In this suspensful YA debut novel that celebrates the power of true love and never giving up, a young woman learns to rely on her inner strength.
Taken from home and family, all they have is each other.
Isla is kidnapped from a train platform in broad daylight and thrust into a nightmare when she is sold to a sadistic aristocrat. Locked in a dungeon with a dozen other girls, Isla's only comfort is a locket and the memory of the boy she loves. But as the days pass and more girls disappear, she realizes that help is not coming... If they're going to survive, they'll have to escape on their own.
Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads (swoonreads.com), Lydia Albano's debut novel Finding You is a powerful story of a teen girl finding strength and hope even in the worst circumstances.
Praise for Finding You:
"The overriding themes of survival, independence, and resilience are demonstrated throughout . . . a timely reminder that female subjugation must always be fought." VOYA
"Isla’s determination to reunite with her beloved Tam will captivate romance fans, and all will cheer her newfound self-reliance." Booklist
"Suspense and high-stakes situations move the plot forward while romance also plays a strong role." School Library Journal
About the Author
Lydia Albano is a (self-proclaimed) Bunburyist living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she promotes Oxford commas, spends her money on musical theater, and demands the Myers-Briggs letters of everyone she meets. Finding You is her debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
"What are you dressed as?" I ask with a grin, lowering myself onto the hot shingles beside him.
Tam doesn't smile. "I have something for you," he says quietly, squinting up at the sun instead of meeting my eyes. I nudge him, and he takes something from the satchel slumped beside him and thrusts it into my hands. I watch him for a minute, my confusion growing.
He's early; there's no way he's done making deliveries for the grocer yet. "Tam, what —"
"Look at it," he prompts, strangely shy. I begin to unwrap the tiny paper package, which is heavy for its size. "It's nothing too great, really," he starts as I uncover a chain, delicate and a little tangled, with a small brass heart at the end.
My eyes widen. "Where did you get it?"
Tam's smile is proud. "I bought it." It must have cost a fortune, I think. He must have gone to one of the antiques shops downtown.
"Was it terribly expensive?"
He just shrugs, and I force myself to breathe, waiting for the explanation. The silence seems to last forever. "Oh! I've got the other piece, see?" he says eventually, holding up a similar chain that hangs about his neck. This one has a tiny key at the end.
"What's all of this for?" I ask finally. "My birthday isn't till winter and I've —"
"I might not be here." He's quiet, avoiding my eyes suddenly. A whole minute passes, my heart thudding in my temples.
"That's why I came," he explains, talking very fast. "I — a man came to our house. A recruiter. He said that if I joined the army, then my family wouldn't be hungry through the winter, and with my pa not able to work what with his lungs getting so weak, and the kids ... anyway, I registered." He takes a breath, and the silence is heavy on my chest, suffocating me.
All I can say is, "The ... the army?" The sounds of the city fade in and out like a slow pulse. I feel like I've been struck. I can finally place the clothes — the crisp shirt and the boots with all their buttons — I've seen them in photographs, though I never knew what color they were. Pa always frowned and called the flyers propaganda, told me not to believe what they said about the borders starting trouble. "They can't make you —" I finally manage.
"They didn't, Isla. I decided. Good way to see the world, right?" Tam can't lie to me — he's scared. He had a dozen plans of his own: joining the crew of a pirate steamer, building his own aeroplane, or stowing away on an expedition that would take him far beyond the stifling city walls to the wilds outside. ... Joining Nicholas Carr's infamously brutal army was never on his list.
"Wait here," I command, choking back a sob. He's the strong one, the one who risks everything, endures everything.
I slip through the window behind us into my tiny room and rifle through the chest by my bed until I find the spyglass. "I meant to give this to you months ago," I tell him as I climb back onto the roof. "But I was afraid that if you could see far-off places, you wouldn't want to stay here, with me. Maybe ... maybe now you can use it to look back home."
Hesitantly, I place it in his hands. I don't tell him about the day I got it, wandering about the flea markets with my pa. I felt guilty for letting Pa spend the money when I only wanted the spyglass for Tam, but he had insisted when he saw how I lingered at the table. He wouldn't tell me how much he paid, but I knew it was a lot. "I want you to keep it with you," I tell Tam.
