A YA contemporary mixing MEAN GIRLS with the searing sociological insights in THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES and mental illness recovery in THE WEIGHT OF ZERO.
Academic superstar Carter Harper never fails, but her suicide attempt screws up that track record. Carter’s devastated, because the heartless girls at her school won’t stop bullying her and her depression worsens by the day. Recovery boot camp at a psychiatric hospital, a comprehensive treatment plan, and antidepressants improve her will to live. That is, until queen bee Kelsey learns about the attempt and blackmails Carter into popularity. Socially anxious Carter is thrust into Kelsey’s treacherous world of power, makeovers, and parties. She’ll have to become the docile bystander Kelsey wants her to be, unless she wants Kelsey to publicly humiliate her like she does to all her ex-best friends.
Abby Wallace was Kelsey’s partner in cruelty until she kept one too many secrets that led to panic attacks Kelsey couldn’t handle. She’s replaced by Carter, a girl not fit to rule her own wardrobe, let alone a high school. Now Abby needs to tackle the trauma she’s buried for years by unlocking strength she never realized she had. If she can conquer that, she can conquer anything—like finally dethroning Kelsey. And if Carter and Abby can stand each other for more than three minutes, they could save each other and maybe the entire school from Kelsey’s court of misrule.
STATUS: Complete at 86,000 words
AWARDS: 2013 YoungArts Merit Award for Writing: Selection from Novel
While Mr. Callahan is worried about our sucky AP English essays, I’m worried about what Abby Wallace will try next.
“I don’t care that you wrote these over winter break,” he says as he walks from student to student. “You should’ve used all of that free time for revision.” He hands me my paper with a wink.
I flip to the back page. Ninety-five percent, with a heaping of congratulatory comments. Well deserved, considering I spent a month comparing The Scarlet Letter to social media callout culture, as well as the inherent hypocrisy of claiming morality while crucifying others.
“I wanted you to flesh out the symbolism, to understand—” Callahan enthusiastically waves his hands around and almost smacks Mei Xiang in the face. She sneers at him until the class’ attention is shifted to her best friend—and my worst enemy.
“Is she serious?” Abby Wallace shouts. Resisting the urge to let out a huge, heaving sigh, I turn my head to my least favorite person in eleventh grade. Her gunmetal blue eyes are wide open as she scans a scrap of paper over and over and over again. It’s enough to induce corneal whiplash.
“Considering your grade is lower than usual, Abigail, I’d suggest you pay attention rather than contradict me,” Callahan says.
“I said—doesn’t matter. I didn’t mean you, sir.” Her voice is syrupy, like honey designed to trap you. “Look. Carter wrote me this…note.”
Of course I did. And by of course, I mean absolutely not. Though most of her bullying is covert, Abby loves constructing occasional public spectacles in which I’m an unwilling sideshow performer.
Abby shakes her head. “I can’t believe….” She chokes like she’s full of emotion and swipes a hand beneath her eye to catch nonexistent tears.
Callahan scans the “note.” His cheeks grow ruddier. “Carter. Abby. Come to my desk. Bring your things.”
And another version, created by the lovely Christine L. Herman!