In middle school, nothing is more important than friendship.
When Truly is invited to sit at the Popular Table with the group she has dreamed of joining, she can hardly believe her luck. Everyone seems so nice, so kind to one another. But all is not as it seems with her new friends, and soon she's caught in a maelstrom of lies, misunderstandings, accusations and counter-accusations, all happening very publicly in the relentless, hyperconnected social media world from which there is no escape.
Six eighth-graders, four girls and two boys, struggle to understand and process their fractured glimples into one another's lives as they find new ways to disconnect, but also to connect, in Rachel Vail's richest and most searching book.
About the Author
Rachel Vail is the author of more than twenty books for young readers, including her first book, Wonder, about which Judy Blume said: "Wonder is wonderful. It's got energy, humor, and heart." Her four-book series, The Friendship Ring, will be reissued in Puffin in Fall 2014. Rachel grew up in New Rochelle and attended Georgetown University. She has two sons; they and their friends provide her with a wealth of material for her writing. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Read an Excerpt
RIGHT BEFORE THE whole thing started with Natasha and the Popular Table, I was standing at my locker with my best friend, Hazel, silently praying that I hadn’t forgotten my combination.
I’ve had this lock since sixth grade, when we got lockers instead of cubbies like in elementary school. My mom took me and my then-best-friend, Natasha, to the store for school supplies the August before middle school started. Natasha and I both chose spinny locks.
My mom thought that the ones with letters that you line up were cuter. At four foot eight, with crooked bangs and lingering baby teeth, the last thing I was looking for was something cuter. Natasha was already over five feet and experimenting with lip gloss. And rolling her eyes at stuff I still wanted to play. She was getting a spinner. I wasn’t going to get a baby lock while she had a spinny in her basket.
My combination is 14-35-42. All multiples of seven. So that’s easy. Except what if I have a brain fart and think maybe it’s multiples of eight? Even if I remember it’s multiples of seven, it could just as easily be 7-21-28.
“You should just get a word one,” Hazel said, beside me in the eighth-grade hall.
“I can do it,” I objected, trying again.
Hazel has a key lock. I think she might be the only one in the whole school. She wears the key on a string around her neck along with her house key and sometimes other random stuff she finds. She has been my absolute best friend since she rescued me in sixth grade, but she is sometimes a lot.
“Just because those girls have spinny locks,” Hazel said.
“That’s not . . .” I said. “I like this kind.”
The fact that the popular girls all have spinny locks was not the only reason I kept my spinny lock for this year. For my thirteenth birthday, my parents finally allowed me to get a cell phone, and to sign on to a few social media things—Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, those types of things. And for every one of them, I set my secret password as locker143542. I know you’re supposed to have different passwords for everything, but please.
After my thirteenth birthday party Hazel slept over. We wrote down our secret passwords for everything on sticky notes in case we forget them somehow. Hazel’s password is clam0rous, which is turns out does not mean like a clam. We both wrote down both passwords, mine and hers, and decided to hide them in our little ballerina jewelry boxes. We have the same ones, we had discovered in sixth grade. The first time she came over and saw mine, we laughed about the coincidence. So corny—the kind with a little ballerina that twirls around when you open it. So girly and cliché, we both thought. As if every little girl is supposed to dream of becoming a tiny ballerina? And collect jewels to fill the box?
Though when I was little I loved that thing. I thought it was so grown-up. But I did see Hazel’s point as soon as she made it. I agreed right away it was horribly antifeminist and also tacky. We decided not to throw them away, though. I was relieved, because I really didn’t want to throw mine away. But I had just recently been dumped by Natasha for being too babyish. I didn’t want my only new-friend prospect to know how babyish I was, deep down. Luckily Hazel agreed the jewelry boxes would be good secret keepers, because what robber would look in a baby jewelry box? She said I was so hilariously ironic.
I looked up the word ironic after she left that afternoon.
“A word lock is maybe five dollars,” Hazel said, reading my mind as usual. “I could give you the money.”
“More like ten,” I said. Hazel’s parents are not exactly rolling in money anymore. They were, a few years ago, but something happened. She won’t talk about it, and I don’t want to pry. But she did confide that money is the thing that’s keeping her parents from getting a divorce. Their fighting hurts her way more than she wants anybody (except me) to know. So it’s not like she was bragging or showing off or anything. I know that. Still. “And the money is not the point. I like this one.”
