Slumming

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Everybody has two eyes and a nose and a mouth. What makes some people beautiful and some people not?

Nikki never imagined that this offhand thought would change the course of her senior year forever. But when she poses the question to her best friends, Alicia and Sam, Alicia is suddenly inspired, and the three unexpectedly find themselves launching a "human experiment." It seems like the perfect way to make a difference in their last few weeks of high school: they will each pick...

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Overview

Everybody has two eyes and a nose and a mouth. What makes some people beautiful and some people not?

Nikki never imagined that this offhand thought would change the course of her senior year forever. But when she poses the question to her best friends, Alicia and Sam, Alicia is suddenly inspired, and the three unexpectedly find themselves launching a "human experiment." It seems like the perfect way to make a difference in their last few weeks of high school: they will each pick a student who needs a little improving and take that person to the prom.

Harmless, right?

When Nikki, Alicia, and Sam quickly become entrenched in their projects, each has to face difficult realizations about the people they have chosen — and themselves. Before long their own close friendship feels fragile. Will they make it to graduation without hurting one another — or anybody else?

Acclaimed author Kristen D. Randle has woven an intriguing, insightful, and suspenseful story about three friends who set out to transform others, with unforeseen consequences.

In their senior year of high school, three best friends, Nikki, Alicia, and Sam, attempt an "experiment" in which they each befriend a classmate they think needs attention and try to improve that person's life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
High school seniors Nikki, Alicia and Sam (two girls and a guy) embark on a Pygmalion-like plan. They will each choose a person (who is "obviously untapped, and we will try to open him up, set him free, give him life"), take the chosen three to the prom and, afterward, decide which has wrought the biggest change. Predictably, after picking, respectively, a nerd, a rebel and a misfit, each of the friends, all Mormons, learns that the "untapped" person isn't what they imagined-and that they need to face their own problems. Randle (The Only Alien on the Planet) rotates through the three narrators' perspectives with mixed success; while dreamy Alicia's belief that the school bad boy is simply misunderstood seems realistic, the intense family problems that Sam unearths from black-lipstick-wearing Tia read as extreme (her stepfather threatens to stop paying for her retarded brother's care unless "his other needs were looked after"). Readers may be disappointed that the premise all but disappears after the set-up, and the book's point, that "there are lots of wonderful normals out there," seems obvious. While there are some tender moments, especially when the narrators deal with their own families (Alicia buys her sister new Sunday shoes after their mother leaves them; loudmouth Nikki breaks down when she overhears her parents fighting), the novel frequently feels formulaic. Ages 12-up. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
Alicia, the student government type; Nikki, the perky, chatty type; and Sam, the football type, are best friends, brought together by their shared Mormon faith. They only have two months before they graduate when they decide they need to do something different, something that will make a difference. So, they create a competition. Each one of them will select a classmate from the least-likely-to-succeed list and then have three weeks to transform their picks, Pygmalion style, into their prom dates. After the prom, they'll get together to decide who has been the most successful in their "experiment" to help their classmates move into the mainstream. What none of them realizes, however, is that forming a relationship is a two-way street. In order to break down another person's walls, they each must confront their own values, fears, and prejudices. In alternating voices, Randle allows her three characters to tell their own stories about the experiment, and about themselves. Nikki chooses the class nerd, and realizes that some people view her with contempt simply because of her cheerful demeanor and her "traditional" family. Alicia tries to pry into the heart of the school's ex-con, sending her energy outward instead of dealing with the disintegration of her own home after her mother leaves. Sam finds himself pulled into the dark world of the girl who dresses in army boots, and when he learns why she has built up such a wall, he realizes he must betray her to save her. In the process of "saving" others, the three put their own friendship at risk. Randle makes it clear that we are all on the outside looking in, and we can never presume to really know who's on the other side looking back at us.KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, HarperCollins, 240p.,
— Michele Winship
VOYA
Best friends Nikki, Sam, and Alicia make a pact in the school cafeteria. Having read Pygmalion, Alicia suggests that each choose a classmate who obviously needs help, become friends with him or her, and take that person to the prom, all within a three-week deadline. What follows is the story of three youth-good students, nice, honorable, and from good families-who attempt to change the lives of three classmates, with some devastating consequences. Nikki chooses the computer nerd in her science class. Sam chooses Tia, who projects a scary Goth persona but hides a dark secret. Alicia does not reveal her choice and in secret pursues Morgan, the handsome juvenile delinquent who she is convinced has more potential than he is given credit for having. The three teens tell their own stories and recount their adventures on the project, detailing not only the lives of those they have chosen, but also their own. Families are not always what they seem to outsiders. Moral choices appear throughout the book for both the teens and their parents, and the fact that all three narrators and their families are active Mormons is a major plot element. The seemingly innocent pact between friends leads to some really intense and frightening scenes to which teens can easily relate. This fine story deals with contemporary issues but focuses on the good and hopeful outcomes of apparent tragedies. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P J S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, HarperCollins, 240p,
