Title: KNOCKED OFF BALANCE
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Word Count: 50,000
Ever since a school shooting, security has been tight at Patrick Henry High School. When SARA QUINN (16) gets into trouble for her dress-code-breaking T-shirt, transfer student JAKE BARTELL, a gangly 16-year-old with mad juggling skills, comes to her rescue, only to be punished for breaking the rules. Jake is a free spirit who has just transferred into the school, but, Sara, having lost her brother to a school shooting, is obsessed with safety. Jake is fine with sensible rules, but believes fear has driven the high school to insane levels, making school life intolerable. He has suffered his own loss (his father) and thinks the town should “just get over it.”
He finds that his circus arts --juggling, parkour (a stuntman discipline with Jackie Chan-like moves), and tumbling -- is a good way to connect. Even Sara appreciates something fresh and new, especially the beauty of contact juggling. She pushes him to put together a troupe to perform at the annual school show, Illusion.
Despite the obstacles thrown up by Dean of Boys FRANK BRADY and the taunts of BOBO, (17) a leader of the school's risk takers -- who hates Illusion but loves circus arts -- Sara and Jake pull together enough people to perform. Holding them together is another matter.
First 250 words
Unicycles make people laugh. They smile and clap their hands. They watch to see if you’ll fall.
That’s why I skipped the cheese wagon and pedaled off for my first day at Patrick Henry High School. I wanted to hear some cheers, and I wanted everyone to know when I arrived.
I needed the boost after the crappy way the day had started. For the first time since third grade, Mom made me pass wardrobe inspection. “It’s a new school, and they have guidelines.”
Yeah. We’re not in Baltimore anymore. Those Rocky Mountains? My first clue my friends were a millions of miles away. And guidelines? Strictures. Orders. Commandments. There had been a shooting at the school a year ago. National news. Now an inch-thick book of rules covered everything from “Jokes and Appropriate Humor” to “Manner of Dress.” Which is why I wore a plain red sweatshirt and jeans that had been ironed. This was a compromise from the button-down shirt and khakis she wanted. And marked me as a total loser.
So riding a unicycle was plain survival.