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Fifteen-year-old Milo J. Wright and his best friend, Eden, are crazy to even consider participating in the election for President of the United States of America, aren't they? Never mind that Milo is twenty years too young. Never mind the fact that he'll have to balance the election with school, his lawn-mowing job, soccer practice, and trying to understand girls. There are times in life when you just have to go for something, no matter how impossible. Readers will discover that everyone, no matter what age, has something valuable to say.
About the Author
Allyson Braithwaite Condie taught high school English in Utah and in upstate New York. Currently, she is employed by her two little boys, who keep her busy playing trucks and building blocks. She enjoys running with her husband, Scott, listening to Neil Diamond (really!), reading, traveling, and eating. She lives with her family in Ithaca, New York.
SIX MONTHS EARLIER
Sage High’s ancient speakers crackled, signaling an impending announcement from the principal. Milo and his friend Jack looked at each other and groaned. It was the last few minutes of the final class of the day and that meant that the news was bound to be bad. Afternoon announcements were always sheer evil: news about more standardized tests, canceled games or dances . . .
One of Milo’s other friends, Eden, thought they saved the bad news for the end of the day so the students would go home and sleep on it and forget about it. That way, she said, the bad news couldn’t fester and ferment among the students for hours the way it would if they announced it at the beginning of the day. Instead, the news lost momentum. The procedure was diabolical, but so was the school administration.
Eden was probably right. She usually was.
“Do you think they added another week to the school year or something?” Jack asked Milo.
“That better not be it.” Milo hoped that the announcement didn’t have something to do with the upcoming student elections, but the fatalist in him knew that’s exactly what the announcement would be about, knew it the minute he heard the ominous crackling sound in the classroom.
“Students, we have an announcement,” said Principal Wimmer finally. He was apparently holding the microphone too close to something because a horrible screeching sound blasted from the speakers.
The students in Milo’s class started muttering and covering their ears. Principal Wimmer had been using the announcement system for years, but it still baffled him every time. Listening to him as he tried to speak was almost as painful as watching him try to set up his PowerPoint presentations for the school’s Assemblies to Increase School Spirit and Pride in Ourselves, Our School, and Our Community.
“What’s he doing in there, torturing a cat?” Jack covered his ears.
The screeching finally stopped. “Oops,” Principal Wimmer said. “My apologies. Now, to get to our announcement. We know this particular announcement will come as a surprise to many of you, but we feel that it is in the best interest of the students at Sage High School as a whole.”
“I think I’m going to bawl,” whispered Jack, rolling his eyes. “They never think about themselves. They only think about us.”
Milo had known Jack for fifteen years and he couldn’t remember a single time he’d seen Jack cry. It was probably because Jack was always too busy making everyone laugh.
“Shut up,” Milo said, smiling to himself. He was trying to listen. Principal Wimmer was talking again.
“We have decided that Sage High School will no longer hold class elections.”
The principal must have known the uproar this announcement would cause, but since he was safely in his office and couldn’t hear the hisses and complaints of a school full of teenagers, he forged ahead. Everyone quieted down to hear the rest of the news.
“We have decided that high school should be a time for unity and that elections have become more popularity contests than we would like them to be. So instead of having class presidents and other class officers, we will have a Student Senate. Everyone who applies and is approved by the faculty will be able to join the Student Senate and have a voice in the running of our school. We apologize to those who had been planning to run for office and hope they decide to contribute to Sage High as senators instead. Thank you for your cooperation and for making Sage High School a special place to be.”
Principal Wimmer had timed his bombshell perfectly. The final bell beeped immediately after he finished his sentence. The speakers quit crackling. The announcement was over.
And so were the elections. Angry students poured into the halls, ready to share their outrage with their friends, ready to take Principal Wimmer’s name in vain as they stood next to their lockers. Milo and Jack made their way through the crowd.
“We have to find Eden,” Jack said. “She’s going to be ticked.”
“She’s going to be livid.” Milo was feeling rather livid himself. This was supposed to be his year. This was the year he wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines the way he usually did. This was the year he was finally going to run for something—for president of his class. He and Eden had planned it all out. He was all geared up to do something big, and now there was nothing.
“Too much like a popularity contest?” Eden groaned. “As if all of high school isn’t a popularity contest anyway.”
Milo, Jack, and their other friend, Paige, had finally convinced Eden to exit the principal’s office (where she was politely but firmly practicing civil disobedience by ignoring the secretary’s requests to leave). Together they all went back to Milo’s house where they could vent their frustrations about the whole thing as loudly as they wanted.
