10/20/04 — Aycock student wins national magazine event

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Aycock student wins national magazine event

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 20, 2004 2:02 PM

Charles B. Aycock High School junior Sidney Best loves to read. So it was only natural for her to enter an on-line book club contest.

Two months ago, readers of YM Magazine were invited to write a book review about "A Great and Terrible Beauty," a Victorian thriller by Libba Bray. Sidney's entry, one of 1,200 received, was one of five that won.

Sidney Best and Libby Bray

News-Argus/Phyllis Moore

Charles B. Aycock High School student Sidney Best, left, with author Libby Bray.

The prize was for the book's author to visit each winner's high school and have dinner with the winner and five friends.

Charles B. Aycock was the first stop on the trek that will also take Ms. Bray to Illinois, Maryland, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

On Tuesday morning, Ms. Bray read excerpts from her book to 10th- and 11th-grade language arts students at Aycock. She answered questions from the audience, then gave out signed copies of her book.

The chance to get feedback from her target audience was Ms. Bray's prize, she said.

"Getting to meet Sidney and come to a school like this where I get to talk to my audience is great," she said.

At the same time, standing before a group of teens was somewhat daunting, she said.

"In high school, I would have been the one in the back row in a Led Zeppelin shirt, being all snarky with my friends," she told the students. "So this is what's called payback."

Ms. Bray, who lives in New York, has been a playwright and penned several teen fiction stories, but "A Great and Terrible Beauty" is her first published book. It is part of a trilogy, with the second installment due out next fall.

Set in 1895 Victorian England, it is the story of a 16-year-old girl with supernatural powers she doesn't want and doesn't understand. Gemma is unsure what is happening to her, a feeling many teens can relate to, said Sidney, also 16.

"Gemma first found out she had good powers," she said. "She also freaked out, but then she learned to cope with it like we all have to."

Sidney said she enjoyed the book, which inspired her. She also likes to write, which prompted her to enter the contest.

"The book was amazing," she wrote in her winning essay. "It had mystery and intrigue."

Amy Courage of YM Magazine accompanied Ms. Bray on the tour. She said the contest had met the desired purpose, getting young readers excited about books.

"A lot of this book was exactly what young readers and writers were looking for," she said.

Ms. Courage said Sidney's entry was selected not only for being well written, but because "you could tell she really enjoyed reading this book and really enjoyed reading."

Linda King, media coordinator at Aycock, said she was looking forward to having Ms. Bray's book added to the school library.

"I've been at this school for 29 years," she said. "This is the first time that I have had a reader win something. To know that we have someone that reads and responds to something like this, is very exciting."