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       Jessica Darling's It List 2, p.1

           Megan Mccafferty
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Jessica Darling's It List 2

  Begin Reading

  Table of Contents

  A Preview of Jessica Darling’s It List 3

  Copyright Page

  In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitutes unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  For my friends on the third

  floor of the Princeton

  Public Library

  Chapter One

  Is it impossible for old elementary-school friends and new junior-high friends to all get along as just, you know, friends?

  Good or bad, that’s what I’m about to find out.

  Lately my friends have been stirring up more drama than I can handle. This is really saying something because my first month of seventh grade was a doozy. Let’s see. I went out for the CHEER TEAM!!! and face-planted with a SPLAT! when I tried—and failed—to do a simple cartwheel. DRAMA. I nearly lost a finger making an ugly spoon in Woodshop—a class I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE IN taught by a singing giant straight out of Harry Potter. More DRAMA. And how could I forget the time I dressed up as Mighty the Seagull—the Official Pineville Junior High School Mascot—and shook my red-white-and-blue-feathered booty in front of the entire school? Everyone thought I was a crazy chicken. Well, except a ginormous lovesick goose who mistook me for his new girlfriend and chased me all over the football field until I smashed beak-first into the goalpost.


  All of which could be traced back to the IT List my big sister gave me the day before the start of seventh grade.

  My sister, Bethany, isn’t exactly rocking her fifth year of college—um, especially since she failed all her classes and may not technically be a student anymore—but she ruled school when she was my age. She was always the center of attention and never had a shortage of friends and boyfriends. Her classmates considered her such an expert on all things awesome that they persuaded her to put that wisdom into writing “Bethany Darling’s IT List: The Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection.” No big sister was more qualified to share secrets of social success. And no little sister was less qualified to follow them.

  And yet tonight at dinner when I happened to mention that I was having some issues with my friends—okay, I was ranting about how they were totally driving me crazy—Bethany casually let it slip that she had another IT List that could solve all my girl drama.


  “You’re sure you want it?” Bethany asked skeptically. “After what happened last time?”

  Or, rather, after what didn’t happen. Despite the “Guaranteed” promise in the title, I haven’t become popular, pretty, or anywhere near perfect. From Bethany’s point of view, I’d taken all the right advice in all the wrong directions.

  I, however, saw it differently.

  “Are you kidding?” I replied. “I want to see it because of what happened last time.”

  A slow smile spread across Bethany’s face.

  “Okay,” she said assertively. “Let me get it. It’s in my bedroom.”

  Bethany excused herself from the dining room, and I could hardly contain myself in her absence. See, here’s the thing about DRAMA: As painful as it can be sometimes, it certainly makes life more interesting. When I think about what seventh grade would have been like without the first IT List, I get kind of drowsy, and the next thing I know I’m ZZZZZZZ.

  In other words: BORING.

  A BAZILLION MINUTES LATER, Bethany breezed back in with an envelope in her hand. The second IT List!

  “Are you suuuure you’re in?” she asked teasingly.

  “I’m in!” I promised. “I’m so in.”

  “In what?” asked my parents in the way that only my parents can.

  I hadn’t even noticed that they had finished cleaning up in the kitchen and were lurking in the doorway. My mom and dad are expert lurkers.

  “In…” I stammered. “In… um…”

  My sister shot me a warning look. Bethany wants to keep the IT Lists just between us. Maybe she’s waiting until I’m confidently perched at the tippy-top of the social ladder before taking credit as the mastermind behind my meteoric rise from Not to Hot. Perhaps she doesn’t want our parents blaming her for any subsequent face-breaking visits to the nurse’s office. Who knows what’s happening underneath that mane of glossy blond hair? With a ten-year gap between us, Bethany and I have had few opportunities to bond over sister-to-sister stuff. I’m more than happy to comply with her rules if it means she won’t go back to forgetting that I exist.

  “She’s in with the in crowd,” my sister clarified for me. “The IT clique.”

  Mom’s eyes lit up. Dad’s eyebrows shot up.

  “Really!” said Mom.

  “Really?” asked Dad.

  “Really,” confirmed my sister.

  I thought, No, not really.

  Then I considered how I had two friends on the elite CHEER TEAM!!! and two more friends on the super-duper-exclusive Spirit Squad and thought again.

  Well, sort of.

  I’ve noticed the way other girls in our grade pass our lunch table and look at us with something like envy because we sit in a totally up-and-coming part of the cafeteria surrounded by Hots.


  “If she isn’t already,” Bethany said as she handed over the envelope, “she will be.”

  Then she blew kisses at all of us, said her good-byes, and dashed out the door. Bethany loves dramatic entrances and exits. She excels at them.

  “What did she give you, Jessie?”

  Mom craned her neck to see for herself. I instinctively tucked the IT List into the pouch of my sweatshirt. I needed to be as overprotective as a mama kangaroo.

  “I don’t know,” I lied. “I haven’t opened it yet. Duh.”

  My mother pinched her lips, torn between coming down on me for being rude and kissing up to me to find out what was in the envelope. Curiosity won out.