“They still have Homecoming Queen,” Eden pointed out. “That’s a popularity contest! Much more of a popularity contest than the student elections!”
“Maybe they’ll get rid of that too,” Paige said. “I can hear Wimmer giving that announcement now: ‘Anyone who would like to be one of the Homecoming Senators is welcome to apply.’ Then he could have them all crowned at midfield on Homecoming Day, or maybe just show their pictures in a PowerPoint presentation.” Paige and Principal Wimmer had a long history of mutual animosity.
“Wimmer picked the perfect day of the week, too,” Eden fumed. “Friday. He’s hoping it will blow over during the weekend.”
“It probably will. It’s too close to the end of the school year for most people to care much about it,” Jack said. “Especially the seniors. They’re just coasting through to June anyway.”
“This is not going to blow over,” Eden said. “We’ll start a petition. We’ll fight this thing through.”
“I hate to say it, but I don’t think that will work,” Paige said. “They’re obviously really sold on the whole student senator idea—which is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. I mean, what normal person would want to spend more time at school?”
Milo was quiet. He had been progressing through the Four Stages of Grief That Occur When Your Class Elections Have Been Unfairly Canceled: denial, righteous indignation, sorrow, and finally, acceptance. He couldn’t see any way they were going to get Principal Wimmer to change his mind. He was all about new educational experiments and there was no way he was going to let his Student Senate idea go. Plus Jack was right: it was too late in the year for many of the students to care enough to put up a fight.
Maybe, Milo thought, I’m meant to be a sideline kind of guy anyway. Lots of people were. There was nothing wrong with that. Someone had to be the one cheering from the bench, getting decent grades but never reaching the honor roll, being a little bit of a clown but never getting into any real trouble. It might as well be him.
He liked running with the pack but not having to lead it. He’d been fine with that for most of his life. He liked thinking up crazy stuff with Jack and Eden and Paige. They thought of wild ideas and hung out together in their small group and with their larger circle of friends. Everyone took his or her turn in the spotlight—Paige when she got in trouble, Jack because he played football and was the class clown, Eden because she was on the honor roll. Milo got to be all of those things almost by association. Within their little group, he was an equal player, but he sometimes felt like the outside world viewed him as the permanent sidekick.
And being the sidekick hadn’t really bothered him that much—until a few weeks ago. He’d overheard a couple of sophomores, a boy and a girl, talking about him in the hall. They didn’t even notice he was just a few yards away, his face hidden by the door of his locker.
“You know that freshman . . . what’s his name? The one who’s always hanging out with Eden James and Paige Fontes?” the girl asked.
“You mean Jack? The football player?”
“No, the other one. The skinny kid who’s always hanging around with them. The one who’s always smiling.”
“Oh, I know who you mean. He plays soccer, right? And he’s got brown hair that sticks up everywhere?”
“Yeah, that’s him. I didn’t know he played soccer, though. What’s his name?”
“I’m not sure. I think it’s Owen.”
“That doesn’t sound right.”
“I remember now. It’s Miles. Miles Wright. His sister, Maura, graduated last year. Remember her? She was really cute.”
“So why did you need to know his name?”
“No reason, really. I just couldn’t figure out who he was.”
Logan Nash, who possessed the biggest ego in their grade, joined in the conversation. “Who are you talking about?”
“That Wright kid.”
“Why are you talking about him?” Logan wasn’t Milo’s biggest fan for a few reasons. First, Milo hung out with Paige and Eden, two of the best-looking girls in their grade, and neither of them would give Logan the time of day since he was a jerk. Second, it was widely rumored that Milo was the one who, in the second grade, had started using the nickname “Logan Rash,” which, to Logan’s frustration, had followed him ever since.
Glad that they still hadn’t noticed him, Milo had turned and walked in the opposite direction down the hall, toward Eden’s locker. The sophomores hadn’t known who he was, but he knew both of their names. The girl was Sarah McCoy, one of the most popular sophomores at Sage High and the editor of the school paper. The guy was Rob Traveller. Rob was on the debate team, where he had a reputation for staring down his opponents before the debate even started. Milo knew who they were. He even knew something about both of them. But they couldn’t even get his name right.
He arrived at Eden’s locker feeling very sorry for himself.
“Hey, Milo,” she said.
“Miles,” he corrected her.
“What are you talking about?”
“I just overheard a conversation and found out that no one knows who I am. And if they do, they think my name is Miles.” He told her about Rob and Sarah’s conversation. “I’m just that guy who hangs out with you and Paige and Jack.” Milo sighed in frustration. “I need to do something so people know who I am.”
“I don’t know. Run for class president or something.” He’d been joking, but Eden thought he meant it.
