Authors: Rachel Vail
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published in the United States of America by Viking,
an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2014
Copyright Â© 2014 by Rachel Vail
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Unfriended / Rachel Vail.
Summary: “When middle-schooler Truly is invited to sit at the Popular Table,
she finds herself caught in a web of lies and misunderstandings, made unescapable by the hyperconnected social media world”âProvided by publisher.
[1. FriendshipâFiction. 2. PopularityâFiction. 3. Middle schoolsâFiction.
4. SchoolsâFiction. 5. Social mediaâFiction.] I. Title.
To Amy, with thanks and love
RIGHT BEFORE THE
whole thing started with Natasha and the Popular Table, I was standing at my locker with my best friend, Hazel, silently praying that I hadn't forgotten my combination.
I've had this lock since sixth grade, when we got lockers instead of cubbies like in elementary school. My mom took me and my then-best-friend, Natasha, to the store for school supplies the August before middle school started. Natasha and I both chose spinny locks.
My mom thought that the ones with letters that you line up were cuter. At four foot eight, with crooked bangs and lingering baby teeth, the last thing I was looking for was something
Natasha was already over five feet and experimenting with lip gloss. And rolling her eyes at stuff I still wanted to play. She was getting a spinner. I wasn't going to get a baby lock while she had a spinny in her basket.
My combination is 14-35-42. All multiples of seven. So that's easy. Except what if I have a brain fart and think maybe it's multiples of eight? Even if I remember it's multiples of seven, it could just as easily be 7-21-28.
“You should just get a word one,” Hazel said, beside me in the eighth-grade hall.
“I can do it,” I objected, trying again.
Hazel has a key lock. I think she might be the only one in the whole school. She wears the key on a string around her neck along with her house key and sometimes other random stuff she finds. She has been my absolute best friend since she rescued me in sixth grade, but she is sometimes a lot.
have spinny locks,” Hazel said.
“That's notÂ .Â .Â .” I said. “I like this kind.”
The fact that the popular girls all have spinny locks was not the only reason I kept my spinny lock for this year. For my thirteenth birthday, my parents finally allowed me to get a cell phone, and to sign on to a few social media thingsâFacebook, Instagram, Snapchat, those types of things. And for every one of them, I set my secret password as locker143542. I know you're supposed to have different passwords for everything, but please.
After my thirteenth birthday party Hazel slept over. We wrote down our secret passwords for everything on sticky notes in case we forget them somehow. Hazel's password is clam0rous, which is turns out does not mean
like a clam
. We both wrote down both passwords, mine and hers, and decided to hide them in our little ballerina jewelry boxes. We have the same ones, we had discovered in sixth grade. The first time she came over and saw mine, we laughed about the coincidence. So cornyâthe kind with a little ballerina that twirls around when you open it. So girly and clichÃ©, we both thought. As if every little girl is supposed to dream of becoming a tiny ballerina? And collect jewels to fill the box?
Though when I was little I loved that thing. I thought it was so grown-up. But I did see Hazel's point as soon as she made it. I agreed right away it was horribly antifeminist and also tacky. We decided not to throw them away, though. I was relieved, because I really didn't want to throw mine away. But I had just recently been dumped by Natasha for being too babyish. I didn't want my only new-friend prospect to know how babyish I was, deep down. Luckily Hazel agreed the jewelry boxes would be good secret keepers, because what robber would look in a baby jewelry box? She said I was so hilariously ironic.
I looked up the word
after she left that afternoon.
“A word lock is maybe five dollars,” Hazel said, reading my mind as usual. “I could give you the money.”
“More like ten,” I said. Hazel's parents are not exactly rolling in money anymore. They were, a few years ago, but something happened. She won't talk about it, and I don't want to pry. But she did confide that money is the thing that's keeping her parents from getting a divorce. Their fighting hurts her way more than she wants anybody (except me) to know. So it's not like she was bragging or showing off or anything. I know that. Still. “And the money is not the point. I like this one.”
“Uh-huh,” she said, twirling her green-tinged hair. “I can see why. It's like a full-on extra-curricular. You want me to try?”
