In this modern retelling of the classic Cyrano de Bergerac, seventeen-year-old Cyrie is a brilliant, athletic, and funny girl with a witty retort for each of the endless big-nose jokes she endures. But despite her talents and charm, she is convinced that all anyone sees is her nose. No guy—especially not Eddie “Rox” Roxanninoff—would ever find her appealing.
When Rox shows interest in Cyrie’s shy friend Leyla, Cyrie soon finds herself writing Leyla’s emails to him, expressing her own true feelings. But watching her crush fall for her best friend may be more than she bargained for. Will Cyrie find the courage to come clean and trust that Rox will accept her for who she is?
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Emily Franklin is the author of Liner Notes and a story collection, The Girls’ Almanac. She is also the author or coauthor of over a dozen young adult books including The Half-Life of Planets (nominated for YALSA’s Best Book of the Year) and Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom (named to the 2013 Rainbow List). A former chef, she wrote the cookbook-memoir Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes to chronicle a year in the life of new foods, family meals, and heartache around the table. Her fiction and essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, Monkeybicycle, the Mississippi Review, Post Road Magazine, Carve Magazine, and Word Riot, as well as on National Public Radio, among others. Her recipes have been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers, and on many food websites. She lives with her husband, four kids, and one-hundred-sixty-pound dog outside of Boston.
Read an Excerpt
At Face Value
By Emily Franklin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2008 Emily Franklin
All rights reserved.
Maybe it's your hips, how they never seem to fit into those jeans the way you wish they would. Or maybe your eyes are lopsided, just enough for you—and Steven Minsker in ninth grade—to notice. Or your coarse hair won't gather a lustrous sheen no matter how much conditioner and pomade you slather on it. Everyone has something even if they won't admit it, something about their physical being that bothers them. Myself included. You'd think that as a senior at Weston High I'd finally be over it—and maybe I am, kind of. But do you ever really completely get past your big butt, your ears that stick way out, your—
In baby pictures, you can't tell. I still look cute, proportional in my green and yellow striped footie pajamas. Mom and Dad are in the background—you can just see Mom's uglyduckling slippers (um, foreshadowing, anyone?) and one of Dad's enormous hands. He's tall, six feet seven inches, the kind of tall that always elicits stares. Mom always told me I'd be statuesque, too, but I'm totally average at five foot five.
In toddler pictures, my hair is so blonde it's white, and you still can't tell. The thing that will become my defining characteristic has not taken over, has not dominated my world.
Then, fifth grade. Wait—backtrack. In fourth grade, I had about ten minutes of huge popularity when Daniel Simkins decided he liked me and made his intentions known on the playground (in other words, he pushed me into the muddy patch under the tire swing and told me he hated me, which resulted in a chorus of approval from the other boys and a love note from Daniel's sidekick, Robert, in my cubby). Ah, fourth grade. The total extent of my glory days.
But back to fifth grade, the year everything changed. You know those school pictures that come in a stunning variety of sizes, perfect for wallets, desktops, Grandma's piano, Mom's office, the attic, and so on? In fifth grade, my parents buckled and finally ordered the mega-set. Ninety-two photographs of me ranging from thumbnail sized for the locket no one owns to the convenient 3x5 size, bypassing the large enough 8x10 and going all the way up. to the enormous 12x18, requiring custom framing.
Up until fifth grade, Dad's frugality always made them choose the standard package, two of each "Regular Size" (a phrase I wish could be my personal mantra), and that was plenty. But in a fit of parental sentimentality and an odd request from each grandparent for a new photo of me, they heaved up the extra money and went for it.
In the picture, my shirt is plain—Starbucks green, like my eyes—and my hair is long, draped carefully over my shoulders in the very self-conscious, fifth-grade way. I'm sitting with my shoulders back, as instructed by the photographer. I should have known something was wrong by the way he told me first to turn left, then to angle my head down and look up, then sighed and shot me face-on. Clearly I was not a candidate for that fake mist technique that causes an extra image of you to hover like an angel—those were only offered to the class beauties.
