Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Art Geeks and Prom Queens

Alyson Noel

  Advance Praise for

  Art Geeks and Prom Queens

  “I love Alyson’s use of dialogue. It’s acerbic and vicious and bitchy. Totally realistic, in other words, without a false note.”

  —Catherine Forde, author of Fat Boy Swim

  “A book about life in the fast lane . . . The reader cheers for New York transplant Rio as she wanders through a minefield of peer pressure in a quest for popularity and a place to belong. Slick and hip!”

  —Lurlene McDaniel, author of My Secret Boyfriend and the Angels in Pink series

  Praise for

  Faking 19

  “Gloriously outrageously funny . . . Faking 19 is Feeling Sorry for Celia with an L.A. edge.”

  —Jackie Fischer, author of An Egg on Three Sticks

  “Deliciously funny and irreverent. I couldn’t put this down!”

  —Niki Burnham, author of Royally Jacked

  “I loved Faking 19. . . . A totally convincing look at one teenager’s broken world, and how she reaches inside herself to fix it.”

  —Joe Weisberg, author of 10th Grade

  art geeks


  Prom Queens

  Also by Alyson Noël

  Faking 19

  art geeks


  Prom Queens

  Alyson Noël

  St. Martin’s Griffin New York

  ART GEEKS AND PROM QUEENS. Copyright © 2005 by Alyson Noël. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

  Book design by Irene Vallye

  Illustrations by Sarah Hughes

  ISBN 0-312-33636-5

  EAN 978-0-312-33636-3

  10 9 8 7 6 5

  In memory of Beryl Rothstein, 1928–2004


  Thank you to my family and friends for their endless supply of enthusiasm and support; to my editor, Elizabeth Bewley, for her sharp eye and impeccable taste; to the long-ago classmates who stood by me when I was the bullied “new girl,” and as always, thanks to my husband, Sandy Sherman, who fills each day with magic and makes everything possible.

  art geeks


  Prom Queens


  “Oh, no. You are not wearing that,” my mom says, barging into my room and invading my privacy as usual.

  I’m sitting on the floor, rolling my eyes and tying my shoes. I mean, the fact that she despises my faded, old Levi’s and “Cape Cod Crew” sweatshirt (that is now so faded and peeled it reads “ ape Crew”) is reason enough for me to love it. “Mom, it’s fine. Trust me,” I say, making a mental note to get a lock on my door ASAP.

  “No, Rio, it’s not fine. You’ve got to make a good impression on your first day!”

  “I know what I’m doing,” I say, glaring at her as she plows through one of the open boxes like it’s a sale bin at Barneys.

  “Here, why don’t you wear this?” She holds up the denim miniskirt and sparkly tank top she gave me right after she broke the news about moving, as if it were no more than a simple costume change, and that they weren’t really wrecking my life.

  “Forget it.” I shake my head and push it away. “There’s no way I’m showing up on my first day at a new school looking like a Hilton sister.”

  “This outfit is adorable, and you’ve got the figure for it,” she says, holding it against herself and looking in the mirror.

  “That outfit will get me killed! All the girls will hate me if I show up in that.”

  “This outfit will get you noticed!” She raises her eyebrows at me.

  “Then why don’t you wear it?” I roll my eyes at her white terry-cloth short shorts, matching hoodie, and sky-blue Ugg boots, which have apparently become her new “O.C.” uniform. “Besides, it’s only January,” I remind her.

  “Yes, and it’s already seventy degrees out. People here dress for the weather, not the seasons.”

  “ ’Cause there are no seasons in this freaky place,” I say, suddenly hating her all over again for dragging me across the country, far away from everything I know and love. I mean, we’ve only been here a week, but it may as well be a year. I’m completely miserable and it’s totally my parents’ fault.

  If my dad hadn’t decided to move to the Newport Beach office, and my mom hadn’t insisted on throwing out all of our “heavy, New York furniture” before replacing it with “California-lite,” I wouldn’t be sleeping on the floor and getting dressed out of a box. And from what I’ve already witnessed of her own extreme beach-bunny makeover, I’ve got a sick feeling she’s going to decorate the entire house with nothing but yoga mats and water bottles. I swear I miss my old bed almost as much as I miss my old friends.

  “Well, if you insist on wearing sweats, at least let them be designer.” She reaches for the new hot-pink Juicy Couture sweat suit she bought me two days ago.

  “Mom, no! I’m totally gonna be late!”

  “Good, you’ll make an entrance!”

  “Yeah, only in high school they call it ‘being tardy’ and it’s frowned upon,” I say, surrendering to her sales pitch against my better judgment.

  When I’m dressed for the second time, in the outfit of her choice, I notice she’s staring at my shoes, eyes filled with disapproval.

  “Forget it,” I tell her. “I’ve compromised all I can. Now would you please just drive me to school?”

  “Not until I put on my lips.”

