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The Grooming of Alice


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I looked first at Pamela and then at Elizabeth. No ice cream, no chips, and jogging three miles with ankle weights? This was a summer?

THE SUMMER BEFORE NINTH GRADE IS ALL about getting it right—from head to toe. Alice and her friends want to start high school feeling like they always imagined a true high schooler feels: confident, capable, pretty. But a little too much time standing in front of a mirror in their bathing suits makes Alice, Pamela, and Elizabeth feel just about as far away from “high-school ready” as possible. They have two and a half months to become the girls they think they should be … but when Elizabeth takes the weight-loss plan too seriously, Alice starts to worry that growing up (and slimming down) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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COVER DESIGN BY JESSICA HANDELMAN

COVER ILLUSTRATION COPYRIGHT © 2012 BY JULIA DENOS

ATHENEUM BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS

SIMON & SCHUSTER • NEW YORK

AGES 10–14 • 0312

Here’s what fans have to say about Alice:*

“The reason I love these books is because Alice is not PERFECT she has real life problems like everybody else. She is a teenage girl that is trying to understand life. PLEASE KEEP COMING OUT WITH THESE WONDERFUL BOOKS. Sometimes I try and read the books a little slower so it will never be over!”—An Alice fan

“I thought I read all the Alice books … [then] I went to the Young Adult section and saw a bunch more. I felt like screaming! I hope you continue writing Alice books forever… .”—Gina

“Please, never stop writing Alice books. I hope they makes lots of girls as happy as they made me!”—Caitlin

* Taken from actual postings on the Alice website. To read more, visit AliceMcKinley.com

PHYLLIS REYNOLDS NAYLOR includes many of her own life experiences in the Alice books. She writes for both children and adults, and is the author of more than one hundred and thirty-five books, including the Alice series, which Entertainment Weekly has called “tender” and “wonderful.” In 1992 her novel Shiloh won the Newbery Medal. She lives with her husband, Rex, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and is the mother of two grown sons and the grandmother of Sophia, Tressa, Garrett, and Beckett.

The Grooming of Alice

BOOKS BY PHYLLIS REYNOLDS NAYLOR

Shiloh Books

Shiloh

Shiloh Season

Saving Shiloh

The Alice Books

Starting with Alice

Alice in Blunderland

Lovingly Alice

The Agony of Alice

Alice in Rapture, Sort Of

Reluctantly Alice

All But Alice

Alice in April

Alice In-Between

Alice the Brave

Alice in Lace

Outrageously Alice

Achingly Alice

Alice on the Outside

The Grooming of Alice

Alice Alone

Simply Alice

Patiently Alice

Including Alice

Alice on Her Way

Alice in the Know

Dangerously Alice

Almost Alice

Intensely Alice

Alice in Charge

Incredibly Alice

Alice Collections

I Like Him, He Likes Her

It’s Not Like I Planned It

This Way

Please Don’t Be True

The Bernie Magruder Books

Bernie Magruder and the Case

of the Big Stink

Bernie Magruder and the

Disappearing Bodies

Bernie Magruder and the

Haunted Hotel

Bernie Magruder and the

Drive-thru Funeral Parlor

Bernie Magruder and the Bus

Station Blowup

Bernie Magruder and the

Pirate’s Treasure

Bernie Magruder and the

Parachute Peril

Bernie Magruder and the Bats

in the Belfry

The Cat Pack Books

The Grand Escape

The Healing of Texas Jake

Carlotta’s Kittens

Polo’s Mother

The York Trilogy

Shadows on the Wall

Faces in the Water

Footprints at the Window

The Witch Books

Witch’s Sister

Witch Water

The Witch Herself

The Witch’s Eye

Witch Weed

The Witch Returns

Picture Books

King of the Playground

The Boy with the Helium Head

Old Sadie and the Christmas

Bear

Keeping a Christmas Secret

Ducks Disappearing

I Can’t Take You Anywhere

Sweet Strawberries

Please DO Feed the Bears

Books for Young Readers

Josie’s Troubles

How Lazy Can You Get?

All Because I’m Older

Maudie in the Middle

One of the Third-Grade

Thonkers

Roxie and the Hooligans

Books for Middle Readers

Walking Through the Dark

How I Came to Be a Writer

Eddie, Incorporated

The Solomon System

The Keeper

Beetles, Lightly Toasted

The Fear Place

Being Danny’s Dog

Danny’s Desert Rats

Walker’s Crossing

Books for Older Readers

A String of Chances

Night Cry

The Dark of the Tunnel

The Year of the Gopher

Send No Blessings

Ice

Sang Spell

Jade Green

Blizzard’s Wake

Cricket Man

ATHENEUM BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS

An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020 www.SimonandSchuster.com This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2000 by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. ATHENEUM BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS is a registered trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event, contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at www.simonspeakers.com.

Book design by Mike Rosamilia

The text for this book is set in Berkeley Old Style Book.

