An enthralling YA story of friendship and rebellion from the acclaimed author of Article 5 and Glass Arrow.
Kristen Simmons's Metaltown, where factories rule, food is scarce, and hope is in short supply.
The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.
Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right.
In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.
An enthralling story of friendship and rebellion, Metaltown will have you believing in the power of hope.
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By Kristen Simmons
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 Kristen Simmons
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"Go halves with me — you want pigeon or rat?"
Ty swiped at her nose with the back of her hand, making the threadbare, fingerless glove bunch around her wrist. The cold had drawn bright blotches to the exposed skin between her hat and tattered scarf, and as the line to Hayak's corner cart shortened and pulled them beneath the yellow glow of the streetlight, Colin could make out the hooked scar on her chin, and a fading brown bruise on her jaw.
"What's the difference?" They all looked the same to Colin: charred fists of meat. He stamped his feet and shrugged deeper into his wool coat. It was too big — big enough to fit another sweater inside if he'd had one, which he didn't. The bitter predawn wind clawed right up his stomach and back, freezeburning his skin.
Ty's thick, straight brows lifted, but refused to arch. "One flies, Prep School. Surprised you didn't know that." She snorted, revealing a crooked front tooth.
Colin frowned. He hadn't been to school since he was thirteen, more than four years ago. That life was in the past.
"Rat," he said, because it was her less favorite of the two. "And I call the nose."
"Course you do." She spat on the ground, then rubbed it into the cracked sidewalk with the heel of her boot. "You talk. Hayak likes you better."
"That's 'cause I'm likable, Ty." He grinned now, and she rolled her eyes.
Another customer served, and they moved to the front of the line.
Hayak, a greasy man three times their age with a shock of white hair and a peppered beard, looked up from his rotisserie and grimaced.
"No," he said. "No, not you two. Not today. Hayak cannot feed you today. You go away."
Colin flashed his best smile and pulled off his hat in an attempt to look less shifty. "Come on, Hayak. You said we could pay at the end of the week —"
"No." He shook his finger at them sternly. "No, you say you pay at the end of the week. Hayak say you can pay now."
Colin looked over his shoulder and winced at the grumbling line behind him. Stepping off to the side, he cuffed the man's burly shoulder. "You know I'm good for it, Hayak. You know I wouldn't lie."
He hid a smirk as Ty eased up beside the cart behind him and stashed a handful of fry scraps up her coat sleeve. If he could just turn Hayak a little more, she could reach the black spit and the hunk of charred meat pierced on the end.
The man directly behind her was crowding up in line, making a quick circle with his hand for Ty to pass him some. She raised a silent fist, like she might punch him, and he fell back a step.
"Hayak, you're right, I should have given you money last week. Only I didn't get paid, okay? So it wasn't my fault." That much was true. Hampton Industries was fat on green. So fat, it didn't get off its lazy ass to pay its workers half the time.
As Hayak shouted back, his face turned progressively redder and his eyes began to bulge. It was just a matter of time before he went for the tongs to beat Colin upside the head. Colin pulled his hat back down over his ears, taking the lecture with a feigned look of shame. Shifting left drew the cart man's gaze further away from Ty. She was just about to make a grab for the prize when motion behind her caught Colin's eye.
A man approached, wearing clean trousers and a coat swollen with enough stuffing to make Colin shiver at his own lack of protection from the cold. He had that yellowed, sunless skin, pockmarked at the tops of his cheekbones, and long hair, greased nice, and pulled into a tail at the back of his skull.
Jed Schultz. The People's Man. The voice of the Brotherhood — the people who represented the workers' rights at the steel mill where Colin's ma was employed. He was flanked by a man twice his size but half as bright. A hammer, hired to watch Jed's back so the greenback bosses couldn't stick a knife in it. Colin thought his name was Imon, and had heard he'd come from somewhere in the mountains, north of the TriCity. A place so cold your breath turned to ice before it left your mouth.
Colin coughed once, and Ty abandoned her mission without so much as a glance up.
"Morning, Hayak," said Jed. He walked straight to the front of the line. Those who'd been waiting didn't mind — Jed did right by the poor folks, so Jed got whatever he wanted in Metaltown.
"Mr. Schultz, good morning. Yes," Hayak recovered, keeping Colin in his sight.
"How's the bird?" Jed asked.
"Good, good. I give you my best one. Here." Hayak stepped back behind the center of his cart, and rotated the rotisserie once over the flames to warm the round carcass Colin had been eyeing. His stomach grumbled. Saliva filled his mouth. He'd eaten yesterday, but it felt like longer.
