The Infinity of You & Me: A Novel

The Infinity of You & Me: A Novel

by J.Q. Coyle

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250099228
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/08/2016
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Growing up, J.Q. Coyle was a fan of stories. But more than that, a fan of possibilities. So, it only seemed only natural to write a story in which the possibilities are limitless: The Infinity of You & Me.

Read an Excerpt

The Infinity of You & Me


By Julianna Baggott

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Julianna Baggott
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-09923-5



CHAPTER 1

THE BEGINNING is always a surprise.

(The endings are, too.)

I never quite know what I look like. I'm myself, yes, but different. Never tall and leggy, but my hair might be long and tied back or cut in a short bob. Sometimes I'm in jeans and sneakers. Once or twice, a dress.

I've been alone in a field of snow.

I've woken up in the backseat of a fast car at night, my father driving down a dark road.

I've been standing in the corner at a party where none of the faces are familiar.

This time, noise comes first. A clanging deep inside the hull of a ship — a cruise ship. I'm running down a corridor of soaked red carpet.

The ship lurches.

Someone's yelling over the crackling PA speakers — I can't understand the words over the rush of water. Alarms roar overhead.

I shoulder my way down another corridor, fighting the flood of people running in the opposite direction, screaming to each other.

Some part of my brain says, Me? On a cruise ship? Never. But if I was so lucky, it'd be a sinking one.

The rest of my brain is sure this isn't real, no matter how real it feels.

I run my hand down the wall, the cold water now pushing against my legs. I'm wearing a pair of skinny jeans I don't own. I know someone's after me — I just don't know who. I look back over my shoulder, trying to see if anyone else is moving against the crowd like I am.

No one is.

Where's my mother? She's never here when I go off in my head like this.

A man grabs me roughly by the shirt. My ribs tighten.

Is this who I'm running from?

No. He's old, his eyes bloodshot and wild with fear. He says something in Russian, like the guys in the deli at Berezka's, not too far from my house in Southie. I shouldn't be able to understand him, but I do. "Run! This way. Do you want to die, girl?" I don't speak Russian. I'm failing Spanish II.

But then I answer, partly in Russian. "I'm fine. Thank you. Spasiba." The words feel stiff in my mouth. I can barely hear myself over the screaming, the water rushing up the corridor, and the groaning ship.

The man keeps yelling, won't let go of me, so I rip myself loose and run.

A glimpse of gray through a porthole, only a sliver of land and heavy dark sky.

I see myself in the porthole's dark reflection — my hair chin length, my bangs choppy, just a bit of faded red lipstick.

We're on the Dnieper River. It's like this: I know things I shouldn't. I don't know how.

A woman falls. I reach down and help her up. Her head is gashed, her face smeared with blood. She nods a thank-you and keeps marching against the current, soaked.

I wonder if she'll make it. Will I?

I'm looking for my father. I want to call out for him, but I shouldn't. The people chasing me are really after him — I know this too, the way you know things in a dream.

The ship lists, hard, and my right shoulder drives into a wall. Stateroom doors swing open. The sound of water surging into the hull is impossibly loud.

And then my father appears up ahead — shaggy, unshaven, his knuckles bloody. I love seeing him in these hallucinations. (That's what my therapist calls them.) It's the only time I ever see him. I even love seeing him when he looks like hell, and older than I remember him, more worn-down. But he always has this energy — like his strength is coiled and tensed.

"Alicia!" he shouts. "Down!"

I fall to my knees. The water is up to my neck and so cold it shocks my bones.

My father raises a gun and fires.

Some men fire back.

I put my head underwater, and the world is muted. I hold my breath, can only hear my heart pounding in my ears. My face burns with the cold, my back tight, lungs pinched. I swim toward the blurry yellow glow of an emergency light.

When I lift my head, a tall and angular man slides down a wall and goes under, leaving a swirl of blood. My father shot him. This should shock me, but it doesn't. My father, who's really a stranger to me, is always on the run and often armed.

