This week I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest from the amazing YA authors, Neal & Jarrod Shusterman. ‘Roxy is a chilling take on the opioid epidemic by the New York Times bestselling Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.’ I absolutely love this author duo. They are so easy to recommend in the Library and as a bit of an oldie I thoroughly enjoy their books too. The Scythe trilogy in particular is pretty much always on loan. So it’s always exciting when a new novel arrives. Want to know a bit more.. well we kicked off yesterday with extract No. 1 which you can read by visiting kirstyes.co.uk. Why not check it our first before reading on for the 2nd extract right here today! My thanks go out to the lovely people at Walker for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for sending me a copy of Roxy, I can’t wait to read it and then begin sharing it with our students. I have a feeling it’s going to be another hit!
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
by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman
Isaac, Ivy, and the Infinite Loser
Two months earlier…
Ivy’s got to be here somewhere, thinks Isaac Ramey as he pushes through the door of the cesspool, looking for his sister. No doubt about it; this is Ivy’s kind of party. The house reeks of puke, hormones, and beer, making Isaac wince as he wades through the living room. He’s ankle-deep in deadbeats, burnouts, and druggies – all of whom are far too wasted to realize that freak-dancing to techno looks like faking a seizure to someone who’s close to sober. Or worse, actually having a seizure while interpretive dancing – which would be a really sad way to die, because the audience would just slow clap while you writhe yourself into oblivion.
Isaac needs to stay on track. He searches through the muck and mire. A girl with a half-shaved head. A guy who clearly pissed himself. A seedy dude too old for this party, talking to a girl who’s too young for it. Nothing Isaac didn’t expect. And if this night is like any other Friday night, he’ll find Ivy here. Ivy is a year older than Isaac, but more often than not, Isaac feels like her older brother.
It’s not that he doesn’t like parties. He’s a junior, so he’s been to plenty in his time, where things were going on that his parents wouldn’t want to know about… But he doesn’t go to these kinds of parties – his sister’s kinds of parties. Where seedy things don’t happen in back rooms but are in your face – the dismal and the desperate shoving their brains into a hydraulic press just to make themselves forget how finite they are.
He goes out to the backyard. It’s overgrown and features an amoeba-shaped pool not large enough to do anything but float, or secretly urinate. Which might be why the water is clouded and green like a study in bioterrorism.
It isn’t long before Isaac spots his sister – her Slurpee-blue hair is a dead giveaway. Ivy’s by the pool with Craig, her infinite-loser boyfriend, who lives here. He’s their parents’ perfect nightmare: ratlike fingernails, competing tattoos, and a man-bun protruding from his head like a tumor.
“Ivy,” Isaac calls out as he gets close. He has to call her name three times to get her attention. She takes a moment to hide her surprise at seeing him.
“Mom and Dad know you snuck out, and they’re getting ready to go nuclear.”
“So they sent you?”
“They have no clue where you are, or even that I went out looking for you.”
Ivy turns and is already marching away – her classic response to anything she doesn’t like. Especially when she’s been drinking. Isaac follows, grabbing her arm before she stumbles into an overgrown bush.
“If they get wind of this party and find you here like this, it’ll be bad. You’ll thank me tomorrow.”
Suddenly, Craig discovers enough brain cells to notice Isaac’s presence.
“Hey, is this guy bothering you?” he asks Ivy.
“Shut up, Craig. He’s my brother. You met, like, six times.” Ivy turns back to Isaac. “I’m not some basket case; I don’t need you to save me. So go home and study, or whatever it is you do on Friday nights.”
“Yeah,” seconds Craig. “You heard her. She wants to party with me.”
That’s when Isaac sees the drug bag that Craig holds, dangling like a little scrotum full of god-knows-what. Just the sight of it ignites something primal within Isaac, taking over his body and making him swat the bag out of Craig’s hand, sending it flying into the pool.
“Oops, my bad,” Isaac says. He’s not the kind of guy who looks for a fight, but some are worth starting.
