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.
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.
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
By Kristen Randle
Harper Collins PublishersCopyright © 2003 Kristen Randle All right reserved. ISBN: 0060010231
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.
"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."
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?
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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