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My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters: A Novel

My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters: A Novel

by Sydney Salter

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“Simultaneously painful and hilarious . . . Captures the awkwardness of adolescence while driving home a message about self-acceptance” (Publishers Weekly).
It’s the end of junior year, and the Summer of Passion is about to begin. At least that’s Jory Michaels’s plan, as she starts exploring the possibilities of her future—and the possibility of scoring a boyfriend. Only one obstacle seems to stand in the way of her happiness—her curvy, honking, bumpy nose, or as she calls it, Super Schnozz . . .
Jory takes a job delivering wedding cakes to save up for a nose job at the end of the summer, just in time for senior year. She even keeps a book filled with magazine cutouts of perfect noses to show the doctor. But nothing is ever easy for accident-prone Jory—and before she knows it, her Summer of Passion falls apart faster than the delivery van she crashes. In this hilarious and heartbreaking novel, Sydney Salter delivers a story about broadening your horizons, accepting yourself, and finding love right under your nose.
“Teens will enjoy Jory’s comic self-deprecation.” —Booklist

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547488967
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/06/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 362
File size: 810 KB
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

SYDNEY SALTER is a graduate of the University of Washington Writer's Program in fiction and she currently serves as a Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. My Big Nose is her first novel. She lives in Utah.

SYDNEY SALTER is the author of My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters and Jungle Crossing. She lives in Utah.

Read an Excerpt


June: Summer of Passion?

It all comes down to my nose.

Good old Great-Grandpa Lessinger's famous nose. The one they used to joke about until it turned out that I didn't "grow into my nose" like they'd all hoped, and probably prayed, even though we're not exactly a churchgoing family. My parents worship at the Caughlin Club — you know, the gods and goddesses of good golf swings, cute tennis skirts, prestigious addresses, and beautiful, gifted progeny.

I don't fit in.

My eyes are muddy brown while everyone else in the family has eyes that rival the color of Lake Tahoe. Sure, I've got the blond hair, but mine is curly and more brown than blond (though Mom insists I'm blond like the rest of them). Mom's is more a Platinum #305, but she'll never admit to it. "It's just a conditioning rinse," she always says. Right.

And it's just a nose.

If only I were some brilliant scholar who'd written six novels, created my own Web-based business, and spoke fluent Chinese. But no. I didn't even take any AP classes junior year, and I still have a B average.

I'm ordinary.

Evidence: last night's annual Reno High Awards for Students Who Are Actually Doing Impressive Things. I'd sat with my parents, craning my neck so I could see Tyler Briggs — who received an award for his charity work — sitting three rows behind me. My younger brother, Finn, popped up for his seven hundredth award of the night, Most Excellent French Student. He'd already won Most Soccer Goals Scored by a Freshman, Best Freshman GPA, and the Freshman Citizenship Plaque. Swoons, sighs, and giggles echoed all over the auditorium; the girls sitting next to me decided Finn should get awards for Best Legs, Best Smile, and "like Biggest Studliest Cutie ever." Like that makes any sense! Then Buddy Dickenson, Dad's Mr. Country Club golfing partner, leaned forward and said, "Are you sure Jory isn't adopted? She hasn't been up there once." He broke into his ex-smoker guffaws. My dad laughed, but my mom pursed her lips and glanced at me real quick. I buried my nose — my long, lumpy nose — in the program. Mr. Dickenson and his stupid booming voice. Had Tyler heard him?

I looked up only when Tyler received some ski team honor.

Afterward, I stood in the auditorium with my friends, nibbling a stale sugar cookie and sipping too-sweet punch, while my parents lingered near the stage accepting congratulations for having birthed the truly amazing Finn Michaels.

"It's going to be the best summer ever." Hannah's short blond pigtails bounced like an anime character's. "We have no worries." She fanned herself with her certificates for Outstanding Community Service, Super School Spirit, and Best Poetry. "We can relax and really discover our passions."

"Like getting into college? Getting real work experience?" Megan had already taken her SATs, twice, and talked nonstop about early-admissions this and AP-credits that. Plus, she'd lined up an internship with the U.S. Attorneys' Office. Tonight she'd dressed like a TV lawyer — silky blouse tucked into a short skirt, long dark hair pulled into a messy bun.

"No, silly." Hannah flapped her certificates at Megan. "Fun stuff!"

