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Nerd Girls: A Catastrophe of Nerdish Proportions
A Catastrophe of Nerdish Proportions
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Format:ebook $6.99 $8.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 31, 2012. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Dedicated to the Nerd Girls who fill my world with love: SBS, QBS, TRS & YY (plus the Ga-Ga'z)
Is it even possible to express the deep levels of dorkasaurus gratitude I have for the inimitable Wendy Lefkon and the incomparable Al Zuckerman? I love you guys! You’re the best.
Copyright © 2012 Alan Lawrence Sitomer
All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.
For information address Disney • Hyperion Books, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011.
Also by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
The Hoopster: A Teacher’s Guide
Hip-Hop High School
Hip-Hop Poetry and the Classics
The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez
Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus
Three things I love: chocolate, laughing, friends.
Three things I hate: girls who think they’re better than me because they’re prettier than I am, public speaking, jokes about my body.
Now all I had to do was translate that into Spanish for Mrs. Rolanda before the end of the period. No problemo, right? I mean, kicking butt on simple classroom assignments is just what nerds like me do. Put a tennis racket in my hand and I’m a pickled squid; give me a pencil and sit me at a desk and I turn into Michael Jordan.
Plus, not to toot my own horn, but note the proper usage of a semicolon in the sentence above. Uh, hello, that’s like nerd to the power of nerd (NerdNerd) stuff right there. Sure, I might lie about my official weight, but when it comes to booky-school stuff, things click.
Unfortunately, however, right at the moment I was preparing to nail my translation assignment en español, my pencil tip broke. So I did what any normal kid would do: I walked up to the front of the room to use the electric sharpener.
But I’m not just any kid; I’m a squeaker. That means when I journey across a classroom filled with students silently working at their desks, my thighs rub together and sing songs like “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
I cruised up the aisle between my quiet, lost-in-study classmates, my pants yodeling the whole time. Three kids raised their eyes.
Note to self: never wear corduroys again.
“Escribe, por favor,” Mrs. Rolanda crisply instructed in her perfect accent. Our dark-haired Latin American teacher always tried to speak to us in Spanish to better develop our ear for the language.
The kids who’d looked up smiled, looked back down, and returned to their assignment.
Second note to self: make time next summer to learn to walk as if you had a cantaloupe between your knees. Really, I don’t know why it hadn’t dawned on me to master this ability sooner.
I jammed my yellow pencil into the black hole of the electric sharpener and gazed at the multicolored Flags of the World poster hanging on the white classroom wall. While the lead of my number two buzzed its way to razorlike sharpness, my thoughts drifted to how all my life people have found me worth smiling at. Folks find me funny. Not as in Har-har, watch me, I’m being humorous right now funny, but rather I just tried to do THIS, but instead I accidentally just did THAT, and har-har, the rest of the world is now laughing at me funny. For example…
Once, while solving an equation at the front board for pre-algebra, I tripped over my feet, fell to the ground, and nearly poked out my eye with the dry-erase marker. When I popped up, I had rug burns on my ear and a huge line of squiggly blue ink running sideways across my cheek.
Everyone in the room laughed. Even the teacher.
Not very professional of her to chortle at a student’s misfortune, if I do say so myself.
Another time, I used a bathroom stall that had run out of toilet paper and “adapted” by using a sheet of notebook paper to finish my business.
It jammed the toilet.
Now, whenever I see any of the custodians, they giggle at me with a There goes the girl who wipes herself with homework look on their faces.
Do I need to go on? I mean, I know I was born with a body shaped like a lopsided mango, but still, now that cloud computing can store my entire digital life in the invisible filing cabinet of cyberspace, you’d think someone could actually invent a stupid pair of pants that fit. A little rubbing sound is one thing; having my jeans be considered for an instrument in the eighth-grade orchestra is entirely another.
