Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wanting more...

I am no doubt, a fan of the classics.  However, I think in today's modern society, teens lack the ability to relate directly or even be impacted by books written so long ago.  History is something they snore at, albeit ignorantly, but they do.  I want to spice up the reading list for my students, I want to bring fresh authors to light and study books that are relevant to them NOW, not through years of probing and prodding.

The following books were chosen as Morris Award winner for Young Adults for 2012.  I'd like to each one next year.  Which do you think is the best option?  I am leaning towards Paper Cover Rock by Jenny Hubbard because it references A Separate Peace on multiple occasions.  I thought maybe we could read A Separate Peace in the fall in lieu of short stories, let that lead us into research covering World War II, and then connect it all with Paper Covers Rock at the end of the year.  Call me crazy, but I want them to like learning!

2012 Winner

Where Things Come Back
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.  ISBN 978-0-4424-1333-7.
Lily, Arkansas, seems like a sleepy town where it would be unlikely for anything of note to the outside world to happen. But Cullen’s seventeenth summer is marked by the overdose death of a relative, his brother’s disappearance, and the discovery of a woodpecker thought to be extinct. These seemingly disconnected events collide in this novel which demonstrates that nothing is random.  Whaley’s story will absorb readers as they follow Cullen on his journey through an unforgettable summer.
“With plot twists and surprising connections, this is one of those rare books that does not come along often,” said Morris Award Chair Teri Lesesne.

2012 Finalists

The Girl of Fire and ThornsPaper Covers RockUnder the MesquiteBeween Shades of Gray
The Girl of Fire and Thorns written by Rae Carson, published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.  ISBN 978-0-06-202648-4.
Elisa bears the Godstone.  She is a chosen one.  What she is chosen to do is unclear, but perhaps her journey to marry the king of a neighboring country in the midst of war will provide some of the answers.  Carson weaves together religion, politics, prophecy,  and more in this fast-paced fantasy that brings Elisa to a destiny  no one could have anticipated.
Paper Covers Rock written by Jenny Hubbard, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. ISBN 978-0-385-74055-5.
Alex, a junior at an exclusive boarding school, uses his journal (neatly hidden inside a copy of Moby Dick) to relate the disturbing events that led to the drowning of a classmate.  Hubbard’s literary references, her creation of Alex’s poems and journal entries, and her storytelling skills combine in a story about the code of silence that often compromises the code of honor.
Under the Mesquite written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, published by Lee and Low Books.  ISBN 978-1-60060-429-4.
This novel in verse tells the story of Lupita, the oldest of eight children.  When Lupita’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, it is up to Lupita to step into a role she never considered taking in her drama class:  surrogate parent.  McCall’s chapters are exquisite poems with language that sings and stings.  Finding hope amidst despair, finding the chance to laugh, and finding the incredible power of family  make this a memorable reading experience.
Between Shades of Gray written by Ruta Sepetys, published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group USA.  ISBN 978-0-399-25412-3.
In lyrical prose, Sepetys introduces readers to 15 year old Lina and her family as they are evicted from their home in Lithuania  and transported to Siberia as prisoners during Stalin’s reign of terror in the 1940s.  The journey is perilous; not all will survive. Lina is determined to document it all in her art and her journal. Sepetys shines a light on a corner of history not often seen in YA literature. The juxtaposition of lyricism in the midst of the horror underscores Lina’s indomitable spirit.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Contemporary and Classics

Right now, I am reading To Kill a Mockingbird with my 10th grade English classes.  I will soon begin Of Mice and Men with my 11th grade English classes, and Holes with my Reading class.  Of these three novels, on Holes by Louis Sachar is considered to be young adult reading, but each year we perpetuate the cycle of classic literature onto today's high school students.  I find myself this year asking why?

It's not that I don't believe in the validity and power of the aforementioned novels, I do.  Wholeheartedly.  To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best novels ever written, and while many students do become attached to the novel, rarely do they do so until Tom dies - even throughout the court case, they keep waiting for the Disney ending to come along and save the day.  It isn't coming.

