Tres unpopular students plus. . .
My freshman year at Gamma High was totally going perfecto until I was summoned to enter the regional science competition, which is taking place the same weekend as the Homecoming Dance--the same dance where I was going to get Swen, the guy I'm hopelessly in love with, to notice me. This calls for major damage control. My plan? Devise a scientific experiment that will be so outrageous it'll knock me out of the competition and onto the dance floor.
Tres brilliant makeovers. . .
Enter Project Gamma Glamma to the rescue! My experiment will help three unknowns climb up the Gamma High popularity food chain by giving them the ultimate makeovers. But instead of eliminating me from the competition, my teacher actually loves mi loco idea.
Equals one recipe for disaster. . .
Gamma Glamma is a tragic hit, turning my closest amigos overnight into the most popular kids at school but making mi vida a toxic chemical reaction: my best friend is now too cool to talk to me; my biggest enemy is moving in for the social kill; and my reputation stands to be obliterated on TV's hottest reality show. Now I've got to set things right. But can I make the scientifically impossible happen twice?
An award-winning filmmaker and producer, Kim Flores wrote and co-directed the film Vocessitas/Little Voices, which went on to win an ALMA (American Latino Media Arts Award) for best independent film and played in virtually every Latin film festival in the country. She directs commercials and projects for such companies as Nickelodeon, Time Warner, Dr. Pepper, Midway Games, Mountain Dew and develops television shows at her production company. Kim and her lifelong crush Mike spend time between New York City and Dallas shooting photography, creating a line of designer toys, and hanging out with their rescued dogs Pud, Rabbit, and Shortie.
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Read an Excerpt
By Kim Flores
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2008 Kim Flores
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA mass murder was about to occur. So, I did what any red-blooded American Latina would do. I went shopping. To be more specific, I went shopping for a frog. Courtesy of Bart Marquez. I knew that if I didn't get that chemically preserved frog out in time the formaldehyde would soon turn those little fishes in that tank into toxic sushi.
I had witnessed this muy grande drama before at Atwood Jr. High in the eighth grade. That fateful day another pickled amphibian had landed in another tank and lived-okay, not lived but was stuck and hiding behind the pink artificial coral. By the time Mrs. Jones had discovered the new specimen in her tank, that school of fish was doomed and so was that eighth-grade biology class.
And then to make matters worse, when none of us said nada, Mrs. Jones had announced that since we were all "accomplices to mass murder," she would give everyone Fs for the six weeks.
By threatening us, I think she thought one of us would crack and finally fess up. I never heard silence so loud in a classroom before. It was terrible and even more terrible was trying to explain my grade to my parents, especially since science is not only my mas favorito subject but it's what I live for. It's my fashion accessory. It's almost my best friend.
History would not be repeated. At least not in this science class. After hearing the splash of water, which was particularly loud since I sit by the aquarium, I also heard Bart's stupid laugh. Instinctively, I knew exactly just what had happened and would have given him a few choice words but didn't since I was totally in a fight-or-flight response.
Just for the record, Bart is both a jock and a jerk. Fortunately for him, he's been blessed with really great shaggy brown hair and Hershey chocolate dark eyes. And as a bonus, he has broad shoulders, chiseled abs, and a basically overall hotness. But it's not nearly enough to compensate for his really big mouth and braces.
When he laughs, not only does he blind people with all that metal but he also makes sounds like a donkey on steroids. It's enough to make me want to shove pencils in my eyes-oh, and my ears. And then there's my nose. Did I forget to mention the sea of cologne he swims in daily?
His tragic story is that the teachers only passed him into his freshman year so he would stay eligible for varsity football at Gamma. Whoopee.
But back to the current drama. Bart was spinning his frog by its leg when he should have been dissecting it and discovering some glorious vital organ. And that's when frog body detached from frog leg (I know-ew) and flew into Dr. Hamrock's fish tank.
Determined to be a hero, I jumped up on a chair so pronto that I didn't stop to even think if I was flashing my fellow classmates with my new denim flared mini. I plunged my hand in the icy cold water and every time I tried to grab he would jump-okay, not really jump. I mean he's dead. The frog would kind of squirt away from me.