Tam's arms envelop me. "You were supposed to come with me," he murmurs, but his voice is unfamiliar, strained, like he's going to cry. His arms tighten and I sink against him, my tears soaking his crisp, new shirt. Tam runs his fingers through my hair; they snag on the tangles, but he doesn't seem to notice, he just goes on about writing letters to me and coming home as soon as he's allowed, and I try to process every moment with him so I can keep them forever in my memory.
Finally he pulls away. I run my hands over my dress, smooth my hair, blink to clear my vision. "I have to go now," he says, his voice a little choked, his eyes a little swollen.
"Now? Right now?" I feel like I'll be sick. "Why didn't —"
"I came as soon as I could." Time is running out right in front of me, I think, starting to panic. I've always had time. Tam is looking at his feet again, and he trails his hand down the side of my arm, sending a shiver through me, even in the stifling heat. "We're leaving any minute; I can't stay or else they'll come looking. We've got to sign in at the train and all that." I try to breathe. He'll be here again tomorrow, a voice in my head insists. But suddenly the heat is unbearable, and I can feel everything unraveling.
"Good-bye, my dear," he whispers, his fingers brushing the side of my face and then lifting my chin a little. He leans in again, but this time he kisses me, his lips soft and cool in the heat of the day. My stomach flips and my eyes droop closed, and when he pulls back, I feel disoriented.
The rooftop seems dizzyingly high as I stare at him, not speaking. Tam smiles a little, like he's unsure again, and touches the little key around his neck. Then he disappears over the ledge, swinging down the rusty iron bars. A moment later, he's on the cobbled street, jogging backward, looking up at me. Then he's around the corner and gone.
My hand hovers at my mouth. He's gone. Tam is gone. Everything is in chaos. The locket and the kiss are at war with the longing and the pain, and suddenly all I can think is that I never told him I love him.
I'm frantically buttoning my boots when Pa comes in, covered in the same gray dust as always.
"So hot today," he sighs, slumping into his usual chair in a cloud of what looks a little like smoke. Even his mustache is covered in it. "They told us that people up the line were passing out." He pauses and I realize he's studying me. "And what's your rush today, love?" "Tam's leaving," I say hurriedly, starting on the second boot.
"Where to? Found a band of ruffians to see the world with at last?" Pa chuckles, shaking his head.
"Sort of," I mumble, and he looks at me sharply.
"Do you mean he's really going, darling?" "He's joining the army, Pa." I tug viciously at the last hook on my boot, which won't button.
After a minute he says softly, "Did Ezra make him go?" "I don't think so."
"And you're going now to see him off?" I nod, sniffling loudly.
"Please let me go, Pa. I'd ask you to come, but I know you're so tired."
"Don't be late, my love. If they're shipping out, the crowds'll be fierce." I don't want to cry again, so I kiss his cheek quickly.
"Hurry! Don't let him leave without a pretty girl to wave to him from the platform!"
"I'll be right back," I say, slipping out the door.
It's three flights of stairs down, but today it feels like a hundred. I shove open the door at the bottom and a wall of sunlight hits me; heat wobbles up off the cobblestones and burns my skin.
Even before I can see, I'm running. The clacking of my boots echoes between the buildings of our complex until I reach open streets, where everything is strangely quiet except for a couple of buggies roaming here and there, looking for passengers. It never takes them long to realize that there's nothing in Industria except the struggling families of a couple of thousand miners. For a really good school or any capable medical treatment, it's an hour in any direction, and a full day's investment to visit a museum, posh shopping plaza, or playhouse in Verity.
There are rows upon rows of rectangular buildings housing the workers' families, but I know the short way through the maze. The sun bounces off bright buildings and glaring windows, and by the time I start to see the crowds, my dress is clinging to my skin with sweat. Pa was right about the madness; people swarm like ants to the station and the air is full of good-byes and demands for caution and letters.
I keep thinking about the family crowded into the flat next door to Pa's and mine whose eldest son joined the army. They tell me that he writes when he can, but even still, it's only once every month or two, and it's never good news: more skirmishes with what the government calls the restless, ungrateful people in the border villages.
I stretch on my toes to try to see above the crowd; I've always counted on Tam for his height, but the heat makes my head ache.
I don't see the soldiers themselves until I worm my way closer to the platform, and then they're everywhere: dressed in the same brick brown as Tam, shoulders straight, boots shining in the sun. I scan the rows: young men, mostly, with different faces and expressions. I don't see Tam. I can't have already missed him, I tell myself.
