Limos, Lattes and My Life on the Fringe

Limos, Lattes and My Life on the Fringe

by Nancy Rue


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From bestselling author Nancy Rue comes a YA contemporary novel where prom season takes on a deeper meaning, as a girl nominated for prom queen as a joke decides to use the opportunity as a way to empower her fellow classmates. And ends up questioning her self-perceptions in the process.

For Tyler Bonning, not caring what others think is her super power. As is her ability to find the perfect, cutting response. All she needs to be happy is her group of equally smart and quirky friends and high grades to get into a good college. Then she’s nominated for prom queen as a joke.

Deciding to make the most of the opportunity—and mask her pain—Tyler starts a Prom for Everyone campaign intended help make the event more affordable. In the process, she discovers the way she’s perceived by her classmates—as well as her supposedly close friends—may actually be more important than she thought. And she doesn’t like the person they perceive her to be. With her parents pressuring her to focus on the racial issues at school instead of a frivolous cause, and a growing closeness to a boy who represents everything she once mocked, Tyler questions who she really wants to be. And as prom approaches, she faces her biggest challenge yet. One she can’t handle on her own.

Limos, Lattes & My Life on the Fringe:

  • features a diverse main protagonist
  • focuses on the ideas of self and identity, and what we let define and divide us
  • provides an inspirational message for those dealing with tough circumstances
  • is the final book in the Real Life series, but can also be read as a stand-alone novel

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310714873
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 04/11/2011
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 812,607
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 13 - 16 Years

About the Author

Nancy Rue has written over 100 books for girls, is the editor of the Faithgirlz Bible, and is a popular speaker and radio guest with her expertise in tween and teen issues. She and husband, Jim, have raised a daughter of their own and now live in Tennessee.

Read an Excerpt

Limos, Lattes & My Life on the Fringe

Real Life
By Nancy Rue


Copyright © 2011 Nancy Rue
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-71487-3

Chapter One

Before I even start to tell you what happened to me my junior year in high school, let me just say I've changed a whole lot since then. As in, if my outer self had changed as much as my inner self, I'd have to constantly show my ID, because nobody would recognize me.

As a matter of fact, this whole story is about me practically changing into somebody else—which is why I have to show you who I was back then. The problem is, you might not like that girl I used to be. I wasn't even that crazy about me. But if you promise to stick it out, I promise to make it worth your while. It was definitely worth mine.

It all started to change that spring afternoon. Up until that day— that hour— I was used to the reactions I got when I walked down the hall at Castle Heights High.

I could always predict that the Kmart Kids—not my name for them, even when I was so critical I could filet a person with my tongue—would cut a wide path around me, like caring about grades made me an alien. Make that tall, gawky, black, and intelligent. They didn't get me, and I was really okay with that.

And it was also a safe bet that the Ruling Class would ignore me, even though I was in every honors class known to adolescence with them. Well, at least the four honors classes the school actually offered. And I knew that the African Americans— my "people" as my parents insisted on calling them—would say, "Hey, Tyler," with Crest-commercial smiles and then move on, because we really didn't have much in common beyond the color of our skin. According to them.

My actual friends—a group I referred to in my mind as the Fringe—were also predictable. From them I could expect things like, "You're looking enigmatic today, Tyler." At which point any passing Kmart Kid would scurry away as if vocabulary was a contagious disease.

I had come to expect all of that. It was like the way I ate a raspberry Pop-Tart for breakfast every day. It might not be that interesting, but at least I knew what I was getting.

But then there was that day in April, when the snow had all melted for the first time since late November and I had walked to school without a ten-pound down jacket. Like I said, that was the day it changed—the way people were looking at me, I mean. Three steps from my locker on the way to the lunchroom, I was already wondering what high school I'd been teleported to.

