After Maddy?s parents divorce, she?s stuck starting over at a new high school. Friendless and nicknamed Freak Girl, Manga-loving artist Maddy finds refuge in the interactive online game Fields of Fantasy. In that virtual world, she reinvents herself as Allora, a gorgeous elfin alter ego, and meets a true friend in Sir Leo. Maddy can?t hide behind Allora forever, especially as a real-life crush begins edging in on her budding virtual romance. But would anyone pick the real Maddy, gamer girl and Manga freak, over the fantasy?
This fresh, geeky/cool novel includes online chats and exciting gaming, and features Maddy?s Mangastyle artwork.
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Mari Mancusi used to wish she could become a vampire back in high school. But she ended up in another blood sucking profession—journalism—instead. Today she works as a television news producer for the NBC station in Boston and has won two Emmys for her work. As if writing and TV producing weren't enough to keep her busy, Mari also enjoys snowboarding, clubbing, shopping, 80s music, and her favorite guilty pleasure—video games. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and two dogs.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I couldn’t remember a day in the last year when I’d had as much fun.
[Allora] (It’s late. Dad says I have to go to bed.)
[SirLeo] (Yeah. Wow. I didn’t even realize it was midnight.)
[Allora] (I know. Time flies when you’re having fun.)
[SirLeo] (I had a LOT of fun.)
[Allora] (I feel like I know you really, really well, and yet not at all.)
[SirLeo] (Yes! It’s crazy. At least tell me where you live.)
[Allora] (Um, I’m not supposed to say. Dad’s rules.)
I realized how stupid I sounded. Sir Leo was going to think I was a total loser. Either that or I was completely uninterested in him, which was so not the case.
[SirLeo] (Sorry, I shouldn’t have even asked. It’s just . . . well, I think you’re really cool. And I know you probably live a thousand miles away and would never want to anyway, but I just can’t help thinking how awesome it’d be to meet you in real life.)
I stared at the computer, too dumbfounded to type a reply.
Did I even want to meet him in real life? I mean, he thought I was a beautiful, sexy elf chick. If he met the real Madeline Starr, he’d probably run screaming in the other direction.
Table of Contents
GRANDMA’S HOUSE was a study of crystal and glass and contained 1,153 unicorns. I knew, because I counted one drizzly, dreary Thanksgiving when we were stuck inside waiting for the world’s slowest turkey to brown. Horned beasts of crystal, glass, china, wood—she called them her “babies” and treasured them more than her dwindling life savings. (Dwindling mainly due to her unicorn habit. You wouldn’t believe the prices of these things from the Franklin Mint.) Whenever we’d come over, she’d sit me down and show me her favorites.
She had a lot of favorites.
That was fine and tolerable when we lived an hour away and saw her once a year. Over the river and through the woods and all that. But now we were living with her. In her museumlike house. Surrounded by unicorns.
I suppose my story isn’t unique. After all, half of marriages end in divorce, or so they say. Maybe I should count my blessings that Mom and Dad stuck it out as long as they did. Still, having to vacate our über-hip Back Bay Boston brownstone, leave my private school and friends behind, and move to Unicorn Land—all in the middle of my sophomore year—was a bit much.
But I had no choice. Mom and Dad weren’t speaking, unless they were yelling. Neither one could afford the mortgage on the brownstone, so they smacked down a For Sale sign and split—Dad to a smaller apartment down the street and Mom, me, and my eight-year-old sister, Emily, to New Hampshire. To Grandmother’s house we go.
I can’t even begin to tell you how painful that last day at my old school was. Saying good-bye to all my beloved teachers, promising my friends I’d IM and text at every possible second, cleaning out my locker, and tearing down the My Chemical Romance poster I’d stuck on the inside door on the first day of the school year. I’d been so full of hopes and dreams for the year back then. I was going to join the art club, write for the school paper, and, of course, make Ashley’s older brother, David Silverman, my boyfriend. (Okay, the last one was a long shot, but you couldn’t blame a girl for being goal oriented, could you?) It was going to be the best year ever.
Now, four months later, it was gearing up to be the worst.
“Maddy! You’d better get down here or you’ll miss the bus!” Grandma called from downstairs, bringing me back to my hellish reality, aka my first day at Hannah Dustin High School. There were prisoners on death row more excited about their pending visit with the electric chair than I was about my enrollment.
I mean, hello! First off, there was a bus. An actual bus to take me from my middle-of-nowhere Grandma’s house to my still-middle-of-nowhere school. Back home, I always walked. Met my friends at Dunkin’ Donuts for French crullers and coffee, then giggled and gossiped all the way to the campus of Boston Academy. Now I’d actually have to board a smelly, fume-filled, environment-destroying bus to get to school. At least I was getting my license in a few weeks when I turned sixteen. Though my chances of getting Grandma to lend me the car were slim to none.
My cell buzzed, scattering all thoughts of transportation. I glanced down to see the text. From Caitlin.
