17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer…
17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland…
17-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt…
All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awaken together in an abandoned hospital—only to discover that they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving.
Soon they discover that they've been trapped in a future that isn't of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Each teen harbors a secret, but only one holds the key that could get them home. As the truth comes to light Sophie, Declan, Anat, and the rest must decide what to do with a second chance at life—if they can survive to claim it.
About the Author
Michelle Gagnon is a veteran thriller writer and International Mystery Book Association bestseller, whose novels have been published in numerous countries and include The Tunnels, Boneyard, The Gatekeeper, and Kidnap & Ransom. Her first YA trilogy, Don't Turn Around, debuted in 2012.
Read an Excerpt
Palo Alto, California
Sophie Page felt herself getting closer. Every inhale drew farther apart from the previous until she could measure the gaps between them. She could almost picture the breaths strung like beads on a necklace, stretching far into the distance, growing more isolated from one another as they approached the horizon. Her heartbeat followed suit, its thump slowing until she felt only an occasional tap against her ribcage.
It was easier than she’d expected, letting go. Sophie was vaguely aware of her parents standing on either side of the hospital bed, gripping her hands tightly, as if they alone could tether her to the earth. Her younger sister, Nora, sobbed quietly at the foot of the bed. The whisper of sneakers on linoleum came and went as silent nurses flitted around like moths, doing their best to be unobtrusive.
They’d offered her a priest, but she’d turned them down. It seemed hypocritical when she hadn’t been in a church in years. She’d allowed her parents to tuck Soup, the bedraggled stuffed cat she’d slept with as a child, in bed beside her. But they all knew that was more for their sake than hers. Sophie hadn’t thought about Soup in years—at least, not until she’d been confined to a bed for what remained of her life.
Sophie drew a sudden, sharp breath. She hadn’t known exactly what to expect. In the past few weeks, as her inevitable demise approached, she’d developed a voracious appetite for stories of near-death experiences. Apparently people saw everything from angels to a bright light to nothingness. Some were exotic: a Lakota chief claimed that he rose above the clouds and saw a circular hoop surrounding the world, its edges vanishing into infinity. Others were more mundane, like the Calcutta man who found himself in a large government office, where a panel of faceless people berated him for showing up early, then sent him back into his body.
She figured she should have something to look forward to. Anything was preferable to her present: endless rounds of chemotherapy and countless awkward discussions in doctor’s offices where various experts tried to explain why her lymphoma wasn’t responding to treatment. A steady stream of hospital beds until she finally landed in this one, in the hospice. Would she see anything at all? The secrets of the universe revealed? Another strange bureaucracy? Or just a blinding flash, then nothing.
Whatever she’d expected, it hadn’t been this.
Her parents stiffened, though she could still feel their grasp. Her sister had also frozen mid-sob, as if someone had snapped a photo. The walls suddenly seemed to bow out, expanding. Like the hospice room had suddenly come to life and sucked in a huge breath of air. And at the foot of her bed was . . . a circle. Technicolor? No. Not bright enough. Not light, exactly, but not dark, either. Sophie was transfixed by it. Every color imaginable, whirling in a dizzying gyre. It started as small as a pinhole, rapidly increasing in size until it was the size of a loaf of bread, then a car. Asit grew, it drew the contents of the room inexorably inward. Sophie wanted to call out to her family and ask if they were seeing it, too, and maybe knew what it was. But she was as immobilized as they were, heavy—and this was it, she realized. This was how she was going to die.
An overwhelming calm and peace descended on her. Sophie relaxed, letting her mind spin along with the gyre, touching lightly on memories. All felt rich and crucial somehow . . . The time she ran away from home after a silly fight and Mom found her hiding behind the local ice cream store . . . When Nora was first brought home from the hospital and Sophie couldn’t believe this red-faced screaming tiny thing was her sister (Aren’t babies supposed to be cute?) . . . Dad swinging her up on his shoulders, so she could reach the apples dangling just out of reach on the branches above. Funny: She hadn’t had the heart to tell him that apple picking was boring.
