was cold. Frozen to the bone and lost in a swirling storm of gray confusion.
Dreary snow packed the path before me, and I was forced to trudge miserably
through the icy slush. Wind violently tossed biting bits of harsh snowflakes
into my face until my thoughts were slurred. Through my hazy consciousness, I
knew that I had no idea where to turn. I was lost, simply and helplessly lost.
This is how I lived several years of my life; isolated, cold, and lonely. I was
alive, but I just wasn’t living. And then I found your book.
all f this mess began, I was just a mediocre kid living in a big city. When my
parents decided our home was too dangerous of a place to raise a family of
eight in, we trekked west. I remember the drive — first the window revealed
gleaming skyscrapers and vividly colored amusement parks, but after a few hours
our car was enveloped in something else. Corn. That's right, my family and I
had planted ourselves in Iowa, of all places. The change didn't really click
into my brain until I noticed the fads had changed from Hollister shirts to
plaid shirts, and the roads had switched from asphalt to pepper-colored gravel.
At first, I didn't really care. Iowa couldn't be that much different
from my old home. But as I attended my new school, I was shocked with the
realization that I had been very wrong. The people there weren't very different
from the people I had known before. But there was one colossal difference: me.
"Intruder," is the main word I would use to describe myself I felt
like the odd one out, the foreigner. So I went about shyly, feeling like
"NEW KID" was stamped in bright red on my forehead. Every time I
stumbled in the hallway, I thought people would laugh. Every slip of the tongue
I had felt like I was labeling myself as dumb. Instead of being confident, like
I had lived my life before, I started to feel insecurities drowning me. The
move had changed who I was. I didn't know myself anymore.
every friendship that I made, I was always the one on the bottom; the one who
had to do what the other said. Whenever another person wanted me to do
something, I was pulled on my invisible puppet strings to go and do it. I tried
to act like a leader, like everyone else did, but somehow I couldn't. I was
stuck in a confusing world where everyone around me seemed to be running in a
big circle. I wanted to join them but couldn't, for I knew I'd get too dizzy.
So my world fell apart. My new friends, including who I thought was my best
friend, would rather talk to other people. I didn't understand how to fix this,
either. Just as a young 3rd grader, I was dubbed
"Big City Blondie." Even in my own home, I had no say in anything.
For example, my sister had a dog. I desperately wanted one of my own, but no
one thought I really needed one, no matter what I said otherwise. I had thought
that I had only gotten just-moved-in-blues, and that I would grow out of them.
But I didn't. For a year I remained my stunned, timid self I began to believe
that the move had totally changed me — permanently. And so, as described
earlier, my life became a hike through snowdrifts. Everything I wanted drifted
away and was carried off by the howling winds.
then I discovered another life. It was the life of a 17-year-old girl, with a
critical mother, a hardcore roommate, and a maniacal dog; whose life was much
like mine. She felt overwhelmed by the wills of others, and desperately needed
to have her own voice heard. This girl, who was practically a reflection of me,
and whose life had been laid carefully between pages of paper, was Katie. I
read her story frantically, trying to find how to unlock myself from my tear
struck world. If this girl was like me, the story would probably solve her
problem, which would give me a clue on how to save myself I needed to find out
how to live a real life, instead of the half of a life I vas trying to live.
Your book snapped me out of my trance. The events in Alpha Dog made me
smile, laugh, and cry. But, more importantly, they made me change. In school, I
talked to people I didn't even know. As I walked down the halls, I reminded
myself to hold my head up high. I tried to mimic what Katie had done in your
book. I tried to follow her footprints. Whenever she learned how to take
control, so did I. And then I finally finished the book. The finale made me
actually clap my hands. As I finished the final word, I knew that it was a book
I would never forget. Even though I didn't totally notice it at first, you,
Jennifer Ziegler, yanked me out of the cold web I was tangled in and set me on
my feet. Katie's successes, failures, and all of her other experiences with
Seamus had changed how I looked at things. Reading Alpha Dog was like
putting my life under a kaleidoscope, it showed me what my life could be like
if I changed it up, if I mixed around the shapes and distorted the colors. I found
that my life could be so much better than its old dreary state.
this day, I'm proud to say that I have switched my life around. I'm no
longer freezing in a confined world of desolate ice. Now everything is bright,
vivid, and exciting. I have so many friends that are a joy to be around, and
they give me more fun than I've ever had. Katie's dog taught her that, if she
wanted to get what she desired in life, she had to take control. And you taught
me to, like Katie, become a leader. In school, talking comes naturally. When I
walk down the halls, I don't even have to remind myself to hold up my head,
because I just do it anyway. I stood up for myself in my home, now, and what's
the result? I do have a dog of my own now, and I cherish him beyond compare.
And this is all because of your fictional story about finding courage. Yet, to
me, it doesn't even feel like fiction anymore. It feels real. No one could ever
pay me enough to take back that moment when I pulled Alpha Dog off of
the library bookshelf And I can't sufficiently thank you for turning my life
around. I'm a different person because of you, Katie, Seamus, and all of the
other characters in your book that put my kaleidoscope together. Thanks to your
hard work, and thanks to that moment in the library, I now have a new alpha dog