I knew from the moment I walked into the Riverhouse Café that it was the absolute perfect spot for my big thirteenth birthday party.

            At Career Day last month, Kara Miller's mom had told us all about her fancy party-planning business and how she could get a feel of a place right away. I knew what she was talking about as soon as I walked into the back room of the Riverhouse.

            "Look at this huge dance floor!" I cried when I saw the open area. "This is exactly what I wanted! Isn't it great?" I spun around and smiled at my two best friends, Lara Abrams and Becca Sanchez. They were both nodding in complete agreement. I twirled around in the center of the dance floor.

Even though there was no music playing, I could imagine the beat pulsing through speakers around the room.

            "Look at all the lights," Becca said. "It's like being onstage!" She walked, staring up at the ceiling. Her mouth hung open a little bit, and I couldn't help giggling.

            "Check out the couches," Lara squealed as she plopped down onto a plush red love seat. "They're totally A-list!"

            "This is so perfect!" I declared.

            Lara joined me on the dance floor. "You're going to have the best thirteenth birthday party ever," she sang out.

            I took her hand and spun her around as Becca danced over to us.

            Party planners like Mrs. Miller knew all the cool places to host an event, and they knew about all the details that would make it a huge success. Kara had a big blowout when she turned thirteen-she's two years older than me, but I heard all about it from my friend Mariah Ryder's older sister. She told me about the amazing band (they had played at the Kids' Choice Awards) and the two different dresses that Kara wore for the party.

            If only I had someone like that to help me plan my thirteenth birthday party.

            I just had my parents. And they were definitely not party planners.

            Not even close.

            My mom's idea of a fancy party was putting on real shoes instead of flip-flops. And my dad thought that pizza was the ideal party food.

            So for my thirteenth birthday, I had to take matters into my own hands.

            After all, thirteen was different.

            Thirteen was the start of a whole new world.

            And in order to usher in that new world order, I wanted a party. A big party with music and dancing, fancy food, and dressed-up guests. No flip-flops. No jeans. No pizza. Since I didn't have a party planner, I had to do all the research myself. I spent most of my winter break poring over magazines and websites, and putting the information into my purple party-planning notebook.

            From the center of the dance floor, I could see my mom standing in the doorway, talking to the manager of the Riverhouse. I hoped that she'd agree that this was the perfect place.         

            "So what do you think, Carly?" My mom asked, walking over.

            "I love it!" I told her. "Don't you?" I held my breath.

            My mom nodded. "This does seem to have everything you were looking for," she said, peering around. "There's a large dance floor, twinkling lights, and they don't serve pizza."

            She was right-those were my top requests for the party space. I wanted to make sure that this party was more sophisticated than the ones I'd had in the past. For my other birthdays, my friends and I would gather in our basement and have pizza and ice-cream cake. This year, I was ready for a change.

            I bounded over to my mom and gave her a hug.

            At a place like this, my thirteenth birthday party was guaranteed to be perfect.


            The next morning at school, I walked into English class with Lara and Becca. We had only two classes together, English and social studies. Luckily, we had lunchtime to catch up on the day's news, too.

            "I heard your party is going to be at the Riverhouse," Mariah said as she slid in the desk behind me.

            Good news travels fast-that's for sure.

            "Yes," I said with a grin-trying to sound casual.

            "My cousin had her graduation party there," Mariah said. "Did you know they have a bubble machine? So cool."

            Hmm, a bubble machine? I took out my purple notebook and wrote that detail down. I'd have to ask Sylvia, the manager of the Riverhouse, about that.

            "Hi, Mrs. Chaiken," Alex Sawyer said as he sped into class just before the bell rang. He quickly took off his baseball cap and put it under his chair. Mrs. Chaiken didn't allow hats in class, and he knew the drill. Alex turned and flashed me his new brace-filled smile. Unlike other kids in seventh grade, Alex had been excited to get braces. He even got blue wires for the Yankees, his favorite baseball team.

            I couldn't help smiling back as I gave a little wave. Alex was totally baseball-crazed. He'd been that way since nursery school. We met in the sandbox on our first day at Cleary Preschool. (He had been wearing a baseball hat, of course.)

            Alex was different from the other boys in my class-he was really my friend. I didn't get nervous around him, or worry about acting cool. Unfortunately, he wasn't on the travelling soccer team with Greg Weiss, Ryan Shaw, Max Leary, and Drew Wyatt (sigh). Maybe if he was, I would have been friends with those guys, too.

            Drew Wyatt was new to Jefferson Middle School. He arrived in October, and I couldn't help crushing on him. He had dark hair that swept over his forehead, and green eyes. I got to see him three times a day-in English, social studies, and gym. Sometimes I would catch myself staring at him during lunch (how embarrassing!), and I'd even think about going over to talk to him. But then he joined the indoor soccer league and started sitting with Greg, Ryan, and Max (the most popular and cutest boys in our class!). At least if he'd been sitting with Alex, I could have casually gone over and said hello. No such luck.    

            I didn't tell Lara and Becca about my crush. Somehow, I was sure that admitting my crush on Drew would make things too real and weird. After all, I didn't want to jinx anything. 

            I'd already decided that my birthday party would be the best way to bring us together. I loved to dance, and I was pretty good. I've taken classes since I was three years old. So I imagined that under the sparkling lights at the Riverhouse, I'd confidently ask Drew to dance, and of course he'd say yes. Who wouldn't want to dance with the birthday girl? Twirling around the floor, we'd have one of those magic moments-the ones you always see in movies and on TV. He'd totally fall for me! (Hey, it could happen.)

            As I sat in class, I thought about the list of names folded up in my notebook. Now that I had a place for the party, I had to come up with the guest list. If this was going to be the party of the year, I needed to have the right people there.

            "Everyone, take out your journals, please," Mrs. Chaiken said. "We'll begin with ten minutes of writing."

            "I'm going to write about the baseball draft," Alex called out.

            Mrs. Chaiken gave him a stern look. "Please raise your hand."

            I rolled my eyes. If Alex could get away with thinking only about baseball 24/7, he'd be a happy guy. As I stared at the blank page in my journal, I smiled. I was no better than Alex-I had a one-track mind, too. All I could think about was planning my birthday party! I had lots of reasons to make sure that this party was a success.

            I glanced across the room at Drew. He was hunched over his journal, writing.         

            Reason number one.