The knocking woke me up from a dead sleep.
I sat up, blinking myself awake. The sky outside our porthole-shaped window was still dark, the silhouettes of the redwoods just a shade blacker. Rain lashed at the glass. Wind rocked the Airstream back and forth.
There was that knocking again. I leaned over to wake Ivy. Our beds were so close, they practically touched—
But Ivy wasn’t in her bed.
She must have snuck out and forgotten her key. I needed to let her in fast. Our mom was a heavy sleeper—especially if she’d smoked a “medicinal” joint before bed—but there was a limit to what she could tune out.
When I eased open the accordion door to the bedroomette, a river of cold air whooshed over me. I hurried to the front of the trailer, where the door was wide open, banging in the wind.
I stepped out onto the top cinder-block stair, straining to see through the rain. “Ivy?” I called into the darkness, but no one answered. The icy wind cut through my pajamas and I shuddered, wrapping my arms around myself. Ivy must have left the door unlocked, and the storm had blown it open.
Still, it creeped me out.
I wasn’t used to living in a tin can on the edge of civilization. Our new property bumped up against the state park. We had no neighbors for miles, but hikers, poachers, and the occasional homeless person liked to use our land as their playground. Mom said that we were safer out here than if we lived in some apartment in town. Statistically, there were fewer weirdos in the vicinity.
But all it takes is one.
I KNOW, RIGHT? Ugh, this book will grip you from the beginning and will not let you go. Check out this excerpt from Chapter 2:
When the novel opens, Laurel wakes up to find her sister Ivy missing from her bed. Their mom is sure that she must have stayed out all night to try to teach her a lesson—because of a fight they had the night before—and that Laurel will see her at school. When Ivy isn’t there, Laurel becomes increasingly convinced that something terrible must have happened to her. Not knowing what else to do, she goes to class. In first period, her English teacher returns a short story that she’d submitted the week before. Laurel has always considered herself a writer, and English has always been her best subject in school, so the following exchange comes as a blow on what’s already a horrible day…
“This was a clever idea,” Ms. Owen said, “but the characters never really came to life.” She dropped the story I’d submitted for a creative assignment on my desk. My words were covered in so much red ink, I could barely read them anymore.
“I mean who is this girl really?” she said. “What does she see in this boy, aside from the ‘sparkle of his ultraviolet eyes’?” She put those words in finger quotes. I shrugged, my face burning. “And what about him?” she pressed. “If everything he touches turns to stone, how does he eat?”
“I don’t know,” I mumbled. “It’s just, like, a fantasy story.”
“Well, I think you can do better,” she said sternly.
My eyes prickled with tears. I hoped she’d go away—but Ms. Owen was like a pit bull, jaws locked on its prey.
“If you’re serious about becoming a writer, I suggest you spend more time thinking about what makes people tick,” she said. “Use your real-life observations to create fictional characters with a pulse.”
My vision filmed over and I tried not to blink. Normally, I wouldn’t have broken down like this over a stupid story, but I didn’t know how much more I could take today.
Everyone was staring at me.
Except for Jasper.
He seemed to be gazing at some point at the front of the classroom, oddly focused, although there was nothing in particular to see there.
Then I smelled it: very faint at first, but unmistakable.
Behind Ms. Owen, a curlicue of smoke rose from the garbage can. Something crackled quietly, like a twig snapping in the woods. Then a flame shot up over the rim. Half the class screamed, not so much in fear as in delight that something was happening for a change. As the flame whooshed up, Ms. Owen scuttled backward, as if hoping to use the students in the front row as a buffer between herself and the fire.
People leaped to their feet. Stu Sheers smashed the glass on the fire alarm, and the air filled with the pealing of the bell. Everyone rushed out the door, pushing and shoving. Ms. Owen yelled at us to hurry, and I grabbed my backpack. Only Jasper didn’t move. When I left the room, he was still pinned in his chair, staring at that blaze as if he didn’t want to get an inch closer to it.
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Two (2) winners will receive a copy of Sparked by Helena Echlin and Malena Watrous (INT)
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