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       Jessica Darling's It List 3, p.1

           Megan Mccafferty
 
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Jessica Darling's It List 3


  Begin Reading

  Table of Contents

  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 is 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 at HiTOPS adolescent health services and education center in Princeton, NJ

  Chapter One

  I know I’m not an early bloomer. But am I doomed to be a late bloomer? Or will I bloom sometime in between?

  That’s what I’m about to find out. Maybe. If I don’t get too ACKED out.

  I’ve never given much thought to my body. When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m tired, I sleep. When I’m sick, I barf. That’s the thing about bodies. When you’re healthy and everything is functioning properly, your body is pretty easy to ignore. I mean, my body has been with me my entire life, and yet it barely crossed my mind because it just, you know, did the stuff bodies are supposed to do. My body makes me an excellent cross-country runner but a terrible gymnast. My body cannot execute a perfect aerial cartwheel but recovers quickly when an attempt to do so results in an epic face-smash in front of a gym full of bendy, twisty, perky CHEER TEAM!!! wannabes.

  You know. For example.

  I can’t say for sure when my body changed things up. It started doing new stuff. Hard-to-ignore stuff. Like zits.

  And my friends’ bodies were also changing in noticeable—but different—ways. Like, on the last day of summer before the start of seventh grade, my (old?) best friend Bridget’s body ALL OF A SUDDEN transformed from an ordinary sort of body into an extraordinary sort of body that got EVERYONE’S attention on the first day of school. Especially the boys’. Sometimes the changes are less obvious, like when I thought my (new?) best friend Hope was acting all cranky and crampy at a sleepover because she had a nasty stomach virus. She later revealed it was… well, not a virus at all. When she told me her first period was to blame for her bummerific crash on my couch, I was like, DUH.

  As an A plus student, I should’ve known better. Actually, I did know better, and I have the perfect test scores to prove it! Last year, our sixth-grade teachers separated the girls from the boys and made us sit in different classrooms to watch The Movie. You know The Movie I’m talking about. It’s The Movie about all the stuff that will happen to our bodies as we get older. Calling it THE Movie isn’t entirely accurate, because there are actually two versions of The Movie. The girls watched The Movie all about girl stuff, and the boys watched The Movie all about boy stuff, which only sort of made sense to me. I mean, wouldn’t it be beneficial for there to be just one Movie that covers girl stuff and boy stuff that we all watch together? So girls know what’s really going on with boys? And vice versa? Maybe the boy version of The Movie unlocks the biggest mysteries about their behavior. If I had seen it, I might finally, finally, finally understand the unique male mind-body chemistry that makes all boys think farts are hilarious. But I didn’t see it, so the best I can do is roll my eyes and pinch my nose every afternoon in Woodshop (THE CLASS I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE IN), where the boys outnumber the girls eleven (all of them) to one (me).

  Rumor has it everyone watches an all-in-one version of The Movie next year in eighth grade. Until then, I guess I’m grateful that our teachers kept us apart. The girl version of The Movie was majorly cringe-worthy (pee-yoo-ber-tee! men-stroo-ay-shun!), and I still don’t know if I’m capable of watching any version of The Movie in front of actual boys, because despite my stellar test scores and full schedule of Gifted & Talented classes, I am surprisingly childish about such things.

  Or maybe it’s more accurate to say UNsurprisingly childish. My body isn’t any closer to teenagerdom, so why should my brain be any different? Or my heart?

  And that’s why I’m afraid there’s maybe something wrong with me. My body isn’t responding the way a seventh-grade girl’s body should. And I’m not just talking about the obvious physical stuff, like how I’ve gotten taller but the overall shape of my body has remained otherwise unchanged since first grade. Or how I’m the only one at my lunch table who hasn’t gotten her period. I’m talking about, you know, the kind of boy/girl stuff that The Movie doesn’t cover.

