Cecil Castellucci The Year of the Beasts

ISBN 13: 9781596436862

The Year of the Beasts

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9781596436862: The Year of the Beasts
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Every summer the trucks roll in, bringing the carnival and its infinite possibilities to town. This year Tessa and her younger sister Lulu are un-chaperoned and want to be first in line to experience the rides, the food . . . and the boys. Except this summer, jealousy will invade their relationship for the first time, setting in motion a course of events that can only end in tragedy, putting everyone's love and friendship to the test.

Alternating chapters of prose and comics are interwoven in this extraordinary novel that will break your heart and crack it wide open at the same time.

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About the Author:

Cecil Castellucci is the two-time MacDowell Colony fellow and award winning author of five books for young adults including Boy Proof (Candlewick, 2005), The Plain Janes (Minx/DC Comics, 2007), and Beige (Candlewick, 2007). This year she also accepted a position as YA and children's books editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, a newly launched online magazine. Cecil Castellucci's books have been on the American Library Association's (ALA's) BBYA, Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists, as well as the NYPL Books for the Teen Age and the Amelia Bloomer list. Born in New York City, Cecil lives in Los Angeles and plays in an indie rock band under the aliases Nerdy Girl and Cecil Seaskull.

Nate Powell (b. 1978, Little Rock AR) is the author and illustrator of the graphic novels The Silence Of Our Friends (New York Times Best Seller; First Second, 2012), Any Empire (Top Shelf, 2011), Swallow Me Whole (an LA Times Book Prize finalist, the 2009 Eisner Award winner for Best Graphic Novel, and two-time Ignatz Award winner; Top Shelf, 2008), and Sounds Of Your Name (Microcosm, 2006).  He also performed in punk bands Universe, Soophie Nun Squad, Divorce Chord, Wait, and Boomfancy from 1992 to 2010. Nate lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