— Rosemary Moran <%ISBN%>0060010223
Children's Literature
When three friends make a pact to take someone who is "obviously untapped" (as in untapped potential) to the prom, each goes down a very different path. It starts as one of those fluffy sounding challenges: pick a loser and try to improve his or her life with some coaching and by the mere association of being with someone more popular. To prove to the world that your chosen one is worthy, you take him (or her, in Sam's case) to the prom. Alicia sets the rules, giving Nikki, Sam, and herself three weeks to "work a miracle." They will meet the day after the prom and decide who accomplished the biggest change in the contest they've dubbed the Human Project. Each of them is a little uncomfortable with making it a competition, but they go forward. Sam chooses Tia, a black-lipsticked tough girl he finds enthralling simply because she's so not him. Nikki chooses a brain named Brian, who is less than thrilled at her attention in zoology class. Alicia sets out to know Morgan, an irresistible bad boy. Soon we get glimpses into other worlds that are much more layered and complex than the friends had anticipated. Told in the alternating voices of Sam, Nikki, and Alicia, Slumming gives an insightful look at a modern-day high school Pygmalion, opening up new worlds that help each character deal with their own worlds a little better. A compelling and satisfying read. 2003, HarperCollins, Ages 12 up.
— Linda Johns
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Seniors Nikki, Sam, and Alicia cook up a "Great Idea." Each of them is to choose a person "who is obviously untapped" and through friendship, kindness, and support release that individual's potential. For Nikki, the class nerd Brian is the ideal choice. With a little help she knows that she could turn him into the perfect prom date. Sam chooses Tia with the black lipstick, eyebrow ring, and Nazi shoes. Alicia decides to change Morgan, the school rebel and all-around bad guy. The story, told in alternating voices, veers immediately from the typical Pygmalion scenario. All three teens leave their comfort zone to enter the world of their proteges. For Nikki, it requires working on a school project with Brian and his superbrainy buddy on their turf, but Sam and Alicia both enter worlds in which they are ill prepared to cope. Tia allows Sam into her dark world of abuse where he sees firsthand the extent to which she will go to protect her brother. Alicia insinuates herself into Morgan's life and quickly sees how far apart their worlds are. The alternating narratives personalize the story and show individual character growth. The premise of trying to impose one's ideals and values on others without knowing their circumstances is a life lesson that gives teens much to think about without ever letting the message dominate the storytelling.-Sharon Morrison, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant, OK Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this Pygmalion story with a twist, three provincial high-school seniors, all Mormons with conventional values, bet that each can befriend a classmate with untapped potential, change him or her for the better, then take that person to the prom. But the chosen students, who have their own agendas, are more resistant than flattered, and it's the triad of heroes-two girls and guy-who end up having their eyes opened. Alternately narrated in the first person by the three protagonists, there are a lot of characters and stories to keep track of and it takes a while to key into their various situations. The tales, one that involves the long-term sexual abuse of a minor, one that ends in an ugly hazing and humiliation, and one about a centered geek, don't entirely fit together. Still, a thoughtful work about the nature of doing good. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060010225
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/1/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 510L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.12 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Kristen D. Randle writing has been called "gritty, smart, and realistic" (ALA Booklist) and "compelling" and "powerful" (School Library Journal). She is the author of several novels, including the highly praised Breaking Rank, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, and The Only Alien on the Planet, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, the Michigan Library Association Book of the Year, and winner of the California Young Readers' Medal. Ms. Randle and her husband have four children, two dogs, and three horses. They live in a little wood on the banks of a Utah river.

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Read an Excerpt

Slumming


By Kristen Randle

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Kristen Randle All right reserved. ISBN: 0060010231

Chapter One

Nikki

There's something about traveling to another country: you can never see your own home quite the same way again. I believe it was this experience that inspired my Great Philosophical Idea. Not that I am necessarily blaming the French. Or my mother.