  What kind of stuff? Here’s an example:

  Say there’s a seventh-grade boy. He’s smart. He’s a football player. He’s considered cute by the girls who consider such things. Boy has girlfriend. He wants to break up with her but can’t because his girlfriend had a near-death experience at a sleepover—ahem, an EPIC sleepover—when she was poisoned by strawberry jelly. Only a jerk would initiate a breakup after a near-death experience, and this boy is no jerk. He’s such a good boy that he knows it’s not fair to keep things going with his girlfriend, because he has strong feelings for someone else—another girl. Other girl is an implausible object of affection because she could easily be mistaken for a very tall first grader.

  OKAY. ENOUGH WITH THE HYPOTHETICALS.

  Here’s the real deal: Boy is Scotty. Girlfriend is Dori, my ex-BFF from elementary school. Her near-death-by-strawberry experience occurred at a sleepover at my house, so boy/Scotty blames me for not being allowed to break up with girlfriend/Dori so he can pursue his crush on other girl, who just happens to be—GUESS WHO?!?!—me. As other girl, I should be psyched, right? What seventh-grade girl wouldn’t be? This is exactly the sort of juicy situation that turns a Not into a Hot. Being Scotty’s girlfriend certainly worked to raise Dori’s social profile. But here’s the thing: I’m not interested in being Scotty’s girlfriend and not only because the position is currently occupied by someone else. It’s not Scotty’s fault. He’s ideal boyfriend material. I’m simply not interested in being his—or anyone else’s—girlfriend.

  AND THAT’S WHY I’M AFRAID SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH ME.

  I watched The Movie. I aced the test afterward. So I know about hormones and how they’re responsible for making everything in my body go KABOOM. Occasionally I’ll come home from school in a grumpy mood for a legitimate reason, like after Aleck insisted we could make a hot-air balloon out of balsa wood for our Cooperative Woodshop Project, or when Manda and Sara bonked me repeatedly on the head with their inflatable Spirit Squad Squeaky Sticks. Instead of acknowledging that these are valid reasons to be grumpy, my parents blame it on hormones and accuse me of “being hormonal” and complain about barely surviving the “hormonal years” the first time around with my sister a decade ago. But Mom and Dad are wrong. So, so, so wrong. Other than some attention-getting zits, there’s zero evidence that my hormones are doing much of anything at all. And that’s been perfectly fine with me.

  Until big sis Bethany sent me another one of her IT Lists.

  Chapter Two

  IT List 3

  The Guaranteed Guide to Stressing, Obsessing & Second-Guessing

  1. Early bloomers have it bad.

  2. Late bloomers have it worse.

  3. Be a middle bloomer.

  4. DO. NOT. COMPARE.

  5. Remember: No one knows anything.

  That’s it.

  That’s IT?

  My sister still takes pride in being voted Most Popular, Prettiest, and Miss Perfect back in junior high. Since I began seventh grade, Bethany has been duty bound to pass her wisdom on to me. But she’s really outdone herself this time around with THE MOST USELESS IT LIST OF THEM ALL. (So far.) Let’s review each to-do:

  1. THIS ISN’T EVEN A TO-DO. It’s just a statement of opinion.
I’d boldly argue that my sister’s opinion is WRONG. What’s so bad about being ahead of the curves, so to speak? I’d love to get all my growing up (and, um, out) finished before everyone else so I don’t waste any more time worrying about when it will happen.

  2. THIS IS ALSO NOT A TO-DO. I can at least agree with Bethany on this one. It’s no fun being the last girl in the locker room still waiting to develop enough boobage to fill the tiniest training bra.

  3. Okay. This qualifies as a to-do. BUT IT’S TOTALLY NOT DOABLE. I mean, if I had any control over how and when my body would pubertize (yes, that’s officially a verb now that I’ve made it up), I’d be over and done with all this crazy body-morphing business already.

  4. Um, let’s see. Isn’t this tip the complete opposite of what numbers 1–3 are all about? How do I know if I can “be a middle bloomer” unless I compare myself with the number of girls blooming before (ALL) and after (NONE) I do?

