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The Queen of Coolby Cecil Castellucci
Synopses & Reviews
The author of Boy Proof is back with a funny, incisive look at a teenage girl whose reign of popularity comes at the price of ennui — until she dares to take off her tiara and do something truly cool with her life.
On the outside, Libby Brin is the most popular girl in school. She has the coolest friends, the hottest boyfriend, the trendiest clothes, and the hippest parents. But on the inside, Libby is dying — of boredom. In a moment of desperation, Libby signs up for an internship at the L.A. Zoo, much to the dismay of her friends, who'd prefer she spend her time with them, shopping, partying, and making fun of everyone else. To Libby, the zoo gig seems like something, anything, different to do, even if it means she has to work with two nerds — Tina (aka Tiny), a little person and aspiring actress, and Sheldon, an introverted boy with a brilliant, inquiring mind. But what happens when Libby realizes she actually enjoys working at the zoo and may even like Tina and Sheldon? Will the Queen of Cool be forced to give up her crown?
"Libby Brin, the Queen of Cool, is bored. 'Everything is "boring".' The 16-year-old finds no excitement in her classes or even her friends — beautiful Perla, whose 'every move results in a disco effect'; Mike Dutko, to whom Perla gives hand jobs in a school bathroom stall; unflappable Sid, who's in a band; and handsome Kenji, with whom Libby often plays 'kissy face' but also has 'an understanding.' To create some drama, she peels off her 'fabulous purple gown' at the Fall Formal, puts a paper bag over her head, and streaks (in her underwear) through the gym — then asks herself, 'What is wrong with me?' Her apathy sets the stage for cool Libby to do the unthinkable: she signs up for an internship at the Los Angeles Zoo. The brief, episodic chapters make it hard for readers to get to know any of the characters deeply — but perhaps that's the point. They aren't deep — except for 'Tiny' Carpentieri, a dwarf, and Tiny's friend, overweight Sheldon, who are also both interns at the zoo, and whose strong sense of self begin to affect Libby in positive ways. ('All this time I've thought I was an "It" girl. Really, I am the Without — "It" girl,' she realizes, as Perla moves in on Kenji.) The changes in Libby may not be as compelling as the subtle shifts in Egg, the heroine of Castellucci's debut Boy Proof, but readers may well enjoy watching Libby grow up, and hope for more from this promising author." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Castellucci clearly knows what goes on in the lives of many teens." School Library Journal
"Relayed in Libby's lively, intimate voice, this story is a quick, engaging read about a selfish teen who discovers not only herself but also the difference between being part of a team and being part of a group." Booklist
"Though there's nothing revolutionary about Libby's transformation...her observations are sharp and convincing, whether she's studying elephants, chimpanzees, or that lower life form known as the popular crowd." Horn Book Magazine
Ms. Lew, an aspiring actress who can hardly fake being interested in teaching us, places her hands on the back of her chair and sighs heavily.
I bet we are the closest thing she ever comes to having an audience.
She turns and writes the words Endangered Species on the board in dry erase marker. She's picked the color red. I can tell this is going to be a dramatic class.
"The world is in ecological crisis. Who can guess some of the causes for endangerment?" she asks.
A handful of kids in the front of the room raise their hands.
"Tina," Ms. Lew says as she calls on Tiny.
"Causes could include habitat loss, or the introduction of a new exotic species into the environment."
I wonder if Tiny has to sit in the front of the room because she can't see over anybody's head if she sits anywhere else. I wonder if that's why she always raises her hand. I wonder if the classroom looks different from the front of the room. I bet it's harder to not pay attention.
"Good, Tina." Ms. Lew says. "Anyone else? Libby? You have a look of deep thought on your face. Do you have anything to add?"
"Me?" I ask. I hate being singled out in class.
"No thoughts at all?"
"None I care to share," I say.
People laugh. Ms. Lew is not happy.
"How about overexploitation?" Sid calls out.
I turn to look at him as he acts the hero, thinking he's saved my ass. He hasn't. I could've come up with an acceptable answer. If I really wanted to.
"Good. How about some examples?" Ms. Lew says.
"Well, like people who think tiger bones will make them virile," Sid says.
People laugh. Louder.
I notice that Sid is not laughing. The word virile doesn't make him crack a smile.
"Excellent," Ms. Lew says, her mood brightening a bit. She probably feels good about her performance today.
She starts writing down a million notes on the board. Pulling down maps. Handing out info sheets. She is excited.
But me, I am ready for a nap.
I open my loose-leaf notebook, propping it up in front of me. Then I put my head down on the desk.
It smells like pencil and hand.
THE QUEEN OF COOL by Cecil Castellucci. Copyright © 2006 by Cecil Castellucci. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.
The author of "Boy Proof" returns with a funny, incisive look at a teenage girl who becomes bored with her popularity and dares to take off her tiara and do something really cool with her life.
About the Author
Cecil Castellucci is the author of the young adult novel Boy Proof. She is also a writer, filmmaker, actress, and singer-songwriter, and engages in many, many other creative pursuits. She says, "Sometimes I feel cool and other times I feel like the biggest loser ever. So I started wondering, what would happen if everything you always thought was cool was suddenly lame? What would happen to you, if you were all of a sudden uncool? And what exactly is 'cool,' anyway? This story came out of a desire to figure it all out."
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