PRH Canada Young Readers

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Aftermath
Excerpt

I will not say that the day Jesse Mandal asked me out was the best of my life. That’s silly, trite, foolish. But I was thirteen, which means I was all of those things. After school, I would have danced home, humming “Best Day Ever.” I’d have tweeted cryptic emojis of hearts and endless exclamation marks. I’d have lain in bed listening to All-Time Five sing about love, glorious love.
I was thirteen. I was that girl. But I didn’t dance home at the end of the day. I didn’t send any tweets. I never listened to ATF again. Because after that day, I’d never be that girl again.

The day started as my days had for the past year, no longer rising to my mom singing whatever song she can mangle my name into—“Good morning, Skye-shine,” or “The Skye will come up tomorrow.” I’d groan and bury my head under the pillow until she went off to do the same to my brother, Luka—who gets Suzanne Vega’s “Luka,” having been named after the song.
It was only when those wake-ups stopped that I realized how much I’d secretly loved them. Just like I’d loved her hot breakfasts, even when I complained that I could sleep in an extra twenty minutes if she’d let me grab a juice box and granola bar, like all my friends did.
That day I rise to the alarm moments before Luka raps on my door with, “Skye? You up?” He showers first—he’s sixteen and needs it more, and sometimes there’s no hot water anyway, if Mom forgot to pay the bill again. We both try to be quiet and not wake her. When Dad is away on business she’s rarely out of bed before noon, and in the past six months he’s been gone more than he’s been home.
I’m grabbing a juice box and bar when Luka says, “That is not a proper breakfast.”
“So you’ve said. Every morning.”
“That isn’t even real juice. You might as well drink soda.”
“Well, then . . .” I take a Coke from the fridge.
He plucks the can from my hand. “Sit. I’m making you scrambled eggs and toast.”
“You don’t have time.”
“I do. Isaac’s picking me up today. He’s borrowing his mom’s car and—”
A horn sounds outside. I arch my brows.
Luka’s cell pings with a text. He reads it and says, “Seriously?”
“That’s Isaac, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. He’s early. Something’s up. So important.” He rolls his eyes. “It always is with him.” He starts to type a response. “I’ll walk to school.”
“Then you’ll be late. And if we fight about it, we’ll wake Mom.”
He hesitates and then says, “Tomorrow, okay? I’ll cook for you tomorrow.”
“And I’ll drink real juice today. Just for you.”
He comes over and squeezes my shoulder. “You’re a good kid, Skye. Even when you try not to be.”
I stick out my tongue. He grins, grabs his backpack and jogs to the door.

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Confessions of a Teenage Leper
Excerpt

