Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review of Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

Anything Could Happen
by Will Walton
Standalone
288 Pages
Publisher: Push


When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody's in everybody else's business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained.

ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN is a poignant, hard-hitting exploration of love and friendship, a provocative debut that shows that sometimes we have to let things fall apart before we can make them whole again.
 



I really like going into books without any idea of what they’re about. I had a very vague idea of this book’s premise, and I was pretty excited to read it. It was extremely disappointing though. It takes a lot to be disappointed in a book that I had no real expectations about, but this book did it. Having said that, I read this book at the perfect time. It wasn’t my mood, but instead the fact that me reading this book coincided perfectly with the legalization of gay marriage in America.

Lets start things off with the very start of this book: the opening scene. It was in second person. I don’t ever read books in second person point-of-view, so I appreciated that so much. I always love the use of metafiction in books, and it makes the book just feel so much more post-modern and high class. It was not the scene itself that made me love the opening of the book, but instead that the narration technique.

My main problem with this book was that there was not very much development in the character department. For the main character, Tretch, all you really know was that he was scared to tell people about his sexuality, loved to read and dance, and was in love with his best friend. And that was it. For a main character you really need a ton of character background in order to have the readers create a real connection with him, and this character did not have enough characterization in order for me to develop any sort of emotional connection towards him.

The real issue that I had with the characterization was that it was almost entirely on the surface. I really wish that this book could have had some in depth characterization for a few characters rather than shallow character-creation for a ton of characters.

This could have been a pretty interesting book since the concept set up a pretty solid contemporary, but the plot just seemed to fall short. It was literally just Tretch third wheeling a lot. I got bored after about 70 pages, and had to push myself through it.

Something about me that is pretty good, I guess, is my music taste. This book’s choice in music references physically hurt me. I was cringing very hard at each mention of Taylor Swift or Ellie Goulding. If it was not the music references that the author chose to use, it was the way he used them. It was as if Ellie Goulding was the knight in shining armor of hip music. I was so confused because the narrator was proud of having a basic music taste. Yes, you’re not better or worse than someone else for liking pop music, but you can definitely not act better for liking pop. Ugh.

One thing I really liked about this book was that the family was actually present in the story. In much YA fiction, family is pushed to the side, and it’s kind of like the story is just a teenager living alone in the world –which is completely inaccurate. The relationship that Tretch had with his family was one that was very well done, and rare in young adult literature.


Overall, I did not really enjoy this book, but I can appreciate what it was trying to do.

The Rating:


XOXO,

Belle

Monday, June 22, 2015

Long Overdue May 2015 Wrap Up

Well, it is halfway through June. I am just as busy as I guessed I would be, so reading (and blogging) has been put on the back burner recently. I wish I didn't have to sleep, so I could read so many more books this summer, but if my summer keeps going like this, I am going to be getting very little reading done. Anyway, I got seven books read in the month of May, so without further commentary, I am going to be showing you what I read.

This was a pretty interesting story to read. It went by extremely quickly, but I really got a feel for what was going on. The story was quick and to the point which I really appreciated. My main issue was the lack of character development, but overall this was a pretty good graphic novel.
3/5 Stars

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I had such high hopes for my second Patrick Ness book. I read and adored More Than This by him, but this one just didn't live up to the hype. I had a really hard time connecting with the story even though Ness is an amazing writer. I would definitely recommend reading this story. It is a very beautiful book.
3/5 Stars

Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Salinger does it again. I just love him so much. This shockingly was a collection of nine short stories. I found some of them less interesting than others, but I really enjoyed the very first story, A Perfect Day for Bananafish, and I found it a perfect opening for this collection. I also really liked For Esmé-With Love and Squallor; it was not a very action packed story (not that anything by Salinger is), but it was interesting nonetheless. 
4/5 Stars

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I read this book for school, it was my second time reading it, and man oh man was it a doozy. I didn't realize how much of this book I had forgotten, so it just felt right reading this book again. It was the perfect way to close out my school year.
4/5 Stars

Pirates. Ocean. Mariners. Nautical fun. Damn this was a good read. I wouldn't call it a favorite since it was pretty slow at times, but I really liked the character development all over this book. I didnt early understand the ending to the book, and that was annoying, but I loved it for the maritime enjoyment.
3/5 Stars

This is definitely my favorite volume of this series. It had false (yet literal) foreshadowing, and it was just a very well done volume. I don't have any clue where this story is going from here, but I cant wait until October to find out.
5/5 Stars


Thats it, folks. What did you read this month? Have you read any of these books?

XOXO,
Belle

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review and Excerpt for Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout (Giveaway!!)

Hello, I Love You
by Katie M. Stout
Standalone
304 Pages
Punlisher: St. Martin's Griffin

A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star in this fun and fresh romantic novel in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss.

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol. 

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.


This book was both good and bad at the same time. I don't think it was an amazing plot, but the setting was brilliant. It didn't have a revolutionary premise, but the cast of characters were enjoy able. It had a few very shining moments, and some that made me want to cringe. All that and more were wrapped up to create Hello, I Love You.

It wasn't even a very bad book. It just wasn't outstanding. I appreciated that the book wasn't set in America like so many books I have read are set in. That being said, the author could have taken the Korean setting and made a more authentic feel rather than it being so forced. I get that the author was trying to show culture shock, but I wish that Grace showed more cultural relativism rather than the cultural elitism that she showed throughout the book.

I really did like most of the characters, though. I felt that the members of Eden were not as flushed out as they could have been since the author focused on only Jason, and kinda pushed the other two members to the side. I really enjoyed the snippets of Jane that we got, and Sophie seemed like such a genuinely amazing best friend for Grace to have. Overall, there was such a diverse cast of characters that I really did not mind that they were mostly underdeveloped.

If I could change one thing about this book, it would be the music. I just want so much more from a book that centers around musicians. It mostly comes from me being in love with all things music, but PLEASE delve further into "hipster" music than "Bittersweet Symphony" and Bon Iver. LIKE COME ON. YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT. Also, the way that Grace viewed KPOP was awful. It was like she didn't even give it a chance to be good because it had the word "pop" in it.

The only one that feels this way is probably me, but I really did not love the relationship. It started out as a kinda love triangle, and then the other guy just kinda faded away. There was no big moment where the side guy tries to pull -its just that he just became not present in the story. Love triangle aside, I have no love for Grace and Jason's relationship. They are asses to each other who cannot communicate to save their lives, and I just got annoyed. Yes, it all seemed to work itself out in the end, but I want a real relationship not a BS famous people relationship.

