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Meg's Blog

Happy Blogiversary/Teen Idol Sneak Peek

Hi. So, it's an anniversary of sorts here on the old blog. For one thing, it's been about a year since I started this diary. I have to admit, when I started it, I wasn't too enthusiastic about it. But as regular readers of this blog know, I have become sort of addicted to blogging, to the point where I have to tell myself that I will not blog today, so I can put my writing energy into my latest book.

So, I guess that worked out. So, anyway, happy blogiversary.

Also, it's been two weeks since I moved into my new house in Florida, and contrary to what everyone in the neighborhood told us, the place does not appear to be haunted. I have not seen one weird shadow, or walked through a single cold spot. No unseen hand has tried to push me down the stairs, not have I found a single window or drawer open that wasn't supposed to be. And, perhaps most sadly of all, there is no hot cowboy ghost living in my bedroom.

This all leads me to believe that the people who told me the house is haunted are what we in the writing biz like to call “unreliable narrators.” An unreliable narrator is someone like Mia Thermopolis: she is telling the story the way SHE thinks it happened, but you, the reader, are left with the impression that it probably didn't happen QUITE that way. For instance, Mia thinks she is hideously deformed, but her boyfriend appears to think she is quite hot. That is an example of an unreliable narrator.

And now, due to popular demand, and in light of the double anniversaries, I am going to post a sneak peek of my July 27 release, Teen Idol. Some of you may have already received a sneak peek in the mail, if you are on the Meg Cabot mailing list (to get on this list, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to me at 532 La Guardia Place, #359, New York, NY 10012).

I'm posting a DIFFERENT sneak peek here on the blog, so as not to bore those of you who already got the first one in the mail.

Many of you may have noticed that I am partial to doling out advice on this blog (sorry, the advice column is closed for the time being, so please do not send anymore requests for advice).

I personally love advice columns, which is why, for my book, Teen Idol, I decided to make the heroine a teen advice columnist. I like to think of Jen Greenley, Teen Idol's heroine, as a mediator, just like Suze Simon, from Haunted. Only instead of mediating between the living and the dead, Jen mediates between the popular crowd and the unpopular crowd at her high school.

Because she is such a peacemaker, Jen is first person the school administration thinks of when they learn that a famous teen heart-throb film star, Luke Stryker, is coming to their small town to research a role. They know they can trust Jen to keep Luke's true identity a secret, because that's what Jen does…keep everyone's secrets, in her capacity as Ask Annie, the school's advice columnist (no one knows that Jen is really Ask Annie).

So that's what's going on when this sneak peek takes place: Jen and her best friend Trina (a HUGE Luke Stryker fan) are showing Luke, who is in disguise so as to be recognized, and is also going by the name Lucas Smith, around.

I hope you like this sneak peek at Teen Idol, due in stores July 27. And remember to stop by this blog June 1 for the BIG SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!

Ask Annie

Ask Annie your most complex interpersonal relationship questions. Go on, we dare you!
All letters to Annie are subject to publication in the Clayton High School Register. Names and email addresses of correspondents guaranteed confidential.

Dear Annie,
My stepmom keeps telling me that everything I like is evil, and that I shouldn't like this or that because when I die I will go to hell. She thinks liking rock music, reading fantasy books, and watching MTV is sinful. She goes on and on about how the music, books, and people I like are all evil.
I respect what she likes, and I think she should respect what I like, too. What do you think, Annie?
Going to Hell

Dear Going to Hell,
Tell your stepmom to cool it. You aren't going to hell. You're already in it.
It's called high school.

Annie

Five

I suppose to the uninitiated, the Clayton High School cafeteria might seem a little intimidating. I mean, you cram six hundred teenagers–we eat in two shifts–into any room, and it's going to be noisy.

But I guess Luke wasn't expecting the eardrum splitting decibel of the din.

Then there's the fact that outside of Glenwood Road–which is the main drag through downtown Clayton, up and down which people who have cars drive them every Saturday night–there is no other place that is more of a “scene” than the Clayton High School cafeteria. You can't just grab your food and go and sit down at a table and eat at Clayton High.

