She doesn’t go to Heaven or Hell. She lands at The Academy, a middle realm where teenagers have one thing in common: They were that morning announcement at their high schools because they died young.
These high school kids are now caught in a strange “in-between” zone where life hasn’t changed very much. In fact, this special teen limbo looks a lot like life in a quaint Michigan town complete with jocks, popular girls and cliques. “There are even cheerleaders in death,” Walker observes. It’s not a coincidence that the music teacher is a guy named Kurt who “used to have this band.” The drama teacher, Heath, is crush worthy because back in his life, he starred in some superhero movie as the Joker.
Principal King explains the rules — there are none. Why? You can’t die twice.
There is no homework.
You’re just there to learn because the human brain isn’t fully formed until you’re 24.
By the way, you can’t get hurt physically, so race your Harley off that hillside. But falling in love is the most dangerous thing you can do …because no one knows how long you’ll stay in this realm or what’s next. Walker falls hard for tat-covered, bad boy Daniel Reid who is about to break the only sacred rule of this place. He’s looking for a portal to return back to the living realm.
instant, my back foot caught on a large fallen tree branch and I fell forward
with all my body weight. Crashing hard onto my hands and knees, I cried out,
but I wasn’t in any real pain. Before I could stand up, I slipped again until
my stomach slammed against the surface of the thickly iced-over pond. The
cracking sound was like thunder. Then, in what felt like a sickening surge of
broken glass and rushing water, the ground suddenly ceased to exist. I didn’t
have time to scream as I dropped into the dark, lifeless, icy chill of wintery
slap of bitter freeze, instantly calling up some stupid fact from science class
at Kennedy High where we learned that Titanic survivors described hitting the
freezing ocean water as thousands of tiny knives stabbing every inch of their
pain, but there was none. There was just numbness as I entered the earliest
stages of being converted to ice.
and I fought hard as my hands flailed through the water trying to keep my head
above the murky freeze, but it was pointless. The water was hungry that night
and my thrashing almost made a game out of its impending conquest. It only took
a second or two of my desperate survival dance for the lake to swallow me
the crack and he stopped in place. Slowly, he turned around as I struggled to pop
up again, but by putting up a fight I only succeeded in making it worse. As my body
was being carried under the heavy sheet of ice in an involuntary dance, I could
see Daniel above, the soles of his black boots carefully following my route as
he calmly watched me drown.
fascinating to watch him ever so gradually shuffle along as my hands
desperately reached from under my new icy roof for the bottom of his boots. The
only thing that separated us was about five solid inches of deadly winter soup.
By the time he found me in an even darker spot where the lake mingled with
several dead, embalmed trees, all he could see from under the thick coating was
my face looking up at him, frozen in horror. He saw my pouty mouth almost
kissing the ice and frantically trying to say one word to him.
green water, ingesting long tentacles of lifeless leaves and thick clumps of
sludge-dirt, and it all slid easily into my lungs while he just stood there. He. Stood. There.
maneuvered away from the spot by the trees, which made it worse because now I
was pinned under even thicker ice, my milky-white face pressed up against eight
to ten inches of immovable crystals.
to where I was wildly waving my arms underneath the water. When I looked up now,
he was a hazy dark blur that made me suddenly dizzy. That’s when I shut my eyes
to wait for the inevitable.
Long minutes passed, my eyes sprung open, and I continued to push upward again as
the water became midnight black. For some reason I was still alive, but I still
couldn’t free myself from this wintry prison.
could pass before I would be brain-dead? How much time before I died?
the ground and calmly watched me struggle. “To hell with this,” he finally
said, loud enough for me to hear him under the ice. Was he telling me to stop
struggling and just accept that I lost?
minute passed, he shook his head and, though apparently talking to himself, said
even louder, “Okay, enough . . . but you need to know.”
thinner spot of ice, he made a small hole and then pummeled it into a bigger
passage with those clomping boots. Reaching down into the crack, he offered me
a strong hand and a tat-covered, muscular arm. Somehow through the dark water,
I saw human fingers moving and grabbed them like they were my only lifelines,
which is exactly what they were to me.
hoist and I was in his arms, pressed body-to-body up against him, soaking wet,
freezing cold, and mad as hell.
had absolutely no feeling in it, I slapped him squarely across the jaw as hard
as possible. When he didn’t budge much, I slapped him again, which made my hand
tired, but it didn’t hurt. When I attempted to punch his face, he grabbed my
hand in a firm way that signaled we weren’t going another nine rounds.
said with a smirk that made those soft eyes twinkle. “I guess you’re a fan of
the Rocky movies.”
. . why . . . you didn’t even try to save me,” I sputtered, but I wasn’t really
coughing and certainly my brain was perfectly fine. For a split second, I
counted to five backward. Again, it was amazing that my mind was still
functioning. Maybe the water was cold enough to save me. Is that how it worked?
just standing there! Watching! Watching me die!” I screamed, shoving him again.
This time, I took him by surprise and he landed butt-first in a pile of snow.
lurched forward, and grabbed both of my arms, holding me against his rock-hard
chest until I stopped struggling and gave up the idea of trying to knock his
block off. He held me tightly like he was protecting me from some danger worse
than what just happened. Tears formed in my eyes and I began to touch my arms
and then tested my breathing, which was perfectly normal. He still refused to
let go. Big white puffs of my breath filled the dark sky and I watched them
evaporate slowly like little clouds. Then I looked up.
aren’t I dead?” I said in an anguished voice.
took a deep breath, carefully released me, and then answered slowly.
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baby, you can’t die twice,” he said.
C.L. Gaber is the co-author of the bestselling YA novel “Jex Malone.” She is also an entertainment journalist, syndicated worldwide through the New York Times Syndicate. She interviews A-lister movie, TV and music stars for the Chicago Sun-Times. A movie-loving kid in Chicago, she grew up to earn a degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. Now she lives Nevada with her husband Ron, once her high school boyfriend; her stepdaughter, Sabrina; and their dogs, Colt and Georgie.Website
http://www.clgaber.com/ | Facebook