Here’s the set-up:
Winner of The Strongest Start Novel competition
A Flamingnet Top Choice Book
Voted Most Hilarious Read of 2010 by Booklopedia
Hi, I’m Priscilla, an ordinary seventh grader with some extraordinary gifts. As if middle school isn’t hard enough, not only do I have to fight pimples and bullies, but genetically enhanced assassins trying to kill my family and me! But with the help of my genius best friend, Tai, we’re gonna bring down the evil Selliwood Institute, an organization dead set on turning children into killing machines.
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And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
I awoke tied to a chair. My eyes felt glued shut. I struggled to pry my eyelids apart. Once open, I shut them again as quickly as possible. A ridiculously bright and obnoxious light glared in my eyes, totally super-sizing my already painful headache.
“Holy hot dogs!” I said, borrowing my best friend’s catch phrase.
“Good morning, Priscilla. Welcome back,” an eerie voice said from … from everywhere. The deep, sinister voice surrounded me as if it poured out of the walls. I recognized that voice. I knew that man was evil!
“Good morning? I don’t see what’s so good about it. My head is killing me and that light you’re shining in my face makes me want to dig my eyes out with a spoon!” I yelled into space.
“Sorry about that, Priscilla. We were trying to revive you. You’ve been out for a number of hours.” The light faded away, allowing me to open my eyes fully without performing spoon surgery. There wasn’t much to see. I sat in a stainless steel chair in the center of an otherwise empty stainless steel room.
The walls were smooth and cold-looking. Even the chair felt cold. I shifted in my seat, trying to warm up my butt cheeks.
“What do you want from me?” I asked, trying to hide the desperation in my voice. I mean, I was really scared. I’d been kidnapped. Really kidnapped. I wondered if they’d done that Amber Alert thing for me.
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
And then silence.
A few minutes later, a huge dude with an even huger gun walked into the room from a door I hadn’t even noticed was there. It was almost like he’d melted through the wall.
He wore black pants and what looked like a sleeveless black bullet proof vest over a muscular chest. He easily could have been my dad’s twin. He even had the exact same tattoo as my dad on his left arm, a big circle with a whole bunch of overlapping circles inside of it. It was too much of a coincidence. I knew my dad had been here before. I could feel it.
“How do you know she’s the right girl?” a voice said in my head a little while later. No, wait, it wasn’t inside my head. It was from somewhere else. And since Mr. Bodyguard didn’t look like the talkative type, I knew it wasn’t him speaking.
“Look at her. It has to be her. There’s no way that resemblance is a mistake.”
“But she obviously doesn’t have any powers. If she did, she would have been out of that chair a long time ago.”
The voices were coming from another room. My super hearing had returned, which meant my other powers would be back soon as well.
After a moment of silence, one of them said something that almost made my heart stop.
“Either way, she has to die.”
Die? Oh my God, this was serious. Before I could panic, the calmness took over. I felt my powers surging. I started to formulate a plan.
The Most Awful Thing in the World
Wait. Let me back up, introduce myself, and explain how all of this started. My name is Priscilla Maxine Sumner, and I’m a good person. I used to be a good normal person, just a regular tomboy, until the Saturday before my seventh grade year. Then everything changed.
I remember that day so vividly, the day that changed my life, and honestly, I really didn’t deserve it. Okay, so I did pour hot sauce into the twins’ toothpaste. But they deserved it. They’re the most awful five-year-old boys in existence. Trust me on that one. And I did tell my older brother’s girlfriend that he liked to sing Christina Aguilera songs in the shower. Even though it’s true, hunky football players apparently aren’t supposed to sing girly pop songs. Who knew? And when my dad told me to clean my room before I could go to the pool party, I kinda just stuffed everything under my bed. But besides those tiny little things, I’m a really, really good person. No, I’m a great person. But really awful things always happen to me.
So I was standing next to the pool at Cali Crawford’s house. She’s the coolest girl in the seventh grade. The only way I even got an invite to the party was because her sister happens to be dating my Christina-Aguilera-singing brother.
