Hi all. I’m kicking off the blog tour for the new book by father and son writing duo Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.
About the Book
Above our world is a toxic wonderland where the party has raged for centuries. Humans know the partygoers simply as “narcotics”, “opioids”, “drugs”. But here they are malevolent gods, toying with the fates of mortals. Roxy and Addison have made a wager to see who can be lethal the quickest. Isaac and Ivy Ramey are their targets. Ivy is under-stimulated and overmedicated. Isaac is desperate to recover from a sports injury that jeopardizes his chance of a scholarship. This is the start of a race to the bottom that will determine life and death. One will land on their feet. The other will be lost to the Party. The only question is… Which one? Roxy is a chilling take on the opioid epidemic by the New York Times bestselling Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman, suitable for ages 14+
About the Authors
Neal Shusterman is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include the acclaimed Arc of a Scythe series (Scythe, Thunderhead and The Toll) and Dry, as well as the Unwind series and Challenger Deep, which won a National Book Award in America. He also writes screenplays for film and television, for shows such as Goosebumps and Animorphs. He lives in Florida. Follow him on Twitter: @NealShusterman. Jarrod Shusterman writes for film and television, and his talents extend to directing films and commercials. He and Neal are adapting Dry for the screen. Jarrod lives in Los Angeles.
I am no superhero. But I can save you from the one who claims to be.
I am no wizard. But I cast a spell that can bring back the dead.
And never often enough.
I am, if nothing else, your final defense – your last hope when hope itself has spiraled into that singularity that crushes not just you, but everyone around you.
And so here we are, you and I. The scene is set. Never identical, yet always the same:
Today it’s a room in a house on a street that was born when dreams were milky-white appliances, and cars were like landlocked ships, too proud to ever be slung with seat belts.
This was once suburbia, but it was long ago consumed by a gelatinous urban tsunami. The neighborhood struggles and sometimes even thrives. But this street? This street is dead. It has been sacrificed for the greater good.
The trees on either side have already been taken down, their trunks turned into firewood, their limbs fed into a chipper. Most doors and windows have been stripped and salvaged, leaving the homes with the deadest of eyes and gaping, silent mouths. Nearly a mile of this. And just beyond are bulldozers and rubble, and beyond that, towering concrete pillars reach skyward like the columns of an ancient temple.
Because a freeway is coming. A six-lane corridor that will cleave the neighborhood in half, right along this very street, in a brutal rite of passage called eminent domain.
When night falls, the doomed street is engulfed more completely than anywhere else in the city.
And there you are. In the fifth house on the left.
You’re not from this part of town, but somehow you found this place, drawn by darkness so dense you can wrap it around yourself like a blanket.
Now flashlights illuminate a familiar tableau. One officer, two paramedics. And me.
A medic leans over you – presses a finger to your neck.
“Hard to find a pulse,” she says. “If it’s there, it’s weak.”
This room was once a bedroom. But there’s no bed, no dresser. All that remains is a warped desk and a broken chair that no one deemed worth saving. You lie on carpet mottled with mold that has left it looking like a wall-to-wall bruise. It is the very epicenter of abandoned hope.
“I can’t detect any breathing. Beginning CPR.”
Rats would complete the scene, but vector control has already been here with some of my more vicious cousins to kill the vermin. But they can’t get rid of the roaches no matter how hard they try. They are the victors of this world, the roaches. Truly undefeatable.
You, on the other hand, are defeated. How defeated is yet to be seen.
Thirty chest compressions, two rescue breaths. Repeat.
The other medic prepares me for what I’ve come to do, while the officer gives a description of you on his radio. They don’t know who you are. I don’t know who you are either – but soon you and I will be close. I will be inside you. A kind of intimacy neither of us wants but both of us need. It is, after all, my purpose. And you? You have no choice.
“Administering the naloxone.”
“Make sure you get the muscle.”
“I never miss.”
The needle plunges deep in your left thigh – and I surge forth into muscle tissue, searching for capillaries that will carry me to larger and larger vessels. And yes – you’re still alive! I do hear your heartbeat! Slow, faint, but there!
I ride the long sluggish wave of your beat into the chambers of your heart, and out again, up and up toward your brain. Only there can I save you. I will rip you free of the hold they have over you.
The others. Who care for you only as long as they have you locked in their embrace, as if you are nothing more than a child’s tattered toy. They do not know love – only possession. They promise you deliverance and reward you … with this:
Thirty compressions, two breaths. And me.
It is you, and those like you, who gave them power, and continue to give them power day after day. Because who but you can generate current enough to feed the bright flashing lights of their eternal Party? How could you not see that the others – my brutal cousins – are the cancer at the core of seduction? The void at the heart of your craving? They see themselves as gods, but in the end they are just like me. Nothing but chemicals. In complex combinations, perhaps, but still no more than tinctures, distillations, and petty pharma. Chemicals designed by nature, or by man, to tweak your chemicals.
If they live, it is only because you gave them life. As well as the license to end yours. And if they act in roles beyond their purpose, it is only because you placed them upon the stage to perform.
Thus the stage has been set. The audience cool and dispassionate – waiting to be entertained but too jaded to believe it ever will be.
But we must try, must we not?
And so here, between the chest compressions and the lifesaving breaths, I will do my part, struggling to wrest your fate back from the capricious “gods.”
I am no superhero. I am no wizard. But I can save you. Although half of the time I don’t. Too often I am too late. Victory and tragedy will forever fight for purchase on this stage.
And today the dimming footlights find tragedy.
Your heart begins to fibrillate. Then it seizes like a furious fist … and then releases. The wave is gone. I can’t do my work if I can’t get to your brain. Still, the medics keep working CPR, but it will not change the fact that you have surrendered your life in the bruised room of the rotting house, on the street that will soon be gone.
They tag your toe with the last name on your ID, and your first initial:
Then they wheel you out, and I have little left to do but settle in your veins – one more chemical to parse in the autopsy.
And I curse the others.
My soulless clan who brought you to the Party, then left you in this desolate place, where even those who tried to save you are too world-weary to shed a single tear.
If I had a voice, I swear to you I would tell your story. At least enough of it so that I might know who you are.
Thank you to Kirsten at Walker for the gifted copy for the purposes of this post. Check out the rest of the extracts to be posted this week.