I don't know if I would recommend this book to a lot of people, but if there is a KPOP-lover who enjoys cheesy romance, this is the book for you!!




The Rating:

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Excerpt:



I sneak a sideways glance at him, but he’s just staring out the window, shoulders rigid and jaw clenched. Sophie and the other two boys carry on a conversation in front of us, leaving Jason isolated. Because he thinks no one’s looking, he’s let down his guard, and in the pale light of the streetlamps we pass, I make out melancholy etched deep in his expression. And I’m reminded of my brother.
Again, I remember that there’s something deeper here, something he doesn’t want anyone to see. I suppress the jolt of dread that rockets through me, fear that he has some dark secret like Nathan. I don’t know Jason well enough to leap to such conclusions. But I can surmise that his isolating himself and keeping his feelings away from everyone else isn’t helping.
Shoving the memory of him snapping at me earlier to the back of my mind, I pull out one of the earbuds and reach across the darkness between us, offering it to him. He stares at it a second, then takes it from my fingers and places it in his ear. The cord pulls taut between our heads, and he has to scoot closer, our shoulders brushing. I smile and close my eyes, leaning my head back against the seat and getting lost in the relaxed melodies and soft, plucking guitar of Bon Iver.
Drowsiness settles on me as the subtle rocking of the van and the long day breaks down any fight in me to stay conscious. As I hover between sleep and wakefulness, I feel a soft touch on my fingers that rest on the seat between me and Jason.
“Grace?” Jason whispers.
But I don’t answer, eyes heavy and lips parted in half sleep. Another brush against my hand. A solid, warm pressure. My brain jolts awake when Jason threads his fingers through mine. I
swallow hard, and my breathing accelerates.
I risk a quick peek at Jason, my eyes squinted so I can shut them again at a moment’s notice. He peers out his window still, but instead of tension making the lines of his body sharp, he angles himself toward me, muscles relaxed. A soft smile plays at the edges of his lips, and his fingers twitch against mine, our palms pressed together.
Does he think I’m asleep? Should I tell him I’m awake? My mind races through possible motivations for him grabbing my hand, followed by what might happen if I revealed my not being asleep. He would probably say something mean, and we wouldn’t talk for the rest of the trip. So I just keep my mouth shut and let him hold my hand.

And enjoy it entirely too much.

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I know that this is the real part of the post that all you scoundrels have been waiting for: THE GIVEAWAY!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


XOXO,
Belle

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I received this book in exchange for an honest review, and honestly it would be more difficult to make a dishonest review than a truthful one.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review of In a Dark Wood by Joseph Luzzi

In a Dark Wood
by Joseph Luzzi
Nonfiction Standalone
224 Pages
Publisher: Harperwave
Purchase Links: AmazonIndieBound | Barnes & Noble

In the aftermath of a heartbreaking tragedy, a scholar and writer uses Dante's Divine Comedy to shepherd him through the dark wood of grief and mourning--a rich and emotionally resonant memoir of suffering, hope, love, and the power of literature to inspire and heal the most devastating loss.

Where do we turn when we lose everything? Joseph Luzzi found the answer in the opening of The Divine Comedy "In the middle of our life's journey, I found myself in a dark wood."

When Luzzi's pregnant wife was in a car accident--and died forty-five minutes after giving birth to their daughter, Isabel--he finds himself a widower and first-time father at the same moment. While he grieves and cares for his infant daughter, miraculously delivered by caesarean before his wife passed, he turns to Dante's Divine Comedy for solace.

In a Dark Wood tells the story of how Dante helps the author rebuild his life. He follows the structure of The Divine Comedy, recounting the Inferno of his grief, the Purgatory of healing and raising Isabel on his own, and then Paradise of the rediscovery of love.

A Dante scholar, Luzzi has devoted his life to teaching and writing about the poet. But until he turned to the epic poem to learn how to resurrect his life, he didn't realize how much the poet has given back to him. A meditation on the influence of great art and its power to give us strength in our darkest moments, In a Dark Wood opens the door into the mysteries of Dante's epic poem. Beautifully written and flawlessly balanced, Luzzi's book is a hybrid of heart-rending memoir and critical insight into one of the greatest pieces of literature in all of history. In a Dark Wood draws us into man's descent into hell and back: it is Dante's journey, Joseph Luzzi's, and our very own





I, surprisingly really enjoyed reading this book. I appreciated what the book was trying to accomplish, and my love for Dante (not his books, but rather the man who wrote them) made me have fun reading this book.

This was not a story that you read for the beginning or the ending, for you know how it is going to go, but rather a story that you read because you want to know the middle. In that way it was like Dante. You know Dante starts in the Inferno, and ends by leaving the Paradise, but you read The Divine Comedy because you want to know what he saw throughout his journey.

I did, however, see a very big missed opportunity in this book. It had nine chapters (yes, 9 circles of hell, blah blah blah), but I really wish it has 33 chapters since each book of The Divine Comedy had 33 cantos.

I thought that this book did a very good job interweaving the author's story and other works of literature. It was cool learning more about Dante while reading this inspiring story about Joseph Luzzi's path to redemption.

Overall, this was a very good read if you enjoy Dante and/or nonfictional writings.

The Rating:



XOXO,
Belle
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About Joseph Luzzi

Joseph Luzzi holds a doctorate from Yale and teaches at Bard. He is the author of My Two Italies, a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, and Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy, which won the Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies from the Modern Language Association. His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles TimesBookforum, and the Times Literary Supplement.
Find out more about Joseph at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.


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Joseph’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, May 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, May 27th: BookNAround
Tuesday, June 2nd: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, June 3rd: Tina Says …
Friday, June 5th: Imaginary Reads
Monday, June 8th: Raven Haired Girl
Tuesday, June 9th: A Book Geek
Sunday, June 13th: Create With Joy
Monday, June 15th: Buried in Print
Tuesday, June 16th: From L.A. to LA
Wednesday, June 17th: Jancee Reads
Thursday, June 18th: A Dream Within a Dream
Friday, June 19th: Belle’s Beautiful Books (here!!!)
Monday, June 22nd: Emerald City Book Review




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I received this book in exchange for an honest review, and honestly it would be more difficult to make a dishonest review than a truthful one.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review and Excerpt of Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

Brutal Youth
by Anthony Breznican
Standalone
416 Pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Freshman Peter Davidek only wants to stay out of trouble. All his combative friend Noah Stein wants is to fight back. And Lorelei Paskal, their shared crush, needs a safe haven from her horrible home life, so she's desperate to make friends — no matter how many enemies she creates along the way. These three find themselves fighting for survival at St. Michael the Archangel High School, a once-prestigious institution that has become a crumbling dumping ground for delinquents, misfits, and the unlucky. 