  I roll my eyes, grab my backpack, and run down the stairs and out the front door to the new white convertible Jaguar that’s sitting in the driveway. I throw my bag on the floor, fasten my seat belt, and just sit there and wait while she locates the perfect shade of lip gloss that will offset the blue in her eyes (made even bluer courtesy of Bausch & Lomb), the blond in her hair, and transform her back into the fabulous Jahne Jones, former almost-supermodel, that she was twenty years ago.

  In my mom’s world, lip gloss is definitely more important than getting me to school on time. I swear, her priorities are a total mess.

  Okay, so this is the movie-trailer version of my life. I’m sixteen but almost seventeen, named after a Duran Duran song (which was some big-deal group in the eighties that you might have heard of, depending on whether you watch VH1 or MTV). My mom dated one of the members for three weeks back when she was a model, but she’s very vague about which one. Still, sometimes I fantasize that it was the really cute one and that he’s actually my real dad, and that any day now he’ll come claim me and take me away from this crazy house. But the reality is it probably wouldn’t be any better, since rock stars aren’t exactly known for their stability.

  My real dad is “very busy making money for my mom and me and the people that work for him and their families,” as well as “upholding the law by defending the innocent,” which is the line he’s been giving me for every missed school function, birthday, and holiday since I can remember. I mean, he’s a defense attorney, but he probably travels more than a rock star, and sometimes I think Larry King and the camera crew at CNN get to talk to him more than I do.

  I feel guilty for saying that (even though it’s true), because the fact is we’re pretty close, and he’s my only ally against my mom. But the problem is he’s gone so much that I’m usually left to fight my own battles, and believe me, it’s exhausting.

  I’m an only child and we have no pets because “animals may look cute from a distance, but they’re destructive, shed, shit, and throw up” (that was a d
irect quote from my mom), and except for the shedding part, it’s probably the same reason why I have no siblings.

  And today is the first day in my new school, but it’s not the first day of school. It’s actually the first day back from winter break. And it totally sucks because I was pretty much hoping just to blend in and go unnoticed, but now I’m gonna be the late new girl in the hot-pink Juicy sweat suit, and you just can’t blend when you’re late and pink.

  My mom slams the brakes in front of the administrative office, and I look at my watch and shake my head. Twenty minutes late.

  I grab my backpack and then nervously run my hands through my long, honey-blond tangled hair, redo my ponytail, and open the door.


  “Yeah?” I look at her without even trying to hide my annoyance.

  “Do you want me to help you find your class?”

  “Mom, please. I’m not in kindergarten. Jeez.” I shake my head and glance nervously at the empty campus.

  “Okay,” she says, in a hurt voice designed to make me feel bad. And it does. “What time do you want me to pick you up?”

  I look at her sitting there in the Jag, and I know she means well, but I go, “Don’t pick me up, Mom. Please don’t pick me up. I’ll find my own way home.”

  “Okay,” she says, shrugging and looking away like she doesn’t care, but I know she does.

  “Are you gonna be okay today?” I ask, climbing out and closing the door between us. It’s weird how I worry about her sometimes. It makes me feel like I’m the parent.

  “I’ll be great! But you better get to class. You’re twenty minutes late you know!”

  Then she puts the car in gear and speeds away.


  I sling my backpack over my shoulder and head to the office so I can inform whoever’s inside that I’m new, late, and have no idea where I’m supposed to go next.

  I pull on the heavy glass door, walk inside, lean against the counter, and wait for someone to notice me. This woman with severely bleached hair and a starched white blouse with tiny pink flowers squints at me and says, “And how can we help you?”

  “Um, I’m new here. It’s my first day, and I’m not sure where I’m supposed to go,” I tell her.

  She turns to her computer and taps a few keys. “Name, please?”


  She stops. “Like in Brazil?”

  “Like in the song,” I say, tired of always having to answer this question.

  She knits her brows together like she’s trying to remember how that one goes, then she shakes her head and says, “And your last name, Rio?”


  “Very good. Well, I see that you’re scheduled to be in AP English. You do know you’re twenty minutes late?” She gives me a stern look.

  I look at my watch and shrug. “Um, actually I think it’s more like twenty-five.”

  “We’ll let it go today. But tomorrow be on time.” She looks like she means business.

  “I promise.”

  “C’mon. I’ll walk you.” She reluctantly sets down her coffee cup, and sighs as she rises from her desk.

  “Oh, you don’t have to do that. I can find it,” I tell her.

  “Are you sure?” she asks, pausing in her ascent, which makes it pretty obvious she’d rather stay.


  She hands me some papers, and by the time I’m standing in front of the classroom door I’m in a total panic and I wish I’d let her come with me. But I have to do this, so I take a deep breath, grab the handle, and when I go inside I can feel like twenty pairs of eyes checking me out, including the teacher.

  “Hi. Um, I’m supposed to give you this. I’m new.” I hand her the pink slip the office lady gave me. Then I just stand there and wait and hope I don’t look like a total reject as I stare at the walls that are covered in orange-and-brown construction-paper leaves that say “Fall into Literature.”

  “You go by Rio?”

  I nod.

