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TO BE MARIA
by Deanna Proach
Release Date: May 3, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction (Coming of Age)
Seventeen-year-old Anya Preschnikov dreams of one day becoming a famous actor, but she is faced with two problems: her one-parent, dysfunctional family neglects her and has no money to support her and at school, she is the target for her peers' contempt. Anya believes that, in order to gain her stepping stone to stardom, she must dress like the rich girls and be surrounded by a large network of friends. All of this changes when Maria Hernandez--an immigrant from Spain-- comes to Peach Valley Senior High.
Maria knows what it takes to fit in. She is bold, confident and she dresses suggestively, characteristics that all of the popular kids admire. Yet, she sees in Anya what everyone else does not see: Anya's outer beauty and her immense talent. Maria is everything Anya wants to be: popular, sexy and confident. So, when Maria extends her hand of friendship, Anya is elated. Her lifelong dream is about to become a reality, but it falls short one Saturday night at a party when a boy's rude comment sends her into a rage. Desperate to belong somewhere, Anya and Maria set out to find new friends outside of school. They meet Alex and Marissa, a young couple who eagerly welcomes them into their world of parties and drugs. Anya and Maria soon find out that Alex is a drug dealer, but they are so lured by his wealth, good looks and aggressive confidence that they cannot resist his friendship. They don't know that Alex's gang is at war with a rival gang--one that is run by Anya's older brother, Adrik--until one incident puts their lives in danger's path. To make matters worse, Alex will not let Anya and Maria out of his sight. Anya and Maria must find away out of this situation before it's too late.
Anya wakes, startled by the loud, repetitive beep of her alarm clock. In a daze, she reaches over the small night stand and slaps the stop button. She groans, her tired eyes half closed, while she slips out from underneath the old, but comfortable blanket. Great. I'm so tired. If only I had two more hours. But no. When there's no school, there's work, and that's even worse. I hate that I have to get up at five-thirty every Saturday and Sunday morning. My manager always gives me the worst shifts. She shuffles over to the closet. Unlike most other girls in school, she never rummages through the closet in search of the perfect outfit. She rolls her eyes. "Oh God, here we go again: the same jeans, faded tank-tops, baggy t-shirts and sweatshirts. I can't wait until the day comes when I throw away these ugly clothes. I just wish I had the money to buy new clothes, fashionable clothes. Maybe then, I'd fit in at school." Anya traces her finger over the delicate cloth of her one and only bohemian-style summer dress. Even the dress is a hand-me-down, worn by her mother back in the 1970s. But it is the only piece of clothing she loves. Unfortunately it's still too cold outside to wear it. hank god for my imagination. I don't know what I'd do without it. The things Anya enjoys the most are brushing her hair and writing in her journal. These are the only times she can let her imagination take her away from home. She can pretend to be anything—anything but herself. Anya rakes her slender fingers through her long hair. Today, I'm a daughter of a wealthy architect, so I'm going to wear a pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans and a green peasant top, the revealing one. Then I'll put on that expensive necklace and those silver hoop earrings that Mom bought for me yesterday. She frowns at her clothes. Ugh, who are you kidding, Anya? Why even waste your time pretending to have something when it makes you even more unhappy to realize that you don't have it. To get her mind off her clothes, she looks at her mother's photograph, the one that always sits on top of the nightstand. Every time Anya looks at the photograph, she studies her mother's features. Her father used to tell her that she looks so much like her mother, Ana Preschnikov, but, until now, she never gave it much thought. Anya now realizes why her father used to call her Ana. Ana--who must have been in her early twenties the time this photo was taken--boasted the same long, caramel brown hair, chocolate brown eyes, petite, heart-shaped face, slender nose and smooth, cream-colored skin. Anya often wonders what life would be like if her mother was still alive. It has been so many years since she passed away that Anya has forgotten what it's like to have a mother. Sometimes she dreams about her mother and sometimes she longs for the comfort of her tender arms and loving words. Her eyes eventually shift away from the photograph to the journal sitting on the floor in front of the nightstand. The front and back cover is of a soft blue and leather. She received it as a Christmas gift from her best friend Patrick a little over one year ago. Since then, she has filled it with her thoughts until only a few empty pages remain. She has planned to leave those pages blank until she purchased another journal--something she has decided to do after work this weekend. "Oh heck, I can't wait until the weekend. I really need to clear my mind," she whispers. She changes into a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, grabs the journal off the floor, then walks over to the kitchen. The kitchen is messier than usual. Two of the cupboard doors are left open, the sink is filled with dirty dishes and the counter is littered with stale food, wrappers, cutlery and cups that are half-filled with juice. She bites down hard on her lower lip. She can feel the red creep upher neck and over her face. Damnit! Why doesn't my dad clean up after himself? Why does he expect Sophia and I to clean up after him all the time? She sinks