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Summer Camp Secrets: Book 4
Little Miss Not-so-perfect
by Melissa J. Morgan
Alex has always been the practically perfect girl at camp – athletic, responsible, outgoing. But these days she's less active and always making excuses about what she eats. Maybe if she could explain what was going on her friends would understand, but then they'd find out that she's not quite so perfect after all.
“a frothy, fun-packed read”
School Librarian Journal
LITTLE MISS NOT-SO-PERFECT
I’m still here at Camp Lakeview. Just two more weeks left before we can hang out – in person – again! I’m so excited to see you.
Thanks for the letters and manga books you’ve been sending me. I’m really trying to love anime as much as you do, and I’m getting into some of it. When I read that last one, I thought of you the whole time. I love how the Ninja Supertwins trick their kidnapper into letting them go. You’re just like the brainy one (I’m the one who can fly and do flips and stuff – ha ha ha). It’s fun to imagine that you’re right here with me.
But you’re not.
Do you know how much I miss you?
Brynn and I have been keeping busy – we’re always swimming or jumping rope or staying up way too late. She can be a handful, though, always wanting me to practise lines with her (you know, she’s a literal drama queen) and to help her find the stuff she lost in our big old bunk. I’d like to see her practise soccer with me! She doesn’t like sports all that much, and, as you know, I live for anything athletic.
We’re so different that sometimes I can’t believe we’re such good friends.
How’s summer practice been without me? If I come back and you’re a whole lot better than I am, you’re just going to have to teach me your new moves. Deal?
I’m learning some new stuff – from boys, of all people. I get to play with the counsellors a lot, which makes me better. But sometimes, I think they let me score points when they shouldn’t. I’m not complaining, though. I’m having a blast. Anyway, I can’t wait to play with you!
Just know that I miss you and think of you all the time. You don’t know how much I wish you were here right now! Ugh. I don’t have to pretend around you. You know how it is.
I miss you. Did I say that already? Well, I just said it again!
Best Friends For Ever,
Alex had just gotten into bed and was trying to relax.
If only her brain had an off switch! She was deep in thought, wishing she could be one of the Ninja Supertwins. She wished she could just have special powers so her life would be easier. Every time she hit the soccer field, she had to score at least three points for her team. Every time she left the bunk, she had to worry if she’d stay strong for the rest of the day. And every time her camp friends had issues – like when Jenna thought Chelsea had tripped her at lunch – they looked to Alex to keep the peace. Alex couldn’t understand why she felt so much pressure and where it was all coming from.
At that moment, Jenna was causing Alex’s stress. Jenna was addicted to sugar, and her parents liked to feed that addiction with packages from home. Sometimes, Jenna got cupcakes. Other times, she passed out Swedish fish. That night, she had the largest quantity of Nerds that Alex had ever seen. The round, little balls of candy were pink and purple. As Jenna passed them around – she was totally generous – some Nerds inevitably went flying. Gnat-sized streaks of unnatural colour dashed through the air like Fourth of July sparklers.
Alex couldn’t help herself; she peeked up from her letter to watch the scene, her mouth beginning to water. She loved the sharp-sweet flavour of Nerds. Just as she was going back to writing, a handful of the hard sugar pellets nicked her left cheek.
“Agh!” Alex yelled. Those things were dangerous.
Some girls started to grumble while others laughed. After six weeks together, everyone knew who’d get cranky (Chelsea) versus who’d get goofy (Jenna, Grace, Natalie). That’s what had happened at Camp Lakeview every year Alex had been there, and she’d been going there for a lonnnggg time. The girls grew “thisclose” and sometimes there was this magical warm and fuzzy feeling between them, like you’d met eleven soul mates. Other times, during the War of the Nerds, for example, “thisclose” was a recipe for calorie-infused disaster.
“Hey, did you get any?” Valerie whispered to Alex.
