For fans of Pretty Little Liars, Little Monsters is a new psychological thriller, from the author of The Darkest Corners, about appearances versus reality and the power of manipulation amongst teenage girls.
Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.
Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.
Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn't exactly feel like an accident.
But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.
Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.
Praise for The Darkest Corners:
"Gripping from start to finish, The Darkest Corners took me into an underbelly I didn't know existed, with twists that left me shocked and racing forward to get to the end."-Victoria Aveyard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Red Queen
"You'll be up all night tearing through the pages, gasping through the twists and turns."-Bustle.com
“A tight, twisted thriller, full of deft reversals and disturbing revelations—deeply, compulsively satisfying!” —Brenna Yovanoff, New York Times bestselling author of Places No One Knows
“As dark as Gillian Flynn and as compulsive as Serial…Kara Thomas’s mystery debut is intricate, chilling, and deeply compelling. Unforgettable!” —Laura Salters, author of Run Away
★ "On the heels of Making a Murderer and The Jinx comes a psychological thriller strongly rooted in the true crime tradition...Expertly plotted with plenty of twists and turns—never mind a truly shocking conclusion—this gritty thriller is sure to find a wide audience among teens and adults alike. Equally concerned with a quest for the truth and the powerful motivation of guilt, this compelling novel won’t linger on the shelf." —Booklist, Starred Review
★ "A cerebral mystery wrapped in heart-pounding suspense...[for readers] who love dark mysteries or fans of Netflix's Making a Murderer." —Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
★ “Thomas carefully crafts the suspense, leaving present-tense narrator Tessa—and readers—to doubt even those she loves the most… An unsettling story of loss, lies, and violence lurking in the shadows of a small town.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
An Excerpt fromLittle Monsters
They’re not threats, but my friends have a way of making even the simplest demands feel like ultimatums. Sneak out. I don’t have a choice: if I say no, they’ll make sure I’m fully aware of how much fun they had without me.
But then again, it’s cold, and not the normal kind of cold. It’s Broken Falls, Wisconsin, Dead of Winter cold.
No one warned me about the winters before I moved here. The books and movies are right that Christmas in Wisconsin is magical, with the barns glowing under white string lights, fresh-cut Christmas trees visible through scalloped windows.
But everything that comes after is just cruel. Wind-whipped sheets of snow so thick you can’t move through them. Mornings where above freezing is the best thing you’ll hear all day. Layers of ice on your windshield that take ages to chip off.
And February. February is just the biggest asshole. February makes you feel like you’ll never see the sun again.
My plan was to go to bed early and avoid the inevitable texts from Bailey and Jade. Are you up? You better be up! My friends’ restlessness is in direct proportion to how miserable and gray it is outside.
Tonight, though: tonight is so clear you can count the stars like they’re diamonds.
I text back: guys I’m so tired
Bailey: We’re doing the thing tonight.
The skin on the back of my neck pricks. The thing. The thing was Bailey’s idea; almost everything is Bailey’s idea. I take a deep breath to slow my suddenly skittish heart. I could call them, tell them I’m not coming, but they’ll just make fun of me for being scared.
There’s shuffling outside my bedroom door. The lamp on my nightstand is on. My stepmom, probably, coming to scold me for being up so late.
“Kacey?” A tiny voice. Definitely not Ashley, whose voice carries over hill and sea. My stepmom’s constantly talking, sucking up all the air so my half sister can barely get a word in.
I fire off another text to Bailey: I can’t come. Sorry.
“You can come in,” I say. Lauren pokes her head inside the room. She reminds me of a doll: Dark, blunt bangs. Porcelain skin. Round head, a little too big for her body. We have the same eyes—wide hazel ones that prompted a particularly nasty freshman at my old high school to call me that freaky Bambi bitch.
I fluff out the comforter to make room for Lauren to crawl underneath with me. “You okay?”
Lauren hugs her knees. She’s wearing fleece sock-monkey pajamas. There’s something about my sister that makes her seem younger than most kids her age; she still cries when she falls off her bike and bleeds. Tonight there’s a raw pink strip over her upper lip from the cold.
“Keelie is texting me pictures from Emma’s party,” she whispers.
I want to fold my sister into a hug. Squeeze the sad out of her. Emma Michaels lives down the road—she’s been Lauren’s best friend since preschool. But Lauren isn’t at Emma’s thirteenth birthday sleepover right now, because Keelie March told Emma not to invite her.
Keelie is thirteen, like Lauren, but she fills out her leotards in a way that makes the dance dads want to wait in the car. I saw Keelie in the parking lot over the summer, when I went with my stepbrother, Andrew, to pick Lauren up from her Saturday-morning class. Noticed the way Keelie watched Andrew from the corner of her eye as she lifted her leg onto the ramp rail- ing in a perfect stretch. Sweat glistening between cleavage that even I didn’t have. It was sweltering out; Keelie was twelve going on twenty, staring at a seventeen-year-old boy like he was a Popsicle.
“They’re drinking wine coolers,” Lauren says. “That’s why I wasn’t invited.”
I think of the American Girl dolls still set up in Lauren’s room, arranged around a tea set like they’re waiting for a party that’s never going to happen. I know she won’t play with them because the girls at school have already packed theirs up and put them in the attic.
Those girls are thirteen and drinking. I should call Emma’s house and tell her mother what’s going on in that bedroom. Then I remember the things that went on in my house when I was thirteen.
“Do you want me to block Keelie’s number from your phone?” I ask Lauren.
She shakes her head, sending a tear down her cheek. “I just really wish I was there.”
I’m about to tell her fuck Keelie March and those other dumb girls, you have me, when headlights flash through my bedroom window. My room faces Sparrow Road, the outer edge of our cul-de-sac. It’s what Bailey and Jade branded the perfect loading spot for a sneak-out. And it seems that despite my texts, they came anyway.
Bailey flashes her high beams; then there’s darkness. Lauren frowns. “Who’s that?”
“Just Bailey and Jade,” I answer, fumbling for my phone. I’ll tell them Lauren is awake. I definitely can’t come out now.
“Are you guys going somewhere?” I hear the hopeful lilt in her voice.“No—we were just—”
Snow crunching outside my window. Bailey’s face, illuminated by the light from the phone under her chin. She makes a ghostlike bwahahaha noise and I jump, even though I’m looking right at her. Jade appears next to her. Adjusts the messy bun sitting atop her head and taps on my window with one finger.
I dart over and raise the glass. Bailey mashes her face against the screen, makes a pig nose. “Ready to go?” she whispers.
I cringe. Even when Bailey whispers, she’s loud.
I think of nosy Mrs. Lao next door, probably perched in the armchair by her living room window with a Sudoku book. A small wooded clearing separates us from the Laos, but in the winter, when the trees are bare, the slightest noise from our house is enough to send Mrs. Lao’s Yorkie, Jerome, into a bark- ing fit.
Jade notices Lauren sitting on my bed before Bailey does. She nudges Bailey and flicks her eyes to me, as if to say, What the hell is she doing here?