How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don’t Have a Clue

by Jess Keating

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how to outfox your friends

What would middle school be like if you lived in a zoo? Ana didn’t ask to be named after an anaconda. She didn’t ask for zoologist parents who look like safari guides. And she definitely didn’t ask for a twin brother whose life goal seems to be terrorizing her with his pet reptiles. Now, to make matters worse, her parents have decided to move the whole family INTO the zoo! All of which gives the Sneerers (the clan of carnivorous female predators in her class) more ammunition to make her life miserable-and squash any hope of class tennis stud, Zack, falling in love with her. Ana tries to channel her inner chameleon and fade into the background, but things are changing too quickly for her to keep up

Excerpt from How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don’t Have a Clue:

“Why is everyone acting so weird today? Dad even said we were celebrating something today? Is that what all your texts were about?”

He shook his head, but Daz could have angel wings and be playing the harp on a cloud and he still wouldn’t look innocent.

“No reason,” he said. The mischievous glimmer in his eyes set my teeth on edge. Nodding to my door, he smiled again. “Go ahead. Go on in!”

He might as well have been telling me to hop into a live volcano at this point.

I peeked back at my door, inspecting the knob for any telltale signs of Daz prankery.



Hidden insects?




What was he up to?

“You didn’t let one of your snakes loose in my room again, did you? I told you, I am not going to keep helping you find Oscar if you’re dumb enough to set him loose in there.”

He giggled and closed his door mysteriously. “Good luuuuck,” he said from behind the door.

I frowned, giving myself a pep talk. I will not live in fear of my brother. I will not live in fear of my brother!

Cracking my door open, I sniffed inside. It might seem weird, but there was no way he was going to get me with a skunk again like the Great Stink
of ’11.

My room smelled normal from the outside.

But when I yanked my door open, my heart fell into my butt.

“Oh my God,” I breathed. My ears began to tingle, and my vision began to do swirly–whirlies. “You’re kidding me!” I steadied myself on the door frame as I gaped at her.

It wasn’t a reptile staring back at me.

Instead, it was a girl with bright eyes, clunky boots, and fingerless gloves.

A face I hadn’t seen in months!

“You’re actually here!” I yelped.

Liv—-as in, the Liv, my lifelong best friend who I hadn’t seen since she moved to New Zealand—-uncrossed her arms and wiggled her fingers in the air. “Surpriiiise!

“What are you doing here?!” I fumbled, kicking my dirty socks out of the way to reach her.

“Is that any way to greet your best friend?” Liv stood up from my bed and scrambled over to me, giving me a giant hug. She smelled like strawberry body spray and licorice.

“Sorry!” I said. “I’m just so surprised to see you! I mean, look at you!”

I didn’t mean to be staring, but I couldn’t help myself. She looked so…different! Not bad different, but not at all like the Liv that moved away six months ago. Her face was thinner, like her cheeks had lost their squishiness, and her chin had gotten a bit pointier. A knitted, wooly hat was tugged down over her ears.

When she was here, she used to live in jeans, T–shirts, and cardigans. You know, typical geeky girl stuff. But the girl in front of me was wearing tight black pants, a black long–sleeved shirt layered with a T–shirt from some band I’d never heard of, and a clunky pair of black boots that easily made her two inches taller than me. She looked like the kind of girl that cardigans would run away from in fear. Some sort of inky, dark lip gloss made her teeth look extra-white every time she smiled.

“You’re so tall!” I sputtered, stepping back to take another look at her.

And you have chesticles now! I didn’t say that part out loud.

She beamed. “Dad said I’ve grown over an inch since we left. It must be the fresh New Zealand air.” She spun around, yanked off her hat, and twirled around like a ballerina, with her dark purple–streaked hair whipping around her.


Purple hair?!

“Whoa!” I said, reaching out to touch a lock of it. “Your parents actually let you dye your hair purple?!” I tried to picture straight–laced, cut–the–crusts–off–your–sandwich Mr. and Mrs. Reed letting Liv do something so outrageous. They wouldn’t even let her wear tinted lip gloss until she was twelve!

She grinned. “They didn’t let me, but it’s kind of too late now, isn’t it? So awesome, right? Leilani has purple hair too, but hers is more magenta–y, like hot purple. Mine’s called Violent Violet,” she said, like that explained everything.

I swallowed.

Violent Violet.

My best friend who stops to pick up ladybugs from the side of the road so they don’t get stepped on had Violent Violet hair.


About the Author:
Jess Keating is a zoologist and the author of the critically acclaimed How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied. Jess is also the author of the playful nonfiction picture book Pink is for Blobfish (Knopf Children’s, 2016). She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves writing books for adventurous and funny kids. Visit Jess at

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