I guess what I'm pondering here is the question - if they won't read the classics, what will they read that has literary merit?  There is a slew of Young Adult novels out there, but which ones are best to teach?  I'm writing one myself, and I'm not sure it'll ever see the light of publication, but if it does - can I teach it?  Does it merit an in-depth study.  It has language, and sex, and violence, but it's real.  I believe young people want to read something real and relevant to them.  Just this year, we as teachers, requested to teach The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  We were denied for two main reasons:

  1. They claimed the reading level was too low.  I assure you, based on what I am working with, it was NOT too low.
  2. The content was not appropriate.  In the novel their is a masturbation moment of a teenage boy - really, is that far fetched?  I think not.
The content is age-appropriate, the reading level allows for understanding, and the historical work we could have done with Native American tribes would have been fantastic.  I believe it was the mention of masturbation that upset the powers that be more than the reading level.   Yet, it's okay to read about murder, mayhem, drinking, suicide, drug use, incest, sex, racism, rape, and retardation.  These are just a few of the topics I teach in the "approved" selections for 10th and 11th grade reading.  But masturbation, that is over the line.

There is a debate in our county over selecting books kids would read anyway, saying that "If they would read it anyway, we shouldn't teach it."  But, I disagree.

Teaching a book is very different from simply reading for pleasure.  And some books that are great stories require an in-depth look at the historical basis for students to really appreciate the literature.

So, with all of that said - any recommendations from the masses out there about more modern contemporary novels that merit a study as much as the classics? 

Thoughts and opinions welcomed.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

Crossed is the sequel to the amazing book Matched by Ally Condie.  It is the second book in the trilogy.  Crossed  continues to follow the life of Cassia Reyes and her quest to find the boy she loves and the redemption from her Society life, The Rising. 

At the end of Matched, the reader is left wondering what Cassia will do - how will she solve her love choice between Xander and Ky?  We know Ky is the man of the hour, but her childhood love for Xander is never far from her thoughts.  Crossed answers that question for us and much more.  And within this simple decision of love, Cassia is also to answer questions that are bigger than she is...what is the journey of life all about?  Is their ever true freedom - freedom from The Society, or freedom in The Rising?  Cassia believes with all her heart that The Rising is the answer she needs.  The answer to her love for Ky or Xander, the answer to who she can trust, the answer to save her soul.  It's the quest of a lifetime.

Her journey is long and hard.  She meets some she can trust and finds that others she thought she knew were keeping secrets from her, secrets that change almost everything.  She is challenged.  Ky is challenged.  And the true conflict of the story is how they meet, and sometimes fail to meet, the test in front of them.  They are both seeing the world as a different place, but for Cassia it is all new.  Ky brings his family demons with him and his status as an aberration, but Cassia has never known anything outside the comfort of The Society, until now. 

She proves to be a strong heroine, not afraid to take chances.  She endures, as well as anyone else,  scourging across unknown territory.  She will let nothing stand in her way of getting to Ky, The Rising, or back to her family; even back to Xander. 

Crossed as a sequel does not disappoint.  It hints enough at Matched to keep the reader engaged and wondering about the characters met before now, but moves forward in a way that introduces new characters, settings, and plot lines to the reader in an unobtrusive way.

This book is written from both Ky and Cassia's viewpoint, it shifts every chapter.  I must admit, I found myself enjoying the chapters from Ky's viewpoint more than Cassia's.  I'm not sure why, I can't quite put my finger on it.  Possibly because I believed so much in the suffering of Ky's character and knew the true heartbreak that would ensue for him if he was to lose Cassia in this book.  I kept reading to make sure Ky was safe and loved.  My heart bleeds for him.  I'm not sure how I feel about Xander, and sometimes how I feel about Cassia.

I can't wait for the final book to hit the shelves so I can devour it as quickly as I've devoured the first two.  Ally Condie - you certainly have my attention!

I can't find a date for when this will be released, but when I do - I'll post it! :-)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Matched by Ally Condie

Love triangle.  Yep - that's the premise for Cassia Reyes in Matched by Ally Condie.  But, before you think "not another teen drama" give Matched a chance.  I read the book in three days, could not put it down.  A love triangle exists, because we all know that love is a fundamental emotion coursing through teenage veins (and ours, to be honest), but it's different for Cassia and for Xander and Ky - her double matches; there's more at stake than just a broken heart. 

The Society, the world in which they live, has created perfection.  Couples are genetically matched by genes, DNA, and the potential for perfect offspring (as a teacher in public education, I can say this does NOT sound like a bad system).  This happens on or shortly thereafter their seventeenth birthday.  In short, The Society plays Cupid.  And while some parties are destined to be singles for the rest of their life, those that are the best are matched with the best.  Your match most likely will come from another province outside the one you live in, but for Cassia, that's where the surprise begins. 