into the nearest chair, breathing out a long, angry sigh. Her stomach growls, warning that if she doesn't eat she will spend the entire day tripping over her words and suffering from exhaustion and a bad headache--something she has endured several times in the past. Anya leaves her journal, then walks over to one of the open cupboards. As predicted, it is empty save one box of Macaroni and Cheese and a package of Mr. Noodles. Anya shuts the door, then peers into the next cupboard. All that remains in there is a box of Cheerios. She grabs the box, realizing that it's more than half-empty, but thinking that it should be enough to satisfy her until lunch. As she opens the fridge door, she hears a shuffling noise from behind. Thinking that it is Sophia, she turns, ready for a round of confrontation. But it is her father and he stands less than one foot away from the doorway. He's hardly ever up this early, so Anya is surprised to see him. For the first time in a long time, he is clean shaven and he's dressed in a red, button-down, flannel shirt that is tucked into blue jeans. Anya suspects that his clothes are also clean because she does not smell any foul stench. Anya cocks her left eyebrow. "You're up early." "Yeah, I got a new job." "Where?" "At Home Depot." Anya purses her lips. That's not a step up from your last job at Canadian Tire. "Cool, is the pay better?" "Yeah, enough to get me by." Anya narrows her eyes. "Well, I hope you last at this job," she says, slamming the milk and Cheerios down on the table. It's enoughto get us by, you self-centered jerk. I hope your new boss doesn't fire your dumb ass like your last boss did. "I think so. You gonna to clean this up," he says, pointing at the counter. Anya glares at him. "Uh, no." "Why not?" "Because you were the one who made the dang mess. That's why!" He casts her a sharp look. "Don't talk to me like that, young lady." "I can talk to you however I want!" "Fine then, be that way. I'm off." "Clean your stinking mess when you get home from work," Anya yells after him. She slumps into a chair, her eyes brimming with tears. "Don't cry. He's not worth it. Don't let him get you down," she whispers over and over again until the anger ebbs. But when she looks down at the diary, the feeling returns. She flips through it until she comes to a blank page. 'February 17, 2003.' 'Dear Diary,' she writes underneath the date in the top left corner of the empty page. 'This day is not off to a good start.' She then writes about her dad, describing him using every foul word in the English language. Once she has spilled her anger and frustration onto the paper, she breathes out a huge sigh. It makes her feel much better. Besides she doesn't want to spend every minute of the day thinking about the people who get her down. I'm sorry I used all that bad language. I just needed to let off steam. Anyway, it's time to tell you about the good stuff in my life. I'm still really excitement that I got accepted into Mr. Hawthorne's advanced acting class. I know, I already told you this--Patrick's sick of hearing me say this--but this is the best thing that ever happened to me. Mr. Hawthorne doesn't accept anyone into his advanced acting class. Over a hundred students auditioned this year, and out of those auditions, he chose only sixteen students to be in his class. The fact that he chose me over several other good actors is a huge gold feather in my cap. Every year, Mr. Hawthorne sponsors one student to attend Vancouver Film School. His sponsorship pays for one year's tuition. This will give me a huge start to my career. I'm busting my ass to show Mr. Hawthorne the best of me because I'm determined to be the recipient of his sponsorship. Anya pauses to flex her wrist. She steals a glance at her wrist watch. It reads seven 'o' clock. There is still some spare time to write, thankfully, because she hasn't told her journal everything she needs to say. There's this new girl in school. She's our age and she's in our grad class. Her name is Maria and she's from Spain, the country everyone seems to think is cool. There's so many Spanish people who live in this city that it's no wonder why most of them go wide eyed when they think about Spain. I've never been to Europe, but I imagine that Spain's a beautiful country, though I don't think it's any better than any other country in Europe. Or every other country in this world for that matter. I think it's the way Maria dresses and the way she acts that everyone finds so attractive. Well, the popular kids mostly. She's been at Peach Valley Senior High for only two weeks and she's already at the top of the popularity chain. Patrick thinks she's a slut, an easy layover. That's why all the boys are so gaga over her. But I don't know if that's true. I personally think she's drop-dead gorgeous. Anya's eyes droop when she thinks about Maria. Her clothes are so stylish. I wish I had those kinds of clothes, and--I know I say this almost every day--I wish I was as popular as her. I'd like to get toknow Maria--she'd be the coolest friend I'd ever have--but Carly beat me to it. Carly befriended her the moment she set foot in Peach Valley Senior High. Maria's in two of my classes and sometimes I see her in the hallway, but she never says anything to me. It's no wonder why, though. She's Carly's friend. Anyway, I think I've told you enough information for one day. I gotta get ready for school. Until next time. Love Anya.
Deanna Proach graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Northern
British Columbia in 2008. She initially trained to become a teacher, but decided, in her last year of post-secondary education training, to pursue a career in writing instead.
Since then, Proach has written two novels: DAY OF REVENGE (Inkwater Press) and TO BE MARIA (will be released, May 1, 2013 via Amazon Kindle). Proach is also an aspiring travel writer, avid blogger and actress.