Night Schoolby Caroline B. Cooney
In a California high school, a signup sheet mysteriously appears on the bulletin board: NIGHT CLASS. No course description, no details, no clues. Four kids, each with their own individual problems and desires, write their names on the sheet. Andrew, the handsome, seemingly perfect jock, signs up first, hoping that/b>
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In the night class, attendance can be fatal
In a California high school, a signup sheet mysteriously appears on the bulletin board: NIGHT CLASS. No course description, no details, no clues. Four kids, each with their own individual problems and desires, write their names on the sheet. Andrew, the handsome, seemingly perfect jock, signs up first, hoping that the mysterious course will finally propel him into the life of fame he craves. Mariah’s intense crush on Andrew inspires her to follow suit, for a chance that her romantic fantasy will come true. Autumn, beautiful and popular but deeply dissatisfied, adds her name to the class list in an effort to escape the claustrophobic clutches of the cool clique at school. Ned, brainy, awkward, and insecure, signs up with a desperate dream of becoming popular. These students will discover whether the night class is a place where dreams come true—or where nightmares are made real. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Caroline B. Cooney including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.
- Open Road Media Teen & Tween
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- NOOK Book
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- 3 MB
- Age Range:
- 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
By Caroline B. Cooney
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1995 Caroline B. Cooney
All rights reserved.
Mariah Frederick's life was constructed around two secrets. If she had ever talked about her secrets, they would have sounded ordinary—minor stuff everybody suffered now and then. But Mariah's secrets were not ordinary. They were addictions.
Mariah had had a crush on Andrew Todd since third grade. Usually, a third-grade girl thinks of boys as rarely as possible. But Mariah adored the eight-year-old Andrew, and as the years passed, her adoration never wore away. It deepened and widened, and eventually, it consumed her.
In real life, Andrew might say "Hi there," once a week. Andrew didn't even use her name, which hurt, because Mariah loved her name.
But in Mariah's imagination, she and Andrew had lengthy conversations about everything. When she went clothes shopping (with her girlfriends), she would silently ask Andrew's opinion on her purchase. (Andrew thought she had wonderful taste.) In the privacy of her secret crush, Mariah would go for long drives with Andrew, although in fact, she was the only one in the car. (Andrew thought she was a very skilled driver.)
She and Andrew had a long history together, and often laughed with each other about previous adventures, or blushed over early mistakes. None of which, of course, existed—anymore than the laughter or the sharing really existed.
Mariah had snacks with Andrew in front of the television, and once her mother actually caught her fixing a sandwich for Andrew—the way he liked it, and not the way anybody in the Frederick family did. (Mariah was alone at the time.)
An invisible Andrew loved playing computer games with her and although they'd never been on a court together, he was her best tennis partner. Sometimes, when Mariah was with her best friend Sal, she actually started to tell Sal what Andrew had said to her yesterday ... forgetting, since it felt so real, that she had made it all up.
It went way beyond what anybody could call an active imagination. It was another world. Her own private soap opera that required new scripts every day.
Every day she told herself to stop it, it was getting out of hand, she had to get a grip on herself—and every day, she enjoyed her secret crush too much to quit.
Andrew never suspected. Nor did Andrew develop a crush on Mariah. In fact, Andrew hardly noticed Mariah. He passed through elementary school and junior high without changing much. He stayed adorable and got taller, stayed smart and got more athletic.
But Mariah's crush got larger and larger. Her crush was like a member of the family; it was there; it had always been there; she had learned to make the compromises it required.
She certainly understood that Andrew would be shocked if he knew the part he played in the life of a girl he barely thought about.
But stopping the crush would have been like stopping any addiction: very difficult. And completely undesirable. In her dream, Mariah had managed to have a wonderful, rewarding social life. If she gave up the Andrew of her dreams, she'd have no social life at all.
As long as nobody knew and it didn't hurt anybody, Mariah reasoned, what difference did the crush make? It wouldn't destroy her body, like drugs. It wouldn't turn her into a criminal. It wouldn't upset her parents—well, yes, it would upset her parents. But they would never know, because she was so good at keeping the crush on the inside.
Even Sal, her best friend, didn't realize that Mariah had an inner life; a complete world, really; with Andrew.
