With tensions high, Julia and John agree to go separate ways for the summer, paving the way for Julia to reunite with Angus, fellow outcast. Together they set out on a road trip to California to find Julia's mom and a way into Novak's secret underground world. Along the way Julia will learn the Puri perhaps aren't the only humans evolving into something different. . . and that maybe she's the leader her people have needed all along.
About the Author
Marit’s debut YA novel is Select, and she worked on the first draft of the book over the course of eighteen months during Amanda Eyre Ward’s class ‘Write a Novel in a Year.’ As of now, there will be two books in The Select series. The series continues with Select Few.
Read an Excerpt
Ten, nine, eight ...
I focused on the elevator doors, counting down, tapping my foot, impatient to be out of the small space but always afraid of what I might find on the other side.
Three, two, one ...
The silver doors parted.
It was a race to see how quickly I could blend in outside. I strode through the lobby of the W Austin Hotel, eyes zeroed in on the glass and wood door in the distance.
Keep moving, always keep moving.
It was when I stood still in public that someone might recognize me.
"Have a good afternoon, Miss," the residence concierge called as I passed by. I nodded, then put in my earbuds.
Before I saw them, I sensed the two paparazzi who lay in wait like sentries. An older man and a much younger woman, both of whom I'd seen before. I knew the exact moment they jolted to life at the sight of me. I could feel the intensity of their desire as they followed in my wake, ten feet behind me.
I knew I shouldn't, but I wanted to prevent their interference in today of all days. I swung the heavy exit door open with one hand and let it fall closed behind me, brushing it with the tips of my fingers and sending enough energy through to make a hairline fracture. A spiderweb of cracks slowly spread through the glass. I was out the door, two strides away, when one of my stalkers touched the handle to exit and the glass shattered, sending shards cascading to the floor and leaving the two paparazzi to deal with the debris and attention inside the lobby.
But I was outside. The muggy, summer city smell hit me, and I started my run. Head down, I cleared the hotel and moved through the downtown streets, feeling my shoulders relax by the second. If there were any photographers, hopefully all they would see was a girl wearing dark running clothes, a baseball hat, and sunglasses.
Suddenly I realized I was happy. I'd really been looking forward to today.
At a stoplight I continued running through the yellow even as pedestrians behind me slowed, not wanting to take chances in the busy traffic. Soon enough I crossed the First Street Bridge to run on the shaded trail that snaked around Lady Bird Lake, its banks lined by thick, green overgrowth. It was cool for mid-June but humid. Since it was midafternoon, the runners had thinned on the trail, but a crowd was on the lake in full sun, paddleboarding and canoeing, the din of their talking and laughing echoing off the water. A few dogs off their leashes splashed at the edges of the lake while their owners stood nearby, chatting.
The very last stretch was so sparsely populated, I let myself go, running uphill in a sudden burst. The faster I ran, the sooner I'd arrive at the house. The cypress and sycamore trees flew past, the muddy ground blurring beneath my feet, the music pounding in my ears. I kept going, running away from all of it. From all the eyes on me. From the ghosts.
I saw someone up ahead with two pit bulls straining on leashes, and I immediately slowed my pace before he noticed my ridiculously fast speed. I leaned my head back, taking in the fresh air and the heat and life outside the walls of my sterile, white apartment. It was Saturday. I hadn't been outside for three days.
Entering the Zilker neighborhood from the trail beneath Barton Springs Road, I passed Barton Springs pool on my right and kept my eyes straight ahead. It had been almost a year since I'd risked exposing my family's secrets to save my sister from drowning in that very pool. My stomach tightened, and I tried not to think about her, my dad, stepmother, and the rest of those radiant, inexplicable creatures that were my extended family.
When I entered the neighborhood, marked by the ranch houses and bungalows, election signs in front yards, and cracked sidewalks I knew well, I slowed to a walk. Only a block away from my destination, I didn't want anyone to see I'd been running in June heat but didn't have a drop of sweat on me. I slowed even more when I noticed the large number of cars parked on both sides of the narrow street. Upon arrival at the curb in front of the Ford house, I was met with a "Happy Graduation" banner that hung on the red-painted front.
The door opened and three girls my age, still in their dresses for their graduation, exited onto the walkway, phones in hand. I could hear sounds of a party coming from the backyard. This wasn't the small family gathering I'd assumed it would be.
The girls glanced in my direction.
"Is that who I think it is?" Though there was distance between us, I could easily hear the brunette with the floral sundress and messy bun murmur incredulously to the other two.
"What, are they back together?"
"No. The world would know."
"Then why is she here?"
This was the reason I hadn't gone to the graduation ceremony earlier in the day. I hated the scrutiny. But I'd reached the mailbox of the Ford's house and turning away would be even worse.
The girls parted in front of the door to make room for me.