“Uh-huh,” she said, twirling her green-tinged hair. “I can see why. It’s like a full-on extra-curricular. You want me to try?”
“I got it.” I tried again. Click. I yanked the lunky weight of the lock free of the metal loop. “See?”
Someone tapped my right shoulder.
I turned my head to the right, figuring it would be Kim or maybe Jules, one of the girls in orchestra with us. Nobody there. So I turned to my left and saw not Kim or Jules but Natasha.
I had to smile.
She used to tap my opposite shoulder in elementary school and I fell for it Every. Single. Time. We thought it was endlessly hilarious.
Hasn’t happened since sixth grade, when she dumped me.
“Still don’t know which way to look,” she said.
“I’m hopeless.” I said. “I never learn.”
“Too true,” Hazel said. She unhooked my lock from the hole in my locker’s handle and held it.
“So, anyway,” Natasha said, ignoring Hazel. “You going to lunch?”
“No,” Hazel answered. “To the moon.”
All eighth graders have lunch fifth, so obviously we were going to lunch. Still. The moon? Sometimes when Hazel is trying to sound snide or sarcastic, she just sounds weird.
“Yeah,” I said to Natasha. “Sure. How about you?”
“Mmm-hmm,” Natasha said. She looked out of the corner of her eye into my locker. I immediately wished it were a little messy, a little less compulsively organized.
“Amazing,” Hazel said. “All going to lunch. We have so much in common!”
I gave a small sympathy ha, out of compassion. It’s awful when you say something intending to be funny and everybody just stands there awkwardly, like you’d announced your pet hermit crab died.
“Hurry up,” Natasha said to me. “Dump your stuff. Brooke and I want to talk to you about History Day projects.”
“Me?” I asked, still clutching my books.
Natasha smiled, that blinding white smile she’s had since her braces came off the summer before seventh. I still don’t have enough grown-up molars for my dentist to decide if I need braces, and Natasha’s already been done over a year. “Yeah, you.”
“Now? At lunch?”
But—I don’t sit at their table at lunch. There aren’t rules, exactly; like, the principal isn’t involved. But everybody knows where you don’t get to sit, unless you’re invited.
Hazel and I sit at the slightly-nerdy-girl table. We’re more social than the kids who only go to the math lab or the library, or those who cut completely. Some of us are on teams or in shows, well, props crew, and most of us are in orchestra. We’re well behaved.
The eighth graders who sit at the Popular Table are different. They’re practically celebrities. If we had tabloid magazines in middle school, the Popular Table kids would be in all the pictures. They’re just like us! They hand in homework! They whisper secrets! Although they are not just like us. Even girls like Kim and Jules knew when Clay asked Natasha out, and that she dumped him the next week—and we all have theories about what went wrong between them. But nobody at the Popular Table would have one clue who Kim and Jules are, or who I am. Or who we might have a crush on, if anyone. (We don’t.) The Popular kids wouldn’t be mean to any of us; we just don’t show up in their thoughts.
I leaned against the closed locker next to mine. “Brooke? Brooke Armstrong? She wants me to sit with you guys?” I asked Natasha.
“Come on,” Natasha said. “Why are you so slow?”
I dropped my books into my locker, making a mess I knew I’d have to come back and straighten up as soon as humanly possible because it would be a pebble in the shoe of my mind until I could get it neat. But I knew it was important to just leave it for that moment and act like it didn’t bother me. I grabbed my lunch and swung my locker door shut. Many of the things I’d recently read about popularity emphasized being light and happy, easy to be around.
Hazel still had my lock dangling from her chipped-black-nail-polished index finger, which she was pointing at my chest like a gun.
“Could you . . . ? I’ll catch up with you after . . . okay?” I asked her as Natasha and I walked away.
Hazel watched me go without answering. But I could hear my lock slipping into the handle hole behind me, and the trusty, familiar click of it locking tight. I knew I could count on Hazel. She’s my best friend. She’s prickly and demanding, sure, but she’s very loving, down deep. I knew she’d understand. I mean, the Popular Table. You don’t get invited to that every day. If she got asked, I’d be happy for her, I think. No, I would. I’d lock her locker for her and wait to hear all about what happened, after. We’re solid, me and Hazel.
