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The Secret Life of a Boarding School Brat

by Amy Gordon

Published by Holiday House, 2004

Ages 9 - 12

Boarding school stories popular in the first half of the 20th century typically followed a predictable formula: privileged girls dealt with friendship melodramas, field hockey, and the fads and fashions of their time. Lydia Rice's tenure at the Florence T. Pocket boarding school in 1965 is refreshingly unexpected, beginning with the prickly protagonist's failing grades and miserable social life. Her parents have recently divorced, and Lydia feels unwelcome in her father's home, complete with a new stepmother. She's also missing her mother, who's trying to make ends meet in a small apartment half a country away. Other seventh graders at school, who were friends just a few months ago, are now obsessed with "acting mature" and they snicker at Lydia's spontaneous and unaffected behavior. Her mounting stress has triggered chronic insomnia, and it's during one of her illicit nightly wanderings through the school building that Lydia meets Howie, the night watchman. The two form an unlikely alliance, and Howie gives Lydia a challenge she can't resist: to identify the five girls painted in an old hallway mural. The mystery of the former Pocket girls, and Lydia's gradual adjustment to school life and the friendships she finds in unexpected places, are all presented through Lydia's diary entries. (MVL) 2004 Cooperative Children's Book Center

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