It's a place where bullying is sanctioned as "fun and games" hazing, where the unwritten rule is you can't hurt anyone who can hurt you back — and there's no one to turn to because the adults are part of the problem. The parish priest is embezzling from the church, the guidance counselor is coming unhinged with rage and regret, and the well-intentioned nun who runs St. Mike's mistakenly thinks compromise and cover-up can fix things.

A coming-of-age tale, a dark comedy, and a tragedy all rolled into one, Brutal Youth follows this band of students as they learn whether it's possible to protect yourself without losing who you are.


I loved this book. I was always so engaged, and I had a real desire to pick up the book, and see what happened next.  I really enjoyed the way this book was written also. The author knows how to write, and it shows. The way this book was written was in a third person omniscient narrator, but it jumped around between who the narrator was focusing on. I know that this isn't really a unique way to write a book (I can name so many off the top of my head without really thinking about it), but I always appreciate when an author utilizes that writing style.

The setting of this book was probably the most interesting part. It was set at a Catholic School, and the stereotype of Catholic schools is that they are very strict with very little behavior problems, but this book turned that stigma on its head. This school was probably one of the most messed up schools I have ever read about. I really appreciated that aspect.

The characters were so vivid, I am so impressed with the author. It was like each character no matter how small or seemingly irrelevant, the reader got a full portrait of who they were as a character. AND EVERYTHING WAS SO IMPORTANT, AND EVERYTHING CAME TOGETHER AT THE END. AND THIS WAS SUCH A  GREAT BOOK.

The Rating:

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Excerpt:

*Just as a forewarning. This is an extremely violent scene, but it was so well done.*

Prologue: The Boy on the Roof


The kid had taken a lot of punishment over the years, so he had much to give back.



A steel hatch on the roof of St. Michael the Archangel High School shuddered, then burst open, and the boy crawled out and collapsed against the gritty tarpaper surface, kicking the lid shut again with one sock-covered foot. He wore only his uniform gray slacks and a wide-open button-down shirt, streaked with blood that wasn't his. A black canvas book bag hung over one shoulder, swinging back and forth as he scrambled to his knees. He pressed his weight against the closed hatch to stifle the hollering and pandemonium rising from beneath it.



Next to the steel hatch was a bucket, steaming with hot tar. The janitor had been using it to seal sections of loose shingle that had been leaking water into the school during every springtime rainstorm. A grubby tar mop leaned against the bucket. The boy shifted his heavy bag and scooped up the mop, wedging it between the handles of the hatch, locking it shut. Then he fled back across the flat roof toward the ghostly concrete statues lining the edge.



The row of saints had stood watch over St. Michael's for as long as anyone alive could remember. Thomas, the doubter; Joseph, the foster father; Anthony, finder of lost things; Jude, devotee to the hopeless; Francis of Assisi, the lover of nature, who had a small concrete bird in his outstretched hand, and a real drip of birdshit on his concrete head. At the center archway of the ledge high above the school's main entrance stood an even larger statue of a warrior angel, St. Michael himself, wings spread and sword raised against the satanic serpent being squashed beneath his foot.



The boy on the roof was named Colin Vickler. Not that it mattered. This was the end. This was good-bye. There was nowhere else to hide. He climbed up onto the short ledge, first steadying himself on St. Michael's wing, and then hugging its torso as he tried not to stare into the bone- shattering drop below. Behind him, the steel hatch shook again—a rumble of thunder on a sunny, spring afternoon. He heard screams rise from the open classroom windows on the face of the school below. Even out here, on the edge, he was surrounded.



He slumped against St. Michael, pressing his open mouth against the concrete figure's arm to make himself stop crying, tasting the stone that had weathered away to dust. The statue lurched, as if withdrawing from him, and he fell back as pieces of the crumbling base tumbled over the ledge.



Peering over the side, he saw a small group of classmates in gym clothes lingering on the school steps. The bits of stone lay scattered around their feet, and they stared up at him, shielding their eyes against the sun.



One of them pointed and said, "Hey, I think that's Clink." Another shouted: "Jump, Clink!" and the rest of them laughed. A girl's voice rose up in a singsong: "Cliiii-iiiink!"



Vickler stood up straight, staring back at them.



He rammed his shoulder against St. Michael. He beat the saint's back. He grabbed the figure's sword-wielding arm and rocked him back and forth, cracking the mortar. The statue lurched, and the rusted shaft of pipe protruding through the base cracked loose, splitting the serpent free from the avenging angel's foot.



St. Michael tipped off the ledge and spiraled to the sidewalk, diving toward its own shrinking shadow. It detonated against the concrete steps in a crackling explosion of dust and rocks as the gym students leaped for their lives, shrieking and scrambling over each other.



For the first time that day—for the first time in a long while—Colin Vickler smiled.



As those fresh screams rose up, he stared over the streets ahead, to the shopping center across the road, the receding clusters of homes, the green springtime slopes of the valley rising in the distance, the wide curve of the Allegheny River, an industrial artery slouching along the steel mills and gravelworks as it bent toward Pittsburgh. In the busy street beside the school, traffic crawled past the gas stations, fast-food joints, doctor's offices, and other storefronts that lined Natrona Heights' main strip. Up here, it all looked like some toy village in a model train layout. Tiny. Unreal. It seemed harmless to him now. And he felt so much bigger than it.



The hatch shook again, but the mop handle held. Vickler watched it. Waited. Then nothing.



He stumbled toward the next saint, dragging his heavy behind him.



The bag. That's what got him here. Thick, full glass jars clattered inside the canvas. The strap cut into his hand, but he wouldn't let it leave his side again, not that it mattered now. The other kids had discovered what he kept inside, though they wouldn't understand. They couldn't. Not even he did, really. A kid had the right to some secrets, if only the ones he could carry. But these had just been taken from him.



He heard voices in the parking lot. More of the gym students were gathered below. His classmates. Former classmates now, he guessed.



