Freshman for PresidentAlly Condie
© 2008 Ally Condie.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Shadow Mountain®. The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Shadow Mountain.
All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Condie, Allyson Braithwaite.
Freshman for President / Ally Condie.
Summary: Tired of not being noticed, fifteen-year-old Milo decides to
run for President of the United States, and through the course of the campaign, he discovers that he—and other teenagers—can make a real difference.
ISBN 978-1-59038-913-3 (paperbound)
[1. Politics, Practical—Fiction. 2. Presidential candidates—Fiction.
3. Self-realization—Fiction. 4. High schools—Fiction.
5. Schools—Fiction. 6. Family life—Fiction.] I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
Publishers Printing, Salt Lake City, UT
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For my husband, Scott,
who has been my running mate in everything from marathons to parenting,
and who has taught me that winning isn’t everything—
but that having a good companion is
Table of Contents
About the Author
Milo had waited for this night for five months. His opponents had been waiting even longer, though—since before he was born. If Milo was honest with himself, he knew that they were much more likely to have their dreams realized when all was said and done, when the votes were in and counted. The other candidates were older, more experienced, and wealthier. He was just a fifteen-year-old kid running for President of the United States of America. The odds were against him in every single way.
A few days ago, he hadn’t cared at all about how this night would end. He’d felt dark and low from everything that had happened and from everything that he’d learned in the past few months. But lately, a little glimmer of hope had started up inside again, and hope is funny that way. It’s sneaky. Even if there is only a little of it, it makes a difference. Lost causes don’t seem so lost. Impossible dreams seem the slightest bit possible.
Milo was sure that his opponents, Senator Ryan and Governor Hernandez, were waiting for the news in their elaborate campaign headquarters, places with all the trappings of political success. Well-connected advisors. Bright lights and conference rooms. Coffee cups littering the floor. Technology he couldn’t even imagine. They were probably surrounded by countless well-dressed staffers running around wearing headsets and official laminated badges clipped to their pockets and lapels.
Milo’s campaign headquarters, where he awaited the news, consisted of one room. Well, maybe three, if you counted the kitchen and the bathroom, which his campaign also used. The main headquarters, though, was centered in the combined dining room/living room of Milo’s house. The room had been chosen mainly because it contained the only large table in the place (and also for its proximity to the previously mentioned kitchen and bathroom).
He was surrounded by his inner circle, which was not made up of carefully selected politicians and seasoned campaign officials, but just his family and a few friends. They had some technology—computers, cell phones, an old TV with the volume turned way up—but not much. The floors weren’t covered with official memos and coffee cups and press passes, they were littered with Post-its and pop cans. And no one working on Milo’s campaign needed a name badge. Milo knew the name of every single individual working on his campaign, something he doubted either of the other candidates could say, no matter how personable and accessible they both were (or professed to be).
He also doubted that the other candidates had parents who were wearing pajamas and dozing off on the couch in campaign headquarters, or friends who had fallen asleep amid their unfinished homework. He didn’t think curfews had decimated his opponents’ ranks at midnight. He also didn’t find it likely that either Senator Ryan or Governor Hernandez would be eating a giant bowl of ice cream while watching the returns. They were probably too stressed to eat.
Milo was plenty stressed, but he was also a growing teenage boy and nothing could really keep him from eating. He lifted the spoon from the bowl to his mouth almost automatically, over and over, as he watched the TV. Pictures of his opponents kept popping up as the votes were announced. It was a close race.
Milo could imagine Senator Ryan and Governor Hernandez watching the news, discussing every development, gritting their teeth every time the new numbers were tallied, closing their eyes now and then to take in the news, bad or good or in between.
In that way, they were all the same. Milo was watching, talking, gritting. And they were the same in another way, too. Whoever was announced as the new President of the United States would be a first.
Governor Hernandez would be the first woman and the first Hispanic to assume the highest office in the land.
Senator Ryan would be the first of his religion.
Milo would be the first teenager. The first teenager to win a presidential election. Ever. In the history of the United States of America.
The little bright spot of hope made him think that anything could happen. Milo knew that hoping too much might be dangerous. He’d learned that lesson time and time again during the months of the campaign. He thought he’d learned it well enough to know better than to hope. But he couldn’t help himself. He hoped.
