It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Brian Thompson is a celebrated writer, educator, and former journalist. His previous works include the Christian fiction thriller The Lost Testament, inspirational adventure The Revelation Gate, and futuristic sci-fi novel The Anarchists. He and his family reside in Covington, Georgia.
Visit the author’s website.
Cherish’s only friend, Rhapsody Lowe, shows him a crystal that turns her invisible. Jason tries one on and he jumps over a city.
Their classmates, Sasha and Selby, see Jason and Rhapsody in action and receive crystals of their own. They keep a low profile until Jason discovers they are being studied by people they trust.
With eleven days until Reject High is destroyed, Jason and his friends must dodge their pursuers, solve the mystery of Cherish’s death, and save their power source from falling into the wrong hands.
The first installment in a multi-book series, Reject High combines engaging characters inside of a page-turning, breathtaking adventure.
List Price: $11.95
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Great Nation Publishing (June 13, 2013)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I watched policemen cut away the yellow crime scene tape on the five o’ clock news. It made my throat burn. They sent the memorials away to God-knows-where. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the lack of respect for the dead girl. After all, Cherish Watkins did go to an alternative school. That’s where I was headed.
My suspension won’t end until whenever that school opens back up. Sounds like an early summer vacation? Not if your stepmom takes everything fun from your room, like mine did. My video games and DVDs aren’t in their usual hiding place. Neither is my MP4 player. She must have hidden my stuff at Aunt Dee’s house under the mess.
Some parents, who were angry about the school being closed, forced an emergency board meeting. Did they think we’d start a zombie apocalypse and destroy the town? Who cares anyway? Reject High – what everyone calls the alternative school – will close for good in a month. The building will be destroyed this summer. Epic fail. Even then, I’ll probably never get back into North High, my old school. Guess I’ll drop out, since we can’t afford to move to another district.
This isn’t my first time being in trouble. Doctors don’t know exactly why, but in addition to ADHD, I have rage blackouts. I lose control, destroy things, and I hurt people. Problem is – I don’t remember anything about them. It’s one of a couple of reasons my father gave up raising me and let his ex-wife Debra take me in. He’d never admit it, but he didn’t have to.
At the risk of making me angry, Debra forced me to come with her to the special meeting. I had “an interest in the outcome,” she said. If Reject High stayed closed, my apartment jail sentence would continue until June. Otherwise, I’d be free. . .to go to back to school. Wish I’d waited a little longer to break Ryan Cain’s jaw. The school board might have just suspended me through the end of the school year. Then I wouldn’t be in this mess.
I rubbed the back of my neck and turned to my stepmother, who sat to my left. “It’s eleven days and it’s only Reject High, not jail.”
Debra shook her head, which she does when I let her down. As many times as I’ve disappointed her, she should have a serious neck problem. “That’s not a really big difference, Jason.”
Though she shouted that in my ear, I could barely hear it. People all around called us names, like “degenerates” and “multiple offenders.” After a good loud minute of that, the board chairwoman – the chick with the nameplate “B. King” – banged her little wooden hammer against the table. “One last comment,” she screamed while waving for the next person in line to step up.
Vivienne Coker moved to the center aisle. She looked like a sixty-year-old version of the mom on Friday Night Lights – graying red hair, with wrinkles all over the place and pointy boobs. She ran the city’s group home, which always had an opening. Vivienne complained about everything to anyone who’d listen. She and B. King smiled at one another.
“Ms. Coker,” said B. King with a sneer. “You have two minutes.”
“Won’t take me one, Belinda. Might as well send the worst ones to us, ‘cause if you let them stay out longer, it’ll be Armageddon.”
Fine, crime has gone up. Can she really blame that on us? As Vivienne walked back to her seat, I wanted to strangle her. But that’s why I was one of “them” to begin with. Well, so much for being “normal.”
At the front of the room, the eight men and women on the board sat in high-backed, brown leather chairs – like a semicircle of Supreme Court judges in dress clothes. At their left, a lawyer adjusted her glasses and said legal stuff no one understood. Finally, Belinda King called for a vote, and the board unanimously reopened the school. After that, they concluded the meeting and immediately hid from the media in what the lawyer called an executive session.