He swallowed as Hayak wrapped the bird in paper and handed it to the People's Man. Jed nodded, just slightly, cuing Imon to step forward and withdraw a wallet from the breast pocket of his coat. There was a stack of bills in the fold, and as he unfurled one after another, Colin's eyes grew wide as dinner plates. Jed was flush as a greenback. There was a bite of jealousy, then a swell of admiration. He wondered what it would be like, just once, to walk up to Hayak's cart and buy whatever he wanted.
"Your money's no good here, Mr. Schultz," said Hayak, a huge smile plastered across his face. Colin couldn't help gagging, to which Hayak responded with a glare.
"Good man," said Jed. Imon put his money away. Jed turned to Colin. "You like pigeon, Mr. Walter?"
Colin's eyes went wide. He wiped his hands off on the front of his coat, aware of ten pairs of eyes that swung his way. They were surprised, Colin knew, that Jed knew his name. He was surprised himself.
"Yes, sir." Colin's mouth gaped like a fish when Jed handed him the steaming, charred meat. White bubbles of fat had already begun to congeal against the puckered skin in the cold; a good sign the bird was thick, not hollow. "Whoa. Thank you, Mr. Schultz."
"How's Cherish, Colin?" His eyes were dark and piercing. Powerful, Colin thought. He wondered if he was capable of such a commanding stare himself. Jed and Imon had stepped in front of Ty, and she was slowly backing into the line opposite them, head down, hat pulled over her ears. Colin gave her a puzzled look — it wasn't like Ty to back away from anyone, famous or not.
"She's okay. The money you sent helped, thank you, sir. The doc said she needs clean water for drinking. That's what we bought." Colin had stiffened at the mention of family but tried to play it cool. Jed didn't need to be bothered with all the details.
"Good boy," said Jed, nodding with interest. Colin relaxed. "So Colin, Hayden was supposed to meet me this morning. He say anything to you about it?" Jed reached for another hunk of meat — rat or pigeon, Colin couldn't tell — and returned Hayak's smile.
Colin tensed again. His brother had grown unpredictable these last few years. Hayden was three years older than Colin, but had never adjusted to Metaltown the way Colin had. Ma said it was because he'd gotten his heart broken when they'd pulled him out of school. She didn't know the half of it.
Colin's fingers were beginning to thaw beneath the crinkling paper holding the bird. Dawn was coming, turning the darkness to the chronic steely haze that burned off the chem plant across the bridge in thick, white plumes. The air had a sweet, heady odor that would only grow stronger as the day plowed on.
"He's been sick," said Colin. "He did say he was going to meet you, but I guess he fell behind. He was up puking all night." Which was probably true, wherever he was. Colin hadn't seen him in two days. Ty's chin lifted in surprise before digging back into her scarf.
Jed scowled. "Not the flu, I hope."
"No sir, just ate something rotten." He was going to punch Hayden square in the face when he surfaced.
"Well, that's okay then," said Jed. "Since he's indisposed, maybe you can do me a favor." Jed leaned against the cart, tearing a hunk out of the meat in his grip with his chew-stained teeth.
Colin took Jed's lead, and bit straight into the wing. It was tough and gamey, but warm. He felt Ty's glare from behind Jed.
"Yeah. Sure, okay," said Colin.
"A friend of mine lost his girl to the corn flu a few weeks past. He's been missing work, and I'd hate to see them lose their place over it."
Colin nodded. Jed did this kind of stuff a lot. Just two weeks prior, Colin's ma hadn't made her quota at the mill and the foreman had refused to pay her. Their cupboards were already bare, and just before the heat was shut off, Hayden came home with a wad of cash, courtesy of the People's Man. It had been enough to keep their lights on, and put food in their bellies for days.
Jed stepped away from the cart, and the people in line tentatively resumed their shuffle.
"They live in Bakerstown, by the Cat's Tale, you know where that is?"
"Sure," said Colin, taking another bite. He used to live in Bakerstown before he'd left school.
Imon removed the wallet again, this time taking out a stash of green bills half an inch thick. Colin had to remind himself to keep chewing. Just one of those bills could fill six jugs with clean drinking water. Another could pay the power at his apartment through the next month. One more could mean food, real food — bread and beans and salted pork — for dinner, not just broth like they had every night.
"Can you take this down to him this morning? One-fourteen Fifth Street."
Colin waffled, glancing at Ty. She was shaking her head no, but when Jed followed his gaze she immediately fixed her eyes on a hole in her shirtsleeve.
He faced Colin again. "I can count on you, right Colin?"