"Hi. Excuse me," I said, trying not to let my self-consciousness show.
I entered the house and carefully removed my sunglasses, tentatively stepping into the small living room. The sectional was piled with boys and a couple of men watching basketball playoffs on the TV. They all glanced up at once. I gave them a tight smile and averted my eyes.
French doors connected the living room to the small kitchen. Beyond it, smoke from the grill billowed past the open back door. From the sound of it, most of the party was outside. Cautiously, trying not to draw extra attention, I walked past the partygoers stationed in the kitchen and took the single stair down into the backyard.
At least forty people were scattered across the rectangular lawn — a collection of teens, their middle-aged parents, and some younger children playing horseshoes under the oak trees near the back fence, likely getting eaten by mosquitos in the damp grass.
The beat of my heart picked up when I finally laid eyes on John. He stood on the grass in a group that included his younger brother, Alex, two other friends, and someone's dad in a tie. John briefly turned to kick an errant soccer ball back to the little girls who played behind him. I smiled inadvertently and quickly stepped off to one side of the patio, under the scant shady cover of the eaves so I could watch for a moment unseen.
When we first met, I couldn't acknowledge it, but now I saw that John was beautiful. He wore his almost black hair on the shaggy, sexy side. The brothers looked a lot alike, but John took after their father, exhibiting more of his Asian heritage with his much darker hair and eyes. Alex was a couple of inches shorter, and I guessed he would have killed to have John's height since they both played tennis. John had the ideal build for the sport he had come to resent: tall, lean, but still muscular.
The graduation ceremony ended hours ago, but John still wore a white button-down, only now with the sleeves rolled and paired with shorts and flip-flops. I recognized the shirt as the one I'd borrowed the first night I ever came to his house. That was the night I told him the truth about my uniquely evolved family, when we ended the night pressed up against each other and the wall of his bedroom, unable to keep our distance.
I was glad John didn't know I was studying him. I was always studying him, making sure nothing had changed — that he hadn't changed — since the last time I'd seen him. Six months ago, John scared me when told me about a vision he had of where my family was hiding. Visions were something only Novak, my father, could experience.
The night I ran away from home, the same night our entire clan seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth, Novak told me about a prophecy. He said that we would be able to read the mind of an outsider and that person would be essential to our survival. Up until that point, I'd had an idea that he wanted to prove there were more of us — genetically-advanced humans — or at least that there were people who might be able to shift to become more like us. But I hadn't known the details.
Novak had no idea that I'd been reading John's mind for months already, ever since I'd been banished to a different school and told not to even think about using any of my abilities. At first, I had been embarrassed by my strange connection to an outsider. Then I found I was inexplicably and overwhelmingly drawn to John the more I listened in on his thoughts. When I left my family, I took my secret with me.
But nothing out of the ordinary had happened during the time I'd been with John and since the day my family disappeared from Austin. Now I sometimes wondered if John had had a vision at all. He seemed completely himself, a typical eighteen-year-old, and different from the perfect, unearthly kids I'd grown up with. That was part of why I was in love with him.
I saw the soccer ball right before it hit the shoulder of the man in the tie standing next to John. The force of the ball knocked the glass out of the man's hand, and it flew through the air, projecting wine in one long, red arc. John extended his foot toward the flying glass, catching it on top of his flip-flop and shifting its descent from impact with the concrete of the walkway to a soft landing in the grass.
A quick, incredulous cheer erupted from the crowd.
"Nice reflexes," the man in the tie said.
Alex shook his head at his brother. "What are you doing? Way to risk your tennis career to save a wine glass."
Was this reaction something for me to worry about?
No, the man was right. It was just good reflexes.
The group still laughed, all except John, whose eyes were now on his father, Taro, who stood at one edge of the party, while another parent stood beside him tapping his glass with a utensil. The people in the yard quieted as they also turned their attention to Taro.
In his strong, smooth voice, Taro said, "Thanks, everyone, for coming." He cleared his throat. "They say time flies, but it moves even faster than you think. Suddenly I'm watching my oldest son and his friends graduate from high school. We've known many of you kids for years, and it's been a privilege watching you grow up."
I looked at John who hated being the center of attention. He tensed in anticipation of what was coming next, a trickle of sweat traveling from his temple down his cheek.
"We also wanted to say — since we don't say it enough — how proud we are of you, John. You've always surprised us. Kathleen and I will never forget when you were eight years old and we thought you and your brother were playing in the backyard. Being the most responsible parents in the world, we didn't foresee that you'd just leave the yard. Much less that you'd lead your brother to the park across the street to watch the kids at a tennis camp. Suddenly we heard a knock on the door, and there was a man holding a racket, with you by his side, asking me if I'd ever seen you hit a tennis ball."