French faces don't look like American faces. It's hard to explain. "Not a physical difference," my mother told me, "so much as a philosophical one." We were leaning on the stone rampart along the Seine, watching five young musicians arguing with a couple of Paris policemen. "The French fit themselves into the universe in a different way than we do." My mother grinned and shrugged, looking a bit French herself. "The spirit inside shapes the face."

I remembered those words one day as I was watching Brian Camarga walk across the school lunchroom. And voilà - the Great Idea.

Of course, the second it came into my head, I started talking about it. This is one of my character flaws. Then Alicia jumped on the idea, sucked it in, remodeled it, and out it came: a new edition of Alicia's Perky Projects. This is one of her character flaws.

And suddenly, Sam and I were trapped.

Anyway, that's how it all got started. So mea culpa - everything that happened later can be tracedstraight back to me. Big surprise.

Brian Camarga is a classic nerd. He's tall and skinny, has lousy skin, wears glasses, and carries about fifty mechanical pencils in his shirt pocket. He dresses like an old man, he has terrible posture, and he gets straight A's. He is, in short, a walking stereotype.

As it happens, I also get straight A's. But I am none of the above things. In fact, I am reasonably cute, I have tons of friends, pretty good hair, and I am friendly to everybody. I'm not your student government type like Alicia is. I'm just a happy person who generally likes going to school. My flaws are that I talk too much, and I have a problem with low self-esteem.

Sam

"Nikki talks too much." I say this to Alicia - not because I am annoyed. I say it because it is true.

"She talks a lot because she has a lot to say," Alicia retorts. "You know, Sam, it wouldn't hurt some people to do a little more talking."

"Oh, and you're the one to say that," I remark.

"All right," she admits. "It might not hurt either of us."

I am not concerned. "I have a Jeep," I tell her. "I don't have to talk."

Nikki

Not everybody likes me. Some people see me from the outside and conclude that I'm obnoxious and fake and shallow. Too bad they don't look closer.

Which brings me to the point: there are all kinds of people in the world. Tolstoy once said, "All happy people are the same; but unhappy people are all interesting." Those aren't the exact words, but that's the gist of it, and personally, I think it's trash. Happy people, unhappy people - everybody is interesting. And nobody's the same.

It's sad that some people's lives end up being so depressingly unhappy. A person raised in a messed-up family can be cursed with a seriously skewed view of himself and the world. On the other hand, a person raised in a great family can get a solid head start into a good life.

Or not. Sometimes it's just the opposite. Life is complex.

But that's the game, isn't it? Who you turn out to be in the end. What kind of hand they deal you, and how you choose to play it. Or at least, that's the way it seems to me.

So I was looking at Brian, and I wondered - obviously, smart people do not have to be so completely repulsive. And then I thought, French faces, American faces - what makes the difference? Everybody has two eyes and a nose and a mouth. What makes some people beautiful and some people not?

Alicia

I will admit that when we read Pygmalion in junior English, it made a deep impression on me. And when Nikki started talking about French faces and about Brian, I knew exactly what she meant. Even if everybody in the world had exactly the same face, there would be no two people exactly alike. Some would achieve beauty, some would be ugly; some faces would end up seeming gentle, some cruel. All depending on the person looking out through the face.

For a long time, I've wanted to find out if this is actually true. And suddenly, today, I realized: we're seniors. This is the end - we graduate in less than two months. So if I ever want to do something big, something that has meaning, it better be now.

The idea came all at once: we will each choose a person who is obviously untapped, and we will try to open him up, set him free, give him life. I do not anticipate that it will be that hard - kindness, a little attention, support, friendship.

I want to work a miracle.

I set the rules: we have three weeks. We will choose our person, do whatever it takes, and then we will take the person we have chosen to the prom. The day after the prom, the three of us will get together and decide who accomplished the biggest change. That last part is the part I like least - the competition, I mean - but I felt I had to make it that way because some people work better under pressure.

I have to defend it like this: the three of us have a lot to give. It would be a crime if, before we leave this part of our lives forever, we don't do something to make the world better for somebody. Somebody who may be drowning. Somebody whose heart is dying.

Somebody like Morgan.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Slumming by Kristen Randle
Copyright © 2003 by Kristen Randle
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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First Chapter

Chapter One

Nikki

There's something about traveling to another country: you can never see your own home quite the same way again. I believe it was this experience that inspired my Great Philosophical Idea. Not that I am necessarily blaming the French. Or my mother.

