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Can Gabby the Goat Girl shed her moniker and discover her true worth at college with the help of a 1960s beauty book?

Main Tropes

  • transformation
  • rags to riches
  • embarrassing past
  • embarrassing family
  • popular boy
  • awkward girl


Gabby grew up in the back woods of Arizona with a terrible moniker of Gabby the Goat Girl. When she enrolls in university, she's determined to shake her terrible past. With the help of her roommates and a 1960's beauty book, Gabby must learn social graces so she can win the service club's fundraiser.

Intro to Chapter 1

I know we’re supposed to be happy with ourselves—love who we are—and I agree. I do love myself. But when I look like a cross between a gorilla and a hippie, some changes need to be made.
A few nights before leaving for my freshman year at the University of Arizona, I called my best friend, Mikaela—the only successful person I knew who made it out of Honeyvale. Now that she attended Georgetown in DC, she never answered my texts. Her social calendar was packed with more dates than a Turkish bazaar. Whereas my social calendar had more empty spaces than a parking lot on Christmas Day. A question burned within me only she could answer. “Do you think I’m frumpy?”
Mikaela gasped. “Oh, Gabby. Who told you that?”
Mikaela distanced herself from me after my junior year talent show two years ago, but she never told me what bothered her. “I just don’t want to be known as Gabby the Goat Girl anymore.”
“You’re just a late bloomer,” she said.
Great. I’m a shriveled bud waiting for a touch of sunlight before blossoming.
She tried to sugar-coat her response, but it still sounded suspiciously like frumpy. “You just haven’t figured it out yet.”
I’m a late bloomer, I thought to myself. I just haven’t figured it out yet. Whatever it was.
Mikaela’s words echoed into the inner chambers of my heart while I packed my ratty sweatpants and oversized tees into a duffle bag. I do like myself. I have talents and good character traits, as everyone does. But my friend’s words awoke me to myself. I needed something to turn this ugly duckling to a swan. And I needed it fast because I was heading to college.
I was the first in my family to be accepted to college. My sister, Gayle, still lived in our small town in the not-so-respectable Winsome Apartments where the pool was often greener than the grass in the summer. She worked at the Quik-E-Mart, making minimum wage and dating her sleezey boyfriend, Dirk, who she’d been with since she was a freshman and high school, hitting up the local Dairy Queen for their Saturday night dates. She had no plans, no future, and no way out of Honeyvale, AZ, population 1,200 and change.
I wanted more than that for my life.
When I arrived at my Tucson apartment complex, I was the first of the four roomies to move in. While my older brother, Bryan, helped me haul my belongings to the dingy college pad which smelled of moldy cheese, I pondered another reason why I needed to change. “I didn’t go to high school prom.”
Bryan, who lugged in my scanty possessions, tucked a scavenged boxed under his arm and shrugged. “I didn’t go to prom either.”
“It’s different for boys.”
“You had a choice to ask, and you chose not to ask someone.”
“I didn’t get asked.”
He set down a stack of banana boxes we nabbed from the back dumpster at Harlways Food. Out of the three of us siblings, Bryan and I looked the most alike. His dark neck hair tickled his collar, and if I squinted, I could imagine him as a caveman, dragging his knuckles on the ground. “Why spend a bunch of money on a girl I won’t even remember after high school graduation?”
He had a point. “Going to prom is a memory. Girls like getting dressed up. They like to feel pretty.” Of course, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d worn a dress. Or felt pretty.
Bryan arched a shaggy eyebrow. “Why don’t girls get dressed up, have a big party, and leave the guys out of it?”
“Because we need someone to admire us!” This was ironic because I had few admirers. There was Clarence, the kissy-boy at Honeyvale Elementary—in second grade. That was the last time I had an admirer.
Except Beau. But I didn’t count Beau. I didn’t even like thinking his name. He resurrected my elementary school title of Gabby the Goat Girl after we broke up. Enough said about that.
Bryan stood and wiped the sweat from his brow. “Prom is so high-school anyway.”
A deep ache resounded through my chest cavity. “I would like to go to a formal occasion and feel comfortable dressing up and being in my own skin.” I envisioned being suave, sophisticated, and other-centered—asking questions, being a good conversationalist, making other people laugh. I just didn’t now how to get there.
“Get on with your life. You’re at university now.”
University! The word thrilled me. Here, I carried no baggage. No demeaning moniker. I had a fresh start—no societal hierarchy and no popular pecking order of high school. At college, I could be whatever and whoever I wanted to be. Maybe I could even go by my middle name, Elise. Elise VanGunderson sounded so sophisticated. If only I knew how to be sophisticated.
The Tucson heat poured through the apartment with only the faint mist of a swamp cooler to fight the hair-dryer August wind. After a few trips back and forth, Bryan paused to sit on a twice-used box with a bottle of water to slake his thirst.
I stored a box of housewares in the galley kitchen, complete with a chipped formica top. “So if you saw me at a college party, would you ask me out?”
He didn’t even give me a sideways glance. “You’re my sister.”
“But if I wasn’t your sister and you saw me a party, what would you think?” I pinned him down with that one.
He gave me an appraising once-over. “Honestly?”
“Honestly.” I could depend on him for his bluntness.
“You just don’t look like you’re trying to attract guys.”
His words hit me with the force of being butted in the chest by a two hundred-pound Anglo-Nubian billy goat. I didn’t expect his honesty to hurt so much.
He wiped his hands on his over-sized T-shirt and then stuffed them into the pockets of his ripped jeans. “You’re not bad-looking. You don’t have that something…Belief in yourself? Self-confidence, maybe?”
My shoulders slumped. All the wind blew out of me. I had lots of self-confidence. I trained and groomed competitive goats. And won several grand prizes and had the trophies to prove it. But I had zero self-confidence talking to and making friends with people—especially boys. In high school, whenever a guy heard through the small-town rumor-mill I had a crush on him, he avoided me. Did I wear man repellant?
Bryan encouraged me with a grin. “You need to smile more, or something. I don’t know what it is, but you’ll figure it out.”
The word appeared again. The mysterious it.
With one arm, he enveloped me in a sweaty man-hug and left for his important life.
I picked up my shower caddy with only shampoo and a bar of soap in it.
I really wanted to figure this out. I just didn’t know how to do it.
So later than day, after I was all settled, I started a goal list:

1. Learn how not to be frumpy.

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