***Side note:  Now, if you're a word nerd like I am, the idea that the outlying areas are called provinces immediately sparked your musings of war.  Province comes from the Latin word Provincia, meaning territory under domination (pro -before, vincere - to conquer).  So, as I started reading more about Cassia's love matches, it didn't surprise me that one of them came from a war-torn province with plenty of sultry mystery. 

Her match night goes as planned, with one little twist.  Her perfect match is right in the room with her; her best friend Xander.  While this is rare, most people meet their match on a screen before them, neither are upset by the match, in fact, Xander was hopeful all along.  But, the mystery begins when Cassisa gets home to read her micro-card about Xander.  This is a chip containing all information about your future betrothed.  Cassia doesn't really see the point in reading hers because she's known Xander her entire life, but curiosity gets the better of her and she pops her card into the reader.  Xander's face is there for only a moment and then it's somebody else - somebody she never thought would be a match for her, Ky Markham. 

The Society doesn't make mistakes.  This could not possibly be happening.  Why hasn't she ever looked at Ky this way before?  What are the odds that he's now a part of everything that she does?  Is The Society playing tricks with her?  Or is this who she's really supposed to love?  Does she have a choice in a world where everything is chosen for her:  who to be, who to love, where to work, and when to die?  Choice...choice...choice - Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage, against the dying of the light...

Matched is a well-written novel at 400 pages, and I found it to be an easy read with excellent flow to the story.  Condie's descriptive language is right on cue; not too much that you are drowning in it, and just enough to give you an adequate picture of the life inside The Society.  Lucky for readers, Matched is part of a trilogy, and the second book Crossed is in bookstores now.

Ally Condie ( is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband and three sons outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.  SERIOUSLY - CAN SHE SOUND ANYMORE LIKE ME??? (except I like watching my husband work on his car and listening to him play the drums)

For more information about Matched  and the author, visit the book's website.  In the YA world, I would give this book a definite "two thumbs up" - it's enough science fiction/fantasy to keep a reader turning the page, with just enough reality to make one wonder, "What would I do???"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

I wrote this on my other blog, but since it's really YA - thought I'd share here, too.

Sara Zarr is one of my favorite YA authors.  She doesn't implore the use of paranormal or fantasy in her writing - just good ol' fashioned story telling.  Stories that appeal youth and adults alike.  I met her four years ago when she was doing a book tour for Sweethearts, her second novel and it was fascinating to hear her read from the text.  A real live author in the high school where I teach reading aloud to teens hanging on her every word.

I enjoy her writing so much, I've even emailed her since the meeting - something I've never done before with an author - to share with her how her books have touched my life.  She replied!  It felt like a real conversation.  Her books are stories I think of fondly all the time and ones I know I'll read again.  She is the author of four novels:  Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, Once was Lost and now, How to Save a Life.  I loved her first three novels, so I knew I would love the latest publication.

And I did.

Sara Zarr's latest book How to Save a Life does not disappoint. This touching YA novel shows the depth of caring and love through a family experiencing a great loss.  Robin, after losing her husband suddenly has decided a new baby is just what the family needs.  She and "Mac" had always talked about adopting and fostering but just never got around to it.  Jill, her daughter, is completely against the idea.  Since her father's death, Jill has adopted a "rebel without a cause" attitude towards life.  It's mostly just a ploy to cover up the immense hurt she feels from losing a parent at such a young age.  Her high school graduation is fast approaching, and who she was before and after her father's death are complete strangers to one another.  She's managed to isolate herself from her friends and her first love boyfriend is in an on-again-off-again status, it really just depends on the day of the week.  And now - now her mom wants a new baby?  Jill could not be more pleased (a sarcastic line I feel her character would think apropos). 

But her mom is convinced it's what the family needs.

Enter Mandy.  A young girl that's found herself in a family way before her time.  Mandy has only had one love, Christopher.  She's saw him once, at a Fair, and they sneaked off to the corn fields.  It sounds horrible - the idea that she jumped right into the veggie stalks with this guy, but when you read the way Zarr writes this true love moment in time, your heart bleeds for Mandy.  When learning she is pregnant, she panics because she doesn't know who the father is.  Still sounds like you'd think poorly of her - you're wrong again.  Mandy's mother is "that mom".  A mom that has a string of boyfriends and the next one is going to be the one that gets them out of their situation, which of course he never is.  The latest love conquest, Kent, is more interested in Mandy that her mother.  Let your imagination run wild.