0212 OFF

First Atheneum Books for Young Readers paperback edition March 2012

The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows: Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds

The grooming of Alice/Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.—1st ed.

p. cm.

“A Jean Karl book.”

Summary: During the summer between eighth and ninth grades, Alice and her friends Pamela and Elizabeth decide to improve themselves through exercise.

ISBN 978-0-689-82633-7 (hc)

[1. Friendship—Fiction. 2. Body image—Fiction. 3. Self-perception—Fiction.

4. Summer—Fiction.] I. Title

. PZ7.N24Gt 2000

[Fic]—dc21

99-32184

ISBN 978-1-4424-3496-7 (pbk) ISBN 13: 978-1-4424-6306-6 (eBook)

To Lindsey Hundt and her

daughter, Julia Horowitz,

with thanks for all their help

Contents

One: The Program

Two: The Long Good-bye

Three: Volunteer

Four: Quiz

Five: Saving Lester

Six: Hiding Pamela

Seven: Blowup

Eight: A Heated Discussion

Nine: Grounded

Ten: Blue Monday

Eleven: For Girls Only

Twelve: The Next Good-bye

Thirteen: Marilyn

Fourteen: The Traveler Returns

Preview: Alice Alone

1

THE PROGRAM

“IT’S GOING TO BE ONE OF THE MOST exciting summers of our lives,” Pamela used to tell Elizabeth and me whenever we thought about the summer between eighth and ninth grades. “All the stupid things we’ve ever done will be behind us, and all the wonderful stuff will be waiting to happen.”

But now, on the first day of vacation, as the three of us stood in our bathing suits in front of the full-length mirror in Elizabeth’s bedroom, we realized that the same bodies were going into high school along with us, the same faults, the same personalities, some of the same problems we’d had before.

Elizabeth, with her long dark hair and lashes, her gorgeous skin, broke the silence first. “I’m fat!” she said in dismay. “Look at me!”

We looked. She was the same beautiful Elizabeth she’d always been, except that her face and arms were slightly rounder, but she was pointing to her thighs, which puffed out just a little below her suit.

“Saddlebags! I have saddlebag thighs!” she cried. “My legs look like jodhpurs!”

They didn’t, of course, but before I could say a word, I heard murmurs on the other side of me coming from Pamela. Pamela is pretty, too, though not as drop-dead beautiful as Elizabeth. She’s naturally blond, and wears her hair in a short feather-cut, like Peter Pan. It always seemed to me as though Pamela Jones had the perfect figure, but it didn’t seem that way to Pamela.

“I have absolutely no definition,” she observed.

“Huh?” I said. Were these girls nuts?

“My arms and legs are like pudding! One part looks the same as the rest.”

“Pamela, anyone can tell your arm from your leg,” I told her.

“But you can’t tell what’s fat and what’s muscle!”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “People just want to look at you, Pamela. They don’t want to dissect you!”

Pamela, however, meant business. “Well, I certainly need to do some toning,” she said.

“And I want to lose this fat,” said Elizabeth. “What do you want to change, Alice?”

Friends, I thought. But I just took a good, long look at myself in the mirror and thought about it. I’ve got the same color hair as my mom had, they tell me—strawberry blond. Mom died when I was small, and I don’t remember much about her, but they say she was tall and liked to sing. I’m more on the short side, and can’t even carry a tune. I’m not fat, but I’m not thin. I’m more plain than I am pretty, but I’m not ugly. Miss Average, that’s me.

“I don’t know,” I said finally. “What do you guys think I should change?”

You should never ask anyone that. You’re just begging for worries you never had before.

“Well, if you want an honest opinion, your waist is a little thick, Alice,” said Elizabeth. One thing about Elizabeth, she’s loyal to a fault. You ask her to tell you something, she tells.

“And your legs are too straight,” said Pamela. “I mean, you don’t have to be ashamed of them or anything, but your calves hardly have any curve.”

“Your breasts could be a little fuller,” said Elizabeth. “Of course, they’re bigger than mine… .”

“And your arms have no definition at all,” Pamela finished.

It’s really weird, you know? Five minutes before, I had put on my bathing suit, ready to go over to Mark Stedmeister’s pool with the gang, feeling really good about myself and my friends, and suddenly I was disintegrating before my very eyes! I had this new royal blue bathing suit that looked great with my hair, and now nothing looked right.

“There’s only one solution,” said Pamela. “We’ve got to start an exercise program. We’ve got exactly two and a half months to get ourselves in shape before school begins. Because how ever you look when you start ninth grade, that’s how people will think of you for the next four years.”

Now that was a sobering thought. I don’t know where Pamela comes up with stuff like this, but she’s got a cousin in New Jersey who knows all about what they think in New York, so we learn a lot from her. What we don’t get from Pamela’s cousin, I get from my cousin Carol in Chicago, who’s two years older than Lester, my brother, and used to be married to a sailor.

