The Perfect Candidate

The Perfect Candidate

by Peter Stone


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“The perfect YA thriller for right now—think John Grisham meets John Green.” —Margaret Stohl, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Creatures
“Gripping and twisty, but also filled with heart. A fun must-read.” —Melissa de la Cruz, New York Times bestselling author of Alex and Eliza
“An enthralling plot of power, greed, and murder.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A YA version of the TV show Scandal, and it is just as addictive.” —Publishers Weekly

From debut author Peter Stone comes a heart-stopping, pulse-pounding political thriller that’s perfect for fans of Ally Carter and House of Cards.

When recent high school graduate Cameron Carter lands an internship with Congressman Billy Beck in Washington, DC, he thinks it is his ticket out of small town captivity. What he lacks in connections and Beltway polish he makes up in smarts, and he soon finds a friend and mentor in fellow staffer Ariel Lancaster.

That is, until she winds up dead.

As rumors and accusations about her death fly around Capitol Hill, Cameron’s low profile makes him the perfect candidate for an FBI investigation that he wants no part of. Before he knows it—and with his family’s future at stake—he discovers DC’s darkest secrets as he races to expose a deadly conspiracy.

If it doesn’t get him killed first.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781534422179
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 471,748
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Peter Stone is a lifelong fan of thrillers on the big screen, small screen, and page. Prior to his career in TV and film marketing, he worked in Washington, DC, first as an intern on Capitol Hill and later as a Spanish tutor for a former Speaker of the House. The Perfect Candidate is his debut novel. He lives in Tokyo, Japan, with his wife and two sons.

Read an Excerpt

The Perfect Candidate

The taxi was going eighty miles per hour. And we weren’t even on the freeway yet.

When the driver made eye contact with me through the rearview mirror, I quickly hunched down in the back seat so that he wouldn’t think I questioned his judgment.

“You think I’m going too fast,” he taunted.

“No, no, it’s fine.” I shrugged with a brief smile, not quite grasping the courtesy I felt obliged to offer the man (I was paying him, after all).

As we left the Dulles airport, I saw a sign illuminated in the night sky: Virginia State Route 267.

We were moving too fast. Everything was moving too fast.

Three days before, I was graduating from high school, on a dusty and dry May night. The kind of heat that California’s Central Valley conjures up to warn you about the punishing summer ahead. Three nights ago, I was hugging and selfie-ing and lying to everyone that we would “totally keep in touch.”

I guess they were mostly good people. Though among the graduating class were the guys who’d dipped me into a trash can, headfirst, as congratulations for winning the sixth-grade spelling bee. And the girls who pretended not to know me as they sat poolside and I mowed their parents’ backyard lawns for my dad’s landscaping business. And the vice principal who ratted out Ingrid Cuevas’s family to the immigration authorities, which meant our student body president/softball team captain disappeared after spring break a couple months ago.

Okay, maybe they weren’t mostly good people. But for some reason, three thousand miles away, hurtling toward an unknown city and a lesser-known summer internship, I missed home.

“It’s late on a Sunday night—no traffic. We’ll get to DC in no time,” barked the driver, over the soft jazz station he’d tuned the radio to. “So where’d you fly in from?”

“Lagrima,” I shouted back.

Pronounced Luh-GRIME-uh. My hometown was no exception to the grand tradition of California cities named after Spanish words with butchered pronunciations. The English translation of the word was chillingly accurate: tears. As in, This town makes me cry.

“La-what?” he shot back.

“It’s basically San Francisco,” I answered.

“Basically San Francisco”: two hours inland, filled with tract homes past their prime and abandoned strip malls.

“So are you coming home or leaving home?” asked the driver, as progressive exit signs announced unfamiliar suburbs: Reston, Wolf Trap, Falls Church . . .

“Coming home,” I lied. I’d be going to Lagrima Junior College in the fall, but one could dream. Or at least pretend.

“You work? In school?”

“I work for Congressman Billy Beck.”

Summer intern, to be more precise.

I needed the internship because my mom met my dad while she worked for the Department of Agriculture in DC eighteen years ago. She got her start as a summer intern and then landed a full-time gig after graduating from the University of Virginia. Your parents show you your paths. And when your dad shoots horse manure pellets into rich people’s lawns, and your mom once helped run the country—you choose your mom’s path.

“Powerful man,” observed the driver. “If the Dems take back the House in November, he’ll be the new Speaker.”

“You follow politics?” I was impressed.

“It’s DC,” he said. “Politics follow everyone.”

Suddenly both talkative and surprisingly civic-minded, the driver started ranting about none other than health care reform and if I could please do something about lower deductibles.