“Yeah, they left bruises on my cheek,” Alex said, passing up the sweet treats as usual. This time, Alex went back to writing for real. She started on another letter to her soccer coach. She had to concentrate on seeming busy so the girls would be less likely to pay attention to her. Alex wouldn’t disturb a fly – and she liked herself that way. She was the original get-along girl who never instigated feuds or showed up late. She didn’t even yell at Jenna’s twin brother, Adam, when he pranked the bunk – leaving fake bugs on all the girls’ pillows. Though that prank was pretty irritating, not to mention uninspired. Except for Brynn, who was her best camp friend, most people didn’t know what made Alex tick. And sometimes even Brynn didn’t know.
“Okay, cool,” Val said. “More for me then.”
“I know you didn’t just hit me in the eye!” Chelsea yelled into the air. Lights-out was in fifteen minutes, but she was always in bed first. She claimed that her face broke out if she didn’t get enough beauty sleep. Chelsea even tried to get the other girls to quiet down early, as if that ever worked.
“Aye aye, Captain Chelsea,” Grace mimicked. “You’d better watch out, or you might lose a tongue, too.”
“Grace, please stop,” Chelsea said.
“Oh, we’re just having fun,” Jenna added. With so many brothers and a sister, she was pretty good at keeping the peace – as long as she wasn’t doing battle with Adam.
“Well, not to be a party pooper,” said Natalie, “but I stayed up way too late doing everyone’s nails last night.” Alex didn’t let Natalie put all that coloured gunk on her hands or face; make-up just seemed hot and slimy. But Alex did love Natalie nevertheless, who was the daughter of the megastar Tad Maxwell. Tad Maxwell! Alex had taken down her posters of him after she’d found out Natalie’s news at the beginning of the summer. It was way too weird to worship her friend’s dad. Though Natalie’s father was the most amazing athlete Alex had ever seen on screen – he even did most of his own stunts in the Spy movies. Alex’s favourite scene was when Tad jumped off Mount Fuji when the deranged monk was chasing him. Anyway, Alex had to hand it to Natalie; Natalie wasn’t stuck-up or glamorous or Hollywood at all. Even if Natalie did love teen magazines, she was down-to-earth.
“Boo!” said Alyssa, Natalie’s best friend at camp. Alyssa, a funky, artsy girl, hurled a few more candies at Chelsea teasingly.
“I said stop it,” Chelsea yelled again. Brynn and Grace talked about the summer play again, and that made the others girls roll their eyes. Natalie put her head under her pillow to avoid all the noise. Jessie and Candace started whining about how hot it was, and Valerie and Sarah started singing “My Dog Has Fleas” for absolutely no good reason. Despite the colourful Nerds that had just been launched around the room, the girls seemed only blue.
Alex just didn’t get it. She wondered why it was that every year, people got down in the dumps towards the end of camp. It was that weird time where kids weren’t glowing from the newness of Lakeview any more, and Colour War was still a little bit too far away to get excited about. Plus, the kids all knew one another well enough to get touchy about the slightest things. Natalie was worried about Simon, who hadn’t looked for her during free period that day. Grace complained about her parents, who were making her read The Jungle Book. Chelsea whined that her skin was oily (it so wasn’t – no matter how mean she was, she was still super pretty). Brynn didn’t know how on earth she’d memorize all of her lines in time to perfect the voice she needed to deliver them. Alex, of course, had offered to help out as usual.
Alex breathed in deeply, trying not to get teary. She knew it wasn’t nice of her to be jealous of them, but she was. She would’ve traded any one of their problems – she would even take two or three of their issues at once! – to get rid of her own. She wanted to know what it was like to be concerned about stuff you could actually do something about. She would’ve given her athletic ability – all of it – for just one day where she didn’t have to worry, worry and worry some more. There she was with the girls who knew her best, if anyone knew her at all, and still, Alex felt totally alone.
Chelsea, surprisingly, had risen from bed and walked over to Jenna’s bottom bunk in her pink-feathered night slippers that her mom had just sent her. She went back to her bed proudly because she had just scored a new handful of Nerds.