Sal certainly, did not know that Mariah had a second secret life. Because when Mariah wasn't invisibly and silently with Andrew, she wasn't hanging out with Sal, either. She was with the famous Julie-Brooke-Autumn-Danielle.
Julie-Brooke-Autumn-Danielle were a clique that had begun in fifth grade with Julie and Brooke. In fifth grade they were just two girls playing with Barbies, sharing sandwiches, and sleeping over. Autumn moved to town in sixth grade and became a very tight third member, while Danielle arrived in seventh grade.
It was a source of pain to Mariah that Julie-Brooke had not chosen her, but waited for Autumn; and that Julie-Brooke-Autumn had not chosen Mariah, either, but waited for Danielle.
Sometimes Mariah stared into her mirror, wondering why she didn't look right for Julie-Brooke-Autumn-Danielle. (Andrew, of course, thought she looked perfect, and that even changing a molecule would be a disaster. He kissed her cheek and his invisible lips comforted her as they always did.)
Julie-Brooke-Autumn-Danielle were greatly to be envied, for they always had laughing company. Their phones always rang and their cars were always full. Each was very pretty, in her own way. Depending on her mood, Mariah would find herself admiring one girl more than the rest. Sometimes she didn't pretend to be a fifth member of Julie-Brooke-Autumn-Danielle, but pretended actually to be one of them. Usually Autumn.
When she was also pretending that Andrew was in love with her and walking beside her, her interior life could become quite complex. At these times speech was difficult for fear of using the wrong script and being found out.
How Mariah envied Julie-Brooke-Autumn-Danielle.
Her buddy Sal did not. Sal was annoying because she didn't envy anybody. She liked being plain old Sal.
"But you don't date!" Mariah would say. "You don't have tons of friends and you don't go to parties."
Sal would shrug. "Oh, well. Someday that will come or else someday it won't."
How could Sal be so casual? What if the second part were the true part? What if boyfriends never came?
"Meantime," Sal would beam at Mariah, "I'm having a great life." If there was one thing Sal had, it was a beautiful smile. "I have a best friend," Sal would say, her eyes reflecting Mariah. (Although to Mariah's eyes, their friendship was mild and infrequent compared to Julie-Brooke-Autumn-Danielle.) "I get good grades, I have a walk-on in the musical, I made swim team, and my parents think I'm perfect. What else is there?"
But oh! for Mariah, there was so much else.
And all of it ... pretend.
Once or twice a week, Sal and Mariah went horseback riding. For whatever reason, the crush on Andrew didn't go along when Mariah was riding. On horseback, Mariah was free of him, and it was as wonderful as being free of any other addiction—cigarettes, or drugs, or bulimia.
That was when Mariah saw the extent to which her crush had taken over her thoughts. Inside her mind, she was carrying on long intense dialogues that would never be spoken, to a boy who would never be listening. How sad. How pitiful. There was the rest of the world, actually living and taking risks—and here she was, faking literally every moment of her life.
If she actually told anybody and they actually believed her, she would end up in therapy forever and ever.
It was on a Wednesday that Mariah Frederick happened to go down the main hall of the high school and find Andrew Todd standing alone.
Oh! he was perfect. He was perfectly photogenic, perfectly nice, perfectly smart, perfectly athletic, perfectly perfect. Mariah's heart quickened. She felt thick and stupid just looking at him. For all the years of practice dialogue, she could think of nothing to say. In her secrets, she knew everything about Andrew—every detail of his existence—but in real life, she knew very little.
Andrew was in front of the bulletin board by the library. Reading the board was a good excuse to stand next to Andrew. So she walked up, and he of course turned and smiled. "Hi, Mariah," he said, in his friendly, meaningless way.
"Hi, Andrew." Her heart surged like the kind of dangerous tide caused by volcanic eruptions. "Anything interesting?"
Andrew Todd pointed to a single piece of paper, carefully centered on the huge bulletin board, as if somebody had gone to the trouble of measuring right down to the quarter inch. The announcement was in black. Icicle-hung printing from some strange computer font crept and dripped down the page. It was an eerie, creepy announcement, and seemed to Mariah's eyes to glow with fingerprints, evil crusted whorls of dark plans and sick thoughts.