They think I got it from an armadillo. Isn’t that the most fucked-up thing you’ve ever heard? I mean, seriously. It’s the twenty-first century. Who gets leprosy anymore? No one. That’s who. Unless you, like, live in a gutter covered in filth or were in the Bible, or unless you’re me. My name is Abby Furlowe. I’m seventeen years old. I live in ------, Texas. I’m blanking out the name of my town because I don’t need some jerk-off coming to find me, getting all up in my face and spray-painting the words DIRTY LEPER across the front of my house. Privacy is important to me now. It didn’t used to be. I used to want to model for Seventeen magazine. I used to want to be an A-list actress and have a beach house in Malibu. I used to fantasize about the paparazzi following me around and me blowing kisses into their cameras, or giving them the finger, depending on my mood that day. When I was a little kid, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’d say, “I want to be beautiful.” And then they’d laugh and say something cheesy like, “Oh, sweetie. You already are beautiful.” And it was true. I was. I really, really was. And I wasn’t one of those bleach-blonde chicks who thinks she’s so pretty she could maybe be a model one day; I actually was that pretty. And I’m a natural blonde. I was crowned princess of my junior high, I was on the high school cheerleading squad, and I was crowned Miss ------ two years ago. I got to wear a rhinestone tiara and a dress Miss Universe herself would’ve killed for. I stood in the back of a red convertible cruising down Main Street, waving to onlookers at the Fourth of July Parade. You would never think that now, if you saw me today, but it’s true.
I guess the very first thing I noticed was a little reddish spot on my thigh, like a little sunburn patch or something. It was the summer I turned seventeen, and I was a lifeguard at the local pool. No big deal, right? It’ll go away. Just leave it alone, I thought. But it didn’t go away. That’s the thing. That’s the worst thing. It never really went away.
So, anyway. I waited and waited for it to go away and it didn’t, so finally I showed my mom. She ran her fingers over it and poked at it, but it didn’t hurt, and she squinched up her face at me like she does when she’s worried about something but doesn’t want to say what it is. “What?” I said.“Don’t pick at it,” she said.“I haven’t been picking it, Mom!”“Okay.” She nodded. “That’s good.”She put some ointment on it and took me to the doctor the next day.Dr. Jamieson was the doctor who had delivered me. He knew my complete medical history from minute one, even before that, actually, if you want to get technical.He knew about every rash, flu and infection I’d ever had. He didn’t know anything about this red spot though. He thought it was eczema so he gave me a prescription for some cream. So off I went, bought the cream, put it on, blah blah blah. It didn’t work. In fact, I got another little scaly patch on the side of my foot and then one on my face. On my face! Right between my eyebrows. Like, the worst possible spot, obviously. So . . . yeah. I went back to see Dr. Jamieson.

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A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying
Excerpt

“I know you love unicorns, Rowan, but please stop staring at mine. You’re making him nervous.
”I do not love unicorns, as my aunt Jannah knows. Jerks. All of them. I’m not staring at Courtois. I’m staring him down. Unfortunately, she’s wrong about the third part, too. I can’t make him nervous, no matter how hard I try.
We’re in the castle courtyard, the high stone walls stealing the morning sun. Around us, the royal hunters prepare for their mission. A mission I should be joining. My twin brother, Rhydd, is and I belong at his side, keeping him safe.
As I scowl at Courtois, Rhydd’s hand thumps on my shoulder. “Give it up, Ro.”
“That beast stepped on my foot,” I say. “On purpose.”
“Yep, I’m sure he did. He is a unicorn.”
I move away from Courtois only to stumble over my aunt’s warg, Malric. The giant wolf lifts his head, upper lip curling to reveal canines as long as my hand. The last person who tried to pet him lost two fingers. Even I know better. I quickstep out of his reach.
“Making friends with all the monsters this morning, aren’t you?” Rhydd teases.
As I grumble, he leans in to whisper, “I know you’re upset. You’re worried about me going on the gryphon hunt.”
“I’m not wor—”
“You’re worried, and this is how you show it. By grumbling and scowling and staring down unicorns.”
“It’s not fair.”
“I know,” he says.
My scowl deepens, and I want to kick the dirt and growl and stomp. That would be childish, though, and I am not a child. I’m twelve. I’m a princess. One day, I’ll be queen.
I don’t want to be queen. I’ll be horrible at it. Rhydd should get the throne. Even now, as scared as he is, he’s trying to calm me. That’s what a real leader does.
“Rhydd?” Jannah calls. “Saddle up.”
As Jannah climbs onto Courtois, her sheathed sword swings by her side. I look at that sword, a gleaming ebony-wood center with a razor-sharp obsidian edge. I imagine it in my hands, and a lump rises in my throat.
This is who I want to be. This is who I should be. Not the queen, but the royal monster hunter. Everyone knows it. I hear the whispers, how my thoughtful brother should sit on the ivory throne, how his headstrong twin sister should wield the ebony sword.