But then I catch sight of a head of familiar blond hair tossed about by the hot wind that's picking up. My heart jumps and I bob up and down on my toes, grinning. "Tam!" I shout. His head jerks up a little and he scans the crowd, still walking in line with the others. I wave, waiting for him to spot me, as they reach the steps of the train and the officers usher them inside. "Tam!" I try again, frantic.
He sees me.
His eyes catch mine and his face lights up in a grin that I know I'll be forever replaying until he comes back. I open my mouth to shout something — that I'll miss him, that I'll write to him, that I love him — and a hand slaps over my mouth. Someone grabs me around my waist, pinning my arms down, and I'm dragged backward, backward as I try to scream and kick and bite.
In a slow second I lose track of Tam's eyes; I see him stretch to find me again through the crowd, see the officer shove him toward the door of the train car. I thrash and fight, I try to writhe away, but I'm too small, too weak. I lose sight of Tam and the crowd pushes in around me, and still the arms are pulling me backward.
I throw my head back, wrenching it free, and try to scream, and something strikes my temple. My head explodes with pain, my ears ring, blackness clouds my vision.
I wake to a steady sense of motion beneath me and my head jostling against a wall, but when I open my eyes, it's still dark. Sharp pain bites at my hands; I try to move them and realize that my wrists are bound with something that cuts my skin when I struggle. No, no. I tell myself to breathe, to think, not to panic. But my heart is pounding. The air is stale and thick with something that tastes like mildew on my tongue.
I can't be calm. I can't, I can't, I can't. Questions crowd my head: Where am I? Who was it that took me, and why? Where am I going? I try the cords again, despite the sting, but in a moment I feel sticky blood between my hands, and I give up. Before I know it, I'm sobbing.
It's impossible to tell how much time has passed in the darkness, how long I sit curled against the corner of the wall, fear stripping me of my senses. Finally, I clamber painfully to my knees, then my feet. My boots squeak on the slippery floor, but I feel my way up the wall and run my fingers along it. Metal plates, it feels like, welded together in an overlapping pattern with thick rivets at the corners. We must be on a train. Probably in a cargo crate, like I see on the cars lined up at the station. Those hold coal and copper, grain and animals. Not people. Never people.
The only light comes from a rectangle on a far wall, an air vent, probably.
When I stumble toward it, I trip over something and go sprawling. My elbows burn and the cord cuts into my wrists again. I grope about to see what I tripped over and touch what feels like a shoe. It jerks away and someone exclaims.
I'm not alone. Of course I'm not.
I stand again, less steadily now, muttering an apology and straining my ears. Above the hum and screech of the train, I hear them: people all about me, girls, probably, crying and whimpering.
How many are there? My imagination snakes away with ideas about brothels and dark alleys. Everyone knows the stories of the girls who end up being found: the ones who had wandered off or gotten lost, or run away with a lover and then returned in shame. But there's not much to know about the girls who are taken, the ones who just disappear.
They don't tell stories.
They don't come back.
Is that my fate?
I blink again and again, as if that will help my eyes adjust to the darkness, and slowly pick my way toward the vent on the opposite side of the car. I count at least a dozen other figures, but there are probably more.
The vent, when I reach it, is pitiful: a hand's breadth tall and wide, made of warped and rusted metal that lets in only enough fresh air to tease me. I hold my wrists up to the light to see how they're tied, but my fingers can't reach the knots and my teeth are no good. I give up again, holding my hands together to relieve pressure and lessen the pain. For a while I stand there with my head against the grate, trying to will fresh air inside.
Then movement catches my attention; someone else appears, slowly entering the faint circle of light. A girl, a little taller than me, and a little stronger, too, I'd guess. She approaches me cautiously, her movements subtle, catlike.
She comes closer, keeping her balance perfectly in the moving car, and stops at the grate as I did. Now I can see her eyes: quick, light, maybe green. She watches me for a moment and then begins to work at the vent with her fingertips, her hands bound like mine.
"What are you doing?" I ask, and the words come out raspy and dry. She looks me up and down and doesn't answer. Then she goes back to what she's doing, pulling at the corners of the grate and the rivets. "I don't see what that will do," I mutter, slumping against the wall again.
"I don't care what you think," says the girl, not looking at me this time. "If there's a way out of here, I'll find it."
