Authors: Kristen Tracy
BOOKS BY KRISTEN TRACY
Bessica Lefter Bites Back
The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter
Too Cool for This School
Crimes of the Sarahs
Death of a Kleptomaniac
A Field Guide to Heartbreakers
Sharks & Boys
Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2013 by Kristen Tracy
Jacket art copyright © 2013 by Linzie Hunter
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
For Wendy Loggia:
You are brilliant.
And my characters benefit because of it.
The eighth graders got to choose us. That was how the system worked. Leslie Fuentes and Robin Galindo stood before us in all their eighth-grade glory looking super fashionable and super powerful and super serious. And I understood why. Who they chose mattered. Because Leslie and Robin would be stuck with their picks for the entire school year.
“You know your speech is going to be recorded?” Robin asked, holding up a small camera in one hand and a tripod in the other.
I did not know this.
“Do you guys mind waiting here while we set up the equipment?” Leslie asked.
I knew the correct answer to that question, so I said, “I don’t mind.”
It caught me off guard when somebody had a better answer. A cute seventh-grade boy stood up. “Do you need any help?” He was the only boy here.
“We’ve got it, Derek,” Leslie said, slinging a stylish canvas bag over her shoulder. I noticed that her bag’s lavender stripes matched the lavender pattern on her sandal straps. She must have bought them together. Or maybe she was the kind of person who hunted for matching lavender patterns all the time. I wondered what her bedspread and pillows looked like. I suspected they were very lavender-y.
“Well, I’m great with electronics if you change your mind,” Derek said.
I stopped looking at Leslie and turned my attention to Derek. His follow-up offer reeked of strategy. I mean, did he always brag about how great he was with electronics? Was he
such a helpful person? Or was it all an act? I suspected the latter. The longer I stared at Derek, the less cute he became. In fact, he was
less cute than my secret boyfriend, Todd Romero. It didn’t even matter that Derek was a little older than Todd. Derek had hang-ups.
I mean, why did he use so much hair gel? His dark curls looked wet and crisp at the same time. Sort of like plastic. Why would you want to have a plastic-y head in middle school? Todd had normal hair that looked great, especially when he played soccer and the wind blew it.
Once I realized that I’d been staring directly at Derek’s head for at least two minutes, I quickly looked away. Before I decided to try out for class captain, I had no idea
I had this much paranoia and nervousness and judgment inside me.
Shortly after Robin disappeared into the gym, she burst back through the door into the hallway. “We accidentally drained our battery. It’ll be a couple more minutes.”
“I can help with that!” Derek cheered.
He was so eager.
“We’ve got it, Derek,” Robin said.
Robin left me and my competition sitting in a semicircle of metal folding chairs while she bouncily reentered the gym. The fluorescent light flickered above us, making the hallway feel grim. My mind wandered. Did I really want my speech recorded? Did that mean it was going to be watched again and again? I hadn’t really designed my speech for repeated viewings. Sure, it was well crafted and sincere. But when I’d written it, I’d assumed it would only be heard once.
As you probably already know, my name is Lane Cisco and I’m running for sixth-grade class captain because I am very capable of keeping myself and those around me highly organized. I am assertive and flexible and very open to other people’s thoughts and suggestions. I promise to come up with innovative ideas to help make this year very fun for everybody
I closed my eyes and kept focusing on my speech. Was I forgetting something? I thought I might be. Then I felt a small bump against my shoulder.
“You look like you’re zoning out,” said the girl next to me.
I opened my eyes. That seemed like a rude thing to tell a person after you bumped her. “I am not zoning out,” I said. Then I stopped talking. Because I realized that this comment came from a very small fifth grader. And I didn’t have time to converse with a fifth grader.
I mean, I didn’t even know any of the fifth graders’ names. That wasn’t useful information. The fifth graders didn’t matter. Neither did the seventh graders. Every grade got their own class captain. Except for the almighty eighth graders, who historically had gotten two. Coral Carter and Paulette Feeley, two of my fellow sixth graders, were my only competition. I glanced down the semicircle of chairs in their direction. They were dressed to impress. Paulette, who traditionally arrived to school zipped into a dumpy denim jacket decorated with sea horses, had actually worn a gray corduroy skirt and soft pink tights. It was an alarming and stylish turn of events.
If it were just a lottery, I wouldn’t have been so nervous. My speech wouldn’t have mattered and neither would my outfit. My fate would have been determined by a slip of paper or the flip of a coin. Either I’d win or I’d lose. It would be so simple.
“Do we have a faculty mentor?” the fifth grader asked. “Is she in the gym?”
A bunch of us looked toward the gym. The class captains had had a faculty mentor last year: Ms. Knapp. Where was she? It did seem a little weird that the eighth graders were running the show.
“I plan to ask as few questions as possible,” Derek said.
That seemed smart.
The door flew open again. “Let’s start with the fifth graders,” Leslie said. Her face looked so serious; her perfectly glossed, lavender-tinted lips never even turned toward a smile.
The fifth graders plodded into the gymnasium in one frightened and fashion-challenged clump. All three of them were wearing tacky tinfoil bracelets. Those things had been popular at camp, but nobody in my crowd was lame enough to think you could actually wear jewelry made out of aluminum foil to school. That fashion statement belonged back in the woods, where all my friends and I had left it.
“Good luck,” Derek said.
Wow. He was so fake. Was it wrong to want somebody I vaguely recognized and had officially met less than ten minutes ago to lose?
Once the gym door slammed shut, it was impossible to hear anything. What took place on the other side of that door was one of the biggest mysteries at Rio Chama Middle School. Nobody ever talked about it. Not the winners. Not the losers. All we knew was that decisions were final. And those who were chosen became part of an elite group of students who had special power. In addition to attending monthly pizza meetings with faculty members and offering student input, class captains got to plan the three school parties: Halloween Carnival, Winter Festival, and Spring Movie Night. Plus, as a bonus, a framed group photo of the captains was hung in the school’s central trophy case.
And that picture didn’t get taken down and thrown away once the year was over. It got moved to a pillar, where it would remain forever. Me. Smiling. Class captain. Forever. I wanted that. I really, really did.