Worst of all, though, I know Kiki Masters is going to write all about my musical pantalones in the Slam Book I just spied on her desk. Knowing Kiki, she’s probably already filled eight pages’ worth of stuff about me in that thing.
Can I just say how much I hate Slam Books? What evil person invented these beasts, anyway? Really, who takes a blank notebook, fills it with insults, and then passes it around school so that a lot more people can write nasty, hurtful things about the other kids they go to class with? And it’s all done anonymously. No one ever signs their name in a Slam Book; you just flame people, then pass it along.
However, when I saw the Slam Book on Kiki’s desk a moment ago as I made my way to the pencil sharpener, I didn’t get angry. Or riled up. Or excited to participate in some stupid middle-school ritual. Nope, not at all. Instead, my stomach did a backflip off the high dive, then fell like a stone to the floor. I could just imagine all the ugly things being written about me.
Har-har, everyone’s a comedian.
Okay, no, I am no teen magazine cover girl. But I’m not a need-two-school-desks-tied-together-to-sit-down plumparoo, either. I’m sort of in that kind of flabby/somewhat round/really believes in the power of chocolate cupcakes to ease emotional pain zone of body types. Yet still, the way people call me names, you’d think I was a beached walrus.
Of course, the main name-caller is Kiki. She and I have a “history” together. As the leader of the ThreePees (the Pretty, Popular, Perfect girls; thus the name ThreePees), Kiki has been torturing me for years. However, earlier this school year, I finally stood up to her and fought back. Basically, Kiki and her two pet ding-dongs, Brittany-Brattany and Sofes O’Reilly, ThreePees number two and three, had tried to make the spleen of the new girl, Allergy Alice Applebee, explode by overexposing her to stuff she was highly allergic to. Their plan was to publicly humiliate her in the center of the lunch area, where every kid in the eighth grade could see some sort of internal-organ explosion happen live.
But I saved Alice. Saved her big-time. That’s what lit the fuse of friendship between me and her and Barbara “Beanpole” Tanner, a closeness that has now grown into full-on NFF status.
I guess every nerdcloud’s got a silver lining, right?
None of us dorkasauruses are fashion models. And no, not a one of us is a little pink princess, either. We’re just quirky, do-well-in-school, socially awkward, sit-in-the-back-of-the-cafeteria-during-lunchtime, get-laughed-at-by-other-kids eighth graders at Grover Park Middle School, in Grover Park, California.
Imaginative name for our school, huh? Kind of like naming a new dog Puppy.
I took a deep breath and tried to sigh out my anxiety, but on the inside, my tummy nervously gurgled. Lord knows what other kinds of nasty stuff Kiki’s Slam Book was saying. Not just about me, but about my two bestest comrades as well.
That’s what life is like for us. Despite all of the anti-bully stuff the school tries to preach, there’s still a social ladder, and nerds are at the bottom. One notch above sludge. Of course the cool kids never even pass us those Slam Books to write in, anyway. We’re the kids who get written about, not the writers.
It hurts. A lot.
With my pencil sharpened and my jaw tense, me and my melodious pants squeaked back to my desk. In Spanish class, I had the good fortune (NOT!) to be assigned to sit at the desk right behind Kiki. As I walked by, even though it was half covered by her English-Spanish dictionary, I saw it again: slam book. Just then I saw her write something in it and trade a smirky glance across the room with her perpetual partner-in-crime Brittany-Brattany.
I’m sure they were laughing at me. They were always making rude comments and snickering at me. That’s when I made the decision.
I would steal their Slam Book.
I had to. Not just for me but for all the kids who were having cruel and mean and insensitive things written about them. I thought about Brace Face Stace, a girl with so much metal in her mouth she could have wired a chicken coop. I thought about Wandering Eye-leen, a girl who always had her head turned to the left when she talked to you, and you could never tell if she was paying attention to what you were saying or gazing at a bluebird in a tree twenty yards over your shoulder. I thought about Four-and-a-half-finger Freddy, a kid who had sliced off half of his index finger playing with a circular saw in his father’s garage when he was eight years old. Oh, the can’t-quite-pick-every-booger-in-his-nose jokes that he’s had to endure.
