Cheating Lessons

Cheating Lessons

by Nan Willard Cappo


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Can honesty be the worst policy?

Bernadette Terrell has always known the right thing to do. Not the most popular girl in school, her focus has always been on academic, not social, success. When her favorite teacher names her to Wickham High School's state championship quiz bowl team, she believes that she has reached the pinnacle of her high school academic career. However, her elation quickly fades as she begins to suspect that perhaps someone cheated to get Wickham into the contest and is cheating still.

In her search for answers, Bernadette must contend with a situation that isn't black and white, where a community's hope, hard work, and pride are on the line. Is a team — and a school — implicated by one person's behavior?

Cappo's blend of suspense and humor makes Cheating Lessons a riveting story about right and wrong — and the downside of trust.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780613647953
Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date: 07/01/2003
Pages: 262
Product dimensions: 4.08(w) x 7.14(h) x 0.95(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Nan willard Cappo has been a waitress, a speechwriter, a nurse recruiter, and a computer marketing representative for IBM. In 1992 she won the Judy Blume Contemporary Novel-in-Progress Grant given by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives outside Detroit, Michigan, with her husband and three children, all of them devoted Jeopardy! fans. Cheating Lessons is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.
— Knute Rockne

Bernadette Terrell came home from school and caught her mother snooping in her room.

It was an accidental bust. Bernadette got home at 3:30, her usual time, wolfed down a handful of cookies, then headed upstairs to drop her backpack on her desk the way she did every afternoon. She knew it was her mother's day off because the old Suburban stood in the driveway, and overhead the vacuum cleaner droned.

As she reached the stairs, the roar of the vacuum stopped. Thick carpet deadened her footsteps in the sixteen seconds it took her to climb the stairs and cross the hall to her room, which today smelled faintly of Lemon Pledge. Martha Terrell had her back to the door and was busy reading the application essay Bernadette planned to customize for every college on her list.

Bernadette's eyes narrowed. Her room was always the cleanest in the house, through no choice of hers. She gave her mother five seconds to get more deeply incriminated before she said softly, "I'm home."

Only a guilty person would have screeched like that. Pages scattered as her mother collapsed into the desk chair.

"Bernadette Terrell, are you trying to give me a heart attack?" Martha patted her blouse in the general vicinity of her left breast. "What were you thinking?"

Bernadette let her backpack thud to the floor. "I'm thinking you should stop spying on me."

"I was not spying, I was cleaning. If your papers are so terribly confidential you shouldn't leave them lying around in plain sight." Martha abandoned her haughty tone. "You aren't really going to send this, are you?"

"What's wrong with it?"

Martha picked up the pages around her feet. "Well, let's see. 'The entire Pinehurst case was a stinking mess of half-truths and distortions. They gave us a rookie debate judge who thought "negative" was a blood type. She claimed the first affirmative had an appealing speaking manner, but I thought he sounded like a Hitler Youth.'" Martha's eyebrows lifted almost to her hairline. "What's wrong with it? It's too harsh, that's what. I'm not saying you shouldn't write about debate — I know you love it, and God knows you're good at it." She flicked a hand at the tops of the bookcases lined with plaques and trophies. "But you're not debating here."

Bernadette moved a stack of folded laundry off the bed and sat down. She was one of the five best high school debaters in Michigan. This did not impress her mother, with whom she had yet to win an argument. "Our guidance counselor said we should let our personalities shine through."

Her mother threw up her hands. "Of course! But not your true personality. God bless us! I know you hate Pine-hurst, I know you can't stand to lose at anything, but ranting about it on paper isn't very attractive." She pointed a finger at Bernadette. "You catch more flies with a teaspoon of honey than a gallon full of vinegar."

"I don't want flies."

"Colleges, then." Martha leaned forward with her elbows on her knees. "If your own mother won't tell you the truth, who will? And the truth is, sweetheart" — she sighed here, as if a terrible secret were being dragged from her — "you are too critical. Your father and I are worried about it."

Bernadette gave a gasp of part outrage, part grudging admiration at her mother's nerve. She was too critical? If that wasn't the pot calling the kettle black, as Martha herself liked to say. And Bernadette's father thought she was perfect — he often told her so.

"You are. Of everyone. If a person can't spell every little word perfectly, or doesn't realize you're quoting poetry — and they better get the poet right if they know what's good for them — you write them off. You treat them like, I don't know what, servants — on probation."

