Danielle is 15 1/2, and her sweet tooth is still untamed. When she heaps three spoonfuls of sugar into her peppermint tea, Wendy rolls her eyes: "That's her, you know."

Danielle drops the teaspoon clattering to the buffet. "Aah! Don't say that! I'm switching to honey, as of right now."

Another girl with "Amanda" on her nametag says darkly, "You must have found out by now that we're allergic to honey. And cilantro tastes soapy. They're both genetically linked traits."

Danielle quickly sets her mug down. She surveys the drinks table, where cans of soda are nestled in a plastic tub of ice. The crowd of girls has cut into the supply of orange sodas and colas, but a dozen cans of lemon-lime are untouched. Danielle snatches up a lemon-lime. She takes too big a gulp and almost chokes. It tastes dreadful. She glowers at the 49 girls milling sullenly around the hall. Every one of them is also 15 1/2 years old, brown-eyed and lean and well-muscled, five-foot-five or -six, brimming with good health and sporting a stick-on name tag. But at least none of them is drinking a lemon-lime. Danielle takes another defiant swig.

And at least none of them has her hair. All of them are dark and curly, but their hairstyles are in the best teenage spirit of continual experimentation. Danielle can pretend she is looking at a hairstyling Webzine, or one of those customized beauty programs at the mall. She sees her own hair short and velvety, or in a huge cloud of ringlets, or tied back in a sheaf of sleek braids. The neat topknot over there on Lora looks the best—she'll have to try that when she gets home. But every nose around her is narrow and aquiline. Every mouth under the different lip glosses or glazes is firm and dimpled. Mortification creeps down ...

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October 1, 2001

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