Happy Wednesday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for KIARA FIGHTS BACK by Marilyn Kaye! I’m so excited to share an excerpt of the book with you today, AND more information about the author and tour, PLUS you can enter the giveaway to win a print copy!Kiara Fights Back by Marilyn Kaye
Series: The Spyglass Sisterhood #3
Published on April 5, 2022 by Holiday House
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Middle Grade
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Author Links: Goodreads, Instagram
Kiara, traditionally a loner, doesn't hesitate to say exactly what's on her mind. But she's found good friends among the Spyglass Sisterhood members who appreciate her keen observations and incredible smarts.
When a fellow classmate starts to get bullied online, Kiara is determined not only to find the perpetrator(s), but also to bring them to justice. To do that, she'll need help from her friends and from the Sisterhood's magical spyglass to gather evidence and put the pieces together.
My friend Ellie Marks says I have to introduce myself before I start telling this story. My name is Kiara Douglas, and I will begin by saying to you all, “Greetings and salutations.”
Six years ago, when I was in the first grade, my father read Charlotte’s Web to me. If you don’t know this book, it’s by E. B. White, and it’s about the friendship between a spider, Charlotte, and a pig named Wilbur. When Charlotte first meets Wilbur, she says “Salutations!” Wilbur doesn’t know what that means, and she tells him it’s a fancy way of saying “Greetings.”
I really liked that word, salutations. I added greetings in case the people I spoke to were like Wilbur and didn’t know what salutations meant. So I began saying “Greetings and salutations” to the other kids in my classroom.
They laughed at me. The teacher told them to stop, so they did, but I saw some of them cover their mouths, and I’m sure they were giggling. It annoyed me that they couldn’t appreciate my vocabulary.
I didn’t have any friends in the first grade. Or in the second, third, fourth, or fifth. Then we moved to Lakeside and I began to attend East Lakeside Middle School. I didn’t have any friends in the sixth grade there either. But now, in the seventh grade, I have friends—three of them. I’ll tell you more about them later. But first I have to finish telling you about myself.
I’ve just turned thirteen years old. I’m Black, and my skin is brown. I wear my hair in cornrows, which are tight braids. I like this style because it’s very neat and my hair doesn’t get in my face. And also because my aunt braids it for me and I like to visit her.
I live with my father in a big apartment in a very nice building. It has three bedrooms even though there are only two of us. My father uses the third bedroom as a study. His name is Edward James Douglas, PhD, and he’s a professor of history at Bascomb College here in Lakeside. I don’t have a mother. Well, I did have a mother, of course, who gave birth to me. Her name was Caroline Douglas, but she died in an accident when I was only two years old so I don’t remember her. I’ve seen pictures of her, and she was pretty. My aunt Molly says I look like her, but I don’t think so. Aunt Molly is my father’s sister. She lives in Lakeside too, she’s a hairdresser, and as I just told you, she’s the one who designed my braids. I go to her regularly for upkeep, as she calls it.
My father works a lot. He teaches classes at the college, and when he’s not teaching, he’s at the library or in his study doing research for a book he’s writing. He even works sometimes on weekends. But we always have breakfast together, and usually dinner too. There’s a nice lady, Ms. Cavendish, who comes in every weekday to do housework and prepare dinners for us. Every Wednesday, at nine o’clock in the evening, my father and I watch our favorite TV show together. It’s called Courthouse Chronicles, and each week there’s a different story about a crime and a trial.
Sometimes we take sides, prosecution or defense, and we discuss it afterward. And sometimes, when we’re just talking together, we find excuses to use phrases they use a lot on the show, like when the accused person says “I wasn’t even there” or the prosecuting attorney says “We gotta nail this guy.”
What else can I say about myself? I’m a good student, especially in math and science, and I’ve already mentioned my vocabulary, which is bigger than what most kids my age have. I don’t belong to any clubs at school and I don’t play on any teams. I prefer to do things by myself, so I never really minded about not having friends. Sometimes I wondered if that was normal. There have always been other kids in my classes who didn’t have many friends, but most of them wanted to have friends. I didn’t.
My father told me it was okay not to have friends. He said he didn’t have friends and he was just fine. When I pointed out the people he knew at the college, he said they were his “colleagues,” and perfectly nice, but not what he’d call friends. And he likes Aunt Molly, of course, but she’s family, so I guess she doesn’t count as a friend. But like I said, I have friends now—Ellie, Alyssa, and Rachel. My father knows about them, and he met them once. We usually spend our time together at Ellie’s, because she has the spyglass.
That’s how we got to know each other, because of the spyglass. It’s in this little room called a turret at the top of Ellie’s house, and it has some very unusual qualities. I’ve never believed in magic before, but I think I have to say that this spyglass is magical. When you look through it, sometimes you just see Lakeside. But other times, you see things that aren’t really there. But they always mean something.
One day, just two and a half months ago, Ellie looked through the spyglass and saw Alyssa flying over the town on a broomstick. When she got to know Alyssa, she found out that some people call Alyssa a witch because of the way she dresses. Alyssa’s half Asian, with long, straight black hair, and she always wears black clothes, black nail polish, and black stuff around her eyes. Also, dangling earrings that look like miniature skulls. Her mother comes from India, so her skin is brown, but lighter than mine. She’s tall and slender, and she doesn’t smile much.
