Identifying with the Teenage Squirrel & Giveaway
Identifying with the Teenage Squirrel
They flit from branch to branch, from tree to tree, and leap over the fence to plunder a bird feeder in a neighbor’s yard. They chatter and argue with each other in patterns so fast, the common observer can’t understand what they’re saying. Racing across the wires high overhead, they take chances no sane creature ever would. I’m sure you know I’m talking about squirrels. And by squirrels I mean teenagers. They’re pretty much the same thing.
But unlike small furry rodents with fuzzy tails, teenagers face some monumental obstacles. They’re overwhelmed by negative stereotypes from popular culture, social media, and peer pressure. It makes my head spin, Exorcist style. Honestly, I don’t know how any of them survive those critical adolescent years! For me, growing up was a blur. A horrible, mind-numbing, fear-inducing blur. I still twitch just thinking about it. Based on this, one might question my decision to become a teacher, and raise their eyebrows at Young Adult being my favorite genre to read and write.
Well, I love teaching. To be honest, it’s far easier being on the other side of the desk. As for YA? It’s such an interesting and diverse genre, so complex and fast paced. After all, what squirrel has the time for long drawn out monologues? Romeo and Juliet, anyone? Blech. Beyond that, many YA authors also tackle identity issues, adversity, discrimination, and the pursuit of what’s right, even if society is against you.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do love most other genres, though Stephen King gives me the heebie jeebies. My shelves, and my Kindle, are filled with a wide selection of books. Most of the time though, YA offers something special that really appeals to me. Yes, most books provide an escape from reality, different worlds, and a new best friend (or love interest), but many YA novels also ask questions. Not just the normal whodunits of mystery, but something deeper, almost soul-searching.
After you’ve finished reading a really good YA book (Matched, anyone?), you’re left wondering not just about what will happen to the main characters, but what you would do in that situation. When you pick up the next book in the series, it’s like meeting up with an old friend in the cafeteria or mall and spending the next few hours (or days if it’s a door stopper kind of novel) catching up. When a series ends, it’s almost like you’ve broken up with someone special. The characters, the world, everything you’ve come to know and love—it’s just gone. You almost don’t want to finish that last chapter, that last page, because you don’t want to see it end.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of new books to read and authors to fall in love with. If you go into most book stores, the young adult section is pretty big, enormous even. Its shelves are filled with dragons and dystopias, superheroes and death sports, magic and monsters. Yes, there are some reality-based books thrown in there, but those are vastly outnumbered by sparkly vampires and werewolves who fall in love with unsuspecting teenage girls. Because of this variety, I never have to hunt very far when I’m looking for something to read. Which, being the grown up squirrel that I am, doesn’t seem like a bad thing at all.
“Don’t say a word.”
The room smells musty, unused. Kind of like the back storage buildings on the farm, or the old cellar the Chesanings don’t use any more where we explore and play games. Shafts of sunlight slant through the cracks in the heavy, dark red curtains, and when I take a step, more puffs of dust cloud the air. Chairs covered in white blankets line the walls and tower over me in stacks almost as high as the ceiling.
“What do you think they’re doing out there?” I whisper, but it’s so quiet, I could be shouting.
My servant, Will, shushes me. “If you listen closely, I bet you can hear your First talking.”
I creep over to the door and press my ear against it. Nothing. As if no one’s on the other side. “Isn’t this the Release Ceremony? Shouldn’t I be out there with him?”
Will nods, leaning against the wall, crossing his arms in front of him. “That’s normally how it happens. This is… odd.”
“Did I do something wrong? Did I make Thoreau mad?” I bite my lip to keep it from trembling. Grow up, Adrian. Stop acting like a baby.
“No, of course not.” He flashes me a quick grin, but I can tell he’s nervous.
“Are you sure?” I hate it when my voice is all shaky like a little baby’s.