Both of us were a little sick of Megan's I'm-so-done-with-high-school attitude, especially when we still had a whole year left. Megan had changed a lot since the three of us had bonded on the first day of freshman year, sitting on the cement steps, eating homemade sandwiches, watching the kids who knew better head off campus for lunch. Yup, we were quite the trio: Megan with purple orthodontia, zero boobs, and acne; Hannah with a back brace for her scoliosis; and me with the Nose. We spent hours dreaming up popularity ploys — the worst resulting in disastrous sophomore-year cheerleading tryouts (Megan got stuck halfway into her splits; Hannah couldn't stop giggling; I fell during a lift and had to wear a Band-Aid on my nose for an entire week).

"Well," I said, "I know my passion. His name is Tyler Briggs." I looked around real quick to make sure he hadn't heard me. Oblivious, as usual. Despite the ninety-degree heat, Tyler wore a starched buttoned-up shirt, an art deco tie, and the butt-hugging khaki pants that had once distracted me so much I'd slammed my forehead on Hannah's open locker. I watched his mother rake her long red nails though his wavy blond hair in a way that I'd only fantasized about. A giggling group of sophomores — the ones who frequently fawned over Finn — hovered nearby.

"I mean passion in the creative sense of the word." Hannah shook her head at me. "Meg's right. You do have boy issues."

"Duh." Megan cut her eyes at me, then Tyler.

"You have to love yourself first, you know." Hannah put her hand over her heart as if pledging allegiance to herself — something she actually does. I tried it once, but Finn and his friends saw me; I endured weeks of Pledge Allegiance to Jory jokes.

"No need to go all peace, love, and yoga on me." I glanced over at Tyler, who smiled all sweet, shy, and adorable as his dad clapped him on the back. "I totally have a plan."

Megan gave me the Look that my mother must have taught her. Too bad they didn't give out certificates for that kind of thing; instead, Megan had gotten a stack of academic awards. I was surprised they hadn't given her a certificate for tutoring me in Algebra II.

"I have an amazing plan."

I sort of had a plan: to catch up on my beauty sleep. God knows I needed some. Beauty, that is. Although I had to admit that eight hours of sleep a night for a year had done nothing for my beauty — if anything, it had made my brain simply more alert and aware that I lacked beauty or any other distinguishing features, skills, or appealing qualities.

And so there I was on the first day of summer vacation. Awake. With a big nose, no passion in my life — in the creative sense of the word — and all signs still pointing to me dying a virgin. Guinness World Records' entry: Jory Michaels, World's Oldest Virgin. Or maybe it would be for World's Most Unlovable Human. Or both.

In the kitchen, my parents argued at a few decibels above any possibility of ignoring them, and the smell of roast chicken with wild rice and broccoli wafted into my room. Ah, yes. Day 6 of Mom's Dinner For Breakfast diet. You see, you can eat anything you want, only in reverse. In reality, you eat almost nothing except a big bowl of cereal at night because roast meat just about makes you want to hurl at seven o'clock in the morning. I groaned and pulled my pillow over my head, but I could still hear them arguing. So much for sleeping in. I kicked my comforter off, rolled out of bed using Hannah's yoga-inspired healthy-back method, and stretched. Like that would make me feel any better.

"Great start to summer vacation." I pulled my pajama bottoms out of my butt and padded down the hallway, past framed photos of Finn posing with a soccer ball, Finn sitting on a boulder at Lake Tahoe, Mom holding baby Finn, Mom and Dad's wedding, Mom and Dad grinning on a cruise ship, and one little five-by-seven photo of me in first grade. I don't do anything worthy of the family hall of fame. Or maybe it's just that I'm not photogenic enough. Or it might be because I've destroyed most of my school pictures since George Grobin called me "elephant nose" in the second grade.

I plopped myself down on a kitchen stool. "Oh, Mom. But I wanted lasagna for breakfast."

"Don't you even start with me." Mom opened the oven and grimaced as she read the meat thermometer. "I might be late for my first client because I've been up since five A.M. preparing you a delicious din —" She stopped.

"Ha! Caught you! You were going to say dinner." I flipped my hair back and forth. "You said dinner. You said dinner."

Mom shot me the Look while Dad gathered his briefcase, keys, pager, planner, and cell phone. "I'll grab something at work," he said, smiling at me. "Great reason to get a summer job, Jory: office doughnuts."

"Evan, you can't eat doughnuts! You said you'd support my new family-eating plan." Mom shook her wooden spoon before wiping her sweaty forehead with the back of her oven mitt. "Oh, fine. I'll save the chicken for dinner. Just this once."