Yep, I would steal that Slam Book. I would steal it and then I would throw it away.
But how? I needed a plan.
“Silencio, por favor,” Mrs. Rolanda snapped at a couple of boys in the back row who had dared to whisper. Mrs. Rolanda ran a tight ship. Not only did she speak to all of her students in Spanish, but she required us to respond in Spanish as well (because how else were we going to learn the language, right?). And every night we had five new vocabulary words to learn. Plus, just recently, she had started making us carry a Spanish slang book so that we could learn some of the common phrases people who spoke the language often used.
Things like ¿Qué pasa? which means “What’s up?” or ¡No manches! which means “Get outta here!” Stuff like that.
Even though I was supposed to be translating my sentences, all I could think about was how to get that Slam Book from Kiki. I know some people think I’m comfortable with who I am and how I look, because I’m sort of loud and opinionated—okay, even obnoxious—but on the inside, I’m, well…this is hard to admit, but I’m insecure. Like I’m always worried that people are talking about me behind my back or are making jokes about my appearance and stuff like that. I say I don’t care, but really I do. And I pretend it doesn’t bother me, but really it does. My mom says I should just let it go and forget about girls like Kiki Masters, but when I saw Kiki make yet another entry in that Slam Book, I just felt like I had to do something about it.
After all, if you don’t stand up for yourself in this world, who is going to stand up for you? My mom taught me that, too.
Wow, though, I thought. Kiki had some guts to be writing in a Slam Book so out in the open in the middle of class like that. I mean, between Mrs. Rolanda’s general strictness and our school’s zero-tolerance policy toward student-on-student harassment, if she had gotten caught with that notebook, she would have been in big trouble. Yet still she scribbled her insults, wrote down her rumors, and marked down all her hurtful, nasty lies, as if they were actually some kind of homework assignment or something.
Hmm…how to do this? Getting that thing from Kiki without the teacher seeing me, and without causing a ruckus, would take scheming. It would take grace. It would take a carefully calculated plan involving some sort of well-executed maneuver, like I was an elite member of SEAL Team Six going into enemy territory in the dark of night.
I leaned forward and snatched the Slam Book.
After ripping it off Kiki’s desk, I hastily hid the notebook under a few sheets of paper on my own desk and quickly pretended to be hard at work before Mrs. Rolanda even raised her eyes from the papers she was grading.
Screw grace. Who had the patience?
Ha-ha, I now had the goods. And what was Kiki going to do, raise her hand and tell the teacher I had just stolen her notebook?
“Mrs. Rolanda, Mrs. Rolanda, Maureen just stole my notebook!”
OMG, was she suicidal? Once the teacher saw the kind of things Kiki was writing about me and my friends, her head was going to roll way more than mine would.
The whole class turned around.
“En español, Kiki,” Mrs. Rolanda said. “Dime en español.”
Kiki rolled her eyes. “Maureen-o just stole-o my notebook-o.”
Mrs. Rolanda shook her head. After eleven years of teaching at this school, she was used to kids like Kiki thinking they could just add an O to the end of everything as a way of getting by. She turned her attention to me.
“¿Cuál es el problema? ¿Esto es cierto, Maureen? ¿Tomé sin permiso el cuaderno de Kiki?”
Though I didn’t understand all the words she’d said, I did know that cuaderno meant notebook.
“Sí,” I began, ready to admit my crime. “Pero…” I said as I slowly began to slide Kiki’s Slam Book out from underneath my papers. I mean, even though I wasn’t a snitch, if Kiki wanted the teacher to see all the cruel and nasty stuff she’d been writing, what was I going to do?
I pulled the notebook out, glanced at the cover, and prepared to hand it over to our teacher so that Kiki could get what was coming to her. That’s when the shock hit me.
