Seventeen-year-old Hylee Williams didn’t ask to disappear. But she did disappear, and not only that, but when she vanished from our world, she materialized in a dark, twisted version of the night that changed her life forever: the night her older brother went missing.
Just as Hylee realizes this moment could be the key to unraveling the truth about her brother, she’s yanked away from the dark place back to our world. Craving a sense of normalcy, she goes to a party with her best friend—where she meets Eilam Roads. Tall, handsome, and undeniably, inexplicably familiar, Hylee can’t help the pull she feels towards him. It’s a classic teen girl-meets-boy situation, until it happens again. She disappears, right in front of him.
Together, Hylee and Eilam investigate the truth about time, space, and reality, with Hylee increasingly convinced her time travel holds the key to saving her brother. But the more they learn, the more Hylee begins to see darkness lurking in her world—and in herself.
At once haunting and enchanting and entirely unforgettable, Britney S. Lewis's sophomore novel explores love, loss, and what happens when you stop hiding from your truth.
|Disney Publishing Group
|5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
|12 - 18 Years
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
NOVEMBER, NINE YEARS AGO
This is what I remembered.
Our house was draped in a sheet of mahogany from the dark, cold evening. Brown shingles covered two stories, and I hated the shingles. Couldn't exactly pinpoint it, just that sometimes, in the night, the house looked like it might devour every limb on our bodies and chew us into small, meaty pieces.
The tree in the front yard had thin, warping branches, and with the evening glow against the curtains, it looked like someone was reaching, stretching for the window. Bulbed knuckle and long nails. A scrape there. And maybe a whisper.
Mama had finished cooking hours ago, but the smell of warm grease stuck to the roof of my mouth while I sat in the living room, controller in hand, playing Mortal Kombat with my older brother, Bubba. I was eight then. He was fifteen.
I was winning, but I’d never know if it was because that random key combination I pressed with haste worked, or because Bubba was going soft on me. He’d been doing that more, and I didn’t like it. I wasn’t a baby. I’d be in the double digits soon.
Our older cousin, Juice, stretched his legs out on the couch opposite us. “I’m next,” he reminded, but his eyes were on his phone while he scrolled. He’d kept saying he was up next, but Bubba and I could have gone on like that for hours and Juice wouldn’t have noticed.
“Hylee!” It was a sound I refused to register, one that I’d apparently “missed three times.” Mama came hurrying around the corner, her shoulder-length black hair swooshing, dark brown eyes narrowed, teeth clenched. “What did I say?”
Bubba paused the game, and I felt my mouth open, but I didn’t want to go make my bed like she wanted me to. If I made my bed, I’d have to go to bed, and I wanted to hang out with Bubba and my older cousin.
So I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know,” I lied.
Her dark painted lips folded. “Hylee Marshay . . . get up, now.”
I stomped my feet, dropped the controller, and fell back onto the couch. “Ughh. I don’t want to.”
“Hylee,” Mama said again, her voice so thin it could slice all of us in half.
Bubba helped me to my feet. “Lee, come on. You know you’ll get in trouble if you act up.”
“But I just want to stay and play with you and Juice.”
He lowered his voice and got to my level. I could still see Mama at the corner of the living room and the hallway, a dish towel draped over her shoulder, her diamond earrings and gold chains shimmering. “Look, if you listen to Mama and make your bed, I promise . . . I’ll bring the game into your room, and we can play until you get sleepy. Okay?”
I gasped. “Really?”
He turned to look at Mama, waiting, her arms folded tightly, and then he lowered his voice and turned back to me. “Really.” Bubba held a pinky to the sky. “I promise,” he said, and I folded his pinky around mine. Bubba never broke promises. Never, ever. But it was then when I felt like the four walls around me crept closer. And small—I felt like the smallest of creatures being sucked whole through a straw by a monster.
Mama said my name again, but her voice sounded like it was underwater. I locked my eyes on my older brother as I walked away. His brown eyes so big, like Daddy’s, and hopeful. A smile, and he whispered, “Go,” and I went, marching past Mama in the hallway.
My bedroom was at the end of it, a small lamp on, illuminating the space. Mama flipped on the light switch, coming in behind me. “What’s with the attitude, Ms. Thing?”
I huffed and plopped on my bare bed, crossing my arms and glaring at the alarm clock. Bright red letters read: 9:00 p.m. I wanted to say something but didn’t. Too upset that I couldn’t play with Bubba when I was winning, and too distracted by the sound in the corner of my bedroom. It was like the window was breathing these slow, shallow breaths. The blinds moving just slightly. The sound. In and out. In and out. In and out.
