22 minutes separate Julia Vann's before and after.
Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.
After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.
Now that she’s Lucy Black, her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy’s forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind. How far will Julia go to keep her slate clean?
One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . .
In this deliciously twisted contemporary YA, family can be a real killer. For fans of We Were Liars and readers who love unique multiple perspectives that leave clues like breadcrumbs until they reach this thriller’s stunning conclusion.
"The closest we're going to get to a YA Gone Girl. . . . I was shocked and delightfully appalled by the twist and what followed. (Just read it; it's disturbingly wonderful, especially for YA.)" Entertainment Weekly
"Teen fans of Gillian Flynn and James Patterson will embrace Damage Done and clamor for more." Booklist
"Exceedingly clever and surprisingly unsettling, Damage Done is an unforgettable read." Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of Made for You
"In her incredible debut novel, Amanda Panitch leaves you on the edge of your seat. Prepare to be stunned. Prepare to be torn apart." Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist
"A real page-turner. . . . Nothing can prepare readers for its bombshell ending."
New York Daily News
"A brilliant thriller. Gillian Flynn for the YA set." Amy Christine Parker, author of Gated
"If you're a fan of shows like Pretty Little Liars or Revenge, give this book a try." Bustle.com
|Random House Children's Books
|5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)
|14 - 17 Years
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I have one picture left of my brother. I used to keep it in my underwear drawer with the other photos I'd hidden from my parents, confident that my lacy unmentionables, at least, would be safe from my dad's searching hands. I was wrong. The picture survived only because it'd slipped behind the drawer.
It's a good picture. The taker, long forgotten, managed to catch us both midlaugh, dark curls flying around our faces, arms draped over each other's shoulders. We were thirteen, maybe fourteen. Young. Innocent. Or at least I was.
The picture is the last thing of my brother I have left, period. My parents' preliminary sweep, right after the incident, took his notebooks and papers but left me with more: his varsity swimming jacket, which still smelled like chlorine and sweat and Axe, and some of his books, big, fat fantasies with page corners so creased and worn they fluttered to the ground like frenzied moths when I flipped through them.
I lost the jacket and books when we moved, right before my parents sold the house and I became Lucy Black. I'd gone out for a run, still Julia Vann, and returned to find my things all in boxes, my clothes crammed into garbage bags that smelled like tar. I sank to my knees in the doorway, suddenly dizzy, wondering if I'd pulled a Rip van Winkle and fallen into a trance, running for what felt like forty-five minutes but was actually forty-five days.
"Mom?" I said hesitantly. She stood up from behind a stack of boxes. "What's going on?"
She swiped at her cheek with the back of her hand. "There was a reporter in the bushes when I went to take out the trash," she said. "Everybody stares when I leave the house. I can't do it anymore, Julia. I just can't."
So that's how we disappeared from Elkton, leaving behind bags of trash, our old names crumpled on the floor like dirty tissues, and the eleven skull-sized bloodstains on the floor of my high school band roommy brother's goodbye.
It took me a good three weeks to learn to respond when people called me Lucy. That was my new name, though I hadn't officially changed it; it wasn't like we were in witness protection or anything. Anyone who really, really wanted to track us down probably could haveLucy is my middle name, and Black is my mom's maiden name. But the public's memory is short, and it's a long way from the top of California to the bottom, and so nobody had called me anything but Lucy in over a year. Not Julia, not bitch, not murderer. It was quite refreshing.
So when Alane called out "Lucy!" my head turned automatically. I wondered, as I usually did, whether I'd still turn if she yelled "Julia!" I didn't feel much like a Julia anymore. I'd left Julia behind when I carved her name into the music stand I later hid behind as my brother sprayed the room with bullets. An obituary in C minor.
"I'm coming!" I yelled from my front stoop, hoisting my books higher in my arms. Six classes today meant five books to keep track of. They strained my shoulders as I ran down the driveway to Alane's truck. I slid into the passenger seat and dumped the stack into the well. "Sorry. I dropped all my stuff looking for my keys."
She snorted and stepped on the gas. The truck lurched forward, scattering my books and uncovering the quarter-sized hole in the passenger-side well under my feet. I usually loved peering through it when we stopped at red lights and parking spots, where I'd seen all sorts of cool stuff. Loose change. Dead things ground into the pavement. "Maybe you should get a backpack like a normal person."
My brother had borrowed my backpack that day. He'd looked so ridiculous, barreling into the band room with my old neon-pink-and-purple bag, that my mouth had still been open in a laugh when he pulled out the gun.