I nodded, but my thoughts were drifting.

To when my parents fell in love, or something like it, and I came along. And when my mom left the East Coast so she could get married and raise me. In that crap hole of a town. She went from senate hearings and lobbyist lunches to strip malls and cold cuts. I planned to do the reverse.

A semitruck started to merge into our lane, and the driver slammed the car horn and actually sped up.

“Think they own the road,” he muttered as he coolly gulped coffee from a tall cup. “Sorry about the horn.”

“No worries,” I said.

“Even the name Affordable Care Act is a paradox, and they all know it . . . ,” his rant continued.

Another distraction. A memory, maybe my first: a foggy December morning when my mom drove me to preschool. Someone had too many beers for breakfast and thought our lane was their lane. How do you explain a closed casket to a four-year-old? My dad did his best. Lagrima took my mom away from DC, and then it killed her. And Lagrima isn’t going to kill two members of the Carter family.

“So are you in it for the long haul?” asked the driver. “On the Hill. You know, most folks only last a few years before they burn out. Working all the time, making less than me, even . . .”

“Oh yeah, definitely,” I eagerly replied, naively certain of a career I hadn’t begun. Though if you counted the grassroots committee for the last election, I guess I started a couple years ago. I led other high school students door to door, telling people to get out on Election Day. I even convinced some dude with an oil painting of Ronald Reagan in his living room to vote for Congressman Beck.

And I was hooked. Hooked on all of it. The policy, the possibilities, the campaign. I imagined the people at The Hill and Politico wondered who used that single Lagrima, CA, IP address that refreshed their sites day and night. It was me. My friends got on BuzzFeed to take quizzes that told them which celebrity child was their spirit animal. I read it because it’s the best-kept secret of political news. And all I wanted was to be where that news—where history—was made.

I recognized the first city name on a freeway sign: Arlington. Getting closer. And then a sign for the Pentagon, like the opening act for the main event.

“Foggy Bottom, you said?” asked the driver.

“Yeah,” I said, acknowledging my new neighborhood, which sounded more like the name of a garage band than the metro stop for George Washington University. I pulled out the orientation packet I’d received from the home office, to verify the apartment address. “Corner of New Hampshire Avenue NW and I Street NW.”

I read through a few other details in the packet: I would be living with roommates “Zephaniah” and “Hillary” in an apartment just west of GWU. And I would take the blue line on the metro every day to the Capitol South stop. As in: the Capitol of the United States of America. My office for the summer. No big deal.

And then the leafy trees on either side of the freeway gave way to a view of that giant, gleaming Styrofoam cooler of a monument—the Lincoln Memorial. As we rounded the road surrounding Honest Abe’s shrine, the piercing white Washington Monument appeared briefly in the distance. The driver banked to the left and headed through several clean, abandoned street blocks. We zoomed by a tiny brown sign that identified the hulking marble building behind it as the State Department, and if it was possible to be starstruck by an office building, I was.

The ride came to an end in front of a three-story brick building that looked like it was made of vomit-colored Legos. The driver’s parting words were something about Hollywood fund-raisers, but I had long stopped paying attention. I stood in front of my summer residence, bags in hand. My jeans and long-sleeved shirt were suddenly oppressively hot in the thick East Coast air. The clumsy footsteps and bellowing laughter of some students echoed from the GWU dorms across the street. Though they were probably just a high school graduating class ahead of me, they seemed so much older. College students. Adults. Who lived in apartments with roommates instead of in a house with a dad. Like the apartment I was going to live in, starting in a few minutes. Like the adult I was about to become? An urgent desire to be back home at Taco Bell with my dad tiptoed toward the front of my mind, but it faded as I clunk-clunk-clunked my suitcase up the stairs.

I slipped in the locked front door as an oblivious resident walked out. That wish about Taco Bell kind of came true because the hallway smelled like a food court at three a.m.—all fried/sticky/industrial cleaner. Muted murmurings came from each doorway and floated through the stale air as I searched for my apartment—number 1F. I heard it (opera music) before I saw the apartment door. And that internship brief had not prepared me for the person on the other side.

