"Re- use! Re- duce! Re- cycle!"
"Don't get mad; get green!"
"Save a planet, save a tree, in the end it'll save you and me!"
The chants filter through the open windows at the end of final period, drifting on the warm breeze. Ms. Lockhart pauses, walking over to check out the noise, while the restof the class cranks their necks around and strains to get a better look.
I just cram my books into my bag and wait, poised on the edge of my seat.
The second the final bell rings, I spring into action: racing to my locker, I grab some last- minute supplies and dash out of the building. I can see the Green Teens already, marching in a circle on a plot of land at the end of the field, past the graffitied bleachers and batting cages.
The school board is proposing to sell it off to developers; already there are tire tracks cut into the muddy ground and the beginnings of a construction site taking shape. But not for long.
"You didn't wait!" I arrive, breathless, at the edge of the grass. I pause for a moment to kick off my ballet flats - not exactly off- road shoes - and yank on a pair of flower- print plastic boots.
"I know, I know," Olivia apologizes, skidding down the dirt bank. Her own matching boots are already filthy from the mud. She grabs a couple of my bags and eagerly rifles through them. "Did you bring the banners? And sign- up sheets?"
"Check and check!" I pull a Greenpeace shirt over my regular tank top. "And cookies, too."
"Perfect!" She grins. She's braided blue yarn through her hair for the occasion, the same shade as the paint on the signs we were up half the night making. "Then we're all set."
We take our places in the middle of the group, unfurling a ten- foot- long banner and joining in the chant. After six major demonstrations, and our weekly Saturday morning session handing out flyers at the Fairview Mall, Olivia and I are protest experts. We need to be. With the old Green Teen leadership graduating, it's up to us to keep the spirit of environmentalism alive and well at North Ridge High.
"Louder, everyone! We need them to hear us all the way to the parking lot!" Olivia yells through the megaphone we, ahem, "borrowed" from the AV room. Volume and visibility - those are the keys to a good protest, I've learned. And plenty of snacks. One time we tried an all-day sit- in outside City Hall to demand better recycling services, but I forgot to bring provisions; the group lasted exactly two hours before the aroma wafting from a nearby pretzel van became too much to bear. Needless to say, we still have to trek out to Maplewood with our paper and plastics, and I haven't forgotten the Fig Newtons since.
Sure enough, after a few minutes a curious crowd starts to gather, drawn by the shouting and - yes - the lure of those cookies. A group from my study hall looks around with interest, and a handful of cheerleaders even stop to ask what's going on.
"Never underestimate the power of free food." I grin, giving Olivia a high- five with my free hand. "What do you say, time for phase two?"
"Do it." She nods.
Passing my corner of the banner over to an eager freshman recruit, I retrieve the stack of clipboards and begin circulating with sign- up sheets.
"What is it this time?" A guy from my econ class is loitering suspiciously near the crowd. His collar is popped, and he's spent the last semester idly kicking the back of my
seat, but every signature counts. "Saving the whales?"
"That was last week." I keep smiling at him: my infallible "you know you want to help me out" grin. "Right now we're trying to stop them from building on the field."
"Are they going to put up a mini- mall?" He looks hopeful. "Man, a Pizza Hut would be awesome. Or a Chili's!"
"No," I answer, thankful. I'm all for a challenge, but convincing a thousand teenagers to pick the joys of nature over double pepperoni with extra cheese? That might be out of my league. I move closer, pen outstretched. "But do you really want to have this field paved over? Bit by bit, we're losing all the natural habitats and green space in the
area, and we won't be able to get them back. What about the local ecosystem, and wildlife, and -?"
"Whoa." He backs off, looking alarmed. "Relax, Jenna!"
It's obvious I'm not going to win this one with logic and sense, so I decide to try a new tactic. "It's OK - you don't have to sign now," I coo. "I mean, we've got two whole weeks of classes before summer vacation. We can talk through all the issues together, in tons more detail. I could even ask Mrs. Paluski to pair us up!" I beam as though I'm just thrilled by the thought of describing every detail of our cause. "I'm sure I'll convince you. Eventually."
He practically snatches the pen out of my hand to sign.
"Aw, thanks." I grin, taking back the clipboard to check my progress. Fifty- six down, just another thousand to go. . . .
The crowd around us has swelled to about a hundred students by the time I see Principal Turner huffing his way across the field. I intercept him at the edge of the grass with my best innocent look. "Anything I can help you with?"
"Jenna Levison." He eyes the dirt and puddles suspiciously. "To what do we owe this particular show of -"
"Community spirit?" I finish hopefully. "Environmental awareness?"
"Disruption and disobedience." He folds his arms and glares at me. As if they can sense the battle to come, the crowd behind me turns to watch, while the rest of the Green Teens pause their chanting.
No matter how many angry officials I face, I still feel like I'm doing something wrong (OK - something really wrong). But I can't back down.
Excerpted from Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald. Copyright © 2011 by Abby McDonald. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.