Dad squeezed my shoulder and whispered, "We will triumph over this one, honey. She's breaking. Won't be long." He kissed my forehead, then blew a kiss to Mom.

After the door to the garage slammed shut with an echoing thud, I jumped up to grab a box of cereal.

"No, you don't. We can have the leftover pizza Finn and his friends ordered."

I spread the Living section of the paper out in front of me and glanced over the comics. "Mom. Pizza is not a diet food."

"It's not a diet. It's a family-eating plan." Mom slumped down on a stool and put her head on her arms. "Oh, God, I'm exhausted. Whoever invented this die — I mean, eating plan — was a damn insomniac."

I shoveled a spoonful of crunchy delicious-for-breakfast cereal into my mouth while watching Mom wrinkle her perfect little nose. "You look good, Mom. You look like a mom."

She pouted. "I don't want to look like a mom. Oh, never mind. I'll have grapefruit for breakfast."

"Ahh, yes. Sweet, or should I say, sour, memories of wacky diet number forty-seven." I scooped up another bite but slopped milk down my chin onto the newspaper. Mom dieted like Greg LeMond had trained for the Tour de France.

"Jory, you have no idea what it feels like to —" Mom looked away. She must've remembered the Nose. "I'm just tired." She rummaged for a grapefruit in our overstuffed fruit-and-veggie bin. "Your dad's right, you know. You should get a job this summer."

"Finn doesn't have to get a job."

"Finn keeps busy with soccer. Besides, his coach is already talking about his scholarship potential. And after last night —"

I get it. Super Schnozz has to work harder than the Nice Noses. A cartoon popped into my head, captioned: "Super Schnozz. Unable to awe people with her beauty. Unable to wow them with her intelligence. But if you need to identify an unusual odor, it's Super Schnozz to the rescue." Ah, that could be my passion. I could become a clever comics mogul. Hero to the proboscisly overendowed everywhere. Except I can't draw.

"Jory? Are you listening?" Mom whapped the classifieds on the counter. "You might find a summer job quite rewarding." As if she didn't constantly complain about her "rewarding" work as a mortgage specialist!

"I don't know where to start." I glanced down at all the itty-bitty squares of print. "Aren't these all for old people?"

Mom grabbed a handful of cereal out of the box and munched it noisily as she poured a cup of coffee. "Start with things you like to do."

I flipped to the Ts for "Television Critic" but there were only ads for telemarketers. While fifteen dollars an hour sounded pretty good, having people call me nasty names and hang up on me all day would do nothing for my self-esteem. Although, maybe some cute guy would like the sound of my voice and fall deeply in love with me over the phone ...

"What about baby-sitting?" Mom stirred a spoonful of sugar into her coffee, a sure sign that any dieting attempt was over for at least three days.

"Uh, no. I'm not spending my summer washing sticky hands and watching kiddie TV without even the possibility of seeing a cute guy." Unless the guy they paid to cut the lawn was totally hot and he saw me and, you know, had to have me. Can the desire to lose your virginity be a passion, in the creative sense of the word? I could totally see not-until-I'm-married Hannah taking a deep cleansing breath and closing her eyes if I even asked.

"I could work at the mall. Except not at the food court. Yuck. Maybe I could sell shoes? I love shoes. I'm always noticing people's shoes. And then I'd get a discount. How great would that be?" I looked through the "Retail" section of the classifieds, but everything said "experience required."

"This is so stupid. How hard could it be to grab a size seven and tell someone they look fabulous?" Hard enough for me, I guess. I try really hard not to lie. Ever (if possible). It's the Pinocchio thing. I can't take any chances.

"Well, what else do you like to do? Work with me, Jory. Please."

"Sleep. Maybe there's some sleep study up at UNR that I could enroll in?"

The Look.

I flipped past the automotive, bookkeeping, casino, and construction jobs. "Here's something." I read it aloud (don't ask me why).

DRIVER. Local deliveries. PT + some weekends. Clean MVR. Competitive hourly wage. Katie 555-4653.

"Jory driving? That's pretty hilarious." Finn strutted into the kitchen, texting one of his girl-fans, looking like he'd gotten all of my beauty sleep.

"Honey, you know"— Mom crinkled her nose — "I'm not so sure it's a good idea."

"Why? It was an accident. That's why they call them accidents!"


The Job Interview

Dappled sunshine sparkled through the trees as I drove my mom's minivan down by the river looking for Flowers and Cakes by Katie. I made two wrong turns before I finally found the little pink and blue house near the McKinley Arts and Culture Center. It looked like something Hansel and Gretel would wander into, except it was in a rundown neighborhood, not a scary woods. I pulled up in front of an accountant's office a couple of buildings away; I didn't want anyone to see that I was parallel-parking challenged. After all, I was applying for a job in the driving industry.

