Today I am so pleased to welcome Johanna Parkhurst to Joyfully Jay. Johanna has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, Every Inferno. She has also brought along a copy to give away to one lucky winner. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
15-year-old Jacob Jasper Jones likes to drink. Maybe a little too much. Now he’s stuck at a keg party with the one person he doesn’t want to be stuck anywhere with.
JJ was coming out of the bathroom in the house when he saw McKinley. He was sitting on a sofa, drinking out of a blue party cup like JJ’s, surrounded by his usual harem of women. Only JJ wasn’t sure if you could consider it a harem if the dude wasn’t sleeping with any of them.
Maybe it was the beer, but JJ found himself staring in that direction a little too long—and eventually McKinley saw him. He got up from his spot on the couch and came over. “Fancy meeting you here.”
JJ gestured to the loud, crowded scene around them. “’Sa party, isn’t it?”
McKinley nodded. “C’mon,” he said finally. “Let’s go for a walk.”
JJ staggered after McKinley down a pasture to a small cow pond. McKinley sat down on a large rock and pulled JJ down after him.
“You’re pretty drunk. You know that, right?”
“Am… I?” JJ was pretty sure he was. Walking had been pretty tricky, and now he was having trouble focusing on McKinley’s face.
McKinley shook his head. “I hope you know how you’re getting home.”
JJ looked around for Lewis. “My ride… somewhere….”
“You didn’t workshop your writing yesterday.”
JJ was startled out of his stationary search for Lewis. “Not yet. I’m not… ready yet. Monday, maybe.”
“What’s the big deal?” McKinley asked. “What are you hiding over there in the corner every day?”
JJ tried to explain it through the fog in his head. “’Slike… they’re my thoughts. Just mine. Don’t want to share them with people. Don’t want people to know… my stuff.”
“I guess I don’t get it. I mean, I write some really private shit I would never share with our class, but there are lots of pieces I write that I’m fine with the class reading.”
JJ considered that. “Everything I write is me, so it all matters.”
McKinley looked startled. “Wow. I never thought about it that way. You’re just that private, huh?”
“I guess….” JJ tried to focus his vision on a tree in his line of sight. Things were starting to move a little too quickly around his head, and he was getting dizzier. He thought for a second about the dream, which he’d had again the night before. “I mean, I share some things. Like I told Dr. Ben about the tattoo guy. That was private.”
“Tattoo guy? Huh?”
“The guy… from the fire. With the tattoo. I told Dr. Ben… I remembered him. That was private. Only I knew I saw him.”
“JJ, are you talking about the fire that killed your parents?”
“How’d you know?” JJ could hear the accusation in his voice, only he wasn’t sure what he was accusing McKinley of.
“Everyone remembers the fire, dude. Penny’s mom told me that your parents died in it, when I started working with Penny. Course, she never told me about you.”
“Oh.” JJ was calm again.
“So? Is the fire where you saw the tattoo guy?”
“Yup.” JJ popped the end of the “p” between his lips. “But no… no one knows where he is. He’s invisible.” JJ couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably. “The guy who set the fire was invisible!” Soon he was hysterical, laughing like a hyena into the murky, dark water in front of the rock.
“I think it’s time to get you home.” McKinley pulled at his arm.
JJ instantly pulled away. “Look, I’m not gay, okay? Get your hands off.”
McKinley rolled his eyes. “Listen, kid, as tough as it is not to be totally attracted to your drunk and disoriented ass, I promise that I’m not coming on to you here, okay? Just trying to help you walk.”
JJ frowned. “Okay, but nothing else, okay? Just walking.”
McKinley shook his head, and JJ thought he murmured something about every guy in the world thinking they were the hottest thing around whenever a gay dude showed up.
Then Lewis was there too, dragging the other side of JJ. He heard Lewis swear. “I think Rick left without us.”
“We’ll have to walk!” Somehow this was hilarious to JJ too, and he heaved with laughter as he tried to amble away from Lewis.
Hands held him still. “What are we going to do?” Lewis sounded like he was pleading.
“I could take you home,” JJ heard McKinley say. “Just as long as JJ keeps his stomach together in my car. It’s my mom’s.”
“I’ll watch him,” Lewis promised.
JJ closed his eyes, and a few moments later, he opened them to find Lewis next to him in the backseat of a strange car. “Lewis?” he muttered.
“I think I’m… drunker than I usually am.”
Lewis had been drunk with JJ a lot, and he didn’t hesitate a second. “You sure are, dude.”
“What ’bout… Maggie?”
Lewis frowned. “I think I may have to sneak you in again.”
JJ heard McKinley’s bemused voice from the front seat. “I think I’m starting to see what Darryl sees in you, JJ. You really are trouble, aren’t you?”
JJ wanted to argue with that, but suddenly he couldn’t get his tongue to move.
Depressed. Defiant. Possible alcoholic. These are just a few of the terms used to describe fifteen-year-old Jacob Jasper Jones. Lately, though, JJ has a new one to add to the list: detective. He’s been having strange dreams about the fire that killed his parents ten years ago, and he thinks he finally has the clue to catching the arsonist who destroyed his family.
A murder investigation isn’t the only thing the dreams trigger for JJ, though. They also lead to secret meetings with his estranged sister, an unlikely connection with a doctor who lost his daughter in the fire, and a confusing friendship with McKinley, a classmate of JJ’s who seems determined to help him solve the mystery.
All JJ wants is to shake the problems that have followed him since that fire, and he’s convinced he must catch the arsonist to do it. But as JJ struggles to find the culprit, he sees there’s more than one mystery in his life he needs to solve.
Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.
Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband.
Johanna has brought a copy of Every Inferno to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Friday, August 1st at 11:59 pm EST.
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