But, despite her poor upbringing, Mandy is not a dumb blonde - an idea her mother would prefer her to be.  She decides she wants her baby to have a better life than she does and she knows one thing for certain, she never wants the baby around Kent and her mother.  She goes onto an open adoption website and Robin is there - it's Kismet.  Things aren't perfect and there are some bumps in the road, but in the end How to Save a Life does just that. 

Zarr's use of language and writing style is what makes this story so appealing.  I found myself nodding along with lines of text, quotes like, "It’s the quiet kind of crying that can go for hours, when over and over again you try to stop, try to tell yourself it’s going to be okay, but another part of yourself can’t stop thinking about the thing that’s breaking your heart."  Reader's will find themselves immersed in sympathy and empathy for the characters she creates.  

I don't know what's next on her writing plate, but I hope for something soon.  If you'd like to check out more about Sara Zarr, visit her website at

Ruined by Paula Morris

It is not often that I read a "ghost story" and truly love it.  The only other book that grabbed me this way about an ethereal being was Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (and reading this book made me want to re-read Niffenegger's book because it was just so good!).

Ruined, by Paula Morris, is a great read!

I find I'm a a little behind the curve in writing about this book, though.  It was published August 1, 2009.  Whoops!  I bought it at the book fair last year and just got around to turning the pages. It starts slow, but once you're in - you're in!

Book Description via
Rebecca couldn't feel more out of place in New Orleans, where she comes to spend the year while her dad is traveling. She's staying in a creepy old house with her aunt. And at the snooty prep school, the filthy-rich girls treat Rebecca like she's invisible. Only gorgeous, unavailable Anton Grey seems to give Rebecca the time of day, but she wonders if he's got a hidden agenda. Then one night, in Lafayette Cemetery, Rebecca makes a friend. Sweet, mysterious Lisette is eager to talk to Rebecca, and to show her the nooks and crannies of the city. There's just one catch: Lisette is a ghost.

A ghost with a deep, dark secret, and a serious score to settle.

As Rebecca learns more from her ghost friend -- and as she slowly learns to trust Anton Grey -- she also uncovers startling truths about her own history. Will Rebecca be able to right the wrongs of the past, or has everything been ruined beyond repair?
The description gives it more of a teen angst feel than the book truly has.  It is a YA novel, but it is steeped in historical fiction of Mardi Gras in Louisiana.  That is what I loved the most about this book.  Morris, originally from New Zealand, really captured the essence and the pride of this landmark state putting her own dynamic flair to "old money" in the deep deep south. 

Her lead character Rebecca is a strong female protagonist that does NOT give into the social pressures of her high society new school. She maintains a true identity throughout, and an open mind.  Never once do you doubt the realness of her intentions, nor do you doubt the faith she has in her friend that is a ghost.  This makes you attach to her character closely, not wanting to see her hurt, or lost or betrayed.  I found myself becoming defensive and annoyed with the other characters in the book when they weren't as strong as Rebecca.  But, I'm sure Morris intended her readers to get mad at Anton a few times, after all - he is the requisite love interest.

As a true "spooky" book, Morris had me.  At every turn I was never quite sure what was going to happen - was Lisette real?  Was she honest?  Was she lying?  What secrets did she hold?  The drama infused between Lisette, her past, her familial connections kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the reading.  I had no idea what to believe until the very end and even then, it's so well portrayed that you find yourself just staring into the pages of the book.

I would highly recommend this read.  It's fairly short, 309 pages, and would appeal mostly to middle school age and up.  If you like history interwoven with fiction, this is a book for you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fooling Fools...