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The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim: Monster
Excerpt

Edgar Brim is running for his life on the dark streets of London after midnight, Tiger Tilley by his side and fear in his heart. A demon is pursuing him: the creature that has just murdered Lear. Edgar can hear its footsteps thudding behind him, feel its presence in dim alleys, sense it peering down from the rooftops of buildings, but he cannot see it, cannot even imagine it or what it might do to him. And as he runs, the shriveled arms of the supernatural old woman who has terrorized him since he was in his cradle are squeezing his chest so he can barely breathe. He had thought this was over—the fear, the visitations of the hag, and the monsters. But it is all here again: as real as the thick London mist.
Edgar’s flame-colored hair is like a spotlight in the darkness as he rushes past the weird denizens who populate the night like actors in a dream—ragged, staggering women, swerving swells and deformed beggars. This is where civilization has brought us in the greatest city on earth, thinks Edgar, this is progress. The shop windows are black, some boarded up for the night. Whispers and shouts and screams echo up and down the streets. Edgar feels the monster getting closer. Tiger moves at lightning speed, quick in her black trousers and loose shirt. She flies around a corner and up Drury Lane in front of him and he is desperate to keep up. His breath comes in heaves. The Crypto-Anthropology Society of the Queen’s Empire and the madman who operates it are just a few doors away. He has their guns.
They had left Jonathan and Lucy at the Langham Hotel, one-armed Professor Lear growing cold in his bed and his face whiter and stiffer by the hour, as if it were becoming a mask. The moment before he died, his eyes had stared at them as though he had seen the devil and he had spoken in a croak from dried lips, his larynx quivering in a mutilated throat marked with red lines like the imprints of a huge hand. “Monster,” he had whispered. And then: “Worse!” The creature that had been in the room had frightened Lear more than the living-and-breathing vampire they had destroyed two days before!

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Blood Will Out
Excerpt

Someone seemed to be shouting her name from far away—“Ari Sullivan!” She sat up and was instantly rocked bya wave of nausea and an excruciating pain that knifed through her head. She clutched her stomach and moaned. She was breathing too rapidly and she felt as if she were about to pass out. She forced herself to take deep breaths, counting between inhalations. Gradually the pain subsided to a throbbing ache and she peered around in shock. She could see nothing. Was she blind? She blinked rapidly but there was no difference.
It was dead quiet except for the thrum of blood in her ears. Pushing herself onto her knees, she crawled forward a few inches. She could feel earth under her fingers, smell the dank rooty cool of it. She ran shaking hands over her body. She was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt and running shoes. She ached all over but nothing seemed broken, except for maybe her head. There was a lump at the back of her skull, but the worst injury originated just above her ear. She probed that area and felt a mushy spot. How had she hit her temple? She moved her head gingerly, half-afraid it might detach from her neck. Another crescendo of pain battered at her and she breathed through her nose, imagining that she was at the cool blue bottom of the pool. Take stock, she told herself, remembering the guidelines she’d learned in lifeguarding. Assess the injury. Her neck muscles were stiff but her spine was all right; her fingers wiggled, and she could feel her toes even though she couldn’t see them.
Okay, so she’d live, probably. Now, where was she? Her brain cried in agony, as if all her nerve endings were centered in her skull, but she struggled to focus. Clearly she’d had an accident, fallen down the stairs to the cellar. But not her cellar, she decided, trying to pin down the muddied swirl of her thoughts. Her cellar was concrete-floored and brightly lit and smelled of laundry detergent and fabric softener. Not rotted leaves and swamp water. She was somewhere unknown.
“Mom, Dad?” she breathed, as if the sound of her voice might summon something terrible from the pitch black. All the horror movies she and Lynn had giggled over came back to her in a flood.
The darkness pressed down, a physical weight as if she were pinned under two tons of water. She held her eyelids open with her fingers and still there was nothing—not a flicker of light. This must be what it felt like to be buried alive. And with that thought, it seemed suddenly as if there were not enough air. She gulped, choked, desperate to fill her lungs, and felt the hysteria swell until it burst from her.
“Help! Help! Please!” Over and over until, propelled by rising panic, she was on her feet, unsteady and swaying, her voice ripping out of her throat. “Anyone!”