"Night Class," said Andrew, and it seemed to Mariah that his voice turned to Night also, that his voice grew dark and shadowy, like the letters on the board.
But Mariah had made up so much about Andrew she could no longer tell when she was making things up. "Night Class?" she repeated. Can't I say something intelligent? her heart cried. Can't I be the interesting, intriguing sexy person he loves when I make him up?
She forced herself into reality. Every year this got a little harder, and every year she got a little more afraid of being stuck in her unreality, and never getting out.
Okay: Night Class: Okay, that meant subjects and study.
Mariah had her hands full this year. Chemistry, algebra, English literature, second-year Spanish, and geography. She was good at anything to do with numbers, so chem and algebra, though difficult and time-consuming, pleased her. But she was not fond of lengthy reading and she detested all writing, which meant English lit, Spanish, and geography were exhausting. The last thing Mariah Frederick needed was to go to night school.
It was a sign-up sheet. Nobody had signed up. The more she stared at the fingerprints, the less real they seemed, like Andrew. Perhaps they weren't even there. Like Andrew. "It doesn't actually say what the class is, Andrew," Mariah pointed out. She loved using his name for real instead of silently inside her thoughts. Andrew. So beautiful. What would he do right now if she told him her entire world consisted of him? Quickly she moved into real speech, guarding the syllables, to keep herself from exposing the secret. "It could be anything, Andrew. Computer Repair for Dummies or Opera Appreciation for Senior Citizens."
Andrew laughed. "Water Color for the Non-artistic," he agreed. "Russian Affairs for Political Junkies."
"French for Restaurant Ordering," said Mariah.
"The History of Fast Food," said Andrew, grinning.
She was entertaining him! They were giggling together, the way she had always planned.
"It meets Wednesdays," said Andrew. "That's tonight. I'm going." He wrote his name on the first line. ANDREW TODD. Fat awkward printing, as if he were still in kindergarten. Why hadn't his handwriting caught up to his body? It gave Mariah a funny feeling, as if there were something wrong with Andrew Todd.
He's going, she thought. There is actually a real-life chance of spending real-life hours with Andrew. If I sign up, will he know that he's the only reason I would ever take a night class? But maybe he should know. Maybe I shouldn't have a secret crush. Maybe my crush should be right out in the open, where he can take hold of it. Take hold of me. Love me forever the way I love him.
Boldly, Mariah signed her name on line two.
Andrew smiled very slightly. For a horrible sick moment she saw the fingerprints on his cheek as well as on the poster: glowing twisted marks, like scars of evil. "Tonight, then, Mariah," said Andrew softly. He walked off as if he owned both the hall and the time, long athletic legs swinging, wide shoulders motionless above them.
She looked back at the sign-up sheet. It smiled at her, the dripping black letters turning into teeth.
She had a sense of falling off the edge of something, and she thought: It's my own sanity. I have to climb out of my daydream world; I have to do all real things with real people in real places. Night Class is good. Who cares what it's really about? I'll assign myself a subject: giving up the secret worlds. Getting real.
She thought of the real parts. Sitting next to Andrew. Sharing assignments. After class, getting ice cream. Or pizza. Surely this weekend, he'd want to go down to the boardwalk on the beach and walk for miles, while he held Mariah's hand. The Pacific Ocean would be on one side and the mountains on the other, and over them both, the blue sky and the beginning of love.
There was nothing wrong with her dream crush. It had been preparation, that's all. Practice, the way you practiced riding until you could win trophies. Mariah slid easily into her dream crush, filled by an Andrew who worshiped her.
"What on earth are you doing, Mariah? Signing up for a night class? What are you—nuts?"
Mariah jumped badly. She looked quickly at the sign-up sheet before she looked at the speaker, needing to see if it still had the fingerprints and the smile.
It had nothing. Not even dripping letters. It was just typing, and just words.
How much am I making up now? she thought, chilled. I've gone past making up conversations? Now I'm making up poster graphics? "Hi, Tommy," she said, with the ease of one whose voice does the right thing even when the mind is lost in secret spaces.
Tommy was a nice person. Technically, Tommy'd known Mariah for years. Because so much of Mariah was a secret, though, he hardly knew her at all. If I died today, she thought, what could I claim I've really done in the world? I've dreamed. That's all.