  “Well,” she said with a slightly strained expression, “don’t you want to know what’s inside? Aren’t you going to open it?”

  Of course I wanted to know what was inside. Obviously, I was going to open it. I was dying to read the IT List, but I make a point of never looking too eager about anything in front of my parents because they’d instantly get all suspicious that I’m up to something shady. Then they’d start asking ridiculous questions I don’t want to answer that would inevitably put a damper if not a major delay on the very thing I’m excited about. So I had to pretend not to care too much about Bethany’s envelope if I ever hoped to read it in all its wisdom tonight.

  “Eh. It’s probably nothing.” I nonchalantly pulled the drawstring on my hoodie. “I’ll open it later.”

  My strategy worked. Before long the intrigue of the envelope faded, and the Darling household was restored to its normal state of boringness.

  “Have you finished your homework?” Mom asked.

  “Have you started your homework?” Dad asked.

  Woo-hoo! It was the out I’d been waiting for.

  “No and no,” I blurted. “Gotta go hit the books!”

  I hung a DO NOT DISTURB. HOMEWORK IN PROGRESS sign on my bedroom door. I’m usually a very diligent student. I always get my homework done before I watch TV or gossip with my friends. However, Language Arts and Pre-Algebra were not my priorities just then. After all, I already knew the
difference between a preposition and a participle, a matrix and a mode. But could I make it through one more day of lunch-table drama without the IT List? No, only the IT List contained the life-changing advice I really needed to learn if I was going to survive junior high with friends by my side.

  Or so I hoped.

  Chapter Two

  IT List 2

  The Guaranteed Guide to Friends,

  Foes & Faux Friends

  1. 1 BFF < 2 BFFs < 4 BFFs < 8 BFFs < INFINITY BFFs

  2. Have fun with your enemies.

  3. PARTY!!!

  4. When all else fails: CANDY.

  5. There is no I in CLIQUE.

  That’s it.

  That’s IT?

  The document containing the secrets to a lifetime of stress-free friendships was written on the back of a glittery invitation to a slumber party that took place at the house of some girl named Julia almost ten years ago. That might sound strange, but the first IT List had been written in lip liner on the back of a ten-year-old Pineville Junior High CHEER TEAM!!! travel schedule.

  And like its predecessor, IT List 2 left me with more questions than answers.

  As they came to me:

  1. How can I have MORE THAN ONE best friend forever, let alone INFINITY best friends forever if—by the very definition of the word best—there can be only ONE that is better than the rest, which is what makes that BFF the BEST?

  2. Why would I want to have fun with my enemy? If my enemy is so awesome to be around, why are we enemies? Wouldn’t we be friends?

  3. Am I throwing the PARTY!!!? Or am I merely expected to get invited to and attend the PARTY!!!? Is it deeper than that? Like, do I need to go through junior high with a PARTY!!! attitude like the most popular 8th-Grade Hots, who bounce around the halls shouting “WOOOOOOOOOOOT!” even when there doesn’t seem to be anything worth celebrating?

  4. Okay. This one makes sense to me. I love candy. I’d never underestimate the peacemaking properties of candy. Candy is good. The problem is, I’ve never seen my sister actually eat anything even vaguely resembling candy, which makes me think that maybe I’ve got this all wrong.

  5. But there TOTALLY IS an I in clique. Even when it’s misspelled like “click,” which is how I used to write it in elementary school because that’s what the word clique sounds like. Not “clee-KAY” or “clee-KWAY,” which is how you’d think it would be pronounced with that q-u-e arrangement and everything. And while on the subject of weird foreign spellings, here’s an FYI: Faux rhymes with foe. I found this out the hard way when I once mispronounced faux so it sounded a little too close to another four-letter word, which made my mom threaten to wash my mouth out with soap.

  So. Uh. Anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah. My sister had MESSED WITH MY HEAD. Again.

  Even worse? I asked for it this time! I can only hope that the path to ultimate me-ness is more straightforward—and less mortifying—with this second IT List than it was with the first!

  Chapter Three

  I met my best friend at the bus stop the next morning. And before I could eke out a “Hey, Bridget,” she was launching herself into full-on emergency mode.


  Burke is Bridget’s boyfriend. They flirted with each other from the first day of school but made their relationship official, like, only a few days ago. Could it really be over so quickly?

  “He hasn’t responded to any of my messages. He must be breaking up with me! Why else wouldn’t he respond to my messages?”

  She flopped backward onto a wooden bench. It was her signature despairing move. I’ve seen it countless times before, but never over a boyfriend.

  “Maybe he accidentally dropped his phone in the toilet,” I suggested. “Remember when that happened to me last year and I didn’t pick it up when you called because EW! GROSS! PEE! and you thought I was mad at you for seeing Girl Power 5 without me?”

  “But you were mad at me about that!”

  Whoops! She was right. Bad example. I scrambled for another theory.

  “Burke has a dog, right?”

  Bridget nodded.

  “Remember in fourth grade when my grandmother gave us walkie-talkies and Bowzer buried yours in the backyard and you couldn’t find it? And when you didn’t respond to my calls I panicked and thought you’d gone missing and Gladdie called the police…?”