Six Months Earlier
Sage High’s ancient speakers crackled, signaling an impending announcement from the principal. Milo and his friend Jack looked at each other and groaned. It was the last few minutes of the final class of the day and that meant that the news was bound to be bad. Afternoon announcements were always sheer evil: news about more standardized tests, canceled games or dances . . .
One of Milo’s other friends, Eden, thought they saved the bad news for the end of the day so the students would go home and sleep on it and forget about it. That way, she said, the bad news couldn’t fester and ferment among the students for hours the way it would if they announced it at the beginning of the day. Instead, the news lost momentum. The procedure was diabolical, but so was the school administration.r />
Eden was probably right. She usually was.
“Do you think they added another week to the school year or something?” Jack asked Milo.
“That better not be it.” Milo hoped that the announcement didn’t have something to do with the upcoming student elections, but the fatalist in him knew that’s exactly what the announcement would be about, knew it the minute he heard the ominous crackling sound in the classroom.
“Students, we have an announcement,” said Principal Wimmer finally. He was apparently holding the microphone too close to something because a horrible screeching sound blasted from the speakers.
The students in Milo’s class started muttering and covering their ears. Principal Wimmer had been using the announcement system for years, but it still baffled him every time. Listening to him as he tried to speak was almost as painful as watching him try to set up his PowerPoint presentations for the school’s Assemblies to Increase School Spirit and Pride in Ourselves, Our School, and Our Community.
“What’s he doing in there, torturing a cat?” Jack covered his ears.
The screeching finally stopped. “Oops,” Principal Wimmer said. “My apologies. Now, to get to our announcement. We know this particular announcement will come as a surprise to many of you, but we feel that it is in the best interest of the students at Sage High School as a whole.”
“I think I’m going to bawl,” whispered Jack, rolling his eyes. “They never think about themselves. They only think about us.”
Milo had known Jack for fifteen years and he couldn’t remember a single time he’d seen Jack cry. It was probably because Jack was always too busy making everyone laugh.
“Shut up,” Milo said, smiling to himself. He was trying to listen. Principal Wimmer was talking again.
“We have decided that Sage High School will no longer hold class elections.”
The principal must have known the uproar this announcement would cause, but since he was safely in his office and couldn’t hear the hisses and complaints of a school full of teenagers, he forged ahead. Everyone quieted down to hear the rest of the news.
“We have decided that high school should be a time for unity and that elections have become more popularity contests than we would like them to be. So instead of having class presidents and other class officers, we will have a Student Senate. Everyone who applies and is approved by the faculty will be able to join the Student Senate and have a voice in the running of our school. We apologize to those who had been planning to run for office and hope they decide to contribute to Sage High as senators instead. Thank you for your cooperation and for making Sage High School a special place to be.”
Principal Wimmer had timed his bombshell perfectly. The final bell beeped immediately after he finished his sentence. The speakers quit crackling. The announcement was over.
And so were the elections. Angry students poured into the halls, ready to share their outrage with their friends, ready to take Principal Wimmer’s name in vain as they stood next to their lockers. Milo and Jack made their way through the crowd.
“We have to find Eden,” Jack said. “She’s going to be ticked.”
“She’s going to be livid.” Milo was feeling rather livid himself. This was supposed to be his year. This was the year he wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines the way he usually did. This was the year he was finally going to run for something—for president of his class. He and Eden had planned it all out. He was all geared up to do something big, and now there was nothing.
* * *
“Too much like a popularity contest?” Eden groaned. “As if all of high school isn’t a popularity contest anyway.”
Milo, Jack, and their other friend, Paige, had finally convinced Eden to exit the principal’s office (where she was politely but firmly practicing civil disobedience by ignoring the secretary’s requests to leave). Together they all went back to Milo’s house where they could vent their frustrations about the whole thing as loudly as they wanted.
“They still have Homecoming Queen,” Eden pointed out. “That’s a popularity contest! Much more of a popularity contest than the student elections!”
“Maybe they’ll get rid of that too,” Paige said. “I can hear Wimmer giving that announcement now: ‘Anyone who would like to be one of the Homecoming Senators is welcome to apply.’ Then he could have them all crowned at midfield on Homecoming Day, or maybe just show their pictures in a PowerPoint presentation.” Paige and Principal Wimmer had a long history of mutual animosity.