Another man, thick necked and yelling, returns fire from a cabin doorway.

My father disappears around the corner up ahead, then lays cover for me. "Get up!" he shouts. "Move now!"

I push through the icy water, wishing my legs were stronger and tougher, feeling small and easily kicked off-balance.

"Just up ahead," he says, "— stairs."

But then a little boy with a buzz cut doggy-paddles out of a cabin. The water's too deep for him.

I reach out, and he grabs my hand, clinging to my shirt.

"Alicia, get down!" my father yells.

Instinctively, I shield the kid.

A gunshot.

I feel a shattering jolt in my shoulder blade. I can't breathe, can't scream.

The boy cries out, but he hasn't been shot. I have. The pain is stabbing. "He shot me!" I shout, shocked. I can only state the obvious, my voice so rough and ragged I don't even recognize it.

My father pulls me and the boy into a tight circular stairwell, the water whirling around us, chest deep. As he lifts the little boy high up the stairs, I glimpse the edge of a tattoo and skin rough with small dark scars and fresh nicks on his wrists. "Keep climbing!" he says to the little boy.

Wide-eyed with fear, the boy does what he's told.

The water is rising up the stairs, fast, but my father props me up with his shoulder, and we keep climbing. I try to remember what it was like before he left my mom and me. Did he carry me to bed, up the stairs, down the hallway, and tuck me in?

"We're going to get out," my father says. "We can jump."

"We can't jump," I say. Off the ship?

"Trust me," my father says.

I've never trusted my father, never had the chance. After he left, he wasn't allowed within five hundred feet of me or my mother. "What the hell am I doing here?" I ask.

My father stares at me. "Is it you? Really you?"

"Yes, it's me," I say. Of course it's me!

My father looks stunned and scared and relieved somehow all at the same time. "You're finally here."

"Finally where?"

"Things have gotten too dangerous," he says quickly. He reaches into his pocket, and in his hand I glimpse what looks like a strangely shaped shiny wooden cross about the width of his palm, but it's not a cross, not exactly. "You've got to get lost and stay lost."

I am lost, I want to tell him, but the pain in my back is so sharp it takes my breath.

As the water pushes us up the stairwell, my blood swirls around me like a cape. I can't die here.

I look up into cloudy daylight.

The ship's listing so hard now it seems to be jackknifing. Suddenly I'm terrified we're all going to drown.

I expect to see the little boy's face at the top of the stairs, but he's gone. Instead, there's a group of men with guns trained on my father and me.

"Ellington Maxwell." The man who speaks is the one who shot me. In the hazy glare off the water I see a jagged scar on his cheek. "Welcome to our world. This time we hope you stay awhile."

I look up at the sky again and abruptly it swells with sun. My right hand hurts and I know this signals an ending ... Bright, blazing, obliterating light.

And I'm gone.

CHAPTER 2

OVERHEAD, THE greenish glow of buzzing fluorescent lights.

I'm back.

In Spanish class.

I'm sitting at the same desk where I was before the last flash came on. The room is quiet. Everyone else is bent over their desks.

We're taking a test. My name, Alicia Maxwell, is written in the top right-hand corner of the page, except that, for a minute, it doesn't look like my name, like when you look at a word over and over again until it doesn't seem to spell anything. Next to it is one of my tree doodles. Not just the trunk and branches, but also the roots, a mirror image. Sometimes I catch myself drawing different versions of that tree, even when I'm not flashing.

How long have I been out of it? I look at the cracked plastic clock, but it's about four hours off. It stopped ticking months ago.

Señor Fernandez catches my eye and gives a close-lipped smile. He knows I'm flunking this test. He probably knows I'm flunking my entire sophomore year.

I look down at the paper. Multiple choice — that's what set me off. Making decisions, even small ones, can knock me out of myself. I'm allowed to get out of multiple-choice tests, and Fernandez said I could take an essay test, but I'm not that great at Spanish, so I opted for something with better odds.