One kick. One kick was all it took, and that surprised Vickler. One kick sent St. Francis toppling end-over-end to the ground. But the statue didn't deliver the satisfying explosion the angel had. Instead of the sidewalk, it landed with its touchdown-raised arms now stuck in a soft flower bed, its head buried: patron saint of ostriches. The kids standing around the garden looked at it with confusion.



Vickler dragged his bag to St. Thomas. He rattled the saint's head. Jars clinked madly in Vickler's bag. Clink. That's what they called him. Clink.



Three kicks later, and St. Thomas became an arrow to the earth. He hit the brick wall along the grand front steps and fractured in two at the waist. This time the kids ran.



St. Barnabas. Decades of hard weather had already crumbled the base of this statue. Vickler heaved him over.



St. Anthony—three shakes, two kicks—pray for us.



Vickler had black dust on his hands now. The filth smeared his face as he wiped away tears.



A man's voice bellowed below the roof hatch. Vickler whirled. The contents of his knapsack clattered: clinkclink. The steel sheet rocked once, then twice, as someone rammed it from the other side. The mop handle bent like rubber, flexing, beginning to crack. The next hit splintered it. The tar-bristled mop end flopped away from the jagged stick.



Vickler's hands crawled into his book bag and came out with a sealed glass jar. Trapped inside the clear fluid was a small swollen creature: a baby shark, curled in death, its little black eyes staring at him. He inched closer to the hatch, his shadow touching its edge.



The heavy steel door lifted. Below rose panicky shouts. A woman's voice barked, "Open it already!"



A little head, as white as a clover flower, rose up from the hole. Vickler arched his arm and hurled the jar into the face of Mr. Saducci, the school's mumble-mouthed elderly janitor.



Saducci squealed. One hand rose to shield his face too late. The other squeezed at the edge of the hatch for balance. The jar caromed off his brow and burst against the steel door, spraying the tumbling janitor's face in formaldehyde.



The old man's right hand grasped blindly as his eyes sizzled, and the steel lid slammed down, trapping his fingers. The janitor's wail echoed, seeming to plunge away in the distance as rounds of fresh screams erupted below.



Vickler dropped to the roof and scrambled forward on his hands and knees, pulling his bag after him. He picked up the sharpened end of the splintered mop handle and held it like a spear.



But the hatch didn't move. The janitor's trapped fingers didn't either. Vickler's guts roared. His greasy black hair dangled around his eyes. He shifted his pack. Clink. Clink. His eyes darted. "Go ahead!" he yelled, his voice breaking. "Open it up. Pull in your hand. I won't hurt you!"



A thread of blood began to run along the hatch's crease.



Vickler waited. He lifted the mop handle and timidly poked at the fingertips.



They rolled off the ledge and bounced against the roof.





About twenty minutes before the saints began to fall, another boy, named Peter Davidek, was walking the crowded halls of St. Mike's and trying not to feel microscopic. His last name was pronounced Davv-ah-deck, which rhymed with "have a check"—and he had been repeating that all day. Still, most of the teachers got it wrong, even after he meekly corrected them. At first he thought it was on purpose, that they were messing with him. Then he realized they just didn't care enough to make the miniscule effort to remember. He wasn't sure which was worse.



Freshly fourteen years old and a foot shorter than most of the kids around him, the lost eighth-grader searched for the right place to be. It was St. Michael's annual open house for potential incoming students, and the stone halls of the Catholic high school were filled with miniature middle-schoolers like him, trying to make their way between the oafish St. Mike's guys, who seemed to be all shoulders wrapped in polyester blazers, and the equally intimidating sweet-smelling schoolgirls in their tantalizing navy blue sweaters and plaid skirts.



Davidek's heart pounded as he scanned the room numbers. He was supposed to be in Mrs. Apps's chemistry class, room 11-A, but had become separated from his group. There were no familiar faces here. All of Davidek's friends planned to attend Valley High next year, New Kensington's public high school. Only 316 kids in total attended St. Mike's, almost nothing compared to the thousands at Valley, where it was easier to lie low, and the students didn't have to wear stupid uniforms or go to church all the time or have weird priests and nuns watching every move.



Attending Valley was one of the few things Davidek and his parents agreed on. His father had attended St. Mike's for a year, though he hadn't graduated. The old man wanted to know why his son was even bothering to visit that school full of spoiled brats and know-nothings. For Davidek, it had seemed like a good excuse to escape regular class.



Three upperclassmen blundered by in the hallway, punching each other and swinging their book bags like maces. Davidek caught one behind the knee and hit the ground. His wrinkled paper schedule fluttered out of his hand. A girl stepped on his ankle, but she glanced over her shoulder at the guy behind her and apologized to him instead. "No problem," the guy said, stepping on Davidek's ankle, too. Only he did it on purpose.



Legs pistoned at the floor all around Davidek. A hand hooked under his arm to help him up, and that person handed him his schedule before stepping back into the crowd. "I owe you one," Davidek said, but the kid kept moving, giving Davidek a nod. The boy was a visitor, too, since he was wearing regular street clothes and not a St. Mike's uniform. Davidek didn't recognize him from his group, and he would have remembered—this boy had a band of scars on the left side of his face, with rosy tendrils linking the edge of his left eye to his neck.



Lockers slammed like gunfire. Every student seemed to be hauling both book bags and duffel bags as class changed. Some of them toted dirty sneakers. Gym class had just ended for seniors and was about to begin for juniors.



A chunky kid with greasy black hair staggered by Davidek and whacked him on the side with his black canvas bag. Glass jars clattered together inside. A smaller sack, a Pittsburgh Steelers gym bag, dangled at the greasy kid's side.



"Cliiiiiink!!"someone in the crowd shouted. A couple of girls giggled. Soon the hallway was a cacophony of voices muttering, whispering, and shouting the same word: ClinkClinkClink. All of a sudden, no one was moving. They were blockading him.



The greasy kid whirled around. "I got to get to my locker," he barked.



"Umm, can you help me?" Davidek pleaded to the faces around him, but they were all too amused blocking in the increasingly frustrated Clink. It was Davidek's first lesson at the school: When people didn't like you, they got in your way. When they didn't care about you, they let you get in your own way.



Clink clutched his clattering black bag like a battering ram, shoving through and disappearing as the change-of-class bell shrieked. Everyone still standing in the hall, including Davidek, was now officially late.



