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Extract of Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak



To celebrate #NationalSiblingsDay, we're sharing an extract of the wonderful Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak.

Last summer Quinn and her sister, Fern, and brother, Reed all fell in love with the same boy – Dylan, their best friend since forever, suddenly seen through new eyes. 

Six months later and everything has changed. The summer camp they worked in is empty and covered in snow, and Quinn, Fern and Reed aren't speaking to each other anymore. Something happened that summer that tore them apart, and their memories won't let them forgive.


Wild Blue Wonder is the gorgeous, achingly beautiful novel from Carlie Sorosiak, author of If Birds Fly Back and we're so pleased to be able to share an exclusive FIRST LOOK SNEAK PEEK of this stunning story about love, loss and grief.

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October
The Hundreds
 
She wasn’t supposed to knock.
 
When Hana Chang blasted through the woods connecting our houses, she wasn’t supposed to rap with both mittens on my bedroom window, and she sure as hell wasn’t supposed to shout through the glass, ‘Quinn! Yoo-hoo!’
 
I rip off my headphones, kick my quilt to the bottom of the bed, and dart toward the window, signaling no with my hands.
 
Hana freezes. She forgot about Fern.
 
The bed across the room squeals as my younger sister tosses and turns, her eyes glued shut. By the way she’s breathing, I can tell she’s awake but pretending not to be. If this were last year, Fern would’ve sprung out of bed and joined in the adventure, twisting her waist-length hair into a knot and slipping on her gloves. She would’ve tiptoed across the hall and knocked on our brother Reed’s door, and all three of us would’ve crept through the foyer and into the hazy-white yard.
 
But things like that don’t happen anymore. Here’s how it goes now: Fern throws eye daggers, Reed triggers earthquakes everywhere he stomps, and I’m . . . well, it’s safe to say that none of us are fine.
 
Hana points to the pumpkin patch and tree house behind her, and I nod in silent agreement: Meet you there in three. Her boots make a trail in the newly fallen snow, each footprint glimmering like the wet underbelly of a fish.
 
Silently moving across the room, I grab Dad’s old boating jacket from my coatrack, yank on an extra pair of socks, and try to pull my hair into a ponytail before remembering: Oh yeah, I cut it off. As of last week, seventeen inches – snip, snip, gone. I was getting sick of it, I guess. Sick of catching my glance in the mirror and remembering: this is how my hair looked last summer. Now the longest strands hug my jawline. Mom and Nana Eden made a big to-do about it, and then started joking about salvaging all the trimmings to make an afghan. (Which is exactly what every seventeen-year-old girl needs, right? A blanket woven from her own hair.)
 
‘Waste not, want not!’ Nana crooned, clutching her elbows to double over in laughter.
 
I don’t understand my family anymore, except maybe Galileo. He’s meowing at the front door and fixing me with his most pathetic kitty glance. A plastic cone haloes his head – his own darn fault for chasing that porcupine into the woods. Lacing my boots up to my knees, I gently scoot him out of the way and close the door behind me.
 
Hana is whisper-yelling from the tree house, ‘Ahhhh, sorry, was Fern mad?’ She readjusts the ears on her crocheted otter hat and watches her frozen breath mushroom into the night. The moon is making everything silver, a bit like my hair. Mom says the color’s because Sawyers are wise beyond their years, but ninety-five percent of Winship, Maine, would likely disagree. People at school use plenty of adjectives to describe me. ‘Wise’ isn’t included.
 
To be fair, I don’t blame them.
 
‘I’ll probably hear all about it in the morning,’ I groan. ‘What I don’t get is, Fern sneaks out at least once a week, and somehow that’s fine. It’s just not okay when I do it.’
 
‘Sucky double standards.’
 
‘Yeah.’ I cock my head at her – at her white-and-brown face paint, the small trickle of fake blood descending from lip to chin. ‘I thought you were going as something scary this year.’
 
‘Google “otter attack.” They don’t mess around.’
 
This – this right here – is why we’ve been best friends since she moved here from New Jersey in second grade. We initially bonded over Harry Potter, even though she’s a Hufflepuff and I’m a Slytherin. (Ever since the virtual sorting hat debuted on Pottermore, we’ve refused to discover our actual houses, for fear of dismantling everything we think we know about ourselves.) The last five months would’ve been hell on toast without her. Okay, they still were, but I want to give credit where credit’s due.
 