“You want some?” she asked Alyssa, thrusting her hand towards Alyssa’s face. Alyssa turned the other way, which was the smart thing to do. If Alyssa had said yes, Chelsea would’ve yanked her hand away. The girls could handle Chelsea because at least her behaviour was predictable.
“You want some?” Chelsea asked, shoving the Nerds in Alex’s face next.
Alex didn’t appreciate the interruption. She was busy thinking and pretending to write her letter. She tried to ignore Chelsea, but it didn’t work.
“I said,” Chelsea repeated, “would you like some?”
Alex tried to be as casual and distracted as she could when she gave her usual answer, “No, thank you.” She started scribbling words onto her sheet of paper energetically. She wanted to look inspired so no one would dare break her train of thought. No one would have, either – no one except Chelsea.
“What? Are you watching your weight?” Chelsea said, heading back to her own bed again and dragging her pink slippers. Under her breath, she added, “Maybe you’re like one of those girls in the sappy teen magazine articles with an eating disorder.”
The rest of the bunk gasped, especially Brynn. Alex knew it was because Chelsea had been brazen enough to verbalize what everyone else had been thinking all summer long. Everyone wondered why she didn’t partake during bunk parties, but Chelsea was the only one rude enough to actually bring it up.
“Maybe you should mind your own business,” Brynn said to Chelsea in defence of her friend. Alex thought Brynn would sneak over to talk about it, but much to Alex’s relief, she didn’t. Instead, Brynn whispered something to Sarah. At that moment, Alex felt so weird, so out of touch with everyone.
“Well, okay then,” Chelsea said. “Hey, everyone, maybe we should try to be as slim and trim and perfect as Alex,” she added as Brynn shot her a dirty look. Alex clasped her pen so tightly that she thought it might snap in half. She poked a hole through her letter by accident. She wanted to scream, to rip Chelsea’s slippers to shreds. But mostly, she just hoped that no one could tell how fed up she was getting of everyone wondering what was wrong.
“Just ignore her,” Valerie interrupted.
So that’s what Alex did, for the moment at least. Staying quiet was easier this time. Infuriated and nervous, she thought about how she had been born with a petite Korean body like her mother’s. She thought about eating and how much it terrified her. Since food was definitely an issue for her these days, she had diverted more energy than ever to working out. Alex felt more powerful when she had strong muscles, quick running reflexes and expert soccer abilities. She was willing to do anything to have those skills. She focused on those thoughts, trying not to think about what Chelsea had just said.
But Alex could barely stand it. She was ready to shout at Chelsea, to tell her what a witch she was for always getting into other people’s business and making a big deal about herself. And Chelsea wasn’t the only one who would feel Alex’s wrath. Alex was ready to tell her whole bunk to just cheer up. She held herself back and got her thoughts organized. Alex never spoke without getting it together first. Her mom and dad had taught her to be smooth and cool and collected, and most of the time, that’s exactly what Alex was. But then, with the Nerds fresh on her mind and Chelsea right there in her face, Alex just about exploded – until Julie, their counsellor, and Marissa, their counsellor-in-training (CIT) – arrived in the bunk after their staff meeting.
“Lights out!” Julie yelled. Surely, she’d heard the commotion and that’s why she had butted in – it seemed like Julie was always coming to the rescue.
Alex was thankful. In her heart, she had wanted to lose it on everyone. But her mind knew better. Starting something with the whole rest of her bunk – girls she loved, well, most of the time – was a disaster waiting to happen. Alex looked up and noticed that all eyes were on her. She hoped they hadn’t been able to tell that she was about to lose her temper. Alex’s skin turned redder and redder – now because she was angry and embarrassed. Before anyone could say another word, Valerie got out of bed and flicked the lights off fast – it was like she’d been reading Alex’s mind. The tension in the room went from thick and gloomy to just plain tired and cranky.
Chelsea threw herself against her pillow, seemingly disappointed that she hadn’t been able to get Alex, or anyone else, stirred up. Then, the twelve girls in 3C went back to whispering about whatever they whispered about when the room was dark.