The students around him scattered, but Davidek had no one to follow. He had lost track of the scarred boy, but followed in that direction. He found a room 11 on the second floor, but it was an elderly nun teaching French—not Mrs. Apps's chemistry class.



In an empty stairwell, Davidek found a white-haired janitor hauling a hot tar bucket up to the roof on a retractable steel ladder. Davidek held out his paper schedule and asked, "Could you help me find where I'm supposed to be?"



The janitor glared at him, like he'd been tortured mightily by the children at this school, and was not now about to supply aid and comfort to the enemy. When he spoke, the Pittsburgh accent was so thick, it was almost another language: "Howen da'heckamye sposta know where yinz kids shubbee?" Davidek blinked. How in the heck am I supposed to know where yinz kids should be. Yinz. In the South, it was y'all, in New York it was you's. Around Pittsburgh, yinz was the plural of you, the telltale sign of someone born and raised in Pennsylvania's bottom left corner. The word was invisible most of the time, since everybody used it now and again.



"I'm looking for room 11-A," Davidek said. "But I can't—"



The janitor waved his free hand impatiently, counting out on fingers that would soon be separated from his hand. "A, B, C," he said. "Three letters, three floors. Unnerstann?"



Davidek thanked him and descended the steps. The janitor muttered as he carried his acrid-smelling tar bucket up the ladder.



At the bottom of the stairwell, the eighth-grader pushed open the doors to the first-floor hallway. "Lost?" a woman's voice said.



He turned to see a plump woman in a long, royal blue dress, which swept the floor at her heels. She was pacing outside the closed door of the principal's office, apparently waiting for entry. He smiled at her, and she smiled back—thinly. He couldn't guess her age—anywhere from thirty to fifty. She was pretty in a sad way, a faded way. Once-delicate features had gone soft and round, slightly wrinkled, as if they had swollen and then deflated. "Are you a teacher?" Davidek asked. "I could use some help finding—"



"I'm the guidance counselor," she said, as if teacher were a slur. "Why are you wandering the halls?"



"Uh, I'm Peter Davidek, I'm—"



"Daffy-what?" she said.



"Daff-a-deck," he corrected, with a break in his voice. "I'm an eighth-grade visitor for the open house."



"I didn't ask your name. Why aren't you with your group?" Her voice was sharp, annoyed by default. Her eyes narrowed, which with her chubby cheeks, made her look like a grown-up baby.



"I'm supposed to be in 11-A, chemis—"



"Right there," she said, jabbing a finger down the hall. The nail was also painted royal blue. "You're supposed to be there."



Davidek was about to thank her and slink away when two boys emerged from the men's bathroom, both wearing shorts, T-shirts, and tennis shoes. A stout man—completely bald, lacking even eyebrows—emerged from the stairwell, also wearing shorts and a T-shirt (though his was tucked in.) He had a whistle around his neck, and blew it as he tossed the first boy a foot- ball and shoved open the bathroom door: "Ten more minutes, guys, out on the field!" The boys with the football ran off, and the bald gym teacher looked Davidek up and down, then turned to the blue woman. "So what's going on here, Ms. Bromine?" he asked, stroking his naked chin. Bromine. It was a name like chemicals in the mouth.



"I'm trying to get to the bottom of that myself, Mr. Mankowski," the guidance counselor sighed.



"Ahhhh . . . ," the bald man said, acting like this was serious business. "Should I get Sister Maria?" Sister Maria was the principal, and had welcomed all the visiting students in the assembly hall that morning. She had seemed nice. Davidek actually hoped they would get her.



Ms. Bromine nodded toward the principal's closed office door. "I'm waiting for Sister Maria myself—not that it ever matters for much. As you know," she said, her lips tightening. With a marble-sized mole near the right corner of her mouth, the expression was like a sideways exclamation point. She turned back to Davidek: "We don't appreciate visitors abusing the rules at St. Michael's, young man. Tell me your name again?"



"Peter Daff-ah-deck," the boy repeated, for the third time. "And I wasn't—"



A swell of laughter and a loud, horrified "Oh, God!" echoed from the men's bathroom, drawing a concerned look from Mr. Mankowski.



"All right," said Ms. Bromine. "You can go—this time. But if you find yourself hopelessly confused again in this simple three-story structure—"



"Stop!" a boy yelled from inside the restroom.



Laughter erupted again and there was more shouting. Feet scuffled; voices rose. A boy cried out in agony. Mr. Mankowski ran forward and shoved open the bathroom door just as something massive collided against the other side, smashing the door into his face. A clear fluid popped from his nose as he collapsed.



The bathroom door whooshed open and Davidek saw the greasy boy named Clink shamble out, his eyes bulging beneath tangles of hair. His black duffel bag, clattering with off-key chimes, swung around his belly like a disemboweled organ. His uniform gray slacks were unbuttoned, and there was a splash of blood on his open white shirt.



A boy with a gaping mouth of crooked horse teeth darted from the bathroom, holding a small glass jar over his head. "Have this back, you fucking freak!" Horse-Teeth hollered, heaving the jar against the wall just over Clink's shoulder, spraying the brick with putrid yellow fluid.



A new figure emerged from the boys' room, a kid gushing blood and yelping panicked screams as he pawed delicately at the blunt end of a click- button pen jutting from his right cheek. The tip of the pen, dripping ribbons of scarlet saliva, poked out between his lips like a strange lizard

tongue, clicking against his teeth as he moaned for help.





The contents of Colin Vickler's black bag had been a curiosity at St. Mike's for months. People began noticing the unusual glass clanking sound around the start of the school year, but whenever teachers had taken him aside and forcibly searched him, they never found anything. The rumors got more and more elaborate: It was a portable methamphetamine lab. Or, maybe was he smuggling bomb chemicals. Sickening theories arose: He carried his own urine in jars, filling them at school and keeping them on a shelf in his bedroom. But for what dark purpose could any of this be hap- pening: perversion, paranoia, witchcraft?



Colin "Clink" Vickler didn't have a single friend at St. Mike's, though he had been a student there for three years. As a freshman, he was a lightning rod for the ninety-two-year-old school's hazing tradition, a yearlong, allegedly good-natured teasing of new students, which the school tacitly approved of as a "fun" bonding exercise for the newcomers. Vickler had carried a disproportionate amount of the torment, with even his fellow freshmen bullying him, usually to impress or distract their own oppressors.



