Dating! Drama! Driving!
Remember what it was like to be sixteen? Whether it was the year your teeth were finally free of braces or the year you were discovered by the opposite sex, that magical, mystical age is something you will never forget. Edited by Megan McCafferty, author of the runaway hit novels Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday is a compilation of short stories inspired by all the angst, melodrama, and wonderment of being sixteen.
Sarah Dessen's "Infinity" is about a girl confronting two major milestones: getting her driver's license and losing her virginity. The Dead Girls in Jacqueline Woodson's "Nebraska 99" have already decided to "do it" and must now cope with being teenage mothers. And Carolyn Mackler's "Mona Lisa, Jesus, Chad, and Me" explores whether friendship can survive when partying and prayer clash. Also included is a new Jessica Darling story by Megan McCafferty about the last fifteen minutes Jessica spends--or rather, doesn't spend--with her best friend, Hope, who is leaving Pineville.
Featuring stories by Steve Almond, M. T. Anderson, Julianna Baggott, Cat Bauer, Emma Forrest, Tanuja Desai Hidier, David Levithan, Sarah Mlynowski, Sonya Sones, Zoe Trope, Ned Vizzini, and Joseph Weisberg, these hilarious, poignant, and touching tales are perfect for both those who have yet to reach that milestone and those who want to reminisce about their "sweetest" year.
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May 24, 2004
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Excerpt from Sixteen by Megan McCafferty
Lately I don't dream about Anthony. I dream about the rotary.
Now, Mr. Haskell, my psychology teacher, would say this had implications. That somehow my fear of the rotary is linked to my issues with Anthony, which are both many and complicated. Mr. Haskell has a certain way he says things like this, leaning over with both elbows balanced on his lectern. It's very unsettling, as if he can see deep into your soul. But the truth is, I was scared of the rotary before I even met Anthony.
Most people don't even know what rotaries are. That's because most towns have those most modern of inventions, stoplights, to deal with traffic. Not here. Instead, some genius decided however many years ago to put in this big circle, with all the main roads feeding into it, then sat back to watch people crash to their deaths as they attempted to negotiate it.
But I digress.
My first experience with the rotary was when I was about seven. We'd just moved to town so that my father could finally finish his dissertation. My mother and I were on our way to the grocery store when we suddenly came upon this big sign that said yield with an arrow pointing to the right. Cars were going around a big circle, off of which poked several different exits to different roads. The trick, apparently, was to kind of merge in, follow around until your exit, then merge out. Simple as that.
"Oh my God," my mother said, poking her glasses up the bridge of her nose, which she always does when she's really nervous. "What is this?"
The answer came in the form of a loud, impatient beep from behind us. My mother looked nervously to her left, then tentatively poked at the gas pedal, sending us inching out into oncoming traffic. Another beep.
"Mom," I said.
"I'm merging!" she shrieked, as if this were on the level of splitting atoms and I was distracting her on purpose. And we were merging, pretty well, slowly easing into traffic. In fact, we were almost relaxed when we had to try to get back out; no easy trick, as there were many cars merging in. We got stuck on the inside track for two more turns, watching our exit go by, before my mother panicked and just sort of jerked the wheel, sending us in its general direction. And that was when the station wagon hit us.
The scene ensued the way you would expect: dents all around, tears (my mother), angry muttering (the guy who owned the station wagon), plus everyone else driving past rubbernecking and jawing to one another while I sank down as far as I could in the passenger seat, wishing there was a way to meld permanently with the pleather beneath me. The entire episode ended with a ticket, our insurance rates rising, and my mother swearing to never do the rotary ever again, which seemed somewhat overdramatic, until we realized that she meant it.
What this means, essentially, is that she has spent nine years taking the longest possible route everywhere. Because the rotary is the hub of our town, avoiding it takes work. And maps. And no end of secret shortcuts, long detours, and general embarrassment. Even a trip to the Quik Zip, basically about four miles from our house, requires getting on the highway, cutting (illegally) through the senior citizen compound, and making three left turns against oncoming traffic.
My father calls this ridiculous. He is a rotary champ, folding easily in and out, even while chatting on his cell phone or fiddling with the CD player. He is also a mathematician, something that my mother always brings up whenever the Rotary Argument commences, as if his proficiency with numbers is somehow involved in his mastery of the traffic circle. What all this has meant to me is that when it comes to going anywhere, I'm usually hoping it's my dad who grabs the keys to the sedan off the hook by the door first. Which will soon be a moot point, now that I'm about to turn sixteen and get my own license.
My boyfriend, Anthony, is a year older than me. He's good at the rotary, too, but he understands my hesitation. In fact, since I got my permit, we've spent a lot of time going in circles together, practicing. We started late at night, when it was pretty much deserted.
"Okay, now the first thing you're gonna do is stop and look to the left here," he instructed me one night. "There's someone coming, so unless they merge off before they get here, we'll wait for them to pass."
We waited. It was a Cadillac, moving slowly. It had the whole rotary to itself.
"Okay now," Anthony said. "Just ease out."
I did. Just as my mother had, all those years earlier. But this time there was no one coming; it was dark. No problem. But still my heart was beating hard, thumping against my chest, even as I picked up speed.
"See?" Anthony said, reaching over to squeeze my leg. He left his hand there, warm on my skin, as we eased around the circle. "Piece of cake, right?"