I hiked my black-and-white plaid messenger bag over my shoulder, stuffed with all the research I'd done the night before on Andrew Jackson for my group history project. I was thinking about what an egotistical bigot the man was and how we could possibly present that in our report, since Mr. Linkhart was from Mississippi or someplace and probably thought Jackson should be canonized as a saint. My head was totally wrapped around that when three girls in too-tight sweaters and too-skinny jeans planted themselves right in front of me. I tried to steer around them, the way they would have steered around me any other day, but they shimmied themselves into that path too and stared at me. It was like they were waiting for me to, I don't know, transform into another life form.

"What?" I said.

Apparently that was hilarious, because they spewed giggles and looked at each other and giggled again, all the way down the hall. I decided that couldn't possibly have anything to do with me, and I proceeded another five steps toward the cafeteria, where two-thirds of my group was supposedly waiting with their own bags bulging with fascinating facts about our seventh president. I was thinking they'd probably want to mooch off of my facts, as well as my lunch money, when another trio of girls slowed down to gape at me and then sidled off, tittering. I've never "tittered" in my life, but I knew even the kids who thought studying was hazardous to their health didn't collapse into that kind of hilarity without a reason, however lame it might be.

I took a detour into the girls' restroom and examined my face in one of the mirrors generations of girls had clouded with clandestine cigarette smoke. My brown eyes stared back at me as if to say, What are you looking at? Yeah, in those days, I even looked at myself that way.

I expected to see ink smeared across my cheek, or at the very least a large wart blossoming on my forehead. But I looked the same as I had that morning when I brushed my teeth. Hair cut into a close cap on what my mother referred to as a "nicely shaped head"—like that was every girl's goal—skin still the color of pancake syrup, mouth still big enough for several people, nose still the only accusing hint that all my ancestral "people" had not come from Africa. There was nothing in the mirror that all those kids in the hall hadn't seen before. Definitely nothing worth "tittering" over, unless you counted the map of red lines in the whites of my eyes from studying until midnight. Did they think I was on drugs? Were they on drugs?

"Oops," somebody said from the doorway.

I looked at her from the mirror. Alyssa Hampton, a senior. Pretty blonde girl. If you liked big teeth. Half the males in the senior class apparently did.

Another girl came in behind Alyssa, nearly plowing into her. Hayley Barr, a junior of thick ponytail fame. The two of them were normally attached right about where their jeans hugged their hips. Jeans that cost more than the entire wardrobe of those six girls in the hall. Combined.

"Hi, Tyler," Hayley said in a voice about two keys higher than her usual voice. "You going to lunch?"

She looked at Alyssa and, to their credit, they visibly stifled the laughter that was so clearly about to explode out of them.

"I usually go to lunch," I said. "Why? Are they serving botulism again today?"

They did explode then, and I knew it wasn't my humor that sent them diving into a stall. Together.

Seriously—what was making me such a source of endless amusement?

I transferred my bag to my other shoulder and hauled Andrew Jackson back out into the hall, where I set out again for the lunchroom. But when I saw my second cousin Kenny at the drinking fountain, I swerved and caught up to him before he could take off to join the other professional slackers at the Jiff-E-Mart.

"Do you have any idea why every girl in this school suddenly thinks I'm funnier than Tina Fey?" I said.

He raised his head and blinked. I could see him taking a full five seconds to recognize me, which made sense. We hadn't actually spoken since Christmas dinner.

"Who's Tina Fey?" he said.

I should have known. Whenever I did try to have a conversation with the boy, he never had any idea what I was talking about. I'd suspected for some time that he was hatched from an egg every morning.

"I don't think you're that funny," he said.

A girl materialized. Candace, Kenny's older sister. Also my second cousin.

"Come on, Kenny," she said, wrapping her fingers around his arm. "You don't want to get into this."

"Into what, Candace?" I said.

"Into nothing." With her hands on Kenny and her eyes warily on me, she dragged him away.

All right. Enough. I charged down the hall, through the looks and the snickers and the snippets of conversation, like I was traveling in a tunnel. I went straight to the table in the corner by the "salad bar" nobody ever ate from, and when I arrived I knew at least things were still normal over here.