“Wimmer picked the perfect day of the week, too,” Eden fumed. “Friday. He’s hoping it will blow over during the weekend.”
“It probably will. It’s too close to the end of the school year for most people to care much about it,” Jack said. “Especially the seniors. They’re just coasting through to June anyway.”
“This is not going to blow over,” Eden said. “We’ll start a petition. We’ll fight this thing through.”
“I hate to say it, but I don’t think that will work,” Paige said. “They’re obviously really sold on the whole student senator idea—which is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. I mean, what normal person would want to spend more time at school?”
Milo was quiet. He had been progressing through the Four Stages of Grief That Occur When Your Class Elections Have Been Unfairly Canceled: denial, righteous indignation, sorrow, and finally, acceptance. He couldn’t see any way they were going to get Principal Wimmer to change his mind. He was all about new educational experiments and there was no way he was going to let his Student Senate idea go. Plus Jack was right: it was too late in the year for many of the students to care enough to put up a fight.
Maybe, Milo thought, I’m meant to be a sideline kind of guy anyway. Lots of people were. There was nothing wrong with that. Someone had to be the one cheering from the bench, getting decent grades but never reaching the honor roll, being a little bit of a clown but never getting into any real trouble. It might as well be him.
He liked running with the pack but not having to lead it. He’d been fine with that for most of his life. He liked thinking up crazy stuff with Jack and Eden and Paige. They thought of wild ideas and hung out together in their small group and with their larger circle of friends. Everyone took his or her turn in the spotlight—Paige when she got in trouble, Jack because he played football and was the class clown, Eden because she was on the honor roll. Milo got to be all of those things almost by association. Within their little group, he was an equal player, but he sometimes felt like the outside world viewed him as the permanent sidekick.
And being the sidekick hadn’t really bothered him that much—until a few weeks ago. He’d overheard a couple of sophomores, a boy and a girl, talking about him in the hall. They didn’t even notice he was just a few yards away, his face hidden by the door of his locker.
“You know that freshman . . . what’s his name? The one who’s always hanging out with Eden James and Paige Fontes?” the girl asked.
“You mean Jack? The football player?”
“No, the other one. The skinny kid who’s always hanging around with them. The one who’s always smiling.”
“Oh, I know who you mean. He plays soccer, right? And he’s got brown hair that sticks up everywhere?”
“Yeah, that’s him. I didn’t know he played soccer, though. What’s his name?”
“I’m not sure. I think it’s Owen.”
“That doesn’t sound right.”
“I remember now. It’s Miles. Miles Wright. His sister, Maura, graduated last year. Remember her? She was really cute.”
“So why did you need to know his name?”
“No reason, really. I just couldn’t figure out who he was.”
Logan Nash, who possessed the biggest ego in their grade, joined in the conversatio
n. “Who are you talking about?”
“That Wright kid.”
“Why are you talking about him?” Logan wasn’t Milo’s biggest fan for a few reasons. First, Milo hung out with Paige and Eden, two of the best-looking girls in their grade, and neither of them would give Logan the time of day since he was a jerk. Second, it was widely rumored that Milo was the one who, in the second grade, had started using the nickname “Logan Rash,” which, to Logan’s frustration, had followed him ever since.
Glad that they still hadn’t noticed him, Milo had turned and walked in the opposite direction down the hall, toward Eden’s locker. The sophomores hadn’t known who he was, but he knew both of their names. The girl was Sarah McCoy, one of the most popular sophomores at Sage High and the editor of the school paper. The guy was Rob Traveller. Rob was on the debate team, where he had a reputation for staring down his opponents before the debate even started. Milo knew who they were. He even knew something about both of them. But they couldn’t even get his name right.
He arrived at Eden’s locker feeling very sorry for himself.
“Hey, Milo,” she said.
“Miles,” he corrected her.
“What are you talking about?”
“I just overheard a conversation and found out that no one knows who I am. And if they do, they think my name is Miles.” He told her about Rob and Sarah’s conversation. “I’m just that guy who hangs out with you and Paige and Jack.” Milo sighed in frustration. “I need to do something so people know who I am.”