"Yeah. Of course, Mr. Schultz. It's just that I've got work in an hour, and the Cat's Tale is way up Fifth Street. I mean, I'll do it, it's just ... You know how the foreman gets if you're late." Colin couldn't afford to push his luck with Minnick. The man had fired two workers just last week for getting sick on the job — something that happened a lot on account of the hazardous materials they dealt with. But he didn't want to get on Jed's bad side either, not after how good Jed had been to his family.
Jed smiled. "I'll talk to your foreman. You're in Small Parts labor, right?"
"Yes, sir," said Colin.
"Good. Go ahead and take your pal." He stuck a thumb behind him in Ty's direction.
The concern that had come into Jed's face while he'd been talking about the family dissipated. He slung a hand around the back of Colin's neck and gave a companionable squeeze. "You're a good kid, aren't you? Remind me of me when I was your age. Man of the house."
Colin grinned, and felt his ears grow warm under his hat. Technically, Hayden was the man of the house, but Hayden wasn't here, was he? Colin wasn't so irritated that his brother had blown off Jed anymore. In fact, Hayden could go right ahead and stay gone as long as he liked.
Imon handed him the stack of money, and Colin, fighting the urge to count it, folded it into the front pocket of his trousers.
"Say hello to Cherish for me." Jed turned back the way he'd come, disappearing into the gray smog.
Colin felt ten feet tall. Breakfast, a personal hello from the biggest man in Metaltown, and the morning off work? It couldn't get much better than that.
"Wipe that grin off your ugly face." Ty snatched the remainder of the bird from his loose grasp. He pulled his hat back, smoothed one gloved hand over his buzzed head, and winked at her.
"Ugly," Ty repeated. Then they turned the opposite way, toward Bakerstown and the rising sun.CHAPTER 2
Ty bit down on something that crunched, and pulled a white shard of pigeon bone from her cheek. It was thin as a needle, and she used it to pick at the food stuck in the gaps between her teeth. She may not have liked where the feast had come from, but she wasn't about to turn it down. Pride didn't fill your belly like a roasted pigeon.
"Smells good out here," Colin said from beside her. She glanced over, but he wasn't smiling like he had been for the last mile — he was biting his pinky nail. She felt her own brows draw together in response.
The air did smell cleaner; anywhere outside the grasp of the factory district did. But though the sun didn't have to cut through a filter of smog, it wasn't like the place was perfect. The poor ran thick here, crowding the street beside them, begging at each red brick shop front for food and work.
Funny how they didn't come to Metaltown to beg for work.
"Don't lie. You know you love the smell of nitro in the morning," she said, glad to see his hand lower from his mouth and his grin return.
The crumbling sidewalk they walked down ran beside an iron fence that twisted and spiraled like the ivy that clung to it. It would have been posh had the park within not grown over like a jungle. It was even stocked with wild animals: dopers and sellers and the kind of people who knew how to get anything you wanted — for the right price. At least half of them were in the earliest stages of the corn flu.
She felt the switchblade lodged into her boot, and another knife in her waistband. Always ready, just in case.
"How much did Jed's man give you?" she asked, changing the subject. She would have suggested pocketing a few bills for themselves, but she knew better. Nothing was free in Metaltown. She'd bet a week's pay that Imon's muscle work wasn't limited to greenback thugs.
"I don't know, but it's burning a hole through my leg." Colin was thinking of lifting it too, she knew he was. They were two like minds. Had been since she'd taken him under her wing four years ago, fresh out of prep school.
She glanced his way, noticing the changes in him. Metaltown had made him hard. His sky blue eyes had turned to steel, and his dark, shaggy hair had been shorn close to the skull to cut the heat inside the plant. Hands used to writing facts and figures had grown strong and calloused, and he had muscles, too, beneath those baggy clothes.
She'd been eleven and he'd been thirteen when they'd met, but their ages might as well have been reversed. He'd known nothing about work, and for some unknown reason she'd taken pity on him and called a safety. According to street rules that made her responsible until he could stand on his own two feet. Now he was a leech. She couldn't shake him if she tried.
"Let's count it," she said, feeling a different, greedy kind of hunger take over. Even if they couldn't lift it, she could feel the paper in her hands and imagine what it'd be like to buy whatever she wanted.
"Yeah right," he said, and his shoulders pulled forward again. "We passed the beltway. We're on McNulty's turf now. One sniff of green and they'll be on us like flies on rot."
"Let 'em come then," she said, tapping the handle of the knife she kept in her waistband. "I'm not scared of any Bakerstown pansies."
His barked-out laugh had her cheeks suddenly warm. "Just like you were going to take Jed and his man, right?"
She fought the urge to sock him between the eyes. "I could take 'em."