When we got the pictures back they were in thick manila envelopes taped to the blackboard. I pulled the one marked Cyrie Bergerac off and looked inside. Staring back at me was a shocking image: not so much a fifth grade face, but just a giant, huge, goofily large thing. My nose.
You've seen big noses, no doubt. Been at the mall and thought wow—that's quite a honker. But you haven't seen me. I mean that both ways—you've never seen a nose as big as mine and, if you had, you wouldn't have seen me. Because what I've found, in the seven years since those fall pictures were taken, is that no one sees past the thing they notice first.
We have tons of those pictures left over. Sure, grandparents wanted one, and my parents—blind in their love—framed the enormous one and hung it over the mantle until, in seventh grade, Wendy Von Schmedler's taunts got to me and I asked my mom and dad to remove it. Now it's in the attic somewhere—my fifth grade, canoe-nosed self stashed away with old toys and faded fashions I wish I could forget. Of course, everyone has their awkward stage, their year or two labeled with words like gawky, chubby, lanky, high-pitched, bean pole, just a phase.
Except my awkward stage has stuck with me.
Easy solution: get a nose job. Everyone does it, right? Everyone who has parents that let them. My "love yourself," post-hippie parents (who are totally "love and help everyone" except when they watch me play tennis, at which point they become every bit as ruthless as I am) are appalled that I would even consider changing my "natural beauty." I've tried every possible angle to get them to see my point of view, but for every point I come up with, they have a counterpoint (that comes with the territory when you have a lawyer as a father).
My point: "Dad, do you know how many girls at school have their noses fixed?"
His point: "So now you want to be just like everyone else? And what's with the word fixed—it's like you girls treat your bodies like cars." Before he could start in on loving my dents and dings, or some fender analogy, I left the room.
My point: "It's considered a minor procedure. And it would totally help my self-esteem."
Their point: "First of all, doctors call things procedures to make people feel more comfortable about what's really an operation. The fact is, a nose job is elective surgery— and we don't agree with it."
My counterpoint: "What if I needed to, like for reconstruction or something?"
Their point (#4,532): "That would be different."
Me: "So basically, I should hope that I get clunked in the face with a tree limb or something ..."
Their response (shaking heads): "You have so much going for you—good grades, editor of the paper, natural blonde hair in a society obsessed with hair color ..."
And lastly ...
My Point: "But Mom, you highlight your hair—that's not natural."
Rebuttal: "I only started that three years ago after the grays started taking over my head— I feel younger inside than I look outside." Dad gives her hand a squeeze for moral (and follicular) support.
My second point: "Well, I feel prettier on the inside than I do on the outside."
I felt so lame for saying that out loud, partly because it's a lie, that I retreated to the bathroom for an extra-long shower. I like to sit on the floor of the shower and let the water rain onto me like I just happen to be caught in a storm (of course, one would hope if I were caught outside in a storm that I wouldn't be naked—but I overlook that little factoid).
The result of all this rhinoplasty back-and-forth is that, since I'm a minor and they won't sign the consent forms, I made an appointment at Dr. Singer's in town for the first open slot after my eighteenth birthday (I was born at 12:02 a.m. on January 1). Since he's a friend of the family, I'm allowed to go in this fall for pre-op consults. I figure I can always change my mind ... but at this point, I'm expecting that day to change my life.CHAPTER 2
I keep a reminder—A tiny remnant of my fifth grade discovery that I will never be the kind of girl people instantly (or ever) crush on—pasted in my journal: one of the tiny, thumbnail-size pictures from that year.
And it's this miniscule image of myself, complete with bird's perch nose, that I'm staring at when Eddie Roxanninoff gets up on stage in front of the whole school to make his plea for SBP (student body president). I flip my journal closed, concealing the picture, and look around. Eddie takes a seat next to the other candidates, on one of the wooden chairs at the side of the stage, and waits calmly for the assembly to begin.
Clusters of sophomore girls sit off to the left, drooling at the senior guys who sit way at the back of the auditorium feeling as though they've earned their place there, and juniors are sprinkled to the right. Even though I'm a senior and have trudged through the first three years of high school like everyone else, I'm not coveting a back row spot. Since I'm covering the event for the Weston Word (is it possible that something as seemingly tame as a school election warrants a two-page article in the school paper?), I have to sit up at the front like it's a presidential press conference.