Sophie didn’t have any regrets, not really. It would have been nice to have lived longer: a real life, a full one. But she’d had plenty of time to come to terms with the fact that she’d never go to college. Never know what it felt like to fall in love. Never marry or have kids of her own to take apple picking or fight with and make up with. She was ready. The gyre reached the tip of her toes. A peculiar heat came off it, as if it were a living thing lapping at her heels. Sophie smiled one last time and closed her eyes, letting it take her.
Galway City, County Galway, Ireland
Declan Murphy tripped and nearly went flying. At the last moment he regained his footing and tore forward, feeling the hardness of pavement through his worn trainers.
He chanced a glance over his shoulder. The two arseholes were still after him. They looked winded—they were old, probably thirty—but seemed to be closing the gap. And they looked damned pissed to boot.
“Bloody hell,” Declan muttered to himself. All this fuss over a box. He tucked it more securely under his arm and kept running.
He had no idea what was inside. Based on the doggedness of his shite pursuers, it was probably more valuable than he’d thought. As Declan rounded the corner, his mind spun through possible escape routes. Usually, he’d have at least three mapped out in advance. But this had been a oneoff, a job taken on a lark from a random guy in a pub. Not the sort of thing he’d usually do. Problem was, he’d had in mind to buy something nice for Katie, her birthday coming up and all. And she’d made him swear that any gift he gave her was bought, not stolen. So when the stranger offered a hundred euros up front, another hundred on delivery, Declan agreed. After all, the man said he was only claiming what was rightfully his in the first place. And it was a house job. Not a bank or a business. The study window was never locked—no one would even be home, he assured Declan.
In and out, easy, the bloke claimed. Quickest two hundred quid he would ever make.
Except, of course, there had been someone. Two someones, in fact—they’d entered the room as he was slipping back out the window. By the time Declan reached the corner they were nearly on him, proving to be in surprisingly good running shape for a couple of middle-aged bastards. But now they were losing steam.
The house was located in Salthill, the nicer section of Galway—and an area Declan wasn’t familiar with. He should have known, he chided himself. His mum always said not to trust lads from Salthill. So he shouldn’t have been surprised when he darted right and hit an alleyway, rather than the water he was expecting. And the alley dead-ended in a solid brick wall. He’d made a right hames of it, sure enough. Either that or the fool in the pub had set him up.
Cursing, he doubled back, only to find the two arseholes blocking the entrance. Declan’s eyes darted around, looking for a fire escape, a dumpster, anything. But he was surrounded on all three sides by solid walls, not so much as a bin lid at hand to toss at them.
His pulse quickened. They could have been best mates, the kind you find at a football match, short-cropped and leather-jacketed and red-faced with beer, shouting obscenities. But their faces were pale, and their eyes dark and sober. Still, Declan forced a cocky grin as they advanced. “Aye, you got me, then.” He raised the box with both hands. “You’re welcome to it.”
Already got a hundred quid, after all, he told himself. More than enough to get Katie the necklace he’d had his eye on. A heart with a ruby set in the center, the color just a few shades brighter than her hair. Declan cursed himself. Really would have been so much easier just to lift it. She’d never have to know. Hardly any security to speak of at Hartmann’s, at least nothing he couldn’t get past.
With no response from the pair, he set the box down and backed away until he reached the rear brick wall. The larger one stooped to retrieve it. He was tall and not as flabby as Declan had initially thought, with black hair. The other bloke was blond, lean and compact like Declan. He stared at Declan, unblinking. Now that they were less than a meter away he saw that they weren’t so old—late twenties, maybe, or early thirties.
They whispered to each other in hard, low voices. It was a different language; Russian, maybe? They had that Slavic look, as if no matter how much they ate they’d still be hungry.
Declan swallowed. “All good then, eh?” he managed.
