips have two hundred calories in one tiny bag. But I guess you had to learn it yourself, the hard way. I haven't eaten a potato chip in twenty years. You'd have to pry my jaws open with a crowbar and force one down my throat."

Marcia doubted anyone would want her mother to eat a potato chip that badly. But her mother was definitely slim, with all her curves in the right places. Sullenly Marcia swallowed another mouthful of the world's sourest grapefruit.

"Potato chips haven't done your skin any favors, either," her mother went on.

"I'm not eating them again. Can you buy me some more grapefruit? A lot more?"

"Diets aren't the way to lose weight, you know." At least her mother got up and wrote grapefruit on the grocery list. "The way to lose weight is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise aerobically three or four times a week."

That advice wasn't going to help Marcia lose any weight in the next twenty-four hours. Giving up, Marcia finished her grapefruit, put her bowl and spoon in the dishwasher, and then ran upstairs to reweigh herself.

111 pounds!

So much for help from Sarah, Jasmine, and Mom.

The only person Marcia had ever been able to turn to with her problems was her seventeen-year-old sister, Gwennie. Gwennie was really Marcia's half sister: they had the same father but different mothers. Gwennie lived half the time at Marcia's house and half the time with her own mom and stepdad. But Gwennie felt like a whole sister to Marcia.

Gwennie was at her other house today. Marcia pushed the button on the phone where she had programmed in Gwennie's number. Unfortunately, her mom answered. Marcia felt shy around Gwennie's mom.

"I'm afraid Gwen isn't here, Marcia. I expect her back any minute. Should I have her call you when she gets in?" It was better than nothing. "Okay."

Clicking off the phone, Marcia looked at herself in the mirror again. She hadn't seen Alex for almost a month now; first his family had been on vacation, then hers. What would he say when he saw her at school tomorrow? Alex was a great one for the clever insult, though when she had seen him at the pool off and on this summer, Marcia had noticed that he was less sarcastic than usual. Just as cute, though, with his broad shoulders and quick smile. "Hey, tub o' lard," she imagined him saying. "What crane hoisted you in here?"

She felt like crying. "Hormones," her mother said lately, whenever Marcia burst into tears about anything. "Women!" her father said, with a fond, superior smile. Well, they'd cry, too, if they weighed 111 pounds and had two pimples.

Hoping Gwennie would call back soon, Marcia kept the line free instead of checking her e-mail for the tenth time that day. Alex had e-mailed her when he got back from his family trip to the Grand Tetons. Marcia knew he felt guilty for having caused her accident at outdoor ed: he had hidden in the bushes and made a horrid rattling noise exactly like the sound of a rattlesnake ready to attack somebody. Terrified, Marcia had run down the trail, tripped, and broken her ankle.

But still, he didn't have to e-mail her that way. "I'm back. Just wanted to say hi. See you in jail. Alex." That sounded pretty friendly to Marcia.

She had e-mailed him back right away. "Hi to you, too. Did you see any rattlesnakes on your trip? What classes are you taking this year? Marcia." He hadn't written again. Maybe she shouldn't have said anything about rattlesnakes? But what good was guilt in a boy if a girl couldn't make use of it? She glanced at her watch. She could check her e-mail one more time, quickly.

The phone rang. Someone else on Sarah's calling list, with another diet suggestion?

"Marsh! What's up?" It was Gwennie.

"I'm fat!" Marcia wailed into the phone.

Gwennie laughed. "No you're not."

"Yes I am. I weighed myself. One hundred eleven pounds!"

"Well, you haven't been able to get any exercise this summer, with that awful cast. You'll lose it when you start doing P. E. again this fall."

"But school starts tomorrow! And my shorts are too tight. And my stomach pooches out. And I have two pimples."

"All your shorts are too tight?"

"The pair I have on now is."


Gwennie's voice took on the crisp, authoritative, problem-solving tone that Marcia was waiting for. Gwennie wouldn't tell her to eat grapefruit three times a day, either.

"Thing number one: Try on all your shorts and find at least one pair that fits. If you can't find any, I'll come get you and drive you to the mall. But you know Mom doesn't like me to do stuff with you guys on one of her days."

Okay, Marcia would try on shorts as soon as she and Gwennie got off the phone.

"Thing number two: Don't hide in some huge, baggy T-shirt. It'll make you look even fatter."

Marcia looked down at the nightshirt flapping around her knees.

"Thing number three: Cover the pimples with that Jay-Dub Vanishing Act cream. It works like a charm. But you knew that. Thing number four — are you still there?"

"I'm still here." Marcia loved Gwennie more than anyone in the world.

"Polish your fingernails and your toenails. Something outrageous. Tangerine is good. Purple Pizzazz is better. If they're looking at your nails, they're not looking at your tumkin. Got it?"

"Uh-huh. Oh, another thing? Alex Ryan? He didn't e-mail me back."

"Boys don't. It takes too much out of them. They have to conserve their feeble male strength."

"I told Sarah what I weighed, and two minutes later she told Jasmine."

"Not bad for Sarah. Have you ever known her to keep a secret that long? Listen, I gotta go."

