sunday stories: set in schools

September 24, 2017

i spent yesterday with some of my writing friends, first at blue willow bookshop (best independent bookstore in houston) to hear one share her children's story about harvey the cat, and then went with another one to barnes and noble booksellers, where a manager hosted a sort of scavenger hunt, looking for teen books that fit certain categories: ten tales that involve a love triangle; ten in which the characters go on a road trip; ten that have been made into movies...

the activity appealed to me, and i was a little disappointed when it was over. i could've spent hours in that store, lingering in the stacks and making lists of books -- even if i never read some of those stories. i enjoyed scanning the selection. i love making lists, so i thought i'd continue that project on picky, and today i have for yall ten favored stories that are set in an academic environment.

i'm interested in what sorts of lists yall would make, so i hope you'll link up for this one. my list looks like this:

for me, halloween is the best holiday in the world. it even beats christmas. i get to dress up in a costume. i get to wear a mask. i get to go around like every other kid with a mask and nobody thinks i look weird. nobody takes a second look. nobody notices me. nobody knows me.

i wish every day could be halloween. we could all wear masks all the time. then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we look like under the masks...

i knew it wasn't a bleeding scream they were looking for. it was a boba fett.

i was going to go and sit at my usual desk, but for some reason, i don't know why, i found myself walking over to a desk near them, and i could hear them talking...

one of the mummies would say: "it really does look like him."

"like this part... " answered julian's voice. he put his fingers on the cheeks and eyes of his darth sidious mask... "if i looked like that," said the julian voice, kind of laughing, "i swear to god, i'd put a hood over my face every day."

"i've thought about this a lot," said the second mummy, sounding serious, "and i really think... if i looked like him, seriously, i think that i'd kill myself... i can't imagine looking in the mirror every day and seeing myself like that. it would be too awful. and getting stared at all the time..." the mummy shrugged. i knew the shrug, of course. i knew the voice. i knew i wanted to run out of the class right then and there. but i stood where i was and listened...

i know the names they call me. i've been in enough playgrounds to know kids can be mean. i know, i know, i know. 

i ended up in the second-floor bathroom. no one was there because first period had started and everyone was in class. i locked the door to my stall and took off my mask and just cried for i don't know how long. then i went to the nurse's office and i told her i had a stomach ache, which was true, because i felt like i'd been kicked in the gut (p. 73-79).

thirteen reasons why
the next day at school i asked so many people the exact same question, where were you last night? some said they were at home or at a friend's house. or at the movies. none of your business. but you, tyler, you had the most defensive -- and interesting -- response of all.

"what, me? nowhere."

and for some reason, telling me you were nowhere made your eyes twitch and your forehead break into a sweat... hey, at least you're original. but your presence, tyler, that never left. 

after your visits, i twisted my blinds shut every night. i locked out the stars and i never saw lightning again...

why didn't you leave me alone, tyler? my house. my bedroom. they were supposed to be safe for me (hannah, pages 88-89).

eleanor and park
park noticed the new girl at about the same time everybody else did. she was standing at the front of the bus, next to the first available seat.

there was a kid sitting there by himself, a freshman. he put his bag down on the seat beside him, then looked the other way. all down the aisle, anybody who was sitting alone moved to the edge of their seats. park heard tina snicker; she lived for this stuff.

the new girl took a deep breath and stepped further down the aisle. nobody would look at her. park tried not to, but it was kind of a train wreck/eclipse situation...

the bus stopped again, and a bunch more kids got on. they pushed past the girl, knocking into her, and dropped into their own seats.

that was the thing -- everybody on the bus already had a seat. they'd all claimed one on the first day of school. people like park, who were lucky enough to have a whole seat to themselves, weren't going to give that up now. especially for someone like this...

the girl started moving toward the back of the bus. right into the belly of the beast. god, park thought, stop. turn around. he could feel steve and mikey licking their chops as she got closer. he tried again to look away.

then the girl spotted an empty seat just across from park. her face lit with relief, and she hurried toward it.

"hey," tina said sharply... "that's mikayla's seat."

the girl stopped and looked up at tina, then looked back at the empty seat...

"i have to sit somewhere," the girl said in a firm, calm voice.

"not my problem" tina snapped. the bus lurched, and the girl rocked back to keep from falling. park tried to turn the volume up on his walkman, but it was already all the way up. he looked back at the girl; it looked like she was starting to cry.

before he'd even decided to do it, park scooted toward the window.

"sit down," he said. it came out angrily. the girl turned to him, like she couldn't tell whether he was another jerk or what. "jesus-fuck," park said softly, nodding to the space next to him. "just sit down" (pages 7-9).

the perks of being a wallflower
i look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. if they like their jobs. or us. and i wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. not in a mean way. in a curious way. it's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report on top of that. or wondering who did the heartbreaking. and wondering why (p. 142).

all the bright places
"what in the hell were you doing in the bell tower?"

the thing i like about embryo is that not only is he predictable, he gets to the point. i've known him since sophomore year.