GOOD LUCK ON FIRST DAY!
I smiled, feeling a tiny bit better. At least I had my friends. Sure, they were farther away from me now, but they still cared. I punched in Caitlin’s number.
“Hey, girl,” I said into the phone after she answered.
“Oh, hey, Mads, how’s it going? How’re the ’burbs? They arrest you for not wearing Gap yet? Turn your mom into a Stepford wife?” Caitlin had a habit of asking at least four questions in the same breath, making it impossible to answer any of them.
“Hardy-har-har,” I replied. “You are too funny.”
“Whatevah. At least I’m not funny-looking.”
“Haven’t looked in the mirror lately, have you?” I asked, with mock sympathy.
“I’m looking now, bay-bee. And I’m looking fine. DAMN fine.”
I grinned, picturing my best friend dancing in front of the mirror as she was known to do, flaunting all that God had given her to anyone who cared to look. Caitlin was born without an insecurity gene. She died her hair pink and pierced her own nose in seventh grade. Her mother was totally cool with it, too, saying that girls needed to express themselves early in life so they could blossom into healthy, self-sufficient women who didn’t need a man to complete them. (Caitlin’s mother was also divorced—after her husband ran off to Vegas with his secretary. Some believed she was still a bit bitter about the whole thing.)
Hmm. Maybe my divorced mom would now let me explore the Manic Panic hair color rainbow, too. It’d be so cool to get some pink streaks in my hair. One time Caitlin and I went to Harvard Square after school and got the clip-on kind. Mom nearly had a heart attack until she found out they weren’t real.
“Madeline!” Grandma again, this time sounding more insistent.
I groaned. “Sorry, Caits, gotta run before Grandma has kittens and starts sneezing to death.”
“Okay, no prob,” Caitlin said. “Good luck today. I hope you meet tons of über-cool rock girls and sexy, sexy bad boys.”
“I’ll settle for anyone not openly worshipping the gods of Aberzombie,” I replied with a laugh. “I’ll miss you guys. Don’t have too much fun without me.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it. We’ll mourn you all day and fast in your honor at lunchtime. Unless they’re serving pizza, of course. If they’re serving pizza, consider yourself gone and forgotten.”
“Fair enough. I’ll call you after school to let you know how it went.”
“Cool. Later, gator.”
I pressed End, grabbed my hoodie, and vacated the Pepto-Bismol–colored, unicorn-themed bedroom Grandma had stuck me in. Pretty nauseating, let me tell you, though I couldn’t exactly complain. After all, originally she wanted me to share it with Emily. I think I would have stabbed myself with a unicorn horn if I had to bunk up with my little sis. Luckily for me, Emily wasn’t so keen on the idea either and used her big mouth to voice her displeasure. Repeatedly. So Grandma cleaned out her sewing room and declared it Emily’s. Kid had a gift for getting exactly what she wanted. I envied her that.
I started down the shag-carpeted stairs and found Grandma standing in the unicorn-infested living room below, a sentry guarding the path to freedom. And let’s just say her stern, disapproving look could have been picked up by a satellite.
I glanced around for Mom, but she was nowhere to be found. Must have already left for work. Not good. I bit my lower lip, knowing exactly what was coming before the woman even opened her mouth.
“You’re wearing that to school?”
“Uh . . . yes?” I really couldn’t think of anything else to say. I prayed I was wrong about Mom being at work and that she’d suddenly come around the corner and assure Grandma that my look was perfectly acceptable for a twenty-first-century teen. But no luck.
Okay, fine, maybe I should have dressed a tad more conservative. We were in the suburbs after all. But image was everything in high school and I felt I needed to make the appropriate “This is who I am” statement from day one to attract the right friends. (Sad, but true.) So I’d donned a short plaid skirt, paired with Doc Marten boots and a zip-up hoodie over my Pooka the Goblin Cat baby doll tee. It said, Gothy, but approachable.
At least to me. Grandma was obviously getting a different message as she fanned herself with a wrinkly hand, shaking her head in disbelief. Eesh. You’d have thought I’d come downstairs in Britney Spears’s last VMA outfit.
“Madeline Ann, you look like a dead prostitute,” she declared.
I opened my mouth to defend and retort, but reluctantly closed it again. We’d been drilled by Mom since day one not to talk back to Grandma. After all, she’s sooo nice to let us live here. We need to respect her and her rules.
“I don’t know what kind of getup you wore back in that city,” Grandma said, spitting out the word city as if it were poison. “But you’ll find kids in Farmingdale don’t dress like that.”
It was an effort not to roll my eyes. How did she know what kids wore? When was the last time she hung out at the local high school? I’d be willing to bet it was back when Grease was still the word. I looked longingly at the front door, wondering if I could just make a run for it. Grandma was old. Had arthritis. She probably couldn’t catch me if I dashed outside and caught the bus just as it was picking up the neighbor kids down the street. . . .
Then, as if by a miracle, I heard a beep outside. Phew.
