A Slated novel, Book 2
ISBN 9780399161735 | 336 pages | 26 Sep 2013 | Nancy Paulsen Books | 8.26 x 5.51in | 12 - AND UP years
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Perfect for fans of the dystopian settings of The Hunger Games and Divergent, the gripping second installment of the Slated trilogy is a riveting psychological thriller set in a future where violent teens have their memory erased as an alternative to jail.
Kyla has been Slated—her personality wiped blank, her memories lost to her forever. Or so she thought. She shouldn’t be able to remember anything. But increasingly she can—and she’s discovering that there are a lot of dark secrets locked away in her memories. When a mysterious man from her past comes back into her life and wants her help, she thinks she’s on her way to finding the truth. But this new knowledge lands her in the middle of a tug-of-war between two dangerous adversaries, and despite her misgivings about both of them, she’s forced to choose a side for her own protection.
Rain has many uses.
Holly and beech trees like those around me need it to live and grow.
It washes away tracks, obscures footprints. Makes trails harder to follow, and that is a good thing today.
But most of all, it washes blood from my skin, my clothes. I stand, shivering, as the heavens open. Hold out my hands and arms, rub them again and again in the freezing rain, traces of scarlet long gone from my skin but I can’t stop. Red still stains my mind. That will take longer to cleanse, but I remember how, now. Memories can be parceled up, wrapped in fear and denial, and locked behind a wall. Brick walls, like Wayne built.
Is he dead? Is he dying? I shake, and not just from the cold. Did I leave him suffering? Should I go back, see if I can help him. No matter what he is, or what he has done, does he deserve to lie there alone and in pain?
But if anyone finds out what I’ve done, I’m finished. I’m not supposed to be able to hurt anyone. Even though Wayne attacked me and all I did was defend myself. Slateds are unable to commit acts of violence, yet I did; Slateds are unable to remember any of their pasts, yet I do. The Lorders would take me. Probably they’d want to dissect my brain to find out what went wrong, why my Levo failed to control my actions. Maybe they’d do it while I still lived.
No one must ever know. I should have made sure he was dead, but it is too late now. I can’t risk going back. You couldn’t do it then; what makes you think you can now? A voice that mocks, inside.
Numbness spreads through skin, into muscle, bone. So cold. I lean against a tree, knees bending, sinking to the ground. Wanting to stop. Just stop, not move. Not think or feel or hurt, ever again.
Until the Lorders come.
I get up. My feet stumble into a walk, then a jog, and finally they fly through the trees to the path, along the fields. To the road, where a white van marks the place Wayne disappeared, Best Builders painted down the side. I panic that someone will see me coming out of the woods here, by his van, the place they will eventually look when his absence is noted. But the road is empty under an angry sky, raindrops pounding so hard against the tarmac, they bounce back up again as I run.
Rain. It has some other use, some other meaning, but it trickles and runs through my mind like rivulets down my body. It is gone.
The door opens before I get to it: a worried Mum pulls me inside.
She mustn’t know. Just hours ago I wouldn’t have been able to hide my feelings; I didn’t know how. I school my face, take the panic out of my eyes. Blank like a Slated should be.
"Kyla, you’re soaked.” A warm hand on my cheek. Concerned eyes. “Are your levels all right?” she says, grabbing my wrist to see my Levo, and I look at it with interest. I should be low, even dangerously so. But things have changed.
6.3. It thinks I’m happy. Huh!
In the bath I get sent to have, I try again. To think. The water is steaming hot and I ease in, still numb. Still shaking. As the heat begins to soothe my body, my mind is a jumbled mess.
Everything before Wayne seems hazy, like looking through smudged glass. As if watching a different person, one who looks the same outside: Kyla, five foot nothing, green eyes, blond hair. Slated. A little different than most, maybe, a bit more aware and with some control issues, but I was Slated: Lorders wiped my mind as punishment for crimes I can no longer remember. My memories and past should be gone forever. So what happened?