Dad would only let me wear a one-piece to the party. How boring. He wouldn’t even negotiate down to a tankini so I could show off a sliver of stomach. I mean, I’m already built like a stick figure. A bikini would have at least given me the illusion of curves. And you can’t stuff a one-piece to create boobs. Believe me, I’ve tried. The tissue just fell down toward the stomach, making it look like I had cancerous alien tumors popping out of my gut.
Anyway, I was standing there, flat chest and all, when Spencer Callahan looked in my direction. Yes, he looked at me. I don’t know why he would waste his effort and cast those perfect blue eyes on a scrawny redhead with no boobs in a boring one-piece, but he did. Not only did he look at me, but he actually stood up and walked toward me. So many thoughts flooded my mind, but the most prominent one was me as the future Mrs. Callahan. Mrs. Priscilla Callahan. We would have three children and two dogs. All girls. Even the dogs. After living with boys all my life, I couldn’t take it anymore. Yeah, I had a mother, but she worked so much I sometimes forgot what she looked like.
“Hey, Priscilla. I wanted to ask you something.” Oh my God. He was talking to me. And he wanted to ask me something. Did he want to ask me out on a date? It would be my first date. This was so exciting. I felt hot and flushed all over. I mean really, hot. So hot, in fact, even Spencer noticed.
“Do you—” He paused for a moment and his expression changed suddenly. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”
“Well, you’re all red. Are you sick?”
Oh my God. I was so ugly I looked sick.
He reached out and touched my forehead. “Priss, you’re burning up,” he said, yanking his hand away. “Maybe you should go inside for a little while. Get out of the sun.”
“I’m fine, really. I probably just ate some bad … salsa.”
“Salsa?” He squinted in confusion and then glanced at the snack table next to the barbeque grill. “There’s no salsa here.”
“Uh … I bring my own. Love the stuff. Can’t get enough of it. Take it everywhere I go.”
“You take bad salsa with you everywhere you go?”
“Uh huh, yeah, everywhere. And right now, me and the salsa gotta go to the bathroom.”
With that, I turned and tried to strut away as sexily (is that a word?) as possible, but it’s pretty hard to look sexy when you feel like you’re about to explode.
Once in the bathroom, I sat on the edge of the tub and placed my head in my hands. Though I felt hot all over, the heat was concentrated in my fingers. They were actually throbbing. I supposed I was radiating with embarrassment. Did I really just say I had to go to the bathroom with some salsa?
I filled the sink with water and splashed my face. I even stuck my whole head in the water. It didn’t help.
I desperately needed to talk to Tai, my BFF. She would know what to do. She would whip out her iPhone and search the internet for answers, although I doubt she would find anything. This was without a doubt the weirdest thing ever. But it got worse.
I decided I needed to get out of Cali Crawford’s house immediately and get to the safety of my own home. I reached for a hand towel to dry off, and as soon as I touched it, it burst into flames. Flames! I tossed it into the sink and watched as it sank beneath the water.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God …” That’s when I heard a knock at the door.
“You okay in there, Slumner?” It was Kyle Montgomery. It had to be. He was the only one that called me Slumner. He thought his little nickname was so clever. I thought it was lame. “Spence said you were sick. What’d you do, break a nail or something?”
“Go away, Kyle. I’m fine.”
“I knew that. I knew you were fine. You’re probably just so embarrassed about how bad I beat you in pool basketball.”
“You only beat me by one point and that was because Spencer took his shirt off and totally distracted me.” Besides Tai, Kyle was the only person on Earth who knew how I felt about Spencer. Even though Kyle was a complete jerk, I knew he’d never tell anyone. If he did, I’d tell everyone how he was so afraid of spiders that he called me over to his house at least once a week to kill one for him. Wimp.
“Whatever, Slumner. Just finish up whatever girly thing you’re doing in there and get back out here for a rematch.”
