I may as well tell you SPOILERS AHEAD. I normally wouldn’t have spoilers, but since I have at least a two-part series about kids who don’t quite fit in, and the spoiler sort of makes this book come together, I’ll give you the heads up.
Synopsis: Cammy is low, low, low on the social totem pole. She lives with her grandparents (they aren’t exactly up on trends) and she only has one true friend, Gerdi (the Danish exchange student– who would be more popular if her English weren’t so stilted). Cammy’s social status plummets even further when Bekka (the It girl at school) exposes Cammy changing into regular clothes at the dance and Cammy’s granny panties are on display. Ugh. But before Cammy ends up transferring schools, she gets a mysterious text message: ” I know how to get her back.” On her back porch the texter– code named White Rabbit–left Cammy a remote control. Cammy is told to hit play during Channel One. When she does, the entire school sees an America’s Got Talent audition tape of Bekka dancing– and losing her wig.
The White Rabbit leaves Cammy another text and another package. Basically, if she wants to be left alone, leave the package, but if she’s willing to work with WR, take the package. (She obviously takes the package because the book would be super short if she didn’t.) The package contains a yearbook full of details about all the students and a thousand dollars with a phone number. The phone number is to get in touch with someone about a makeover, and of course she turns hot. It also contains a key and a map to the janitor’s closet… which also has a secret hallway between the lockers and the classrooms.
The White Rabbit sends texts about a lot of stuff. The day she turns hot at school has a pep rally where she wins a trivia challenge by getting answers from WR. She leaves Secret Santa gifts in lockers. She exposes people– like, pictures of people in underwear show up, etc. She even gets to save popular girl Maggie from being killed by hornets (text about hornet spray). It gets a little creepy when she’s told to kiss popular boy Luke (like, where is this WR hiding to know what she’s so close to doing?). As she falls further and further down the rabbit hole, Cammy and Gerdi fall apart.
The White Rabbit asks Cammy to put something in a boy’s shampoo. She was told it was hair dye, but it turns out it was a serious chemical. She gets cold feet and no longer wants to play WR’s games. His last request is to tell Gerdi her dad is picking her up to go home. She refuses, and he reminds her that he made her– he can break her. She still refuses… so he pretty much goes crazy trying to destroy her. (Not that it would be that hard, since her reputation has been built on lies.) The White Rabbit actually has video of Cammy putting stuff in the shampoo; it plays during Channel One. Cammy is left absolutely friendless: Gerdi has left the country, boyfriend dumped her, etc. She had been curious before about the identity of the White Rabbit, but now that’s something she can actually get to thinking about.
So, here’s the spoiler, skip it if you want: she runs into the nerdiest boy in school “The Donald”, and he drops a sheet of paper. She hadn’t thought about him closely, but the handwriting on the paper made her want to check his locker. She breaks into his locker and discovers a notebook: it lists everything done to him by his tormentors or to people who were kind to him. Cammy gave Donald a stuffed pigeon she was knitting– she was the only one who was ever nice to him (she felt sorry for him and his Spock-like behavior). He discovers her rifling through his stuff, and they have a heart-to-heart. He really just wanted to repay her (and everyone else) for what they had done to him– Cammy turned popular for her good deeds while the popular people fell. Even Gerdi, who insulted him at the school dance, paid by losing her friend.
There’s a happy ending, though– Gerdi sends Cammy tickets to visit her in Denmark– they have no date, so she can come as an exchange student. Donald gets community service. Maggie and Luke are on speaking terms with her, although haven’t completely forgiven her.
Ok, first off, I have to give Ms. Anderson some major props: she let her readers work on Cammy’s journey with her with an online experience. She let them vote and everything. Pretty cool, and the result was pretty good. I can’t imagine another book that would have results like that– imagine if we voted on Harry Potter.
I feel like this book is for its time. We live in a very tech-savvy world, but don’t know what to do with it most of the time. As a result, you have Donald playing puppet-master and Cammy having no clue who she’s following or why, but going blindly with it. Also, after Cammy flashes her undies, she gets facebook messages from people like I C Urundies and whatnot. She then laments not having her privacy settings in place. Honey, it’s never too late!
I’m not going to say, “I’m Cammy,” because overall, I wasn’t popular but I wasn’t “low, low, low” on the totem pole. But there are those moments in middle school where you feel low on the totem pole, like a huge dork, like an outcast. At school, I had my little weirdo cliche (love all my friends from then, but we yelled “Yako” in the hallway– that’s okay backwards, and we clearly were NOT okay!), and at church I felt really left out, even though now I can’t pinpoint anything in particular. Anyway, I said something about how “dorky” I had been, and one of my close friends Emalee was like, “You’ve always been cool to me.” I think that’s a message worth remembering, folks. If you are genuine, it doesn’t matter if you are cool by other people’s definitions, because you are cool to your true friends. Gerdi tried to tell Cammy that, and it didn’t quite work (obviously). Even Maggie and Luke were like, ya know, when you weren’t manipulating people and being fake, you were really cool.
Lesson for the book: Be nice, kids. Know who your true friends are. Don’t follow directions given to you by a stranger.
Grades: 7th and up. I feel like this may be a really good time to remind them of internet safety, etc. 🙂
Grade: B I liked it, didn’t love it. Compared to The Misfits, it wasn’t as empowering, but it had the right amount of drama and natural consequences.
PS I guest blogged at Are you there Youth? It’s me, Nikki. I reviewed Dawn and the Big Sleepover… but I think it got cut off or I sent the wrong document. Le sigh.