“The bus!” I cried. “Gotta go.”
Grandma leaped in front of the door, effectively blocking my escape. For a lady approaching seventy, she sure could move quickly. “Not so fast,” she said. “I’ll drive you.” She folded her arms across her chest. “After you change.”
“But . . .”
“No buts. Now hop to it!”
My shoulders slumped. I wasn’t going to win this, was I? I trudged over to the stairs, my feet feeling like they were made of lead. Out the window, I caught the bright yellow vision of freedom pulling away from the curb.
“You know,” I remarked as I climbed, stair by stair, “I don’t have anything in my closet you’d possibly approve of. Seriously. Most everything I own is black.”
But Grandma had already thought of this. “Don’t worry, sweetie,” she replied immediately. “You can borrow some of my clothes.”
I stopped walking. Oh, no. No, no, no!
Sure enough, fifteen minutes later I’d been stuffed into a pair of bulky, pale blue “mom jeans” that came up past my belly button and a totally nonfitted oversized sweatshirt with—brace yourself here—frolicking unicorns embroidered on the front.
It couldn’t get worse. It just couldn’t.
I looked in the mirror, tears welling up in my eyes. “Please, Grandma. I can’t wear this to school. Seriously.”
“And why not?” she demanded, coming up behind me and straightening my sweatshirt. “I think you look adorable.”
Of course you do. “Yeah, but they’re . . .” I was about to say old lady clothes, but remembered Mom’s warning not to offend. “No one my age would be caught dead in this kind of outfit,” I amended. “If I show up like this, everyone’s going to laugh at me.”
“If they laugh at you, then they’re not your friends.” Grandma huffed. “Real friends don’t judge people by what they wear, but what they’re like on the inside.”
There was a huge, gigantic flaw in that argument since she was the one who made me change clothes in the first place, but I realized it would do no good to point it out.
Instead, I looked back in the mirror, praying maybe I could pull it off as some kind of edgy street wear the kids in the ’burbs hadn’t heard of yet. Like, Dude, unicorns are so in right now, where have you been? But it was no use. While I might have slid by with the unicorn thing, there was no way the mom jeans would escape notice.
I would have to kill myself on the way to school. Or run away and join the circus. Or . . .
A plan formed in my mind. As soon as Grandma dropped me off, I’d leave campus and find a store. There had to be stores around somewhere. Buy a decent outfit and head to class. I might have to miss first period, but it would be well worth it.
“Okay, let’s go,” Grandma said, jingling her keys.
Feeling better at having a plan, I joined her in her ancient Toyota and let her drive me to school. Ten minutes later she pulled into the parking lot. I looked up at the brick building on the hill. What would it be like? Would my teachers be cool? Would I find new friends? I looked down at my hands and realized they were shaking. I wished for the thousandth time I was wearing my normal clothes. I would have felt a hell of a lot more confident dressed as me.
I exited the car, thanking Grandma for the ride. To my dismay, she pulled the key out of the ignition and joined me on the curb.
“Um,” I said, looking at her smiling face with concern. “What are you doing?”
“I thought I’d walk you into the office,” she replied, obviously pleased with herself.
Oh, God. Oh, God. “You really don’t have to—”
Of course she did. She also insisted on grabbing me by the hand when we crossed the street and her iron grip didn’t loosen as we approached the school. The sinking feeling in my stomach was getting worse.
I could feel the stares as soon as we reached the school entrance and heard the snickers. Not surprising, I guess. How often did you see a grandma dragging a unicorn-clad girl through the front doors of your local high school? They all probably thought I was special needs.
“We’ll go to the principal’s office and get your schedule,” Grandma explained, as if I were a five-year-old on her first day of kindergarten. I hung my head and prayed for some kind of divine intervention. Maybe I was only dreaming. I’d wake up any second now, cozy in my bed, realizing this was all just one big, long, horrible nightmare.
But no such luck. I was really here. And the nightmare was my reality.
We stepped through the double doors, into a sea of lip-glossed Barbies and Tom Brady wannabes. I did a double take. Caitlin warned me this could happen, but I’d laughed her off. Surely every high school had some diversity, right?
Evidently wrong. It was as if I’d wandered into a living, breathing American Eagle commercial. Shudder. I looked around, desperately trying to pinpoint at least one person who would prefer Hot Topic over H&M, but came up empty.
Where were the mop-headed emo boys and Edward Cullen–worshipping Goth girls? Where were the skater kids? The punk rockers?
I felt a lump rise to my throat. This was so not good.
Anger burned in my gut. Stupid Mom for leaving Dad. Maybe if Mom wasn’t in...
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Descripción Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2008. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería P110525479953
Descripción Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2008. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Brand New!. Nº de ref. de la librería VIB0525479953
Descripción Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2008. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. book. Nº de ref. de la librería M0525479953
Descripción Dutton Juvenile, 2008. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Nº de ref. de la librería DADAX0525479953