Debra stood. “Great. I’m officially raising a statistic.”
I’ve been called a lot of things, but that one hurt. I didn’t ask to be born different.
The next day, the school bus left us at the entrance to the school property. It had razor wire looping through the top of the fence and I smelled cigarettes and marijuana smoke. In front of the building, a maroon wooden sign said R.E.G.C.T. in white capital letters. Underneath the abbreviation, it was spelled out: Regional Education and Guidance Collective Training facility. At the top, someone had spray painted “JE” over the letter “G” to spell REJECT. Yup, this was close enough to jail, alright.
Since clear backpacks were required as a safety thing, I stuffed my MP4 player down between my books. Getting into a fight over it was not an option after Debra finally gave it back. The next thing I do wrong, it’s straight from here to someplace worse.
Allen Rush, my old principal at North High, once called me “trash that needed taking out.” No one would buy it if I told them he said it, because we were alone in his office. Who would take my word over an adult’s anyway?
On first glance, this place was nothing like North. It should have been blown up years ago. Instead of trimmed grass, it had weeds sticking up between cracks in the sidewalk. The concrete steps were broken in spots. The closer I got, the more horrible it looked. So did the students.
This kid from New York once told me to move with purpose. Doing that has helped me avoid trouble. Since I’m 5’2 ¾”, I always walked fast and stared a hole through anyone who looked at me. The potheads and the girls who Debra likes to call “garden tools” gawked back at me. I’m the weird one?
Inside the main entrance, a metal detector/pat-down line stretched along the nearby wall. Backing up against the orange bricks, I hid the contents of my book bag so no one could see my MP4. Debra had said not to take it in the first place, but she said lots of things. Without music to calm me down, I’d have only my thoughts, and thinking too much for me is a bad idea.
A cute girl – for a Goth, at least – stood next to me. Usually, girls like her wore torn up clothes and thought white and black are the world’s only colors. Not this one. She wore a blue and white spandex shirt and her bra strap peeked out on her shoulder. I’m not into pink, but it got my attention. She smelled great, like a flower garden. Her hair stuck up in randomly-gelled strands. With a better hairdo and less makeup, she’d be Penelope Cruz’s little sister kind-of-hot.
“Move,” she said to me with her eyes fixed ahead. “You’re next.”
Her voice snapped me to attention. “My fault.”
A uniformed Student Resource Officer with bushy nose hair waved for me to leave my bag on the conveyor belt and step through the metal detector. After removing my wallet, keys, cell phone, and belt, I passed through without a problem and collected my stuff.
Down the hallway a redheaded football-player shaped like a bowling ball played “keep away” with the bag of a kid around my size. I hate football and the guys that play it. After today, my MP4 and cell are staying at home.
“Won’t happen,” Goth Girl said with a playful grin.
“What ‘won’t happen’?” What was she talking about?
“You’re a virgin.”
“What?” I cleared my throat before my voice squeaked like a Yo Gabba Gabba character. There would be no saving myself from this one.
“Selby always gets to the first-timers. Just let him have his fun and try not to struggle too much.”
“No chance.” She didn’t know my reputation.
She smirked. “Good luck with that.”
Before I had a chance to react, the kid she called Selby yanked me by the neck into a nearby hallway, pulled off my backpack, and shoved me against a locker. “Freak,” he said, his lip curled. Wait – I know him! He used to go to North High and he acted like ninth graders were bugs to be crushed.
“C’mon!” The way he went through my stuff sent me into overdrive. My ears pounded, and suddenly everything in my world faded into white flashes. The blackout couldn’t have lasted too long. When I came out of it, my wrists weren’t handcuffed and nobody asked me questions I couldn’t answer. Selby groaned at my feet. He was bleeding at the mouth.
My knuckles were sore, and I didn’t notice any cameras. We were alone, so I got my backpack and ran down the hallway. Every classroom door was locked. Maybe the bathrooms? The boys’ restroom was locked, but the girls’ door gave in after I shoved it. No time for me to be squeamish. Besides, what was the worst thing I could find? Debra hand-washed her bras and hung them to dry in our shared bathroom. It couldn’t be much worse than that. I’ll just squeeze through the window and cut class. Anything’s better than facing assault charges.
