It has been fun all month featuring excerpts from YA and MG books with school settings to celebrate everyone going back to school. Here in Nashville all the kids have been in school long enough for Fall Break to already be upon us (which is perfect time to get in some just-for-fun reading, btw). Among the excerpts we’ve had horse stories, ghost stories, a zombie story, and one about Drama Club. If you haven’t seen them, scroll on down and enjoy. For the last excerpt, I’ll pull out a scene from my own book, Cry of the Sea.
Cry of the Sea does feature mermaids, but mostly it is a story about Juniper Sawfeather, a teenage daughter of environmentalists and her finding her own place in the world. There are quite a few scenes in the book that take place at school, and this is one of the earliest ones. Earlier in the morning, Juniper and her father rushed to document damage at a reported oil spill and made a pretty big discovery. Now, hours later, she’s late for school, and after being held up by an unsympathetic vice principal, she is joining her best friend Haley to try to pitch a new club to the student council to get their vote of approval.
The Student Council meets in an office near the cafeteria. Haley stood in the hallway outside the room, cell phone in hand, and started shouting at me as soon as she saw me dodging people with trays of bean burritos and cheesy nachos to get to her.
“Where have you been? Why didn’t you answer your phone? They’re waiting for us!” Then, noting my oversized boy clothes, “And what are you wearing?”
“I know,” I said, breathing hard. “I’ll explain later. You look really cute though.”
And she did. Haley had on this really neat combination of pale green and brown. Khaki pants, green turtleneck, with a chocolate brown knit poncho over it. I really liked it, even though I would never have thought of putting those two colors together because I would look like an Andes mint. She even had her hair down and curled, instead of up in her usual ponytail.
She smiled at the compliment, and before the smile could fade, I grabbed her hand, took in one more big breath and opened the door to the tiny classroom usually reserved for tutoring or small group lessons. The four members of Student Council raised their heads to us as we burst into the room. I could see that each of them was about to say something about how it was too late and lunch was nearly over. However, my momentum was way up and my patience way thin, so I didn’t even wait for the Council to say anything before I started speaking my piece. Once my mouth opened, I kind of couldn’t stop it.
“Hi guys,” I said. “Sorry I’m late, I was at the beach all morning rescuing sea animals hurt by an oil spill. It was slightly more important to me than American History and Chemistry, because, you know, these are living, breathing creatures that are dying. A lot of them were dead already, and it took time to walk through all of that and search for the still-living ones. It had to be done because you never know what you’re going to find. There could be something really important out there that needs help, something that needs to be discovered and saved. The Founding Fathers are dead and can’t help, really. Memorizing what elements make superglue stick is also not going to help.”
Everyone looked very puzzled, including Haley. I didn’t care. I went on.
“Another thing more important to me than colonists and chemicals is getting to live past forty, which won’t happen if the environment collapses on all of us because we aren’t taking care of it. Our oil spills kill animals; our trash is killing ourselves. Now, that may not matter to all of you, but it does me, and Haley, and several other people in this school who would like to be in our Recycling Club.
“What is this club about, you ask?” I went on before anyone actually could ask. “We just want to get some trash cans specifically marked for recycling. We want to gather the recyclables once a week and take them to a recycling center. We will keep an eye out for containers littering our campus that could be recycled, and we will put out information to let the students know how to participate in our club and mission.
“What do I need from you?” I went on again, seeing them itchy to interrupt. “Nothing. I mean, it would be nice if you occasionally put your Aquafina bottles or Red Bull cans in the recyclable bin. That would be cool of you. Otherwise, all we really need is for you to give us the big Okay. Because, really, our club is nothing that interferes with your other plans around this place and is only going to help you and the school in the long run.”
Haley stared at me for a moment in shock. I’m not sure her expression had flipped over to totally upset or angry, although it wasn’t exactly “Way to go, June” either. I hadn’t done the presentation as we had planned. She had handouts and a Power Point document with bullet points. She was supposed to be the one talking—not me. I had skipped all that. After another beat, I turned my attention to the four seniors in front of us to see what would happen next.
The four of them sat in chairs behind one long table. Marlee Gephalt, our school treasurer, wasn’t looking at us. She was busy picking all the raisins out of her salad. Ted Cowley, the group secretary, didn’t have a pen out to record any of this. Don’t think I saw paper either. He did have a phone in his hand though and seemed to be endlessly texting somebody. Gary Donnelly, the vice president, had his feet up on the desk in front of him and was leaning so far back in his chair he had to be seeing only his size eleven Jordans and not our faces.
Then there was Regina Williams, class president and royal B. Her Blonde Highness leaned way forward and rested her chin in her hands like a little schoolgirl, pretending to be amazed and awed by us. She stayed this way for almost a full minute after I had finished speaking as though she hadn’t noticed I stopped.
Finally she asked, “Is that it?”
Haley cleared her throat and answered hesitantly. “No.” Regina’s eyes cut over to my friend like she was an irritating bug. “I mean that we have some charts and… stuff.” Her voice dwindled off as she noticed Regina was no longer looking at her and was focused on me again.
Regina raised her hand like she was addressing a teacher with her question. I nodded uncomfortably, and she asked, “So, do you guys mean that you’re going to be digging in the trash to get the cans out?”
Marlee glanced up from her salad. “Ew!”
Want to know if Juniper and Haley get their club? If Juniper helps the mermaids and the sea creatures caught in the oil spill? Well, all you have to do is click on one of these little links and get yourself a copy. Paperback
Ebook or paperback
Barnes and Noble
Oh, and for you librarians, it's available at OverDrive too.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.