It didn’t say slam book on the front; it said slang book.
Gulp. I’d misread it.
Mrs. Rolanda glared. “Señorita, estoy esperando una respuesta.”
She was waiting for an answer. Double gulp. What to do?
Now, sure, I could put small, simple sentences together like “My name is Maureen” (Me llamo Maureen) or “I like the hamburger” (Me gusta la hamburgesa), but my language abilities were nowhere near good enough to explain to Mrs. Rolanda that I had gotten the wrong idea about Kiki’s notebook, thought she was spreading vicious rumors about me and my friends, and planned to throw the Slam Book into the trash, so that no one else’s feelings would get hurt. I mean, a person would practically have to be bilingual to explain that.
But, of course, I had to say something. After all, Mrs. Rolanda was expecting una respuesta, an answer. And I could tell by the way her dark brown eyes were lasering in on me that she was getting madder and madder by the minute.
“Usted verá como un pollo,” I replied nervously. Translation: “You look like a chicken.”
Okay, okay, I admit it, I panicked. And messed up a few words, too. But like I said, I was nervous.
For the next five days I was assigned after-school detention. My task was to write the following sentence on the board two hundred times each day:
No robare las cosas que pertenecen a otros estudiantes y mi maestra no parece ave de corral.
Translation: I will not steal the property of other students, and my teacher does not look like poultry.
Does stuff like this happen to other kids, too?
“Don’t you just love your new cell phone, Maureen?” Beanpole asked as she pushed a bunch of buttons.
“Well, I don’t want to French-kiss it like you do yours,” I replied. “Ya think maybe you can put that thing away for, like, five minutes? I thought we were having a conversation here.”
“Sure,” she said, but I could tell she didn’t really want to. Slowly, Beanpole placed her new cellie back inside her gray-and-pink backpack, but of course she did it in a way that let her still spy the screen, as if she were expecting a text message from the president or something. Truth was, there was no cell service where we were sitting.
“I mean, I guess I could let bygones be bygones,” I admitted. “But I don’t trust them. I just know the ThreePees are gonna try to get us.”
“You’re being paranoid,” Beanpole assured me. “That whole Slam Book thing, you do realize you made it all up in your head, right?”
“Whatever,” I said as I returned to my lunch. Mmm, Twinkies.
Statistically speaking, very few nonchocolate foods rank higher on the taste-bud pleasure scale than Twinkies. And if bacon was taken off the list, ladies and gentlemen, we might have a winner.
“I thought you were, you know, trying to watch what you ate,” Beanpole said in a friendly, noncritical tone.
“Yeah, well, I’ve been kind of yo dieting these past few weeks,” I confessed.
“Don’t you mean yo-yo dieting?” she said.
“Nah, it’s been pretty one-sided lately.”
Beanpole watched as I enjoyed another bite of my midday cuisine (gooey white cream injected into a tube of yellow-colored cake? Come on, how genius is that?). She smiled, warm and kind.
Beanpole was always warm and kind. And friendly and considerate, too. Could there be anything more annoying?
And in her kindest way, she said, “But you were doing so well on your diet there for a while.”
“Diets, like rules, are meant to be broken,” I insisted as I popped the last bite of Twinkie into my mouth. “Mmm,” I said. “Finger-lickin’ good. And trust me, nobody ever licks their fingers after eating celery stalks.”
Again, Beanpole smiled, gentle and nice. Didn’t she know that when the space invaders came they were going to eat the gentle and nice people first?
Essentially, I am short and squat, and Beanpole is tall and thin. I am sarcastic and skeptical; Beanpole is cheerful and optimistic. I am moody, indecisive, and greatly lacking in self-esteem; Beanpole is outgoing, generous, and ready to try anything. If it’s true that opposites attract, then she and I are magnetized.
“Aw, you can’t give up on yourself, Mo,” Beanpole said. “Remember, you’re all you’ve got.”