“I got it.” I tried again. Click. I yanked the lunky weight of the lock free of the metal loop. “See?”
Someone tapped my right shoulder.
I turned my head to the right, figuring it would be Kim or maybe Jules, one of the girls in orchestra with us. Nobody there. So I turned to my left and saw not Kim or Jules but Natasha.
I had to smile.
She used to tap my opposite shoulder in elementary school and I fell for it Every. Single. Time. We thought it was endlessly hilarious.
Hasn't happened since sixth grade, when she dumped me.
“Still don't know which way to look,” she said.
“I'm hopeless.” I said. “I never learn.”
“Too true,” Hazel said. She unhooked my lock from the hole in my locker's handle and held it.
“So, anyway,” Natasha said, ignoring Hazel. “You going to lunch?”
“No,” Hazel answered. “To the moon.”
All eighth graders have lunch fifth, so obviously we were going to lunch. Still.
Sometimes when Hazel is trying to sound snide or sarcastic, she just sounds weird.
“Yeah,” I said to Natasha. “Sure. How about you?”
“Mmm-hmm,” Natasha said. She looked out of the corner of her eye into my locker. I immediately wished it were a little messy, a little less compulsively organized.
“Amazing,” Hazel said. “All going to lunch. We have so much in common!”
I gave a small sympathy
out of compassion. It's awful when you say something intending to be funny and everybody just stands there awkwardly, like you'd announced your pet hermit crab died.
“Hurry up,” Natasha said to me. “Dump your stuff. Brooke and I want to talk to you about History Day projects.”
“Me?” I asked, still clutching my books.
Natasha smiled, that blinding white smile she's had since her braces came off the summer before seventh. I still don't have enough grown-up molars for my dentist to decide if I need braces, and Natasha's already been done over a year. “Yeah, you.”
“Now? At lunch?”
ButâI don't sit at their table at lunch. There aren't rules, exactly; like, the principal isn't involved. But everybody knows where you don't get to sit, unless you're invited.
Hazel and I sit at the slightly-nerdy-girl table. We're more social than the kids who only go to the math lab or the library, or those who cut completely. Some of us are on teams or in shows, well, props crew, and most of us are in orchestra. We're well behaved.
The eighth graders who sit at the Popular Table are different
They're practically celebrities. If we had tabloid magazines in middle school, the Popular Table kids would be in all the pictures.
They're just like us! They hand in homework! They whisper secrets!
Although they are
just like us. Even girls like Kim and Jules knew when Clay asked Natasha out, and that she dumped him the next weekâand we all have theories about what went wrong between them. But nobody at the Popular Table would have one clue who Kim and Jules are, or who I am. Or who we might have a crush on, if anyone. (We don't.) The Popular kids wouldn't be mean to any of us; we just don't show up in their thoughts.
I leaned against the closed locker next to mine. “Brooke? Brooke Armstrong? She wants me to sit with you guys?” I asked Natasha.
“Come on,” Natasha said. “Why are you so slow?”
I dropped my books into my locker, making a mess I knew I'd have to come back and straighten up as soon as humanly possible because it would be a pebble in the shoe of my mind until I could get it neat. But I knew it was important to just leave it for that moment and act like it didn't bother me. I grabbed my lunch and swung my locker door shut. Many of the things I'd recently read about popularity emphasized being light and happy, easy to be around.
Hazel still had my lock dangling from her chipped-black-nail-polished index finger, which she was pointing at my chest like a gun.
“Could youÂ .Â .Â .Â ? I'll catch up with you afterÂ .Â .Â . okay?” I asked her as Natasha and I walked away.
Hazel watched me go without answering. But I could hear my lock slipping into the handle hole behind me, and the trusty, familiar click of it locking tight. I knew I could count on Hazel. She's my best friend. She's prickly and demanding, sure, but she's very loving, down deep. I knew she'd understand. I mean, the Popular Table. You don't get invited to that every day. If she got asked, I'd be happy for her, I think. No, I would. I'd lock her locker for her and wait to hear all about what happened, after. We're solid, me and Hazel.
I didn't even have to look back and make sure.