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The Project

Written by Brian FalknerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Brian Falkner


· Random House Books for Young Readers
· Hardcover · August 23, 2011 · $17.99 · 978-0-375-86945-7 (0-375-86945-X)
Also available as an eBook, hardcover library binding and a trade paperback.

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­Prologue

This is not the most boring book in the world.

This is a book about the most boring book in the world, which is a different book altogether.

This book is really interesting and exciting, and parts of it are quite funny.

The most boring book in the world, on the other hand, is really, really boring. It’s a real clunker. It’s so boring that if I told you what it was about, you’d be asleep before I got past the introduction. And so would I.

You might think that your history textbook is the most boring book in the world. But you are wrong. Or you might think that your auntie’s book about dried flowers is the most boring book in the world, but that’s like an action-packed adventure story compared to the real most boring book in the world.

The most boring book in the world is so boring that only one copy of it was ever printed. The story goes that the guy who was printing the book glanced down and started reading the pages as they were whizzing through the hand-turned press, and it was so boring that he fell asleep and knocked over a lantern onto a stack of paper, which caught fire and destroyed the printery. Only one copy survived. Which is probably a good thing.

The printer, whose name was Albert, was fired, but he found a cozy little job licking postage stamps at a post office in Moose Jaw, Canada, which sounds like the most boring job in the world, and it probably was, but he said it was still better than printing the most boring book in the world.

But this book is not about Albert. It’s about the most boring book in the world. And, most of all, it is about me and Tommy, the ones who found the most boring book in the world, and the terrible things that took place after we found it.

1. Busted

“We would have got away with it if it wasn’t for that drunken squirrel,” said Luke. He managed a grin at Tommy, who was sitting next to him on the hard, slatted bench outside the vice principal’s office.

As always, in the cold, hard light of the next day, their prank seemed childish and stupid. But this time, Luke had discovered the universal law of vice principals: Those in America had no better sense of humor than those back in New Zealand.

“Don’t sweat it, dude,” Tommy said. “I can handle Kerr.”

“Yeah right.”

Tommy’s dad was a lawyer, and Tommy always thought he could talk his way out of anything. Sometimes he was right.

Tommy had a coin in his hand and was flipping it up in the air, catching it first on the topside of his fingers, then flipping his hand over and catching it on the underside. “Seriously,” he said. “I’ve been in more courtrooms than you’ve had hot dinners. I’m going to tie this sucker up in so many legal knots that he’ll look like a . . . a . . . pretzel.”

“Someone doing yoga,” Luke said simultaneously.

“Yep, a pretzel doing yoga,” Tommy said.

“I hope so.”

“Just back me up on whatever I say.”

“No worries about that, bro,” Luke said.

Tommy flipped the coin a couple more times, then caught it in his palm and made a fist. “How many times?” he asked.

“How many times what?” Luke asked.

“How many times did I toss the coin? Get it right, you can keep the coin.”

“Forty-seven,” Luke said.

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“How many of them were heads?” Tommy asked.

“Twenty-nine,” Luke said.

“How many tails?”

“All the rest.” Luke smiled.

Tommy flipped the coin to him. “That’s freaky,” he said. “How do you do that?”

“Dunno, bro.”

It was true. He really didn’t know. When he was younger, Luke had thought that everybody could remember things like he could and was surprised to find out that most people’s memories were sieves. His memory was a blessing and a curse. In class he would scan the textbook at the start of the lesson and no longer need to concentrate. That led to hours of staring out of classroom windows or doodling in the margins of his workbooks. The boredom also led to some interesting pranks that were hilarious to him and his classmates but that, for some inexplicable reason, his teachers did not find funny.

The door to the office opened, and Ms. Sheck, their homeroom teacher, stood in the gap.

In her early twenties, she observed the strict dress code for teachers at the high school, with a simple skirt, plain blouse, and sensible flat shoes. However, she wore a bit too much eyeliner; there was a suspicious hole in the side of her nose; and her sprayed, clipped blond hair seemed to be struggling to bust out. If students were angry with Ms. Sheck, they called her Ms. Shrek, but she really didn’t look anything like Shrek. Luke thought she looked more like Princess Fiona, the beautiful princess (in her non-ogre moments). All of the guys at the school thought she was really hot.

“Come in, boys,” she said solemnly, but Luke thought he saw her eyes sparkle, just slightly.

Luke took a deep breath and stood up.

Mr. Kerr, on the other hand, was a jelly doughnut. Or at least what Luke imagined a jelly doughnut would look like if it ever became vice principal of a high school. Rolls of fat bulged in places where most people didn’t even have places. He always wore a three-piece suit in some kind of vain attempt to conceal the bulges, but it just made them more obvious. A thick shock of red hair added the jelly to the top of the doughnut.

Kerr’s office was dominated by a huge, ugly wooden desk in the center of the room. The corners of the desk were carved knobs that looked like clenched fists, and the panel in the front was vaguely skull-like in design. The desk was in the middle of a bright circle of light created by four small ceiling-mounted spotlights. Two of the lights shone in Luke’s eyes, as if he were a spy under interrogation. Ve haf vays of making you talk! he thought.

Kerr was examining a book, the book, Luke saw and cringed a little. It had been their English assignment, but after seven attempts, he had given up trying to read it. The remains of the duct tape were still attached to the bottom and spine of the book, covering part of the title so that it said The Last of the Mo. Kerr leaned forward and slammed the book down right in front of them, one corner jutting out over the edge of the desk, pointing right at Luke. He and Tommy both stared at it.

Kerr glowered at them from under thick orange eyebrows. “Sit,” he said.

They sat.

Luke reached out and straightened the book so that it lined up with the edge of the desk. Kerr looked him in the eye, and Luke quickly glanced away.

“Was it worth it?” Kerr asked.

“Sir?” Tommy asked with an expression of utter innocence.

“Was it worth it?” Kerr repeated.

Luke began, “I’m not sure what—”

“Tell me why I shouldn’t call your parents right now. Tell me why I shouldn’t call the police.”

Luke drew in his breath sharply and caught Ms. Sheck’s eyes.

“I don’t think there’s any need for the police,” she said.

Mr. Kerr shot a glance at Ms. Sheck as if she had no right to interfere, but the edges of her mouth curled up into a smile, and even he couldn’t bring himself to stay angry with her.

His eyes fastened themselves firmly back on Luke. “I don’t know what they let you get away with in New Zealand,” Kerr continued, “but in America we have certain standards of behavior that are expected of our students.”

Luke considered telling him that he had once been suspended from a school in New Zealand for a “certain standard of behavior” but decided that it wasn’t quite the appropriate moment.

Kerr continued. “You have caused this school a lot of embarrassment. You could have been killed.”

It wasn’t clear which of those two he considered worse.

Excerpted from The Project by Brian Falkner Copyright © 2011 by Brian Falkner. Excerpted by permission of Random House Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.