I didn’t even have to look back and make sure.
YOU DIDN’T EVEN look back, Truly.
Just left me standing there like a lawn jockey with your stupid lock dangling from my finger in place of a lantern. No Come on, Hazel! Not even a Sorry, do you mind? I’ll be right back.
All Natasha had to do was show up at our locker area and flash those piano-key teeth at you—and good-bye to me. I might as well have fallen through a trapdoor.
Or never existed at all.
I COULD SEE from across the cafeteria that Brooke thought it was a bad idea, bringing Truly over. Brooke had to be wondering Why? Though of course she never asked. She’d just said sure, when I suggested maybe I could bring Truly over to our table, this once. We’ll see how it goes, I suggested, trying to pretend I didn’t really care either way, chewing my gum hard to cover the worried warbling in my voice.
Sure, Brooke had answered, shrugging. Like she had nothing to fear, from me or anybody. Great. Whatever.
Could she have figured out my plan already?
No. No way.
But I could tell by the way her eyes slid away from my face as I approached our table across the caf with Truly bobbing along beside me that she was annoyed. The way she leaned over and whispered to Clay. And then he turned around to see what was happening. Hi, Clay. Yeah, remember me? Natasha?
The girl you kissed and then dumped? By text? Last week?
I have to make sure everybody, I mean everybody, continues to believe I dumped Clay and not the other way around. I have to keep dropping hints about it. My mom is totally right about this, if about pretty much nothing else. Well, she was also right that I have a huge pimple sprouting on my forehead this morning. Yeah, thanks hugely for that feedback, Mom. Really started my day off with a boost of confidence. But she is also right that you do not want to be known as The Pathetic Girl Who Got Dumped. Even Dad agreed with that, and for him to agree with Mom, well.
I was the hot center of the world while Clay and I were going out. Also right before, when everybody kept telling him to ask me and me to ask him. Right after we broke up, everybody was all over that, too, waiting and watching to see if I was completely sad and devastated. Lulu kept asking if I was “okay.” I’m great, I told her. I don’t need him. Please. I dumped him! That’s what Dad said I should tell everybody, and it felt good, tough, saying it. The sympathy was nice until it dried up, but still I didn’t need people thinking Clay dumped me. This is part of the plan with Truly, to make sure even the losers and nobodies in school have it straight: I dumped him. Not the other way around.
But the other part of it is: although Brooke is my best friend, she’s also obviously long-term close with Clay. And she acts like she’s like practically the president of our group of friends. People think she’s so chill and Zen and nice but I honestly think that’s all an act and she is just as scheming as the next person. Me, in other words, ha-ha. Everything she says, Evangeline and Lulu are like, yeah, or that’s so funny.
They definitely think I’m funny and fun, too. But second always to Brooke. Now that I’m not going out with Clay anymore, I’m practically invisible. Nobody was even noticing me at all. I got a new haircut when I was at my father’s apartment last weekend. One day’s worth of compliments. One. Truly always complimented my hair, back when.
Beside me, Truly was nattering on. “Why does Brooke want to talk with me? Is it because of what I said in science this morning about buoyancy, and she laughed?”
Yeah, that’s the huge subject we love to confide about, Truly: what hilarious thing you said in your science class that I’m not in. Absolutely. It’s that freaking fascinating.
I was near ready to stop right there and be like, you know what, Truly? It wasn’t Brooke’s idea to bring you over, so get over yourself. Stop concocting this little romance you’re imagining with her. It’s embarrassing. She doesn’t even know who you are. She didn’t invite you—I did. But now, forget it. Go back to your green-hair freak friend. Buh-bye!
But I hadn’t yet had time to confide the story of why I had to dump Clay, who was either a jerk or too boring (must decide which) and maybe when he tried to kiss me he, like, had bad breath or something. Yeah, that’s good. Bad breath.
Also, it would be mean, to dump her two minutes after inviting her.
And for my plan to work, I could not be mean. Ever. Nobody could think of me as mean ever again. I had to displace Brooke as the Queen of Nice.
So instead I smiled at Truly and whispered, “Trust me.”
NATASHA TRIED TO act casual about bringing that girl Truly over to our table at lunch today. When Natasha tries to act casual, her joints get out of whack, like she’s dancing to music by Stravinsky. My older sister Margot does ballet. That Stravinsky stuff is like an ear infection.
