For Ages
12 to 99

Marieke Nijkamp's This is Where it Ends meets Kathleen Glasgow's Girl in Pieces in a gripping novel that explores the depths of trauma and the strength it takes to rise again. Perfect for readers of Ellen Hopkins.

Five years after being kidnapped, Elian's captor sends him into the mall--with a bomb strapped to his chest.

Across the mall is Maya, a girl whose crippling anxiety holds her prisoner in its own way.

Whether it's chance or fate, Maya keeps Eli from ending them all. And now nothing is the same. Drawn together by their dark pasts, Maya and Eli know it takes only seconds for their entire worlds to change. But time will tell if meeting each other will change them for better or worse.

"A riveting novel about the capacity for hope in the midst of evil." - Sara Zarr, National Book Award finalist

An Excerpt fromAny Second

Chapter 1

Gabriel says today is a good day to die.

He says the Barons have taken more than their share, that they profit from the blood of the innocent, that they have turned us into sheep and tricked us into accepting it. The Barons who control all the land and the money and the women.

They need to be sent a message.

“Tell me you are ready, Jacob.”

“I am ready.”

“Are you sure?” His hand rubs up and down my spine. “Because if you’re not, we’ll need to go home and keep working.”

Home is the red dark. Where the lessons are taught.

“I am sure.”

A long exhale. He kneels behind me, breath hot in my ear, the smell of the habanero sauce, the cigarettes and gasoline, on his clothes. “Do you know what?”


Don’t move. We are standing by the railing, beside the food court at the mall. Blinding sunlight shines down through a domed glass roof and into the oval-­shaped eyeholes of the mask I wear—­but turning or squinting is weakness. Rubbing the sweat out of my eyes is weakness. Flinching when he touches me, shuddering because of what we’re here to do: all weakness. Proof that more lessons are needed.

With the spatula. The belt. Cannot go back. Cannot go back—­

“I believe you,” he says.

Something wells up inside me, but crying would also be weakness. It is a good thing Gabriel has not delivered the food bowl for two days. Soiling yourself is an awful weakness.

“You have earned my trust,” Gabriel says. “You have endured such trials, and you have proven that you are ready to do the great work. You are ready to fulfill the Purpose.”

The Purpose. Finally.

His hands settle on my shoulders, causing a dull ache from the right one, dislocated . . . months ago? Years? Notches in the floor, made with the meal spoon each time the sliver of light appeared beneath the plywood that covered the window: 1,052 marks, but maybe I missed some days, or counted twice? Too hard to tell.

The only other light, that whole time, from a red bulb in a gooseneck lamp.

“Throughout history,” Gabriel says, “the greatest revolutions have been started by the smallest of acts. The sheep cannot rise up on their own. They must be given permission, shaken awake by a hero.”

A hero like Metal Marauder, the MechBot cards—­ No! Can’t think that. They were what made me miss the bus that day—­ Stop! Memory is weakness.

“But heroes are not just born,” Gabriel says. “They are made. You would never have woken up on your own, never been free, never been strong. You would never have been loved. You were weak and you would have always been weak.”

Trading the cards on the front steps of school, but then the groan of the bus leaving and I ran after it but the driver didn’t see me. It was sunny, so I decided to walk. Looking at the cards on the way. Never heard him coming—­

“Your family was weak. All of them slaves to the Barons. But who freed you?”

His voice by my ear: “You have been chosen.” Grabbing me and shoving me into the car. Holding me down against the seat while I screamed into the cushion. Kicking the dashboard, the door, could I break the window—­click-­ding of the blinker, rev of the engine, pants soaked I wet myself—­

“Jacob . . .” His grip tightens.

Stuffed into a duffel bag and hauled inside, into the dark, always the red dark—­

NO. I push it back. Make it silent. It is weakness, and it only makes things worse. Swallow. Lock the doors. Answer the question.

“You did.”

“That’s right. The Purpose led me to you, like a lost prophet to an oasis.”

Did the Purpose make me miss the bus? Did it make Mom say I couldn’t have a phone until I was older? Did it make me decide to walk home instead of going to the office and calling her, make me think about how it was only a mile, how my sister walked twice that far every day through an even rougher part of town?


“I rescued you from that sleeping lie,” Gabriel says. “Billions of people live and die without meaning, their lives forgotten before they are gone, but not you. Through death . . .”

“I will live forever.”

It is true. Must be true.

Gabriel’s grip relaxes. “You will be more than just a life. You will be an eternal symbol to all, and the sheep will say your name on their waking lips, and what?”

“They will remember.”

“Correct. And on the other side, what awaits you?”

“Light and peace.”

The mall is so loud around us. So many voices all mixing with laughs and shouts and scuffs of shoes and the shuffling of plastic bags. So much more noise than just the furnace, and the mice, and a heartbeat in the red dark.

“The sheep are begging for it,” Gabriel says. “Go ahead, take a look, one last time.”

I let my eyes rise up from the floor, see them walking by: groups of teens, couples, parents and their children, in and out of all the glossy stores, standing in line for food.

“See how they smile, how they prattle and laugh. They will never know how we have sacrificed for them. But how could they? Kept dumb, hooked on the drug of capitalism, dulled by the Excess, gorged on sugar, fat, advertising, sex: the tools of compliance. And if they haven’t been brainwashed yet they’re desperately trying to fake it. No one wants to show their real selves, and the women show too much”—­he pauses—­“strutting around like prostitutes and yet always withholding. So sad. We pity them. But are they innocent?”

“Innocence is ignorance.”

“And the ignorant are complicit. But not you. You are no longer one of the sheep, are you?”

I shake my head and look back down at the floor.

“Tell me what you are.”

“I am a wolf.”

“Yes,” Gabriel says. “All the darkness and pain you’ve endured has revealed to you this world’s wicked truth. You are the only one who sees clearly. Who knows the Purpose. You know it even more clearly than I do now. And you are the only one who can save us. God waits for his true soldiers with open arms.”

His words make everything tighter. We’re close now. Closer than ever before. Breathing is so hard. It has been too hard for too long, and this is the only way out. I know it.

Under the Cover