Bernadette lay back and pulled her pillow over her head. "I'm not listening," she said into its comforting softness. But her mother's words thumped through like the roar of a distant waterfall.

"People pick up on that. They might not say anything, but they notice. Just look at you this minute. You can dish it out, but you can't take it. And then you wonder why you don't have more friends!"

This stung Bernadette into lifting the pillow. "I don't need a lot of friends. I have Nadine." She wished, as she often did, that life was conducted more like a debate, with flow sheets and rules, timekeepers with stopwatches, and judges who punished illogic with low scores — preferably branded on the losers' foreheads.

"Nadine is like your father and me, honey — she's been your debate partner so long, she overlooks your faults. What if she moves away, or meets some boy? Hmmm? Then where will you be?"

"At Vassar. On full scholarship."

"Not with this essay."

There followed a pause so long, Bernadette peeked out from under the pillow. Her mother's eyes were half-closed as she continued reading, and she had her lips pursed up and out in what Bernadette called (to herself) her "contemplative trout" face. Suddenly Martha gasped, and Bernadette braced herself. Her mother had reached the last paragraph. "My greatest accomplishment at this stage of my life will be to beat Pinehurst Academy in debate. They say character comes with defeat. I intend to help Pinehurst develop as much soul-building character as I can."

Martha lowered the paper.

"Mr. Malory says I write with ease and imagination," Bernadette blurted.

"Does he." Martha's puckered lips stuck out still farther, as though she did not share the opinion of the best teacher ever hired by Wickham High.

Bernadette sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees. "You like Mr. Malory. You told Dad it was high time Wickham got a teacher who would push the kids."

This hit home, she saw. She'd watched her mother at Open House. Martha's skeptical face had said plainer than plain, oh, come on, a handsome, single young man, in a classroom with teenaged girls, what was the principal thinking? and then Mr. Malory came over and shook her hand and commended her on raising such a marvelously questioning student as Bernadette. "She sets the whole room thinking, it's really quite helpful," he'd said, in the upper-class British accent that reminded Martha, as she confessed later, of Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, and after that it was all right. Mr. Malory was an O.O.O., one of ours, a Bernadette supporter.

Now Martha said "hmmmm," which was as close as she ever came to admitting Bernadette might have a point, and turned in her chair to study the wall over the desk. Sooner or later everyone did that. Burlap-covered fiberboard stretched from desk to ceiling. Her father had helped Bernadette carry it up from the basement last October. Pushpins impaled more than a hundred three-by-five-inch index cards on an expanse of blue burlap, each containing a single sentence or paragraph printed in meticulous black fine-tip felt pen. It was a quote-board, Bernadette explained, like the one in Mr. Malory's classroom. It hung between ceiling-high bookcases crammed with books, as though the authors had cried out a few of their favorite sentences for special notice.

"We didn't have those in secretarial school," Martha had commented, but not as though she minded, for afterward they heard her on the kitchen phone telling her sister-in-law in Cleveland about it, the pride behind "Did your boys ever do anything like that, Cynthia?" as obvious as an elephant to Bernadette and her father, who exchanged knowing smiles.

Suddenly Martha sniffed as though she'd spotted a quotation she didn't believe for a New York minute. "Speaking of Mr. Malory, why don't you show this essay to him and see what he thinks? Since he's so educated and I barely finished high school."

"Maybe I will."

Martha rose to her full height of five feet eleven inches. With the briskness that characterized her movements and her judgments, she briskly wound up the vacuum cleaner cord. "We're having lasagna for dinner," she announced as she trundled the vacuum out into the hall, "and coconut cream pie."

The vacuum thumped down the stairs.

Bernadette's mulish look changed to one of interest. Lasagna and coconut cream pie happened to be what she'd order for her final meal, even if they were the frozen kind. Which these would be. In spite of having received last Christmas the latest edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (Bernadette had even sprung for hardback), Martha had not made lasagna from scratch since the last neighborhood wake.

During countless phone calls, when they were not settling the finer points of immigration law for debate or arguing the exact color of Mr. Malory's eyes, Bernadette and Nadine sometimes touched on Bernadette's mother's job. She was the office manager of a family counseling clinic. Nadine insisted that Mrs. Terrell saw so many dysfunctional teenagers all day at work, she probably felt guilty because her own daughter was so beautifully adjusted. No drugs, no pregnancies, no suicide attempts. "Maybe," Bernadette said doubtfully. "But she sure keeps looking. I make president of the National Honor Society and she checks my arms for needle marks."