I have a habit of putting my feet up on the seat in front of me—a big auditorium faux pas— and Mrs. Cutler makes it clear with a cough that this is most unacceptable. I put my boot-clad feet on the floor and sit up, trying to make some notes for the article. With my right elbow balancing on the armrest and my notebook on my lap, I try to list all the other class-president nominees in the order they're seated on stage. Except, as I lean forward to see them, the notebook slides off my lap and my papers scatter all over the less-than-clean auditorium floor.
"Do you want me to help you?" Leyla Christianson asks, immediately leaning down to collect my fallen pages.
"Thanks," I say and try to shake off my klutziness. Not because I care that I dropped my notebook, but because anything that brings attention to me usually results in someone making a crack at my expense—and ends with me flattening the insult-thrower with a cutting remark.
I look behind me. I'm in luck today, since Wendy Von Schmedler and her popular cronies are settled at the back, the freshmen are too new to risk insulting a senior, and the sophomores are too busy trying to look cool to notice me—or rather, to notice my nose. But I'm not interested in the general audience. I'm here for one reason and one reason only.
Crushes start like insect bites. Hardly there at first, then a sharp sting, and then the absolute need to deal with the itch. I'm about to indulge in some serious scratching when my reverie is broken by—
"Can you move, please? We want to sit here with Leyla." This to me from Wendy Von Schmedler, who has brought her Xeroxed minions with her. Each girl is trying to stand with a hip cocked to one side, Wendy's trademark pose from seventh grade when she tripped me in the back stairwell and I fell onto my face. The blood stains never came out of my white sweater.
Maybe I should move to another seat. I could. But I don't, because—
"Actually, Wendy, I need to sit here." I pat my notebook as if this will inform her of why (the paper, the article, facts and figures). I can feel a swirl of words brewing inside my head, waiting for the slightest provocation to be spewed all over Wendy's made-up face.
Wendy does the combination hair-toss-with-shoulder-shrug to signal to her troops that a situation is starting. No one is supposed to mess with the Schmedler. "And the reason you need to sit here is ..." I open my mouth to answer while I'm still calm, but she side-checks me: "... because you adore the smell of old stage sweat and you know that this—" she gestures to my body part in question "—will suck up any scent?" A couple girls near her giggle, and Wendy grins, giving me a look that somehow mixes contempt with pity.
Give me insults, but don't feel bad for me. Inside, the anger boils. "You know what?" I say. "You'd be better off doing the insult in another way."
Wendy looks confused. I've found that if you react to meanness, you're doomed. More insults will fly right at you. But you can really get to people by slapping them with their own missteps. They suffer, and you can revel in their pathetic attempts at a comeback.
I cross my arms over my chest and offer, "Why not stress the size of my nose and say 'Hey, Cyrie, you can afford to sit at the back. Your schnoz can certainly pick up scents from miles away.'" Cue laughter from Wendy's minions until she shoots them a look.
"Fine." Wendy nods. "You've got a point. So move—go sit where no one has to look at you." She thumbs to the back of the auditorium. "We want to sit here," she says again. Her crew—known in my mind at the PBVs (pretty but vapids)—wait expectantly.
But I continue talking as though she hasn't said a word. Around us, people settling into their seats begin to listen. "The thing is, Wendy, you want to be able to deliver clever slander, but the truth is, you lack the brain power to finesse the defamation."
"Big word, big word, blah blah blah." She cocks her hip so far out I worry she'll topple onto my lap.
I stand up so that we're face to face, nearly nose to nose. "Exactly. Blah blah blah. That's you in a nutshell." Leyla tries to pull me back down, to settle my rising emotions, but it doesn't work. I don't raise my voice, but try instead to keep my face steely and focused right on Wendy's. "Someday, I'll look back on this day and it'll be just another day when some pathetic attempt at viciousness tried to do the obvious thing and point out that my nose is, in fact, large." Wendy's half-smile fades as I go on. "I've had lots of days like this. Yep, it's big." I touch my nose, grabbing it with my whole palm for a good show as more students watch the interchange. "But you'll look back on this day and realize that no matter what happens, you'll always be this shell of a person. Half bitchy and half ..." I pause for dramatic effect. "Nothing."
