According to the Ambassadors 4 Kids Club, one out of every four students is bullied—and 85% of these situations never receive intervention. Parents, students, and teachers alike have amped up the discussion of how to solve the bullying problem for a networked generation of kids.
Written by bestselling author, Nancy Rue, each book in the Mean Girl Makeover trilogy focuses on a different character’s point of view: the bully, the victim, and the bystander. Each girl has a different personality so that every reader can find a character she relates to. The books, based on Scripture, show solid biblical solutions to the bullying problem set in a story for kids.
So Not Okay, the first book in the series, tells the story of Tori Taylor, a quiet sixth grader at Gold Country Middle School in Grass Valley, California. Tori knows to stay out of the way of Kylie, the queen bee of GCMS. When an awkward new student named Ginger becomes Kylie's new target, Tori whispers a prayer of thanks that it’s not her. But as Kylie’s bullying of Ginger continues to build, Tori feels guilty and tries to be kind to Ginger. Pretty soon, the bullying line of fire directed toward Ginger starts deflecting onto Tori, who must decide if she and her friends can befriend Ginger and withstand Kylie’s taunts, or do nothing and resume their status quo. Tori’s decision dramatically changes her trajectory for the rest of the school year.
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So Not Okay
MEAN GIRL MAKEOVER BOOK 1
By NANCY RUE
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Nancy Rue
All rights reserved.
It was a Monday. January 26, to be exact, and I like to be exact. I remember the date because it needs to be circled on a calendar. In red Sharpie.
That's because it was the first time since the start of middle school that Kylie Steppe actually looked at me and apparently saw something besides, well ... nothing. And it changed, well ... everything.
My best friend Ophelia Smith and I were leaning against the wall across from the office at Gold Country Middle School waiting for our other best friend, Winnie George, to pick up her slip to get into classes after being absent. The line snaked out the door and down the hall, like half the school had suffered from some kind of epidemic, and Kylie was standing in it. I figured she'd probably been out having her nails done because she had been standing there inspecting them for ten minutes like Sherlock Holmes on a case.
But suddenly she looked up and stared right at me. She was so still, I wondered if she had a pulse.
Ophelia noticed the look too. She hid half her face—not hard to do when your thick yellow hair is like a curtain all the way to your waist—and whispered, "The Alpha Wolf is looking at you, Tori. That's weird."
It really was weird because Kylie hadn't shown any signs of noticing me since the first day of sixth grade when she started deciding who was cool and who wasn't. I wasn't. She couldn't prove it. I just wasn't.
I was okay with that. Ophelia and Winnie and I weren't even on Kylie and her Pack's radar. Okay, I know wolves don't use radar. Mrs. Fickus, our English teacher, would say I was mixing my metaphors. The point is: we were like Saran Wrap to the Pack.
But Kylie couldn't seem to stop looking at me now. Her nose wrinkled like she smelled something bad, which was totally possible in our school. Between the stinky sneakers and the kids who hadn't been told about deodorant yet, you were better off breathing through your mouth when a bunch of us sixth-graders were crammed together in the halls.
I was considering telling Kylie that I had looked it up and found out the reason boys' sweat could now gag you was because puberty caused their sweat glands to become more active and secrete odor-causing chemicals, when she said, "Why don't you get your eyebrows waxed?"
I opened my mouth to say, Hello! Because it's painful! but Ophelia gave me a warning poke in the side. She was right. Kylie wasn't going to listen, so I just shrugged. My mom didn't like it when I did that, but it usually ended conversations I didn't want to be in to begin with.
But that didn't work on Kylie. Clearly, she wasn't done.
"They're starting to grow together in the middle." She gave her splashy little dark brown haircut a toss. "You're gonna have a unibrow. That's so gross."
In front of Kylie in line, her friend Heidi laughed out of her puggy nose. It was only a matter of time before her other friend Riannon would be throwing back her hair—just like Kylie's except mouse-colored—and howling—followed by Izzy and Shelby. That was one of the dozen reasons I thought of them as a pack of wolves closing in on their prey.