This afternoon, I went for a walk. That’s it. I wanted to think about Ben. Waves of fresh pain roll through with his name, worse than before, so much so that I almost cry out.
Focus. Then what happened?
That lowlife, Wayne: He followed me into the woods. I force myself to think of what he did, what he tried to do, his hands grabbing at me, and the fear and rage rise up again. Somehow he made me angry, so full of insane fury that I lashed out without thought. And something inside changed. Shifted, fell, realigned. His bloody body flashes in my mind, and I flinch: I did that? Somehow, a Slated—me—was violent. And it wasn’t just that: I could remember things, feelings and images from my past. From before I was Slated. Impossible!
Not impossible. It happened.
Now I’m not just Kyla, the name given me at the hospital when I was Slated, less than a year ago. I am something—someone—else. And I’m not sure I like it.
I half spin out of the bath, sloshing water on the floor.
“Kyla, is everything all right?”
The door. Someone—Mum—just knocked on the door. That is all. I force my fists to relax.
“Fine,” I manage to say.
“You’ll turn into a prune if you stay in there any longer. Dinner is ready.”
Downstairs, along with Mum, are my sister, Amy, and her boyfriend, Jazz. Amy: Slated and assigned to this family like me, but different in so many ways. Always sunny, full of life and chatter, tall, her skin a warm chocolate where I am small, quiet, a pale shadow. And Jazz is a natural, not Slated. Quite sensible apart from when he stares at gorgeous Amy all moonily. That Dad is away is a relief. I can do without his careful eyes tonight, measuring, assessing, making sure no foot is put wrong.
Talk of Amy’s coursework, Jazz’s new camera. Amy babbles excitedly about getting asked to work after school at the local doctor’s office where she interned.
Mum glances at me. “We’ll see,” she says. And I see something else: She doesn’t want me alone after school.
“I don’t need a babysitter,” I say, though unsure as I say it if it’s true.
Gradually the evening fades into night, and I go upstairs. Brush my teeth and stare in the mirror. Green eyes stare back, wide and familiar, but seeing things they didn’t before.
Ordinary things, but nothing is ordinary.
Sharp pain in my ankle insists I stop running, demands it. Pursuit is faint in the distance, but soon will be closer. He won’t rest.
I dive through trees and splash along a freezing creek to cover my steps. Then crawl on my belly deep under brambles, ignoring pulls on my hair, clothes. Sudden pain as one catches my arm.
I must not be found. Not again.
I scrabble at the ground, pulling leaves, cold and rotting, from the forest floor over my arms and legs. Light sweeps through the trees above: I freeze. It drops, lower, right over my hiding place. I only start breathing again when it continues beyond without pause.
Footsteps now. They get closer, then carry on, faint and farther away until they disappear from hearing.
Now, wait. I count out an hour; stiff, damp, cold. With every scurrying creature, every branch moving in the breeze, I start in fright. But the more minutes tick past, the more I start to believe. This time, I might succeed.
The sky is just brightening as I back out, inch by careful inch. Birds begin their morning songs, and my spirits sing along with them as I emerge. Have I finally won Nico’s own version of hide-and-seek? Could I be the first?
Light blinds my eyes.
“There you are!” Nico grabs my arm, yanks me to my feet, and I cry out in pain at my ankle, but it doesn’t hurt as much as this disappointment, hot and bitter. I failed, again.
He brushes leaves from my clothes. Slips a warm arm around my waist to help me walk back to camp, and his closeness, his presence, resonate through my body despite the fear and pain.
“You know you can never get away, don’t you?” he says. He is exultant and disappointed in me, all at once. “I will always find you.” Nico leans down and kisses my forehead. A rare gesture of affection that I know will in no way ease whatever punishment he devises.
I can never get away.
He will always find me . . .
“Clear, direct prose, sustained action, and interesting twists. . . . The dystopian government is a worthy villain. . . . Interesting descriptions of dissociative identity disorder and the ways in which it can be used as a strategy, and the ending keeps readers on the hook for the final volume.” — School Library Journal
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