Wendy swallows so big that it's audible. Her discomfort echoes through the room. Then her hip finds its way back to a normal position, and, wordlessly, she swivels with her group and herds them back to the back of the auditorium, where the cool crowd can gossip without the principal's wrath.
I sit back down in my seat, my heart thumping, satisfaction spreading through me like butter on warm toast. I flip through my notebook, pretending not to notice the people in the surrounding rows and the words they utter. "Harsh." "But true." "But too cruel." At first I think they're talking about Wendy, but they're not.
After she clears her throat, Leyla finally speaks. "Remind me never to pick on you."
I want to explain, to open my lips and justify the mini-slaying to Leyla, but I don't. Wendy started it. I was just defending myself. She's the mean one. Fight fire with fire. Mess with the bull, you get the horns. I shake my head at myself, realizing I've just referred to myself as the bull: a giant lumbering animal everyone wants to avoid.
"You look nice today," Leyla says, breaking the tension. She feels the thin merino wool of my pine-green sweater. "That color really brings out your eyes."
"You mean it takes away from my nose?" I say, trying to downplay the prior scene.
"I never ..." Leyla catches my grin. "Oh—you're kidding. I get it."
Leyla Christianson. Her classic rock name can't disguise her plight as a more-than-slightly tongue-tied member of the Weston Word staff, interviewed and "hired" last year (though we don't pay, our high school paper is the second-best in the state, so we have standards that would make The New York Times proud) by none other than myself. Even though I'd balked at the idea of having one of the PBVs on staff, having Leyla around has been better than I expected. Once she joined, she semi-retired from PBV status, and—not coincidentally—became my friend.
Leyla was a member of that group that exists at every high school—the ruling class. There are different factions of it: the nicer girls, the bitchy ones, and then the überpretty but mentally vacated ones (the ones who can spend an entire forty-five-minute lunch block discussing the textures of gloss versus lipstick, but can't seem to muster one intelligent thought in World Politics or American Civilization or even Home Ec—how hard is it not to singe the turkey meatloaf beyond recognition?). Now Leyla treads the precarious line of half-in, half-out of Wendy Von Schmedler's crowd. Sometimes I can tell she feels split, trying to manage the balance between me (and the Word) and the PBVs.
But despite her swag of perfect hair (light brown with natural strands of gold woven through, with a sheen so high it's like she has those model reflectors on her at all times), despite her tall-but-not-so-tall-as-to-scare-off-potential-suitors body, despite her C-cup breasts and sweet smile, Leyla is not entirely vapid. She just doesn't believe it yet.
I turn to her in the now slightly stuffy auditorium. "Do you mind covering the second speaker?"
I've been trying to practice delegating some of the writing responsibilities. Even though I'm the editor, I'm not supposed to do all the work—but it's difficult for me to back off. I admit that I'm way too involved with all aspects of the Word, but it's been kind of my pet project since I convinced Mr. Reynolds, the faculty manager, that I should be able to join as an eighth grader oh so many years ago. Territorialism is what you could call it. Kind of the way you feel when you notice a new band first, when you claim their single as yours, only to find two weeks later that the cheerleading squad has chosen it for their fall bus anthem. Maybe it's just me, but sometimes I feel like finders keepers should apply to all things. People, too.
"Sure," Leyla says. "But I don't have my books with me. And before you get annoyed, it's a hard habit to break."
Excerpted from At Face Value by Emily Franklin. Copyright © 2008 Emily Franklin. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Cyrie Bergerac is smart and an ambitious editor for her schools news paper. Cyrie just has one flaw, her nose. She has spent her High School years defending her nose. Eddie 'Rox' Roxanninoff is Cyrie's friend and she has had a crush on him forever. On the night of a school function Eddie tells Cyrie that he likes her friend Leyla. Leyla doesn't feel she is up to the challenge of having a smart correspondence with Eddie so they can get to know eachother. Leyla begs Cyrie to edit her emails to Eddie. They try to keep this a secret but Eddie knows Cyrie better than she thinks. This was a quick read. It was not one of my favorites and to be honest I probably would never have read it if it wasn't a book group read. That said I think this is a good read for ages 13-17.