Alyssa sometimes says she actually wishes she could be a fairy-tale witch so she could put curses on people she doesn’t like. Which are most people, frequently including her own family.
Ellie and Alyssa became friends, and then, one day, they looked in the spyglass and saw Rachel. She was walking with one of her mothers. Suddenly, as Ellie and Alyssa were watching her, Rachel turned into a small child, like about five years old, and she was holding her mother’s hand. Ellie and Alyssa got to know her and found out that Rachel’s parents are very protective. They never leave her alone and they don’t like her to go places without them. Rachel said they treat her as if she was a little kid and so sometimes she feels like one. That’s when they figured it out- what the spyglass was showing them. They were seeing things that people felt, maybe what they were afraid of, or maybe what they wished for. When they saw me, I was playing in the park with make-believe animals. It took them a while to figure out why.
When we moved here to Lakeside, my father gave me my very own laptop computer, and I started playing games on it. My favorite was The Amazing Maze, a game where you become an animal and compete with other animals to get through a maze. I was playing with people who I didn’t know, who I never saw, and who could have lived anywhere in the world as long as they had internet.
I know that some parents don’t like their kids to play online games, but my father is okay with it as long as the games aren’t violent. He even said that maybe online friends were better for me than real-life friends. Now that I actually have real-life friends, I think he’s a little nervous. He doesn’t know them very well, so he can’t know how nice they are.
But nobody’s perfect, right? Not me, not my friends. I guess I should tell you what they look like and act like so you can imagine them in your mind. First of all, I’d better warn you—Aunt Molly says I can be brutally honest, and that’s not always a good thing, she says. But I’m going to try to be accurate, so here goes.
Ellie is taller than me, but not as tall as Alyssa. I guess she’d be called average. She’s not skinny like me, but she’s not fat either. She is white and has brown hair, brown eyes, and a medium complexion with some freckles. She always says she’s ordinary-looking, but I think she’s kind of pretty. She’s friendly, but she can be a little bossy.
I’ve already told you what Alyssa looks like. As for her personality, she isn’t very friendly and she rolls her eyes a lot. Sometimes she makes jokes that I don’t get. Ellie says she’s just being sarcastic and that I shouldn’t take everything so literally. But what other way is there? Personally, I think people should just say what they mean.
Rachel is shorter than the rest of us and she thinks she’s fat but she’s not, she’s just sort of round and personally, I think she’s the prettiest of us. She’s has long curly blond hair that gets frizzy sometimes. Her skin is seriously white, and when she’s embarrassed she turns pink, or even red. She’s usually shy, and sometimes she can act kind of wimpy and nervous, but she’s improving—she finally convinced her parents she doesn’t have to be walked to and from school and she can do more on her own. And just last month, she won a seventh-grade election to be the class representative, so I guess she’s not so shy anymore.
I know a little about their histories, like why Ellie’s family moved here to Lakeside. Back in her hometown, Brookdale, her parents were trying to raise money for a homeless shelter, and a lot of people didn’t want that. Those people ostracized the whole Marks family, and they didn’t want to live there anymore.
Alyssa has a mother who’s a famous surgeon, a stepfather who’s a major architect, a stepbrother who’s a big deal in high school, a stepsister who’s training to be an Olympic figure skater, and a little brother who’s an actor. So to stand out in this important family, she rebelled, went gloomy and hostile, and started dressing goth style.
Before Rachel was born, she had a sister who was killed by a car while crossing a street alone when she was ten. This was why her two mothers became so overprotective of her and were afraid of letting her out of their sight.
They don’t know much about my history. And I’d like to keep it that way.
We’re different, but we have one big thing in common—none of us fit into any of the cliques at East Lakeside Middle School. We’re not on any sports teams like the athletes. We’re all smart, but not all-the-time straight‐A types like the brains. We’re not very artsy like the drama kids and chorus members. And we are most definitely not eligible to belong to the popular crowd.
These are the ones we particularly don’t like. Ellie says she was a member of the popular crowd back at her old school, and I can believe that. She looks like them, she dresses like them, and she has a lot of confidence. But those friends turned on her and treated her very badly, so after her family moved to Lakeside, she didn’t want to have anything to do with the popular crowd here.
We never do what those kids do. We don’t join school clubs or try out for cheerleading or volunteer for committees. And we don’t do social media. No Instagram, no Snapchat, no YouTube, no TikTok or whatever new app happens to be available. Of course, since you have to be thirteen to use social media and a lot of seventh graders are only twelve, they’re not supposed to be on these things, but they just lie about their ages and join anyway. I’m actually thirteen now, but I’m still not interested in social media. Those popular kids, they’re addicted to that stuff. You see them in the halls between classes, practically glued to their phone screens.
We are not like them, and we don’t want to have anything to do with them. We call them the others. Though Ellie does make an exception for a popular boy named Mike, because he doesn’t act superior like the others and he isn’t mean. Personally, I think Ellie wants him to be her boyfriend. Maybe he already is.
We do send each other text messages. Ellie finally got her first smartphone last month, so now we can all have a text group instead of sending separate texts to each one of us. We call ourselves the Spyglass Sisterhood, and that’s the name of our text messaging group. I don’t really feel like Ellie, Alyssa, and Rachel are my sisters. But since I’ve never had a sister, I’m not sure what that would feel like.
I guess that’s enough about me and them for now, and I can start telling a story about us.
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