So I said, “Sure, whatever, that’s great,” this morning because Natasha was at risk of dislocating a shoulder, being so violently casual. Also it is fully fine with me if some random kid sits with us at lunch or works with us on the History Day project or whatever. The more the merrier. Natasha gets very dramatic about stuff like that. Maybe it’s the not-having-any-siblings thing. Makes her a little shocky I think. Gotta love her, my dad would say.
The girl she brought over, Truly, has gray eyes. That, and the fact that she is very little, almost looks like a sixth grader, was all I really knew about her. She’s been in some of my classes but mostly keeps to herself.
Her idea was to do Benedict Arnold as a topic for our History Day project. Cool, I said, and everybody agreed. Then Clay and I went outside. His older brother and mine have been best friends since nursery school, so Clay and I were friends before we were born. They are both very focused people, our brothers. Both are good at school (though his brother was valedictorian) and sports (though my brother was better at that). They left for college last month. But it’s different for Clay. He has only the one brother. For me it’s just marginally quieter. I mean, my brother Otto is great. I miss him. But there are still three of us kids home. Clay was flat-out lonely.
“When is that even due?” he asked me.
“The History Day thing?”
“The topic, yeah.”
“I don’t know. Did you lose your assignment pad again?”
“It’s in my locker,” he said. “Did you see the color of that girl’s eyes?”
“Is that really her name?”
“Her real name is Gabriela, I think—that’s what the teachers always say, first day, right?”
“Wonder why they call her Truly then.”
“Maybe she always tells the truth,” I said. “Is your name really Clay?”
He shoved me. “Shut up.”
It’s his middle name. Edmund Clay Everett. His brother is James Thomas Everett III, called JT. They’re not as formal as that might sound. They have worn-out rugs, wood floors, and a golden retriever named Milo. His dad, James Thomas Everett Jr., (called Mr. Everett) is always looking for his glasses, which are usually on his bald head. He’s African American. Clay’s mom, who lets us call her Maggie, is white. She wears slippers in the house and no makeup; she always looks like she just got out of the shower and usually has a book dangling from her hand. She runs five miles a day, like Clay, but she does hers before anybody else wakes up.
I once asked Clay’s dad if he runs, too. “Not even a fever,” Mr. Everett said.
Jack tossed a tennis ball over toward us. Clay one-handed it. Before he tossed it back to Jack, he asked me, “So what do you think I should do?”
“About your lost assignment pad? Or Natasha?”
Just because he’d broken up with her didn’t mean he’d stopped thinking about her. I have really good peripheral vision, but a blind man couldn’t miss how Clay watches Natasha. Still, though.
I shrugged. “She’s telling everybody she broke up with you.”
“Fine with me,” Clay said. “Makes me sound like less of a jerk.”
“So don’t do anything, if you don’t care.”
Clay tossed the ball back to Jack. “She’s just always so . . .”
“So . . .” I echoed, smiling at him. I knew what the problem was, and that it had nothing to do with setting the story straight.
“So tell me what to do about her. She’s mad at me again.”
“I don’t even know what I did.”
“Still,” I said. “Or maybe don’t. Maybe just leave it alone. Do you really want to go back to that? All the drama?”
“No way.” He caught the ball again. “She’s mad at me and then suddenly she’s so not because she’s all fluttery and, like, pressing up next to me, and then boom I don’t know what I did but she’s cursing at me or crying . . .”
“So I should just back away.”
“But?” I asked.
He kicked a rock. “But she’s so freaking hot.”
I had to laugh.
He tossed the ball back to Jack. “You suck.”
I held up my hands to Jack.
“Doesn’t anything ever piss you off?”
Catching the ball, I thought for a minute. “Mosquito bites.”
“Mmm-hmmm,” he said.
I tossed it back to Jack. “Humble brags.”
“Humble brags. You know. When people are like oh, I’m so frustrated I only got a ninety-seven on that test, now my average is wrecked.”
“Who said that, Akron?”
“This morning,” I said. “It was classic,”
“He said a ninety-seven wrecked his average?”
“He said it was because he hadn’t eaten a good breakfast.”
“It was a thing of beauty.”
