School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Sixteen-year-old Hailey Tarbell lives with her negligent grandmother and foster brother, Chub, in a decrepit corner of Gypsum, MO. She tolerates Gram's drug dealing and their outcast status, biding her time until she can start a new life with Chub. When a classmate almost dies in a gym class accident, Hailey discovers that she possesses a healing power. She uses this gift to revive her dog, Rascal, after a truck crushes him, but he doesn't seem normal after being brought back to life. Then long-lost Aunt Prairie arrives in town, along with two mysterious men who trail Hailey everywhere she goes. Following a violent shoot-out and car chase, Prairie escapes with Hailey and Chub and takes them to Chicago, where they join forces with another Healer and her son. Prairie reveals that the Tarbells are part of an ancient Irish clan of "Banished" people. Healing is one of their gifts, though they are forbidden from resurrecting someone who has already died, which explains the trouble with Rascal. Hailey also learns that her aunt's ex-boyfriend is a nefarious medical researcher who wants to use Hailey's skill to raise a mercenary army of zombies. The action builds to a nail-biting climax at the research laboratory where Hailey tangles, quite gruesomely, with a room full of zombies. The mythology of the Banished is somewhat underdeveloped, but it may be better explained in the inevitable sequel. With plenty of action, family drama, and the promise of romance, this novel is seriously entertaining.—Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA
Children's Literature - Carollyne Hutter
This is a page-turning thriller with a paranormal twist. Life is hard for Hailey Tarbell, a sixteenyear-old living in Gypsum, Missouri. She has to deal with a cruel grandmother and a hostile social environment at school. Her only source of love and happiness is Chub, her four-year-old foster brother. To her surprise, Hailey discovers she has the gift to heal. Life suddenly changes in ways she never expected when Hailey's aunt, Prairie, shows up and whisks her and Chub away as armed attackers invade the house. Evil people want to use Prairie and Hailey's gift of healing in devastating wayswhen the gift is used to heal the dead it creates zombies. The story draws one in and it is easy for the reader to believe in Prairie and Hailey's amazing gift of healing. Hailey is a compelling heroine. It should be noted there are moments of violence at the end of the novel. Reviewer: Carollyne Hutter
VOYA - Jamie Hansen
No sensible young girl wants to stay in Gypsum, Missouri, especially the down-at-the-heels neighborhood the rich kids call Trashtown. Sixteen-year-old Hailey Tarbell plans to escape when she turns eighteen, leaving behind the poverty-stricken town and her vicious, drug-dealing grandmother. The only things she will take with her into her new life are her four-year-old foster brother, Chub, and her mongrel dog, Rascal. Hailey's life is altered completely when one of her classmates is hurt in gym and she is able to heal the girl's life-threatening injuries. As Hailey, bewildered by her sudden powers, frantically attempts to keep her life on track, a glamorous and enigmatic woman appears at the door, declaring herself to be her aunt Prairie, sister of Hailey's long-dead mother. Prairie provides Hailey with details of her own life and career but is clearly holding back certain key details. Most importantly, why is Prairie hiding from her former employer and why does she evade questions about their shared project? Prairie's appearance plunges Hailey, Chub, and Rascal into a breakneck adventure, running from both Prairie's creepy boss and the sadistic residents of Trashtown who want Hailey for their own disturbing reasons. Award-winning author Littlefield offers teen readers an enthralling and sometimes gory mix of brutal gunmen, high-speed car chases, horrifying zombie armies, long-buried secrets, and a sturdy, resilient narrator with an awesome and occasionally terrifying power. A cliff-hanger climax promises spellbound readers a whole gripping series of Hailey's future exploits. Reviewer: Jamie Hansen
In this formulaic, not-even-barely credible supernatural thriller decorated with stock characters and tiresome chases, high-school sophomore Hailey Tarbell has lived her entire life as an outcast, along with her drug-dealing grandmother and her developmentally challenged foster brother, in small-town Gypsum, Mo. She wonders about her strange and newly discovered ability to heal injuries and the men watching her from their car with tinted windows until her long-lost aunt, Prairie, arrives and explains their mysterious background. Hailey and Prairie descend from a village of Irish Healers, who immigrated to the United States and became known as the Banished. A mad scientist, under the pretense of love, has been studying Prairie's DNA, hoping to create his own Healers, which in turn can bring the near-dead back to "life" as an army of zombies, for sale to the highest-bidding government. With the help of Kaz, a Banished descendant from a splinter village in Poland, they rush to sabotage the scientist's lab in Chicago. A weak ending with an irritating wait-a-minute-I-forgot-something moment leaves room for a sequel. (Paranormal. YA)
Read an Excerpt
When I was eight, the social workers finally made Gram send me to school. Until then, she told the authorities she was homeschooling me, but after years of her never turning in her paperwork or showing up for the mandatory meetings, they finally got fed up and told her I had to go to regular school. Gram gave in; she knew when she was beat.
The first thing I noticed about the other kids was that they all looked like they could be on TV. I called them Cleans. Their clothes were new and ironed smooth. Their hair was shiny and combed. Their nails were trimmed and free of the black grime that I’d had under mine as long as I could remember. No one had to tell me that, compared with these other kids, I was dirty.
That didn’t stop the kids on the bus from reminding me. By the end of my first humiliating ride to school, I’d been called a bunch of names and accused of having cooties and lice and a witch for a grandmother. It was the same thing on the ride home, even though Mr. Francheski pulled the bus over, stood up and hollered, “Was all you kids raised in barns? Where’s your manners? Be nice to this new girl.”
When I got home that first day I was crying. This was long before Chub came to live with us, and even though I knew better than to hope for anything from Gram, I dropped my book bag on the floor and ran to her favorite chair, in front of the television, where she was smoking and watching Montel. I blubbered out what had happened, how the kids had said I was dirty and called me trash. Gram barely shrugged, craning her neck to see over me to the television.