French faces don't look like American faces. It's hard to explain. "Not a physical difference," my mother told me, "so much as a philosophical one." We were leaning on the stone rampart along the Seine, watching five young musicians arguing with a couple of Paris policemen. "The French fit themselves into the universe in a different way than we do." My mother grinned and shrugged, looking a bit French herself. "The spirit inside shapes the face."

I remembered those words one day as I was watching Brian Camarga walk across the school lunchroom. And voilà -- the Great Idea.

Of course, the second it came into my head, I started talking about it. This is one of my character flaws. Then Alicia jumped on the idea, sucked it in, remodeled it, and out it came: a new edition of Alicia's Perky Projects. This is one of her character flaws.

And suddenly, Sam and I were trapped.

Anyway, that's how it all got started. So mea culpa -- everything that happened later can be traced straight back to me. Big surprise.

Brian Camarga is a classic nerd. He's tall and skinny, has lousy skin, wears glasses, and carries about fifty mechanical pencils in his shirt pocket. He dresses like an old man, he has terrible posture, and he gets straight A's. He is, in short, a walking stereotype.

As it happens, I also get straight A's. But I am none of the above things. In fact, I am reasonably cute, I have tons of friends, pretty good hair, and I am friendly to everybody. I'm not your student government type like Alicia is. I'm just a happy person who generally likes going to school. My flaws are that I talk too much, and I have a problem with low self-esteem.

Sam

"Nikki talks too much." I say this to Alicia -- not because I am annoyed. I say it because it is true.

"She talks a lot because she has a lot to say," Alicia retorts. "You know, Sam, it wouldn't hurt some people to do a little more talking."

"Oh, and you're the one to say that," I remark.

"All right," she admits. "It might not hurt either of us."

I am not concerned. "I have a Jeep," I tell her. "I don't have to talk."

Nikki

Not everybody likes me. Some people see me from the outside and conclude that I'm obnoxious and fake and shallow. Too bad they don't look closer.

Which brings me to the point: there are all kinds of people in the world. Tolstoy once said, "All happy people are the same; but unhappy people are all interesting." Those aren't the exact words, but that's the gist of it, and personally, I think it's trash. Happy people, unhappy people -- everybody is interesting. And nobody's the same.

It's sad that some people's lives end up being so depressingly unhappy. A person raised in a messed-up family can be cursed with a seriously skewed view of himself and the world. On the other hand, a person raised in a great family can get a solid head start into a good life.

Or not. Sometimes it's just the opposite. Life is complex.

But that's the game, isn't it? Who you turn out to be in the end. What kind of hand they deal you, and how you choose to play it. Or at least, that's the way it seems to me.

So I was looking at Brian, and I wondered -- obviously, smart people do not have to be so completely repulsive. And then I thought, French faces, American faces -- what makes the difference? Everybody has two eyes and a nose and a mouth. What makes some people beautiful and some people not?

Alicia

I will admit that when we read Pygmalion in junior English, it made a deep impression on me. And when Nikki started talking about French faces and about Brian, I knew exactly what she meant. Even if everybody in the world had exactly the same face, there would be no two people exactly alike. Some would achieve beauty, some would be ugly; some faces would end up seeming gentle, some cruel. All depending on the person looking out through the face.

For a long time, I've wanted to find out if this is actually true. And suddenly, today, I realized: we're seniors. This is the end -- we graduate in less than two months. So if I ever want to do something big, something that has meaning, it better be now.

The idea came all at once: we will each choose a person who is obviously untapped, and we will try to open him up, set him free, give him life. I do not anticipate that it will be that hard -- kindness, a little attention, support, friendship.

I want to work a miracle.

I set the rules: we have three weeks. We will choose our person, do whatever it takes, and then we will take the person we have chosen to the prom. The day after the prom, the three of us will get together and decide who accomplished the biggest change. That last part is the part I like least -- the competition, I mean -- but I felt I had to make it that way because some people work better under pressure.

I have to defend it like this: the three of us have a lot to give. It would be a crime if, before we leave this part of our lives forever, we don't do something to make the world better for somebody. Somebody who may be drowning. Somebody whose heart is dying.

Somebody like Morgan.

Slumming. Copyright © by Kristen Randle. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2004

    Awesome!!

    This book,was amazing,i loved it!The begning was great but the ending didnt really put a detail to what happens to Alica and Morgan

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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