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Escape
Excerpt

The van was flying.
Jeff Conroy stared out the window, nose to the glass, breathless. Seconds earlier, they’d been driving along on solid ground, but now their rusty old van was sailing through the sky.
The road was so far below that it looked like a snake winding its way through the grass. Except those weren’t blades of grass. They were trees. And those weren’t little model houses or toy cars like you’d find on a train set. They were the real thing.
As amazing as it might seem to be in a van that could fly, Jeff was not enjoying the ride. He was scared, and feeling more than a little sick to his stomach as the vehicle swayed back and forth through the air.
The van continued to sail along gracefully, but the view out the windows was partially obscured by the thick black magnetic straps that clung to the van’s metal body. They led up to the large helicopter above, and had been used to lift the vehicle off the road.
Harry Green, sitting at the now totally useless steering wheel, glanced back helplessly at Jeff, who was in the middle of the van, next to his dog Chipper.
“What are we going to do, Chipper?” Jeff shouted over the noise of the rotating chopper blades as he looked at the ground far below.
Chipper did not know. Chipper had only just woken up.

Five minutes ago, before their van had been tracked down by The Institute, Chipper had been dreaming.
Even though there were almost no other dogs like Chipper on the entire planet, he still resembled the most common of mutts in at least one respect.When he slept, he dreamt.
While the scientists at The Institute had spent millions of dollars to create what was in effect a running, barking, sniffing computer, outfitted with some of the most sophisticated software ever invented, the one thing they could not do was keep it awake twenty-four hours a day.
Chipper could read multiple languages, access maps in his head and do complicated calculations but, unlike an ordinary laptop that could run all the time, Chipper sometimes needed to lie down, shut his eyes and catch a few winks. Well, he didn’t have to shut his eyes, considering they weren’t real ones, but he could put them into sleep mode.
And when Chipper did finally drift off, he had dreams. Sometimes they were happy dreams, and sometimes they were nightmares.
Before the van became airborne, Chipper had been having a very happy dream, a dream of happier times.
He was dreaming about when he was a puppy.
Oh, what a glorious time it was, before his body was outfitted with chips and wires and circuitry and memory banks. Back then, Chipper’s thoughts weren’t like the ones he had now. These days, Chipper tended to think in actual words, just like people, but when he was a puppy it wasn’t like that at all. There were impulses, and instincts, and feelings of joy and fear and curiosity.

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Clara Voyant
Excerpt

Clara Costa had only been at Kensington Middle School for a month, but already she understood the implications of a Blazer Day. All the Newsies did. When Wesley Ferris, editor-in-chief of the Kensington Middle School Gazette, showed up to school wearing a blazer, she meant business.
So when the last bell rang on Tuesday afternoon, Clara was ready. She’d been watching the clock tick steadily toward 3:15 all through math class. The second it hit, she slammed her textbook shut, hopped out of her desk, and beelined for her meeting.
Unfortunately, it was hard to get anywhere fast at Kensington Middle School, or KMS as the students called it. KMS was enormous—easily three times the size of High Park Public, where Clara had gone to elementary school—and jam-packed with what felt like three hundred times as many kids (though it was probably closer to ten).
They surrounded her in the hallway, sweeping her along with them as they surged toward their lockers, laughing and shouting.
“Excuse me.” She tried to push her way across the hall. “Um, can I get through? I’ve got to—”
A basketball sailed over her head and smacked the wall. Some kids gasped. Others guffawed.
“Watch it,” someone warned. “She’s around here somewhere.”
Everyone paused to glance over their shoulders, including Clara. But Mrs. Major, the KMS custodian, was nowhere in sight. Relieved, she continued on, picking up the pace but being careful not to break into a run. Mrs. Major’s Number One Rule—even more important than No Throwing Basketballs—was No Running in the Halls. And Mrs. Major was not to be disobeyed. Mrs. Major was even more intimidating than Wesley Ferris in a blazer.

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