“I guess you know where the soap is at,” she snapped. “And you can drag a brush through that hair, you want. Now git.”
Now, eight years later, I had washed my hair the night before and blown it out with a hair dryer I’d saved up for. I was wearing mascara and lip gloss that I’d bought with the money I’d made working for Gram.
But everything else I had was secondhand, a fact I was always conscious of as I walked the halls at Gypsum High. My clothes were never right. My backpack was never right. My shoes, my notebooks, my haircut, wrong, wrong, wrong—and everyone knew it. Gypsum might be a two-stoplight town in the middle of nowhere, Missouri, but there was a structure like anywhere else: popular kids and in-between kids and losers. And people like me, so far down there wasn’t any point in bothering to classify us.
I had gym second period. My locker was next to Claire Hewitt’s. Claire always smelled faintly of baby powder and motor oil, and her hair frizzed in a cloud around her shoulders. But as I spun my lock, even she flinched away from me.
When you’re near the bottom of the school social ladder, like Claire, the only thing that can really hurt you is to be associated with someone even lower. And there was no one lower than me. Not Claire. Not Emily Engstrom, with her limp and her lazy eye. Not even the Morries. No one at all.
I started changing into my gym clothes, not bothering to say anything to her. What would be the point?
“Hey, Hailey,” Shawna Rosen said, appearing at my side without warning. “Are those nurses’ shoes you’re wearing?”
The girls trailing her pressed in closer to me and stared down at my feet as Claire slammed her locker door shut and slipped hastily away. I could practically feel their excitement. They were never happier than when they could remind some poor girl of the enormous distance between her pathetic existence and life at the top of the heap.
Sometimes, when Shawna and her crew came after me, I stood my ground. I stared into their overly made-up eyes and telegraphed disdain. But this wasn’t one of those days. I shuffled backward, away from Shawna and into the wide aisle between locker rows, bumping into someone behind me, tripping and nearly falling. My hand shot out to steady myself against the wall of lockers, and I was dismayed to see I’d run into a group of Morries.
“Sorry,” I mumbled, but they were gone before I finished speaking, melting down another aisle without a word.
You almost never saw one of the Morries alone. They stuck together at the edge of the halls and the back of the classrooms and the cafeteria tables farthest from the food line in silent clumps of three or four. Like me, they didn’t participate in any sports or clubs or extracurricular activities. The girls wore their hair long, hanging in their faces. The boys were so skinny their dirty, frayed jeans hung off their hips.
They never volunteered in class. If they were called on, the girls would mumble so quietly that teachers soon gave up on them. The boys were bolder, surly and argumentative and sullen. They didn’t care at all about their grades.
They were called Morries after Morrin Street, the main road that ran through Trashtown, which is what everyone called the run-down neighborhood outside of Gypsum half a mile past our house. I don’t know who started calling them that, but if there had ever been a time when the Trashtown kids mixed with the Cleans at school, that time was long gone.
Shawna and her friends got bored with me and wandered off, but I still had to hustle to finish getting dressed, and I was late to gym class. Ms. Turnbull and Mr. Coughlin didn’t notice, since they were busy dragging the vaulting horses and balance beam and parallel bars out of the closet. We counted off and lined up behind the equipment. No one looked very happy about it, but my reasons were probably different from everyone else’s. It wasn’t that I was bad at this stuff. The problem was that I was good—too good.
I used to wonder if God had compensated for making me such a freak, for my lack of friends and horrible home life, with natural athletic ability. If so, I’d love to give it back. I was fast and I was strong, I could balance and throw and catch with amazing accuracy, but instead of helping me fit in with the other kids, it brought me—what else?—more trouble.
In sixth grade my PE teacher noticed I had the third-highest mile time in the school. He had me run sprints and then another mile, eight times around the track, clocking me with his stopwatch. Each time I passed him I could see his expression growing tighter and more excited. When I finished he jogged over to where I was stretching out—they were constantly harping on us about stretching after exercise—and told me he wanted me to start training with the middle-school track team.
I was so surprised I couldn’t come up with a response quick enough. It had never occurred to me that anyone would ask me to join a club or a sport. But of course I couldn’t do it. Gram would never have allowed it. She didn’t even want me attending school. If the social workers hadn’t forced her to send me, she never would have let me out of the house except to do errands.
Once, in grade school, I received an invitation to a birthday party. I ran home, my heart pounding with excitement. I knew that the girl didn’t really want me there, that her mother had made her invite every girl in the class, but I didn’t care. I had never been to a birthday party—Gram didn’t believe in celebrating birthdays, so mine passed every year with no cake, no presents, no singing—and I desperately wanted to go.
Gram read the invitation, her cracked lips moving as she sounded out the words, and then she frowned and tore it into pieces. “No need for you to mix with them kids,” she said.
Years later, when my gym teacher insisted on sending home a permission slip for track, Gram wrote in big block letters across the section of the form where she was supposed to fill in my medical information: HAILEY DOES NOT HAVE MY PERMISHION TO DO ANY SPORT.
Ever since then I’d been careful not to let anyone see me excel at anything.
But today would be tough. I was in the vault line. I stared at the old leather-covered thing, wondering how I could feign clumsiness. It would be hard; if I just hit it head-on, it would hurt plenty. But I wasn’t sure I could stop myself from hurtling over it neatly. How was it possible to act clumsy when you were sailing through the air, your instincts taking over?
I managed, but it took all my concentration. I also forced myself to stumble off the balance beam and pretended to be too weak to support myself on the parallel bars. When Mr. C. glared at me and shook his head with disgust, I felt a flash of pride.
If he only knew.
From the Hardcover edition.