  And finally, the fifth piece of nonadvice:

  5. I ALREADY KNOW I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. THAT’S WHY I’M CONSULTING THIS LIST.

  There IT is, in all its uselessness. Then again, what did I expect? My sister isn’t premed; she’s flunking public relations. Sigh. That’s the last time I seek health advice from someone majoring in Image Marketing and Management.

  So my sister’s guide is totally worthless, but I’m glad I didn’t trash it in frustration. As it turns out, the flip side could prove to be of much greater value. On the back of Bethany’s list is a fascinating document entitled “The Top Secret Pineville Junior High Crushability Quiz.”

  Sounds like a typical magazine quiz, right? I fill in the little ovals and tally up my results and find out that I’m “Cluelessly Uncrushable” or “Uncrushably Clueless” or whatever. But it isn’t that kind of quiz at all.

  Directions: Read the question. Open your heart. Write the answer. Face the truth.

  Um… okaaaaaay.

  Question 1: Are you crushable?

  My answer: I don’t know. That’s why I’m taking this quiz.

  Correct answer: Yes, you are! Unless you think you aren’t! Then you’re not.

  My takeaway: This quiz makes no sense and was definitely written by my sister.

  Question 2: Do you have a crush right now?

  My answer: No.

  Correct answer: Yes.

  My takeaway: This quiz has no idea what it’s talking about.

  Question 3: Every seventh-grade girl has a crush. Who’s yours?

  My answer: I don’t have a crush.

  Correct answer: Yes, you do!

  My takeaway: This quiz is getting on my nerves.

  Question 4: Who is your crush?

  My answer: Nobody! I’ve said it two times already!

  Correct answer: WHEN YOU LIE, YOU’RE NOT JUST LYING TO ME. YOU’RE LYING TO YOURSELF.

  My takeaway: Is it possible this quiz knows things about me I don’t even know about myself?

  Question 5: Who is the boy you miss most when he’s not at school?

  My answer: Aleck from Woodshop.

  Correct answer: Aha! THIS IS YOUR CRUSH. Even if you answered differently in questions 2–4. DISCUSS THIS IMMEDIATELY WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND.

  My takeaway: Wait. What? Whoa.

  How did this dumb quiz outsmart me? It didn’t play fair. I mean, it didn’t ask me to explain WHY I missed Aleck, which is just one of many of the quiz’s design flaws. I miss him because he’s my partner in Woodshop! That’s all! And when he’s not there I have to do all the work on our projects, which… well… actually makes it easier to get things done… but, um… well… that’s not the point. What is my point? My point is, um, I’m the only girl! And all the other boys are gross! But that doesn’t make Aleck my crush! It just means he’s the LEAST GROSS OF THE GROSS BOYS.

  But…

  What if that’s the definition of having a crush? After years of thinking all boys are gross, you come across one boy who seems SLIGHTLY LESS GROSS than the others, and HE’S YOUR CRUSH?

  Yikes.

  IRONY: A quiz attached to an IT List promising to help me stop stressing, obsessing, and second-guessing is now responsible for making me do all three.

  Its creator is away at college. I had no choice but to confront her in a phone call.

  “I don’t understand the Crushability Quiz, Bethany,” I complained.

  “What’s not to understand?” she replied. “It’s about as straightforward as such an examination can be and I TOLD YOU TO DROP IT LIKE IT’S HOT.”

  “Drop, um, what?” I asked, more confused than ever. “I don’t remember that being part of the quiz.…”

  “IT’S LIKE WE DON’T SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE.”

  “Is that why you’re yelling at me?”

  My sister was making even less sense on the phone than she had in the quiz. But that was no excuse for being shouty. If I were in the mood to get LOUD, I would’ve read and responded to one of the bazillion ALL-CAPSY!!!! messages Sara had been sending me all morning.

  “I’m sorry, Jessie. I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to this SORRY EXCUSE FOR A DANCE TEAM.”

  “You’re on a dance team?” I asked. “When do you have time to be on a dance team? Is this a sorority thing? Shouldn’t you be studying?”