"Course you could've," he said. "Imon only outweighs you by a hundred and fifty pounds."
She tossed the bird carcass into the trash-filled gutter. "I'll take you in a second."
"Such a tease." He shoved her off the sidewalk.
She pushed him back, maybe a little too hard, irritated that all the layers of clothes she wore suddenly made her too hot. He bounced off the iron fence, laughing.
The clang of a doorbell from one of the shops across the street drew their attention to a couple exiting a deli. They were flush, that much was obvious. Smart clothes — a black peacoat and slick leather shoes on the man, a swanky black dress on the woman — and clean, brown skin. The woman's small brimmed hat with its fishnet veil had Ty wondering what purpose such ridiculous clothes could possibly serve.
The couple waited for the doorman to clear a path through the beggars, then headed down the sidewalk around the corner, making no attempt to hide the shiny handheld defusers they each wore on their waistbands. The crowd cleared around them; one shock from those things and a person would be out for hours.
"Must be hard being so damn rich," said Ty. "Wading through all this muck. It's disgusting really."
She hiccupped a laugh, pleased with herself, but Colin didn't find her funny. His eyes were round as he watched them go. What was wrong with him? He was standing taller. And smoothing down the front of his shirt. He'd been acting strange all morning, ever since they'd run into Jed and Imon.
Excerpted from Metaltown by Kristen Simmons. Copyright © 2016 Kristen Simmons. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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.
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Tor Books by Kristen Simmons,
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I like YA dystopians because they both remind me of my humble upbringing, and make me thankful that though my childhood posed obstacles that had to be overcome, it was easy compared to what it could have been. Metaltown certainly reminded me of both. The kids in Metaltown are real scrappers, doing whatever it takes to get by. The adults all work if they are able, and because those meager incomes don't provide enough, many of the kids do as well. Much of Metaltown is employed by a weapons company, kept consistently busy by an ongoing war. The desperation is thick and ever-present, as most residents live hand to mouth, planning just far enough into the future to find a way to feed themselves and to safely sleep through the night. One of my favorite stage productions is Les Miserables. I see a lot of parallels in Lena, Colin, and Ty versus Cosette, Marius, and Eponine. The epic class difference, the possibility of romance as war rages on, and the boy who can't see the girl right in front of him- there are definitely similarities, though this is clearly not just a re-telling. The book is story-driven, with characters who race from scene to scene at the breakneck speed of adolescent life. Once the maiden comes down from her ivory tower, the action heats up and takes a few unexpected turns. This is a solid stand-alone; it's nice to have a complete story arc in one volume, with no year-long wait for then next book. Metaltown is a great read that can give you a great beginning and ending in a weekend of entertaining reading.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Metaltown by Kristen Simmons Publisher: Tor Teen Publication Date: September 20, 2016 Rating: 4 stars Source: eARC from NetGalley Summary (from Goodreads): Metaltown, where factories rule, food is scarce, and hope is in short supply. The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does. Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right. In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules. An enthralling story of friendship and rebellion, Metaltown will have you believing in the power of hope. What I Liked: I'm a huge, huge fan of Kristen Simmons' books, but I was slightly nervous before reading this one. The synopsis sounds love-triangle-y, doesn't it? Plus I read a review written by a very disappointed friend, who made some valid points that I had a feeling would bother me. But when I read the book, I found that I didn't have those same issues, and that I really enjoyed the story. Folks, Metaltown is a heart-pounding and truly heartbreaking story, and it was definitely worth the read. Metaltown follows the lives three teenagers, two living in Metaltown, one living in the River District. Colin and his family didn't always live in Metaltown, but they do now, and they work in the factories with terrible conditions and awful pay. You mess up, you're fired. Colin and Ty are best friends. Ty is a street-smart orphan, earning her keep just like Colin and so many other underage children with no rights. Meanwhile, Lena Hampton, daughter of Josef Hampton who owns all of the factors, is living a rather cushy and rich life in the River District, a life so different and so privileged. But not all that glitters is gold - even Lena's life is filled with cruelty. The Hamptons' lifestyle depends on the the factories producing weapons for the war. But when certain events occur, the workers of the Small Parts factory decide that they've had enough. A spark turns into a wildfire, and the rebellion begins. But will Lena side with the workers? Will Colin put aside his personal duties for the benefit of everyone? Will Ty accept her fate? I'm going to be honest - typically I do not enjoy books that follow more than two people. In this book, we get three third-person POVs - Colin's (whose is first), Ty's, and Lena's. This practically screams love triangle (I'll get to that later, but don't worry), and messiness. But Simmons did a really great job in writing the three POVs, and telling the story using each voice. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)