No, you have to walk down this long aisle of tables to get to where the food is sold–even if all you want is milk or a soda or whatever.

And while you walk down that aisle, every eye in the caf is on you. Seriously. It is in the caf that reputations are made or broken, depending on how cool you look as you walk up and down that aisle.

Unless, of course, you're me. Then, frankly, no one cares.

Luke, however, didn't know that. He stood in the doorway staring in horror at the aisle, down which Courtney Deckard and some of her posse were sashaying.

“My God,” he breathed. It was kind of hard to hear him above the noise. “It's worse than Sky Bar.”

Trina piped up with, “We call it the catwalk. You ready to strut your stuff?”

Still looking stunned, Luke followed us as we made our way down the catwalk and towards the concession line. I didn't exactly notice the din lessen any as we went by, but I was definitely conscious that we'd managed to capture the attention of every female–from the tiniest freshman all the way to the most senior lunch lady–in the room.

Luke hardly seemed aware of the buzz he was creating. It was like he was in shock. When I handed him a tray, he took it wordlessly. When the lunch lady asked him if wanted corn or greenbeans, he seemed unable to make a choice. I told her corn, since it seemed to me that Luke, as a visitor to our state, might want to try the vegetable for which it is best known.

Once our trays were full, we made our way to the cash register, where Luke was still apparently too stunned to fish out the two bucks his lunch cost. I paid. It's a good thing I'm such a popular babysitter–being boyfriendless, I am always available on Saturday night–because otherwise, if I have to keep paying for Luke everywhere we go, I might go broke.

Trina and I put our trays down at the same table we'd been sitting at every day since freshman year–exactly in the middle of the room, between the popular kids–the trendsetters–and the kids who weren't sensitive enough to have to eat in the choir room, but weren't popular enough to sit with the jocks–the trendfollowers.

Trina and I aren't the only ones at the middle table. There's a bunch of other people who sit there, too. Those people include, but are not restricted to, by any means, most of the schools merit scholars, brainiacs, computer geeks, drama freaks, punks, and the staff of the Clayton High Register.

Geri Lynn nearly choked on her flat Diet Coke as Luke Striker sat down in the chair beside hers and stared broodily down at his food.

“Oh, hi,” she said. “You must be Lucas.”

See? See how fast word travels? I hadn't even seen Geri Lynn yet that day, and she'd already heard about the new guy. Could you imagin
e if word got out about my being Ask Annie? How short a time it would take to make it all the way around the school?

Luke didn't even look at Geri. Instead, he picked up his fork and stabbed at the food on his tray.

“What IS this?” he wanted to know.

“Salisbury steak,” I said. I myself had gotten pizza. I probably ought to have warned him to order off the concession line and not get the school lunch. But I'd figured that maybe, in his eagerness to experience everything Midwestern teen, he'd want to try the steak.

“I'm a vegetarian,” Luke said, mostly to the steak.

“They've got a salad bar,” Trina, who wavers between ovo and lacto, depending on her mood, offered helpfully.
Scott had brought his own lunch, as he does every day. It's usually whatever he had cooked for dinner for himself and his dad the night before, neatly packed in Tupperware containers. Today's seemed to contain baked ziti and garlic bread, which Scott had heated up in the caf's microwave. It smelled really, really good.

“Are you going to eat that?” Scott asked Geri, in reference to the brownie in front of her.

“No, honey,” Geri said, her gaze still locked on Luke. “You go ahead.”

Scott picked up the brownie and took a bite. Then he made a face and set it down. The cafeteria staff's culinary skills are not equal to his own.

“You eat here everyday?” Luke asked, closely examining a piece of salisbury steak he'd skewered.

“It's a closed campus,” I informed him. “Only seniors can leave school grounds at lunch. And even then, they only have Pizza Hut and McDonalds to choose from. Every other place is too far to make it back before fifth period.”
Luke sighed and scraped the steak off his fork.