Cyrie Bergerac has her eye on the future. College scholarships and that nose job her “inner beauty” post-hippie parents won’t let her have until she’s eighteen. She’s also had her eye on one Eddie “Rox” Roxanninoff since the ninth grade, but when her beautiful tongue-tied best friend, Leyla Christianson asks for help in just talking to him, Cyrie can’t say no. Do the names sound familiar? At face value is a clever and fun retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. Editor of the high school paper, Cyrie has plenty of intellect and rapid fire wit, which she slings out on those classmates brave or stupid enough to make fun of her rather large facial extension. Unfortunately her courage flees when it comes to telling Rox how she feels about him. Except when she starts emailing him, posing as Leyla, she’s suddenly able to let her guard down and share all the meaningful thoughts she hasn’t shared with anybody else. The problem is, he thinks he’s falling for Leyla. If you know the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, the plot points will be fairly obvious, but it’s an enjoyable take on an old classic, which also spins into a teenage tale of “finding yourself” and accepting yourself as you are, but also learning that others, even the outwardly beautiful, have insecurities too.
Cyrie knows that she's not beautiful. How can she be with a nose like hers? She's planning on having surgery the minute she turns 18 to decrease it's size, but in the meantime she's got to learn to live with it. The rest of her life isn't so bad, until she best friend admits that she's crushing over the same guy that Cyrie likes. Leyla's gorgeous, but she has a hard time talking to guys. So the two of them hatch this plan where Cyrie will edit Leyla's emails - just for grammer not content. But loving Rox from afar makes Cyrie jealous. How can he not know who's writing the emails? Between all the time they spend together during the day and the emails at night, Cyrie's not sure she can handle this relationship anymore - but she doesn't know that Leyla just might be feeling the same way. Will Cyrie loose everything? A tale that shows inner beauty shining through and the true meaning of friendship.
The classic story of Cyrano de Bergerac gets a face-lift in this new version. Ms. Franklin takes the classic and twists it up a bit, this time making the lead with the troublesome extension a female, rather than a male.
In this version, we have Cyrie Bergerac. Cyrie has spent so much of her high school life keeping busy with getting good grades (she's got her eyes set on an Ivy League school, but she can't get the dreaded essay completed) and multiple extra-curricular activities that she never really dwelt on the fact that she has few friends.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise when she realizes that she's starting to become friends with Leyla. The surprise is that Leyla is part of the popular crowd. With a nose like the one that Cyrie sports, it's obvious that Cyrie is far from the in crowd. Cyrie is the editor for the school paper, so she has a group of people she hangs around with. The best perk of being editor is that she gets to work with her crush, Eddie 'Rox' Roxanninoff.
For anyone remotely familiar with the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, it's clear what happens next.
Eddie (Cyrie refuses to call him Rox like the rest of the school does) reveals to Cyrie that he likes Leyla, but Leyla gets tongue-tied and literally sick when she tries to talk to Eddie. So Cyrie agrees to help Leyla communicate with Eddie. But in this updated twist, it's via email. After all, Cyrie IS editor, so Leyla can compose the emails, and Cyrie will correct them before forwarding them on. But before too long, Cyrie realizes that Leyla is hopeless when it comes to writing interesting missives. So Cyrie starts to change the content and add other information.
When Leyla discovers that Cyrie has secretly liked Eddie, she gives Cyrie an ultimatum. Their friendship becomes strained, and Cyrie is too afraid to lose Eddie's friendship by revealing more to him.
Ms. Franklin has taken a well known and often told story and given it a fresh new twist. The reader will be rooting for Cyrie, even knowing that she won't win Eddie over the way she hopes to. The story moves quickly and has a satisfying ending. A love story at its root, how can anyone not cheer for Cyrie?