"i wanted to see the view."

"were you planning to jump off?"

"not on pizza day. never on pizza day, which is one of the better days of the week." i should mention that i am a brilliant deflector. so brilliant that i could get a full scholarship to college and major in it, except why bother? i've already mastered the art (page 13).

harry potter and the sorcerer's stone
out on the stone steps, harry turned to the others.

"right, here's what we've got to do," he whispered urgently. "one of us has got to keep an eye on snape -- wait outside the staffroom and follow him if he leaves it. hermione, you'd better do that."

"why me?"

"it's obvious," said ron. "you can pretend to be waiting for professor flitwick, you know." he put on a high voice. "oh professor flitwick, i'm so worried, i think i got question fourteen b wrong..." (p. 269).

the truth about alice
so why don't i mind living here? first, everyone leaves me alone. which is to say they ignore me. which is not as bad as it sounds. to be honest, it's really rather nice to be afforded such freedom of time and of space to read, to think, and to study, and to be left in peace. when i sit by myself in the cafeteria rereading the hobbit for the thirteenth time just because i want to, i don't look out onto the sea of faces and wish i wasn't alone. i simply acknowledge the sea exists and go back to the hobbitit isn't difficult for me.

secondly, i haven't minded living in healy because my grandmother is a loving and caring woman who has raised me with affection and compassion.

lastly, alice franklin lives here.

alice franklin with the raspberry lips and the bad reputation and the faraway eyes (pp. 34-35).

we are okay
before hannah left, she asked if i was sure i'd be okay. she had already waited an hour past when the doors were closed for winter break, until everyone but the custodians were gone. she had folded a load of laundry, written an email, searched her massive psychology textbook for answers to the final exam questions to see if she had gotten them right. she had run out of ways to fill time, so when i said, "yes, i'll be fine," she had nothing left to do except try to believe me.

i helped her carry a bag downstairs. she gave me a hug, tight and official, and said, "we'll be back from my aunt's on the twenty-eighth. take the train down and we'll go to shows."

i said yes, not knowing if i meant it. when i returned to our room, i found she'd snuck a sealed envelope onto my pillow. 

and now i'm alone in the building, staring at my name written in hannah's pretty cursive, trying to not let this tiny object undo me (pages 1-2).

a separate peace
"the reason, sir, was there we just had to jump out of that tree. you know that tree..." i knew, mr. prud'homme must have known, finny knew, if he stopped to think, that jumping out of the tree was more even more forbidden than missing a meal... 

phineas was the essence of this careless peace. not that he was unconcerned about the war. after mr. prud'homme left he began to dress, that is he began reaching for whatever clothes were nearest, some of them mine. then he stopped to consider, and went over to the dresser. out of one of the drawers he lifted a finely woven broadcloth shirt, carefully cut, and very pink...

"this," he then answered with some pride, "is going to be my emblem. ma sent it up last week. did you ever see stuff like this, and a color like this? it doesn't even button all the way down. you have to pull it over your head, like this."

"over your head? pink! it makes you look like a fairy!"

"does it?" he used this preoccupied tone when he was thinking of something more interesting than what you had said...

he did wear it. no one else in the school could have done so without some risk of having it torn from his back... 

it was hypnotism. i was beginning to see that phineas could get away with anything. i couldn't help envying him that a little, which was perfectly normal. there was no harm in envying even your best friend a little (pages 22-24).

the duff
"spanish, huh?" he said, glancing down at the scattered papers as he grabbed them. "can you say anything interesting?"

"el tono de tu voz hace que quiera estrangularme." i stood up and waited for him to hand over my papers.

"that sounds sexy," he said, getting to his feet and handing me the stack of spanish work he'd swept together. "what's it mean?"

"the sound of your voice makes me want to strangle myself."

"kinky" (pages 17-18).


  1. I loved Eleanor and Park! I keep meaning to read more of Rainbow's books but I haven't gotten around to it quite yet.
    The Beth Next Door

  2. This is an incredible compilation of books and I loved the excerpts you included because it makes me want to read them all :)

    (Wonder and The Truth About Alice are both now on my to read list!)

    Eleanor and Park was such a magical book and I went on a bit of a reading streak with some of Rainbow’s books last year. Thanks for sharing—must bookmark and revisit.

  3. I love E&P, Wonder, All The Bright Places, and Wallflower. The Duff has been on my list forever too.

  4. I read Wonder when my daughter had to read it for school. It's an excellent book. I'm glad its a required book at my kids' schools. My son is now reading it for his grade.

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