“Yeah, and you just happen to”—Wheeesh-whooosh. Wheeesh-whooosh—“have a lot.”
I glared at the girl sitting next to me, the one who had just made the comment.
“Especially,” she added, grinning from ear to ear, “when it comes to the size of your butt.”
Remember the Allergy Alice girl I mentioned, the one I’d saved? Well, that is the third member of our flock. Q is her name, at least that’s what I call her, and she is…well, how do I say this nicely?
Q is a freak.
I’d started calling her Q a few months ago, because calling someone Allergy Alice every time you want to speak to her is just too much of a mouthful; she needed a shorter name. Besides, everything the girl says or does is a mental, medical, or social mystery, like some sort of giant question mark, so the name Q made sense.
And that Wheeesh-whooosh. Wheeesh-whooosh sound? It came from the NASA-approved scuba tank she always carried around with her.
All right, it isn’t a real scuba tank. In reality, it’s an inhaler filled with protein inhibitors that are supposed to keep her pancreas from oozing out her ear or something like that.
Essentially, Q has a few allergies, but only to small, rare, hard-to-encounter things—like water, air, and grass. Fact is, I’ve seen a few weirdwads in my day, but Q is the strangest, most offbeat, most peculiarest kid I’ve ever met.
It’s what I most like about her. Q is who she is, and she is it all the time. She just doesn’t care what other people think.
Q wears scarves in eighty-eight-degree weather—and doesn’t care what other people think. Q attaches a tissue dispenser to her belt loop—and doesn’t care what other people think. Q uses a spork to eat her lunch, finding “the functionality of a spoon-fork combo both efficient and environmentally conscious.”
What guts. I mean, who at this school just can be who they are without worrying about what everyone else thinks? Sure, Q is a kook, but she is also the kid least likely to give in to peer pressure, which, when I really think about it, might make her the least kooky kid on campus.
Bizarre how that makes sense, right?
Anyway, put together, me, Q, and Beanpole made up the Nerd Girls. Feared by all we were not.
“Aachoo!” Q sneezed and then pulled out a tissue from her belt-loop holster. Lunch for her today consisted of boiled carrots and skinless apples with a few wheat-free, gluten-free, flavor-free crackers tossed in for good measure. Some kids are lactose intolerant; Q is any-element-on-the-periodic-table intolerant.
“Is this bothering you?” Beanpole asked, holding up a tuna sandwich that had been made in the shape of a bald eagle.
Beanpole’s mom always prepared her daughter’s food around themes and motifs. Today’s were courage and bravery.
“No, it’s not the sandwich,” Q answered. “It’s all the dust in here.”
For some reason, Beanpole had decided that the three of us should eat lunch indoors today. Way indoors. Like inside-the-art-classroom indoors. I had stopped asking questions about stuff like this a while ago, figuring that, hey, when you’re friends with whack jobs, you do wacky things.
“You need to leave?” Beanpole asked.
“Nah,” Q replied. “Aside from this lumpy chair, I like the atmosphere.”
“You’re sitting on a paintbrush,” I informed her.
“Oh.” Q lifted her rear, picked up the paintbrush, and looked at the bristles. “I was wondering why my tush felt all prickly.”
A moment later, Q put the paintbrush right back underneath her butt.
“You’re still gonna sit on it?” I asked.
“It’s kind of like a bristly massage,” she replied. “And tingles are good for my pulmonary circulation.”
Yup, every day a new adventure.
I gazed around the art room. Paint cans, half-finished ceramic sculptures, fans to dry papier-mâché projects, all kinds of cheerful, arty-farty stuff filled the space. Just out of curiosity, I picked up some dweeb’s nearly finished coffee cup and noticed that it was decorated with yellow smiley faces.
“You know,” I said philosophically, “I don’t see why kids our age are always supposed to be cheery and blissful and popping with joy all the time. I mean, the only thing I’m popping with is zits.”
