“A celebration of what it means to be human.” —Katharine McGee, New York Times bestselling author of The Thousandth Floor
RAISED AMONG THEM.
Li has a father and a sister who love her. A best friend, Mirabae, to share things with. She goes to school and hangs out at the beach and carefully follows the rules. She has to. Everyone she knows--her family, her teachers, her friends--is an alien. And she is the only human left on Earth.
A SECRET THAT COULD END HER LIFE.
The Abdoloreans hijacked the planet sixteen years ago, destroying all human life. Li's human-sympathizer father took her in as a baby and has trained her to pass as one of them. The Abdoloreans appear human. But they don't think with human minds or feel with human hearts. And they have special abilities no human could ever have.
FIT IN OR DIE.
When Li meets Ryn, she's swept up in a relationship that could have disastrous consequences. How far will Li go to stay alive? Will she save herself--and in turn, the human race--or will she be the final witness to humanity's destruction?
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I push my way through the tangled weeds and onto the cliffs overlooking the Bay. The light of day is already fading, and for a moment, it looks like winter, though there is no such thing. Once there were whales in the waters below, but now there are only skeletons, mammoth in their loss of flesh. I imagine them as they were when they still existed, full of breath and body, before the ocean could no longer hold them.
Vines snake around the buildings below, flowers twisting around the shoots. The whole city pushes out of the land as though it’s blooming. Mirabae is already here, stretched out like a starfish, waiting. I stand hidden in the shadows of the trees, but she senses my presence.
“You’re late,” she calls out, her eyes closed. “I’ve been here forever.”
The gills behind her ears flick open and closed. They allow for the release of air from the body, for breathing underwater. I touch my own gills. They flick open and closed, too, but they let no air out or in. They don’t do anything at all.
“Sorry,” I say. I don’t tell her where I’ve been.
I drop down next to her, my head to her head, and she weaves our hair together in one long braid. Mirabae’s hair is purple and shimmers in the sun. Mine is dark and falls in waves down my back. When we were younger, she would come over at night when her parents fought, scaling up the side of the house to my window, where I always let her in. We would sit on the roof and map out the stars in the sky. There are things I don’t tell her, things I don’t say out loud to anyone, but I know that when I come to these cliffs, she’ll be here, where the world belongs only to us.
“Maybe we should stay here,” I say to Mirabae. “Build a tiny home out of twigs. Sharpen our teeth into points.”
“Go feral,” she says, and smiles. At the end of this week, we start Assessment, the three months of training that will prepare us for enlisting in the Abdolorean Armed Forces. The Abdoloreans call it Conscription. Soon we’ll be galaxies away from here and from each other, starting the first of seven years of military service.
“What if we just didn’t go?” I ask, as though we have a choice.
“I want to go,” she says quietly, staring up at the sky. “I need to get away from here.”
“I know,” I tell her, and the last train of the day ashes by on the bridge overhead.
Mirabae never talks about her family. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve been friends for so long because we both have things we hide. I break open a pod from the trees above and crack the seeds from within it. Inside is silver dust, and I pass the pod to Mirabae. We press the powder onto our lips and they glitter. We streak it over our cheekbones so we sparkle in the moonlight.
“We look like jelly fish,” I tell her, not that I’ve ever seen any. The stars shimmer endlessly above, snaking their light over us. My bones twitch relentlessly under my skin. I have no name for what this feeling is. I push myself off the ground, shaking the dirt from my fingers. Mirabae stands up next to me. Nothing more needs to be said. We both know what comes next.
We race down the cliffs, our feet fighting for purchase on the rocky expanse. We weave through fruit groves. We suck on lemons, spitting the seeds into the dirt as we go.
At the base of the cliffs is a tunnel covered in moss. We rush through it, spinning in circles. I don’t think about who I am, where I’m going. We don’t stop, don’t even think of stopping, until we reach the end of the tunnel and find ourselves at the fence at the edge of the beach.
“Let’s climb it, Li,” Mirabae breathes, her eyes wild. She scales the fence in seconds and looks down at me. “Come on. It’s easy.”
She pulls herself all the way to the top, balancing on her toes, her dress fluttering in the wind. She spreads her arms wide and leaps through the air as though gravity means nothing. She lands on the other side without even faltering.
“Your turn,” she says, smiling.
The fence is twenty feet tall and topped with barbed wire. It’s not that high, I know I can climb it, but if anything were to go wrong. . . I can’t risk it. Sweat drips down the nape of my neck, the creases of my elbows.
“It’s late,” I say finally. “I have to go.”
Mirabae stares at me through the links of the fence, her smile fading.
“You always leave,” she accuses me. “Stay, just this once.”
I look up at the moon, full in the sky. I don’t know what I can tell her, so I just shake my head.
“Fine,” she says, a tinge of sadness in her voice. “Just go.”
“Mirabae, you know my dad,” I remind her. “You know how he is.”
“I know,” she sighs, trailing her toes in the sand. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The city sparkles in the distance, a million lights blinking from far away. I walk down street after street, my footsteps echoing on the pavement. Again I look up to the sky and the galaxies within it. “Where am I going?” I whisper. “What does this life hold?” But I know there’s only one answer. There’s only one way for my life to move.