I rolled my eyes. He could be so maddening sometimes. He’d gotten even more obnoxious after he signed a modeling contract last summer. Sure he was cute in a kind of blond prep school boy kind of way, but his jerky personality totally canceled that out.
“Seriously, do you need me to get you some water or something? I don’t want you getting heat stroke or anything.”
“Just go back to the pool, Kyle. I’ll be there to kick your butt in a second.”
Amazingly, I didn’t flip out any further at this point. That’s huge for me. I always flip out. And considering I was trapped in a bathroom mysteriously setting things on fire, I think I have every right to panic. But I didn’t. Instead, this calm feeling took over me. It was like someone had opened up my brain and poured smartness in. I needed ice and I needed it bad.
After a few seconds, I opened the bathroom door just a crack to make sure Kyle was gone. The door knob glowed red after I touched it. From the laughter and screaming outside, I could tell everyone was still by the pool. I opened the door a little farther, and after a quick survey, I high-tailed it through the hallway, past the family room, and then made a hard right toward the kitchen. Once there, I opened up the freezer and started shoveling ice down my suit. But that only gave me momentary relief from the heat. The ice melted as soon as it came in contact with my skin, making it look like I was standing in a puddle of my own pee.
I needed to do something before I became the first person in River’s Bend history to spontaneously combust. Within seconds, the news would travel through town and then all of River’s Bend, population 2,351, would be standing in Cali Crawford’s house, shaking their heads at what was left of the crazy little Sumner girl. And they all thought I was crazy because I preferred riding my bike to painting my nails. And when I was little, instead of hosting tea parties like normal little girls, I handed out flyers inviting people to comic book conventions in my backyard. Unfortunately, the only people who ever came were my baby brothers, and that was because I bribed them with chocolate.
Suddenly, I spotted a fire extinguisher sitting on the counter next to the refrigerator. I grabbed it, pulled the pin, and sprayed myself. Ahh, sweet relief. Crisis averted. But then I heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
“What are you doing?” my older brother Josh asked, staring at the dripping mess.
“I … I … um …” I didn’t know exactly how to explain why I was standing in the Crawfords’ kitchen covered in fire extinguisher foam. “Well, what are you doing?” I asked, turning the tables on him. “Yeah, what are you doing upstairs in the Crawfords’ house without a shirt on?” That was partly a dumb question. I mean, Josh took his shirt off at every available opportunity so he could show off his six-pack abs. Once, at the grocery store, one of the twins spilled their juice box in front of this cute cashier who looked a little like Miley Cyrus. Well, since Josh thought he was as cute as a Jonas brother, he decided he needed to impress her. So, he whipped off his shirt and started cleaning up the mess. As if he ever cleaned up after the twins at home.
Josh started stuttering while turning different shades of red. He ran his fingers through his dark brown hair and shifted from foot to foot.
“Josh, what’s taking so long? I’m thirsty,” his girlfriend called from the top of the stairwell.
“Oooh, I’m telling Dad!”
“Shut up, freak,” was his clever response.
“Freak? I’m not a freak. I’m a genie in a bottle. You gotta rub me the right way.” I started singing the Christina Aguilera song and gyrating in the kitchen, but I stopped abruptly when I almost slipped on the foam and water on the floor.
“That’s it. We’re leaving. If I don’t get to have any fun, neither do you.” Josh reached for a towel that sat on the kitchen counter. “Uh, Stef, I’ll call you later. I gotta take my sister home,” he yelled up the stairs. “You’re the bane of my existence. Clean yourself up,” he said to me, tossing the towel.
I flinched when it landed in my hands. I expected it burst into flames like the other one. But nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. Did I just imagine the whole thing? Maybe it didn’t happen. Or maybe it did happen and the episode just passed. Neither scenario was comforting. I mean, if I imagined the whole thing that would mean I was some sort of crazy, hallucinating, psycho. But if I didn’t imagine it, that would mean Josh was right. I was a freak.