I snapped my head to see her, her shoe tapping into the carpet—muted but still there. I got off the bed and picked up the thin sheet with the weird edges. It always went on first. I stretched it over the blue mattress, and then I grabbed the next sheet. Took my time as I flattened on the bed. No wrinkles as I smoothed it out with my palms.
Mama watched me crumble to the floor as I tussled with my comforter. Pulled it here and there, trying to find where the tag was. I brought the blanket to my face, inhaled and smelled the fresh detergent. My eyes felt heavy. My fingers and toes tingled a little.
“You gotta pick up the pace,” she said. “You were supposed to do this thirty minutes ago.”
I rolled my eyes, my twisties moving as I engulfed the blanket in my arms. “Mama, I’m hurrying, but the blankets have to go on in order.”
She made a sound like she was fed up. Her lips pursed. “When I come back, this better be done.”
I tried mocking her, puckering my lips out and saying, “this better be done,” as I threw my comforter on the bed.
When the blanket was how I liked it, I tossed the pillows on, throwing one so hard it fell back off. It was 9:10 p.m. now.
I grabbed it, and then there was a bang. Like someone pounding on a door, but it wasn’t mine. I paused as the sound came again, louder. I stretched my neck.
It was out there . . . past the hallway . . . the front door.
Daddy shouted—asked who was there—but his voice. Something sounded wrong with it. It wobbled a little, like how mine did when I was scared.
It wasn’t a gun. It was the sound of something breaking. Wood splitting. A thud, a thud, a thud, and silence, until I heard what sounded like feet running and slipping on carpet and wood.
Jumped to my feet, my hands balled into small fists as I hurried to my bedroom door. That was a gun. It was so loud and so sharp, my eardrums rumbled. Nothing but the sound of a machine flatlining. A hum. I almost didn’t hear someone shout for me out there.
My fingers trembled as I reached for the doorknob. Twisted it slowly, my breath heavy, my chest stretching rhythmically to my fear.
And that was it.
That was all I remembered.
What People are Saying About This
"Lewis’ genre-bending second novel offers equal parts star-crossed romance and spine-tingling science fiction horror . . . An ultimately hopeful story that shows love—in all its powerful forms—can conquer the demons of the past." —Kirkus
"Employing alternating past and present sequences, poetic first-person narration, and moody prose, Lewis builds a tense atmosphere shadowed by secrets unsaid. By deftly exploring the persistent echoes of a traumatic event on one family, Lewis emphasizes the healing power of connection and closure." —Publishers Weekly
Praise for The Undead Truth of Us:
“The Undead Truth of Us is unlike any book I’ve ever read before. In this eerie and otherworldly story, Britney Lewis layers explorations of grief and love on the page like bright colors of paint on a canvas.” —Elise Bryant, author of Happily Ever Afters and One True Loves
“Deeply healing and impossible to put down, The Undead Truth Of Us, is an affecting portrait of grief’s many shades, and an affirming reminder to live.” —J. Elle, New York Times best-selling author of Wings of Ebony
"The Undead Truth of Us is a revelation of a story, both macabre and magical, full of heartache, hope, and the infinite mysteries of love. I adore this book." —Rebecca Podos, author of Lambda Award-winning novel Like Water
“This story is an emotional and gripping take on the classic zombie archetype. A must-read for lovers of genre bending horror.” —Kalynn Bayron, best-selling author of Cinderella is Dead
“Britney Lewis has really nailed it with this one. I loved this striking, suspenseful, and deeply heartbreaking debut about a Black girl named Zharie on a quest to discover the truth about her mother and the darker parts of life and family! Spooky good.” —Jay Coles, author of Tyler Johnson Was Here and Things We Couldn't Say
“A lament, but with fireworks.” —Nafiza Azad, author of The Wild Ones
"The perfect blend of emotion, sweet romance, and creepy imagery, The Undead Truth of Us is a journey you won’t soon forget." —Lauren Blackwood, New York Times best-selling author of Within These Wicked Walls
“A wonderful book full of lyrical prose, but also grief—and the painful, sometimes beautiful, steps we take to get through it.” —Jessica Lewis, author of Bad Witch Burning
“Britney S. Lewis explores love and death in a debut that is tender, poetic, and wholly original.” — Zoraida Córdova, award-winning author of Labyrinth Lost