Except I'd gotten so nervous, I was chewing my nails and I ripped a small bit of skin next to my fingernail. I tore off a corner of the test to stop the bleeding. It bloomed red, seeping into the paper, and my neck ached, the pressure building in my chest so much that it felt like it could rip in half — the hallucination coming on. My desk felt wobbly, the room shook and seemed to crack, letting in seams of darkness. And then this world fell away, another one appearing in its place — even if just in my own demented head.

When I'm hallucinating, I kind of keep going in this world. I stare at my test and there's the proof. I finished it, guessing all the way, but I have no real memory of it.

I think of Sylvia Plath, and I almost hear her voice, her poem about shutting your eyes and the world dropping dead, then opening them to find that everything's born anew. I'm pretty sure I'm crazy, so it makes sense that one of my favorite poems is called "Mad Girl's Love Song."

That pain in my right hand, it's always the same. It means I'm about to get thrown back into my own life, Spanish failures and all.

The bell whines, and Señor Fernandez goes to the door to collect the tests as we head out.

I shrug at my paper, apologizing to it personally. I pull on my backpack, walk up to Señor Fernandez, and hand it in.

"You get hungry?" he asks, pointing out the missing corner.

"Siempre tengo muchos hambre?" I say, which might mean that I'm always very hungry. And I am, but not in the food way. I'm hungry for something that I've got no name for, something in those hallucinations — a fear but also an ache and I don't know how to get it to ease up. Or even if I want to.

Hafeez is waiting for me in the hall. He's all elbows and knees, all hinges and odd angles — too tall for his own good. He pats down his thick dark hair like he always does, embarrassed about its lumpiness. His older sister gives him haircuts — she's no pro. (Not that I have room to talk. I'm kind of a jeans and T-shirt type, not much makeup except for eyeliner, my brown hair always a little messy.)

Hafeez is my best friend. Correction: my only friend.

I fight my way through the crowded hallway to get close enough to hear him over the shouting and lockers clanging and whatnot. "What happened in there?" he asks.

As we head toward the cafeteria, I tell him about the latest hallucination. I like to get them off my chest, and Hafeez is the only person I can confide in — besides my therapist, Jane, who I half-confide in.

When I'm done, Hafeez shakes his head. "Your mind is one dark and twisted place."

This school feels like a dark and twisted place to me. But I can't deny that Hafeez is right. "You know how cartoons show hamsters running on little wheels in their heads? It's like my hamster's dropping acid."

"Hey, at least you're not dropping acid," Hafeez says, pointing to some burnouts duct-taping themselves to a water fountain.

"What's the youth of America coming to, Hafeez?" We have a habit of commenting on today's youth to make us feel a little removed. It makes us feel better.

"Hell if I know. I'm looking for a loophole."

"To what?"

"Um, away from all this?" he says, waving his hand in the air. "You know what my birthday wish was this year?"

"Didn't you just turn sixteen?" Hafeez is a junior. He was nice to me last year when I was a lowly freshman, and he really didn't have to be. Sometimes I think he might have a crush on me, but he'd never admit it. I wouldn't know what to do if he did. I just want to be friends, but I wonder sometimes, if he caught me at just the right moment, could it be different? But it doesn't matter. I don't want to risk what we have. I need him too much. "Aren't you a little old for birthday wishes?"

"To fast-forward to when I own a car."

I nod but I don't want to fast-forward. I'm scared of the future. Sometimes I think there's something inside of me that wants out. I feel like this thing has its own heat and no one can see it, but if they could, they'd be looking at a kid burning up, from the inside out.

The burning up has a diagnosis — in fact, lots of them. Jane has me pegged with ADD, ADHD, anxiety/depression, paranoia, hallucinations, a dissociative disorder, and paralyzing indecision. I've even made it onto the autism spectrum. I've looked up hallucinations — all kinds, even the ones that blind people have. "Perceptions without stimuli" they're called. I might be schizo or psychotic, or the neurons in my brain are shot. My mom says, "You get tired. That's all. You just get overtired." Like this could all be fixed if I took more naps.

