If you read and loved One of Us is Lying, the next book on your TBR needs to be Dana Mele’s People Like Us, a sharp psychological thriller that will have you turning pages late into the night. After Kay Donovan finds a girl’s body in the lake of her elite prep school, she quickly realizes that nothing is as it seems…and no one is safe, especially her. Mashable revealed the chilling first excerpt, and we are here to give you another snippet to keep you guessing (sorry!) until February 27, but you can pre-order your copy here!
While you’re reading, keep an eye out for something special in the text. We’ve re-created the revenge blog that leads Kay through the story and through the blog author’s hit list, and we put our own spin on it, but tbh it’s just as creepy as we imagined it in the book. You’re gonna want to follow the tumblr, because we’ll be releasing some EXCLUSIVE new poems written by the author!
Outside, people swarm like it’s moving-in day, but it’s not just students and their families. A row of news vans lines the curb, beside which a handful of women holding clipboards pace anxiously and bark orders at tall guys with Steadicams strapped around their torsos. There are dozens of people wearing matching bright-blue T-shirts with a logo that looks like a cross between an infinity symbol and two linked hearts. Throngs of disheveled, homeless-looking townies mill around, bleary eyed, some of them crying. It’s total chaos. It looks like the T-shirt people have set up a table and are providing coffee and bagels. Maybe I should head down to them instead of to the dining hall. It will be impossible to get to it in this mess, anyway.
I take the stairs two by two, hoping not to run into Jessica’s family, who I assume are here to clear out her room. At the front door I find Jenny standing guard and I flash her a smile. “Get any sleep?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “Be safe, Kay.”
“You want a coffee or anything?”
She smiles weakly. “That’d be great.”
I hop over to the table where the people wearing the blue shirts are pouring coffees and handing out bagels and I grab two empty cups. I’m about to fill them when a guy standing behind the table yanks the cups out of my hand. I stare at him in shock. I know his face, but not his name. He’s a student from Easterly, like Spencer and Justine, and a regular at their cast parties. Since Justine stars in most of their theater productions, I’ve seen him around quite a bit, but never onstage. He’s probably a techie.
Sleeve tattoos cover his bare, muscular arms from wrist to elbow. His lower lip is pierced and his wavy dark hair tumbles over his eyes like he’s just rolled out of bed. In skintight jeans and a torn-up black sweater, he looks like a washed-up rock star, complete with coke-chic sniffle and bloodshot eyes. Then I notice the balled-up tissue in his hand and wonder if he’s not so much doing lines bright and early on a Saturday morning as he is crying.
My momentary sympathy dissolves the moment he opens his mouth.
“I’m sorry, was I supposed to pay for those?”
He just glares. This guy’s antisocial, a complete weirdo, even if he would be kind of hot without the tortured-artist vibe and holier-than-thou attitude. “They aren’t for you,” he finally says.
I look around, confused. “Who exactly are they for?”
He gestures wordlessly to the crowd.
He sighs and his dark eyes narrow. He leans in close to me and whispers, looking embarrassed. “We’re here for Jessica’s people. The homeless.”
“Oh.” I straighten up. “I thought this was because of the crowd.”
“That is the crowd,” he says.
I look around again, and realize he’s right. The people filling the parking lot don’t just look homeless, they are homeless. Most of the people here are probably from shelters. I look back to sleeve-tattoo guy. “Why?”
“They’re mourning a lost friend. Unlike some people.” He flicks his hands. “Back to your lair.”
I eye the coffee cups he took from me and then glance back at Jenny. “Could I just have one of those?”
He looks at me with contempt. “No. You can’t. Go to Starbucks.”
“Starbucks is a five-mile walk. And it’s not for me.” I point to Jenny. “That’s Officer Jenny Biggs. She was on duty when the body was found. She hasn’t slept since then. Can you imagine being up that long after finding a girl dead, a girl you’d sworn to protect?”
He sighs and pours a coffee, then hands it to me. “Fine. If I see you drinking that, I’ll blacklist you.”
I roll my eyes. “From your shelter?”
“Luck flips hard, Kay Donovan.”
He looks confused. “My name is Greg.”
I wink. “Now I know. And pull your sleeves down, it’s freezing.” I weave through the crowd and hand the coffee to Jenny, who knocks it back like a shot.
“I hope they figure this one out fast, kiddo.” She flashes me an encouraging smile but doesn’t look me in the eye, which is a little unsettling. I notice her tapping her phone against her thigh and wonder if she got news while I was talking to Greg.
“Is that likely?” I ask, knowing she won’t answer.
She shrugs and gestures to the dorm. “Thanks for the coffee.” I head back to my room, wolf down a couple of energy bars and a Vitaminwater, then open up my laptop to google the news story. I learn that Jessica’s family is local, and she started a nonprofit that helps the homeless find jobs and gives them basic computer training through an online learning program she designed herself. Pretty impressive for a high school student, even at Bates. Other than that, there isn’t much. The news stories report that she was found in the lake shortly after midnight, cause of death undetermined. I read several more articles. No mention of her wrists.
None of the articles say foul play is suspected, but one says that her death is under investigation. I glance at the remaining match dates circled on my calendar. The clock is ticking. Each one of those dates is a desperately important deadline, and there is no reason to believe an investigation is going to be wrapped up in time for our games to resume so I can be scouted. My parents are going to flip.
