From Chapter One
Things About Me That Might, in Some Alternative Universe, Be Interesting Enough for the Committee of Tenth Grade Teachers to Pick Me for the AP Art History Trip to Italy
- I have the highest GPA in the tenth grade.
- I can recite the periodic table in alphabetical order to the tune of the disco classic "YMCA."
- In fifth grade, I won a silver medal in the New York Times Crossword Puzzler contest, junior division. And I would have won the gold, if I had not been competing against a nine-year-old prodigy from Ohio who knew that a beast with twisted horns is called an eland.
- When I was five, I had an extra row of bottom teeth. Like a shark.
- I am so flat-chested that they do not make a bra in my size. Not even a training bra.
- I play a mean game of rummikub.
- According to family history, I am a distant relative of Susan B. Anthony, the first women's suffragist in the United States.
- I am most likely the only person under the age of forty who has attended a Barry Manilow concert.
- Did I mention that I have the highest GPA in the tenth grade? My God, am I boring...
- - -
I jump nearly a foot off of my bed, startled by a roar of thunder.
Lindsay and Samantha, my two best friends, are lying on the floor, flipping through last week's issue of Teen People. But either a) they both have been cleverly hiding from me the fact that they are completely deaf, or b) they are simply too engrossed in the trials and tribulations of young Hollywood to have noticed that the sky almost just completely broke in half.
Finally, after another heavy rumble, Lindsay drops the magazine and rolls over onto her back.
"I'm so tired of this rain," she complains to no one in particular. "I don't understand how I'm ever supposed to get my driver's license if it keeps pouring like this. My dad won't let me practice if it's even overcast outside, let alone if an eighth ocean is falling from the sky. I mean, enough already. It's been almost a week."
Samantha grabs the magazine off the floor where Lindsay left it, and brings it close to her face to get a better look. I have no idea why she obsesses over these magazines the way she does. Samantha is effortlessly attractive and by far the best-dressed girl in the whole school, probably even the whole county.
She has perfect, wavy dark blonde hair, a tall slender body that most people would have to work out four hours a day and only eat wheatgrass to attain, and her mother's entire designer wardrobe at her disposal. (Did I mention that her mother used to be a model? Did I also mention that Samantha totally inherited her legs?) Plus, she's got an innate sense of style that most celebrities have to hire Rachel Zoe to achieve. I mean, have you ever seen anyone wear Commes des Garçons with Converse? (Actually, have you ever seen anyone wear Commes des Garçons? So. Weird.) But seriously, she could easily be in one of those magazines. Of course, if you ask her, she'll say, "I hate the way I look." She isn't fishing for compliments either. It's still something I've never figured out about her.
"God, what is up with those lashes?" she asks aloud. "This model looks like she has spiders crawling out of her eyes." Samantha puts the magazine back down on the carpet and turns to look at Lindsay. "FYI, it's all our parents' fault. If they hadn't spent the '80s running around with aerosol hairsprays and insecticides and Styrofoam cups, we wouldn't have any of this extreme weather today."
"My dad probably did it on purpose," Lindsay remarks. "I'll bet you he only used products with CFCs in them, in the hope that one day his actions would prevent his future daughter from ever getting behind the wheel of a car."
"Mmm-hmmm," I say, half ignoring them-because Lindsay always complains about not having her driver's license and Samantha always blames her parents for everything-but also because I am too busy staring at the fluorescent yellow flyer that Mr. Wallace gave to everyone in my AP Art History class today. At the top, it implores us to Pay Attention! And besides, there's no point in telling either of them that chlorofluorocarbons were banned from aerosol sprays in 1978, or that Styrofoam has nothing to do with extreme weather patterns. They wouldn't listen anyway.
Suddenly, a flapping mass of paper hits me in the face. I look up from the handout that I've tacked to the bulletin board next to my bed.
"Ow," I say, rubbing my forehead and laughing in spite of myself. "Why'd you throw that magazine at me? And don't blame one of your celebrity crushes."
Samantha arches her eyebrow. "You've been completely ignoring us since we got here, and I, for one, am starting to take it personally. What's going on in that genius-girl head of yours?"
With a sigh, I pull the tack out of the handout and hold it up for them to see. I do my best to appear nonchalant. "It's a contest. Mr. Wallace announced it today in AP Art History. The district was given a grant to send five kids to Italy for two weeks this summer, so that they can study great works of art. And the district pays for everything. Plane tickets, hotels, food, even admittance to the museums." The inside of my stomach dances around just thinking about it.
"Let me see," Lindsay demands. She gets up from the floor and flops down next to me on my bed, taking the flyer. I peer over her shoulder, rereading it for the millionth time today as she reads it aloud to Samantha.
Pay Attention! An Unforgettable Summer Experience!
Five lucky students will be chosen to travel to Italy with Mr. Wallace, where they will study works by the great Italian masters in Rome, Venice, and Florence.
To be eligible to apply, you must:
- Be a student in AP Art History, with a grade of at least an A-.
- Write an essay explaining why you should be chosen to go on this trip.
- Applicants will be judged on their essays, as well as on their personalities, outside interests, and strength of character, as determined by a Committee of Tenth Grade Teachers.
- Applications are due to Mr. Wallace by 5:00 p.m., next Thursday!