Dawn Miller is sick of being good. Her parents have scheduled her to within an inch of her life and her popular friends can only think of hooking up and shopping. She’s ready for a serious boyfriend, and it’s definitely not the obnoxious rich boy everyone wants her to date.
Then she meets Starr, the headmaster’s punk rock daughter who refuses to play by the rules. The differences between them are night and day but Dawn is fascinated. Starr introduces her to a world she didn’t even know existed: hip indy record stores, all night raves, and cute skateboarders who hang out underneath a parking deck downtown.
Skateboarders like the gorgeous Sean, who’s sweet, smart, and curiously serious –everything Dawn’s always wanted in a boyfriend. Soon she finds herself head over heels and doing the unthinkable, lying to her parents and friends. Deep down she knows her parents will never approve of this boy from the wrong side of town…and her secret life is finally catching up to her. Will Dawn be forced to choose between the girl she was and the girl she is meant to be? And if she chooses, will she lose her skater boy forever?
"Mancusi has scored a hit. Dawn is likeable, and any teen girl–wealthy or not–should identify with her typical problems. From boys to friends to parents, the author covers it all. She even manages to include one or two deeper messages in the form of "straight edge" teens and a "perfect" wealthy boy who turns out to be a real jerk."— Alexandra Kay, RT Book Reviews
“Hey, Dawn, whatcha writing?”
I slam my notebook shut and force a wide smile as my friend Ashley approaches the lunch table. I can’t believe it. She’s five minutes early. Five minutes! After I’ve already gone and used up one of my three-bathroom-breaks a-semester chemistry class privileges for a few precious moments of writing time. And now Ashley has shown up and ruined it all.
The early bird gets the chance to tick Dawn off. . . . “Nothing,” I say, forcing a casual shrug. “Just a birthday wish list. You know how The Evil Ones are. Left to their own devices I’d probably end up with some itchy Harvard letter sweater for my sweet sixteen.”
I’d actually been working on a poem, not a birthday list. One I plan to enter in a contest sponsored by Faces, a local Massachusetts literary magazine. But I am certain ly not about to inform our head cheerleader of that little technicality. I mean, writing poetry? How geeky can you get? And The Evil Ones (aka Mom and Dad) are terrible in the presents department, so it’s not like I’m telling a total lie. . . .
“Oh cool.” Ashley flounces onto the chair beside me, her wool plaid skirt puffing up and then settling back down over her perfectly sculpted thighs. We all wear the same skirts here as sophomores at Sacred Mary’s, but Ashley’s skirt usually falls at least two inches shorter than regulation and it constantly gets her in trouble with the Sisters. “You should ask for those Seven Jeans we saw at Nordstrom the other day.”
“The ones with the crystals on the back pocket?” I look up and see that Ashley #2 has arrived at our lunch table. Like Ashley #1, she’s blond and lanky and wears her skirts too short. Her claim to fame is being picked as homecoming queen last fall, even though she’s only a sophomore. “Those are completely lame. When shopping for jeans, I say go James every time. They’re scientifically designed to make your butt look smaller, not draw attention to it with crystals.”
I stifle a groan. I love my friends, don’t get me wrong. But there are times I’m not quite sure I fit in with them. I mean yeah, I’d rather be here than at the loser table discussing games like Magic: The Gathering, but is it really necessary for us to debate the pros and cons of designer denim every single lunch? Doesn’t anyone talk politics anymore? Not that I know anything about politics, but maybe I could start learning if someone brought them up once in a while. It’d probably prove more useful in life than the Fashionista 101 sessions we seem to hold every lunch period.
“You guys are crazy!” Oh, there’s Ashley #3, making our lunch group complete. She swings her Kate Spade messenger bag off her shoulder and plops it on the floor. We consider Ashley #3 the brainy one. She’s president of the student council and wants to be a TV anchorwoman when she grows up. I think she has a good shot at the job. She’s already got the brilliant white capped teeth and perfect hair. “Obviously Levi’s makes the best jeans known to mankind.”
