Thursday, December 02, 2010

Faux Beaux! My Fake Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours! by Kristina Springer

I make a big production out of opening my e-mail in a new window. "Oh, look. A kiss."

"What?" Sienna asks. She scoots over to look at my screen.

I launch my e-kiss. "Awww...look at that, Sea. Isn't it cute? The big kiss is thinking about the little kiss in the thought bubble. And there's a message: 'I'm thinking about you all the time. Oh!"

I look at Sienna, and her lips are drawn tight and her eyes are narrowed. I think she must be jealous.

I smile and sing in my head, My fake boyfriend is better than yours.

Tori and Sienna have been best friends since Kindergarten. But when Sienna goes away for a luxury beach vacation for the summer and stops e-mailing or IM-ing, Tori is afraid that she'll be starting the first day of seventh grade without her longtime best friend.

On the big day she finds Sienna (if it is Sienna!) in the center of a group of admirers. She has a glamorous tan, a stylish outfit, and her short brown curls are now a long, chic blond do. "Extensions!" Sea whispers she gives Tori a quick hug. And indeed it is a made-over Sienna, complete with a dreamy beach boyfriend named Antonio. Antonio, who IMs her constantly, sends flowers for the first day of school, and whose cute romantic sayings soon have the would-be popular crowd swooning and flocking around the new Sea. Tori knows Sienna as only a long-term best friend can, and she senses intuitively that Antonio must be an invented soul mate.

But two can play that game. Tori has spent part of her summer with her dad in Chicago, and quickly setting up a new e-mail account, she creates her own summer flame, Sebastian Colander, who is everything Antonio is--and more. And since both of the boys are now distance romances, the rest of the girls fall for the stories hook, line, and sinker, and Tori and Sea find themselves the center of the seventh-grade social scene.

But the tension of keeping up such an extensive lie begins to wear on Tori and on their friendship.

I really need a break! I don't know about real boyfriends, but fake boyfriends are exhausting. This week alone I had two imaginary marathon phone calls from Sebastian. I fake-baked and mailed him a batch of his favorite M&M cookies (using only handpicked blue M&Ms; it's his favorite color and I'm thoughtful like that.), and I had to make a big fuss out of the oooey-gooey love note he e-mailed me.

Honestly, I don't know how people with real boyfriends keep up with them and go to school at the same time. I may wait to date a real boy until I'm out of high school.

And then on their morning news there is the REAL Sebastian Colander in Chicago, a super-good-looking eighth grader who rescues a mother and baby from a fire, and Tori is suddenly scrambling for more details about the famous Sebastian. Then Sea raises the ante by announcing that her Antonio is coming for the fall dance. Tori realizes that the stakes have been raised and that she has only a few days to come up with the real Sebastian Colander for the dance.

Oh, what a tangled web...!

Kristina Springer, whose earlier funny and realistic Spin The Bottle documented the beginnings of boy-girl attractions in middle school, has another story of junior high romance (or non-romance), My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010), a real winner which deals humorously with the themes of truth and trust in friendship amid the tension of making it in middle school.

As School Library Journal's reviewer says, "The themes will resonate with any girl who's ever gone through the hardships of middle school: friendship, boys, popularity, and, most importantly, choosing to do the right, but often more difficult, thing. A fun read."

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