Fooling Fools

            The alarm clock was always annoying.  It didn’t matter how many different sounds Verizon put in the options, any noise that caused Athan to wake for school seemed strident.  He hit the snooze button and drifted back to sleep.  And there it was again. Did five minutes already pass?  Really?  And who decided five minutes was enough time to drift back into dreamland and recover from being awoken in the first place?  That was all it took.  One drifting thought and he couldn’t go back to sleep.  His mind had always run this way.  He’d think of something and be unable to let it go.  At night when he tried to sleep, the day’s events would whirl in his head over and over again…What was it I was supposed to do for homework in English?  Are ‘queen’ jokes really still funny? Did I hear dad come in this morning? Is he home? Is he awake?  Questions filled his mind until it felt like his head would explode.  Every. Day.  Morning and night his thoughts turned his world inside out.  Today was no different.  Why is five minutes the allotted time for snooze?
            The alarm sounded again, but this time hitting snooze did not turn it off.  He reached for the phone to be sure he was pushing the right button and saw that it wasn’t the alarm.  Elise was texting him.  It was 5:30a and she was already up texting him. 
            “u rdy 4 this?” was all it said.
            No. He wasn’t.  He wanted to tell her that, to be honest, but he knew the decision they’d made together was the right one.  He’d have to be ready, whether he really was or not.  He text her back, “yeah.  Meet 4 bfast?”
            “Yep. c u soon :-).”
            Athan drug out of bed and tiptoed out his bedroom door.  He was careful to open and close it without making a sound.  Once inside the bathroom, he locked the knob and prayed in a whisper, “Please just let him sleep.”  Reaching slowly to turn on the shower knob, he cringed at every squeak looking back at the door.  Nothing.  His knotted stomach released and he stepped into the welcoming warm water, fears assuaged for now.
            Just as he was reaching for the knob to sneak back into his bedroom a mighty fist pound on the door making him knock everything off the bathroom counter in a jangled mess. 
            “How long have you been in there?” his dad roared.  “You don’t pay the damn bills around here and the water’s been runnin’ to damn long.  Get out here.”
            There was nowhere to go.  No window to jump through, no door but the one in front of him.  He slowly clicked the lock on the door and the world rushed in.
            “Rough morning?” Elise asked when he stepped through the cafeteria doors.  Athan had done his best to keep his bangs low over his left eye, but the evidence of the morning’s hot shower burned red on his face. 
            “Yeah.  Trapped like a rat in a cage – the bathroom.  You?
            “Not today,” she lifted her long blonde hair, “but last night was no picnic.”  A thumbprint bruise was working its way to the surface of her neck, just below the ear lobe.  He didn’t want to know anymore and he knew she didn’t really want to tell him.
            Athan and Elise went through the line and headed to a corner table to eat.  Silence between them was a welcome comfort.  They spoke not a word and while noise raged on in the dining hall around them, they continued to sit still and quiet in a world for just the two of them.  It was Elise that finally broke the peace.
            “Did you see him yesterday after school?  I know you walked home the long way.”  She was the only person he’d ever known that could ask a question like that without making a funny face.  His choice never bothered her and he appreciated her ease with it all.  Not many people in this one-light town were ready to accept anything outside of “one man, one woman, til’ death do us part.”  It infuriated Athan if he thought about it too much.  People riding their high horses of what’s right and what’s wrong.  The prom queen and the football star, shacked up drunk all the time, a muffled prayer away from an abortion, and he was the one with a problem.  The boy who’d never been in love, never been in a relationship, and certainly had never had sex.  He wasn’t even sure he wanted to, even with the guy who caught his eye these days.  They are all so stupid.  Of course, most people didn’t know.  They suspected, called him a queen, even nominated him to reign at the prom, but Elise kept their suspicions at bay.  She was his proclaimed girlfriend.  
            He scanned the cafeteria, glancing over his shoulder before he answered her. 
            “I did, but he didn’t see me.  It’s just as well right now, because after school today we’ll be the only thing this town is talking about.”
            “I know!” She jumped up and hugged him tight, kissing his cheek.  She picked up her books and headed off to class, waving to him one last time before she disappeared through the double doors.
            Athan’s chair skipped forward a step and Aaron, asshole extraordinaire, stepped on his foot.  “Oh, sorry Ashley – didn’t mean to ruin your nail polish,” and he laughed at his own clever use of names.  His minions trailed behind him, giggling all the way.  It amused Athan to watch this spectacle.  He was used to the taunts and the comments, they really didn’t bother him from people like Aaron who will turn out to be nothing one day, who already were nothing.  The funniest part of it all was, as much as they made fun of him, as much as they wanted to ruin him, he never walked with a group of guys giggling like a bunch of girls.  He sighed and reminded himself you can’t fix stupid, grabbed his bag and headed to class.  He heard Aaron’s last comment as he walked around the hallway corner, “I have no idea how he got a girl like Elise.”
            “Because she could trust me not to touch her,” he said to no one but himself.