“Definitely. I would know if there was a problem.” He shrugs, and a bar of light illuminates his carefree smile. “I bet it’s to save you from having to sit out there for the whole ceremony. Some of them can get pretty long.”
On the other side of the door, I hear clapping. An old man’s voice rises up as the applause dies.
“There, you see?” Will says. “Nothing to worry about.” I turn away and tune him out so I can listen to Thoreau.
“Thank you, my friends, for this most welcome reception. As a First, I’ve lived for hundreds of years, influenced this country in ways the average person can’t even begin to comprehend. With your continued support, and that of Princeton, I will use your gift to change the future and create a better tomorrow. Thank you.”
A dull roar follows his words, and I fidget in my seat, watching the door. My eyes dart to Will.
“This doesn’t make any sense, Will. I should be out there.”
“I’m sure they’ll call you shortly, Adrian. Maybe the usual waiting room was unavailable and—”
A loud boom shakes the room, and I almost fall down. The chairs weave back and forth in their towers, and millions of dust particles rain down. Will shoves me away from the wall and pushes me toward the back of the room.
“Move, now!” he shouts, but my ears are ringing, and I cough from the dust. He looks behind us at the door and forces me to move faster.
“Murderer! Child killer! Free the Second!” a loud, mechanical voice shouts from the other room. “Free the Second! Free the Second!”
There’s more yelling, but I can’t make out what they’re saying. Another, quieter boom. Will pushes me to a narrow closet.
“In here,” he hisses and shoves me inside. We stay like that for what feels like a couple hours before the door to our main room bangs open, and I hear the heavy clomping of boots.
“You in here with the Second, boy?” Will stays silent. There is a general grumbling outside, some swearing my mother would never approve of, then the deep, gravelly voice speaks again. “Alpha Code One, this is Underground Robin. Is the cargo safe and accounted for? I repeat, is the cargo safe and accounted for?”
Apparently these are magic words for Will because relief washes over his features.
“Who wants to know?”
“Papa bird.” The men march over to our closet and slide open the door. “Good spot, boy.” The head guard, an older man with a pinched face and a permanent frown sheaths his Artos. The other guards keep theirs out. Why? Is it still dangerous?
“What’s going on out there?” Will asks.
“Nothing we didn’t expect. Stupid rebels, always doing things half-assed.” He grins. “Let’s go.” One of them reaches out for me, but I jerk away.
Will touches my shoulder, reassuring me. “It’s okay, Adrian. We’re safe now.”
I shake my head and step back. “Where are we going?”
“Someplace safe.” The head guard takes my arm roughly in his. “Don’t worry. We won’t let anything happen to you.” One of the other guards laughs, as if that’s somehow funny.
“Is… my First all right?”
“He’s fine, boy.” He drags me from the closet. “Now let’s go.”
“Where?” My feet skitter, trying to find purchase as the guard forces me to follow him. The other men glance at each other, at me, then away again. Even Will won’t meet my eyes. Fear freezes me, and I dig my shoes into the thick carpeting. “Will? What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” he answers too quickly. “Just a trip down to the medical center, to make sure you’re all right.” He tries to give me another smile, but he’s lying about something. I can feel it.
“But I’m fine,” I protest as the guard pulls me to the side of the room, behind the curtains where, instead of a window, there is another door. “Can’t you just tell them that? I’m fine. I just want to go back to my room.”
Will shakes his head, sadly. “I’m sorry, Adrian, I really am.”
“What’s going on? Why are you sorry? Will?”
“Let’s go,” one of the other guards growls from the rear of our group. “We don’t have all day. Some of us have work to do.”
Where to buy:
Find out more about the author:
The First Tour page: http://redadeptpublishing.com/the-first-tour/
Book page on RAP: http://redadeptpublishing.com/firsts-book-one-of-the-live-once-trilogy-by-chanda-stafford/
Author page on RAP: http://redadeptpublishing.com/chanda-stafford/
Author Blog: http://chandastafford.com/
Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17742946-first