With each uncomfortable second that passed, my heart pounded louder and louder. But, unfortunately, not loud enough to cover up Bart's constant braying.
That's when my science partner, Jimbo Billimek, came to my rescue, helping me navigate through the murky tank. But since there were so many gaudy fish decorations and gadgets, it was all I could do to keep my hand from getting stuck. This tank was in need of a serious aquatic makeover.
By the time my hand turned blue, victory was finally mine and I tried not to squish too hard what was left of Mr. Frog. It was really important not to get frog innards under my nails, since I had just had a manicure a day ago.
Before I could climb down and do my celebration dance, someone yelled, "Dr. Hamrock!" Someone always yells when Dr. Hamrock comes, because we all know he's just waiting to catch us in some awkward situation so he can conduct some evil scientific experiment on us.
For the most part, Dr. Hamrock is tall, dark, and lanky but not in a cute way. Much to the contrary, he looks like a stretched-out Elmer Fudd. His glasses magnify his pupils so much that they resemble two big burnt-out fajita skillets. This effect only gets worse when he pierces you with his eyes as he scolds you. It's so intense you can almost smell your flesh burning, I swear.
And since Dr. Hamrock also teaches science to college kids, I'm pretty sure he considers teaching our class glorified babysitting, and he has very straightforward rules when it comes to his apparatus in his classroom. Touch them and you die.
So, now, with my arm fully submerged in his precious tank, I was obviously taking my turn in a sick little game of science class Russian roulette.
Just as the lunch bell rang, everybody else in the class scrambled and scattered as Dr. Hamrock walked in and noticed me right away.
Not because I'm five feet with superstraight shiny chocolate hair and kinda curvy but more because I was standing on a stool in my Frankenstein platform shoes smiling nervously like the last two contestants waiting for their name to be called on America's Next Top Model.
Unfortunately, all my visions of greatness evaporated rather quickly when he barked "Luz Santos!" and I knew that my dissection was about to commence.
And for the second time in one day, Mr. Dead Frog startled the school of fish.
After class and after again fishing out the frog, this time managing to get my ponytail wet with water, I was so over science and I was so over the lecture that was about to begin.
Only one brave soul came to my rescue-sorta. Swinging the door open only for a nanosecond, my lab partner, Jimbo, coughed, "She didn't do it." Then he disappeared into the sea of Gamma High. I decided to be my own superhero and stay for the entire duration until I was fully rescued.
"I didn't do it," I said, making sure I had a clear pathway to the door.
"Then who did do 'it'?" asked Dr. Hamrock, reminding me that "it" was a really terrible thing.
"I don't know."
"Miss Santos, what is the first lesson of science?"
"To be observant ... sir." I added in the "sir" because I was hoping to cut the convo short so I could leave. I had observed that my stomach was growling.
"Well, then, I know you can help me find out who was responsible for this," said Dr. Hamrock with a laser-beam stare.
I just nodded and observed my flesh starting to blister from his heat.
"And while you're researching that problem, I'd like you to propose a project for this year's science competition."
I knew this was more than a suggestion. As he walked to his desk, I began my appeal. "But I'm only a freshman. How can I compete with the upperclassmen?"
"Miss Santos, you came to Gamma to develop and expand your skills in scientific inquiry and reasoning, and it's my job to make sure you apply them. I like to see participation from every grade level. You had the highest math and science scores coming into the cluster, and I'm certain you'll maintain those standards as representative of your class."
I was right. This was more than a suggestion. It was a death threat.
Dr. Hamrock continued, "I have no doubt you'll sail through the school competition and make it to Regionals."
A light bulb exploded in my head. "Regionals? Isn't that during Homecoming weekend?"
"Yes, I believe so. Do you have a problem with that?" He raised his eyebrows at me when he finally looked up.
I shook my head and didn't say a word because I thought I was going to vomit. He finally scratched out a hall pass and handed it to me. Taking it, I stumbled out of the classroom. Science competition, Regionals, missing Homecoming? With all these crazy events swirling in my brain, I ran to lunch with my clammy hand and my fishy smelling ponytail.