“You want some of this?” Scott asked, indicating what was left of his ziti. “It's got meat in it, but–”
Luke lowered his fork into Scott's Tupperware container without waiting for further invitation. He took a bite of ziti, chewed, and swallowed. As he did so, I could not help noticing that the gaze of every female in the vicinity–from Trina to Geri to the Japanese exchange student, Hisae–was riveted to his manly jaw.

“Man,” Luke said, after swallowing. “That's good. Your mom make that, or something?”

Scott isn't at all sensitive about the fact that he likes to cook. Unlike some guys, he would never think to deny that he knows how to make ziti. He didn't do so in front of “Lucas” either.

“Nah, I made it myself,” he said. “Go ahead, finish it up. I'm gonna go get another soda.”

Luke was scarfing down Scott's ziti with an enthusiasm surprising for one who professed not to eat meat when all of a sudden, the cafeteria erupted in moos. Seriously. It was like we'd suddenly wandered into the 4-H tent at the Duane County Fair or something.

Luke spun around in his seat, trying to figure out what was going on. But all he saw was what the rest of us saw every single day, Cara Schlosburg making her way down the catwalk from the concession line.

Poor Cara. It's too bad she never made it into showchoir (she auditioned and everything, but didn't get in. Some of the snottier sopranos said it's because there aren't any bras padded enough to mimic Cara's chest, and give us uniformity of appearance). Because at least then she'd have had a safe place to take refuge at lunchtime.

Instead, she tries to eat in the cafeteria like a normal person, and frankly, that's never quite seemed to work out for her.

Cara's eyes, as they always did, filled up with tears as the mooing increased in volume the further down the catwalk she got. She was holding a tray containing her usual low-cal lunch–a plate of lettuce, dressing on the side, a few breadsticks and a diet soda.

But Kurt and his friends have no respect at all for the fact that Cara is trying, anyway, to lose weight. They just went on mooing, hardly even seemingly aware they were doing it. I saw Courtney Deckard let out a moo then go right back to her conversation with another cheerleader across the table from her, as if there hadn't even been an interruption.

“Shut up, you guys,” Cara screamed at the side of the room where the popular kids sat, which was where most–though not all–of the mooing was coming from. “It's not funny!”

The saddest part of all is that I know Cara would have given anything in the world to be sitting there. You know, at the popular table, with the mooers. Cara is one of those girls who worship the jocks and the cheerleaders, the popular people. I don't know why, because I've taken part in conversations with them, with Courtney Deckard or whoever, and they always go something like this: “Did you check out the sale at Bebe this weekend? Wasn't it the best?” or “I told them I wanted a French pedicure to show off my tan, but they made it way too pinky, don't you think?”

Not, you know, that the conversations at my lunch table are more stimulating. But at least we talk about stuff besides what So-and-So was wearing at Whoever's party, and whether or not the Tasti Delite at the Penguin really is fat-free….

But Cara's convinced she's missing out on something, so she tries and tries to get the popular people to accept her into their group, buying all the right clothes, wearing her hair the right way….

But right for who? Not for Cara. Sure, she owned the exact same cargo pants as Courtney Deckard. But she didn't look good in them–at least, not the way Courtney did in hers. Not even close.

And sure, her hair was the same color as Courtney's, honey-blonde (courtesy of the same salon, even). But honey-blonde looks much better on girls like Courtney that it does on a girl like Cara.

Cara looked so bad, in fact, in the clothes and hairstyles that Courtney and her set insisted everyone needed to wear in order to be cool that the very people she was trying to impress could do nothing but smirk at her.

Or moo at her, actually.

It would have been one thing if she just hadn't cared what other people thought about her. I mean, there are lots of overweight girls at Clayton. But the only one who ever gets any grief about it is Cara.

And Cara's reaction to the mooing just makes the mooing more fun for the mooers. People actually moo harder when Cara begs them to stop. I don't see why Cara doesn't see this. I've told her enough times…well, Ask Annie has, anyway.

But Cara can never do anything like a normal person. Instead of just taking her tray and going to sit down somewhere, out of the line of fire, Cara whirled around and around, trying to pinpoint exactly where the mooing was coming from.

