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  • Home > Simone Elkeles > How to Ruin > How to Ruin Your Boyfriends Reputation     

    Chapter 1

    A vacation without parents is like a chocolate brownie without the nuts -- absolutely perfect!

    Hi my name is Amy Nelson-Barak. My mom is a Nelson and my dad is a Barak and just in case you were wondering, I'm aware I have two last names. If you don't know me, I'm a seventeen-year-old American teenager with red, white and blue blood running through my veins. You're probably wondering why right now I'm on a bus in Israel on my way to an Israeli military boot camp.

    Yes, I did say I'm in Israel. No need to rub your eyes and reread that.

    And yes, I did say boot camp.

    And before you think it's a boot camp for teens with behavioral disorders, I volunteered for this summer program all on my own. (Although my parents often accuse me of being a total drama queen, I don't think that counts as a true behavior disorder.) My friends signed up, too. Normally I wouldn't go anywhere near a program with the word "military" in it, especially during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, but when I realized what military base the boot camp is held at, I jumped to sign up--as a volunteer trainee.

    You see, my boyfriend Avi is Israeli. He's in the IDF-- Israeli Defense Force--and since I live in the good ol' US of A (Chicago, to be exact), I haven't seen him since he visited me over five months ago. He's a commando, he's nineteen years old, and is just about the hottest, most gorgeous gift God has ever put on this planet. And he's all mine. Well, to be technical, the Israeli military owns his body until he turns twenty-one, but I own his heart. And he owns mine.

    So I got this letter from Avi a few months back. He told me that after parachute training he's going to be at Base Nesher. He said if I was visiting Israel this summer, unfortunately he didn't think he could get any time off.

    Then, when my best friend Jessica, along with this girl Miranda and my best guy friend Nathan (who I kissed once... okay, three times... but we're just friends), told me they were signing up for a program in Israel that included ten days in basic training boot camp, I laughed at them. I mean, what kind of idiot would go to a military boot camp on purpose?

    But guess what? It's at Base Nesher--the same base Avi is at! When I figured that out, I begged my father to sign me up. I haven't told Avi that I'm coming--it's a surprise. I can't wait to see his reaction when he sees me. He's going to be as excited as I am!

    I'm so thankful this bus is air conditioned and we have big, cushioned seats for the three-hour ride. We're on the bus with forty other American teens (half are girls, half are guys). The trip is called Sababa, which translates to "cool, awesome, a great way of life" or something like that. The tour starts out with the boot camp, then the rest of the summer is spent exploring and touring the country.

    The director of the Sababa program gave me special permission to sign up for the boot camp portion of the trip only, because after boot camp I'll be staying at my aunt and uncle's house on their moshav (kinda like a community farm) in the Golan Heights. So I'll be with family while Miranda, Nathan, and Jessica spend the rest of the summer on the Sababa tour.

    "Amy, I think Miranda is gonna puke," Nathan tells me. He's sitting next to Miranda, who has had anxiety about the boot camp part of the vacation. She's been stressing about it since we took the plane from Chicago to Tel Aviv (with a ridiculously long layover in New York). Miranda's a tad bit, uh, I don't know how to say this in a politically correct way... let's just say she's in the upper sixtieth percentile on the weight chart hanging in the nurse's office at our high school. (Probably closer to the seventy-fifth, but who's counting.) She's afraid they're going to ration her food at boot camp and make her run until her extra, overflowing muffin-top disappears.

    I lean over my best friend Jessica, who's blocking my view of Miranda. "Miranda, it's not going to be like Camp Meltaway. I promise."

    Mirandas parents sent her to a fat farm between seventh and eighth grade and she's never gotten over it. The girl cannot survive on granola for snack food. Believe it or not, during her second week at Camp Meltaway, meek and timid Miranda got caught trying to hitchhike into town in search of fast food.

    Miranda smiles a little at the sight of a candy bar I pulled from my backpack. Seriously, one day I'll teach her that moderation is "the key" to weight loss. She can have a candy bar every day... just not three of them in one sitting.

    Now for me, personally, if I could only get "the key" to smaller boobs (without surgery, since I'm not a fan of getting my little pinky parts cut off and reattached, thank you very much), I'd be the first in line. Yes siree, we all have our little personal issues, things we'd like to change or need to change about ourselves.

    "I brought extra Kit Kats," I say, holding up the candy bar. Okay, so the label says Kif-Kaf 'in Hebrew, but it's the same thing.

    Jessica slaps my hand down. "Don't show her that."

    "Why not?"

    "Because she wants to lose weight, Amy. Don't sabotage her."

    I roll my eyes. Sometimes my best friend has to be enlightened. "Jess, you heard Nathan. Miranda is so scared she's about to puke. I'm just trying to comfort her."

    "So comfort her with words and friendship, not candy bars," Jess whispers. "That stuff is poison."

    Is she kidding me? Chocolate is my favorite comfort food. Well, it's actually #2 because everybody knows sushi is at the top of my list. Not all sushi, just spicy tuna rolls with little pieces of tempura crunch inside. Nothing, not even chocolate, beats that.