Genre: YA contemporary
Word Count: 75,000
My Main Character would prefer to live in:
I don’t do heat. Do you know what penguins do when they get hot? They stick their feet in the sun and that cools them. Don’t ask me how it works because it makes no sense to me. Sticking my feet in the sun does shit. Grandma, though, thinks sweat is for inferior human beings, like she doesn’t have sweat glands. I bet she doesn’t. The woman is not human. And there is no way to get away from her in this madhouse aquarium. Give me a cold, deep, bottomless ocean and some gills and I’m gone.
Stealing drugs from your grandparents is bad. Stealing fish-drugs from your grandparents’ aquarium while high and then vomiting into the sea lion pool is worse. For sixteen-year-old Laura Sweetling, it was a Tuesday night.
Four months later and out of rehab, Laura sets her sights on the GED, convinced it’s her ticket out of her home life and abusive father. However, Laura’s mom and grandparents have other plans: summer school and a volunteer stint at the aquarium. Laura’s mom, newly single after kicking her dad out, is also employed at the aquarium—as Laura’s supervisor. Drowning in the sea lion pool seems like a better option than a summer with four Sweetlings under one roof, the shadow of her dad’s inevitable return hanging over her, and her mom’s empty promises that things will be different.
Despite the nasty farmer’s tan, Laura is at home among the animals. But when an anti-captivity protest destroys her perception of the family business, Laura must decide which current she’ll follow. The aquarium and its staff feel like a second home, but the grisly truths she uncovers about the removal of walrus tusks, animals dying in enclosures, and harsh breeding programs are impossible to ignore. While Laura struggles to stay sober and pass summer school, challenging the aquarium would ruin her family. However, when Laura realizes her mom’s still in contact with her dad, the choice might already be made for her.
Nick promised it would last twelve hours. But now cloud nine is crashing into cloud six and the memories are coming back.
I repeat my mantra: I will not puke in this car. Losing it in a tsunami of greasy fast food garbage to the tune of a rap song would just be sad. Worse, Nick is trying—and failing—to sing along, blobs of spit spraying the windshield.
Shitballs, my head hurts. And my eyes. What did I take?
The robotic voice of the GPS orders a U-turn, jarring my thoughts. I sit up, straining against the seatbelt and say, “That’s not—”
Nick swerves into oncoming traffic, ignoring the double yellow lines. I don’t have my license and my vision is slightly hazy (only slightly), but even I know what that means. The idiot has a death wish. Headlights flash in every direction and the music is drowned out over the orchestra of blaring horns.
The car lurches to one side and then rights itself. Nick resumes rapping, like nothing ever happened.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I want to punch him, but then we’d swerve again and the odds of surviving a second time wouldn’t be in our favor.
“Same thing that’s wrong with you, Laura,” Nick says, miraculously keeping all his spit in his mouth.
Scowling, I jab my finger at the GPS. U-turn, my ass. No matter how whacked I am, I will always know how to get to that aquarium. “Evil, mutant—”