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Authors: Jennifer Niven

The Aqua Net Diaries

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Big Hair, Big Dreams,
Small Town


Big Hair, Big Dreams,
Small Town


Photo credits: pp. 1, 9, 159, 206 ©; pp. 17, 102, 144, 152, 226 courtesy of Jeff Shirazi; pp. 22, 41 courtesy of Jack F. McJunkin Jr.; pp. 29, 36, 45, 108, 183, 255, 264 courtesy of the Richmond High School
; pp. 46, 58, 70, 114, 131 courtesy of Penelope Niven; pp. 53, 91, 94, 120, 167, 277 courtesy of the author; p. 81 courtesy of Beth Jennings-White; p. 127 courtesy of Laura Lonigro; pp. 137, 174, 235, 293 (left), 295 (left), 299, 303, 305, 307 courtesy of Pyle Photography; p. 194 reprinted with permission from the
Richmond, Ind.; pp. 215, 238 courtesy of Aldo Lonigro; p. 248 courtesy of Olan Mills Portrait Studio; p. 272 courtesy of Rebecca Scheele; pp. 290–91 courtesy of Wahlberg Panoramic Photography; p. 293 (right) courtesy of Stephen Hunton; p. 295 (right) courtesy of Steve Kunken; pp. 297, 301 courtesy of David Geier Photography; p. 309 courtesy of John Hreno III

Gallery Books
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New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Niven

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

First Gallery trade paperback edition February 2010

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Designed by Nancy Singer, Class of 1979
Illustrated by Alexandra Davis Ivey, Class of 2012

Manufactured in the United States of America

10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Niven, Jennifer.
   The aqua net diaries : big hair, big dreams, small town / Jennifer Niven.
       p. cm.

  1. Richmond High School (Richmond, Ind.)—History. 2. Niven, Jennifer—Childhood and youth. 3. High school students—Indiana—Richmond—Social life and customs.
I. Title.
LD7501.R462N48 2009
373.772'63—dc22                                    2009017453

ISBN 978-1-4169-5429-3
ISBN 978-1-4169-5920-5 (eBook)

for Joey—
best friend forever

In so many ways,
the story couldn't have been
written without you

And for Richmond, Indiana,
my hometown

American girl,

American boy,

Living in a small town.

Dreaming of the great big world

And all that lies beyond …

—“Back Again in Richmond,”

original song by

Jennifer McJunkin & Joey Kraemer


High School Is (Almost) the Same Everywhere


America's Main Street



Driver's Ed

Best Friends

The Social Order

Why I Hate Girls

What's Out/What's In

Dress Code

Cafeteria Rules

First Love

The Telephone



World Affairs


Our Good Health and Safety


How I Spent My Summer

Snow Days



A Dance Is Just a Dance


Law and Order



First Heartbreak

Older Men


King and Queen of the World

Triumphs and Tragedies

Community Outreach

Experimental Writers Group

The Business of Drinking


The Rules of Senior Poker




Castles in the Air

Graduation Party


The Last Party


School Portraits

Extra Credit

Q & A with Jennifer Niven McJunkin

For the Reader …

I keep everything, and that includes every high school note I ever wrote and every note that was ever written to me (and believe me, there were
a lot
of them). If I quote a note in this book, it's an actual note from high school written during a class when I was supposed to be paying attention. I have also kept every partially written journal, every notebook, every high school drama program, sports ticket, photo, school paper, newspaper, story, poem, play, song (or any other type of creative anything I may have written), and every audiotape I ever made. Keeping these things was something I did with the intention of helping out my biographers one day, back in Indiana with my big dreams about becoming an Oscar-winning actress, international rock star, and Pulitzer Prize–winning writer. Little did I know how useful they would be to me when writing my own story.

Many of the names here are real. Some have been changed. Everything that happened is true as I remember it.

Richmond High School

High School Is (Almost) the Same Everywhere

Special times and special places
Special friends together;
The moments pass so quickly,
But the memories last forever.

—Motto, Richmond High School,
class of 1986

If you had found me in 1986, walking down the halls of Richmond High School in Richmond, Indiana, and said to me, “One day, someone will pay you to write a book about your years going to school here, and people will actually want to read it once it comes out,” I would have said, “I'm
sorry, I think you have me mixed up with someone who lives in a much bigger and more interesting place. There is absolutely nothing to write about except how much I can't wait for high school to be over.” Then I would have laughed and laughed and written notes to all my very best friends (during class, of course) saying,
Can you believe this? People are crazy!

The very thing that distinguished my high school experience to me back then was that it was undistinguishable. To my teenage mind, it was dull, interminable, and I couldn't wait for it to be over. It wasn't that I didn't have fun or friends or enjoy myself, I just didn't see anything exceptional about it while I was living it. Not like my mother's experience—she was the one with the stories. She grew up in a charming town the size of a postage stamp in North Carolina, which was already more charming than Indiana because everybody had accents. Everyone knew everyone else and, yes, they were bored, too, but they made their own fun. In addition, she grew up in the 1950s—a decade with style and glamour. I grew up in the 1980s. We listened to Prince and Madonna and to hair bands. Our own hair was enormous. We wore parachute pants and Peter Pan boots and Swatches all the way up our arms. There was nothing charming about it.

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