“Final electives!” Julie yelled the next morning. Each girl needed to pick her last two free-choice activities for the very last two weeks at Camp Lakeview.
Only two more weeks! Alex thought. Part of her was happy that it was almost over. She couldn’t wait to see her parents and her friends from home again. But part of her was so sad, too.
Alex huddled with Brynn to make the big decision. Brynn was such a drama queen, and Alex preferred to have her drama on a theatre or television screen. Even though they were so different, their friendship worked – well, most of the time. Brynn created action and excitement, while Alex kept the two of them on time and grounded. Alex admired Brynn’s free spirit. Because of her, Alex rarely got bored.
“I have to take drama, of course,” Brynn said. “Then I think I’ll take nature.”
“I have to take sports, of course,” Alex answered, laughing. “Then I’ll take...it’s a secret.”
“Tell me!” Brynn begged. “Best friends tell each other everything.”
“It won’t be a secret if I tell you,” Alex said, poking and tickling Brynn so she wouldn’t get mad at her for not telling.
“Puh-leeeeeease!?” Brynn said, this time using the full range of her booming voice. Alex couldn’t help it. She caved.
“Okay, okay. Is there any chance I could talk you into taking ceramics with me? Puh-leeeeeease!?!” Alex added, making Brynn laugh again. She wished she and Brynn could finally have an activity together. After all, there was no way Alex could take drama – she considered herself allergic to the stage spotlight. She preferred to shine on the soccer field.
“Just take drama with me,” Brynn said. “I’ll help you! It would be so cool. You never know – you might be a star.”
“No,” Alex answered, knowing full well that she might as well be in drama since she’d be helping Brynn with her lines like she always did. That’s how it had always been between the two friends. “No, no and no,” Alex added. “Come on, do ceramics this once."
“I love you, Alex, but you can’t ask me to give up my whole entire life for you,” Brynn said, kind of teasing, kind of not.
Alex sighed. “All right,” she said. There was no point in trying to change her mind. Brynn was just excited for her big play after all – this year’s production of Peter Pan was going to be a blast!
The other girls from the bunk flocked to Julie’s sign-up clipboard. Julie was always smiling, and everyone loved her. It didn’t even bother her to get rushed by a gaggle of excited girls. While Alex waited patiently for the mob to clear, she heard Jenna ask to be in photography with her brother Adam again. Alex was happy to see they were getting along better. Jenna’d had a rough spot a few weeks ago when she pulled a crazy prank, letting all of the animals free to howl and poop and cry during the camp social. Jenna had temporarily lost her brain, but thankfully, it seemed to have found its way back into her head. Grace and Brynn signed up for drama, and they vowed to be partners so Grace wouldn’t end up with a bully like Gaby again. Natalie and Alyssa asked to be on the newspaper together, and Val, always the independent one, signed up for woodworking.
“You just want to be with the boys!” Chelsea teased Val. The boys were a divisive issue for some of the girls. Jenna and Alex were on the anti-boy, anti-flirting side, while some of the others were starting to have crushes. Alex couldn’t understand why boys were so important. Her friends were talking about them, walking around with them, and worrying about what they did or didn’t do. Alex thought it was just easier to be friends with them – just friends – so they didn’t take any time away from her already jam-packed life. She had a lot of guy friends – she loved playing soccer with Theodore Cantor and Andre Derstein back home – but that didn’t mean she wanted to hold hands with either of them. In fact, the idea creeped her out. Alex figured she was lucky she felt that way. Her parents were so conservative that she knew she wouldn’t be allowed to date until she was at least thirty.
“Oh, yeah, the boys,” Valerie said. “I’m not stupid,” she added, flipping her long cornrows into Chelsea’s face. Alex knew that Val was just playing along, though. Val was really good at woodworking, whether half the boys happened to be in that class or not. She’d already made a cutting board, a lamp, and a carved plaque with an elephant on it that hung on her bunk. Valerie had the funkiest jewellery and decorations and clothes. Alex was always admiring her stuff in their bunk. She felt like her own choice of decor – plain navy sheets that matched her mostly navy and white outfits – was getting totally boring.