I was sure Kylie was going to pull hot wax out of her backpack and come after me with it when our principal Mrs. Yeats parted the kids in the doorway like she was coming through drapes and clapped so hard it made the skin on her upper arms jiggle inside her sleeves. A hush settled over the mob because her chins were wobbling too. That meant the detention slips were about to come out of the pocket of the gold wool vest she always wore.
"If you are not waiting to get a readmit slip," she said in her voice like a French horn, "please move out of the hallway."
"What if we're waiting for someone?" Heidi said.
"Wait for them someplace else."
Mrs. Yeats jiggled back into her office, and Heidi and Riannon stepped out of the line. But Kylie said to them, "It's okay if you stay."
That was the thing with the Pack. They thought the rules didn't apply to them, and most of the time they kind of didn't. But they applied to us, so I nodded for Ophelia to follow me away from the office. Besides, I still wasn't convinced Kylie wasn't at least going to break out the tweezers.
"What was that about?" Ophelia said as we hurried up the steps to our usual before-school meeting place at the end of the sixth-grade lockers by the window.
"What was what about?"
"That whole thing about your eyebrows."
"I have no idea," I said. "I guess Kylie's into eyebrows now."
Ophelia lifted one of hers, which was so blond you could hardly see it. "She waxes so she thinks everybody else has to."
"To be cool. Which I'm so not."
Ophelia dropped her backpack under the window and looked over both shoulders. Kids were clanging their lockers and yelling stuff at each other, so nobody was paying any attention to us, but Ophelia still talked with her teeth together. "Why did she decide to pick on you?"
"She wasn't really picking on me, Phee," I said. "She was just making an observation."
"She said you were gross!"
"She said I was going to be gross."
Ophelia blinked her ginormous brown eyes at me. I'd always wanted to measure them to see if they really were bigger than most peoples' or if they just looked that way because her face was tiny.
She started to braid her hair so it wouldn't get caught in her backpack zipper like it did about 80 percent of the time. "I just don't see why she all of a sudden noticed that about your eyebrows. I mean, not that they are like a unibrow ... I'm just sayin' why you when she hasn't talked to you since—"
"The last day of school in fifth grade," I said and did my let's-change-the-subject shrug. Ophelia always had a new topic at the ready.
"You have to help me with that math homework. It was so hard!"
"I tried to call you last night. Where were you?"
"I was, like, starting to cry because I couldn't get it, and you know my mom is no help, and my dad just gets all yelly with me because I'm such a loser in math—"
"I am! You have to help me. Please?"
"I love you!"
She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed a laugh out of me.
"I love it when you say that." Ophelia pulled her now-braided hair up on top of her head and let it bounce down. "Where did you get that again?"
"When I had strep throat and Granna came over to stay with me and she had TV Land on the whole day."
"And you watched all those episodes of that one show about the chipmunk."
"Chipmunk? It was Leave It to Beaver."
"I knew it was some cute animal."
"It was a kid! His nickname was Beaver, and he said 'jeepers' all the time. I liked it."
"I love it!"
"So where's your math homework?"
Ophelia unzipped her backpack, which had so many stickers on it you could hardly tell it was purple, and pawed through what looked like a wastebasket full of papers.
"I hope Winnie's gonna be okay," she said as she dug. "She's having a really hard time at her grandmother's house."
Winnie's dad had lost his job and then her family lost their house. After a lot of listening in on grown-ups' conversations, I figured out that "losing their house" meant they couldn't pay for it and now the bank owned it. The Georges had moved in with Winnie's grandmother, and let's just say, she wasn't like my Granna, who rocked grandparenthood.
"Her mom told my mom that's why they gave her a couple of days off from school," I said. "So she could adjust."
"You guys?" said a tiny voice.
I turned in time to see Winnie in a shaft of sunlight, sagging against the end of the lockers.