  Bridget’s eyes went wide with panic.

  “You think Burke’s gone missing? Should I call the police?”


  “Then why are you telling me to call the police?”

  “I’m not! I’m just…”

  I’m just really, really bad at dealing with breakup freak-outs.

  But as bad as I am, I was grateful Bridget was having this conversation with me at all. I’d known Bridget forever, but she and Dori Sipowitz had gotten superclose since they both made the CHEER TEAM!!! Dori had taken over as Bridget’s preferred go-to friend in times of crisis. Currently, I’m her buck-up backup plan. But maybe with some effort I could slip back into the number one spot.

  So I tried another tactic.

  “What happened the last time you talked to him?” I asked. “Don’t spare any details.”

  Little did I know just how many details wouldn’t be spared. Because Bridget gave me ALL THE DETAILS, even the ones that didn’t seem relevant, like what flavor gum she was chewing when she waited for Burke at his locker because, apparently, according to Bridget’s logic, the difference between strawberry and spearmint can make or break a relationship, which is TOTALLY BONKERS. Even so, I went along with it, if only because that’s what seems to be required of a friend in these situations.

  “Maybe you should consider cinnamon next time,” I found myself suggesting.

  “Cinnamon! That’s genius! But maybe too spicy? And what about—YAY! The bus!”

  The arrival of the bus is always very exciting for Bridget for one very important reason: Burke is on it. And despite—or maybe because of—the breakup freak-out, today was no different. Bridget could barely wait for the vehicle to come to a complete stop before hopping on board. Our bus driver has the impressive ability to yell in full sentences with her teeth clenched on a toothpick; Bridget gives her the opportunity to exercise this skill on a regular basis.

  “HEY NOW, BLONDIE! I ain’t run over a kid yet, and I don’t wanna start with you.”

  As usual, Bridget ignored Miz Carbone, raced down the aisle, and sprang like a kitty cat into the seat beside Burke.

  “I missed you!” Bridget said.

  “Yeah,” Burke replied. “Me too.”

  And just like that: The breakup freak-out was over.

  Fortunately, Bridget and Burke sit together in the very back of the bus. I sit in the middle of the bus, which is just fine with me because I’d toss my pancakes if I accidentally caught Bridget and Burke… you know.



  That’s one reason why I don’t see myself having a boyfriend anytime soon. I can’t handle it when Bridget even hints around at what it’s like to… you know.



  I know I’m immature.

  So I don’t mind sitting by myself on the bus ride to school. I prefer it, actually. It’s really the only time of day I have totally to myself, which is kind of funny because I’m surrounded by chaos. Nobody takes notice of me, and it’s pretty easy to get lost in the noise. I stare out the window and get into a zone and think about things, sort of like what my mom says it’s like to meditate. Except my mom wears these silky pajama-like things, and I wear fleece. She inhales citrus-scented candles, and I breathe in fart and armpit. She listens to Gregorian chants, and I have a seventh-grade freestyler who calls himself the next Jay Z.

  But other than all that, it’s totally the same.

  For the rest of the short ride to school, I thought about how I’d known Bridget longer than I’ve known anybody outside my family. But she’s so much harder to really know
anymore, since she literally turned pretty overnight.

  It’s important to mention that I’m not misusing literally the way some of my friends do when they say things like, “I’m literally dying of boredom from this conversation” or “I’m literally going to explode out of my jeans because I ate that potato chip.” Those would be the correct uses of literally only if Manda snored herself to death and Sara went BAM! like a denim bomb. Literally means the exact opposite of what most people—and my friends in particular—think it means. I once made the mistake of trying to correct Manda and Sara by explaining that what they really meant was figuratively. It didn’t go well. The only flaws Manda and Sara enjoy discussing are the imaginary ones they obsess over in the mirror—and only when they’re the ones pointing them out.

  “You’re the world’s biggest word nerd,” Manda had chided.

  “Omigod,” Sara had agreed. “Literally.”

  “Yeah,” Manda had concurred. “Like, literally.”

  In that instance, I couldn’t dispute their use of literally. I can’t prove it, but it is quite possible that I am indeed the world’s biggest word nerd. It annoys my friends, but at least I make my Language Arts teacher happy when my Nerd Self edges out my Trying to Be Normal Self.

  Anyway. So I was thinking about Bridget and how she’d always lived across the street. Maybe we wouldn’t be best friends—or friends at all—if she lived anywhere else. This wasn’t so far-fetched when I considered what happened with Dori Sipowitz the summer before fifth grade. Up to that point, she’d been the third member of our inseparable elementary-school crew, 3ZNUF. Then she moved across town, and Bridget and I pretty much forgot all about her… that is, until she and Bridget reunited as the newest members of the Pineville Junior High CHEER TEAM!!!

  My mom’s in real estate, and she is always going on about how successful buying and selling is all about location, location, location. I was starting to think location was equally significant in friendships. Location, after all, was the only reason Bridget talked to me about Burke at the bus stop. If she lived across the street from Dori, no doubt that she’d be having her breakup freak-outs with her.

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