Piper Woods can’t wait for the purgatory of senior year to end. She skirts the fringes of high school like a pro until the morning she finds a notebook with mutilated photographs and a list of student sins. She’s sure the book is too gruesome to be true, until pretty, popular Stella dies after a sex-tape goes viral. Everyone’s sure it’s suicide, but Piper remembers Stella’s name from the book and begins to suspect something much worse.
Drowning in secrets she doesn’t want to keep, Piper’s fears are confirmed when she receives an anonymous text message daring her to make things right. All she needs to do is choose a name, the name of someone who deserves to be punished…
My eyes are drawn to the rise of grass and gravel, one slender gray-brown line of track showing through where the trees are thin. Tacey’s new sneakers slap rhythmically at the asphalt. It makes me think of Stella’s steps that night, what they might have been like.
Would she have raced forward or dragged her feet? Would I have heard the tinny strains of music coming from her headphones as she passed?
I look over at Tacey, her hands brushing subconsciously over her middle even now. With me.
I bump her lightly with my shoulder. “For what it’s worth, I think you have a great sense of style. And I still say the camera loves you.”
Tacey smiles. She opens her mouth to say something, but then we hear a train whistle.
The sound cuts through me, winding my insides until I feel tight and breathless. Tacey shivers, looking over at the tracks. I don’t have to ask to know she’s thinking about Stella too.
We both kind of stumble to a halt, staring at the approaching train. When that whistle wails again, I ache down to the center of my bones.
Don’t think about her climbing that gravel hill, her long hair whipping all around. Don’t think about the scream of the train brakes, desperately trying to stop.
I slide my phone out of my pocket and pull up my text messages. I don’t know why I’m doing this now. Maybe I just need a distraction from the steady, rumbling approach of the engine. Or maybe I think it’s a sign, some way of Stella telling me this is the one I should choose.
My fingers are surprisingly steady as I make my next choice.
“[A] smart, edgy thriller.”—Kirkus
“Well paced and beautifully written…This romantic thriller will leave readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page. Recommend it to fans of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay (Dutton, 2009) and Lissa Price’s Starters (Delacorte, 2012)” – School Library Journal
“An intense psychological mystery… has the feel of a high-stakes poker game in which every player has something to hide.” –Publishers Weekly
Ohioan and Double RWA Golden Heart Finalist NATALIE D. RICHARDS won her first writing competition in the second grade with her short story about Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes (who wouldn’t dare do the dishes). After getting lost in a maze of cubicles, Natalie found her way back to storytelling, following the genre of her heart, teen fiction. Natalie lives in Ohio with her amazing husband, their three children, and a giant dust-mop who swears he’s the family dog.