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  Copyright © 2004 by Wendy Mass

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

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  Excerpt on self-esteem (page 102) reprinted from Women and Self-Esteem, by Linda Tschirhart Sanford and Mary Ellen Donovan. First published in 1984 by Doubleday, a division of Random House.

  The Warner Books name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  First eBook Edition: September 2007

  ISBN: 978-0-316-02873-8

  Book design by Billy Kelly

  The text for this book was set in Gill Sans and Sabon MT, and the display type is Gill Sans Heavy


  Also by Wendy Mass



  Chapter 1A: Josie

  Chapter 1B: Everyone

  Chapter 2A: Josie

  Chapter 2B: Everyone

  Chapter 3A: Josie

  Chapter 3B: Everyone

  Chapter 4A: Josie

  Chapter 4B: Everyone

  Chapter 5A: Josie

  Chapter 5B: Everyone

  Chapter 6A: Josie

  Chapter 6B: Everyone

  Chapter 7A: Josie

  Chapter 7B: Everyone

  Chapter 8A: Josie

  Chapter 8B: Everyone

  Chapter 9A: Josie

  Chapter 9B: Everyone

  Chapter 10A: Josie

  Chapter 10B: Everyone

  Chapter 11A: Josie

  Chapter 11B: Everyone

  Chapter 12: Josie Gets the Last Word

  Also by Wendy Mass

  A Mango-Shaped Space

  For EJ McCarthy and Debbie Stoler, who provided a summer of inspiration, for Bob, Pat, and the french fry–eating squirrel at Drew University. And with love to Mike, for sneaking in and making everything better

  The real you is who you are when no one’s watching.

  7:00 A.M.– 8:20 A.M.

  Chapter 1A: Josie

  Right now it’s seven o’clock on a Monday morning, and I’m lying on the floor of my bedroom watching the white plastic ceiling fan go around and around and around. I don’t actually choose to sleep on the floor; some mornings I just wind up here. For the past few years I’ve had very vivid dreams, and I wind up flinging myself to the floor in the middle of the night. Now I keep a pillow by the side of the bed, so it’s really not too bad. I feel safe on the floor. Like I’m more grounded. Sometimes I feel a bit untethered, like I’m more on the world than in it. I’ve always wanted to ask my friends if they feel like that, but I never do.

  I sit up and rub the little crusts of yesterday’s mascara out of my eyes. I can’t hear the shower running, so Rob must still be sleeping. This is a good thing because it means I’ll have all the hot water I need, and I need a lot. One time last year I turned on the water and then went back to my room for a second, and Rob ran into the shower. He screamed bloody murder and jumped out, hopping up and down on the fuzzy yellow bathmat. I ran in to see what all the fuss was about and got an eyeful. It’s one thing to see your brother naked when you’re five and he’s seven, but it’s another thing entirely when you’re teenagers. I may be scarred for life. It’s true that Rob and I get along better than any other brother and sister I know. But still, there are boundaries.

  With the water just this side of scalding, I wash my hair twice. This is a big day for me, and one time just won’t suffice. I haven’t had a haircut in over a year, and now my hair falls right above my breasts. Speaking of my breasts, the left one is larger than the right. Only slightly, but it’s bothered me ever since they started growing when I was twelve. I suppose it’s possible that someone else might not be able to tell, but I can’t be sure because no one else has ever seen them. Andrew Trachtenberg did touch them once over my sweatshirt behind the bleachers at the homecoming football game. After that his family moved away to one of the square-shaped states in the middle of the country. I try to tell myself that there’s no connection.

  So, technically, no one has actually seen them. Although that could change soon, considering I just turned sixteen — today, in fact — and I’m ready for a real boyfriend. So far I can’t say that the first day of sixteen feels any different than the last day of fifteen. But I’m still very excited that it’s my birthday. Especially since it’s only my fourth one.

  “Are you done yet?” Rob yells through the door. “I can’t be late today. I have to meet with the coach before homeroom.”

  “Okay, okay, hold on.” I push the old flowered shower curtain aside and reach for my towel, trying not to slip. Drying off takes me longer than I bet it takes most people, because I have a whole drying order that I like to follow that starts at my feet and winds up at my ears. When I’m done I wrap a smaller towel around my head like a fortune-teller. Then comes the citrus-scented oil, which I spray all over except for my chest, because I don’t want to break out there. I don’t think anyone can smell the oil through my clothes, but it makes me feel like I’ve got a secret. Then I throw on the purple bathrobe that my great-aunt sent me from New York. It’s a little kid’s bathrobe, and I think she meant to send it to my eleven-year-old cousin, but my mother won’t let me return it since it fits fine. I try not to dwell on the fact that I look younger than I am. My mother is always trying to convince me that I have a very healthy body image for a teenager. Usually I would roll my eyes at some-thing like that, but I think she really needs to believe it so I don’t contradict her.

  Rob knocks again. As soon as I open the door I hear, “Surprise!!!”

  My parents and Rob are standing in the hall holding a homemade birthday corn muffin with a white candle stuck in it. A silver Mylar helium balloon waves at me from my doorknob. Below the happy sweet sixteen message on the balloon, my mother has written in thick Magic Marker, “Happy Fourth Birthday to Our Favorite Leaper!” That’s the name for people like me who were born on February 29th. Since leap year only comes around once every four years, that means that the 29th only exists once every four years. This took some getting used to. When I was five, Rob told me that my parents took my birthday away because I never went to sleep when I was supposed to. Nice. He then pointed to our kitchen calendar and showed me that the day was, in fact, not there. I cried for five straight hours until my mother explained the whole leap year thing to me. Then I cried for another five. Normally I celebrate my birthday on February 28th, but it never feels quite right. Now when February 29th does roll around, it’s that much more special. Plus, we leapers are a pretty exclusive group. After all, there are 365 chances to be born on a regular day, but only a one-in-1,461 chance of having my birthday. In fact, I’m the only leaper at my high school.

  I grin as they sing me the Happy Birthday song, and then Mom tells me to make a wish. This is only the first of many birthday things they’ll do for me today to make up for all the ones I miss. I blow out the candle and wish that my breasts were the same size. Since I’ll get to make many more wishes today, I don’t mind wasting that one on something so shallow. I’ll wish for world peace later.

  “Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Dad says, giving me a big hug. He’s the more nurturing of my parents. Poor Dad. He’s had a hard time of it lately. Six months ago his accounting firm merged with a bigger one and he was laid off. Now Mom’s job catering partie