The other two Ashleys groan in sync. “No way would I be caught dead in Levi’s,” says Ashley #1.
“That’s ’cause you’re a lemming,” Ashley #3 explains, using the big word with a smug pride. She knows for a fact Ashley #1 won’t know what it means and she’s right.
“Hey! What did you just call me?”
“Girls, girls! Let us not fight over fashion,” Ashley #2, the peacemaker, coos. She took a yoga class once and has been all Buddha-on-the-mountain ever since. “Our differ ent tastes in denim make the world go round.” She holds her palms out and smiles demurely. For a minute I think she’s going to actually break out into an “Ohmmm.”
Instead she says, “What were we talking about again?” “Dawn’s birthday wish list.”
“Ah. How about a side of Brent Baker, served on a silver platter?” Her demure smile morphs into a lecherous smirk as she watches the senior from across the room. We all turn and look. The Ashleys sigh, again in sync. They’re good at that.
“No way. He’s on my birthday list,” declares Ashley #1. This obviously strikes them as funny, and all three break out into giggles.
You know, I’m pretty convinced I’m the only girl in school not lusting after Brent Baker. Brent Baker the Third, that is. Born with a silver spoon wedged up his butt. His parents and my parents go to the same country club, so I’ve known him since my playpen days and he’s been after me almost as long. But I’m so not interested in him. I mean, sure he’s got the blond, blue-eyed jock thing going on, but his huge ego negates any points he’s chocked up in the looks department.
The Ashleys can’t understand why I think he’s repulsive, but they don’t rock the boat. After all, that means he’s fair game for any one of them.
You know how normal kids go through their teen years? Wake up at seven, go to school, take some easy classes like basket-weaving or drama and then go hang with their friends and listen to music? Well, imagine my day. You’re up at five to go to crew practice, rowing down a river in the freezing Massachusetts air. Change quickly to make it to school in time for the first bell. Then have a school day cram-packed with AP and honors classes. Last bell rings and you’re off to gymnastics practice or yearbook or school paper or ballet or whatever and then straight to your language tutor where you’re learning Japanese in case you want to be a foreign business leader someday (which you don’t). You get home at seven o’clock and go up to your room to do all your excruciatingly hard AP and honors homework. Go to bed after homework is finished, then wake up the next morning to do it all again.
Basically, every second of my life is booked solid ’til I retire. (The Evil Ones have probably already pre-registered me for a nursing home, too.) Doesn’t sound like fun? Too bad, ’cause I’d love to trade places with anyone who envies me.
I open my Algebra II textbook and my half-finished poem flutters onto my bed. I glance over at my closed bedroom door. Will Dad really come up and check on me? The poetry contest deadline is tomorrow, and I have no idea when I’ll be able to finish writing it if I don’t do it tonight. And I really want to enter, too. The prize is a hundred dollars and publication in the magazine. Of course, I’d have to use a pen name, but that’s okay. I’d know it was mine.
But just as I’m about to put pen to paper and become one with my writing muse, a knock sounds on my door. I groan and stuff the poem back into my Algebra book. So much for sanctuary.
My mother enters the room, all pearl necklaces and Chanel No. 5, as usual. Before she became an English teacher and mother to me, she was a fashion-magazine model, which is more than likely how she nabbed my rich, older father back in the day. Once when I was spy ing in her bedroom, I found her old modeling scrapbook stuffed in her underwear drawer. She was beautiful back then, I’ll give her that. A smooth-skinned, dark-eyed Italian beauty. Very Sophia Loren. I bet she was super disappointed when I came out of her womb all Irish and freckled, like my dad.
She frowns disapprovingly at my sprawled-out position on the bed.
“You know, you have a very nice desk,” she says, gesturing to the mahogany nightmare on the far left of my bedroom. Like I said, she was a model, so she’s big on the whole posture thing.