"It doesn't even say what the class is!" Tommy was gently laughing at Mariah. "Just what are you and Andrew intending to do there?"
This time, Tommy's smile was once removed, like a rarely encountered cousin. Tommy was thinking of other things, other girls, other plans. He moved on down the hall as Andrew had before him, in possession of the space and the time, happy in his world, whatever that was.
And my world, thought Mariah, dizzyingly seeing more fingerprints, more black letters, hanging in the air like spectres from other worlds, what on earth is my world?
Or was her world on earth?
Autumn Ivers was sick of Julie-Brooke-Danielle.
Here it was the middle of the school year, and Autumn could not think of a thing she had done except hang out with Julie-Brooke-Danielle. Everybody else changed friends with each event. They had their sports friends and their music friends, their skating friends and their drama club friends, their computer game friends and their drive-in-the-country friends.
Whereas she, Autumn, was chained to Julie-Brooke-Danielle.
Autumn considered leaving the group. But then, with whom would she experiment when they got new makeup or changed their hair? With whom would she explore the new shops? With whom would she sit in the cafeteria? Giggle on the phone?
If she gave up Julie-Brooke-Danielle, how would she find other friends? Had she been nice enough to other girls that they would even want to be friends with her?
Sometimes you saw girls who were often alone, like Sal. Sal looked fine out there all by herself. She looked easy and content, as if this were her master plan. But Autumn couldn't imagine sitting or walking or shopping alone. She was always a little relieved when Mariah raced over and found Sal and then there were two of them. Autumn hated seeing people on their own.
Mariah was one of the more interesting people Autumn knew. Caught up in some other world, as if inside her head, she was writing screenplays or inventing new computers. Mariah was pretty in a soft way; a gentle way; whereas Julie-Brooke-Autumn-Danielle were good-looking in strong ways, with bold clothes and defined hair, elegant features and crowd-crossing voices.
Autumn observed the procession of kids up to and away from the bulletin board. It began with Andrew, on whom Julie-Brooke-Autumn-Danielle had all had crushes at one time or another. Andrew was the best. He seemed to have been peeled out of a television soap opera; he had the distinctive quality of stardom, and he knew it, and his every move was photogenic. It was comic, the way he would turn this way and that, as if he thought even algebra was a photo opportunity or that casting directors sat in on English quizzes.
Andrew and Mariah signed their names on something. Tommy did not. Autumn was intrigued. When she reached the bulletin board, they had moved on, but the sheet betrayed them. They were taking a Night Class.
I could do that, thought Autumn. Suppose I put my name on this list. But suppose Julie-Brooke-Danielle come by, and read it, and see that I've done something without permission.
Permission? Autumn had never thought of her group that way before—a little cult whose permission was required. Immediately Autumn was furious with herself and with Julie-Brooke-Danielle just for existing. I'm an individual! she thought. I have my own life, thank you very much!
Excerpted from Night School by Caroline B. Cooney. Copyright © 1995 Caroline B. Cooney. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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
Caroline B. Cooney (b. 1947) is the author of nearly a hundred books, including the famed young adult thriller The Face on the Milk Carton, an international bestseller. Cooney’s books have been translated into several languages, and have received multiple honors and awards, including an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults award and a nomination for the Edgar Award. She is best known for her popular teen horror thrillers and romance novels. Her fast-paced, plot-driven work often explores themes of good and evil, love and hatred, right and wrong, and moral ambiguity. Born in Geneva, New York, Cooney grew up in Connecticut, and often sets her novels in dramatic New England landscapes. She has three children and four grandchildren and currently lives in South Carolina.
Caroline B. Cooney (b. 1947) is the author of nearly a hundred books, including the famed young adult thriller The Face on the Milk Carton, an international bestseller. Cooney’s books have been translated into several languages, and have received multiple honors and awards, including an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults award and a nomination for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. She is best known for her popular teen horror thrillers and romance novels. Her fast-paced, plot-driven work often explores themes of good and evil, love and hatred, right and wrong, and moral ambiguity. Born in Geneva, New York, Cooney grew up in Connecticut, and often sets her novels in dramatic New England landscapes. She has three children and four grandchildren and currently lives in South Carolina.
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I think its pretty cool.