Inside, I found Goth Girl applying a coat of lipstick to her already shiny black lips. “Told you,” she said, fully satisfied with herself. She continued making small ovals around her mouth while she mocked me.
The center stall, it looked like. . .no, it couldn’t be. We’re in the South Hall bathroom?
She faced me for the first time. “No one will find you in here.”
Goth Girl said it like a threat, unaware I’d hulked out. Selby might never become a dad because of me.
“I’m Rhapsody Lowe.” She acted like we weren’t standing in a former crime scene.
“Rhapsody” couldn’t be her real name. Who names her kid Rhapsody? She probably had an ugly first name, like Peggy Sue. “Whoever you are, I’m not staying in here.”
“Why not, Genius?”
“I get marked absent, my house gets called,” I shrugged. “Stepmom freaks, and I’ll be in the Black Hole with Coker by Monday. Besides, it’s a bathroom. One of us’ll have to use it, at some point.”
She snickered at my reasoning. “C’mon, stay. I’m not shy, but since you are, I won’t watch.”
“I’m serious.” Someone had removed the stall doors and never put them back up.
She crossed her arms over her chest and backed against the sink. “So am I. Your stepmom might. What makes you think the teachers care that much?” She nodded to the center stall. “They’re all here to get a check and go home. It’s Reject High. You get shipped here when nobody wants to deal with you.”
Yep, it had happened. Right there. Cherish Watkins shot herself. Small brown spots of her dried blood lined the outside of the drain grate. The ringing homeroom bell interrupted us.
“Quit worrying. You a momma’s boy, or something?”
“My mom’s dead.”
“Sorry. Chill out is all I meant.”
I shrugged my backpack down from my shoulders and went straight for my MP4. Rhapsody turned on her MP4 player and rocked out to some loud heavy metal. I blasted hip-hop and slid down to the black and white checkered floor. For a while, everything seemed okay. I closed my eyes and listened to almost every song on two different albums. An hour-and-a-half passed. We didn’t say a word to each other.
Then, in the middle of third period, I had to pee. I tried to hold it, but the more I thought about it, the more I needed to go. The first stall was closest to me. She’d have to stand on a seat and peek over the walls to see anything. I glanced all around, but didn’t see anything. Good thing I didn’t have gas. Satisfied, I kicked the toilet handle with my foot.
“Seriously?” Rhapsody shouted at me. “You suck at skipping.” When she stomped closer, I remembered my pants were still open.
“You said no one cared!” I turned around to zip up and washed my hands.
“We’ve got maybe two minutes before an SRO gets down here. Grab your crap, sit on the seat and shut up,” she growled. “Can you handle that?”
We’re screwed – the stalls don’t have doors. Who’s the genius now? “Shouldn’t we run, then?”
Tired of waiting for me, she entered the middle stall. “Alright, Captain Obvious. Get caught then.”
Soon the slow click-click sound of approaching footsteps against the hallway flooring made me do what Goth Girl said. When I squatted on the seat, I found out why Debra yells at me to lift it up at home.
Screeching hinges warned me we were no longer alone.
“Anybody in here?”
Did he really expect us to answer? I’d deny doing anything wrong, even if there was proof of me doing it. It works in court, so it might work for me here, too. Besides, someone died here. Someone would have to be really smart, or strange, to cut class here.
Click-click. He closed in – not a flashlight cop, but a Student Resource Officer with a loaded gun. He stopped, gazed at himself in the mirror and plucked a few nose hairs with his fingers.
I almost forgot not to laugh.
The guy’s name badge said S. Spivey 0344. Spivey inspected the inside of Rhapsody’s stall, the empty one at the end, and then mine. He stared at me, face-to-face and used his radio.
My heart settled in my throat. We’re so busted!
“Spivey here,” he said, still facing me. “All clear. They must’ve run.”
Was this guy blind or stupid? I waved my hand. Spivey stopped. Did he see me after all? I guess not, because he closed the open window and walked away.
About a minute later, Rhapsody reappeared in front of me. “Next time, don’t flush.”