When I entered the toasty cafeteria with only twenty minutes instead of thirty, I felt like I could breathe again even if it was the unappetizing smells of cafeteria food. I soon found my way to my table and sat down next to my best friend, Bridge (short for Bridget), who wrinkled her nose in disgust.
"I stink. I know."
"I didn't say that," Bridge said.
"No, but your nose did." Bridge was taken by surprise, as if I had told her that her pink Izod and her matching Pumas were off colors.
"Did you know I was held against my will by Dr. Hamrock?"
Bridge pulled back her long wavy hair with a clip on top of her head as she pushed her Polo glasses on her cheek.
"Yeah, I know. Jimbo told me. That's why I bought you lunch." Bridge pulled out a plate from the empty seat next to her and pushed my free lunch closer to me.
I carefully examined the specimen of greasy orange ooze on a bed of wilted lettuce.
"It's taco salad day," Bridge sang, unfolding her napkin in her lap and inspecting the cleanliness of the school's utensils.
I don't know what's more amazing about high school-the daily lunchroom experiments or the fact that news travels faster than the speed of light. "What else did you hear?" I asked, picking at my hot lettuce.
"Well, I also just overheard Bart telling Venus that he gave you something special and how much you loved it."
"I hate him."
"And then he started caressing Venus's face with his leftover frog leg," Bridge said.
"Okay, now I love him."
"Wait, it gets better. Then she hit him hard in the stomach with her Gucci clutch."
"Red or silver?" I said.
"Silver," Bridge replied.
"I love the silver. It's so hi-tech looking. Then what?"
"Then he apologized and tried to flirt with her. Isn't that gross?" Bridge asked, looking for approval.
"Ew, grosser than this salad."
Ew isn't for Bart. Ew is for Venus Hunter-who, like Bart, is blessed in the looks department but can't be trusted. (More about that later.)
"Okay, whatever. But did you hear about how the rest of the frog ended up in Dr. Hamrock's aquarium and I tried to get it out?" I smelled that memory on my hand as I unsuccessfully lifted a bite of salad from my plate.
"Yeah, only fifteen people from your class told me." Bridge began to dip her carrot stick carefully in her little tub of hummus.
"Were they all laughing?"
Bridget laughed. "Yes, all of them."
"Well, here's something that I know you didn't hear from Gamma's gossip line. Hamrock is totally forcing me to enter this year's science competition so that I will be eligible in Regionals."
After Bridge's carrot fell out of her mouth (hummus and all), I realized that that particular factoid hadn't quite reached her yet.
"Omigod! Shut up! You're kidding!" Bridge leaned closer to me.
"No, I'm not."
"Then you're officially the luckiest freshman girl in the world! I'm so jealous! But not really. I mean, you know I totally support you, right?" Bridge said, then went back to polishing off her carrots.
Now, let me explain before it sounds like Bridge is a total mental case. Ever since my parents sent me away to Camp Copernicus, a science camp, I have been jazzed about science and Bridge, whom I met there.
I mean, I love to discover what makes things tick (people included), and I'm truly obsessed about inventing things, all kinds of things. For me, science is like supercrafting. And now with Bridge as my BFF and science partner for life, we've made it our sacred duty to change the face of science by giving it a makeover. So, we apply our scientific methods to improve our grades, our clothes, and basically our whole world at Gamma High. It's a way of life for us. We call it our "Gamma Glamma" calling.
So, it's totally understandable that Bridge would think I would jump for joy when asked to represent our school (as a freshman even) in the region wide science competition but (a) I don't like to be told I have to do something and (b), more importantly, it lands on the same weekend as our first big school dance-Homecoming. And being that this is our first year at Gamma, this, of course, is the opportunity of our lives, y'know, a chance of a lifetime. In other words, I don't want to be stuck with geeks that reek during Homecoming weekend.