She examines me from head to toe, teeth chattering. ‘Wha– what are you supposed to be? Wait . . . Katniss Everdeen?’
 
‘I think I’m missing some essential things, in that case: bow and arrows, nerves of steel.’
 
‘You totally have that forest-huntress thing going on, though. We just need to get you a brown wig.’ She thwacks an otter-paw mitten against my shoulder. ‘I really, really missed you today.’
 
‘Did you? I couldn’t tell by the twenty-seven caramel apple photos.’
 
She grins. ‘I thought they might entice you out of your hobbit hole.’
 
‘Yeah, well,’ I say, although it’s not strictly an answer.
 
‘You missed some truly spectacular costumes.’
 
‘Best one: go.’
 
‘Not best, exactly, but Jason Talley went as a shower curtain. I can’t believe he didn’t get frostbite or something. He basically just wrapped his naked body in clear plastic.’
 
‘Did you have to wash your eyeballs?’
 
‘With much soap. My retinas will never be the same. Neither will the police who arrested him . . . Next year, we’ll go together, right?’
 
‘Right,’ I echo with a confidence I don’t feel. ‘So, you ready?’
 
Hana does a little one-two step that tells me yep.
 
The sky is turning a darker and darker black, bone-white stars poking straight at us – a picture-perfect October night. Frost creeps over everything. I shake my fingers to keep them from freezing, and check side to side for the bobcat that used to hang around our pumpkin patch. Nana swears its absence is a bad omen; the first night it disappeared, all our pumpkins turned purple, and the temperature dropped twenty-seven degrees.
 
Fern used to spend entire afternoons spying on it out the window – watching its tufted ears twitch.
Leaving the tree house and quick-stepping around the icy vines, toward the top of the hill, Hana blurts out, ‘Oh my actual God. I don’t think I’ll ever get over this.’
 
And immediately I think, I won’t, either, before realizing she’s talking about The Hundreds, the summer camp that my family owns and operates – where we live. It’s aggressively pretty under the moonlight and dusting of snow. Small rustic cabins. A meadow of dormant wildflowers. A hundred acres of birch, ash, and maple trees that whisper to one another in the wind. No matter how green it is in June, The Hundreds is most striking in fall and winter. Lonely, yeah, but also quiet and smooth, like the longest brushstrokes in a painting.
 
‘It’s a bit like Narnia,’ Hana says.
 
‘Minus the wardrobe.’
 
In June and July, my family runs eight summer sessions, one week each – nearly eight hundred campers in total. Campers arrive on Monday mornings and leave on Sundays at noon; a new batch comes the next week, and we do the same activities. Hana, my siblings, and I are counselors – partners in exploring the outdoors, relaxing in the yoga and meditation cabin, and performing silly plays. Most of the campers are from out of state, and for a lot of them, it’s the first time they’ve stepped beyond the confines of a city. The first time they’ve swum in the ocean, caught fireflies with their bare hands, or eaten s’mores by a gigantic fire pit. And, above all, the first time they’ve been somewhere that feels alive – like, alive. Nana says that The Hundreds has a heartbeat, same as a human. When I was a kid, I’d turn over rocks and press my fingers to the cool dirt, checking for a pulse.
 
Ask anyone in Winship, and they’ll tell you the rumors – that impossible things happen at The Hundreds: Blueberries grow in the dead of winter. Sick cats wander into our woods and suddenly they’re cured. When the last blizzard hit, all the animals ran here. Our house is like that as well. Cluttered wallpaper, crooked hallways, and every once in a while, the shimmer of something, in the corner of a window, racing across the bathroom tile. An unnatural puff of light that wasn’t there before. Ghosts? Nana and Mom think so.
 
They also believe that The Hundreds has a sea monster – some aquatic beast in the depths of our cove. For years, I thought the idea was so implausible that Nana must’ve made it up, maybe to keep campers out of the water when it’s dark.
 
But then I started learning about marine phenomena.
 
And I saw the sea monster on the worst night of my life.
 
A black ridge. Sleek. Massive.
 
Stop it, stop it, stop –
 
Guilt gurgles up like acid. I kick those thoughts away.
 
Hana and I pick up the pace when we hit the trail, wetness gathering in the creases of my jacket. I wrap it tighter around me, although I usually don’t mind the cold. Far from it. I was always first in the water during Winship’s annual Polar Plunge and have been known to make snow angels in my bathing suit. Mom says it’s because I’m half girl, half seal, like in that hippie storybook Nana used to read to us.
 