Now, stretched out on her comforter, Bernadette stared up at the ceiling. Too critical, her foot. Suddenly she scrambled off the bed. From under her desk blotter she slid out a plain white envelope and reverently unfolded a closely typed sheet. Mr. Malory had given her a copy of the college recommendation he'd written. She would not actually mail her first application for four months — she had to wait for her junior grades — but Bernadette believed in thorough preparations.

"Ms. Bernadette Terrell is a quietly tough-minded, intelligent young woman." She liked that: tough-minded.

She could have recited the rest: " that is consistently superior...displays an intellectual curiosity...most refreshing...." Ah, here it was: "Both in her writing and her class participation, Ms. Terrell is courteous and fair, though she will criticize in an honest and forthright manner when she feels it is deserved. She sets a high standard for herself and for others — a challenge that will make her a stimulating presence in any classroom."

She sighed happily. Take that, Martha Terrell. Her gaze traveled over the quote-board, and she played the tranquilizing game of letting a random quotation inspire her.

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

Bernadette read it out loud, but it was her teacher's voice she heard, as though he and not Yeats had written the words — for her. She shivered.

A card on the far edge of the board made her frown, and she clambered onto the desk to see better. That was not her writing. "Before honor comes humility. — Book of Proverbs." Bernadette stared at the firm, nun-taught penmanship, then at the doorway through which the vacuum cleaner had exited. The gall of some people. She unpinned the card and dropped it in the wastebasket.

Paper crumpled. She was kneeling on her college essay. She sat down and considered it one more time. Perhaps the wording was a tad strong for debate-impaired admissions officers.

She crossed out "Hitler Youth." In a tough-minded, forthright manner she drew a little caret above it and printed "smug, arrogant rich kid."

She could too take criticism.