“See?” Clay poked me in the shoulder. “You even love the stuff you hate. How do you do that? Nothing bugs you. It’s just weird.”
I shrugged. No use letting stuff bother you that you can’t do anything about. And some things, you can’t do anything about. Like who your best friend likes. Or doesn’t.
“Nothing bothers you either,” I pointed out.
“Untrue! I’m constantly hungry,” Clay said. He started counting on his long fingers. “People who walk too slow in the halls. Seams in socks. Anybody being mad at me. Shin splints. Pudding. Are you kidding? Everything bothers me.”
“Speaking of which . . .”
Natasha was on her way out, walking toward us with Theo and Lulu and Evangeline and all those guys.
Clay turned back toward Jack, held up his hands for the ball. “That girl Truly’s pretty cute though, too.”
I laughed. “You’re so doomed.”
He smiled his twinkly-eyed sad smile and a weird urge hit me: to throw my arms around him and hug him tight. That exact urge has been popping up more often lately, and it pisses me off. See? That’s something. But it’s the one I’d never tell him. We’re friends, me and Clay; it would be way too awkward to admit I maybe like him like him. Obviously he doesn’t feel that way about me. I just have to wait the urge out, like a cramp. Walk it off.
“Still too quiet in your house?” I asked him instead of continuing the topic of which girl he should go for. Because, yeah.
“Way too quiet,” he said softly.
Ugh. I’m so not willing to be like every other girl in our grade, following after him, sighing. So I shook my head and turned away, just saying, “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” He followed after me, talking right next to my hair. “My parents actually said last night, ‘Now that JT is gone, you’ll get a lot more of our attention.’”
“Oh, no,” I had to say, because that was like his worst nightmare.
“Right?” Clay asked. “So, yeah. Fully doomed on basically every level.”
1. Focus on schoolwork
2. Stay AWAY from Natasha
3. Topic for History Day project (due WHEN?)
4. Find assignment pad (somewhere under the mess in my room? In locker?)
5. Take a shower/use deodorant. Yuck. The whole getting wet/getting dry cycle. And goo in my pits? Maybe skip this one.
6. Find a new series to binge on. Maybe ask Jack what he’s watching these days.
7. NO! No more TV/Internet/Facebook until ALL homework is done. BE A TOOL like JT. Making a to-do list is a total tool move. On my way, yo!
8. Clean room/surprise Mom and Dad? Or will they be pissed I’m not studying? Probably. Never mind that one either, then. Crossing stuff off this list like a BOSS.
9. Ask Brooke if I should respond to the billion Snapchats from Natasha.
10. Text JT again: possible to Skype soon? (Whenever. He’s busy. Being a tool.) Maybe find something funny on the Internet to send him.
11. Friend that girl Truly.
12. Or maybe not?
13. ??? ugh so bored nothing to do.
MY BEST FRIEND, Hazel, stood over my desk first period today with a note dangling from her fingers. I had tried to talk with her after lunch yesterday, but she walked away fast. I told myself maybe she was rushing to class. I left her chat and text messages last night, just to make sure everything was still normal between us. But she ignored me until the end of first period today.
“Hi, Hazel!” I said. She didn’t answer. The note was folded up tight and small, my name in her tiny, neat green script on the outside. I watched it drop onto my desk. Hazel left math without me, her green hair bouncing behind her.
The note said she hated me because I only thought about myself, was spoiled and a bully and mean.
I sat at my desk for a few minutes and just read it over and over.
Out in the hall, I showed it to some of our other friends to see what they thought. Esther Luo said that Hazel’s grandma had broken her hip last night. But everybody else was like, that’s not a good excuse. What does her grandmother’s broken hip have to do with saying all those mean things about Truly?
Of course we all knew what Esther meant, that Hazel was just upset about her grandma so she was striking out at me. Esther is a very understanding person, very kind. But she was making excuses for Hazel. Everybody agreed.
“Not excuses,” Esther protested. “Just a possible explanation. I think she went up the C stairwell.”
“No way,” we all said. But none of us went up there to see, because you could get suspended for going up the C stairwell. There are rumors people go up there to make out or do drugs. There’s supposedly a locked closet for custodial supplies or maybe access to the roof up there. We stood looking up it for a minute but didn’t hear anything, so we decided to get going to second period quick so we wouldn’t be late. It seemed unlikely even Hazel would hazard going up the C stairwell.