As if on cue, my phone buzzes and I glance down at it. It’s my father. I hesitate, but pick up.
“How was practice, buddy?”
“I had to cancel.”
“Someone died. A student.”
“Oh, buddy. One of your teammates?”
“No, someone else.” I sit on the bed and draw my knees up to my chest. I usually check in with my parents on Sunday and it makes me a little nervous that he’s calling off schedule. As if he’s going to drop a bomb about something.
“Is everything okay?”
“Maybe you should just stick to the routine. Keep up that stiff upper lip. You know, for the sake of the younger girls. To set an example.”
It suddenly occurs to me that he probably read about Jessica’s death already and that’s exactly why he’s calling. “It wasn’t up to me, Dad. The school suspended athletic activities while the death is being investigated.”
“What?” I hear my mother’s voice in the background. Great. I should have known she was listening in. You can’t mention death around my mother. I dig my fingernails into the back of my neck to punish myself for making that mistake. “Ask her about Monday.” I hear her take the phone. “What about Monday’s game?”
I curl into a ball and squeeze my eyes shut. “It’s canceled. There is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I am no happier than you are. Believe me.”
I hear my father curse in the background.
“That is unacceptable,” my mother says. “Have you talked to Dr. Klein?”
“No, Mom. I did not reach out to the headmistress. I can’t just call her and demand change. She’s not Congress.”
“You didn’t even try? Do you want me to try? This is not the time to just sit back and hope for the best. We need to follow the plan.” “Someone did just die,” I say quietly. But deliberately.
Because I need this call to end.
She starts to say something but the words melt into a low sigh. I bite my lower lip. There’s a long silence. Then my mother speaks again, her voice unsteady. “Is there anything else you want to talk about, sweetie?”
“No,” I say, holding my breath until it feels like my face is going to explode.
“Let’s talk again soon,” she says.
My father gets back on the phone. “Time to brainstorm, buddy. Make phone calls, write letters. Whatever it takes to get your offers locked in. You’ve worked too hard to let it all slip away. You ride this out like everything else. Right?”
I hang up and let the breath out finally in an enormous whoosh, then punch my mattress and hug my pillow tightly to my chest. I wish Spencer wasn’t eminently unfaithful. I wish Justine hadn’t finally woken up so I could call Brie and vent. I wish my parents would just shut up and listen for once. None of that is going to go down the way I want it to. I can’t play on Monday. I have no control over that. Damn you, Jessica Lane.
Then I sit up and force myself to take a deep, calming breath. I know the manner of death, I saw the body, and I know the family and her business are local. Cut wrists, high-pressure school. If the police can’t open and shut a suicide case, it’s because they’re spread too thin. But I’m not. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve stood there helpless while it swirled around me, too slow to stop the moving pieces until everyone was in ruin. My best friend and my brother dead, my father devastated, my mother prepared to throw her life away, too. And me, encased in ice.
I close my fingers over my phone and turn it to silent, my mother’s voice echoing in my head. I can fix this. I can. Before the next game is canceled.
A ping alerts me to a new email, and I glance over at my computer screen. The subject line reads “Athletic Scholarship Update.” My heart begins to race and I pull my laptop over and open the message.
I regret to inform you that certain unsavory activities in your past have come to my attention and your eligibility for winning an athletic scholarship is at risk. I myself will be unable to attend college, so you have my sincerest sympathy. Therefore, if you agree to help me complete my final project, I may be able to overlook your transgressions.
Click on the link at the bottom of this email and follow my instructions. When you have completed each task, a name will disappear from the class roster. If you fail to complete any task within 24 hours, a link to the website along with proof of your crime will be sent to your parents, the police, and every student at Bates Academy.
If you succeed, no one will ever find out what you did.
Most cordially yours, Jessica Lane
P.S. At the risk of sounding cliché, talking to the police would not go well for you, Kay. It never has, has it?
The email was sent from Jessica’s Bates account. For a moment the thought that she’s still alive runs through my mind and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe it’s all been one massive, surreal mistake. Of course, that would also mean we left a bleeding victim alone in a lake. It would be a miracle, but we’d probably be guilty of at- tempted homicide or something. Oh God, I am dead meat. Then I talk myself down. I know, without a doubt, that she is dead.
It’s possible that someone else sent the email from her account. But the idea is so twisted, I can’t even entertain it. She must have written the message before she died and timed it to be sent now. The wording makes it look like she knew she was going to die. Her final project. Not attending college. Or maybe I’m reading into it. Finals are looming and there are tons of reasons people don’t go to college.
This email might convince the cops that she wasn’t murdered after all. I could take it to the police and possibly end the investigation right now.
But the postscript sends a chill down my spine.
There is a link at the bottom of the page that says jessicalanefinalproject.com. I click on it.
The screen goes blank for a long moment and then an image of a rustic country kitchen with a cast-iron stove appears. Letters slowly fog up on the glass window of the stove until the name of the site is crystal clear: Revenge Is a Dish: A Delicious Guide to Taking Down Your Enemies.
Can’t wait to continue? Pre-order your copy of People Like Us!