Thursday, January 17, 2013

Spotlight: Playing Nice by Rebekah Crane

Today we have an excerpt from Playing Nice by Rebekah Crane! Playing Nice is a comin-of-age tale of a girl who's been following the rules all of her life and is finally learning to brak free and be herself. Check out the synopsis:

Martina "Marty" Hart is really nice. At least, that's what people think.

It's Marty's junior year at Minster High. Minster's a small town where making great grades, smiling pretty, helping old people, running the new-student Welcoming Committee, and putting up decorations for all the dances--including the totally awful Hot Shot fall hunting celebration--gets you ... what? Marty's not sure.

Instead of dreaming about a sororities-and-frats future at nearby University of Michigan, she's restless, searching for a way out of the box her controlling mother and best frenemy Sarah have locked her in. When Lil--don't call her Lily!--Hatfield transfers to Minster, Marty gets her chance. Lil's different. She smokes, wears black, listens to angry punk records, and lives in a weird trailer with her mother. Lil has secrets--secrets that make her a target for all the gossiping and online bullying Minster can muster. But so does Marty. And Marty sees something different in Lil. Something honest.

Something real.

Playing Nice is the achingly true story of a girl who's been following the rules for so long she's forgotten who she was when she started. It's about falling in love with the wrong people and not seeing the right ones, about the moments in life when you step out of line, take a chance ... and begin to break free.

Excerpt from Playing Nice:

Do you smoke?" Lil asks, finally looking at me. The color of her eyes matches the nose ring, and I can’t help but think that without so much black eyeliner, Lil might be pretty. 
"I tried it once, but it's not for me." 
"Are you a virgin?" 
"I..." The question throws me. Did she just say virgin? I wring my hands together, wondering what to say. I can't admit I've never had sex, but I don't want to lie and say I have, either. It's an un-winnable question. If I say yes, I'm a prude. If I say no, I'm a slut. 
And what if Lil tells everyone in school my answer? I think about that poor freshman girl who got caught 'thrusting' a senior and choke. I can't believe she asked me that. She's ruining the way this is supposed to go. I ask the questions and she answers; her somewhat lengthy response leads us to further conversation. 
I play with the front of my dress, running my hands down the smooth cotton. I picked it out specifically for today's warm weather. It's Mod-style and shows off my legs in a non-sexy, non-nun like way. Just how I like it. 
"I'm kidding. Of course you are. No boy could get past those tight thighs," Lil says and points to my crotch. I pull my legs even closer together. She digs into her black, silver-studded purse, but I can't stop looking at her face and gaping at how casual her eyes are as she asks me such personal questions. 
"Do you need me to show you to your first class?" It's the only thing I can think of. I've never felt more awkward. Not even the time Robby Sumter accidentally grabbed my boob diving for a basketball in gym class and got an erection. 
I remind myself to smile. A smile makes everyone happy. 
"What I need is a cigarette, so if you don't mind, Pollyanna, I'm going to find a tree outside where no one can see me and have an early morning nicotine breakfast. I'd ask you to come, but I'm afraid your virgin stink will rub off on me and, since there’s nothing else to do in this town, I plan on getting laid while I'm here. See you in English." 
My mouth falls open. In one sentence, she's admitted to having sex and wanting to have more. Doesn't she know you can't do that here? Was she raised in some sort of hippy commune in Florida where people walk around naked and talk about sex like it’s the weather? 
"Wait," I say, not realizing my mouth is moving. My skin tingles with little poking needles and a bubble rises in my gut, screaming to be released. She should need me. Instead, she's blowing me off like I'm not good enough because I'm a virgin and I care about my lungs. This is the only opportunity I have to make my impression. And it’s going wrong. 
Lil looks at me, eyebrows raised. Her eyes are so clear, like a summer sky in the middle of the day. The color is so different from the rest of her black-covered self. It's mesmerizing. 
Words come out of my mouth that I don't expect. Maybe it's because it's my duty to make sure Lil does well today. Maybe I'm worried she’ll contact U of M and tell them I failed her. Or maybe I don't want to sit in the Special Ed classroom, thinking about penguins and sex and waiting for my first class to start. Maybe I want to be outside instead of stuck inside the four walls of this school. 
"Can I come with you?" I ask. 
She doesn't respond at first, just keeps staring at me with squinted eyes, like she's scanning me for possible diseases. 
"Fine," she grumbles. 
I don't know why I want to go anywhere with Lil. Based on the black clothes and skull ring alone, I'm pretty sure she's a one-way ticket to hell, but I grab my backpack and make for the door nonetheless. 
I just hope she doesn't ask me about sex again.

About the Author:

Rebekah Crane fell in love with YA literature while studying Secondary English Education at Ohio University, but it wasn't until ten years and two daughters later that she started to write it. Inspired by her past students, growing up in Cleveland with its fabulous musical theater community, and music of all kinds (particularly the Avett Brothers), she created PLAYING NICE. It is her first published novel, but having an unbridled imagination, it's not the only fantasy world she's lived in (just ask her husband). She now lives in Colorado, where the altitude only enhances the experience.

For more about Playing Nice check out these sites!


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