When I got to English, I guess I was looking pretty wrecked. Natasha came straight over to me and whispered with her face all sad and concerned, “What happened? What’s wrong? Tell me!”
So I showed her the note Hazel had dropped on my desk. As she read it, her perfectly pink-glossed mouth opened wide in disbelief. “Oh, my gosh,” she whispered. “That is so mean.” She pulled me into a hug and didn’t let go until the teacher, Ms. Fenton, said to take our seats please.
My mom had said to be careful, last night, when I told her about being asked to sit at the Popular Table yesterday. I think she worries that popular girls are all secretly mean. I explained that the girls who sit at the Popular Table are actually the nicest girls in the whole eighth grade. Things were probably different when Mom was my age and it was called junior high school. I’ve seen some of those movies—it’s awful, and I don’t just mean the hair.
Natasha passed me a note when Ms. Fenton turned to write the homework on the board. In her still-so-familiar plain blue print, it said, “Are you okay?”
“I guess so—just really confused,” I wrote back. Girls from the Popular Table love stuff like that, passing notes and somebody who’s been wronged.
On the way out of English, Natasha said, “See you later, Truly!” For almost two years, most of sixth and all of seventh grade, plus the first few weeks of eighth, she had barely glanced in my direction. I tucked her note into my pocket, too.
Hazel ignored me the whole rest of the day, walked away every time I got near her. I didn’t want to assume I was invited to sit at the Popular Table again, but I also didn’t want to sit next to Hazel at our regular table either, after that note and the ignoring. So I was planning to volunteer in the library at lunch. I wasn’t very hungry anyway. But Natasha hooked her arm through mine before lunch and chatted with me the whole way down to the cafeteria and sat down with me right there at the Popular Table like that was my normal spot.
Those kids laugh a lot. At my regular table—I hadn’t noticed this before but we kind of pick on one another. “That’s so stupid,” Kim will say if Jules says something is cute, or Hazel will go, “You know that makes no sense at all,” if Kim comes up with some theory. I’m sure I do it, too. It’s just our sense of humor, I’ve told myself. Only Esther says, “That’s an interesting point,” even when it isn’t.
I didn’t talk while I sat at the Popular Table today. I smiled and listened, watching closely. Lulu giggles at everything. Evangeline disagrees and acts tough but I think is just kidding. They talk very fast, all laugh in bursts, and clearly all watch the same TV shows. I will have to binge-watch tonight, in case I’m invited back again. Mom will understand and probably let me watch more than I’m usually allowed.
When Lulu’s mom died a few years ago, my mom helped organize people to bring over food and stuff to her family, even though we didn’t really know the family well. She used to ask me sometimes how Lulu is doing, but I have never really known, other than she seems great, very smiley. And of course Evangeline is famous for being so awesome at both sports and school that even the parents know her. And then there’s Brooke. Her whole family is cool. There are four kids, and each one is the most popular in whichever grade. They own a bookstore and all go bike riding together, looking like a commercial for something awesome and expensive when you see them flying by, all gorgeous, laughing together. They’re the family all of us wish we could be in.
“What’s she like?” Mom asked last night.
“She’s . . . really nice,” I said. “She seems . . . happy.”
“Nice,” Mom said. “That is such a good quality to have, just being happy.”
“Yeah,” I said.
She’s especially cautious about Natasha, probably because of our history. I cried a lot in sixth grade. But maybe also because of her own history with Natasha’s mom. They were best friends until Natasha’s mom took me to get my ears pierced for my tenth birthday, even though my mom had told her not to. Mom made me take the earrings out and let the holes close. I still have the studs in my jewelry box. I’ll never throw them out because that day was one of the happiest of my life, until I got home. Mom made me wait until this year, when I turned thirteen. She said it was “unconscionable” for Natasha’s mom to take me. I get that, but I think Natasha’s mom was just trying to be nice. She’s one of those moms who wants to hang with the kids and be like a friend to us. She’s a little scary to me sometimes with her long nails and too much eye shadow and cigarette breath, but then sometimes I think she seems lonely and a little, like, trying too hard to seem upbeat.