When he was as a sophomore, the teasing hadn't stopped. In one of the worst instances, a group of seniors ambushed him in the bathroom one day, held his arms, and snagged the rim of his underwear, ripping them off from underneath his pants and tearing into his groin. While he rolled in agony, someone went outside and ran the tattered threads up the school flagpole. For weeks, Vickler's classmates saluted him and hummed "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."



It wasn't the beautiful and so-called popular kids who did it to him, though they may have been laughing on the periphery. Everyone was, basically. The boys who had attacked him in the bathroom were the most worthless, aimless, and friendless in the school. The cheerleaders, basket- ball players, theater kids, and science geeks (among countless other cliques at St. Mike's) all picked on kids within their own circles, venting their frustrations on weaker versions of themselves. Sometimes the cliques turned on each other, but that was rare. When one group did need an- other to beat up on, they all tended to turn on the same niche—the losers. Clink just happened to be the one the losers picked on.



He became a junior, but even with upperclassman status, the teasing never stopped. The worst were the girls laughing at him, girls he thought were cute. And he was no help for himself—dropping his eyes, muttering, not clever enough to return the insults, not strong enough to fight back. It never stopped. It never would.



Vickler's only protection was to hide.



St. Mike's was a strange old building, full of narrow corridors and stairwells curling deep underground in a quiet labyrinth. To escape his jeering classmates when class wasn't in session, Vickler would sneak into the subbasement and take sanctuary in the science storage room, where he would read comic books or video game magazines. There among the Bunsen burners and assorted carafes of chemicals, he found shelf after shelf of glass containers, each containing a preserved biological specimen: insects, birds, snakes, worms, lizards, fetal pigs, fish, frogs, mice. They stared forlornly at the greasy-haired boy hiding in their midst. Vickler studied them in the darkness. Even the prickly-legged giant centipedes had a mournful appearance, floating lifeless and tangled together in their preservative stew.



These beings could not escape, had no future, and existed only as peculiarities.



Vickler began smuggling away the jars, one by one, taking them to a place in the woods near his home to release the poor deceased creatures for burial. His parents became suspicious about him going to the woods each night, so he had to slow down. He knew he couldn't explain. He also couldn't stop. There were hundreds of jars in the storage basement, and he committed himself to removing them all.



The earth around his shallow burials became blighted. Weeds shriveled to brown husks as they absorbed the toxic preserving chemicals. To avoid detection, Vickler began to spread the bodies around more broadly through the woods, which only slowed his progress. Then the science faculty noticed that half their biology specimens had disappeared. Suspicion fell on the janitor for carelessly disposing them, and new ones were ordered from the Nebraska Scientific company. Colin Vickler's smuggling campaign started all over again.



Throughout this time, not a soul knew what "Clink" really carried in his bag. Not until the day of the open house.







Gym class at St. Mike's happened only on sunny days. This was because the school no longer had a gymnasium, and phys-ed classes had nowhere to take place when the weather was unkind. The old gymnasium had been converted into the parish's church when the original chapel burned down four years earlier. There had been no money to rebuild the church, so the gym was made into a substitute house of worship—at first temporarily, though it had since become dismayingly permanent. The old locker rooms had become dressing rooms for the priest and altar boys, so for gym class, the students changed out of their uniforms in the school bathrooms. Their calisthenics and games of dodgeball took place in the grassy field where the burned chapel once stood. (In the winter, or if it rained, they earned gym-class credit at a nearby bowling alley.)



On the day of the open house, while Davidek stood outside in the hallway in the glare of Ms. Bromine, a junior in that boys' bathroom named Richard Mullen picked a fight with the only kid who was a bigger loser than he was. The bathroom was crowded, and Mullen was standing on one leg, leaning over at an odd angle, pulling at the tip of one socked foot as his open pants slipped down around his ankles. He stumbled backwards and landed hard on his ass, which drew loud laughs from the other boys—including creepy Clink Vickler.



Mullen had only one friend in the school, his dull, horse-toothed companion, Frank Simms—the only boy besides Clink whose existence was more pathetic than Mullen's. Since he was already so low in the pecking order, Mullen couldn't abide being laughed at by the shy, fat, fellow outcast.



In the hallway, Mr. Mankowski's whistle blew and his voice called out: "Ten more minutes, guys, out on the field!"



Everyone was still laughing as Mullen stood up, and he said to Clink, because he couldn't say it to anyone else: "Is that how your dad laughs when he's buttfucking you?" Mullen punctuated this with a swift kick to Clink's duffel bag, causing two glass jars, pregnant with fluid, to tumble out and roll slowly across the tile floor.



A handsome and popular boy named Michael Crawford lifted one of the jars toward the light, and a preserved fruit bat inside slid around to face him and his friends—its mouth open, wings undulating in the shaking water.



Horse-toothed Simms picked up the other jar. "Holy shit, this guy's pickling dead critters!" he cried, and Mullen shoved aside the layer of papers, books, pens, and pencils in Clink's bag to reveal a dozen more jars. He extracted one—an embryonic pig—and held it out. "Whatever this is, you're going to hell for it, sicko. . . ."



Vickler's mind went numb. An eternity passed. He had been trying to do something good, something merciful, but now he saw his collection with the same horror as the boys around him. There was nothing he could do, no explanation that would make sense. He heard the words psycho, freak, disgusting, and began to cry, squatting over his scattered papers, gathering them blindly.



Mullen stuck the specimen jar against Vickler's face. "Wait'llthe girls find out what you did to P-p-p-porky Pig!"



That's when Vickler's groping hand found the ballpoint pen.



Before he even realized what was happening, Vickler was slicing it through the air, puncturing Mullen's cheek like a marshmallow.



Mullen screeched, and Clink seized him by the throat, shoving him backwards with blind fury and slamming him against the boys' room door as Mr. Mankowski pushed it open on the other side, crushing the teacher's sinus cavity and toppling him to the ground.



Clink tossed the bleeding, braying Mullen aside and grabbed his bag, yanking the strap over his shoulder as he fled out the door.



The first-floor hallway of St. Mike's yawned before Vickler like a giant stone throat. He was dimly aware of figures around him, two blurs—one giant and blue, the other small and insignificant—standing a few feet away, and a man—Mr. Mankowski—rolling in agony on the floor beside the lockers.