  “You know you’re late? Class is half over.” She runs her fingers through her short, brown, practical hair and peers at me through metal-framed glasses perched on the end of her nose. Her skin is so pale and translucent it looks like it was carved from a bar of glycerin.

  “I know. I’m sorry,” I say, rubbing my arm like I always do when I’m nervous.

  “Okay, well I’m Mrs. Abbott, and there’s an empty seat right over there.”

  I walk over to where she was pointing, slide into the empty second-row seat, unzip my backpack, and pull out my favorite pen and the notebook I used at my old school. On my last day, all of my friends signed the cover and seeing it now makes my throat go all tight, and my eyes start to sting, and I wish I’d bought a new one. So to distract myself, I flip my pen upside down and watch the miniature New York skyline float by in a cloud of glitter, and then I flip it the other way, sending it back where it came from. But it doesn’t cheer me up.

  Mrs. Abbott goes back to the chalkboard and starts writing stuff on it and I know I should concentrate and copy it all down, but I can feel the girl at the next desk totally staring at me. And it makes me nervous and self-conscious.

  I pull my zipper all the way up, making sure my chest is completely covered, since in the last year it’s gone from nonexistent to Jessica Simpson proportions, and I’m not entirely happy about it. Not to mention the five-inch growth spurt that has me clocking in at just under five feet ten, and my new, shiny, straight teeth no longer covered in thick metal braces. I mean, this is what it must feel like for those Extreme Makeover contestants. Only I didn’t ask for any of this. And it might sound crazy, but I was actually way happier as a short, chubby, acne-splattered, flat-chested dork.

  Even when people would look at my mom and then me and then back at my mom, and whisper, “Is she adopted?” it didn’t bother me. Really. It was just a lot easier when I was the type of girl no one wanted to be like and everyone ignored. Because that kept their expectations low, so I could just be myself.

  But now that I look different people are starting to treat me different. And it always makes me feel like I’m disappointing them by being a big geek, instead of glamorous and exciting like my mom. Also, I can’t stand the way they always stare at me.

  Like right now.

  I take a deep breath, look over and smile and try to seem friendly. But she doesn’t smile back.

  She just taps her fingers against the chunky knit sleeve of her cheerleading sweater and looks me up and down.

  And all I can think is: I’m dead.

  When the bell finally rings I grab my backpack and hurry into the hall in search of my new locker. Okay, it’s not like I have anything to put in it yet, but I figure I should at least know where it is. So when I finally find it, I’m spinning the lock trying to make sure the numbers are lining up in just the right spot, and I hear someone behind me go, “So.”

  I turn and face the cheerleader from my English class. Her sweater is turquoise, white, and green, which I guess are the school colors, and in the middle is a fuzzy white megaphone that says “Kristi!” in black cursive letters.

  “Hey,” I say, not sure if she’s being friendly or menacing.

  “Your locker’s, like, right next to mine.” She stares at me with these piercing blue eyes, holding some books against her hip with one hand, while twisting her long dark-brown hair around and around the index finger of the other. And she’s so petite, pretty, and perfect, I feel like Shrek in comparison.

  “Really?” I say, trying to appear excited about this new piece of information.

  “Yeah, that one’s mine.” She points to a locker two rows over and one row up.

  “Oh, okay,” I say, smiling and nodding even though I have no idea where this is headed.

  “So what’s your next class?” she asks, checking out my clothes, shoes, watch, backpack, and earrings.

  “Um, AP Art,” I say, squinting at my class schedule.

  She looks at me for a long
moment and I’m starting to feel really uncomfortable when she finally goes, “Well, ciao!” and gives me this little wave with her hair-wrapped index finger.

  As I watch her walk away I realize I have no idea what just happened, but I know it can’t be good. Because let’s face it, girls like Kristi just don’t talk to girls like me.


  When I walk into AP Art, I’m the last to arrive even though I tried to be early. So I go across the room and introduce myself to my teacher, Ms. Tate, and it’s kind of weird, because she looks really similar to my art teacher from my old school, with her mass of dark wavy hair falling almost to her waist, hardly any makeup, and at least three piercings in her right ear (there may be more but I can’t tell because of her hair).

  I hand her my paperwork and after looking it over she taps a pencil against the faux-wood grain of her desk like she’s deciding something important, then she stops tapping, and tells me to take a seat at the long table in the corner.

  I consciously avoid the curious stares of the other students as I sit on the vacant chair next to a skinny girl with chin-length, choppy, red hair and a cool vintage outfit that has so much going on it’s hard to take it all in with just one glance. When she looks at me with these heavily black-rimmed eyes I sort of press my lips together in a pathetic, nervous, no-teeth smile. I guess after my strange encounter with the cheerleader I’m feeling a little shy. But unlike Kristi, she smiles and says, “Hey, I’m Mason, and that’s Jas.”

  I look across the table to where she’s pointing, and sitting there is like the cutest guy ever. Okay, maybe not gorgeous in that perfect Hollywood “spray-on tan personal trainer Brad Pitt in Troy” kind of way. But definitely cute in that “real person who goes to your school and he’s sitting right in front of you right now” kind of way.