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Description : Alienated
Winning. Cara Sweeney had made it her business, and business was good. Honor Society president? Check. Young Leader Award? Check. State debate champion two years running? Double check. And when the title of valedictorian had eluded her, she’d found a way to snag that, too.

Over the summer, she’d staged an academic ambush of such epic proportions, Midtown High’s geek-elite were still chewing their pencils in shock. Sneaky as a senator, she’d retaken AP Calculus, raised her grade from 92 to 100, and usurped Marcus Johnson as valedictorian. Her stealth attack had caught him with his Hanes down, and unless her grades tanked this year—which was so not going to happen—the sulking loser had no chance of reclaiming his rank.

But she had a feeling Marcus would laugh his lacrosse pads off if he could see her now: slumped in the principal’s wingback guest chair, mouth agape as she tried to form a coherent response to the “awesome news” Mr. Ferguson had just tossed into her lap like a live grenade.

“I don’t think you understand what a big deal this is. Not only for you, but for the whole school.” Principal Ferguson’s brown caterpillar eyebrows inched toward a receding hairline. “The L’eihrs chose you over every other valedictorian in the country. We’re talking thirty thousand seniors!”

“Mmm-hmm.” Cara nodded blankly, trying to make sense of it. Maybe there’d been a mistake. She’d cut soccer, track, volunteer tutoring, and chess club a couple years ago when Mom got sick, and it took a lot more than academics to impress a scholarshipmittee these days. So why hadn’t they chosen someone more aplished?

“I know the moneyes with a few strings attached, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”...