I was still slightly shocked that Mom had let me drop her off at work early and borrow the minivan. Like I keep saying, it was an accident! I thought I was hitting the brakes, but I was hitting the gas instead. It was only in the movie-theater parking lot, and I totally blame the guy for looking like Tyler Briggs. Really, it was no big deal. Except that I lost my car. One little mistake and my car becomes too expensive to insure. (You'd think the Mercedes I hit would've had a sturdier bumper!) All I have left of my sweet-sixteen dream is the personalized license plate:JORRIDE. I also have to put up with the joy-ride jokes my dad makes every time I get behind the wheel — even when I drive up the hill to the grocery store or Starbucks.

Parallel parking in seven easy steps. In the middle of the steering wheel, I'd stuck the sticky note with the instructions I'd copied off the Internet. Usually it's pretty easy to avoid parallel parking in Reno, which is nice for those of us who'd failed that portion of our driving tests more than three times but fewer than five.


1. Signal. (Of course!)

2. Make sure your back bumper is even with the other car's bumper. (Simple.)

3. Back up slowly, cranking the wheel toward the curb. Lurch. (Slowly being the key word.)

4. When your front door is even with the rear bumper, turn the wheel away from the curb. (No problem, unless your rear tire is stuck against the curb. Scrape. Ignore the violent beeping from the rear sensors Mom had installed just for you. Repeat steps 1 through 4. Again. Third time is the charm, or something. Maybe it's the fourth. Give yourself more space. Okay, try a different parking place — this one is cursed. Master steps 1 through 4.)

5. Slowly back into the space.

6. Straighten the wheel and center the car. You should be less than a foot from the curb.

It was only after I'd jumped out and clicked the locks that I noticed the minivan stuck far into the street; I also noticed that the car behind me had a nice paint job, so I just walked away.

"Okay, time to look calm, cool, and collected." I took in a big, deep breath like Hannah always does, but I still felt all twitchy. With a businesslike stride, I walked down the block to Flowers and Cakes by Katie.

My parents wanted me to get a job so I could learn to be responsible and all that blah, blah, blah. They thought I could buy another used car and pay for my own insurance. What they didn't realize was that I had another kind of insurance I wanted to purchase: I wanted to ensure I'd have a better life by buying a brand-new nose. If I got this job, I could become a member of the Nice Nose Club in time for senior year. All I needed was approximately five thousand dollars and two weeks of recovery time, according to all the new-nose sites on the Internet. If I used my own money, Mom couldn't say, "Absolutely not. You're beautiful just the way you are." (Her standard line whenever I mentioned plastic surgery.) She'd have to let me do it.

Super Schnozz would be defeated. One last sniffle, then byebye.

"Okay, focus," I told myself as I walked through the white gate to the bright green door. A little bell tinkled as I walked into every kid's fantasy world. Flowers, teddy bears, kittens, puppies, knickknacks, bubbling fountains, and balloons in all shapes and colors surrounded me; gauzy fairies hung from the ceiling, and silk flowers bunched together in painted vases on the floor; roses in a rainbow of colors decorated a glass case. The whole place smelled sweet and sugary, like someone had baked a million birthday cakes. (I guess they had.) I breathed in deeply, wondering if even the air had calories. Mom would never come into this place.


Excerpted from "My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters"
by .
Copyright © 2009 Sydney Salter.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
June: Summer of Passion?,
The Job Interview,
Graduation Night,
The Bonfire,
First Day on the Job,
Just Another Day at Work?,
Wooster Guys and Greasy Fries,
Chocolatinis and Judith,
Popcorn and Possibilities,
Hard Lemonade and the Greek Alphabet,
July: Down Dogs and Cabbage Soup,
Dickensons and Wieners,
Dickensons and Doughnuts,
Bumping and Breaking,
Pouting and Picnics,
Margarita Madness,
Cheers and Cheetos,
Doldrums, Deliveries, and a Date?,
Ice Cream and Big Questions,
August: Beads and Bonding,
Room Party!,
Cakes and Crushes Crushed,
Senior Photos, Nosy Mom, Big Fight,
Nose Doctors, Witches (Me), and Big Trouble,
Tantrums, Beading, Boys?,
More Ice Cream and Photo Shoots,
A Special Delivery of Thanks,
About the Author,

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