Evernight Teen, 163 pages
16+ due to violence and adult situations
“You will account for what you did to Audrey.”
After three months in the suicide prevention wing of St. George’s, Audrey Bales is finally coming home. Enrolled at a new school, she plans to reinvent herself with a new look, new friends, and a second chance to be just like everyone else. But the kids who drove her over the edge aren’t through with her yet.
And one of her new friends has an agenda all his own.
“You, and all the others.”
During the day, the halls of Battlefield High will echo with their screams.
“It will never stop.”
And at night, their screams will be silenced.
“Until one of you ends it.”
Topic Four: Cutting Your Baby to Pieces
This may come as a surprise to some, but the DEVIL IN MISS DRAKE’S CLASS trilogy was originally all one book. It was divided into three parts—“Devils in the Dark,” “A Devil in Daylight,” and “The Devil at Play”—but those parts were all originally intended to be delivered in one big tome. Then, Evernight Teen Publishing contacted me and asked, “Can we do this as a trilogy?” They even suggested using the given names as the book titles. They told me that the book was just a little long compared to what they usually sell to their intended audience.
I did what anyone in my position would have done. I said “Yes” immediately and uncorked the nearest libation I had with bubbles in it. And just in case you’re bracing yourself to hear that I regretted this decision, I don’t. I absolutely love these three little book babies that were originally born as one.
Having said that, I totally underestimated the amount of work I was committing myself to.
For one thing, DEVILS IN THE DARK, the first one, was absolutely tiny, by book standards. It was four chapters long. The last one, THE DEVIL AT PLAY, wasn’t much longer. Only the middle one, A DEVIL IN DAYLIGHT (the one being promoted on this tour), was long enough in itself to be considered a real book.
This was a problem, because I liked the parts of the original book, divided where they were, very much. It was impossible to have Part 1 end anywhere other than it did. That one is, very simply, the story of the consequences of a single action—not only for Audrey, who attempts suicide in the opening pages, but also the consequences for her tormentors. It’s the story of her friendship with fellow psych ward patient Gale Hastings, who only makes short appearances in the latter books. It’s the story of Audrey deciding to live—and taking the book past that point made no sense. The menace of the thousand ghosts is only hinted at, until Part 2.
If Part 1 was all drama and a hint of horror, then Part 2 is the “thriller” of the trilogy. To abuse the cliché metaphor of a chess game, this is the book where the thousand ghosts manipulate every piece on the board into position for their grand plan. It’s the story of Audrey re-inventing herself and taking her second shot at life—even as the enemies from her old school converge on her in a grand plan of their own. We come to see Audrey as a lone figure caught between two competing evil forces: one that wants to destroy her utterly, and one that wants to exact the worst kind of revenge on her behalf.
And, in Part 3, the thousand ghosts just throw that chessboard entirely off the table and unleash an endgame that I hope will be very difficult to forget. That’s the real “horror” book of the trilogy.
I had to expand a lot of part one, but I did find that the friendship between Audrey and Gale needed some more meat on its bones—and I felt that the reader might want to see what wicked little Maggie’s first day in juvenile jail would be like. It was fun to write about these characters again, and Part 1 easily grew from four chapters to fifteen.
After that, I did end up scooting the boundaries between Books 2 and 3 to make the last one long enough to make the cut. It was important that some “real” action happen in A DEVIL IN DAYLIGHT, though—and so the hunt begins on the “bad kids” of the Facebook Fifteen—and if my readers of Book 1 stick around and read A DEVIL IN DAYLIGHT, I know they won’t be disappointed.
Audrey watched the knife go in. Alex’s Swiss Army knife, from Scouts.
That’s right, sis, Alex’s ghost said. You’re doing it. Good girl.
Blood welled up from her wrist, at first in bubbles and droplets, then in a line.
Ignore the pain. Block it out. Deny it, like it’s not even there.
And it wasn’t. Weird. This was supposed to hurt.
Her reflection in the computer screen showed black hair. And that, too, was weird. She hadn’t had black hair in months. Not since her first days in the hospital.
Nor was she supposed to be seeing him. She’d beaten him—banished him.
She had to saw to break the vein. A small, red jet squirted over her keyboard.
On the screen, Val—her one-time best friend—was reaching out to her. Audrey? Audrey, don’t be dumb. Come on.
Alex stopped talking, stopped coaching. From behind, he held on to her shoulders and squeezed.
She still had the strength to use the knife again, going down from the wrist. There was no pain, after all. She had the strength for that and for one more thing.
She set down the knife in a puddle of her own blood, then picked up her cell phone and took a picture, even as her wrist squirted again.
She hooked the phone to a USB cable and to the computer. She posted the picture, unhooked it, and let it drop. It clattered off the side of the desk and onto the floor, but Audrey didn’t even notice.
She tried to put her chin in her right hand. She wanted to watch the responses. See what Val thought. See what Maggie thought.
Maggie, who had started all of this. Maggie, who had ruined Audrey’s life because she’d thought Audrey had been ogling her in the locker room at school. Spoiled, rich little Maggie Lassiter, with the angel earrings—it had been those Audrey had been staring at—and the countless followers that Maggie called her friends. But it hadn’t been enough. No, she had to steal Audrey’s friend, Valerie Mills. Her only friend….
Putting her chin in her hand didn’t quite work out. Her elbow slipped in the blood on her desk. She felt her face hit the hard wooden corner of the desk on her way to the floor.
But instead of hitting the floor, Audrey sat up in her own bed, awake and breathing hard and holding her left wrist with her right hand.
She looked… scarred, but whole.
Her parents had purged her bedroom nearly to emptiness, but her computer was still there, a shadow near the window.
Audrey kicked her legs over the side of the bed and went to it, powered on, and thumbed the monitor. And, amazingly, she yawned, even as her heart began to settle back toward its normal speed and rhythm.
She found her water bottle and Geodon, and checked her clock as the computer slowly hummed to life. Yep, close enough. She took her pill.
Taking a breath, she tried to access her Twitter account.
She smiled, rather sleepily. Everything was still normal. She’d just had to be sure.
Sunlight began to peek tentatively through her window. Audrey set her chin in her right hand and waited for it.
Daylight could not come soon enough.
Alastair Hutchinson lay flat on his back on top of his perfectly made bed, but he did not sleep. Had not slept.
He watched the sunrise.
We should be looking, said one of the voices that lived inside of him. We’re wasting time.
“Why look?” he asked. “There’s an unsettled account at the school we’ll be attending. I’ve found everything we need.”
Audrey is not an unsettled account, the voices protested. She’s alive.
“I’m not talking about her,” Alastair said. “You haven’t been paying attention. There’s another.” He laughed, softly. “Three days from now, we’ll be sitting in her first period class.”
But not as Alastair Hutchinson, he thought. No. As a name she’ll recognize.
The host stirred. We need to move the line, said another voice. This isn’t helping.
“I’ve got that covered too,” said Alastair. “You won’t have to wait long. Trust me.”
About the Author:
Marcus Damanda lives in Woodbridge, Virginia with his cat, Shazam. At various times throughout his life, he played bass guitar for the garage heavy metal band
Mother’s Day, wrote for The Dale City Messenger, and published editorials in The Potomac News and The Freelance Star. Currently, while not plotting his next foray into fictitious suburban mayhem, he spoils his nieces and nephews and teaches middle school English.
Find Marcus Damanda here:
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