Stephanie Carlson loved to read. She read whenever she got a chance to. She thought she never had enough time to, though. She thought she never had enough time to enjoy the lives of the characters, feel the suspense of a mystery or the romance of a love story. The truth was, as she discovered later, that she spent way too much time with her nose in books.
In second grade Stephanie discovered Nancy Drew books. She loved them.
In January Stephanie and her family went to visit their grandmother. Stephanie hoped she wouldn’t have to share a room with either of her sisters. Julie always wanted Stephanie to read to her. Then she would ask a million questions. Her other sister, Melanie, who was a year older than Julie, didn’t like it when Stephanie read.
For once Stephanie got her wish to be alone. Now she could read in peace because there weren’t any little sisters around to disturb her.
At nighttime Stephanie pulled out her book to read. The book she was reading was above her reading level, but it was a very exciting mystery so she persisted.
Stephanie just kept on reading and reading. She never paused to look at the clock. When she finally did it was 2:45 in the morning! She decided that it was time to call it quits, so she put down the book and fell fast asleep.
In third grade Stephanie developed a very strong passion for reading. Too strong. She just couldn’t stop. In fact, she loved reading so much that she didn’t stop when her parents told her to. If she was told to stop at 8:30 at night she just couldn’t stop until 9:30 or so.
At school one day Stephanie told her friend Amelia, “I just can’t stop reading. It’s like I’m under a spell to keep going and not stop. I know I like to rread, but I should be able to stop.”
“I think you have Bookitis,” Amelia said. “That’s a bad disease. Not being able to stop is the first stage of it. The next stage is forgetting the real world when you read. As soon as that happens tell me immediately!”
It began to seem like Stephanie was addicted to reading. The addiction was strange, though. Stephanie hated books she was forced to read. Especially books for school.
Nevertheless Stephanie’s love for reading grew steadily. By the time she was ten years old Stephanie brought books to school with her, and not the ones she was supposed to.
Not only did Stephanie bring books to school, but she read them. (Obviously.) This was different. She read her books every split second she got. After she completed tests, when she finished lunch, and just about any other time she could.
It was a dark, snowy, February day. Just the kind of day that made Stephanie want to read even more, and she was in the middle of a really good book. She finished her lunch quickly, and opened up her book to read. She got really involved with the story she was reading and didn’t notice anything going on around her.
“Stephanie! Earth to Stephanie! Are you dead or something?” It was Amelia calling her.
Stephanie finally realized that Amelia was calling her. She put down her book. “Oh Amelia, I feel like you just woke me up from a deep sleep, but I wasn’t sleeping. I was reading. I could tell you anything that I read. It was like I temporaialy left Earth, and I was in the book. I have no idea what happened in the cafeteria.”
“You mean you didn’t hear Jason and Alex fighting? They were so loud, and they’re at the lunch table next to us!” Amelia exclaimed incredulously.
“No, but Amelia, I just thought of something!” Stephanie said with a hint of alarm in her voice. “Isn’t this the second stage of that Bookitis thing?”
“You are correct,” Amelia said worriedly, “and Bookitis is usually a slower process. Usually there’s more time between stages. You’d better be careful. The next thing that happens is stage three. In stage three you become the main character you’re reading about. You forget the real world, and live the life of the character. If I were you, I wouldn’t read too much extra. You should only read stuff you have to.”
“Okay. Um…let’s go back to class, now.” Who was Amelia trying to kid? Become who you’re reading about? Also, when did Amelia become an expert on Bookitis? Maybe there was no such thing.
Stephanie still had that thought in mind when she arrived home from school. She settled down to read right away.
Julie knocked on Stephanie’s bedroom door. “What do you want?” was Stephanie’s grumpy reply. “Can you play my Full House game with me?” Julie inquired.
“No. I’m reading! Can’t people evegive me enough time to read?” Stephanie angrily responded.
“But you read all day,” Julie protested. She left Stephanie’s room feeling hurt and abandoned.
Meanwhile, Stephanie was in the process of reading a splendid book. It was about a girl named Cynthia, who had moved to a new home. She didn’t quite fit in with the crowd. Her little brother Joshua didn’t have any trouble fitting in. He had made lots of new friends. Because of this, Cynthia began to think that she people who made fun or her weren’t the problem. She thought she was the problem. She thought she was just a dork. After that Cynthia didn’t have good self-esteem.