            The day dripped along like cold honey.  Senior English had to be the most boring class he’d ever taken and as the quiz over The Wife of Bath hit his desk, the question of what he was supposed to read last night was answered loud and clear.  Shit.  Elise sat across the room already working away.  She never forgot to read an assignment.  It amazed Athan how she kept her grades so high with what she had going on at home.  She claimed it was her ticket out of this hellhole – that and him.  She looked up at him and he rolled his eyes at her.  She flipped him off casually, a scratch of the eye, but he could see her smile beneath the shadow of her hair, her smile and the fingertip bruises appearing on the other side of her neck.  She was usually more careful about it, but today she didn’t seemed bothered by the imprints of home.
            The neck bruises were minor in the grand scheme of things.  Athan sat and recalled the bloody lip, the black eyes, the broken wrist, and once, a bulging bruise on the back of her right thigh.  That one she would never talk about, but it made her limp for more than a week.  He couldn’t believe someone in this world understood what he dealt with everyday, but when they met in Algebra I freshman year and he watched her tug the sleeve of her shirt down over her forearm when it was still 90 degrees outside, he knew their bond would be forever. 
            It seemed unfair that another man like his father existed in the world.  And even more unfair that Elise’s dad seemed to actually be the evil twin.  His dad had been rough on him since he was born.  Called him names when he was a kid, told him to, “Stop acting like a little faggot,” when he caught him dancing in the mirror in middle school.  His mother just looked the other way.  She’d always known Athan was different, but she never protected him from his father, never stood in the way of all the anger that rained down on him.  But Elise’s dad, he’d done more than just wail on her.  He used her, abused her, and as a result she didn’t trust men.  Her mother was long gone and Athan was really the only person she felt safe with.  She knew he’d never harm her.
            Two weeks ago, they’d both turned eighteen.  Two weeks ago, the plan they’d talked about for three years came to life.  Today after school, Athan and Elise would get married at the courthouse and there wasn’t a damn thing their parents could do about it.  Today after school, they’d say, “I do” and run away together to start a life somewhere else.  Somewhere they didn’t know anyone, somewhere people didn’t mind a little difference, and didn’t demand submission. Somewhere other than here.
            The plan was complicated because it had to be done in front of their parents.  Without witnesses, the entire thing would seem like a sham.  They’d both saved their money over the last two years to buy Elise a simple engagement ring and to be able to afford rent on an apartment in the city for six-months until they both found jobs.   Right now, that ring sat deep inside Athan’s backpack along with the lease papers they printed from the computer in the library.  The deposit for their place had been paid online and because they’d had enough money for first and last month’s rent, a co-signer wasn’t even asked for.  They had thought of everything. 
The goal was to walk home to Elise’s house after school and propose to her right on the front steps in front of her dad.  Athan was scared, but as long as Elise was there and they were outside, her dad would hold his temper.  It’s not like the town didn’t know about what he did, who he was, but he liked to pretend he was a good father when the public was looking.  Once he’d come to the school to sign some papers and made a huge spectacle of himself and Elise in the front office, hugging her and talking about her being “daddy’s little girl.”  Athan thought Elise was going to puke, but she didn’t.  He did.
            After dealing with Elise’s dad, they would return to Athan’s house and announce the news to his parents.  Bags already packed, they’d catch the bus to the city hall, make their peace with the judge, and head straight out of town.  The only flaw in their plan was its destruction to their grades.  They would be skipping out on the last two weeks of school and while it wouldn’t really mess up Elise’s chances of graduation, Athan’s success hung precariously in the balance.  She had a 4.0 and with or without exams, would graduate with a passing average.  He, on the other hand, barely pulled a “B” average.  They’d done the math on it, well Elise did, and it seemed like he would survive, but just barely.  All year they hadn’t been absent or failed a class.  They watched their grades with intensity and Elise tutored Athan relentlessly in subjects he struggled with.  Nothing would get in the way of their plan for escape.
            The bell rang and they met at the schoolhouse doors.  Words were not needed.  Athan pulled her into a close embrace. Her hand slipped into his and they started the longest walk of their lives.
            Standing in the courthouse with their parents watching their every move, Athan slipped a ring onto Elise’s delicate finger.  She returned one to him and they said vows that while not traditional, held more meaning to one another than most couples truly in love.  Athan’s mother cried, his father seethed.  Elise’s dad slumped with his arms crossed tight around his chest, constantly checking behind him, looking out the window, or studying the judge.  Courthouses made him nervous. 
            When the judge said, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” a smiled spread the width of both their faces.  Hooking their arms together, everything they’d fought for and fought against in the last four years brought them to this moment.  And it was everything they’d hoped it would be.
            Leaving the room, Elise glanced back one last time at the man who ruined her life and then turned her gaze to Athan, the man that just saved her.
            “Do you think we fooled them?” she asked, a Cheshire grin lurking behind her eyes.
            “Yeah, them and everyone else.  It isn’t hard to fool a fool.”