"Through a hole the size of your hand?" I ask. I regret the sarcasm instantly, even if she is wasting her energy. Neither of us wants to be in here, or wants to know what comes next.
She narrows her eyes at me and continues to work at the metal. "You can give up," she says, just when I've stopped expecting her to speak again. "I never will. I'll do whatever it takes to get out of here." I sink to the ground, my back against the wall, which is warm from the sun.
Some time later, the cat-girl abandons her scheme and drops to the ground as well. She doesn't speak to me, or weep, or move at all, as far as I can tell. In moments of near silence, I hear her measured breathing.
But there are other voices around me, crying or muttering to themselves. Someone sings under her breath, a hoarse, raspy song in a language I don't know. Eventually the sound ceases. What happens when the movement stops? I don't want to think about it, and nothing changes for what feels like a lifetime.
I start to wish I were braver, like the strange girl beside me. I don't know what it is that allows her to keep cool, but it's foreign to me, and I wish I weren't weak and small. The realization that Tam has always been my courage is like a smack. Without him I have nothing to protect me, none of my own strength, no store of bravery to pull from. My helplessness frustrates me.
A year must pass in the darkness. When we stop, it's sudden, and I'm thrown forward. Pain sears my wrists, and my elbows slam against the hard floor for the second time. I suck on the inside of my cheeks, trying to stop crying, trying not to think about what might be waiting. I press my eyes shut, wishing this were a dream that I could wake from.
Movement throws us again as the container rocks back and forth, is picked up, and then set down, adjusted and then adjusted some more. I take a slow breath in, and then out. With each breath, my chest shudders.
The moment that Tam kissed me replays behind my eyes when I close them. His eyes, nervous when he leaned in, my lips more nervous still ... It was so right. What if I never see him again? What if that was the last time? At least I have the locket, tangible proof that he feels ... something. That he cares. Gingerly, my hands bleeding and my wrists burning, I twist the chain about and unclasp it, holding on to it as if for my life.
The stillness is worse than the movement was. We wait and wait. It might be hours or days. It might only be minutes. My stomach is hollow; the air becomes even closer, and toxic smells — sweat, urine — overwhelm me. I want to hold my breath, but the heat is oppressive; as the walls gradually get warmer, it feels as if we're being baked alive. My dress clings to me like a cobweb.
Time drags on, hot and damp and heavy.
Excerpted from "Finding You"
Copyright © 2017 Lydia Albano.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Isla and Tam are two young people torn apart by circumstance. When Tam leaves to join the army, he gives Isla a heart locket to which he has the matching key. Isla is kidnapped while seeing him off at the train station and ends up in a dungeon, along with several other young girls. During her incarceration and the distressing events that ensue, Isla maintains her sanity by her unwavering faith that Tam will come to her rescue. The heart locket is her symbol of this hope and, when it is taken from her, Isla realizes she must plan her own escape. Will Isla and Tam ever be reunited and, if so, at what cost? The book is set in a dystopian future, a world where there is no electricity, no motor vehicles, nor any modern methods of communication. How this world came to be is not explained. But the themes of the story are timeless, and the main theme of sex trafficking is especially timely. The book is slow to begin, but the pace picks up halfway through, when the story switches from Isla's captivity to being on the run. The book is very well-written, with some wonderful lines, but I found the overuse of the words "grating" and "rifling" to be, quite frankly, grating. From the very first line, there is no doubt that Isla is in love with Tam. However, she is not sure that he reciprocates her feelings. It is this doubt that gives Isla the impetus to grow in confidence and self-reliance throughout the course of the book. She goes from being mild and bookish to being the leader of her ragtag band of new friends. Given this growth, I was disappointed by how she was "rescued" toward the end of the book. Although, as Isla herself says, "Maybe everyone needs saving sometimes." While this story is complete, the author leaves it open for a sequel. Warnings: sexual references, graphic violence. Full blog post (22 September): https://booksdirectonline.blogspot.com/2017/09/finding-you-by-lydia-albano.html
Not only is there beautiful, lyrical prose throughout, but the characterization is fabulous. Each girl that Isla encounters is uniquely their own and have these delicious and fleshed out backstories that makes me want about a million spinoffs (Valentina and Marion's stories first and foremost). Watching Isla grow into the strong, confident, brave woman who is willing to risk her own life for each girl who might fall into the same fate is truly breathtaking to read. I'm eagerly awaiting the continuation of Isla's story!