“I sit at a desk all day, Mom.” I tug on a blond braid in frustration. Why can’t she just leave me alone? I mean, what does it really matter whether I study on my bed or at a desk?
Her frown deepens, but she doesn’t pursue the subject. “Well, I just came up to tell you that Magda should have dinner ready in about five minutes.”
Magda, our housekeeper/cook, is from Mexico and makes the best meals known to mankind. Spicy Spanish dishes that deliciously burn my lips when I take a bite. The Evil Ones are constantly nagging her that she’s going to give me heartburn and to make my meals milder, but I can usually convince her to add extra spice when they’re not looking. Magda’s cool like that. In fact, she’s the only person in this household I can respect.
But right now, though my stomach is growling, I really want to finish this poem.
“Can I eat up here?”
Yet another frown from Mom. I wonder if I should mention the wrinkle potential of all this scowling on her delicately aging complexion.
“That is up to you,” she says stiffly. “However, I think it would be nice if you decided to socialize with your family.”
Socialize. Right. Is that what they’re calling being lectured to
these days? ’Cause I know from experience that’s all that’s going to happen during dinner if I attend.
Don’t chew with your mouth open, Dawn. Use your napkin. Do you really need so much butter on that roll? After all, you don’t want to start gaining weight.
But again, this is a battle I won’t win. So I close my
Algebra book and nod my head. “Fine. I’ll be there in a minute,” I say, purposely using my most exasperated tone.
My mother droops her shoulders, as if I’m some awful burden she has to bear on a daily basis, and exits the room. When the door closes, I pull out my half-finished poem and read it through one last time. It’s really good. One of the best things I’ve ever written.
Somehow I have to find a chance to finish it before the deadline.
“Hey, that’s pretty good!”
I look up with a start. I’ve been so wrapped up in my world that I hadn’t realized the new girl, the supposed Satan-worshipper who drinks snake blood, has sat down at the desk beside me and is eyeing my paper.
Up close, I realize she has several piercings to go along with her already punk-rock look—a diamond stud in her nose and a silver hoop embedded in her eyebrow. Her face is pale white, almost as if she’s powdered it, and her eyes, a striking blue, are rimmed with a ton of black.
“You read my poem?” I ask, feeling my cheeks flush. I mean, sure, I realize that if I win the poetry contest lots of people will end up reading it, but still, her peeking over my shoulder without permission seems a grave invasion of privacy. And what if she goes and tells everyone that I, Dawn Miller, friend of the Ashleys, was seen writing poetry in detention? I might as well put in my application for the loserville lunch table right now.
Then again, she said it was good. Since I’ve never shown my scribblings to anyone before, I’ve never gotten an unbiased opinion on them. I mean, sure, I like them, but obviously I’m a bit prejudiced.
“Are you just saying that?” I ask. “ ’Cause you so don’t have to.”
She shakes her head, causing her straight black hair to flip from side to side. “No way,” she says. “I never say things I don’t mean. Life’s too short.” She pauses, then adds, “I was assuming it’d be bad, actually. But I guess you can’t judge a Barbie by its cover.”
I frown. “I’m not a Barbie.” I just hang out with them. She shrugs. “Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. Honestly, I don’t care either way. But you are a good writer.”
A good writer. She thinks I’m a good writer. No one’s ever told me that before. I feel a warm pride settle over me and I decide to ignore the Barbie comment. Or at least prove her wrong.
“Thanks,” I say. “There’s this poetry contest I want to enter it in and—”
“Oh, the one in Faces?”
I stare at her in shock. “How do you—?”
“I read Faces all the time. It’s a great mag.”
Wow. She actually reads literary magazines. My friends wouldn’t be caught dead reading literary magazines. In fact, we have a saying: If it’s not Cosmo, it’s crap.
“I’m Dawn,” I say, extending a hand.
“Starr.” She shakes my hand. I notice she has on black fingernail polish that’s half flaked off.
Starr. What a cool name.