I’d never seen Pamela quite so gung ho as she was now.

“If we get up at seven each morning for the next ten weeks …,” she began.

“Seven!” I wailed.

“Well, eight, maybe. And we jog for three miles …”

“In public?” Elizabeth gasped.

We stared. One reason we like Elizabeth is that her whole world sort of spins on a different axis.

“I suppose we could jog nine hundred times around your room, if you’d prefer,” Pamela said dryly. “But if we spend the next ten weeks jogging every morning with ankle weights, and do push-ups, we might look reasonably good by the time we start high school. And no ice cream. No chips. No Oreos or anything like that.”

I looked first at Pamela and then at Elizabeth. No ice cream, no chips, and jogging three miles with ankle weights? This was a summer?

Elizabeth shook her head. “I don’t want anyone to see me sweat,” she declared.

“If you jog, you’re going to sweat, Elizabeth!” Pamela told her. “You have to sweat! You’re supposed to sweat! If you don’t sweat, the fat will stay right there, and you’ll keep those saddlebag thighs forever.”

I looked at Elizabeth’s face and wished Pamela hadn’t said that. It’s one thing to talk about saddlebags yourself, but something else to hear your friends say it.

“Oh, come on!” I said, grabbing Elizabeth’s beach towel and tying it around her waist. “Let’s go on over to Mark’s. Everybody’s waiting.”

Everybody was. We’ve been hanging out at Mark Stedmeister’s pool for the last few summers, and even after Pamela and Mark broke up for the second time, we still go over there. Pamela went with Brian for a while after that, and then she wouldn’t go out with either one of them, and now the guys have sort of lost interest. We’re still all good friends, though.

Patrick Long, my boyfriend, was there, and Justin Collier, who likes Elizabeth. Except for Patrick and me, though, we don’t couple-off the way we used to. Right after sixth grade, “couples” were “in.” Most of us had never had boy- or girlfriends before, so everyone wanted one and found someone to hold hands with, whether they liked each other or not. Now we mostly do things as a group, and only Patrick and I are still “going together.”

“Heeey! The babes!” Brian yelled when he saw us, and we smiled. A year ago, there would have been sheer terror beneath my smile, because I’d been deathly afraid of deep water, only nobody knew it, not even Dad. It wasn’t until I’d confided in my twenty-one-year-old brother that I learned to swim the deep end, when Les took me to a pool and helped me swim across one corner of it.

Elizabeth and Pamela and I dropped our towels on a deck chair and dived in. Elizabeth went first because she wanted to hide her thighs, I went next because I didn’t really care, and Pamela was the last one in because she wanted to show off her bright red bikini with the halter top. Patrick dived in the other end and came up the same time I did. We swam over to the other side of the

pool together, and he kissed me on the eyelids before he was off again to play water basketball with Mark. That’s what’s nice about having a boyfriend. He’s sort of always there, someone to count on. Not that I didn’t look at other guys too, of course.

We horsed around in the water for a while, and when we came out and were all sitting around drinking Sprite, the talk was about summer jobs and what we had lined up. Now that some of us were fourteen, we could get work permits if we wanted.

Patrick was going to work for a landscaper loading trucks, pulling weeds and stuff. Brian had a job in a doughnut shop, Mark was shelving books at the library, and Justin Collier got a part-time job in a pizza place.

Of the girls, two of us were volunteering. Karen was helping out her aunt in a home for senior citizens, and I was going to be a candy striper at one of the hospitals, besides working in my dad’s music store on Saturday mornings. Jill was going to summer school, and Elizabeth’s mom was going to pay her to watch her baby brother four hours a day.

“What about you, Pamela?” someone asked.

She just shrugged. “I’ll think of something,” she said. Pamela was the only one who didn’t have a clue. Her life was all torn up because her mom had run off with a boyfriend. It was as though the only thing Pamela could control anymore was her body, which was why she was devoting the next ten weeks to it, I think.

“Remember when all we had to do each summer was lie around the pool and play badminton?” Mark said, reaching for the chips. Elizabeth and Pamela and I wouldn’t even look at the bowl. We tried to tune out all that crunching and munching.

“You make us sound like old people,” said Patrick. “Remember back in the olden days …?” Patrick’s a redhead, and when he’s out in the sun, the fine hair on his legs and arms looks orange, too.

Brian put his arms beneath his head and stared up at the clouds. “Yeah, back in the good old days the only thing we had to do was listen for the Good Humor Man. That was the high point of our day.”

“Good old summertime!” said Justin, rolling over on Elizabeth’s towel and tickling the bottoms of her feet. She kept giggling and drawing her feet up, and then he began playfully poking at her—her legs, her back, her stomach—and she kept trying to grab his hand.

“Hey, getting a little chubby, are we?” he asked jokingly as he poked at the space between her bathing suit top and bottom.



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