Published by Scholastic Press on February 25, 2014
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
Also by this author: The Collector, The Liberator
A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother's life—and her own.
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.
Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.
The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?
I drove across the US of A, left my family without an explanation, and now I’m either too late or there was never anything here to begin with. F my life. Rearing back, I kick the door as hard as I can. Then I wrap both hands around the door handles and release a noise like a wild banshee as I pull back.
The doors swing open.
I’m not sure whether to celebrate or freak out. I decide to do neither and slip inside. As I walk around the inside of the museum, listening to the sound of my footsteps echo off the walls, I imagine I am moments from death. It’s sad, I think, that this is all it takes to break my sanity.
Two curling flights of stairs bow out from the first-floor lobby, and red and white tiles cover the floors. There are gilded picture frames everywhere. So many that I think the placement of the frames — and not their contents — is the real art. Everything, absolutely everything, smells like wax. I mosey up to an abandoned reception desk and leaf through the glossy pamphlets littering the surface. I hold one of the pamphlets up to my nose. Yep, wax.
I glance around, having no idea what to look for. Will there be a sign like at school registration? Students with last names A–K this way?
On my left, I notice a long hallway dotted with doors on either side. Nothing looks particularly unusual. But when I glance to my right, I spot something. There’s a door at the end of the corridor that has a sliver of light glowing beneath it. I’m sure it’s just an administration office, one where someone forgot to flip the switch. But I’ve got nothing better to go on, so I head toward it.
I pause outside the door, wondering if I’m about to get busted for B&E. Then I turn the handle and find myself at the top of another winding staircase.
You’ve got to be kidding me. What is this, Dracula’s bachelor pad?
I’ve watched a lot of scary movies, and I’ve learned nothing good is ever at the bottom of a winding staircase. Pulling in a breath and preparing myself to be eaten alive, I head down. My shoes are loud against the steps. So loud, I imagine they are intentionally trying to get me killed.
When I reach the final few stairs, I ready myself to look around the bend. My heart is racing, and I secretly pray the worst I encounter is an angry janitor with a wax addiction. I turn the bend — and my eyes nearly pop from my skull.
The enormous room is perfectly circular, dotted with candles to light the space. Surrounding the walls are rows and rows of dark, rich mahogany bookshelves. A large round table stands in the center of the red-and-white-tiled floor. The room is spectacular, but what it holds is so jarring, my ears ring.
Across every shelf, every spot on the table, every tile on the floor — are small sculptures of hands. And in a few of those hands — the ones still performing their duty — are eggs. There are only nine eggs left, it seems. For a moment, I imagine how amazing it would have been to see each hand holding an egg, but it’s enough just to see these nine.
The eggs seem to dance in the candle flame, and as I move closer, I realize why. The surfaces of the eggs are almost iridescent, their colors changing depending on how you look at them. They are different sizes, too; some as big as a basketball, others as small as a peach.
I don’t need the device in my pocket to tell me what my gut already knows.
This is the Pandora Selection Process.