“You’re the headmaster’s daughter, right?” I ask, assuming at least that part of the Satan-worshipping, snake-eating rumor is true.
“Yeah. Got kicked out of my European boarding school and so I’m stuck in this hellhole now.”
Wow. I wonder what she did to get kicked out. It had to be something pretty bad, I’d think. What would it be like to be a bad girl? Not to care what people think of you? To break the rules and buck authority? I bet her parents don’t dare schedule her life. And if they try, she probably laughs in their faces and then goes out and gets a new tattoo, just to spite them.
“. . . and first day here, Sister Wart Nose catches me smoking in the bathroom and sentences me to detention,” Starr is explaining. “I mean, for smoking! In Europe, everyone our age smokes. Massachusetts is so puritanical. It drives me absolutely insane.”
I nod sympathetically, not sure how to respond. Of course I’m not a smoker, so I can’t relate. But suddenly, I have the undying urge to impress her somehow. Make her see I’m more than just an airhead who happens to be able to write. Which is odd, since most people at Sacred Mary’s do everything in their power to try to impress me and my crowd, not the other way around. But Starr doesn’t seem to care that I’m one of the Populars. On the contrary, that status seems a negative in her book. Which makes her seem even cooler, somehow.
“That ring rocks,” I say at last, noting the silver spider on her index finger. One thing I’ve learned from the Ashleys—when stuck for something to say, compliment their wardrobe. Works every time.
She smiles and waves her hand in the air, allowing the ring to catch the light and sparkle. Evidently even punk rock chicks aren’t immune to flattery. “Thanks. I got it at this really cool thrift store in Boston.” She pauses for a moment, as if deciding something. Then she says, “You know, I’m planning on heading there a
fter detention, if you want to come.”
I raise my eyebrows. “You’re going to Boston? How are you going to get there? Do you have a car?”
“Nah.” She shakes her head. “I’m only fifteen. No license. But there’s a train about a block away.”
She planned to hop a train? I try to imagine what The Evil Ones would do to me if they found out I’d hopped a train to the big city. Would they kill me quickly or devise a slow, torturous death to make sure I’m really, really sorry I disobeyed?
“Come with me!” Starr says eagerly. “I know some killer used record stores.”
I shake my head. “I’m already missing gymnastics ’cause of detention. My parents will totally kick my butt if I miss my Japanese tutoring as well.”
Starr raises a pierced eyebrow. “Oh,” she says, her tone a bit colder than before. “I understand.” But she doesn’t sound like she understands. In fact, she sounds more like she thinks I’m the lamest girl on the planet.
Boring Barbie, that’s me.
It’s so not fair. I never get to do anything fun. Run off to the big city on a whim. I suddenly envy Starr and her laissez-faire attitude on life.
Envy her and want to be her.
Maybe I could call my tutor and tell him I’m sick. And then call The Evil Ones and tell them I’m going over to one of the Ashleys’ houses to work on a class project after my lesson. That should buy me at least ’til nine o’clock. Plenty of time to hit Boston and get back before they realize I’m gone.
I feel a strange thrill well up deep inside. You know what? I’m going to do it.
For once, I’m going to be a bad girl.
“Maybe I will go to Boston with you,” I say, trying to keep my voice casual as my excitement takes hold. “Sounds like fun.”
Two time Emmy award winner Mari Mancusi used to wish she could be a vampire back in high school. But she ended up in another bloodsucking profession–journalism–instead. Today she works as a freelance TV producer and author of books for teens, including the award winning Blood Coven Vampire series published by Penguin Books. When not writing about creatures of the night, Mari enjoys traveling, cooking, goth clubbing, watching cheesy horror movie and her favorite guilty pleasure–videogames. A graduate of Boston University, she lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Jacob, daughter Avalon and dog Mesquite.
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Mar 27: Journey with Books (Book Feature)
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Mar 30: Lindsay’s Scribblings (Giveaway/Book Feature)
Mar 31: AJ’s Reading Nook (Book Feature)
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