Thinking about trying new, artsy things, Alex got excited again. She had told Grace that arts and crafts were smelly and boring just a few weeks ago, but she didn’t feel that way any more. It was time to try something other than sports. Alex had been inspired by the Ninja Supertwins book she was reading – one of the twins is an awesome sculptor – and by her friend Bridgette from home who had signed up for painting class at the local art museum. Alex had been in a funk lately – she hoped a change of pace would help. So when the other girls had made their picks, Alex made her move.
“Here comes our very own soccer superstar,” Julie said, making Alex smile, not to mention blush. “So, what’ll it be?”
“Ceramics, please,” she answered, moving her knapsack – the one she always carried – to the opposite shoulder. Alex had seen the necklaces some girls had made in the last session. They were these shiny, round beads that hung from a leather strap. Alex knew her mother, an art teacher, would love to have one. Her mother would be so happy to get a necklace from Alex, too, since Alex was rarely interested in non-competitive activities. Alex had always known she was a little bit more like her dad, a litigations lawyer who lived for trials that put the bad guys in jail.
“You want ceramics?” Julie asked, totally surprised. She’d known Alex for years, and when she put Alex in arts and crafts three years ago, Alex had cried. (Alex was still embarrassed about that, but she figured she was only eight years old then!)
“Hey, I may be an old dog,” Alex started, “but I can still learn a few new tricks.”
“I think that’s so awesome of you!” Julie said, paying close attention to how Alex felt. Julie always paid close attention to everyone, and that’s what made her so special. Julie could have five girls screaming in her ear all at once, and each girl would still know that Julie was listening to her. Alex saw Julie as a role model. She could totally see herself becoming a counsellor at Lakeview one day.
“Wait, um, Alex,” Julie called a few seconds later. “Could you please do me a favour?”
“Sure, anything,” Alex said. Julie’s face was wrinkled and unsmiling, and that made Alex worry.
“I can’t believe I have to tell you this, but...hmmm...ceramics is full, and I would’ve saved you a spot, but I just didn’t have a clue you’d pick an arts activity,” Julie said. “I feel so bad about this, Alex.”
“Um, well,” Alex replied, her hopes sinking into the hungry part of her stomach. “Okay,” she added. She mentally kicked herself for not putting ceramics on her free-choice list that Julie kept earlier. It’s my own fault, she thought. It seemed like she was always missing out on things because she just didn’t speak up in time. She could’ve been the captain of her soccer team back home – she was the best player on her fifth-grade team – if she had just said that she was interested. She hadn’t, so one of her teammates got the role.
“But I can put you in woodworking,” Julie said.
Alex’s face dropped. She imagined splinters and nails and difficult projects – and way too many boys. Julie patted Alex’s back and started to smile.
“Come on,” Julie said. “It’s so creative. It really is. You can still try new things in there. I absolutely promise that you will have fun.”
“Do I have any other choice?” Alex asked.
“Um, well,” Julie said carefully, “not really, sweetie.”
“Okay, okay,” Alex answered, sensing that Julie was about to be disappointed in her.
“Sweetie, you are the best,” Julie said, hugging Alex. “I can always count on Camp Lakeview’s very own soccer superstar. Don’t you worry, either. There’s a really nice instructor in there, and you’re always a star at everything you do.”
Alex smiled a little bit, even though she was disappointed. When it came down to it, she loved making other people happy, especially Julie. Alex just wished that something would start going her way. She didn’t understand why she was feeling so sad.
Do you agree or disagree with the reviews below? Why not write your own?
You rock bunk 3C!
I lurv all your books i am onto book four and i am soooo going to keep reading them. I am a bit of a bookworm myself but i have to say out of the hundreds and thousands of books i have read, SUMMER CAMP SECRETS ARE SO THE BEST. YOU HAVE SO GOT TO READ THEM. I think you should write more of them adventures about the cool bunk 3C gang!
Bethan, 13th May 2008
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