“That’s a great idea. You should run! I’ll be your campaign manager!”
He’d laughed at her at first. “Yeah, right. Like anyone would vote for me.”
But after that, Milo couldn’t get the idea of his head. What if he did run for something? What if he did go for it?
A few days later, he brought up the subject with Eden, trying to joke about it so he wouldn’t be too embarrassed if she didn’t take him seriously. “Ede, remember when you said I should run for class president and you’d be my campaign manager?”
To his surprise, she hadn’t laughed. She’d taken him seriously—and she was someone who had seen him wearing his Ninja Turtles underwear back when they were both potty-training and their moms brought them to neighborhood playdates together. “Yeah,” she said immediately. “Are you going to do it?”
Maybe this could work after all. “Yeah. Yeah, I think I’m going to do it.”
“Let’s go for it,” Eden said. They’d been plotting and planning ever since. Plotting and planning for nothing, apparently.
Maybe deciding to run for class president had been a mistake all along, Milo thought to himself. What if he had lost? Maybe he was lucky they’d canceled the elections before he’d had a chance to embarrass himself in front of everyone.
“They’ve turned the students into a puppet government.” Eden paced across Milo’s living room. “The senators won’t have any real power.” She paused. “It’s an outrage.”
“A tapestry,” added Jack, stretching out on the couch.
“I think you mean a travesty,” Paige told him.
“I can’t believe they’re doing this! And they don’t even have a good reason . . .” Eden was off again. Milo was beginning to wonder if Eden was ever going to reach acceptance. She was very, very good at righteous indignation.
Jack rolled his eyes and picked up the remote control. He started flipping through the channels. Eden didn’t notice. She was still too upset. “I still think I should call the office and demand to talk to Principal Wimmer . . .”
Jack pointed the remote control at Eden and pressed the power button. It didn’t work; she kept talking. Milo tried not to grin. Jack sighed and went back to flipping through the channels. “Is there anything to eat?” he asked Milo.
“I’ll go check.” Milo headed into the kitchen and rummaged through the pantry until he found some chips that he thought Jack would approve of. The words “light,” “organic,” or “zero cholesterol” did not appear anywhere on the bag.
When he returned, the room was quiet. Paige slowly flipped through a magazine. Jack hit the mute button on the remote, and the baseball players on the screen ran the bases and hit and threw without making a sound. Without the commentary, without the noise, the game seemed different, like a game played long ago, one over and done, instead of one happening right that moment.
No one said anything for a minute. It appeared even Eden had run out of steam. Milo felt a little sad. When Eden gave up, things were really over.
Eden patted Milo on the arm, which was unlike her. “I really am sorry, Miley.” That was really unlike her. Usually she remembered the number one rule of friendship: Never call your friend by a childhood nickname he/she hates. Not even if you have been friends long enough that you actually knew him/her when he/she went by that nickname.
“Call me Miley again, and you’re in trouble,” Milo told Eden.
“I know. I’m sorry.” She sighed.
Jack caught the bag of chips Milo tossed his way and started pushing the buttons on the remote again, looking for something else to watch. “Nothing good is ever on this time of day,” he complained. The different channels fluttered by, so fast Milo could barely tell what he’d just seen on each channel, a testament to Jack’s superb channel-flipping skills.
“Stop,” Eden said in a low voice. She stared straight ahead, her jaw set.
Jack stopped clicking and looked at her, puzzled. “What? It’s true!”
“Stop,” Eden said, again. Without taking her eyes off the TV, she held out her hand for Jack to give her the remote control.
He rolled his eyes and slapped it into her hand as though he were passing off a baton in a relay.
Eden turned the volume up on the TV. Jack had flipped to CNN, where the anchor was giving an update on the presidential election, due to be held in the fall. The candidates were busy doing their best to snatch their share of the limelight.
As they watched, one of them kissed a baby. One of them pounded his fist on a podium. Another one pumped her arms into the air while people cheered. Another danced awkwardly onstage while a band played a popular song. The segment ended, and a toothpaste commercial came on.
Eden turned off the TV. Jack yelped in protest, but she ignored him. She looked directly at Milo. “That’s what you should do next.”
“Brush my teeth?” Milo asked.
“Run for president,” Eden said.
Milo sighed. “Eden, we can’t. They’re not holding elections anymore.”
“Not for class president, you idiot. For President of the United States of America.”
“Oh.” Milo repeated the words slowly, carefully. “For President of the United States of America.” He started to grin.
“Great idea, Eden,” Jack said, trying to get the remote back. “And then, right after you do that, maybe we could get to work on world peace and curing cancer.”