Horse-toothed Simms rushed out of the bathroom, hefting a jar with a floating tapeworm inside, and hurled it at Vickler, who shoved past Davidek and sprinted into the stairwell, up one floor, then another, until there was no one around him except the stunned-looking janitor standing beside a ladder leading to a square of blue sky.



He began to climb, terrified, thinking maybe he could hide, and realizing too late he was trapping himself.



With unwitting help from Ms. Bromine, Vickler soon learned he had trapped everyone else, too.





When the janitor became separated from his fingers, he plunged down like a pile of old clothes and smashed against the stairwell floor, squealing as he clutched the red nubs of his knuckles. He might have shattered his spine if Mr. Mankowski, staggering beneath the ladder with his bruised face, hadn't softened the fall.



Ms. Bromine tried to remain calm. She took a step back as the janitor's crimson-spritzing fingertips spray-painted the floor. The gym teacher was hysterical, whimpering beneath the crumpled janitor, his collarbone fractured. Davidek stood with the crowd of other gawking students and faculty as the two wounded men gibbered madly at the foot of the ladder. "This is going to be bad for enrollment," Davidek heard one of the teachers say.



Ms. Bromine, suddenly aware of the audience, tried to clear people away, but the crowd was too large for anyone to go anywhere. People in the back were yelling, "Sister Maria is trying to come through! Clear a path!" and Davidek looked over the railing to see the old woman on the stairs below, poking through the mob.



Bromine drew back against the wall. She couldn't be seen presiding over this chaos.



The red handle of a fire alarm was beside her. "We need to get everyone out of here," she said as her fingers reached for the switch.





On the roof, Colin Vickler, also known as Clink Vickler, also known in grade school as Creepy Colin, seventeen years old, still without a driver's license, pale-skinned, a prospect-less virgin, and utterly friendless, felt power for the first time in his life as he listened to the electric howl of the alarm and watched waves of his schoolmates gush out of St. Michael's arched entryway.



They were afraid. Of him.



Some turned their faces up, squinting against the sunlight, their expressions bent into question marks as they tried to see him. A few who'd witnessed what had happened were crying, not looking back—others were spreading the news, passing along a contamination of lies: Clink had been murdering animals, dismembering them, and hiding the remains in glass containers. One of the boys from the changing room said he'd looked into the bag and saw a human hand in one of the jars. A few visiting eighth-graders overheard a teacher say the boy on the roof had cut the school janitor's throat.



The actual truth was bad enough. Vickler knew he wasn't coming down again. There was no crawling back through the hatch. There was no apologizing. There was no explaining. He was over. Colin Vickler was gone. Now, he was just Clink. Weird. Psychotic. Dangerous.



But he kind of liked that last part.



The boy lifted his bag onto the ledge and ran his grubby fingers over the tops of the remaining jars, counting ten. He hefted one in his hand, looked down into the parking lot, and surveyed his targets.





From the outside, St. Michael the Archangel High School looked like a building that might devour other buildings. The style of traditional collegiate Gothic architecture seemed to have been fused with primitive battle fortifications to create an imposing, redbrick edifice that bulged up from the earth like some thorny, stone-shelled titan. Davidek looked back at the building as he fled with the other students. "Rubberneck later, man. Now you better run!" someone said, pulling him forward. It was the boy with the scar on his cheek, the one who had helped him in the hallway earlier.



The boy on the roof heaved a jar toward the crowd, smashing a spider- web into the windshield of a red Buick in the parking lot. Davidek and the scarred kid bolted together through the scattering mob as the second and third jar of scientific specimens exploded against the ground behind them.

Ms. Bromine stood in the center of the evacuation, conducting the mayhem to the street. A shuffling, heavyset kid, gushing sweat in his St. Mike's uniform, nudged in front of Davidek, huffing as he lurched forward, like a bull trying to run on its hind legs. A thin red tie drifted over his shoulder as a flash of light streaked out of the sky and exploded against the back of the chubby kid's skull. The glass jar had made a hissing sound as it cut the air, and the fat boy made the same noise as he faceplanted against the pavement.



Davidek tried to stop, tried to reach down and snag the fallen kid's shoulders, but the other students pushed him forward, with no time for anyone's rescue but their own. Davidek and the scarred boy reached the edge of school property, where cars cut back and forth along the street, honking furiously at the herd of students fleeing across the blacktop.



That's when Ms. Bromine began to yell, "Stop! Stop!"



For a moment, everyone did.



"No one . . . can leave . . . school grounds," she said, the crowd swirling around her as she turned. Her blond puff of hair was wilting with sweat. "No leaving without a . . . a . . . permission slip."



The students of St. Mike's gawped at her. They began to argue in discordant unison. Then another jar streaked from the rooftop and sent them scattering for cover behind parked cars.



The school principal, Sister Maria Hest, was among the confused and cowering. She crawled through the hiding crowd, demanding information. "What's happening? . . . Why is the school being evacuated? . . . Who is throwing things from the roof?" Everyone tried to tell her at once, so she understood none of it.



Ms. Bromine did not speak up right away. She was formulating justifications. She wondered who, if anyone, had stayed behind with Mr. Mankowski and Mr. Saducci.



A UPS truck squealed smoke from its tires and jerked to a stop inches from some scampering freshmen who'd decided to ignore the rules and run off the property. As the driver drowned out his own obscenities with the blast of his horn, Bromine and Sister Maria saw more refugee trails of students flowing across the street, out of range from the boy on the roof.



The guidance counselor snapped her fingers at two of the other teachers. "Grab those kids. Keep them on school property! We can be sued if they get hurt in this traffic!"



A blond girl in gym clothes broke away from the group and stood her ground in the middle of the street, right in front of Bromine. Her kinky hair was tied up in two madwoman pigtails. "Are you a total fucking idiot?" the girl snapped. "What if we get hurt on school property?"



Bromine became aware of many eyes turning toward her. Her throat tightened. "Don't curse at me," she said.



The blonde raised two middle fingers at the guidance counselor. "How about some sign language, then?" she said, turning her back to leave. Bromine darted into the street, seizing the girl by one frazzled pigtail and dragging her back to the sidewalk.



A smattering of rocks fell against the cars at the far end of the parking lot. The boy on the roof was throwing chunks of broken brick at them now. Bromine ducked behind the trunk of a beat-up green Plymouth, still gripping the blond girl's hair. At the other corner of the lot, a cluster of boisterous seniors stood on the hood of a silver Honda, chortling piggishly as they pretended to shoot the projectiles out of the sky with invisible shotguns.



