The Truth Game (Dirt Diary Series #4)

The Truth Game (Dirt Diary Series #4)

by Anna Staniszewski


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492632726
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Series: Dirt Diary Series , #4
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 176,041
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Anna Staniszewski lives outside of Boston with her husband and an adorably crazy dog. She was named the Boston Public Library's 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Discovery Award. When she's not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and not cleaning her house. Visit her at

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The Truth Game


Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2016 Anna Staniszewski
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4926-3273-3


"Rachel, what could possibly be taking so long?" Mom calls, banging on the bathroom door. "Do you want to be late for school?"

"I'll be right out!" I try to wrangle my hair into a bun one more time, but it's hopeless. Nothing can cover up the disaster springing out of my scalp.

Mom's pounding comes again. "You'll miss the bus!"

Ugh. Why did I think putting my hair in small braids for the night would make it look good? The genetic lottery gave me all of my dad's thick, black mane and none of my mom's blond waves, so the braids only succeeded in putting a million zigzag creases into my hair. I don't think a poodle could pull off this look. And even worse, because my hair is sticking up all over the place, the widow's peak that I'm always trying to hide is now on full display.

With a sigh, I open the door. When Mom sees me, she starts giggling. Great. You know you look ridiculous when the one person who's always supposed to support you laughs in your face.

"Mom, what am I supposed to do? I look like I ran my head through a car wash."

Maybe I should take a page from my best friend Marisol's book and plop a tiara on my head to distract from my hair disaster. She did that last year to take attention away from a huge zit on her chin. But I have a feeling even a tiara won't help me now.

When she finally stops tittering, Mom gets a thoughtful look. Then, in full Ms. Fix-It mode, she takes my hand and pulls me over to the sink. "Dunk your head under," she says, turning on the tap.

"What about the bus?"

"I'll drive you," she says. "But we have to hurry."

There's no time to wait for the water to heat up, so I shove my head under the cold stream and close my eyes. So much for starting high school on the right note. On top of the hair fiasco, I also accidentally globbed toothpaste on my lucky shirt and somehow misplaced one of my shoes.

When my hair is soaked through, I quickly towel it off and rush to change my shirt and throw on a pair of worn-out sneakers that probably should have gone in the trash months ago. When I glance at myself in the mirror, I groan.

Oh my goldfish. I look worse than my usual self, not better! But it's too late to do anything about it. I grab a banana and my backpack and dash to meet my mom at her dented minivan, which is loaded up for her day of cleaning houses.

"Why would you do that to your beautiful hair in the first place?" Mom asks as we speed off toward the school. The mops and brooms in the back of the car bang together with every turn.

I shrug, embarrassed to admit that I had imagined myself stepping into the high school for the first time as the new and improved version of myself. After the summer I've had — working for my mom's cleaning business, running baking competitions, and dealing with all sorts of family drama — I feel like a totally different person than I did last spring. I guess I wanted to look like one too.

"Was it to impress Evan?" Mom adds with a smile.

Okay, it doesn't hurt that my boyfriend — my boyfriend! — is going to be at my school this year. His dad lost his job a few weeks ago, which means that the private school for geniuses where Evan had been going is no longer an option — at least for now. I know Evan was bummed about having to change schools, but I'm selfishly glad that I'll get to see him every day and show him off to everyone.

There's another reason I was hoping to make myself look better than normal today. I wanted to get my mind off the fact that, for the first time in my life, my dad isn't here on my first day of school. There's no silly joke from him at breakfast or funny note from him in my lunch. Ever since my parents split up six months ago, Dad's been in Florida, and even though he's been talking about moving back home, it's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

"Oh!" Mom says as we pull onto Main Street. "Isn't today the day you find out about Pastry Wars?"

I groan. "Didn't we say we weren't going to talk about that? I don't want to jinx anything."

She laughs. "Sorry! I'm just so excited! I know you'll get in for sure. Your audition video was adorable."

I almost died a few weeks ago when I found out that my favorite show, Pastry Wars, was holding auditions for a teen episode. Of course I had to send in a video, and since my fashion-designer best friend made me look amazing and her filmmaker boyfriend shot the whole thing, I'd like to think my chances of being picked are pretty good. I bet not a lot of the other kids made super-fancy French desserts for their auditions.

"Okay, I won't bring it up again," Mom says, "but I'll be keeping my fingers crossed all day! Wouldn't it be wild if we actually got to meet Chip?"

Mom has recently developed a huge celebrity crush on Pastry Wars host Chip Ackerson. You'd think her boyfriend, Mr. Hammond, would be jealous, but he finds it hilarious that she acts like she and Chip are old friends when she's never even seen him in real life. But maybe that will change. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed.

It might seem crazy that painfully shy me would be excited about being on TV, but if I'm really going to be a pastry chef one day, then I can't imagine a better way to show everyone how serious I am than by winning a major Cooking Network competition. Besides, shy me was middle school Rachel. High school is a fresh start, and I'm determined to finally leave my loser-ish reputation behind. If only the thought of finding my way through that huge building filled with strangers didn't make my whole body — even my elbows — quiver!