"I don't think it worked," Ophelia said.
She ran to Winnie and practically knocked her down hugging her. That wasn't hard to do since Winnie's head only came up to both Phee's and my shoulders, and she was always so pale it was like you could almost see through her.
She looked smaller than ever now, and her light blue eyes were all puffy and red around the rims. Her hair was still wet from washing it, so it laid against her round head like an almost-white cap. The only thing that wasn't pale on Winnie was her dark eyebrows.
Again with the eyebrows.
Ophelia led her to me at the window. Winnie dropped her backpack and burst into tears.
"It's that bad at your grandmother's?" I said.
Winnie shook her head about fifty times. "It's those girls."
"Kylie and them."
"What did they do to you?" Ophelia said.
"Did they say something evil?"
I shook my head. "So you're crying because ..."
"When I came out of the office, they looked at me!"
Winnie's little shoulders went up and down the way people's do when they cry without making any sound. My mom's did that every time we watched the part of Anne of Green Gables where Matthew died.
"How did they look at you?" Ophelia said.
"Like you had one big ol' hairy eyebrow growing across your forehead?" I said.
Winnie stopped shaking and blinked at me. "Yes!" She rubbed the space over her nose. "Do I?"
"No. They're just all about eyebrows right now. Who knows why?"
"Because Kylie started having hers waxed, that's why," Ophelia said. "Pretty soon the whole Pack will have theirs done, or they won't be allowed to stay in it."
"For real?" Winnie said.
Ophelia nodded soberly. "I heard they have all these rules they have to follow to stay 'in.' I don't know what they are, but I bet that's gonna be one of them."
Winnie's face crumpled again.
"Why are you crying now?" I said.
"Because you guys would never do that to me."
I shrugged at Ophelia, but she was nodding like she totally got it. She was starting to cry too. Phee was nothing if not dramatic.
I guessed Winnie "having a really hard time" was a 100 percent true.
They both stopped crying by second period when we got to Mr. Jett's social studies class. He wasn't our favorite teacher, but that was okay because most of the time he just gave us an assignment and then patrolled the aisles so we didn't actually have to talk to him that much.
I always finished my work fast and then stared at him, trying to figure out if his glasses and black mustache were connected to his nose and why the top of his hair had all fallen out leaving his head shiny, like maybe his wife waxed it every morning, but the bottom part was still thick. There had to be a scientific explanation for that.
That day he said we'd be watching a movie about poverty and children around the world, and I just about groaned out loud. I asked to go the restroom and came back with a wad of toilet paper for Phee and one for Winnie. Otherwise there would be no end to the snot. Once the two of them started crying, they could turn on and off like faucets for the rest of the day. Me, I was never the crying kind.
Through the whole movie, something was going on in the back of the room where Kylie and her Pack were sitting with their desks in a circle. Mr. Jett was up at the front grading papers, so he either didn't see them or he really needed to get that homework checked. Usually, he was like a security guard or something. I guessed you kind of had to be when you were also the permanent cafeteria monitor.
At first, the Pack was just whispering, so it sounded like baby snakes hissing. Then somebody would snort—probably Heidi—and a word or two would erupt. Like sheriff and evicted.
Since when did the Pack use vocabulary like evicted?
By the time the credits rolled and Mr. Jett turned on the lights so his head shined again and everybody could blink and go "Ow!" the Pack's desks were back in their rows and Kylie was looking like she was about to pop open.
"Someone respond to the movie," Mr. Jett said. "Kylie?"
Her dimples—the ones that looked like two Crater Lakes—got deeper. "That was so sad. I don't see how they could do that to those poor people."
Mr. Jett nodded as if Kylie were a saint. Or at least a nun. He adjusted his glasses (and I swore I saw his nose adjust too) and went on to say something about how we Americans don't realize how fortunate we are, and Kylie and the Pack all nodded like they knew exactly what he was talking about.
