Title: AN AMBIANCE OF LIES
Category/Genre: YA Thriller
Word Count: 63,000
Is your main character hot or cold?
There, I said it. I lose my cool under pressure. Happy?
In my defense, with this much bottled up rage and unexpressed emotion, it’s kinda hard to be otherwise. I mean, I only have one outlet: the weird girl from writing class. People call it bullying, but it’s nothing personal. I’m just blowing off steam, you know?
Ahna has gone missing, and the only person who knows it is her bully.
Just days before summer break, sixteen-year-old Emerson pulls his nastiest stunt yet, one that humiliates Ahna so badly, even he’s left feeling guilty. He later texts her to apologize, but receives a strange reply from someone claiming to have kidnapped her—someone who can, and will, pin the crime on Emerson.
He plays the threat off as a joke, but when Ahna doesn’t show up to the last day of school, he worries. When her adoptive mother is found dead, he panics.
Emerson reaches out to the kidnapper, but gets a riddle in return.
Sent on a scavenger hunt via texts, he rushes around town collecting seemingly random facts about Ahna and reporting them back to the kidnapper. Along the way, Emerson finds out about Ahna’s traumatic past and dead biological family. He learns about the school-wide wave of bullying he unintentionally inspired against her. He begins to realize how cruel he’s been, and vows to make all his wrongs with Ahna right—if he can find her.
But then the riddles stop, and a timer on Ahna’s life—and Emerson’s freedom—begins.
THIRTEEN REASONS WHY meets GONE GIRL in this completed young adult manuscript. AN AMBIANCE OF LIES is told from three points of view: Emerson’s, Ahna’s, and the kidnapper’s.
First 250 words:
June 21, Afternoon
Jason stabs his pencil into my upper back. He doesn’t have the courtesy (or brains) to use the eraser end. One second I’m hunched over my notebook, trying to piece together a story for the writing prompt we’ve just been assigned, the next a honed graphite tip digs into the skin between my shoulder blades. I stiffen up like a soldier surprised by his captain. From across the room, Mr. Keane glances at me over the top of his rectangular glasses.
Damn you, Jason. I’ve already gotten one-too-many warnings from Mr. Keane this year. I can’t blow it on the last day of class.
He studies me, chewing the inside of his cheek as he does. I’ve come to know that stare well—the must pin something on Emerson stare. I try not to make it obvious that I notice, but with his eyes on me, I can’t do much besides stare back.
Mr. Keane sighs, a slight whimper escaping with his breath. He returns to the papers clutched in his hand and scribbles something onto one of them in red. When he does, Jason leans forward and breathes warm air into my ear.
“Work your magic, dude.”
I’m sure a few people hear Jason’s whisper, but only I take in its sour cream and onion aroma. His words are a reminder that even though I know what I want to write about, I don’t have much of a say about it.
I take my frustration out on the page and drag my eraser all over the upper third of it.