Hana sticks out her tongue and catches a snowflake. ‘You know how no two snowflakes are exactly the same? Wouldn’t it be cool if snow tasted different in other places?’
 
‘Like what? Snow in Paris –’
 
‘– would taste like baguettes. Definitely baguettes.’
 
‘And black coffee,’ I say. ‘Don’t they drink tons of coffee?’
 
‘At least on TV . . . Oh!’ She taps her matching otter backpack and bounces on her toes. ‘I brought a camera, by the way. My dad’s old SLR. Thought if we’re going to take a picture of a ghost, we might as well go old-school.’
 
‘Then old-school it is.’
 
On the outer edge of The Hundreds is a rickety Victorian with a spectacularly pointy roof. The woman who lived there – a seventy-eight-year-old wildlife photographer named Belinda Atwood, according to the Winship Gazette – wasn’t exactly chatty; she passed away two months ago and Nana didn’t know about it in time to make blueberry pie. ‘Kicked-the-bucket pie,’ Nana calls it. Any family of dead neighbors automatically gets a twine-wrapped box dropped on their porch.
 
Late last night, Hana was driving back from her Monster Movie Club and glimpsed, through one of Ms. Atwood’s windows, a blurry figure dressed in white and lit up like a Christmas tree. Hana parked her minivan and called me from the scene, crouching behind a snow mound.
 
I said, ‘It could be Ms. Atwood’s family or something.’
 
‘I’m telling you, this isn’t her family.’ Her voice crackled through the phone – intense and resolute. ‘Remember that ghost in my house that started stealing all the spoons? I know what I’m talking about.’
 
‘I thought one of your little brothers stole all the spoons?’
 
‘Quinn, focus. It’s the weekend before Halloween, when unexplainable things are supposed to happen. And this is The Hundreds we’re talking about here.’
 
Since ‘supernatural detective’ isn’t a career that pays actual money, Hana’s determined to become the next best thing: a character makeup artist in Hollywood. I can’t even tell you how many weekends we’ve spent rewatching The Lord of the Rings, Hana lecturing me about intricacies of elf ears. The abnormal is her normal; she is a fierce believer in the unexplainable.
 
But she shouldn’t have been wandering the woods by herself. I said, ‘Okay, I believe you. But just go home, okay?’
 
‘Fine. But we’re investigating tomorrow night.’ Then she hung up the phone.
 
The snow begins to fall in thicker clumps as we come to the clearing in the trees, where – two hundred feet away – the blue-and-white house materializes between ridges of earth like a pop-up tent. All the lights are on.
 
After a moment, I shift in my snow boots, breath stretching out like octopus tentacles in the air. My toes are icicles. ‘So what happens now?’ Silence. ‘Hana?’
 
My friend pauses, grips her mitten extra tight in mine, and whispers: ‘What’s that?’
 
Suddenly I hear it, too. Music.
 
The forest sounds – wind zigzagging through the trees, the soft hush of snow, the distant beating of the ocean – fade into the background. I let go of Hana’s hand and take two steps toward a melody that’s seeping out of a window. Guitars, strings, a peppy beat. I can’t place the song . . . but haven’t I heard it before?
 
I’m vaguely aware that Hana’s whispering my name over and over again – Quinn, Quinn, the window, the window – and I’m thinking, Wait a flipping second, I’m trying to remember something, when I look up and see the ghost. Except that she is definitively unsupernatural – just a woman, no more than five foot two, wearing a shapeless white dress with white candlelight dancing all around her.
 
And she’s staring straight at us.
 
How must we look? A black-haired girl in otter garb, blood dripping from her mouth. A round-faced girl in lace-up boots, frozen in the snow.
 
That’s when I notice the very large NO TRESPASSING sign in the garden, glinting in a hill of snow.
I say, ‘We should go.’
 
But then the music stops. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the front door creaking open – and a guy stepping onto the porch. He’s got terrible bedhead – longish black hair cycloned in every direction – and he’s in some sort of printed pajama bottoms and a T-shirt that exposes the light brown skin of his arms.
 
‘We should go,’ I repeat, louder this time. The last thing I need is someone calling the police, giving this town yet another thing to gossip about. Snatching Hana’s hand, I start dragging her in the direction of my house.
 
If there’s anything I’m good at, it’s running away.