I didn't see how they could. They were the most "fortunate" people I knew, at least when it came to money and clothes and other stuff. Kylie lived in the biggest house on Church Street, and she had an iPad and her own smartphone. Ophelia was probably right about the rules because Heidi and Riannon and Shelby and Izzy all had them too. It was probably on the checklist to get into the Pack.
The bell rang, and all the boys bolted for the door. As I was getting my backpack, I saw Riannon grab Patrick O'Conner's arm and whisper in his ear. His whole round-as-a-Frisbee face turned into one big "oh."
"What do you think she said to him?" Ophelia whispered into my ear.
I was about to tell her I didn't know and didn't care, but Patrick turned slowly and looked right at Winnie.
"Dude," he said.
What, "dude"? I wanted to say to him. But Riannon looked exactly like a wolf licking her chops. I decided to keep my mouth shut and my ears open.
* * *
I didn't have to work too hard at it. All through third-period math and fourth-period science we heard, "Dude," and, "No stinkin' way!" and, "I also heard that she ..." I picked up pieces that weren't hard to put together. The story was that:
Winnie and her family were evicted from their house—forced out of it by the sheriff because her father stole money from his company.
He was in prison.
The Georges were homeless.
Winnie was wearing clothes that used to be Kylie's that her mom gave away for the poor people in shelters.
It was all 0 percent true.
I didn't have a chance to talk to Winnie about it until we got to the cafeteria for lunch. Fortunately, sixth-graders had the first lunch shift so I only had to wait until eleven-oh-two (to be exact). I once heard Mr. Jett tell another teacher, "They get squirrelly if you don't feed them early."
"Don't pay any attention to anything they're saying, Win," I said when the three of us were gathered at our usual end of the table by the windows.
A chair separated us from the next group of girls. Josie, Ciara, and Brittney were all on the same soccer team and were always talking about goals and offsides and stuff like that. They were totally nice, but we didn't hang out enough for them to be part of this discussion.
Winnie squinted at me with still-red eyes. "What who's saying?"
"Kylie and her—"
"Hey, Winnie," Ophelia said. "Would you go get us some napkins? I just slopped ketchup all over me."
I didn't see any ketchup, but Winnie got up and went over to the condiments counter.
"She doesn't know about the gossip," Ophelia said with her teeth pressed together.
"How could she not?" I said. "It's spreading like the flu!"
"Okay, she's pretending she doesn't know, so don't throw it in her face."
"Was I doing that?"
Ophelia took a bite out of her hot dog.
"Are we supposed to pretend too?" I said.
"You know I stink at that. I can't even lie to my dog."
Ophelia swallowed hard and leaned into the table. "First you. Now Winnie. What is going on all of a sudden?"
I took a bite of my burger and chewed as I surveyed the table in the center of the room, where the Pack sat—right where everybody could see them.
There were five of them, counting Kylie. The tables were made for six, but nobody else ever tried to take that extra chair. How could they, with backpacks and stuff piled up like the Pack was about to jet off on spring break?
Kylie sat in the middle between Heidi and Riannon, her identical bookends. They almost looked exactly like Kylie, too, but that was hard to do. She had these really dark blue eyes with little gold flecks in them that you couldn't imitate like you could a haircut or bracelets or all the other things they copied from her.
Kylie nibbled a pepperoni and swept the room with her eyes like she was looking for trash that needed to be gotten rid of. She looked ... bored. Yeah, that was it. Like she was wishing something would happen to stir things up.
"She's just restless," I said to Ophelia.
"What does that exactly mean?"
Ophelia was the one who was amazing in English, but even though I was the smart-in-math-and-science person, I knew more words than she did. I was her private dictionary.
"You know, like when you're in church and the sermon's going on forever and you wish somebody would doze off in the pew and fall out into the aisle. Just to liven things up."
"Do you actually do that in church?"
"About 50 percent of the time."
Excerpted from So Not Okay by NANCY RUE. Copyright © 2014 Nancy Rue. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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