Copyright © 2002 by Nan Willard Cappo

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Cheating Lessons 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about a girl named Bernadette that goes to Wickham High School, and her class got accepted to be in the Classics Bowl (a contest like Jeopardy) after taking a test and averging a 92%. She is wondering how they got such a high score and suspects someone cheated. After a lot of investigating and interviewing, she found out that the 'cheater' was someone she truly loves and hate to admit he was the one that cheated. Who is that person? Will she tell her teammates or talk to the 'cheater'? Well, you would have to read this GREAT book to find out! This book is very well-written with a lot of details and descriptions. This is totally recommended if you have nothing to read or do. So go to your local bookstore or library and get this book now! You will not regret it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is mainly about a girl named Bernadette who is on the debate team. She goes to school at Wickham High School. Their enemy is Pinehurst, a private school. When Wickham scores higher on a test then Pinehurst they are invited to a Classics Bowl. It's a contest between the top two schools about literature. Pinehurst always wins so Bernadette gets suspicious. She thinks someone might have cheated to get them into the Classics Bowl, but has no idea who. She and four others are made onto the team and they study hard for it. While all of this is going on they are also not the most popular kids in school so they are having peer pressure put on them all the time. I liked this book a lot because of how it really relates to lots of peoples life. It's possible to do whatever you want is one of the best things I got out of it. This book was really easy read because it gets you thinking. The best part of the book was when Bernadette goes into her favorite teacher's house and spies on him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved this book even though it was a little easy for me. i liked that it had a lot of literary references and the quotes at the beginning of the chapters. i thought that it was interesting how nan willard cappo showed the social scene and the relationship with bernadettes parents.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am in an advanced freshman English class at my high school and our teacher recently assigned us this novel. I usually enjoy the books that my teachers assign as I am an active reader, but Cheating Lessons was a book that i found dull and boring. Not only is there a lack of a good plot, who wants to read about a girl who studies for a Classics Bowl, which is what the majority of the book is spent on. I do admit there are some good parts in the book, like , for example, when Bernadette is hiding in Mr. Malory's closet, and when Lori throws the bricks at Mr. Malory's car, it takes forever to get to these good parts of the book. I do not reccomend this book for anyone, especially a high school student.
Guest More than 1 year ago
CHEATING LESSONS combines humor, suspense, and an intriguing moral conundrum into an engaging stew that kept me reading into the wee hours of the night. This story has the power to make even 'grown-up' readers think about growing up, learning about human nature, and the importance of figuring out and acting upon one's own sense of morality. Bernadette Terrell is a well-crafted character, one that teens could identify with, but also one who has her own contradictions and is grappling with the challenge of how to become the person she knows she should be. If you're doubtful that a suspenseful story of the 'can't-put-it-down' variety can be created from controversies surrounding a high school Classics Bowl match, read CHEATING LESSONS and see just how it can be done.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up because the book jacket was attractive, but I kept reading it (and finally bought the book) because I had to see what happened to Bernadette. The author packs an amazing amount of suspense into a high school story where one girl's personal honor is at stake. Plus, it's funny. I was rooting for Bernadette the whole time.
BooksforKatie More than 1 year ago
What would you do if you thought someone had cheated, especially on an important test? This book is about sixteen year old, Bernadette and her struggles when she things that someone has cheated on the test to let them go to the state level trivia challenge. She loves her mystery novels and uses what she has learned from some of them to find out what is going on. Was it one of her fellow students, the teacher, or even the principal that cheated on the test? She has to find out and figure out what to do with the information that she acquires. I personally feel that with all the academic pressures on students today, this book is very relevant to the middle school and high school age group. Bernadette has to figure out what to do with the information that is figures out, which is an every day issue growing up. Who do you tell, or not tell, and how do you deal with the emotions associated with what you find out. I received a free copy of this book from Tadmar Press and NetGalley to give an honest review.
Beth_Rodgers_Author More than 1 year ago
'Cheating Lessons' by Nan Willard Cappo was a cute read that invested me in the outcome from early on in the storytelling. Bernadette, the main character, finds out that her school, Wickham High, has made it into the ultimate quiz bowl, and she and some of her fellow classmates had some of the highest scores on the test that got them there. However, those high scores came at the downfall of their biggest competitor – Pinehurst – a school that beats Wickham more often than not, and which all the students of Wickham want to beat at any cost. The issue is that the cost becomes too evident when Bernadette begins to suspect foul play – cheating on the part of someone at Wickham. The average score of the students who made the Classics quiz bowl contest seems too high to Bernadette, and she finds herself searching for answers, unsure of what she'll find. Between the principal, librarian, and English teacher – Mr. Malory – the answer is not becoming apparent. She doesn't want to say too much, lest she find herself digging a deeper hole for Wickham. Talking to her best friend, Nadine, doesn't too much to allay her fears, as Nadine just wants to go and win and be done with it. As answers begin to unfold and events transpire at the competition, Bernadette realizes that sometimes finding the right answers can be the courageous thing to do, while other times it casts you in a bad light in the eyes of those around you. When she comes to terms with what really happened and who was responsible, she begins to see everything and everyone in a new light, and struggles to do the right thing despite the ramifications to which it might lead. I appreciated the symbolism of the novel's title – 'Cheating Lessons' – as it could be construed as being about lessons regarding why cheating is bad, or it could be about teaching how to cheat, which the book did touch on at times. I love the ability to see double meanings, and therefore this compelled me into reading more. I also really enjoyed the fact that, unbeknownst to me when I picked up the book originally, the novel took place in Michigan. It was fun to read about cities, streets, and other locations around me, as I live in southeast Michigan myself. Even though the name of the main schools and city they lived in were fictional (as far as I know based on my knowledge of this area after living in Michigan for 30+ years), it was nice to read about where I'm from and feel a stronger connection with the novel as a result. This was especially true of the novel having the final quiz bowl competition take place in Southfield, which is the city I grew up in. I recommend 'Cheating Lessons' to anyone who wants to read about the struggle to do the right thing even when others are focusing on what can be gained by avoiding the truth. Beth Rodgers, Author of 'Freshman Fourteen,' A Young Adult Novel
Guest More than 1 year ago
The cover of Cheating Lessons is what caught my attention and made me want to read it. I couldn't put this book down, because I kept wandering what was going to happen next with Bernadette and her quiz bowl team. There wasn't a dull moment in the book, because Bernadette's witty and determined character kept the book interesting. Even though she has a lot of pride about her academic accomplishments in high school, she doesn¿t let that get in her way of finding out the truth.