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The Perfect Candidate 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
vphillips88 More than 1 year ago
Cameron Carter is excited to be chosen as an intern in the office of Congressman Billy Beck in Washington, DC. He's glad to get out of his small California town and work for a man he really admires. He's sort of a fish out of water but eager and bright. He is befriended by Ariel Lancaster, supervisor of the interns and daughter of a freshman Congresswoman who is an ally of Beck's. Ariel says she has something to tell Cameron and that she needs his help with something, but before she can provide details, she dies in a car accident. It doesn't take long for Cameron to become suspicious especially when he is contacted by a man named Memo Adair who says he's with the FBI and investigating Beck. While Cameron is more concerned with Ariel's death, he still gets involved in the investigation. He's also met Lena who is the daughter of the Mexican ambassador and an old Washington hand. They start what they both know is a summer romance. After all, she's on her way to Princeton and he's on his way to his local community college. The two of them tour many Washington sites and become good friends. In fact, when Cameron has to pick someone to hold the information he's gathered in case something happens to him, he chooses Lena. She also turns out to be a pretty good computer hacker too. This story was filled with lots of excitement as Cameron investigates a man he admires and finds out that he's not the hero Cameron believed. There was lots of Washington politics and secrets and people who were sucked into things they should have been involved with. Fans of politics, suspense, and a dash of romance will enjoy this fast-paced story. The surprise twist at the end could lead to more adventures for Cameron too.
ReadingwithErin More than 1 year ago
Interns, Scandals, and Murder. I first wanted to read this book, because it's about an intern in Washinton D.C. and with how I've become invested in elections and what politicians are doing in the past two years, I wanted to read a book that covered that as well. The Perfect Candidate did not disappoint. Cameron Carter lives in a small town in California and works in his free time at his dad's landscaping business. After his high school graduation and before he starts going to the local community college, he's decided to try and intern for his local congressman nicknamed BIB. He shockingly gets the internship and goes to Washington for the summer. While there he makes friends with the other interns and staff and gets sucked into a mission of sorts after one of the interns mysteriously dies. Overall I loved this story. Cameron is a very realistic character, he struggles with balancing his life back in California and keeping in touch with friends, while also fully immersing himself in what is happening for him this summer in Washington. Things got even more complicated for him the longer he was in Washington as he got sucked into helping find out something that changed hundreds of people lives once it was made public. The mystery of what happened to the fellow staffer was fascinating to me and was dealt with in a real way, where people think about it for a few days and then it goes on the back burner and hardly ever gets mentioned again. For me, this book was very realistic when it came to how people deal with loss, as well as trying to balance out the two different lives we can live at the same time. Cameron was a character that I truly did like, and he was smart and dumb at the same time just like a real person. He never had all of the answers and he trusted people he shouldn't have at times and confided in people that were good at other times. I cannot give this book enough praise and I can't wait to see what the author writes next. P.S. To Mr. Stone does that ending mean we are going to get more of these characters? I sure hope so because I adored them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great mystery for young adults! Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone! Cameron travels to Washington D.C. to begin an internship under Congressman Beck. Soon after arriving, one of the other Congressman’s workers (Ariel) dies in a drunk driving accident. An FBI agent approaches Cameron for help proving that the Congressman is corrupt. He digs a bit and finds a link to someone that knew Ariel. That leads to Cameron being pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery. I enjoy the characters and Cameron is a good guy trying to figure out his path in life and he and Lena are fun together. Cameron’s roommates and fellow interns make me laugh and I enjoyed reading this entire book. The ending was awesome in more ways than one! I’m looking forward to other books by Peter Stone. 5 stars for an engaging young adult mystery! * I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration and all opinions and thoughts are my own.
ruthsic More than 1 year ago
The Perfect Candidate is a murder mystery set against the backdrop of politics of Washington D.C., and has a newcomer to the city, Cameron Carter, as the protagonist. Cameron becomes a congressional intern, following the footsteps of his mother, and is eager to soak in the vibe of a busy city, so different from his small town, and for the chance to make a difference. On his first week there, Alice takes him under her wing; she turns up dead next week, and then he is lured into an investigation for her murder and the conspiracy behind it. Seeking to get justice for her, as well as the carrot dangled in front of him by the agent who recruits him, he starts to help out the investigation. The book has a good plot, and some interesting set of characters, but overall, I would say it doesn’t do justice to both. The writing fails to build the atmosphere of intrigue, mystery and threat that you would expect from a thriller, nor does it sufficiently emphasize the political nature of this particular conspiracy. For the most part, Cameron is not really under any threat, so it doesn’t even have great stakes to begin with; there is perhaps only one part towards the end that really gets your pulse racing with anxiety. The identity of the murderer was predictable, if you follow mystery novel tropes, so it wasn’t entirely a surprise, but I found it weird that they were being sort of redeemed in one letter in the end? And the other secondary characters don’t make much of dent, despite being interesting personalities, because they are tragically underused and only occasionally flit into Cameron’s sphere, and I include his love interest in this. Cameron himself feels like a passive protagonist, and I questioned why him – spoiler, it isn’t until the epilogue that it truly makes sense! Overall, it is an okay story, but could have done with better writing. Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, via Netgalley.