We turn into the school driveway, and Mom suddenly starts sniffling. "I remember when you were a little bundle in my arms, no bigger than a loaf of bread. And now you're getting so grown up!"

Oh boy. Thankfully, we pull up to the school before Mom can start crying. "Thanks for the ride!" I say as I give her a quick peck on the cheek and then rush out of the car.

"Have fun today!" she calls after me. "Don't forget to floss after lunch!"

I practically run toward the entrance, hoping no one heard her. But I make it only a few steps before I spot Angela Bareli leaning against the flagpole in front of the school steps. I haven't seen her in over a month, and the last time was right after she'd confessed to stealing a necklace and blaming it on me. Even though her clothes and hair look the same as usual, there's something about her that seems completely different. It takes me a second to realize what it is. She's smiling — genuinely smiling — for the first time in ... well, maybe in forever. And she's surrounded by a group of kids I've never seen before.

"Rachel Lee!" she says, waving me over. "How was your summer?"

"Um, it was good," I say, eyeing the small crowd around her. Unlike my middle school, the high school is regional, so half the kids are from the neighboring town. That's probably why I don't recognize any of these girls. "How about you?"

"Fantastic," she says. "Have you met my cross-country friends? We've been training like crazy for the past couple of weeks. It's going to be an amazing season."

An older-looking girl with spiked black hair gives Angela a bright smile. "Definitely," she says. "I'm the captain this year, and Angela's one of our star freshmen. She says she's never run before, but she's a natural."

"Wow," I say, and it's not because I'm impressed by Angela's running skills. For as long as I've known her, Angela Bareli has been a total follower, flocking after the popular kids, desperate to be accepted. But now, finally, she seems to have found people she actually fits with. Hopefully, when I go to the school's Cooking Club meeting this week, I'll find my people too.

Suddenly, Angela's eyes double in size. "Um, Rachel?" she whispers. "Not to freak you out or anything, but I can kind of see your bra."

I glance down and gasp. Oh my goldfish! My wet hair soaked through my T-shirt and now the fabric is practically transparent. I yank a sweatshirt out of my bag and throw it on, my cheeks burning hotter than the late August sun.

Shockingly, Angela doesn't laugh at me the way she would have even a few weeks ago. Instead, she gives me a reassuring smile and whispers, "Don't worry. I don't think anyone else noticed."

Clearly, Angela's got the whole "starting high school off on a good note" thing down. And she didn't have to suffer any wardrobe or hair malfunctions to get there.

I mumble a thank-you and then rush up the front steps, hoping to get inside without any other mishaps. If I can find Evan and Marisol, everything will be okay.

But as I'm about to dart through the door, I hear an all-too-familiar voice call my name. "Rachel!"

I gasp and spin around, sure I must be hallucinating. But it's true. My dad — my dad! — is there on the front steps, waving at me.

"What are you doing here?" I ask after I can tear myself away from hugging him. We saw each other a few weeks ago when I went down to Florida, but having him here, at home, in front of my new school, is totally surreal.

"I wanted to surprise you!" Dad says. "I couldn't let my Rachel Roo head off for her first day without me, could I?" He holds out a little-kid lunch box. "PB&J with a sprig of mint, just like you asked me to make you in first grade. Do you remember? I should have known back then that you were a budding chef."

It dawns on me that kids around us are staring. It's great to see my dad, of course, but this is not exactly helping me shed my loser reputation.

"Um, thanks," I say, shoving the lunch into my bag and then pulling Dad away from the doorway so that we're not in sight of every person who passes by. "Are you back for good?"

"Yup," he says. "I'm staying in a hotel for the moment, but I'm hoping to find an apartment soon."

I can't believe it. My dad is really home! Okay, so the fact that he's living in a hotel is a little weird, but now that my parents are officially split up and my mom is dating someone else, I guess it would be even weirder if he stayed at our house.

"So ..." Dad says, glancing around. "Where's this boyfriend of yours? I never had a chance to talk to him at the Bake-Off."

A bell rings, making me jump. Uh-oh. Is that the homeroom bell? "Dad, I have to go. I don't want to be late."

"Let's meet here after school, okay?" he says, giving my shoulder a squeeze. "We can go to Molly's. I've been dreaming about their ice cream for months!"

"Today? I told you I got a job at Ryan's Bakery, right? Training starts this afternoon." I was beyond excited when Chef Ryan, the toughest critic I know, called last week to offer me a job at his bakery. For a few hours a week, I'll be ringing up customers and helping out with some of the grunt work for the bakery's catering jobs. Not exactly glamorous, but it's one huge step closer to making my dream of becoming a pastry chef come true. And if I have my way, I'll be assisting Chef Ryan with the cakes and pastries in no time.

Dad's face falls. "Oh, of course. I should have known you'd have plans. No worries." He lets out a soft laugh. "We'll get together another day, okay?"