A couple of days later Cynthia met a girl named Elizabeth, who was also new in town. They hit it off right away.
Stephanie laid her book aside, for she needed to use the bathroom. As she walked toward the bathroom she realized that she didn’t recognize where she was. When Stephanie walked past the TV room she saw a boy who fit the description of Joshua in the book she was reading. Wait a minute! No. It wasn’t possible. Bookitis couldn’t be real. Stephanie couldn’t have turned into Cynthia, or could she?
Stephanie decided to see if this boy was Joshua. “Are you Joshua?” Stephanie asked the boy.
“No, Cynthia, I’m not your brother,” Joshua said sarcastically. “Of course I’m Joshua.”
He had called her Cynthia. It was true. She was Cynthia!
“Oh Cynthia, Elizabeth called. She wants you to go over there,” Joshua told her.
“Okay,” Stephanie said, waving good-bye.
Stephanie walked to Elizabeth’s house, using the descriptions she had read in the book to get there. As she did she thought about what had happened. She had been reading a book about Cynthia, and then she became Cynthia. She had all the feelings of being Cynthia. She felt like someone with low self-esteem. She had the feeling of not fitting in, but part of her knew she was Stephanie Carlson.
Something worried her, though. What was the end of the book, and what would happen to her at the end of the story?
Stephanie arrived at Elizabeth’s house, and Elizabeth asked, “How are you?”
“Not so good,” Stephanie answered. “Just remember that if the kids at school start teasing you, don’t listen to them. Also, don’t be afraid to tell anyone anything. You may think they’ll make fun of you for it, but you might just be surprised. If they do make fun of you, that means they’re insecure,” Elizabeth advised.
“Fine,” Stephanie said.
They watched TV together until it was time for Stephanie to leave. It was very hard for Stephanie to get used to being called Cynthia. What made it even harder was that she didn’t know know who she really was.
The next day Stephanie had to go to school. A couple of boys came up to her and said, “Look at those ugly clothes you’re wearing. Can’t you ever wear clothes that are in style?”
Stephanie was hurt, but, remembering Elizabeth’s advice, rebelled. “I can wear whatever I want. Who cares if they’re not in style? And why should I listen to you, anyway?” That made the boys back off. They weren’t used to remarks like that from Cynthia.
Stephanie felt great. She had improved upon her self-esteem, and she had made the boys go away. It was a wonderful feeling.
Then Stephanie realized something. This is where a book usually ends. The main character has found a solution to her problems. What would happen to her now?
When Stephanie got home from school she had to go to the bathroom badly. As she walked to the bathroom everything blurred in front of her. After it cleared, she found herself walking to the bathroom in her own home as she had been before.
Stephanie was really curious. She wanted to find out if what happened to her, while she was Cynthia, was really the rest of the book. It was exactly!
Stephanie called Amelia right away, and told her what happened. “So,” she finished up, “I guess I should have listened to you when you told me about Bookitis. I thought you just made that up.”
“Um, Stephanie? I did make it up. I thought you would be able to tell. I mean, I’m sure that if scientists discovered a disease they would name it something more scientific than Bookitis.”
“I guess you’re right,” Stephanie agreed, “but i’m telling you the truth. It really did happen.”
“Maybe you do read too much. Take a break once in awhile,” suggested Amelia.
“Okay. Bye,” Stephanie said, hanging up the phone.
Stephanie decided she would still read, but she would cut down. At night she would stop when she was supposed. She would stop bringing books to school. Most of all, she wouldn’t get mad at Julie for bothering her while she read. Julie had just asked a reasonable question but Stephanie had blown up at her.
Stephanie’s plan worked. She found she could still read good books, even though she cut down on how much she read. Then Stephanie left her room, for she was going to play the Full House game with Julie to make sure there were no hard feelings.
So, I wrote this when Iwas ten, and typed it up on my mom’s computer (an early mac) and entered it in a Scholastic writing contest (no surprise, it didn’t place at all). I wrote a lot of stories as a kid, but this is one that I typed and somehow kept with me in all of my many, many moves in my twenties, so I thought I’d share.
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