Back to School with Val Patterson!

Val Patterson, author of The Other Side of Blue, a novel about a displaced teenager who searches for her identity in the aftermath of her father’s death, shares a story about being a high school nerd—and the dance that changed everything, at least for an evening.





I was a high school nerd. I confess. Clothes always at least one season out of fashion. Can you say neon-green polyester print? Shiny as my too-oily skin. I had no money for spring break vacations or most afterschool activities, though there was that one freshman play, for which I begged transportation so I could get home after rehearsals. Pleasepleaseplease. Me in the title role … the Ugly Duckling. Really. Some things you can’t make up and have them believed.

Shy, I sought comfort in books and writing. While being considered smart didn’t make me more popular, it saved me. There was refuge in being thought brainy, in carrying stacks of books as high as my shoulder, like a shield.

Once, I craved an invitation to the private Noël holiday dance off-campus. Lucky girls received invitations from the “in” girls and had to ask a guy to go. All afternoon, envelopes were being passed out. Someone would walk up to a girl in the hallway or tap her on the shoulder at a locker. I remember receiving one of the coveted envelopes. Me. I’m standing there in front of class—history, I think—hardly breathing. The girl’s name was Alison. She placed the envelope in my hand like a gift bestowed, a gift of inclusion.

I soared with the possibility of going. Knees weak, neck aflame, I finally asked the guy—tall, dark, and handsome—if he’d go with me. Breath held, sky spinning. What if he says no? He said yes. I think I asked twice to make sure. I wore a green evening gown, dark as holly leaves, borrowed from a friend. A wrist corsage, a fancy car on loan from his aunt. I don’t remember dinner, but walking into the dance, a hand tucked on his arm—that I remember. A magical evening for an otherwise self-professed nerd.

Other authors heading back to school on Figment include:

Back to school with Kate DiCamillo!
Back to school with Kim Culbertson!
Back to school with Claire LaZebnik!
Back to school with Kimberly Derting!
Back to school with P.J. Hoover!
Back to school with Bianca Turetsky!
Back to school with Adrienne Vrettos!


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