"What if it's already too late for me?" I stop and look down the hall. All those kids — all their neurons firing away like firecrackers. "What if I'm already a junkie?"

Hafeez stops, then snorts out a laugh. "All those pills you got in that plastic days-of-the-week container? I think little old ladies in Boca Raton work like that — not junkies," he says. He's trying to make me feel better, but it doesn't work.

I'm not addicted to pills. I'm addicted to disappearing into my hallucinations. I hate them because they make me feel weak and out of control, but I crave them, too. My issues revved up when I hit a growth spurt a couple years ago. For a long time, there weren't any hallucinations. I just faded to black with pinholes of bright light like stars and then darkness tinged blue, some fabric of the sky. Then, one day, I could see a blade of grass edging up from dirt. I wasn't looking at it like a picture. I was in the picture. And then I started seeing — entering — other scenes. Not scenes. Places. And the way there can be so many rooms in a house, I kept finding doors opening to rooms with more doors.

"The whole thing lasted longer this time," I tell Hafeez as we're pushed along by the crowd. "Usually they're like YouTube on speed. I flash from one scene to the next." I call them flashes, because that's how they feel — fast and searing, but not in a good way. More like cigarette burns. "But this time, I was on a sinking cruise ship with my dad. I could feel the freezing water. I got shot." I reach to touch my shoulder blade, and of course there's nothing.

"Shot? That's new," Hafeez says. "How's your father doing these days?"

"How the hell should I know?" I'm not pissed about it. I mean, I am, but it's pretty buried. I haven't seen him, at least in real life, since I was three years old. There was a restraining order at some point that he must have taken seriously because he took off and never came back. I'll never forgive him for it, but I guess I'll never have to, because I'll most likely never see him again.

"There was a cruise ship that went down not too long ago," Hafeez says. He keeps up on world events more than most adults do. "I mean, not that it matters. Who cares if you dream about disasters that already happened?"

"They aren't dreams." I lower my voice. "You've seen me. My eyes are wide open. I keep going."

"Yeah, but you're dazed. It's like you're seventeen percent zombie." Hafeez stops at his locker to put his books away, get his lunch money, and comb his hair. I step over the legs of a girl sitting on the floor, picking at a row of long thin scabs — too precise not to have been done on purpose. She's a big girl, and her wrists are ringed like a baby's. I want to tell her that it's a crap world, like I can apologize for it or something, and that this is as real and unreal as any other bullshit existence. As the blood beads up on one of the scabs, it reminds me of my own blood, swirling in the water taken on by the ship. I'm dizzy, like I might flash again. I look away and the feeling fades.

Hafeez slams his locker, and we walk into the cafeteria. It smells like cabbage and something sickly sweet. It's a riot of noise and lights and faces, people hooting and scuffling.

We slide trays down the railings, which remind me of the metal bars on the ship deck. I try not to pick at the dark red clot on my cuticle. The memory of the pain in my shoulder tingles under my skin.

"You up for this?" Hafeez asks. The lunch line is a bad place for me. It's jammed with decisions to make — chicken or fish, pizza or pasta, side dish of green beans or not, roll? Yes or no? Relentless.

"I'm hungry enough," I say.

"You sure you're not going to lose it? Really sure?" Hafeez looks concerned.

"I never have flashes twice in one day," I say, and then add quietly, "never full-blown ones. Plus, Jane told me that I shouldn't avoid decision-making situations. I've got to face them."

"The pills are nice, too, I bet," Hafeez says, raising his eyebrows.