Taro smiled, but then his tone changed and he seemed to speak directly to John. "It hasn't been easy having the schedule you've had. We worried because you always said yes to more practice and more tournaments and never complained. It's taken incredible discipline to keep playing tennis hour after hour the way you have and when there were so many other things you said you wanted to try. When you came home early from Florida, we knew you were ready to quit."
I glanced at John. His face betrayed nothing, which was how I knew Taro's mention of being cut from the tennis academy got under his skin.
"Then, out of nowhere," Taro continued, "it was like you became a different person."
I stood up straighter and adjusted the brim of my hat.
"You got so focused. And that made the difference. You earned your scholarship, and now you're going to college halfway across the country. We'll miss you, but we couldn't be prouder. Happy graduation."
While everyone clapped, John's mother, Kathleen, walked over to her son and put her arm around him. Taro joined them and pulled John's head close to plant a quick kiss on top.
John must have felt someone watching him and looked up. Our eyes met, and our gazes held. Whenever he turned his full attention on me, my stomach still did a somersault. Alex noticed and gave John a small shove and said, "Go."
"Excuse me," John murmured to his friends and family.
My girlfriend's here.
I was surprised for a second — I hadn't been able to read his thoughts in months.
He must have remembered that I could read his mind because it went instantly blank, like he erected a wall to block me. John put that defense in place whenever he was with me now. It seemed like a long time since his thoughts had been an open book.
His dad put a hand on John's shoulder, stopping him from escaping. I heard Taro say, "Can you find a chair for your grandmother?" He gestured to the opposite end of the crowded yard.
John gave me a look that said, "I'll be right back."
Damn. More waiting.
All I wanted was to be with him and now I needed to say good-bye in public while pretending to be just friends. He should have warned me the party was going to be so big.
The clouds had passed in front of the sun and the air felt heavy. While I waited for him, I watched the partying I'd seen many of the kids from school. I never forgot a face; each one was cataloged in my brain. I kept myself mildly entertained observing a boy and girl who had their backs to one another but whose slight tilt of their heads and the angling of their shoulders gave away the attraction between them.
Still, slowly, as if I were on stage and they were my audience, all eyes began to find me. No matter how I dressed, no matter how I tried to avoid eye contact, I'd learned over time that there was something about me and my family that always attracted people's attention.
Time to move.
"You're Julia Jaynes, right?" A man in a checkered shirt with a heap of straw-colored hair practically jumped in front of me.
"Hi," I said with practiced politeness.
"I recognized you! I'm Louie. I just moved in down the street."
"Ah," was all I could think of to say.
"Any leads on your father?"
"Not that I'm aware of." I tried to take a step back, but the wall of the house was already at my heels.
"What about that kid with the super strength? The one they've tried to explain away. Where's he hiding?" Louie joked, wiping his brow.
When I didn't answer, he said, "I like how you have a watchfulness about you. Do people think you're superhuman too?" Louie laughed.
"That's funny," I said, deflecting.
I searched over Louie's shoulder for John. He was close but blocked by a couple I knew were the Ford's best family friends, visiting from Chicago. They were much like the Ford family — one white parent and one Asian parent. They were extending their congratulations and taking a photo of their daughter, Allie, with John. I was well aware that Allie had been the first girl John had ever had sex with.
"Pardon me," I said brusquely to the neighbor.
"What? Hard to mingle with us plebs? Once there was a time when the rich gave a shit — the Rockefellers, the Carnegies."
Wow. I stepped farther away from the guy.
"Here, let me give you my card." Louie had his card at the ready and held it out for me. "I have a real estate venture I know you'd be interested in."
To avoid a scene, I quickly took the card, but he held onto it, pulling it back. I looked up, focusing on him anew.
"You need to put all that money somewhere," he said, almost leering. Then he let go.
In my mind, I shoved him away from me, hard. He stumbled a foot backward onto the grass, almost losing his balance. The look on his face was startled surprise at first. Half a second later, it turned to wariness as he realized that he hadn't felt anyone actually touch him.
I had been ready to intrude on Allie and John, but now I had to move. I walked with my eyes downcast, headed anywhere that was away from this man and the party. Now on a roll, I mentally gave a push to the boy who was clearly thinking about the girl behind him. He bumped into her, and from the corner of my eye, I saw them turn toward one another as he apologized.
I made my way to the side yard where the lawnmower and trash cans were kept and drew up short when I saw that Alex's boyfriend, August, had had the same idea.
"Augustine," I said by way of greeting.
"Julia Jaynes," he drawled, smiling and giving a nod of his head in acknowledgment. Besides John's family, he was one of the few people who knew that John and I were together. August started to put out the cigarette.
Excerpted from "Select Few"
Copyright © 2018 Marit Weisenberg.
Excerpted by permission of Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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