Matthew sat, as usual, with his enormous feet propped on a chair, which meant the teacher/cop of the day hadn't been by yet to tell him to get them off. Scrawny Yuri was across from him, frowning at the ingredients printed on an energy drink bottle. Deidre, the only senior in our group of juniors, was standing up, digging through a vintage purse suitable for a bag lady, which probably contained items she hadn't seen since seventh grade. She was talking. Nobody was listening. I sank into the plastic chair next to her and plunked my own bag on the table.

"Does anybody know what's going on?"

"Are we talking globally?" Matthew said. "We're pretty sure Pakistan's harboring Osama Bin Laden. We have a black president—"

"Mercury's in retrograde," Deidre said into her purse. "No, I mean here," I said.

Yuri looked up from the drink bottle and squinted at me through his wire-rimmed glasses. "Who cares what's going on here?"

"Not me, usually," I said. "But people I don't even know are walking up to me and losing it."

Deidre dragged her eyes from the bottomless bag and pulled her dark I-refuse-to-tweeze eyebrows together over her yes-it'sbig-so-sue-me nose.

"They know something you don't?" she said. "Hard to believe."

"Maybe it's about that," Matthew said.

"About what?" I said. Matthew's currently raven-black hair hung over his eyes, so it was hard to tell what, if anything, he was seeing.

"That." He jerked his square chin toward the opposite wall of the lunchroom.

I followed his jerk. Our cafeteria was long and narrow and an even uglier green than any other part of the over-fifty-year-old school. To make it look even longer—and uglier—rectangular tables were placed in rows all the way from one end to the other. Green, yellow, and orange plastic chairs always started out tucked into the tables at the beginning of lunch period but were quickly scattered and regrouped and often overturned, until by the end, the place looked like those prison scenes you see in movies where the inmates start banging their cups and somebody gets thrown into the chow line. One teacher/monitor was only enough to keep that to a minimum.

One of the advantages of being a junior or senior at Castle Heights High was getting to sit at the round tables that skirted the room. We—that would be the Fringe and I—had claimed ours in September, and like most groups we were pretty territorial about it. Which meant we seldom ventured to the other end, where the bulletin board hung. The Ruling Class had their three tables down there so they could preside over the significant events posted on it. Homecoming queen. Roles in the current theatrical production. Starting lineup for the next basketball game. If I'd had the slightest interest in any of that, I might have wandered past it now and then. Since, however, I could very possibly live my entire life successfully without ever going to a homecoming dance or cheering at a basketball game, I'd never even glanced in that direction.

But at the moment, everybody else in the student body appeared to be absolutely fascinated by it. The crowd in front of the board was four people deep.

"Let me guess," Deidre said. "They posted the results of the 'Most Shallow' competition."

"Oh." Matthew sat upright in the chair. "Do you think I won?"

Deidre shook her head. "Although I have known puddles deeper than you, Matthew, I'm sure you didn't."

"Shucks," he said to Yuri.

Yuri cocked a colorless eyebrow that matched his hair. "Define shucks."

"That can't be it," I said. "If my name ever appeared on that board it would be for 'Most Unknown.'"

"Isn't that an oxymoron?" Matthew said.

"Is that what they call this?"

We looked up at a wildly curly brunette who'd appeared at the salad bar and was poking the tongs into a stainless steel pan full of brown lettuce.

I studied her for a few seconds. She didn't immediately fall into any of the categories of people I passed in the halls. In fact, I didn't think I'd ever seen her before. It had to be tough being a new kid in April, when all the friend slots had long since been filled. It had been hard enough for me at the beginning of sophomore year, seeing how most of the friend slots here had actually been filled back in preschool.

"Do you know what's going on down there?" I said to her.

She gave the lettuce another dubious look and moved on to the anemic chopped tomatoes.