chapter
one
 
 
They rolled into town in the middle of the day: large covered wagons and flatbed trucks hauling disassembled rides that looked like futuristic dinosaur bones. They settled over by the highway, by the river, near the empty muddy brown field and planted themselves. Two days later, sawdust, lights, and swinging rides that screamed against the sky sprouted.
It didn’t matter where you were when the carnival arrived, everyone heard it beckon. The air filled with a music that lulled each person to a dreamy calm and seemed to come from a time when life was better. It was hard to believe that a time like that ever existed—safer, quainter, quieter times—but the music made everyone believe. People hummed the tune that reached through the rows of houses and rolled all the way back down to the river like a low fog. It made a person crave corn dogs and cotton candy.
It came once a year for a weekend in June, announcing to all that summer had officially begun. This year was no different than any other. The carnival would open on Friday night, and everyone in town had plans to go.
Tessa and Lulu were no exception. Last year the two sisters had worn matching sundresses and eggshell-colored sweaters—and they had gone with the burden of their parents hovering over them, making them squirm with embarrassment each time they saw someone from school. Accompanied by their parents, they had felt like babies, and, even worse, their mom’s sleeve tattoos and their dad’s long hair and piercings could have been an attraction at such a place once upon a time. Last year, Tessa and Lulu were not free to try every single ride, brave the curiosity sideshow tent, get lost in the crowds, or win a tiny stuffed banana without help from their father.
But this year was different. This year, Tessa was old enough to go alone. The week the trucks arrived, the two sisters were sent into a tizzy.
“Did you see them rolling into town?” Tessa asked, hoping to one-up her sister.
“No,” Lulu said.
“I did,” Tessa said. “Guess I’m lucky!”
“Guess you are,” Lulu said and tried to not sound too disappointed. But Tessa could tell she was. She wore the sadness on her face all through dinner.
Everyone at her school agreed that Tessa was officially the girl who saw the trucks first that year. Everyone said that was a sign of luck. In fact, it was pure luck that she’d seen them first at all. She hadn’t been looking for them. She saw them while staring out the window, ignoring the math lesson, and thinking of Charlie Evans. Her eyes focused on the vehicles, like tiny ants in the distance, jetting down the highway and then, as they crept closer, they morphed into something delicious and exciting. She had been wishing so hard for summer to start, and then, there they were, rumbling down Route 9.
Other people likely saw them, too, but Tessa was the first one who said out loud that they were there.
That night, Tessa watched as Lulu pushed her food around on her plate. Tessa knew this meant that either Lulu was being dramatic or that she didn’t like the quail her father was trying out on them that evening.
“What rides are you going on?” Lulu asked.
“Every one,” Tessa said, “and all the scary ones, for sure.”
Tessa was betting on dramatic, because Lulu always liked her father’s cooking. He and Lulu had the same taste for the untried.
“It will be better this year than last,” Lulu said.
“Of course it will be,” Tessa said.
On that they could agree.
Tessa watched Lulu eat three bites quietly and then listened as Lulu asked the question she already knew the answer to.
“Who are you going with?”
“Celina, of course.”
Celina was Tessa’s best friend. They had been planning their first unchaperoned trip to the carnival all year long.
“Can I come, too?” Lulu asked.
“No,” Tessa said. “Definitely not.” This could spoil everything.
Just the thought of Lulu going with them made Tessa’s curls tighten.
“I won’t be any trouble,” Lulu said.
“Be nice to your sister,” their mother said, and gave the girls a look. Sometimes their mother could look as tough as her tattoos. She knew how to settle things with her eyes. Tessa had tried to learn that trick, but things didn’t always go the way she wanted when she did it.
Tessa had to admit that, in truth, Lulu was not that troublesome. She had tagged along with Tessa and Celina for so many years that in a way she was an unofficial third to their best friendship. Tessa knew the rules of being the older sister meant that Lulu would either come with them or they’d be condemned to going to the carnival with parents. Despite Tessa’s annoyance that Lulu would slow down their fun, she couldn’t deny her sister the freedom to roam with her and Celina on the fairgrounds without the burden of parents. But that didn’t stop Tessa from doing everything she could to make it clear that it was still unfair.
“I’m not my sister’s keeper,” Tessa said to her mother, and then slammed her fist on the table so that her dinner plate jumped.
Her fury was useless. Lulu would tag along.
Tessa told Celina at lunch as they watched Charlie Evans throw a ball around with Dylan and Tony and wondered what kinds of plans they were making.
“Lulu wants to tag along with us,” Tessa said.
Celina’s face dropped.
“But she’s in eighth grade,” Celina said. “We’re practically sophomores.”
“I know, I know,” Tessa said.
“Not cool, Tessa,” Celina said.
“She’ll behave,” Tessa said. “I made her swear.”
They both knew that Tessa didn’t have any choice. But Tessa couldn’t help blaming Lulu just a little.
*   *   *
Their father dropped them off at the mouth of the carnival, and he gave them each forty dollars for tickets and rides and hot dogs and games and told them to be careful and to have fun.
He barely got the words out before the girls shrugged him off and ran straight into the night, disappearing into the noise and the lights.
There was so much to see, and although the girls had been to the carnival every year since they were little, this time everything about it seemed new.
“You’d better act cool,” Tessa said.
“OK,” Lulu said.
“You’d better stay quiet,” Tessa said.
“OK,” Lulu said.
“You’d better do what I say,” Tessa said.
“You got it,” Lulu said. And then she smiled big—the smile of a girl who could taste her first bite of freedom.
“What should we do first?” Tessa asked once they had met up with Celina at the assigned spot.
“It’s like we’re grown-ups,” Celina whispered. And the three girls nodded in unison, then took a moment to savor being old enough to go on their own to a place that had always seemed doomed to being the territory of family outings.
“Look.” Tessa grabbed Celina’s arm.
She pointed to a ticket booth. There stood Charlie Evans with Dylan, Tony, and Lionel. Tessa stilled herself and held her breath; Charlie’s looks had that effect on her.
“We should hook up with them,” Celina said. She knew how to seize the moment. Tessa loved that about her best friend.
“That’s Charlie Evans,” Lulu said. She had heard all about him and his dreamy looks from Tessa, but this was the first time she’d seen him off the football field without all that protective gear.
“Yeah, what do you think?” Tessa asked.
Lulu shrugged. She seemed unimpressed.
“Charlie will know how to have fun,” Celina said. “If you know what I mean.”
“What do you mean?” Lulu asked.
“I thought you didn’t like him like that,” Tessa said.
“I don’t like him like that,” Celina said.
“What do you mean?” Lulu asked again.
Tessa liked him like that. She admired him from afar, touched his locker when she walked by, and said hello to him every morning as they passed each other in the hallway. She even laughed at the jokes he made at the table next to theirs at lunchtime. Celina was the one who didn’t like Charlie. She didn’t like his dumb hair, his cleft chin, his anything.
“What do you mean?” Lulu asked a third time.
Tessa and Celina gave each other looks.
“Boys!” Tessa said.
“A boy is a boy is a boy. And Charlie’s got enough boys with him to go around. We should all go get one,” Celina said.
“Boys,” Lulu said. She said it quietly, like she was saying something forbidden. Then she giggled, covering her mouth with her tiny white hand. Sometimes she acted younger than 13. Tessa felt embarrassed for Lulu. Tessa saw Celina roll her eyes. Tessa rolled her eyes back at Celina in agreement. And just like that, they were in sync again.
It was then that Tessa noticed that Lulu was wearing Tessa’s favorite pair of skinny jeans. Lulu had not asked permission to go into her room and borrow them. Tessa was peeved that they looked better on Lulu. She should probably just let her sister have them but she knew that she wouldn’t. Whenever she went trolling through her sister’s drawers, she never found anything good to steal—just bangle bracelets, colorful scarves that no one knew how to wear, and unused vintage buttons from their grandma’s collection.
Sometimes Tessa wished that she was the prettier sister. When Tessa looked at Lulu, she wondered why it was that Lulu got the better nose. The nicer legs. The shinier, straighter...

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