The taller one handed the shorter one the box. He opened it without taking his eyes off Declan, checked inside, then nodded brusquely. He strode out of the alley without looking back.
The taller one watched him leave, then turned. Something in his eyes struck Declan to the core, a sort of tired resignation. With slow-motion horror, Declan watched the Russian reach under his T-shirt and pull a pistol from the waistband of his jeans. Declan raised both hands. “Hold up, mate,” he said. “I mean to tell no one, if that’s what you’re worrying about . . .”
The Russian glanced back over his shoulder, clearly checking for witnesses.
Turning, he raised the gun to shoulder height. Time again seemed to slow. The killer’s eyes transformed. They looked bored, sleepy. Somehow that made it even worse . . . like at the end of the day he’d barely remember this. Declan pictured him sitting down to supper, telling the wife, Aye, I went to the bank and the Tesco, got a pint . . . something else . . . oh, nearly forgot about shooting that sixteen-year-old lad in the head.
Declan felt his knees start to go, everything inside him rapidly turning to liquid. Katie’s face flashed through his mind, her blue eyes sparkling, the light glinting off her teeth as she laughed . . .
The gunman’s tired eyes suddenly leapt awake like window shades snapping up. Wide open, they reflect a glistening light. He reared back and winced. The gun fired.
Declan ducked, terrified, hands instinctively protecting his head. Tiny shards of brick rained down on his skull and fingers from the wall behind.
A miss. Declan had a chance.
“Jay-sus, please,” he pleaded frantically. “I swear on my mother’s life . . .”
But the bloke didn’t seem to have heard him. He was still backing away, his own hands raised. His face was now terrified and curiously illuminated.
Declan frowned. Crazy bastard was acting as if a monster had appeared. He swiveled around. Blinked. There was an enormous hole in the wall below where the bullet had struck: a swirling, glowing whirlpool. In a brick wall. Panic was suddenly replaced by something else . . . Wonderment? Relief? He was reminded of the time he took E with Katie at a dance party; the walls had shimmered then. But he was cold sober now, this had to be something else. It reminded him of those stories they told in church, of true miracles . . . Reverently, Declan reached toward the colors with both hands—
Something yanked hard from the other side, dragging him into the vortex.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sophie, Declan, and Anat don’t know each other, but they are about to. They all mysteriously disappear and end up in the same place. What’s even weirder is that there are other kids there when they wake up- Zain, Nico, and Yosh. They all have to rely on each other if they want to survive. Problem is they have no idea where to go and what happened to everyone else. Also, there appears to be no one else around to help. The place is deserted. Sophie, Declan, and Anat know something is going on, but they can’t really act on it. When strange things begin to happen, they try to get the hell out of dodge. What they should have done was stay put. It seems someone isn’t who they seem. Someone knows what’s really going and what the creatures are, that are chasing them. Is this all a dream or is this all really happening? It’s survival of the fittest in this new novel. This is the strangest book that I’ve ever read...but I happen to like strange. :D This book had me intrigued from the beginning. I was like: where are they and what’s really going on? I love a book that keeps you guessing. I think that the different point of views also helped. If there weren’t different point of views, you would be confused and wouldn’t know what was going on. They each had their own personalities and they came from different parts of the world. I found that fascinating. I didn’t really know what to expect from this book. I just went with the flow and enjoyed it. There were twists and turns everywhere that had you questioning everything you thought you knew. I think the ending was nicely done, but it does leave a few unanswered questions. It makes me wonder if there is going to be another one. Probably not.. but I just had to put that out there. Sophie- She is terminally ill; she has lymphoma and only has months to live. She has accepted her fate and is ready to die. When she sees a ball of light, she thinks it’s her time to go. When she wakes up in a hospital again, she seems to take it well. That is until she realizes there is no one to take care of her. She is weak when the book starts out and becomes stronger as the book progresses. She may be the girl that slows everyone down, but she becomes a major player. Declan- He is a thief and can pick just about any lock. He was on a job to steal something and was about to get shot when he sees a ball of light as well. Declan is the comic relief. I was laughing at most of what he said and my favorite quote is probably going to be from him. He is strong when he needs to be and also supportive. Oh, and did I mention he is from Ireland? No.. well he is and the accent.. SWOON….I couldn’t resist him. Anat- When we meet her, she is running away to be with her forbidden love….you can guess what happens :D She was going to be in a war and she is one tough cookie. She needs help from no one and she lets you know that up front. She just wants to get back to her home and she doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process. I don’t think they would have survived without her. She was pretty awesome; she just had a bad attitude. Overall I loved the strangeness of