"Maybe ... maybe you could come over for dinner or something this week. I'm sure Mom wouldn't mind." As I say the words, I realize that I have no idea if they're true. Mom and Dad have barely been in the same room together since they split up. I'm not sure how she'd feel about him setting foot in our house again after everything.

"We'll figure it out," he says. "Now, off you go. I don't want you getting in trouble because of me."

I give my dad a quick hug and rush away. As I go down the nearly empty hallway, I realize I have no idea where my homeroom is or where to find my locker. So much for starting high school off as the best version of myself. At this rate, I'll be lucky to start high school on any note.


The morning is a blur of total strangers, thick textbooks, and mazelike hallways. I can't believe how ginormous this school is and how old all the upperclassmen look. Some of the guys even have beards! Like, bushy mountain-man ones! And I actually mistook a senior girl for my math teacher. Luckily, I figured out my mistake before she assigned me any homework. Still, I've never felt so young and so totally lost.

By the time lunch rolls around, I'm desperate to see my best friend, Marisol. When we compared our schedules last week, we were horrified to learn that we'd only get to see each other during lunch. Evan's in all the supersmart classes, so his schedule is totally different from mine too, but we do have one class together — gym, of all things. Weirdly, Angela Bareli has been in all my classes so far. Whoever made the class schedules was clearly out to get me.

When I spot Marisol at a table in the corner by herself, I sprint over. "I'm so glad I found you! I was afraid I'd have to eat lunch by myself." I actually had nightmares last night about wandering the cafeteria alone for an eternity, not knowing where to sit or where to dispose of my lunch tray.

"No danger of that," she says. "Andrew's here too. He's buying lunch."

"Did you finally talk to your mom about letting you date him?" I ask.

She sighs and shakes her head. I guess when your mom is convinced you're too young for a boyfriend, it doesn't matter how sweet and harmless the guy is.

"But you finally told Andrew that your mom still doesn't know you two are together, right?"

Her cheeks grow pink. "I keep trying, but I don't want to hurt his feelings. Anyway, I'm sure my mom will come around soon, and then it won't matter." She starts intently studying her sandwich.

She clearly doesn't want to talk about it anymore, so I ask, "How's the first day going so far?"

"Great! Andrew met me at my locker this morning, and he's been walking me to all of my classes. Isn't that sweet?"

"Are boyfriends supposed to do stuff like that?" I ask, realizing I've never paid attention to that kind of thing before. Should Evan have offered to walk me to classes, or was that something we were supposed to do automatically? So far, I'd only seen him from afar after second period. We waved to each other from across the lobby as I rushed off to figure out where my locker was. Apparently, this whole "having a boyfriend at my school" thing is going to take some getting used to.

"I tried to find you before homeroom," Marisol says. "Were you running late?"

"Sort of." I start to tell her about my disastrous morning, but I realize that she's not really listening. She's scanning the cafeteria as if she's looking for someone better to talk to. "And then I turned into an elephant and flew away, using my huge ears as wings," I finish.

"Cool," she says, glancing over her shoulder. Then she blinks, as if realizing what I said. "Wait, what? Sorry! I'm trying to find Ms. Emerald."

"Er, is that a fortune-telling cat or something?" I ask.

Marisol laughs. "No, it's a person. She's the teacher you go to if you want to start a new club. I've heard that if you can get in good with her, she'll agree to be the adviser for just about anything."

"Is that why you're so decked out?" I ask, scanning Marisol's outfit. She's practically blinding in her bright-yellow skirt, shimmery red shirt, and blue cowboy boots. On anyone else, the outfit would look ridiculous, but Marisol manages to pull it off. It probably helps that she's one of the most confident people I know.

"I have to make a good impression," she says. "If I'm going to start a fashion club, I have to look like I know what I'm talking about. Are you going to the Cooking Club meeting tomorrow?"

"Any chance I could convince you to come with me?"

Marisol lets out a honking laugh. "Only if you want me to accidentally burn the entire school down. How about you stick to baking and I'll stick to sewing, okay? The world will be a much safer place that way."

I guess I'll have to brave the Cooking Club meeting on my own. But hey, if I'm really trying to get on TV, then I guess I better get used to meeting tons of strangers. Besides, the Cooking Club will be a great chance for me to push myself to try new recipes. Between that and my job at the bakery, I'll be a pro in no time.


Excerpted from The Truth Game by ANNA STANISZEWSKI. Copyright © 2016 Anna Staniszewski. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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.

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The Truth Game 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made me never what to stop reading. Also,this was one of my favorite books that I have ever read because it has just the right amont of details.
debwill74 More than 1 year ago
The Truth Game by Anna Staniszewski is an interesting look into a what if scenario. While it is a YA book, it can show all of us what could happen if something you thought was anonymous was suddenly tagged with your name. As with her other work that I have read, Ms. Staniszewski's work is excellent is a great read. I received a copy of The Truth Game by Anna Staniszewski from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
LuckyBunBun More than 1 year ago
It had an interesting story and very interesting characters. The whole thing made me never want to stop reading it.
dragonmeetsunicorn More than 1 year ago
i loved it, but i can't really relate...
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jk i love it