Leslie can’t seem to avoid trouble, whether it’s at school or at home. Just as life seems at its lowest, Jason McCready, the exceedingly cool new guy at school, enters her life. Now Leslie is the envy of all the girls. But Jason’s appearance is deceiving he is determined to control every aspect of Leslie’s life and he begins terrorizing her in unimaginable ways. When a substitute teacher reads the private English-class journal in which Leslie reveals Jason’s abuse, Leslie is suddenly forced into hard choices and terrifying action to take back her life. Updated to reflect the contemporary world of the Internet, cell phones and text messaging, Leslie’s Journal is a suspenseful, fast-paced story about love, friendship and what it means to stand up for yourself.
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Allan Stratton is an award-winning and internationally published and produced novelist and playwright. His novel, Chanda's Secrets, is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. He lives in Toronto.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It's only the first week and already school sucks. I've got Ms. Graham again for English.
Today she said every class is going to start with fifteen minutes of journal writing, which is what we're doing now. This is supposed to train us to "reflect freely on our personal experiences." Oh yeah? It's to give her fifteen minutes with nothing to do.
Also, since our journals will be about personal feelings, she says she won't read them. "Your journal is just for you. So write, write, write. As with everything in this world, you'll get out of it what you put into it." According to her, this is a "Life Lesson." What it really is is an excuse for her to get out of marking.
A year of journals! Can I scream yet? It's so boring I keep forgetting to breathe. And each day when it's over she's going to collect them and lock them up in her filing cabinet, like we're a bunch of babies who'll lose them or something.
But okay. Journals beat having her teach. Last year, she either read aloud to us or we read aloud to her, then she'd stop and ask us stupid questions about what we'd just heard. This last part was hilarious, because nobody ever gave her an answer. We just stared up at her like we were dead and watched her eyes go funny. No kidding, her eyes were like gerbils. They darted around desperate for a hand to pop in the air till the silence got so bad she couldn't stand it anymore and blurted the answer herself.
Normal teachers would figure if students are passed out, maybe they should do something. LIKE, HELLO, MAYBE STOP ASKING DUMB QUESTIONS! But not Ms. Graham. She went from dumb to dumber. There'd be red patches on her neck and she'd be sweating and wiping the sweat from her hands to her dress. It was disgusting.
That's when she'd tell us to read the next chapter silently and answer the questions on handouts she'd pass around for homework. Which of course we never did. We pretended we hadn't heard her and the handouts didn't exist. At the end of class, we'd crumple them into balls and toss them in the general direction of the wastebasket. It's like, whole rain forests got clear-cut so Ms. Graham could stuff her filing cabinet with handouts that all ended up in the garbage.
Then, pretty soon, we pretended Ms. Graham didn't exist either. We'd come in, put our heads on our desks and go to sleep. Which was fine by her, I guess, because at least if we were sleeping we weren't throwing chalk. Or handouts.
It was sooo painful.
Near the end of the year, she went Missing in Action. They said she was away with chronic bronchitis, but we figured she was having a breakdown. Over the summer the story went around that she'd knocked over a shelf of light fixtures at Wal-Mart and ended up under a pile of lampshades babbling hysterically while trying to strangle herself with an electric cord till the ambulance came and hauled her off in a straitjacket.
Well, that's the rumor. And even if it isn't true, it should be, because obviously she's back for more and she's nutty as ever. Right now she's floating around with this vague look, smelling kind of stale in a pale gray billowy thing. She looks like a human dustball. Wait. She's just come to rest in front of the window. She's looking out. Maybe she's thinking of jumping.
It's kind of sad, really. I mean, if she wasn't a teacher, I'd feel sorry for her. Once upon a time she was somebody's baby, playing patty-cakes and having everybody kissing her and saying she was a cutie. Then she grew up. I picture her all alone in some tiny apartment, surrounded by cats and stacks of unmarked assignments, praying that tomorrow will be better. And it never is.
Poor Ms. Graham. It's not like she wants to be boring. That's why I almost feel guilty when we torture her. Who we should torture -- really, really torture, with hot coals and a pair of hedge clippers -- is Nicky Wicks. He has short greasy hair, cystic acne and a squishy tongue he likes to stick in girls' ears for a joke. He also has a dent in his forehead from where somebody hit him with a shovel when he was little. Too bad they didn't hit harder.
Nicky is the grossest pig in the school, and in this school there's a lot of competition. He only has one redeeming feature. If you want to lose weight, think about making out with him. You won't be able to eat for a week.
Anyway, Nicky "Pus-head" Wicks worked it so he sits one seat ahead of me in three separate classes. What's worse, he apparently thinks it is majorly funny to stick a couple of pencils up his nose and pretend to be a walrus. The real reason he does this is to have an excuse to let his pencils fall on the floor so he can bend down to pick them up and look up my skirt while he's at it.
Today I got my revenge. I waited till lunch, when I knew he'd be in the cafeteria with lots of people all around. Then I marched up to his table and said in a big loud voice, "Hey, Pus-head, you look up my skirt one more time and I'll personally pop your zits with my nail file!"
There was this roar of laughter, hooting and footstomping. Nicky was so embarrassed, I thought his cysts would explode. As for me, I just snapped my fingers and diva-ed my way to the parking lot for a smoke.
That's where I met the vice-principal, Mr. Manley, out on a little narc duty. "I want to see you in my office, young lady."
Sorry, journal, according to Ms. Graham it's time for you to go into the filing cabinet. Tomorrow, I'll tell you what happened with the Nazi.
P.S. Dear Ms. Graham: You promised our journals were going to be private. So in case you're secretly reading this to get some cheap thrills, you are nothing but a crazy perverted liar, and it's not my fault if it sends you over the edge.
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