  My sister spends more time on academic probation than she does off it. In fact, she only recently argued her way back into school after proving she hadn’t failed a final but actually passed by three points. If three points were all that stood between me and flunking out of school, you can be sure I wouldn’t be spending my time shouting at my sorority sisters to drop it like it’s hot. Whatever that even means.

  “It’s for a good cause. The sorority-fraternity talent show is a fund-raiser for, like, um, world peace or the environment or whatever?”

  “You don’t know?”

  “I am a very busy woman with my social obligations, my sisterhood obligations, my philanthropic obligations, and ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU CALL THAT A HIP-HOP PIROUETTE?”

  My sister has a lot of obligations at school that don’t involve classes, homework, or studying. She effortlessly excels at the stuff that is a mystery to me, which is why I can’t stop myself from reading her IT Lists and Crushability Quizzes, accepting whatever advice she gives me even though it always, always, always ends up MESSING WITH MY HEAD.

  “And yet despite my hectic schedule, I still pick up the phone to talk to my baby sister. I only wish she had called me with hot gossip instead of calling to complain—once again—about all the helpful advice I’ve given her.”

  “But question five—‘Who is the boy you miss most when he’s not at school?’—was a trick!”

  “I take offense to that,” Bethany said. “My quiz has been successfully evaluating crushability for more than a decade. I still use a variation of the formula here at college.”

  Really? That was kind of depressing news. Shouldn’t Bethany’s sorority sisters have all that boyfriend/girlfriend stuff sorted out by now?

  “Kindasorta missing a boy when he doesn’t show up for class is not the same as wanting to kiss that boy.…”

  “Well, in my experience it is. There’s a direct connection between missing and kissing. And why are you even calling me about this, anyway? It clearly advises you to discuss this immediately with your best friend and—”

  My sister stopped to take a breath, and I thought she was going to scream at the dance team again. Instead her voice got all soft and icky sweet.

  “Awww. I get it. I’m sooooo flattered that you think of me as your bestie, but, Jessie, the two of us, we’re really bonded by, like, blood and…”

  NOTHING ELSE.

  I didn’t say it and neither did she. But we didn’t have to. It’s been pretty much obvious since my birth that we have nothing but our parents in common. Bethany is the embodiment of popularity, prettiness, and perfection. And I’m… whatever I am.

  “Anyhoo, you should talk to your best friend about this. Someone who knows you
and the boy and can confirm that, yes, you’re crushing big-time.”

  “And then what?” I asked.

  “And then you make him your boyfriend, of course.”

  OF COURSE. And with that final piece of unhelpful advice and a few unmentionable expletives directed at THE MOST DISAPPOINTING DANCE TEAM EVER, my sister hung up.

  Okay. So I had to consult my best friend if I hoped to get any clarity on crushability. Who was my best friend these days? Another seemingly simple yet complicated question.

  I didn’t know if Hope would consider me her best friend, but she was the only person I’d told about Scotty’s hallway love confession, and I bet I could trust her with this, too. And if she took the quiz, I could compare her answers with mine and… Oh! IT List #4: DO. NOT. COMPARE. But how else was I supposed to know if I’m normal or not?

  With no time to waste, I made a quick phone call just to confirm that she was free. Then I hopped on my bike and headed straight for Hope’s house.

  Chapter Three

  I’d never biked to Hope’s house before. We went to different elementary schools because her neighborhood is in one zone and mine is in another, even though we’re barely a mile apart. As I pedaled down my driveway, I thought about how strange it is that Hope and I have lived within biking distance of each other all our lives but hadn’t met until two months ago.

  Two months ago, I would’ve run across the street to Bridget’s house, just as I have done thousands of times before. But Bridget and I aren’t so close lately. Manda and Sara have accused me of being jealous of Bridget, jealous that she turned pretty overnight, but that’s not true. Bridget and I drifted apart not because I envy her, but because of all the ways her new pretty appearance has affected every other aspect of her life. Most notably, her dramarama relationship with her boyfriend, Burke. There are only so many false-alarm breakup freak-outs I can pretend to care about. Between Scotty and Dori and Bridget and Burke, is it any wonder I have such a dim view of junior-high romance?

 
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