I pushed my books into a neat stack and clenched them between my calves. "Maybe your face should get a backpack."
"Ouch." She rolled her eyes. "Good one. I might need a skin graft for that burn."
The ride to school was bumpy. Physically. Every ride was bumpy in Alane's truck, or, as I affectionately called it, Alane's heap of scrap metal. I kept a running account of everything I thought (or pretended) I saw through the hole. "A dime. Part of a hubcap. Something rubber. Ooh! Gold doubloons!"
"Arr, matey," Alane snarled. She squinched one eye shut as if she were wearing an eye patch. Which was not a good idea, if you think about it, because she was driving. "If you do really be finding gold doubloons, arr, you could buy your own ship and sail your own self around."
I stiffened. "I don't drive. You know that." My voice came out colder than I'd intended, and Alane's face fell. "Besides," I quickly added, "you know you love being my chauffeur. You should just let me call you Jeeves."
"Jeeves is for butlers," she said, but her shoulders had relaxed and there was a smile twitching at the corners of her lips. My own shoulders relaxed in turn.
Any tension in the truck fizzled out as we pulled into the student parking lot. We were on the late side of on time thanks to my book-dropping mishap (and also my hitting-snooze-too-many-times mishap, and my oatmeal-burning mishapit had been a morning full of mishaps), and so the lot was nearly empty, students mostly inside, leaving their cars gleaming iridescently in the sunlight like beetle shells.
"We're going to be late," Alane observed.
"Not if we run."
She frowned at me. "Running is bad for you."
"Running is good for your heart."
"It's bad for your spirit. And you can't survive without spirit."
"But you can without a heart?" Her frown deepened, and fear shot through me. I might have gone too farI didn't want to make her mad. I slung an arm around her shoulders and leaned in. "Kidding. Just look at the Tin Man. He survived quite well without a heart."
She smiled. "Just look at most of the kids in our class. They survive without a brain."
I laughed and pulled away as we began our walk across the parking lot. Heat still rose from the cars' hoods; some of their engines were still pinging. Unless they all jumped to life and piled upon one another to form some kind of giant Transformer car ready to take over the world, we would probably hit our desks before the late bell rang.
Halfway across the parking lot, I could hear the tinny ringing of the homeroom bell inside. We had a full three minutes to make it. No problem. I stretched my free arm and cracked my neck, and the laughter died in my throat.
There was a man standing at the distant edge of the parking lot, his arms crossed, his face lean and tan. Trendy glasses, large squares, covered what I knew were dark eyes. He was squinting in our direction like he was staring directly into the sun. Even from this far away I could tell his suit was wrinkled and his tie askew. I turned away. Looking at him was like staring directly into the sun, too. Dangerous.
"Alane," I said, or tried to say. It didn't come out. My throat had turned to stone. I coughed, breaking the stone into a hundred pebbles that rattled down my neck and settled in my stomach with the weight of a boulder. "Alane, do you see that guy over there?"
She'd pulled slightly ahead of me when I'd stopped to look, and now she paused and sighed. "Come on, Lucy. If we don't hurry, we'll be late, and I really don't want to have to tell Mrs. Corey her lead soprano won't be at show choir practice today because she has detention."
"Just one second," I said. "Please."
She turned slowly and glanced behind me. "I don't see anything," she said. "Now will you come on?"
I looked back. She was right. No one was there. "There was a guy standing there," I said. My voice sounded as tinny as the bell. "I saw him."
"It was probably just someone running late," she said abruptly. "Maybe a teacher. Lucy, seriously, come on!"
I nodded. Again, I couldn't speak. That hadn't been a teacher running late. I knew that man.
Or, rather, Julia Vann had known that man.
I let Alane lead me into the building, the force of her walk pulling me along at a near-run. We slid into our seats just as the late bell unleashed its war cry through the halls.
"You okay?" she asked once we were safely seated. I was staring at the surface of my desk, trying to find some sense in the grains of fake wood. "You look like you just swallowed a squirming puppy."
That was an oddly descriptive way to say, Lucy, you look crazy. Because that was how I must have looked. I couldn't have seen that man, not here. This was it. I'd finally cracked.
The teacher began calling attendance, and I gestured toward the teacher and then at my lips. Can't talk now. Alane's eyes washed over me with one of her concerned looks, but she turned her attention to the front all the same. I raised my hand when I heard "Black, Lucy" and then let myself disappear into my head.
