How do you carry on after surviving a school shooting? Liz Lawson tackles this haunting question in her debut novel, The Lucky Ones. A must-read for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and This Is How It Ends, the story follows two teens almost a year after a shooter terrorized their high school.
Intrigued? Then check out the description from the publisher:
May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through—no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her.
Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band.
Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.
Delacorte Press will release The Lucky Ones on April 7, 2020, but you can read the first chapter today! We have an exclusive excerpt to share below—in addition to a first look at the cover designed by Alison Impey.
“Upon seeing my cover for the first time,” Lawson says, “my reaction was something along the lines of ‘I LOVE IT!!!’ Alison Impey did a fantastic job bringing my characters to life. She managed to capture on the page what I always imagined May and Zach [looked] like, and it brought tears to my eyes to see them there, in front of me, for the first time.”
We’ve been fans of Lawson’s writing ever since her days as a Paste intern, and we can’t wait for readers to get their hands on her book. So if you’re hooked by the excerpt below, you can pre-order The Lucky Ones here.
Chapter One: May
I bolt across the lawn, squinting through the inky black. The streetlamp behind me casts a pool of light, but it’s weak. Clouds block the moon.
As I run, I wipe my hand across my forehead, and it comes back wet. It’s hot as shit out here, even though it’s January in Southern California and that’s supposed to mean something. It’s been like this for weeks—hot and still. Earthquake weather, Lucy’s grandmother claims, even though I keep telling her it’s been scientifically proven that you can’t predict an earthquake.
I’m alone; Lucy ditched me after our late-night dinner. I guess I can’t blame her for going home; it’s after midnight and we have school in the morning—my first day at this new school since I was kicked out of the old one almost ten months ago. I probably should have gone home too, but I couldn’t without coming here first. It’s not like I sleep anymore, anyway.
Lucy would have a fit if she knew where I went after she left.
Ever since we figured out that Michelle Teller installed motion-sensitive lights on the side of the garage, Lucy’s been so much more cautious—all Dude, May, I love you but we need to be careful, messing with that shit—which I get for her—I get it, I do—but for me, it’s different. For me, it’s worth it. She disagrees, but as much as I love Lucy and as much as I tell her about what’s running through this fucked-up head of mine, I don’t tell her everything.
Like, tonight. When I called her, late, and asked her to meet me at the diner for some food—I didn’t tell her why.
This afternoon when I checked the mail, there was another one, waiting for me in the box.
When I saw it, my insides froze. I grabbed it, went upstairs, stuffed it under my clothes way in the back of my closet, and then went into the bathroom and threw up. After, I lay down on my bed, head pounding. But from across the room I could feel the thump of its presence, like a fucking telltale heart. There are so many now, hidden around my room, haunting me at night from my desk drawer, from my closet, from every nook and cranny in my bedroom where I shove them. If I actually fall and stay asleep, like a normal human being, they creep into my dreams, turning them into nightmares.
I couldn’t stay still. I jumped out of bed and started cleaning my room but couldn’t concentrate enough to do much more than pace back and forth across the cluttered carpet.
Hence the call to Lucy. Hence not going home when she did. I need this—it’s the only thing that will smooth the sharp memory of those letters.
I finally reach the garage door, but as soon as I get to it an image pops into my head, distracting me, of my twin brother Jordan’s body sprawled on the band room floor, thick, bright crimson pouring out of him, soaking into the ratty gray carpet. I’m thrown for a moment, before I take that image and shove it down out of my head, down into the depth of my belly, and I step too close to the side of the house. I know not to; over the past months, I’ve gotten to be an expert on the layout of the Tellers’ driveway and the system of lights they hooked up, but as usual I screw things up.
A spotlight blasts on, and for a split second I’m like an animal caught in headlights, one of the idiotic ones that always get mowed down. I freeze.
After a few long seconds, I finally get it through my dumb head that standing here in the middle of a bright circle of light is not a great idea, and I force myself to move. I dart around the corner into the blackness of the backyard and press my body up against the stucco of the house. I’m gripping the can of spray paint so hard that my fingers turn white, standing out against the black of the night. I suck in breaths like Dr. McMillen, PsyD, taught me, one long inhale for four counts and one long exhale for four, and my heart begins to slow.
I try to think of what Lucy would say if she was here, other than the obvious—Be more careful, May, you dumbass. Would she tell me to go home? Yell at me for being a pussy? Normally she’d be out here with me, the two of us charging through the night together, but over the past few weeks she’s been doing this more and more—ducking out and leaving me to come here on my own.
My breath calms me enough that I can think about moving again. I need to pay more attention, stop letting memories distract me, remember what I read in The Art of War, which I found buried in Jordan’s room in a pile of his clothes a month after he died.
In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.
That guy, Sun Tzu, was pretty smart. It’s how I first came up with this thing—a way to show the asshole lawyer who took that psychopath’s case that what she’s doing isn’t okay. From that book. I figured it was a sign or something, finding it in Jordan’s stuff.
I’m pretty sure the night I found it was the first time any of us had been in his room since it happened. Even now, eleven months later, my mom still refuses to go in there, refuses to sort through his things, and sometimes—on the rare occasions when my parents are both at home—I hear her and my dad arguing about it, late in the night when I can’t sleep.
Darkness settles back over the driveway, and I decide it’s safe to shake the can just enough to prep it, even though each time the hard ball hits the bottom it sounds like a canon going off. You’d think, it being the twenty-first century and all, someone would have invented a quieter way to do this, particularly since, in my experience, no one ever uses spray paint for activities that are…let’s just say…totally legal.
Although, I’d argue that the purposes I use it for are right in line with my moral code, and that everyone is getting what they deserve.
I’m out in front of the garage finishing the last letter, paint still dripping red down the door, when there’s a rustling behind me. For a second, David’s face flashes through my mind, and even though I know—I know—he’s secured behind bars at the LA County Jail, I leap about twenty feet into the air and whirl around so fast that I trip over my feet. I land hard on the driveway, scraping my palms, and the goddamn spotlight flicks on again, blinding me from above. My heart’s beating a million miles a minute, and tears prick at the edges of my eyes. I’m squinting at the sudden glare, trying to scramble to my feet, generally having a massive heart attack, when I hear a soft mew, and something brushes against the back of my leg.
Fucking hell. It’s just a stupid cat.
I collapse back on the driveway in the center of the spotlight to catch my breath and stop my insides from sprinting away from my body down the street. I don’t even care if someone sees me. My limbs feel like they’ve been filled with lead. The cat, unaware that it almost killed me less than ten seconds ago, walks up onto my chest like it owns the place and starts to knead my sweatshirt.
“Jesus Christ.” I can’t help it; I start to laugh and have to squeeze my lips together to keep the sound from bursting out of my mouth into the night. “Kitty, you scared me half to death, no joke.” I reach out and run a hand along the side of its fur, only realizing after that I’ve left a faint red line all the way down its back. I glance at my arm and see that it’s streaked with paint from fingers to elbow. I must have sprayed myself when the cat freaked me out.
This last part of the night is not going as planned. I’m definitely going to give Lucy shit for abandoning me. Tired, my ass.
Whatever, the cat will just have to deal with its new color. A little red paint never killed anyone, right? (I actually have no idea if that’s true, but I’m going to go ahead and believe it for the time being, otherwise I could potentially end up washing a cat in the dark.)
I’m still lying here in the driveway with a cat nudging at my face when the spotlight goes out, leaving me in dark.
Excerpt copyright © 2020 by Liz Lawson. Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.