Inspired by Rapunzel and sprinkled with the question: what if the school's misfits used mind control to become the popular group?
Skater and reformed geek, Tanner Dobbs, soon learns that his new school, Tangleforest High, is ruled by the Princes. This group of brains used the techniques of Neuro Linguistic Programming to “persuade” the student body that intellectuals are cool, with an added bonus suggestion: “The Princes are the smartest and therefore the most popular.”
Julia Webster used to be part of the Princes’ crowd until they became obsessed and increasingly dangerous to themselves. Now she finds herself an outcast from her former “nerd” friends as well as the students who had ostracized her since elementary school. She’s worried when new kid, Tanner, is invited to join the Princes. She figures Tanner hides his smarts in order to fit in and worries that the popular status the Princes offer, even though geeky, might entice him.
When Tanner catches a glimpse of his golden-haired neighbor, Poppi, he thinks perhaps the Tangleforest community isn’t so terribly bad. But after climbing up to her window, he discovers she is locked in her bedroom by her wicked witch of a grandmother. Unfortunately, his only chance of saving the princess may be to become a nerd prince.
Although the girly-girl-filled lunch table buzzed with excitement over the cute new guy with the mess of blond waves, Julia Webster tried to ignore him. Even if she hadn’t watched Tanner Dobbs ride up on his skateboard this morning, she would’ve guessed he was a skater—graphic tee, baggy shorts, Vans. Plus, it was easy to conclude, after watching him walk into third period with a confident stride and nonchalant attitude, he believed he was cool. And the one thing she knew for sure: his type never liked her type.
One of the girls at her table said, “He’s coming this way.”
Julia wasn’t surprised that, out of the entire cafeteria, he migrated toward her table. Tanner had been through half of his first day, so he must have noticed the strangeness of Tangleforest Senior High. She figured the colorfulness of the students at her table gave him a sense of adolescent normality when nothing else in the school even came close to the norm.
After a loud group-gasp from the girls at her table, her head automatically jolted up and found the source. The Princes stood between Tanner and the safety of their table. Didn’t take them long, she thought.
No matter how much the Princes had changed the other students, they remained the same. First in command was Zachary Davis: Julia’s ex and the son of Dr. Davis, Tangleforest’s own celebrity psychiatrist. Zachary was wealthy, tall, slender, and his nerd roots ran deep: smart, sci-fi loving, black glasses, and a goofiness that couldn’t be suppressed, no matter how popular he became. And the only reason he no longer sported a cowlick was because before they had broken up, Julia had convinced him to let her cut his hair super short.
Next to Zachary sat Julia’s former best friend, Darla. Darla wore her hair in pigtails, which bugged Julia to no end. Pigtails! She was shorter than Julia, skinny-skinny, and was now the most pursued girl in school. However, Darla only had pitiful eyes for Zachary.
And then there were the Pittman twins: Scrawny Johnny—red straggly hair, and Big Sean—brown flat top. Up to that year, they had spent their school career being shoved into lockers and underwearless, just in case of a wedgy attack.
Julia watched as Zachary tried to touch the new guy’s arm, but he jerked away, giving Zachary a, “What the hell?” glare. Probably either sensing something off, or more likely, he had a predetermined opinion of nerds and didn’t want to be associated with them on his first day.
Julia took a bite of her salad and felt Tanner’s arm brush against hers as he sat down right beside her. The entire table went on immediate ignore; a rule they had all accepted in order to keep from being too disappointed. They knew, sooner or later, the Princes would have their “little talk” with Tanner, and he would then look down his nose at them, like they were at the bottom of the food chain. As Julia imagined the outcome, Tanner didn’t turn out like one of the nerd Princes at all. Instead, as she thought about him walking into the lunchroom in slow motion, he actually looked pretty hot, dressed in a black suit with his hair slicked back, dark shades and a cool swagger.
“Why do you have that goofy look on your face?” Julia’s new “best friend” Ashley asked. Ashley, the girl whose face had the word “bitch” printed across it in all of Julia’s yearbooks.
“Oh,” she said. “Nothing. Just thinking about my next hair design.”
“Hair, hair… hair. I’ve never seen anybody so obsessed with hair. I mean... I am, but that’s different. I’m obsessed because mine is so fabulous. You actually want to touch other people’s gross, nasty hair.”
“Um… Ashley, you’re in cosmetology classes, too.”
“Yeah.” She rolled her eyes in disgust. “But I’m not actually going to get a J.O.B. cutting hair.”
“I’ll bite. What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to college.”
“All right. And major in…?”
“Doesn’t matter. I’ll be getting my M.R.S., and then my attorney husband can do all the working, and I’ll do all the shopping.”
“Maybe I should send you over to the Princes’ table.”
Ashley flipped her hair. “I don’t see why my career goals have to be like everyone else’s.”
Julia never considered being a wife as a career, but she knew she wouldn’t want Ashley doing her taxes or her therapy. “Touché.” Julia sighed.
“Too what?” Ashley asked.
“Never mind.” Julia shook her head. “All right. The only problem I see with your plan is that you have to make the grades to get into college and then law school. Right now, you might qualify for community college.”
“Whatever,” Ashley said, “because right now I would settle for any place where those so-called Princes won’t be. Once I get out of Nerdville, I’ll be popular again.” She smiled and gleamed up at the ceiling. “The girls will resume their places as my shadows, and all the boys will want to date me again because I’m me and not because…” She glanced at the new guy and then back to Julia. “Well… you know why. I still can’t believe any of this has happened. You don’t understand. You’re used to not getting any attention. It’s so bizarre-o not having boys…” She turned her attention fully on the guy sitting next to Julia. “Hi.” She smiled showing her orthodontist’s daughter’s teeth. “What’s your name? Where did you move from?”
“What, Julia? Sorry, but come on… he’s dreamy.”
“Tanner Dobbs,” he answered. “I’m from Dallas.”
“City boy… I like that.”
The fact that Ashley had broken the table silence rule didn’t surprise or really bother Julia because the idea of being able to talk to someone about something other than clothes and boy bands was appealing. However, what did bother her was the fact that Tanner had probably already come to the false conclusion that she was cool. And even if, by some miracle, the Princes decided to leave him alone, she knew Tanner would soon discover that her make-up and black clothes hid more nerd than ninety percent of the school population, and that would be the end of that. Besides, she didn’t need the aggravation or another rejection. Therefore, the best thing for her to do was to not even try.