Once upon a time I'd had a squirming puppy. No, Julia Vann had had a squirming puppy. A yappy little thing, more fur than sense, with a pink rhinestone collar that proclaimed FLUFFY in big bubble letters. (Julia had been tencut her some slack.) For two months, Julia loved that dog like it was a baby, or like how a ten-year-old imagined someone would love a baby. Then one day Julia went out into the backyard and found the dog sans fur, its organs on the wrong side of its skin, its tail missing. And there was Ryan, holding the knife.
You have to understand, my brother and I were born hand in hand. As in, we literally had our fingers entwined inside the womb. My mom and dad had been all set for a natural birth: no drugs, certified midwife, pool in the living room. They ended up having to rush to the hospital for an emergency C-section because the two of us just wouldn't let go. My dad said we didn't cry as they lifted us out and exposed us to this bright, cold new world. We didn't cry until they wrenched us apart. Our parents tried making us sleep in separate bassinets, one on either side of their bed, but they quickly learned neither of us would sleep without the warmth of the other curled alongside.
And so that was why I didn't scream. Of course it was also because Ryan had glanced between me and my beloved dog, unconsciously insinuating that the same thing could quite easily happen to me. I'd backed away slowly, still retching, until my mom poked her head out at the noise.
Ryan assured me later as I cried that I must have been imagining that glance, because he was my twin, my other half, and he would never do anything to hurt me. I was a female version of him, after all. We shared the same genes. Had been tied together before we were even born. I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling him how very different I was. But still I pleaded on Ryan's behalf, saying that it must have been an accident, it wasn't as bad as it looked, and so instead of sending him away, my parents made him start biweekly sessions with a psychologist, Dr. Atlas Spence. Dr. Spence wore a perpetually wrinkled suit and hipster glasses that didn't suit his solemn demeanor. I never spotted him without either during the months Ryan saw him, or later, during the few weeks I saw him before my family fled Elkton.
After the incident, my parents and I became modern-day Medusasnobody would look us in the face. Neighbors we'd once shared potluck dinners withwhose kids I'd babysatlost the ability to knock on a door or ring a doorbell. The friends I'd had who were still above the dirt suddenly weren't answering their phones. Even the people who were supposed to sympathize with usthe policetended to be brusque and stare at their notes rather than look me in the eye.
Dr. Spence was no exception. The week after the shooting, which I'd mostly spent cocooned in blankets, my parents summoned him to our house, ushering me and the good doctor into the living room and shutting the door behind us. I took the armchair, leaving Dr. Spence to take the couch. I wasn't going to be one of those people who stretched out and yawned and let all their secrets float away like dandelion fluff.
"Julia," he said. He perched on the edge of the cushion, notebook and pen on his lap, his legs crossed. One foot jittered hypnotically. I couldn't look away. "How are you feeling?"
I wrenched my eyes away from his jiggling foot and stared at the fireplace. A week ago, the mantel had been cluttered with family photos in crystal frames: me and my brother as toddlers with gap-toothed grins; me and my brother dressed up as Aladdin and Jasmine for Halloween in fourth grade; me and my brother holding our instruments high, clarinet and trumpet, respectively, when we started band in middle school. They weren't there anymore. I would've settled for smashed frames, bits of crystal everywhere, or even having them tipped over, bowing, like they were as devastated as we were. But they were just gone, as if they'd never been there at all.
"Wonderful," I said, my voice heavy with sarcasm. "How do you think?"
He lowered his head and scribbled something on his pad. "Sometimes we use sarcasm as a way of masking our true feelings," he said gravely. "It sounds like that's what you're doing here."
"Really?" I said. "Does it? I hadn't realized."
"It does," he said, and then furrowed his brow. "You're being sarcastic again."
"Way to earn that PhD, Doc."
He wrote something else down, then leaned back and met my eyes. His were big, doleful behind the pair of blocky black frames. "You sound angry," he said. "Nobody would blame you. I would be angry, too."
"It's not your fault, what happened," he said. "You are not your brother. You did not do this, and people should not blame you."
I looked him hard in the eye, and I almost believed him.
And then he flinched. A tiny, nearly imperceptible flinch, one I probably wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been looking for it. To his credit, he continued staring me in the face, even if he was afraid I'd go for a gun or a knife, or jam his pen through his eye while he was looking at me. Or that my brother would burst through my skin, laughing maniacally, wearing our almost identical dark curls and hazel eyes and permanently rosy cheeks.