Mom says her worries about Natasha befriending me again have nothing to do with her own history with Natasha’s mom; they grew apart, as happens sometimes with friends. It’s that Natasha is edgy. And though edgy is sometimes very attractive, it can sting. Mom’s just protective of me. She can’t help that.
I rolled my eyes the way Natasha does at that, to show Mom I’m too grown-up for that kind of protection. And maybe a little edgy myself. But I know in truth I’m lucky I can talk honestly with my mom about what’s going on socially at school. Most kids can’t do that with their moms.
When I got home today, I told Mom about the latest with Hazel. I showed her the note. We sat at the kitchen counter together, drinking seltzer from our new seltzer maker. I love when I get special time with her, even though my brother and sister need her more.
Mom thought it was very inappropriate, all those things Hazel had said about me. Even if her grandmother’s hip was broken, and she felt left out when I sat at a different lunch table. “And why is it written in green ink?” Mom asked.
“Hazel always writes in green ink,” I explained. “It’s her thing.”
Mom raised her eyebrows for a millisecond. She says she loves Hazel but I’m not sure that’s true. I know Hazel’s moodiness and rudeness sometimes bother Mom. I think the green ink bothered her, too. I’m not sure why it would. But I’m pretty sure it did.
“Do you think I should call her?” I asked Mom. “Or Skype or e-mail or . . .”
“Sure,” Mom answered. “Whichever feels most comfortable to you.”
“What should I say?”
Excerpted from "Unfriended"
Copyright © 2015 Rachel Vail.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
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.
What People are Saying About This
"Another winner by Rachel Vail. At times laugh-out-loud funny, and other times heartbreaking., Unfriended is the kind of book I wish there were more of: emotionally complex, beautifully written, and impossble to put down. I never wanted it to end."Meg Cabot
"Rachel Vail should be required reading for all middle-schoolers. Deft and funny, this tale of the doom and drama of friendships played out in a digital universe is pitch-perfect and sheer fun."Judy Blundell, author of What I Saw and How I Lied
"Rachel Vail's ingenious, humorous, and compassionate storytelling brings her six narrators so fully alive that by the end of her book you cannot imagine ever 'unfriending' any of them."Mary Pope Osborne, author of the Magic Treehouse books
"With keen insight, Vail reveals the internal struggles with uncertainty and self-doubt that can plague young teens regardless of popularity status. . . With a resolution that is both realistic and hopeful, Vail captures the complexity of middle school social challenges, insightfully addressing the issues of friendships and integrity." —Publishers Weekly
"Vail has a great ear for dialogue, and her characters. . . are well differentiated and realistic." —VOYA
"Vail has always had her finger solidly on the pulse of middle-school social dynamics, with an uncanny ear for young teen dialogue and a real empathy for the wide and awkward range of social and physical development that characterize this age . . . Vail’s considerable fan base alone would justify multiple-copy purchase plans, but the hot-button topic of cyberbullying will further increase requests."Booklist
"A realistic portrayal of middle school life . . . A solid choice that will ignite meaningful discussion."School Library Journal
"Vail captures the complexity of middle school social challenges, insightfully addressing the issues of friendships and integrity."Kirkus Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this book because it deals with real life situations – the types of situations that teenagers find themselves in all the time - with all their complications, but still manages to find goodness and decency in the most unlikely people. My heart went out to Truly, who is a kind, decent person, but finds herself caught in a power struggle between Natasha and Hazel. Brooke, the most popular girl, managed to win me over with her open-mindedness and willingness to be accepting of Hazel and her idiosyncrasies. This provides some very funny moments involving Hazel’s pet bird. The story is told from the point of view of six different characters, so you have to change gears with each chapter and remember who is narrating the story. This makes for some interesting twists because each character wants to justify his or her point of view. As in other Vail books, the story is uplifting and positive. By the end of the story, even the most unlikeable persons (read Natasha and Hazel) are given a somewhat sympathetic viewing. I did not always agree with it. After all, if someone is mean-spirited and hurtful, it is hard to forgive. On the other hand, it is actually kind of fun to pretend for a few moments to be as kind, forgiving, decent and nonjudgmental as Vail seems to be challenging us to be. However, I was not sure if Truly was really out of the woods. I got the feeling that she might get hurt again. I recommend Unfriended because it kept my interest, and although some of the characters made me angry at times, the book also showed me how positive relationships can be.