EVERY CLASS BEGINS THE SAME: nervously waiting for seats to be assigned. He longs to sit in the back, or along the windows–somewhere inconspicuous–but the tyranny of alphabetical order always leaves him smack dab in the middle, an "M" surrounded on all sides, third row across, third row back, like some obnoxious center square on Hollywood Squares–like Paul Lynde, except he wasn’t even as funny as Paul Lynde. (He remembers a question from the show: "Betty Ford said it was her second greatest pleasure in life. What was it?" Paul Lynde: "Sucking on a rum cake." )
         All the guys in his classes have longer hair than they did last year. They look like teenagers now–taller, wider necks, deeper voices. There are three acceptable ways to dress: sports team logos (for the jocks), concert t-shirts (the scums) and plaid shirts, with snaps instead of buttons (the brains). Robin’s in a polyester patterned thing, brown and gold and white, and snug-fitting, chocolate brown dress pants that he really likes–though after looking around at what everyone else is wearing, he starts to think he might like them too much.
         Humiliations great and small greet him every class period. In English, the guy in the seat in front of him, Jay Lunger, announced, "Your name is gonna be Ears." Jay was bigger than him by a couple of inches and had no problem saying whatever he wanted. When Robin tried to laugh off the insult, Jay said, "It’s not that funny. You’re walking around like you got half a plate on each side-a your head." For the following forty-five minutes Robin examined every pair of ears in the room: how far they stuck out, how long they were, if the lobes were attached or not. Between periods he checked himself out in the bathroom mirror, turning his head from side to side. His ears weren’t that big, he reasoned, they just curved out at the top, like fins on a classic car. He decided he’d have to grow his hair longer, anyway, just in case he was wrong.
         In Phys. Ed. they played kickball, and when he was up he swung his foot and missed the ball entirely. "Never heard of anyone getting a strike in kickball," Billy Danniman, standing on deck, sneered. In Algebra, he wound up in the seat behind Diane Jernigan, who gloated to him about how psyched she was that she and Victoria had so many classes together, while he seethed with envy: Diane Jernigan, that bitch, last year she got a whole bunch of girls to gang up on me because I said I hated Kiss.


----From Chapter 2, "The World of Normal Boys," by K.M. Soehnlein
Copyright 2000, Kensington Books