“Stop it!” she shrieked. “I said stop it!”

Finally, as inevitably happened most days, someone threw a food item at Cara's head. This time it was a baked potato. It hit her square in the forehead, causing Cara to drop her tray–sending lettuce leaves and Ranch dressing everywhere–and flee for the ladies room, sobbing.

“Aw, geez,” I said, because I knew this was my cue to get up and go try to comfort her.

“What the hell,” Luke said, looking around, an indignant expression on his face, “is wrong with those people?”

“Oh, don't worry about Cara,” Geri Lynn said. “Jen'll fix her up in time for the bell.”

“Jen'll–” Luke looked at me like I was the visitor from the other planet, and not Cara. “This has happened before?”

Trina rolled her eyes. “Before? Every day, more like it.”

I gave Luke a polite smile, then got up and headed after Cara.
I found Mr. Steele, the biology teacher who'd had the misfortune to pull lunchroom duty that day, standing just outside the ladies' room door, calling, “Cara, it's going to be all right. Why don't you just come out and tell me why you're so upset–”

As soon as he saw me, Mr. Steele's face crumpled with relief.

“Oh, Jenny,” he said. “Thank God you're here. Could you make sure Cara's all right? I would, but, you know, it's the girls' room–”

“Sure thing, Mr. S,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said. “You kids are the best.”

I was kind of startled by the 'you kids.' I didn't realize, until I looked behind me, that I wasn't the only one from my table who'd exited the cafeteria. Luke was standing right behind me.

Thinking he was taking the whole shadowing me thing kind of seriously, I said, “Uh, I'll be out in a minute,” and started to go inside after Cara.

But to my surprise, Luke took me by the arm and, dragging me out of earshot of Mr. Steele, went, “What was that back there?”

“What was what?” I really didn't know what he was talking about.

“That back there. That mooing thing.” Luke actually looked a little upset. Well, maybe upset is too strong a word for it. What he looked was annoyed. “You know, when I volunteered for this thing, I didn't exactly expect it to be like the schoolroom on Little House on the Prairie. But I didn't think it would be like a cellblock in some prison drama.”

I am no fan of Clayton High School–or any high school, really, except maybe that one for the performing arts, the one in Fame, where everybody danced on taxicabs in the street–but I still couldn't understand how Luke could compare it to jail. Clayton High is nothing like jail. For one thing, there are no bars on the windows.

And for another, prisoners get time off for good behavior. The only thing you get in high school for not killing each other is a diploma that is good for exactly nothing, except possibly a managerial position at Rax Roast Beef.

“Um,” I said. “I'm sorry.” What was he talking about? Why was he so upset? I mean, yeah, it's mean how they treat Cara, but what am I supposed to do about it? “But I sort of have to go–”

“No,” Luke said, his blue eyes still burning like pieces of kryptonite behind the lenses of his glasses. “I want to know. I want to know why you didn't try to stop those people from tormenting that poor girl.”

“Look,” I said. Cara's wails were getting louder, and I knew the bell was going to ring any minute.

But I don't know. Something came over me. Maybe it was the stress of having a movie star in disguise following me around all day. Or maybe it was residual tension from being yelled at for an hour by Mr. Hall about my jazz hands.

In any case, I think I sort of snapped. I mean, where did he get off, basically saying nothing at all to me for most of the day, then turning around and yelling at me about something Kurt Schraeder and his friends were doing?

“If you disapprove of this place so much,” I hissed, “why don't you just go back to Hollywood? I wouldn't mind, you know, because I actually have more important things to do than babysit prima donnas like you.”

Then I turned around and went into the ladies' room.

I'll admit that, even though my speech sounded cool and all, I wasn't feeling very cool. In fact, my heart was beating kind of fast, and I felt a little bit like hurling my pizza. Because really, I don't yell at people. Ever.