this book. It took me into another place and time. Favorite quotes: Quote #1 from Sophie She’d rarely seen two people take such an instant and extreme dislike to each other. Sophie got the feeling that if they weren’t arguing about this, it would be something else, like whether or not aliens existed or if veal should be illegal. Quote #2 from Declan “Of course. At your service, “Declan snapped. “Please note the emergency exits to the front and the rear, and know that in the event of a water landing, your seat won’t be a damn bit of use to you. Oh and if you feel the need to pray, make sure it’s to science, and not God, because apparently he doesn’t give a whit about you.” “Enough already,” Nico groaned “Fasten your seatbelts, trays in the upright position, and thanks for flying Murphy air!” 5 STARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon Publisher: Soho Teen Publication Date: April 9, 2013 Rating: 3 stars Source: eARC from NetGalley Summary (from Goodreads): 17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer… 17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland… 17-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt… All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awaken together in an abandoned hospital—only to discover that they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving. Soon they discover that they've been trapped in a future that isn't of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Each teen harbors a secret, but only one holds the key that could get them home. As the truth comes to light through the eyes of Sophie, Declan, and Anat, the reader is taken on a dark and unforgettable journey into the hearts of teens who must decide what to do with a second chance at life. What I Liked: Well, this book was quite the change from what I've been reading recently! When I signed up to be part of the tour, I took one look at the synopsis, and knew that it would be different from what I was used to. I don't read a lot of mystery or suspense thriller books. I liked the idea of this book - time-traveling (ish), alternate worlds (sort of like Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris) and creepy-as-who-knows-what dinosaur things that aren't even the prehistoric kind! The science part of the book was intriguing. I don't believe in alternate universes and time-traveling, but Gagnon definitely did her research to create such an interesting story about those elements. And those dinosaurs... good touch! There is a bit of romance in this book, and it is obvious. There isn't an active love triangle, but there are two females and one male in this sort-of love triangle. I didn't really care about that - because honestly, it's not really a love triangle. And the romance is obvious. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing for some people, but it's fine with me. The characters were all very different in their own ways, which is good, because one thing I abhor is when there are many protagonists, and they all sound and act the same. I like Declan, for his easygoing yet protective nature. Sophie is okay at best. Anat is FIERCE - which works for her. Those three are the core of the story, and before you wonder, no, they are not all part of the love triangle (one of them isn't). The ending was a good one, all things considered. In fact, it was a little too perfect, all things considered. And I still have a ton of questions. And I'm a little confused. But the ending is... good. What I Did Not Like: There were several I really didn't like I about this book. The pacing, several of the characters, and the ending. The pacing was... bad. Okay, maybe bad isn't the right word. But whatever it was, it didn't work for me. I read this book on my Kindle, and let me tell you, I was flipping through the e-pages really quickly. Often times, there were parts of the books that were so slow and so boring, you didn't need to read them. And that is just what I did. I skimmed a ton of this book, and that is something I rarely do. I wasn't skimming the book because I was crunched on time or anything. I was skimming because there were sections of the book that were really boring, or that just didn't add to the plot. The descriptive paragraphs of the book were too many and not as much needed. I already mentioned that the characters were very different, which was nice, and that I especially liked Declan and Anat. I didn't really like Sophie. I get that she was sick before the big event, but probably wouldn't be someone that I would want to be stuck with in post-apocalyptic times, for her attitude. She's a bit of a whiner. Not encouraging for a protagonist. The ending, as I said, is too perfect. For a book about end-of-the-world, post-apocalyptic, dinosaur-ridden madness, the ending was all rainbows and butterflies. Not that I have anything against rainbows and butterflies. But goodness. I expected some psychological damage in the, um, remaining characters. And everything wrapped up too nicely! I don't want to give anything away, but seriously! How did everything just fall into place?! There was like, a billionth of a chance of everything working out the way it did. Boo. Would I Recommend It: Umm... sort of. For those of you who like interesting, action books with crazy science? You might like this one. Those of you who liked a good romance with that? Nope. You probably won't like this one. For the rest of you, I doubt this is the book for you. Rating: 3 stars. I enjoyed this book to a good degree while I was reading it, but despite what I liked, and bearing its faults in mind, I probably won't read it again. It was worth the read though!
Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon was a strange read, to say the least. I will admit that I was confused for the longest time. I didn’t really understand what was going on with this group of kids, and don’t really find out until near the end. So for the duration of the read, there was a lot of head scratching and trying to figure out where all of this was leading to. But I did find myself feeling very anxious for these teens. Can you imagine waking up and finding yourself not where you were last? That’s exactly what happens to these characters. Declan last remembers himself looking down the barrel of a gun in Ireland, and then poof, he wakes up in a strange hospital type setting in America of all places. Sophie was on her death bed, ready to accept her fate when the cancer ate away at her body…but rather than be dead, she finds herself in a different hospital bed, and feeling better than she has felt in the longest time. And Anat…escaping through some sort of underground tunnel in Israel, to secretly be with the man that she loves, only to find herself also in the confines of this institution, surround by teens who seem to do nothing but annoy her! Along with three others that they find at stranded with them in this hospital (Zain, Yosh, and Nico) the six of them team up to find a way to get out of the building and find their way to their families and loved ones. Unfortunately for some, they are further away from home than they expected. And the world doesn’t seem to be the way that they last remember. There doesn’t appear to be any other humans around! No matter how far they travel, they don’t come across another living soul. As these kids try to figure out what happened to the world while they were sleeping, it seems that they aren’t quite as alone as they thought. And it also appears that they are being hunted by beings that are nothing like anything they have ever seen. And from the clues that they’ve found during their travels, these beasts will make a quick snack out of all of them. No family, living breathing monsters, and a world population that seems to have just vanished, will this group of teens ever find out what exactly happened to the world, and what their fate will be? Of all the characters found in Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon, my favorite would have to be Declan…with his Irish accent and his laugh out loud humor. I always looked forward to hearing what “words of wisdom” would come out of his mouth. But on the flip side, I really couldn’t stand Anat. With her self righteous, greater than thou attitude, I was NOT looking forward to continuing this adventure with her. But she is one tough chick, and her survival instincts are pretty bang on…and I will admit that should I EVER find myself in any kind of similar situation, I would want Anat to be on my side. Apparently, this group of kids have found themselves in some sort of strange future. Yes, you heard me correctly. Somehow, they have all simultaneously traveled forward in time (20 years or so), but not only have they traveled into the future, they have also traveled into a parallel universe. Strange as it may seem, even reading the synopsis may make this all quite difficult to grasp. Thankfully, author, Michelle Gagnon, does a fantastic job in describing the events happening the book, as well as giving a very believable scientific explanation for what happened and what the consequences were. So now, the big question really is, will these kids find a way back to their “time”, or will they end up being food for these pig snouted killing monsters who seem to have an appetite for human flesh (eep!). You’ll have to check out the story to find out for yourself. Fans of time travel, the concept of parallel universes or multi-verses will completely devour this story. In the end, it actually makes you stop and think if any of this is possible. The way in which the events are described in Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon sure makes it seem like this could be true. And that totally freaks me out!