"Thanks, Gwennie."

"Purple Pizzazz!" Then Gwennie hung up.

An hour later, Marcia had twenty pulsatingly purple nails. Maybe she was ready for eighth grade, after all — even if she was fat, pimply, betrayed by her so-called best friend, and ignored by the boy she had been flirting with for the past two years.

She inspected her nails again. The polish on her left pinkie had smudged. She opened her bottle of nail polish remover and prepared to do it over again. Her nails were all she had going for her right now. They had better be perfect.


Marcia weighed 110 in the morning. It was definitely better than 111, but still pretty sickening. She put on one of her three pairs of shorts that fit and a purple top to match her nail polish. Her hair looked somewhat better than usual, soft and dark and silky. Alex sometimes teased her with a quick pull on her hair. Maybe he'd do that today. He still hadn't e-mailed her back, though. Marcia had checked her e-mail twice already this morning. Nothing.

"Don't you look pretty," her father said when she presented herself in the kitchen.

"Oh, Daddy." He always thought she looked pretty, so Marcia could never take his compliments seriously. Still, he was sweet to say it.

"What do you want for breakfast?" her mother asked. "You left yourself all of five minutes to eat."

"Nothing. I'm not hungry."

"Is this that diet? Especially if you want to lose weight, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I got you some grapefruit. I can scramble you an egg and fix you some toast to go with it."

Marcia's stomach rebelled at the thought of unsweetened,mouth-puckering grapefruit first thing in the morning. Still, yesterday's grapefruit had burned off one pound so far. "I'll have some grapefruit. No eggs or toast."

She made herself eat a few bites, until she could feel the acid start to take effect. "I'm full. Can we go?"

"Not so fast," her father said. "Eighth grade! Next year, high school! I need a picture of my baby." Marcia saw that he had his camera ready on the kitchen counter. He had taken a picture of her on the first day of school every year so far. All were framed and hanging on the wall in his office.

Marcia posed outside, in front of the same pine tree where she had stood for all her pictures. She remembered to suck in her stomach before the camera clicked. She'd have to work on holding it in all day.

Her mother drove her the mile to school. "Good luck, honey. You do look nice."

Her mother's compliments were more rare and meaningful than her dad's. "Thanks."

Marcia hopped out of the car and looked around for Sarah, Jasmine, or Lizzie. First she found Sarah, easy to spot in her bright yellow daisy top. "I'm mad at you," Marcia said by way of greeting.


Marcia didn't answer.

"Because I told Jasmine and Keeley and Brianna that you'd gained some weight? We're your friends. We want to help you. Did you try the grapefruit diet? Jasmine says it's like a miracle how fast it works."

Marcia couldn't stay mad at Sarah for long. She would have done the same thing if Sarah had said something like that to her. She was surprised that Sarah had stopped after telling three other people.

"Oh, and I guess I told Brittany and Lizzie. But Lizzie doesn't really count, and Brittany — did you know her sister has a weight problem, too?"


"And she lost fifteen pounds this summer. You can ask Brittany how she did it. I think she used that diet where you eat bacon all day long."

"Bacon? Nothing's more fattening than bacon."

"All I know is that she lost fifteen pounds doing it. I think the fat in the bacon acts like a magnet for the fat in your body. Sort of fat attracts fat."

As she was half listening to Sarah, Marcia scanned the gathering crowd for a glimpse of Alex. She saw his best friend, Dave Barnett, and short Ethan Winfield, who was always paired with tall, gangly Julius Zimmerman. And Travis Edwards, Sarah's current crush, tall and good-looking, but not as tall and good-looking as Alex. But there was no sign of Alex anywhere.

Then someone grabbed her from behind, covering her eyes with his hands.

"Guess who?" a falsetto voice asked.

Marcia's heart soared. "Let go of me, Alex Ryan!" Shebroke free from his "blindfold" and whirled around to face him. He grinned at her. She smiled back.


Excerpted from Makeovers by Marcia by Claudia Mills. Copyright © 2005 Claudia Mills. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
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

Claudia Mills is the author of Losers, Inc.; You're a Brave Man, Julius Zimmerman; Lizzie at Last; Alex Ryan, Stop That!; and many other books for young readers. She lives in Boulder,

Claudia Mills is the acclaimed author of many books for children. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Makeovers by Marcia 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great Book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jimmy:*forces guthix to take a shower*. Guthix:*unwillingly takes a shower* how do you know how to give someone a makeover anyway? Jimmy:*rolls his eyes* angeld have to be good at everything. Guthix:oh... jimmy:*after the shower he forces guthix to sit in the chair*. Guthix:*unwillingly doesit and mumbles*. Jimmy:*he washes guthix's hair then cuts it short*. Guthix:O.o nooooooooo! Jimmy:*then shaves off guthix's beard*. Guthix:......f u c k you. Jimmy:*he stands up and he looks at his marvelous creation. Guthix's blond hair is cut short and is trim. His blue eyes stand out on his face. He hands guthix a mirror*. Guthix:*he looks a himself then he looks at jimmy then smiles ad flicks him*. Jimmy:he likes it!