Excerpt from The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O'Roark Dowell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Second Life of Abigail Walker

by Frances O'Roark Dowell

The Second Life of Abigail Walker
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2012, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2013, 256 pages

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Tamara Smith

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Do not think about Claudia, Abby told herself harshly.

But then she remembered that when she got home, she could e-mail Claudia or maybe even call her. She might say, I bet you don't miss the boys in this school. They don't do anything but tease you and call you names.

And Claudia would say, Don't forget, we'll have our own apartment someday, and we won't let any mean people come visit us.

The apartment. That was a good thought, and Abby tried to hang on to it. Once, in fourth grade, she and Claudia had taped together four shoeboxes and pretended they were the rooms of the apartment they planned to share one day. They cut doors in the side of the boxes, so you could get from the kitchen to the living room, the living room to the bedroom. Their real apartment would have hallways, of course, but it was okay that the shoe-box apartment just had doors.

Mr. Lee asked a tall, gangly boy named Martin to read his acrostic poem, and the boys' chanting wound down. Abby sniffed quietly and wished she had a tissue. She wished the girl who sat catty-corner from her would turn around and smile. But Abby had stopped crying, and it had only taken her a few minutes. That was good.

She opened her notebook to a blank page and began drawing the plans for her bedroom in the apartment. She sketched in twin beds and a mini-fridge. She drew a smaller bed for her dog, and then she drew a tiny quilt folded neatly on top of the dog's bed. She drew floral-patterned wallpaper and a giant flat-screen TV. She drew without stopping.

When the bell rang, Abby had blinked several times and shaken her head, surprised to find herself in Mr. Lee's classroom instead of her apartment, which seemed much more real to her, even if it only existed in her imagination. The other kids scurried out of the classroom. Only Anoop Chatterjee took his time, carefully inserting his notebook and pen into his backpack. When he saw Abby watching him, he smiled at her slightly and nodded.

Abby gave a weak smile back and stood up. She took in a big breath and let it out slowly, preparing herself for what she knew was coming.

She could have gone to the library instead of the cafeteria. Mrs. Longee, the librarian, liked her. She was recruiting her for Battle of the Books. Abby hadn't told her yet that she wasn't going to do it. She loved the idea of being on a team of kids who read for fun, but she was afraid she wouldn't read the books on the list. She had a bad habit of not reading books she was told to read. She liked to choose her own.

But she was hungry and she wanted chocolate milk with her sandwich, and she figured she might as well get it over with.

"I'm thinking about going on a diet," Kristen announced as soon as Abby sat down at the table. "I'm getting so fat. My jeans are really tight."

Everyone rushed to assure Kristen she wasn't the least bit fat. Abby held back for a moment before joining in. She wanted to seem sincere. "You look great, Kristen. You're probably too thin, even."

Mistake. Kristen was not too thin. She was not too fat. She was just right, and to suggest otherwise—well, you just didn't do that.

"So, have your parents ever put you on a diet?" Kristen asked Abby, sounding concerned. "Because I've heard that one of the worst things you can do when you have an overweight child is to force her to diet. It's how girls get bulimic. Although, if you ask me, bulimia sounds like a great diet plan. Eat whatever you want! All you have to do is throw it up later."

The other girls giggled. Abby felt her cheeks grow hot. I'm not even that fat! she wanted to yell. And it was true. They'd been weighed two weeks ago in gym. Abby had weighed one hundred and five pounds. Kristen had weighed eighty-eight. So what? Seventeen pounds wasn't that much more.

Excerpted from The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O'Roark Dowell. Copyright © 2012 by Frances O'Roark Dowell. Excerpted by permission of Atheneum Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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