My Sister, My Science Report, by Margaret Bechard

My Sister, My Science Report

Tess Anderson thinks life with her teenage sister, Jane, is pretty bad. All Jane can talk about—when she’s talking to Tess at all—is boys, makeup, and how fat her thighs are. And things get even worse when Tess is assigned to do a science report with Phoenix, the gooniest guy in school. But when Phoenix thinks of a new subject for their science report, Tess learns that science, Phoenix, and even Jane can be a lot more interesting, more complicated, and funnier than she ever dreamed.

My Sister, My Science Report, by Margaret Bechard

Reviews

“[Bechard] has a fine hand for amusing dialogue and description. Thoroughly enjoyable.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This funny first novel … the quick pace, adept exaggeration, and funny spy scenes make it quite entertaining.” —The Horn Book

  • Nominee Florida Reader’s Choice Book Award (Sunshine Award), 1993

Author’s Notes

This was not the first novel I wrote—that was actually Star Hatchling—or an earlier, sadly muddled version of Star Hatchling—but this was the first novel I wrote successfully. I think we all, consciously and unconsciously, pick up “Rules for Writing” as we progress through our careers. And I started this book with many of those “rules.”

One of them was “Ideally a novel takes place over the span of at least a week.” (I have no idea where I picked that up, but it had the reassuring sound of authority to it.) I spent months trying to make this story span a week. I had all kinds of filler scenes. All kinds of “montage” scenes—the equivalent of pages of a calendar being torn off and blown away. But with every one of those filler scenes, I lost a huge step in tension. The story just started to drag. And I could not drag myself, or my characters, through an entire draft.

Finally, in desperation, I sat down and looked at what I had. And I realized that, really, this story could happen over the course of one day. Maybe a day and a half. Tops. So … and this was a huge step for me … I threw away that “rule.” I decided to try a draft with that shortened time period. And things fell together. I got Tess and Phoenix to the end of their story.

I still struggle with those “rules.” And with all those voices that tell me how a story “has” to be written. I still have to remind myself to trust my own instincts and my own knowledge of the characters and their story.