“What the hell…” Craig’s shock turns to fury, and he pounces on Isaac. They begin to grapple, and it quickly grows into a full-fledged fight. A zombie horde of the stoned gather to gawk, making it the center of the party’s limited attention.
Isaac, who’s stronger, lands some blows, but Craig grabs a Solo cup of something 180 proof and hurls it in Isaac’s eyes. Craig has a distinct advantage in that dirty moves are his superpower.
And now Craig is punching Isaac over and over again as Isaac fights the burn in his eyes. Hammerfists over his head, body shots. Whatever Craig can do to inflict damage before Isaac recovers his eyesight. Ivy tries to break it up, but can’t.
Finally Isaac regains enough of his bearings to deliver a shot to Craig’s nose that may just break it, but before Craig’s pain kicks in, he shoves Isaac with all his might, sending him flying to the ground.
In an instant Ivy is at Isaac’s side, helping him stand. She looks up to Craig, who now rotates through every profanity he knows as he cradles his gushing nose.
“What the hell is wrong with you!” Ivy yells at Craig.
“He started it!” Craig yells back
But Ivy’s not having it. “Just get the hell away from us!”
Craig turns his back far too easily, making it clear how little he actually cares. “Fine. Whatever. You and your family are psycho anyway.” Then he goes over to the pool and stands there gazing into the murky water, mourning the loss of his little plastic scrotum.
It isn’t until Isaac’s adrenaline fades that he realizes his ankle is hurting. No – it doesn’t just hurt; it throbs. More than just a run-of-the-mill ankle twist, this is a bone-deep ache. He can already sense that it isn’t going away anytime soon. When his sister sees him limping and grimacing, she helps him through the side yard, and together they make their way to the street.
As they get to Isaac’s old silver Sebring by the curb, Isaac leans against it, exhaling, realizing he’d been holding his breath most of the way. Then, as he opens the car door, he puts too much weight on his injured ankle and nearly goes down. His vision darkens from the pain, then clears again – but the pain only subsides the slightest bit. That’s when he realizes that the simple task of getting home is no longer so simple.
“I can’t drive home with my ankle like this…”
“Uh – that’s why you have two feet.”
Isaac considers it, but shakes his head. “I drive right-footed. I don’t even know if I can use my left.”
“Fine. I’ll drive.” She puts out her hands for the keys, but Isaac knows better than to let her have them.
“No. You’re drunk. Or worse.”
She glares at him. “Not worse.”
“No? Looked like it was about to get that way.”
“Don’t you dare lecture me!”
Isaac backs off. He knows that was out of line. “I’ll get an Uber,” he says. “I can pick up my car tomorrow.”
The app says their ride is three minutes away, which, as always, means ten. They watch people come and go from the house. Neighbors peer angrily out of windows. One comes to his porch and begins yelling at Isaac and Ivy, as if waiting by the curb makes them the official ambassadors of the party.
“If this doesn’t stop, I’m calling the police!”
“Be my guest, jerk,” says Ivy, and Isaac raps her to shut her up. Their Uber can’t get here fast enough.
Finally, it arrives, and they slip in the back, Isaac putting too much weight on his ankle again and grunting from the pain.
“You didn’t save me, you know,” Ivy tells him as they head off. “I would have left on my own. Eventually.”
Isaac nods, choosing to believe her but wishing it came without effort.
Now they sit there in awkward silence, their dynamic going back to normal.
Ivy smirks. “The look on Craig’s face when you tossed his stash was classic. Like you took a dump in his Froot Loops.”
Isaac, even through the pain, can’t help but smile too. Ivy leans over, rests her head on Isaac’s shoulder, and closes her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she says. And he can tell she means it. Although neither of them is sure what it is she’s sorry for.
Want to read more? Then head over to https://readingbetweenthenotes.wordpress.com/ for part three tomorrow. 🙂
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.
Thank you for visiting today. Do come back again sometime soon!