"They take the edge off." The truth is that they never fight off a hallucination. The flashes used to come every few months, then every few weeks, but they were blurred and dreamy. Now they're almost daily and fuller and clearer and more detailed, as if I dreamed up the places, but only remembered them through a thick mist, a fog, but now I can finally see them. They're vivid and more realistic. It feels like something is being worn away and that these hallucinations are breaking through, like radio stations emerging from static on a back road the closer you get to civilization; like if I could just get there, insanity might be a place that made sense, where the signals were actually clear.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Infinity of You & Me by Julianna Baggott. Copyright © 2016 Julianna Baggott. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Acknowledgments,
Epigraphs,
Part I: Seed,
Part II: Split,
Part III: Unfurl,
Authors' Note,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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The Infinity of You & Me 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
KikiD870 More than 1 year ago
The Infinty of You & Me, a collaboration between authors Julianna Baggott and Quinn Dalton, is a fascinating take on multiverse theory. Every decision made creates a new parallel universe. And for Alicia, every single decision is a paralyzing moment, no matter how seemingly insignificant the choice. Her entire life has been plagued by disorders and medications, which are now escalation into hallucinations. It has left her, at times, barely able to function in the world. Without the help of her best friend, life would probably be unbearable. Alicia lives alone with her mother, her father long gone. But during her birthday party, he shows up and explains to her that she isn't crazy, that there is nothing wrong with her. Her hallucinations are real, glimpses into other universes, a gift that not everyone has but that many want to use for their own purposes. I love multiverse books, and this one was no different. The multiverse theory, while theoretical at best, is thought-provoking. Are the parallel universes as real is the original, the people as important? This question is at the center of the novel. Where is the line of ethics when it comes to the multiverse? That, too, is at the center of the book, relying heavily on the answer to the first question. It is interesting to read books like this and compare the ways in which they make the multiverse real and viable. In one series, a device is used to take a traveler from universe to universe. In another, the traveler slips between the threads of frequencies that make up the "walls" between universes. In this book, it is physical triggers of pain applied in specific places that does the trick. As a fan of the multiverse genre, I really enjoyed this book. The authors added some unique twists to the theory.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Every decision has the potential to send Alicia into a tailspin where she retreats into her own head and experiences what various therapists have diagnosed as hallucinogenic episodes. Hafeez, Alicia's best friend, tries to help but neither of them can really explain what's happening. She's been treated for seizures, OCD, delusions, and various other conditions. But none of the medications or therapies have helped. In fact, as Alicia gets closer to her sixteenth birthday the hallucinations have only gotten more vivid and more frequent. When Alicia's long-lost father appears at her birthday party, he shocks Alicia by telling her that the hallucinations are real. Every time Alicia thought she was dreaming she was really traveling to an alternate world including one that is slowly dying where she is drawn to a boy named Jax. Alicia and Jax share a complicated past and a present that spans two worlds. Desperate to understand who and what she is, Alicia will embark on a journey across worlds to find the truth and protect the people and places she holds dear in The Infinity of You & Me (2016) by J. Q. Coyle. Speculative fiction often grounds supernatural or extraordinary abilities in what initially appears to be a disability. In Alicia's case, that translates to her belief in the beginning of the novel that she is mentally unstable and consequently needs treatment and medication for a variety of diagnoses. Coyle, unfortunately, compounds the problem here with Alicia's medications. Alicia repeatedly refers to herself as an "almost junkie" and obsesses over the number of pills she takes. While it makes some sense for her character, it's also a troubling portrayal of the stigmas surrounding medication for mental illness and something that bears mention and discussion outside the context of the story. The Infinity of You & Me is grounded in the theory that every decision you make creates a new universe with potentially infinite branches as decisions change. Alicia makes sense of this abstract theory throughout the novel with references and excerpts from Sylvia Plath poems. This novel's blend of poetry and science fiction works well to lend an eerie and timeless quality to the writing as Alicia wades through multiple worlds. Alicia is prickly at the beginning of the novel but patient readers will be rewarded with a nuanced and thoughtful narrator. The Infinity of You & Me is an interesting and unique exploration of the idea of parallel worlds with stark writing that sharply highlights the beauty and danger that Alicia encounters throughout her travels. Sure to appeal to readers looking for a fresh sci-fi adventure. Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Slide by Jill Hathaway, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Planesrunner by Ian McDonald, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Parallel by Lauren Miller, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West