Alice is in wonderland! Even though Whitney’s group of teenage environmental vigilantes operates on the wrong side of the law, with them, Alice is finally free to be herself. She stomps on her good girl image by completing a series of environmental pranks to impress the new group: flooding the school and disguising a pig as a baby in order to smuggle it out of a testing facility. She wants to trust them, and she especially wants to trust (or maybe kiss) Chester Katz, a boy with a killer smile, a penchant for disappearing, and a secret that will turn Alice’s world backwards. But then, one of the young vigilantes tries to frame Alice for all the pranks, and she must figure out their secret before she ends up in front of a jury screaming, “Off with her head!"?
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Set up: Alice followed Chess to a house to spy on him but lost him when he disappeared in the backyard. She is peering into the basement window, where she suspects marijuana plants are being grown.
I jumped so hard I knocked my head into the wall, causing me to fall butt-first onto the ground. At least hitting my head might explain everything I'd witnessed tonight. Rubbing the spot with my palm, I looked up to see a tower of a boy blocking the moon. He carried a clay mug of green liquid. Foam and smoke billowed out of it, reminding me of mad-scientist experiments in moves. A bump was already popping out of my forehead. If I could move the swelling from my face to my chest, I'd really be on to something.
"I—I didn't think—" I rose until I was eye-level with his ribcage.
"You didn't think of a good excuse for your spying?" Chester shut the door behind him, sealing it back into the exterior. Now that I knew what to look for, I spotted faint cracks in the aluminum siding outlining the door. No knob, so it must only open from the inside. "Wow, we just met and I'm already finishing your sentences," he said.
I shot him my most angelic smile. "Then what am I going to say next?"
"You're going to ask my name. It's Chess."
I didn't want to acknowledge that I knew more about him than he probably did about me. So I stayed vague. "I go to Wonderland High."
"Alice Liddell, right?" His lips curled into the kind of killer smile orthodontists and girls like me could appreciate. "Your picture's on the honor-roll board. Every time I pass by it…" His smile faded, and I immediately mourned the loss. "Never mind."
"What?" I waited, wondering if he could see right through me to my secrets, like maybe transparency was a side effect of courage. Aside from a few kids who still remembered my parents' tree-hugging slip-up or my lame petition fiasco, most people at school only knew about me if they cheated off me. New gossip erased old memories daily, the circle of strife.
"Nothing, it's—" He tilted his head to the side and his voice grew more confident with each word. "It's cheesy. I'm embarrassed I even thought it." He stared into his cup, then peered at me from under his eyelashes. "But you can guess if you want."
"Um…" Strange. Why would he want me to guess an answer he was embarrassed about? Maybe he was trying to stall me before the police arrived. I took a step backward. I knew I should probably make a quick excuse and flee, but he studied me with such intensity, as though he was holding his breath for my answer. So I gave him one. "Every time you pass by the honor-roll board…you remember a test you haven't studied for? You wish you had a marker to draw devil horns on my head?"
"That's a good one. Let's go with that." He grinned.
His grin was contagious. Yesterday, his reputation would have scared me off. But now? I was intrigued.
Rachel Shane studied Creative Writing at Syracuse University and now works in digital publishing at in New York City. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, young daughter, and a basement full of books. This is her first novel.
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