Paige snorted with laughter.
“Guys—stop,” Milo said, a touch of anger in his voice. Everyone turned to look at him. “Is it so funny to think that I might actually do something big like this?” he asked.
“Not you personally,” Jack explained. “The idea of anyone our age running for president is funny. That’s all I meant.”
“It could never happen,” Paige agreed.
“Why not?” Eden held Milo’s gaze. She, at least, was perfectly serious.
“Why not?” Milo repeated, his enthusiasm returning.
“So you like the idea?” Eden smiled.
“Yeah.” Milo loved the idea. Really loved it, in fact. If you were finally going to come out of the background and go for something, why not go for the whole thing? “Yeah. Okay. Let’s do it.”
It was that simple.
Actually, it wasn’t that simple. It got complicated pretty fast. Within the next few minutes, in fact.
“I don’t think you can run for president unless you’re a lot older,” said Jack. “Don’t you have to be forty or something?”
“Thirty-five,” said Paige, who, in spite of her rather unimpressive report card, was probably one of the smartest kids in their grade.
Eden sounded impatient. “You can’t actually be president unless you’re thirty-five. But I don’t think there’s any rule against running for president. I’ll look into it.”
“I still think this is insane,” Jack said. Milo ignored him.
A few moments later Eden was back from the computer. “I was right. There’s no rule in the Constitution against running for president. It just says that you can’t be ‘eligible to that office’ unless you’re thirty-five. It looks like there are a couple of states, like Massachusetts, that specifically say you can’t be a candidate unless you’re old enough, but I don’t think it really matters. You’re not going to be an ‘official’ candidate anyway. That would take up too much time and money. I think our best bet is to be unofficial.”
“Because people can still write in whoever they want on the ballots, right?” Milo asked her.
“Exactly. What’s to stop them? Even if you’re not an ‘official’ write-in candidate, they can still write you in if they feel like it. And if enough people do that, they’ll have to pay attention.” Eden looked at Milo. “What do you think? Do you still want to go for it, even though you probably won’t get to take office if you win?”
“Listen to her,” said Paige to the room at large. “She’s saying ‘probably,’ like there’s a chance he could win.”
“Yeah, what’s the point of running if there’s no way you can win?” Jack asked.
“He could still win,” Eden said. “He just couldn’t assume the actual office. At least, that’s how the law sounds to me. And there are other reasons to do this, even if Milo doesn’t win. Do I have to spell them out for you?”
“Yeah, I think you do,” Jack said. “This doesn’t make any sense.” He looked over at Milo, who was still grinning. “Wait a minute—you’re really going along with her on this?”
Milo looked over at Eden and nodded. “I think so.” They’d been friends for so long that Milo could tell when her mind was running on the same track as his. Milo was thinking about the chance to try something different, the chance to say something and be heard, the chance to do something interesting and notorious and wild and crazy, the chance to see how far an insane idea could take you if you let yourself run with it. “Want to be my running mate?” he asked Eden. “And my campaign manager, of course?”
She nodded, grinning. “We’re going to do this, then?”
“Let’s pro-and-con it to make sure,” Eden said.
Jack began silently beating his head against the edge of the coffee table. Milo knew Jack hated it when he and Eden pro-and-conned something, which they did sometimes when they couldn’t decide on a plan of action (what topic they should choose for their group project, for example, or which movie they should see). Jack said the list took away his will to live. So he and Paige kept flipping through the channels while Milo and Eden worked on the list. They arrived back at the baseball game they’d been watching earlier. As they clicked past CNN, Milo noticed that no one was kissing babies or shaking hands anymore. Already, the show had moved on to the next clip.
Paige and Jack watched the baseball game while Milo and Eden came up with their list of pros and cons. Milo typed on his keyboard furiously, the noise reminding him of rain. It sounded busy and purposeful. In the background, the muted sounds of cheering from the game lifted his spirits even more.
He was going to do this. He knew it. He was finally going to go for something. The list was only a formality.
Good clean fun. Teens will love this book!
by Elaine - reviewed on May 20, 2008
As an adult who enjoys YA literature, this book was so fun and refreshing to me. The author clearly feels no need to push the envelope of how many adult themes can appear in a book aimed at teenagers. Freshman for President is touching, funny, inspiring, and thoroughly enjoyable to read, all while maintaining what I'd consider a PG rating. Well done, Ally Condie!
What a pleasure
by Scott - reviewed on June 05, 2008
This was really a great book! It is inspirational without cheese and exciting without gimmicks. It is a really great look into the heights and depths of teenage minds.