"So, what are you going to do?" asked Bridge as she turned on her periwinkle lip-gloss flashlight (her personal invention she aptly named the "Glowkissa") to rummage through her bag. As Bridge looked up at me she noticed my attire of the day.
"My, my. Is that my polo shirt repurposed?" Bridge wrinkled her nose.
"I just amped it up. Besides, you didn't want it anymore. Remember what happened after our nail enamel experiment?"
"Hmmm. Oh ... right, right. I forgot." Bridge looked around to make sure that no one was noticing us. No one was. Bummer.
Bridge had "forgotten" about our nail enamel experiment because we both almost passed out from the noxious fumes filling my room as we attempted to create the "ultimate hot pink nail polish." Her shirt had one itsy-bitsy stain on it and she was ready to give it to Goodwill.
So, I decided to embrace her goodwill for myself. I cut it up and added a bit of black fabric to it so it would match my black mini tutu skirt and my black-and-pink steel-toed Mary Jane platform shoes. These are the ones I carved out and installed mini tape recorders in. Pretty much my everyday school uniform shoes, because I don't have to worry so much about taking notes and I can keep track of promises and overheard gossip. I call them my "Chica Speakas."
Anyway, this particular outfit was my Pretty in Pink meets punk look. I loved it. However, Bridge had other opinions.
"Now, do you have any idea what you are going to do?" Bridge asked, resuming to my dilemma.
"You mean about the science competition?"
"No, I mean your lunch," Bridge said, rolling her eyes. "What's going to be the focus of your project?"
I swallowed a large lump of ground beef. "The focus of the science experiment is to see how Miss Luz Santos can get out of this without being burned alive or failing the science cluster." I stabbed my plate for more pieces of greasy lettuce as Bridge's eyes widened.
"Bridge, don't you get it? If I win, I have to go to Regionals, which under normal circumstances would be my dream. But because it lands on Homecoming weekend, it has easily evolved into my nightmare."
"You can't miss Homecoming. This is our first one," Bridge said, finally realizing my dilemma. "Does the competition count as a grade or extra credit?"
"Hamrock didn't say, but if I bomb the competition, I'm sure it will affect my grade somehow."
"Omigod, Luz. That sounds more like a science experiment for a painful dissection of your social life," Bridge said, shaking her head at the table. She looked more worried than I was.
"Well maybe I can get Dr. Hamrock to dissect me after Homecoming," I said, trying to find the courage to smile.
"With your corsage on?" Bridge smirked back.
After examining my predicament, I was no longer hungry and shoved my plate away from me. Just in time for dessert came our friend Adam, who was ready to serve a heaping pile of Gamma's daily dirt. Oh, my. What can I say about Adam Bellows? What can I not say about Adam Bellows? Bridge and I both love Adam, because if he were a girl he would so be a third sister. Even if he does appreciate our scientific efforts in a Trekkie/nanu-nanu way (which is barely tolerable).
But the most fascinating thing about Adam is that he knows everything that is going on in this escuela, from when we are having a pop quiz to who is about to get dumped as well as the really vital info like how to score the freshest Tater Tots at lunch. He has really been the best ambassador to our freshman year since Bridge and I started here at Gamma.
The only bad thing about Adam, if I had to mention it (and I will), is that he is in love. Uh, strike that; he's obsessed-with Bridge. He is a superprep like she is and sometimes I think he even tries to outprep her. I mean, por favor, how many times can you have the same logo dripping off you? Polo, Lacoste, Puma, Adidas ... y mas y mas.
And not only that, but occasionally (okay, lots of times) Adam will know exactly what outfit Bridge is going to wear for the day. And then he makes sure to be color coordinated with her so that everyone at school will think they're a couple. Bridge and I both agree it's a bit stalkerazzi, but deep down, and I mean deep down like to the earth's simmering core, she thinks it's kinda cool.
In total Adam fashion, Adam leaned in between Bridge and me.
"Wanna know what's hot?" he whispered.
"Hotter than the grease on my taco salad?" I said.
Excerpted from Gamma Glamma by Kim Flores Copyright © 2008 by Kim Flores. Excerpted by permission.
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