In the center of the parking lot, lying motionless in a widening pool of blood, was the unconscious boy who had charged in front of Davidek before getting beaned on the skull. With everyone else hiding, this still figure was now the easiest target for the boy on the roof.



Thuck. Thuck. Chunks of brick began to thwack against the facedown kid.



Davidek and his new friend with the scarred cheek were both crouched beside a Jeep, just a few spaces away. They could see glass mixed with blood on the back of the unconscious boy's head.



"Someone should help," Davidek said.



The scarred kid nodded. "You know, if that kid hadn't shoved us aside, maybe me or you would be lying there with our head split open. . . . You think he'd run out to save us?"



Davidek shrugged. "He's bleeding bad."



The scarred kid looked around doubtfully. "I'm not sure doing the right thing is the way to survive at this place." But Davidek was already edging out, getting ready to spring toward the wounded kid. "I could have grabbed that crazy kid in the hall, tried to slow him down," he said. "But I didn't. I just got out of the way. I was scared."



"Guilty conscience?" the scarred kid said with a laugh. "You're perfect for Catholic school." He put a hand out. "Hey, tough guy, before we charge into battle . . . my name's Noah Stein. My family calls me No for short. No Stein. That's weird, right?" Davidek said he guessed it was and shook the kid's hand distractedly.



A monstrous, skinny shape, tall and bent like a streetlamp, cast its long shadow over them. It was one of the teachers, a young guy with a stretched, gargoyle's face. "If you boys are planning a distraction, I could sure use one," he said, moving forward toward the school without stopping for a response. "Go, Mr. Zimmer!" the girl with the yellow pigtails screamed as Ms. Bromine's gripped loosened and she pulled free. Bromine staggered forward, watching her colleague steal the credit for saving the day.





Mr. Zimmer had been a student at St. Mike's more years ago than he cared to remember. He'd been a good kid, a quiet kid, one who never got in trouble—except once. Since he had long legs and stretchy arms, some guys had dared him to climb one of the brass waterspouts on the corner of the school building. The trick was to hold on to some of the brick outcroppings, but no one else could reach them. Nobody except Andy Zimmer and his praying mantis limbs.



Getting up through the rooftop hatch was impossible—the janitor had proved that—but that old waterspout was another fast way up, provided Vickler didn't notice until he was already over the ledge.



The sound of sirens rose in the distance. Police. Firefighters. Zimmer didn't want to think about what the cops would do if the boy on the roof started shoving statues over on them, too.



On the other side of the Jeep where Davidek and Stein were taking cover, a chubby black boy poked his head up. "Hey, I'm Hector. Hector Greenwill," he said, extending his hand, although neither boy was going to move from their hiding spot to shake it. "I'm another eighth-grade visitor, like you guys." He was dressed in tan pants and stuffed into an orange-and- black striped sweater. "When you do your thing, I'll help cause another distraction, try to draw his fire," he said.



Stein shrugged. "Perfect, dude. You are dressed as a bull's-eye." Greenwill got into a squat, ready to run. "Just don't make someone else have to rescue you, all right?" he said, and lumbered off in the opposite direction from Mr. Zimmer, toward the grassy green field beside the school, where the burned-down church once stood.



"Okay, hero," Stein said, putting a hand on Davidek's back. "Let's go pretend we're the good guys."



A pair of sapphire-clawed hands seized them both by their collars. "You're too close!" Ms. Bromine growled, pulling them back. "Get down! Now!"



Davidek squirmed, pointing to the lifeless heap in the center of the lot. "We're going to help that kid!" Bromine peered in the unconscious boy's direction. "Carl!" she barked. "Carl LeRose! Stand up now and get over here!"



The boy was lifelessly disobedient. Davidek kept trying to pull away, but Stein was looking for something to distract her. In the same instant, the fat boy in the black-and-tangerine sweater made his move—running and yelling and waving his arms in the wide grassy field, drawing the attention of the boy on the roof, along with everyone else in the parking lot. On the opposite side of the building, Mr. Zimmer put one hand over the other and began to methodically climb the waterspout.



This was their moment. Stein watched Davidek struggle helplessly as the guidance counselor held him in place. He reached out and grabbed the blue lady's face between his hands, thrusting his face against hers in a smacking kiss.



Bromine opened her hands.



Davidek bolted free, his lungs gasping air as he dashed toward the unconscious boy, grabbing him by one arm and pulling him across the asphalt. It looked like the facedown kid had an urgent classroom question. Half of a brick cratered into the hood of a Volkswagen Beetle beside them. They'd been spotted again.



Davidek heaved the unconscious boy onto his own back and stumbled toward the sheltering cars, where Stein now rolled on the ground as a raving Ms. Bromine slapped him silly.



The wounded boy's head lolled, like his neck was a kitchen rag. One shoe fell off his foot. His eyes were open, drifting back toward the school. He raised a weak arm and pointed. "Fuckin' . . . Spider-Man . . . ," he groaned.



Mr. Zimmer, his shirttail dangling free, had reached the top of the school, his ropy arms grabbing for purchase along the stone ledge. The boy on the roof hadn't seen him yet. He was instead watching with panic as dual fire engines pulled up to the curb and police cars squealed into the parking lot. Hector Greenwill and his bull's-eye sweater were now close enough to hit.



Clink had one jar left, and intended to make it count by hurling it directly into the fat kid's face. There was no fluid in it, so it was light, and he aimed it ever so carefully. He shook the jar slightly, but nothing rattled inside. Clink held out the glass container, turning it at an angle. The world got very quiet for the boy on the roof.



There was nothing inside this one. The jar was empty—except for the image of the boy he was targeting, who with his black-and-orange striped sweater looked like a very exotic trapped bumblebee.



Clink unscrewed the jar's metal lid. He spilled the nothing over the side, where he imagined it was captured by the silent wind and carried away. He put the empty jar back in his bag and adjusted the strap around his shoulder.



On the other side of the school, Mr. Zimmer had clawed over the ledge and was surging forward, arms outstretched, his feet making gritty pulse-pounds against the surface of the roof.



Vickler's eyes were closed. He never even saw the teacher coming.



Down below, Davidek was cradling the wounded kid as paramedics swarmed around them. A few cars over, Bromine was dragging Stein by the front of his shirt. Then a hush swept over the crowd in the parking lot.



Everyone looked up to see Clink slip backwards off the ledge.



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