In Mitali Perkins’ Forward Me Back to You, two teens trying to reconcile their pasts with their present meet on a service trip to Kolkata, where they’re working with survivors of human trafficking. Katina is a jujitsu champ whose physical prowess can’t vanquish all her demons. Robin was adopted from an orphanage in India, and his feeling of rootlessness is making it difficult to move forward. The book explores the long shadow of violence—and the power good works can have to disrupt its effects. It isn’t out till April 2, but you can feast your eyes on the epic cover now, then read our exclusive reveal of the book’s first chapter.
INT. KING APARTMENT, EAST OAKLAND—NIGHT
Canine. Feline. Avian.
Backs to a wall, dogs bite. Felines scratch. Birds peck.
Katina King classifies herself as a mountain lion.
She might have become a tame cat in a safer world. But when she was eleven, her body changed so fast it turned her into prey. Nothing she could do to stop luring canine eyes, so she’d put on a feral mask since then to prowl the hills of Oakland.
Fangs, claws, snarl.
They should have kept wolves away, but they didn’t.
Later, she realizes she should have called the cops. But she doesn’t even tell her mother what happened until she’s caught throwing up in the middle of the night. Kat’s so tired from three nights of no sleeping that the truth comes hurtling out before she can stop it.
“He did ?” Kat’s always seen her mother as a pigeon. But if someone comes after her daughter, look out for beak and talons. “I’m calling Saundra right now. Oh, honey!”
The two of them are on the sofa sitting so close it sounds like Mom’s best friend is in Kat’s ear. “Let me talk to her,” Saundra says.
Mom hands over the phone. It’s wet with tears. Disgusting wolf. Kat hates him even more for making Mom cry. , she thinks.
“When did it happen, Filhote?” Saundra asks. She’s in Panther mode—even uses Kat’s Brazilian jujitsu nickname. Kat’s been since she started training with “Pantera” at eleven; this is the same growl that’s coached her to victory over other aggressive jujitsu opponents.
“Three days ago. In the stairwell. At school.”
“Don’t think so.”
“Any bruising—apart from what you got at practice? Scratches on your skin?”
“Nothing new.” Kat’s scrubbed so hard in the shower it feels like she doesn’t have much of her own DNA left on her skin.
“Still got the clothes you were wearing? Did you wash them?”
Kat hesitates. “No. I put them in the trash.”
“When’s garbage pickup?”
“Yesterday.” But her mind’s been a blur.
Saundra doesn’t yell like she does when Kat makes a dumb jujitsu move. “Be there in ten,” she says instead.
Mom’s crying hard now. Kat puts an arm around her shoulder and pulls her close. This is exactly why she didn’t tell her mother right away.
Saundra gets to their apartment so fast Kat wonders if she used the siren on her patrol car. “You okay?” she asks, scanning Kat’s face.
Kat has her fiercest fighting expression locked into place. “I took care of him.”
Mom sits up. “How? Saundra, he tried to—”
“He didn’t, though.” Kat turns to Saundra. “Couldn’t think at first—it didn’t seem real—but then the instincts kicked in. Used a Kimura to break his hold.”
“Good job,” says Saundra. “Any injuries for him?”
“Broken pinkie, rotator cuff sprain.” Kat takes a breath. “He’s saying it happened during a pickup basketball game.”
“We’ll report him to the police,” Mom says. “It’s not too late, is it, Saundra?”
Saundra sighs. “No hard evidence, Mary. It would be her word against his. But I’ll drive you to the station if you want. Take a moment, Kat; think hard.”
That’s what she shouts when an opponent’s got Kat trapped on the mat. Take a moment, think about your next move, think hard. And so Kat does. Cops or no cops? What would she gain if she reported him? Nothing, really. Just more time on the mat with that wolf.
She has to. It’s second semester of junior year. ACTs are coming up. She works twenty hours a week at the zoo. Jujitsu practice and matches. Chores and paying bills. Honors classes. College applications staring her in the face.
“No cops,” she says.
“He assaulted you, Kat!” Mom says.
“I stopped him.”
“Nothing happened!” Kat pushes her mother away and stands up. “I’m FINE. the one who’s injured—not me!”
“Then why were the one throwing up?” Mom asks. “We have to tell someone. The school, at least.”
Kat scowls. “Nobody’ll believe me,” she mutters.
Why would they? He’s a basketball alpha. They rule the school. On top of that, he’s charming, handsome enough to be a local social media celebrity, high GPA. Grew up in the hills in one of those big houses with two lawyer parents who donate big bucks to Sanger Academy.
And Kat? She overheard a whispered conversation once in the bathroom.
“Filhote, this isn’t just about you,” Saundra says, interrupting Kat’s thoughts, and her voice is gentler now. “What if the next girl can’t fight him off?”
She hasn’t thought about him trying that stairwell stunt again.
Saundra’s right. Kat’s going to have to speak the truth at Sanger Academy.
Forward Me Back to You is on sale April 2, and available for preorder now.