And the fact that I'd yelled at this very famous movie star whom I had been assigned to be nice to by the principal and Juicy Lucy…well, I was kind of scared. Scared that Luke would tell Dr. Lewis what I'd said. Scared that I'd consequently get expelled. And scared that I wouldn't get that diploma after all, and have to work as a drill press operator, just like I'd put on my state achievement test.

Only I'd been joking! I don't want to be a drill press operator! I mean, I'm excellent at solving other people's problems…you know, layout, and all of that. I can see how things fit together, and what should go where, which is why I'm not only Ask Annie, but I help out a lot with set design for the Drama Club. I want to be a therapist–or a designer–or both–when I'm grown up. Not a drill press operator.

Except that it's kind of hard to be a therapist OR a designer on an eleventh grade education.

But I didn't really have time to worry about Luke just then. Because I still had Cara to deal with it.

“Cara,” I said, going to lean against the stall door she'd locked herself behind. “Come out. It's me, Jen.”

“Why?” Cara sobbed. “Why do they keep doing that me, Jen?”

“Because they're idiots. Now come on out.”

Cara came out. Her face was blotchy with tears. If she didn't spend so much time crying, and stopped trying to blow dry her hair so it was stick straight like Courtney Deckard's, and just let it curl on its own, the way it wanted to, and knocked off the capris, which don't look that good on someone her shape, I suspect she might even have been pretty.

“It's not fair,” Cara said, sniffling. “I try and I try…I even told them my parents were going out of town last weekend, and that they could use my house to party in. Did anybody show up? No.”

I turned on the water in one of the sinks and wet a paper towel to wipe the potato guts out of Cara's hair.

“I've told you before,” I said. “They're idiots, Cara.”

“They aren't idiots. They rule they school. How can the people who rule the school be idiots?” She looked woefully at her reflection in the glass above the sinks. “It's me. It's just me. I'm such a loser.”

“You're not a loser, Cara,” I said. “And they don't rule the school. The student council does, technically.”

“But people who are on the student council aren't popular,” Cara pointed out.

“There are more important things than being popular, Cara.”

“That's easy for you to say, Jen,” Cara said. “I mean, look at you. You're pretty and thin and everybody likes you. EVERYBODY. You've never had people mooing at you.”

This is true. But I also never went out of my way to try to get people to like me the way Cara does. I mean, like wearing clothes that don't look good on me just because they're popular, or doing my hair a certain way because that's how Courtney Deckard wears hers.

When I mentioned this, though, Cara just went, “You sound just like Ask Annie. Be yourself. That's what she's always saying.”

“It's good advice,” I said.

“Sure,” Cara said, sadly. “If you know who yourself even is.”

The bell rang, long and loud. A second later, the ladies' room was filled with girls eager to check their hair before heading off to class. My tete-a-tete with Cara was at an end. For now.

“I'll see you later,” I said to her. She just sniffled in reply, and dug around in her purse for some tissue. I wasn't surprised. Cara never thanked me for coming to check on her after one of her outbursts. It was one of the reasons, I was pretty sure, why she has no real friends. She just doesn't know how to treat people.

I have to admit that, what with the whole Cara thing, I'd kind of forgotten about Luke Striker…at least until I came out of the ladies' room and there he was, waiting for me.

The sick feeling came
right back to my stomach. What was he still doing there? I'd really thought that, after my outburst, he'd have stalked off and called his limo to come pick him up. Instead, he came up to me and, his hands in pockets, asked, “So what do we have next?”

Just like that. Like nothing had happened. Like I hadn't told him to go back to Hollywood or anything.

What did this mean? That he wasn't going running to Dr. Lewis, to tell him what I'd said? Was he just going to pretend like my outburst hadn't happened? What kind of person does that?

I am very good at figuring people out. Except, apparently, Luke Striker.

The knot in my stomach loosened a little after this, but I still didn't feel completely at ease. I didn't know what had caused Luke to change his mind about me and Clayton High–or even if he'd changed his mind–but I did know one thing:

I doubted either of us were going to be able to live up to his expectations.

Look for Teen Idol in stores July 27th!
And check back here June 1 for HUGE NEWS.
More later.

Much love,

Meg

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