"I think they posted the nominations for prom queen," she said. "I'm not sure—this is only my second day here."

Yeah, I was good.

"How's that working out for you?" Matthew said.

She passed on the tomatoes too and dumped a spoonful of grated cheese onto her plate. "Is there a microwave we can use?"

Matthew laughed out loud. Yuri scrutinized her as if she were speaking one of the few foreign languages he didn't know.

"No," I told the girl. "We're lucky to have electricity. Where'd you move here from?"

"France," she said.

Deidre stared. "Seriously?"

"My family lived there for five years."

She brought her plate of cheese close to the table, and for the first time I saw that she had incredibly blue eyes, even though her skin was almost as dark as mine.

Deidre kicked Matthew's feet off the extra chair. "Join us," she said, "if you can stand Mr. Crude."

"My stuff's over there," she said. "Thanks, though. Most people here aren't this friendly." She glanced toward the bulletin board again. "They're kind of mean, some of them."

"What do you expect from the low end of the food chain?" Matthew said.

Yuri just glowered.

"No, seriously." French Girl lowered her voice. "A bunch of them are up there laughing their fannies off because somebody's in the top four for prom queen that evidently isn't queen material."

"Did she just say 'fannies'?" Deidre said to Yuri.

"Trust me," I said, "nobody made it to that list that wasn't supposed to be there. We have people who oversee those kinds of things."

"The principal does that?"

Matthew snorted from under his hair. "He never comes out of the office. Nobody's seen him since the Clinton administration."

I shook my head at French Girl. "A bunch of juniors and seniors run everything."

"You'll know them by the vacant look they get in their eyes when you use words of more than three syllables," Matthew said.

"Except 'Abercrombie,'" Deidre said. "They know that."

Yuri was still glowering. "It's all inbreeding."

French Girl had yet to crack a smile. It was time to find out which way she was leaning before we said much more.

"Were you in student government at your school in France?" I said.

She shook her head and pushed a few curls behind her ear. "I was homeschooled."

The three of us exchanged glances.

"What?" she said.

I cleared my throat. "Just a word of warning. Those kids aren't usually outright mean until somebody does something 'different.' Otherwise, they don't really have to be, because they're already in control."

"So start by not telling anybody you've been home-schooled," Deidre said.

The blue eyes blinked. "I don't get that. And I definitely don't get the prom queen thing."

Deidre patted the empty chair. "You absolutely should sit with us. You've found your people, right, Tyler?"

"Huh?" I said.

I'd heard the words, but most of them hadn't sunk in. My eyes and my mind and the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach had wandered back toward the bulletin board. Now the entire cafeteria was alternating between ogling our end of the room and doing some variation on a disbelieving guffaw.

"Tyler?" Deidre said.

"Who is it—do you know?" I said.

French Girl shook her head.

"Will somebody go look?"

"Oh, can I please?" Deidre said. "And can I also poke a fork in my eye?"

"Why do we care who it is?" Matthew said to Yuri, who answered, "We don't."

The girl edged away. "Listen, thanks for talking to me. I better go eat."

"I'll walk with you," I said.

"Oh, yeah," Matthew said. "She could get lost in here. It's a veritable labyrinth."

He gave the whole table an elaborate shrug. I followed French Girl down the aisle, past the freshmen and sophomores, who had also sorted themselves into a caste system early on in their high school careers—if not sooner, since they'd all basically been born in the same hospital. Normally louder and more obnoxious than the crowd at a tractor pull, they practically went into a coma as I went by.

What? I wanted to say to all of them.

But the closer I got to the board, the surer I was that I already knew "what." My mouth felt like sawdust, and my stomach was all the way into the feeling I hadn't had since my first day here a year and a half ago, moments before I made up my mind that fitting in was not my life goal. Even the cafeteria food couldn't wreak this much havoc on my insides.


Excerpted from Limos, Lattes & My Life on the Fringe by Nancy Rue Copyright © 2011 by Nancy Rue. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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