Beanpole, however, wasn’t listening. Instead, her eyes were glued to her phone. She checked for a new text message.
“Can I just say, for the record, that I love my new phone?” she remarked. “Alice, do you love your new phone?”
“The plastic casing makes my ears itch. I have to talk on”—Wheeesh-whooosh. Wheeesh-whooosh—“speaker with it.”
“May I continue with the point I was trying to make?” I asked as I reached for the apricot I’d packed for lunch.
Well, the apricot strudel.
“We need to be on guard against an attack from the snob-wads.”
“It really bothers me that my mom doesn’t go out,” Q interjected, nibbling on a carrot. “I mean, she has absolutely no life outside of worrying about me. It’s like her entire existence revolves around me.”
“Are we not going to discuss the ThreePees?” I asked.
“That’s because she loves you, Alice,” Beanpole said. “And she’s concerned that something might happen to you.”
“I’ll take that as a no,” I said, even though neither of them was acknowledging me.
“But I’m stronger than she thinks I am,” Q said. “I mean, I’m not an invalid.”
“You get light-headed from corn,” I said, jumping into their conversation. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? “Not exactly the stuff of Supergirl there, Q.”
“Well, I need to do something. She’s sacrificed enough for me these past couple of years. Too much.” Q paused and considered it. “Yep, I’m gonna do something.”
“What?” I asked. Almost nobody on campus knew the real truth about Q, but Beanpole and I did. There had been an accident, a terrible car crash, in which Q’s father and sister had died. Q’s mother wasn’t in the car at the time, but Q was. Right in the backseat. Incredibly, she survived.
But she was the only one. Stuff like that’ll mess you up.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” Q told us. “But I’m gonna do something. I have to. It’s my mom.”
Q used to hide her emotions and bury her feelings, but ever since she came clean about the guilt of surviving, and feeling as if the car accident were her fault, she’s turned into some sort of fountain of honesty. At least among us, that is. To the outside world, Q is still a semi-odd recluse, but with Beanpole and me she is a straight shooter. Like for example, if she likes your purple T-shirt, she’ll tell you, “Cool purp shirt.” But if she thinks your green flip-flops look weak, she’ll tell you, “Lame-o foot canoes…Try a new set of toe kayaks.”
Yeah, sometimes you have to decode what she’s talking about, but still, she tells it like it is. Me, I struggle with honesty and expressing my real feelings. I mean, my mom could put on forty-five pounds and walk around the house knocking picture frames off the table with her butt, and still I’d say things like, “Put on weight? Nope, haven’t noticed a thing. But perhaps you could pass the doughnuts.”
Sarcasm’s more my thing. I blame television.
“You know,” I said, thinking about this, “I say we make a pact to be truthful with one another. Really honest. Beanpole, tell me something honest.”
Beanpole raised her eyes and thought deeply about the question. “I love my new phone.”
“How profound. I see Nobel prizes in your future. Q, how ’bout you?” I said. “Tell me one honest thing, just one truthful thing about this whole mixed-up, crazy universe.”
“Your gluteus says Aardvarks on it,” she replied. “Aardvarks
Praise for A Catastrophe of Nerdish Proportions:"[A] captivating drama . . . 'Nerds rule' in this satisfying sequel."—Kirkus Reviews
- "Sitomer's insight into the world of eighth-grade girls is hilarious, surprising, and painfully realistic."—Booklist
- Praise for The Rise of the Dorkasaurus:"With a keen eye, Sitomer portrays the callous social hierarchy of middle school. . . .readers will be cheering for these girls as they bravely go forth, proudly proclaiming their nerdiness."—Kirkus Reviews
- "Mean Girls meets Revenge of the Nerds, middle-school style, in a novel that peeks into the lives of an offbeat cast of 13-year-olds."—Publishers Weekly
- On Sale
- Jul 31, 2012
- Page Count
- 272 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers