Elena Martinez is a young woman without a future until Aether Corporation offers her a job, but it means traveling to the future and back. But the journey is nothing Elena expected and she wonders if she can save herself before it's too late.
About the Author
Elizabeth Briggs graduated from UCLA with a degree in sociology. She mentors teens in writing and is the author of the new adult series Chasing the Dream. She lives in LA with her husband and a pack of fluffy dogs. This is her first young adult novel.
Read an Excerpt
I can already tell this is one of those moments I'll later wish I could forget. But like everything else, it will be burned into my memory forever.
"Elena Martinez, correct?" The pasty-white manager looks over my application with a frown. I stare at a piece of lint on his hunter-green polo shirt and shift in the hard wooden seat.
"Yes." Remember to smile, I think and force my mouth to curl up. A dusty, round clock ticks overhead. 3:56 p.m. Two minutes faster than the watch on my wrist.
A waitress in a red skirt the size of a belt heads to the table next to us. If they hire me, I'll be wearing that uniform too. Ugh. But I'll take whatever job I can get at this point.
As the waitress takes the couple's order, the woman's high-pitched voice slices through the restaurant noise. "Can I get the bacon cheeseburger, without mayo but with mustard ..." She goes on for another thirty seconds, replacing and adding so many items that she might as well make up her own menu item.
"How old are you?" the manager asks me, even though my age is right there on the form.
"Seventeen." His eyebrows shoot up, and I quickly add, "But I turn eighteen in two months."
He drums his fingers on the table and glances over my application again. My stomach growls at the smell of fried food wafting from another table. I haven't eaten anything since the free lunch at school.
The air-conditioning kicks on overhead with a loud rumble, blasting cold air down on me. I rub my arms, wishing I'd worn a shirt with long sleeves. I would have if Los Angeles wasn't in the middle of a freaking heat wave in the beginning of March, and if I had time to go home and change after school. No way was I spending the entire day in long sleeves, sweating all over myself. Besides, this is the nicest shirt I own.
The manager notices my movement and stares at my arms, his eyes narrowing at the sight of my tattoos. Definitely should have worn a different shirt. Why didn't I bring an extra one to change into? Or a sweater?
"Have you ever stolen anything?" he asks.
"No," I lie. Memories flicker through my head. At thirteen I stole five dollars from a foster mother's purse to pay for food. At ten I took a chocolate bar from a different foster mother's secret stash. At eight I swiped my father's bottle of whiskey and threw it in the trash. But this manager doesn't need to know any of that.
"Have you ever done drugs?"
"No." This isn't a lie. I don't mess with that stuff.
He stares me down, like he doesn't believe me. "Do you have any restaurant experience?"
"No." Yet another pointless question. It's all on my application — a big, fat zero. This is not going well. I can't afford to screw this interview up. I force another smile. "But I can learn."
He frowns but doesn't answer. I start to fold my hands on the checkered tablecloth but stop when I see how greasy it is. At the next table, the couple laughs. The sound gets under my skin, like they're laughing at me, even though I know that's ridiculous.
The manager finally stands up and offers his hand. "Thank you for coming, Ms. Martinez. We'll let you know."
Yeah right. I stand up and shake his warm, wet hand. He has a limp handshake. My father would call him a pendejo. But Papá is in prison for life, so what does he know?
The manager pulls his hand away and that's it. Another job interview over. I grab my backpack and start to walk toward the exit. I pass the other table and they laugh again. Maybe they are laughing at me.
What am I going to do now? I've been all over the city and have spent every free minute after school applying for jobs. No one wants to hire an underage, inexperienced, tatted-up Mexican girl. Even McDonald's turned me down. If I don't find something soon, I'm screwed.
In two months I'll be kicked out of foster care, forced out of my current home, and most likely will have to drop out of school. My time's running out fast, but I refuse to end up like some of the other foster kids I've known who aged out of the system. Living on the streets. Knocked up. Hooked on drugs. Sent to prison. Dead.
Screw that. I'm going to make it on my own. I'm going to college. I'm going to be free.
But I need a job, fast.
I swallow the tiny amount of pride I still have left and turn back to the manager. "Look, I really need this job. Please. I'll wait tables. I'll wash dishes. I'll do anything you want. Just give me a chance."
"I'm sorry," he says, crossing his arms. "We're not hiring right now."
Oh sure. Except for the NOW HIRING sign on the window outside. Rage flares inside me and I clench my fists. No one will give me a chance. Is it my age? My tattoos? My brown skin? What the hell is wrong with me?
The manager takes a step back, and I see a flash of fear cross his face. He's scared of me, of the anger in my eyes, of the ink on my arms, of the way my fists ready for a fight. I know I can take him, easy.
And the worst part is, I want to.
I'm jerked out of the moment when the woman at the other table raises her voice. "This is not what I ordered."
The waitress looks at the plate and then back at the woman, as though the words don't translate. "Bacon cheeseburger with coleslaw, right?"
"Yes, but this burger is completely wrong. Where are my onion rings? And my salad?"
"I'm sorry, what did you order?"
The woman huffs. "I ordered a —"
The words pour out of me before I can stop them: "A bacon cheeseburger without mayo, with mustard, no tomatoes, Swiss cheese instead of cheddar, extra avocado and bacon, onion rings instead of fries, and an extra side of coleslaw. Plus an order of the mixed green salad with no tomatoes, and a Diet Coke with no ice." I stop to take a breath, and then I add, "And he ordered the blue cheese burger with a Sprite."
Everyone's staring at me now — the manager, the waitress, and the couple at the table. Even a few people across the restaurant. Eyes wide, mouths open, suspicion and shock creasing their brows. I know these looks. I've seen them before.
My face burns, and I wish I could take back everything I said, redo the entire moment. I spin around and head for the exit before they can say anything.
A blast of heat and sunshine hits me as I step outside. I wanted to show them I could do this job just as well — if not better — than they could. But like a pendeja I let my anger get the best of me and proved to everyone in there what a freak I am. And the worst part is, I'll never forget this moment either.
Because I never forget anything.
The doorbell rings at 8:34 p.m. I stare at the green numbers on the clock, while Katie reads out loud from her homework. The doorbell doesn't mean anything. It could be a salesman or a neighbor. But I know better. Sudden arrivals in a foster home are never a good thing.
"Elena, you're not listening," Katie says as she looks up from her Spanish textbook.
"I am." I tear my gaze away from the clock and force a smile. "You're going to the 'discoteca.' Keep reading."
We're huddled next to a flimsy desk light because the bulb overhead is out and no one's bothered to change it yet. Not that there's much to see — two twin beds crammed into a room not much bigger than a closet with one dresser between them. It's obvious our foster mom once put some effort into decorating it with lavender walls and fluffy, pastel pillows, but a steady stream of rotating kids has worn the place down. At least with the light out it's harder to see the stains in the carpet, the fraying edges of the sheets, or the peeling paint around the windowsill. Still, I've lived in worse places. And I only have to survive this one for another two months.
Katie though, she's only fourteen. She has a long way to go before she gets out. I don't know who will take care of her when I'm gone. Not the Robertsons, that's for damn sure. They try, but they're stretched thin enough as it is. Not the other girls living here, who pick on Katie for being tiny and having hair so pale it's almost silver. Or they used to, anyway. I took her under my wing when she came here a month ago, after her mom OD'd on drugs. No one messed with her much after that.
Katie's kind and smart, and the system hasn't worn her down yet. I pray it never does, but who am I kidding? It gets to us all in time.
But once I get out, maybe I can help her. Or if not her, then other foster kids like us. Sometimes that thought is the only thing that keeps me going.
She starts reading again, and we work on conjugating the verb "to go" for her homework. I ignore the heavy feeling in my gut until my foster mom calls my name from downstairs.
Katie chews on her pen and looks up at me. "You should go see what she wants."
"I know." I sigh and drag myself off the bed. "Start working on the next section."
It has to be a social worker. No one else would come to the house looking for me. But I only have two months until I turn eighteen. They wouldn't make me move now, would they? I don't want to leave Katie, and even though this house is cramped and rundown, the Robertsons treat us pretty well and always have food in the kitchen. That's more than I can say for some of the homes I've lived in. But where I live has never been up to me. If they say I have to go, then that's that.
"There's a woman in the dining room who wants to speak with you," my foster mom says when I get downstairs. Her eyes are rimmed with dark circles and she's wearing one of her ridiculous aprons. This one is pink and says, Life is precious, handle with prayer. The TV in the living room isn't blasting sports at full volume, so my foster dad must be working late again. He's been doing overtime more and more these days.
From what I've gathered, the Robertsons couldn't have children of their own and thought they would do some good by taking in foster kids. A worthy goal, but they got in over their heads and now they're barely keeping it together. They're overworked and under-paid and have no idea how to deal with six kids who've all been through hell and back.
Once we turn eighteen, they're done. The instant the checks stop coming, we'll be out on the street. Everyone here knows it, and there's nothing we can do. The Robertsons are doing the best they can, just like the rest of us. It's the system that's messed up.
One of the other girls living here races through the hallway and up the stairs, followed by another one who yells, "Give that back. It's mine!"
Mrs. Robertson pinches the bridge of her nose and sighs. "Go on. I'll make sure no one bothers you."
I hold my breath as I head to the dining room, steeling myself for what's coming. It has to be a social worker, even though our weekly meetings are always scheduled in the afternoon. But who else would come to see me?
A woman in a sleek, black pantsuit waits inside, examining my foster mom's collection of tiny elephants. Her silky, brown hair has blond highlights, and she carries a slim, leather briefcase. After years in the system I'm an expert on social workers, and this woman isn't one of them. Her clothes are too nice, and she doesn't have that world-weary look in her eyes.
"Elena Martinez, I presume?" The woman extends her hand, with perfectly white-tipped nails. She has a firm handshake. "My name is Lynne Marshall. I'm from Aether Corporation."
I raise my eyebrows. Aether Corporation is one of the biggest tech companies in the world. My hand-me-down cell phone is made by them, along with the ancient computer in the office we all have to share. I can't think of a single reason why would someone from Aether Corp would want to speak with me.
Lynne sits in one of the rickety, wooden chairs and sets her briefcase on the scratched-up table. I hesitate in the doorway, still trying to figure out what this woman could want, before finally sitting across from her.
"I'm sure you're wondering why I'm here, so I'll get right to it," she says, as she opens her briefcase and pulls out some papers. "As I said, I work for Aether Corporation. My company has set up a special program with the state of California to help children in foster care transition to adulthood, whether that means going to college or getting a job and finding a place to live."
"What kind of program?" I've been turned down for every transition program I've applied to so far, thanks to my record. I don't want to get my hopes up, but I need a break so bad, even if this already sounds way too good to be true. I wait to hear what the catch is.
She lays the papers on the table and folds her hands over them. "We've had our eye on you for some time. Your grades are good, especially considering how often you've changed schools. Many teachers have remarked on your near-perfect test scores."
Near perfect. Only because I realized when I was younger that I got too much attention when my answers were perfect. Teachers got suspicious when I did too well on tests. Other kids teased me for being a know-it-all. And foster parents freaked out when I recited facts and details back to them.
"In fact, we had your school run a few basic tests on your entire class so we could confirm our suspicions. Your results stood out." A slow smile spreads across her lips. "We know you have an exceptional memory."
My throat tightens. They've been watching me? Testing me? How much do they know?
"It's truly amazing what you can do. Perfect recall is a rare gift." She leans close, like we're two friends sharing a secret. "Don't worry, we haven't told anyone else about your unique talent, including your foster parents."
I'm tempted to bolt out of the room like I did at the job interview today. I've worked so hard to hide my freaky memory over the years, but they know. Yet Lynne doesn't look at me like I'm a freak. Instead, she eyes me like I'm a piñata and she's waiting to see what kind of candy falls out of me. I'm not sure I like that any better.
She waits for me to say something, but when I don't respond she sits back and continues. "I'm told you tutor some of the younger girls here. Why is that?"
Her question catches me off guard, but I'm glad for the change in topic. "No one else will."
"I see." She looks down at the paper in front of her. "Your record shows you've been in quite a few fights during your time in foster care, including a bad one two years ago. Want to tell me what happened?"
My stomach clenches at the memory. It's still fresh in my mind, as vivid as when it happened. Those girls deserved it, but I hate thinking about that day. It's one of those moments that make me wish I didn't have a perfect memory. "No."
She gives me a smile, which I can tell is fake. I've seen that kind of smile before on social workers, teachers, and foster parents. The smile they put on when they're trying to be patient with a kid who doesn't want to cooperate. "Do you like to fight?"
"No," I say again. "But I will if I have to."
"Good, good." She seems pleased with my answer, which sets off little warning bells in my head. But before I can question that, she continues. "We'd like to make you an offer to join our program."
I sit up straighter and hope floods my veins like a drug, but I try not to show anything on my face. I don't want her to know how desperate I am. "What do I have to do?"
"We're recruiting a small group of extraordinary teens to participate in a short research project, which will take place tomorrow at one of our facilities near here. We'll pick you up in the morning and bring you home in the evening, so you'll only miss one day of school. The project is confidential, so I'm afraid I can't disclose any other details at this time." Her smile widens, her teeth perfect and white. "What I can tell you is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you will be greatly rewarded for participating."
Her offer is tempting, so very tempting. But I don't like going into anything blind. I study Lynne's expensive clothes and her fancy nails, trying to imagine what kind of "research project" Aether Corp could be doing with foster kids. From her questions, I'm guessing it's some sort of focus group. Watching movies, answering surveys, that sort of thing. Or maybe they're doing a study about "gifted" teens and want to ask us questions, have us solve puzzles, stuff like that. But then, why was she so pleased to hear I could fight? And why are the details confidential?
"We've already obtained permission from your legal guardians." She slides forward a stack of papers, the top one signed by my foster mom and some government authorities. Below it, there's a blank line with my name under it. Waiting for my signature. "Please read over the contract and let me know if you have any questions."
I'm tempted to just sign the thing, but I'm not that stupid. I scan the first page — and freeze when I see the amount of money they're offering. My God. No freaking way. That has to be a typo or something. There are way too many zeroes there. "Is this number correct?"
Excerpted from "Future Shock"
Copyright © 2016 Elizabeth Briggs.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Elena, a foster kid who fell through the cracks long ago, is contacted by a giant corporation by the name of Aether Corp with a job opportunity that could change her life for the better. Instead of following in her father’s footsteps and ending up in prison, she could go to college and have a real future. All she has to do is sign a non-disclosure notice, walk through a portal that will send her ten years into the future and return with data related to some super secret research for a tidy sum of cash. Sounds easy! Except Elena and her new team mates Zoe, Chris, Adam and Trent sense there is more to the situation than the scientists are telling them. Too late Elena learns that the truth is darker and more dangerous than she ever expected. Elena’s team is warned to not check in on themselves in the future, but when things go wrong and the team end up sent thirty years into the future they turn to their older selves for help. Their foray into the world to find their “future selves” leads to an exploration of a world that has changed in ways the team never expected. I absolutely loved Future Shock’s technology that not only plays on Google Glasses, but also develops a new economic system based on fingerprints and virtual credits. Even cars have been altered to a new form that is both exciting and believable. I felt like Briggs researched not only current technologies but their expected trajectory towards new, innovative reincarnations which the science fiction nerd in me couldn’t help purring over. Briggs created a world that not only Elena found disorienting and familiar, but the reader has similar reactions to the descriptions of creative futuristic technologies. Future Shock is a fantastic mix of time travel adventure, murder mystery and suspense. I especially loved that each character was extremely well developed and individualistic regardless of their role’s longevity in relation to Elena’s story. I also found myself being surprised by a few plot twists that answered some pressing questions and yet somehow created new ones. In the end, Briggs offers up satisfying answers and closure to a novel that holds many twists and turns without becoming a befuddled mess. Personally, I loved reading a novel about a character who was believable. Often in young adult novels or literature in general, I end up becoming frustrated with characters that are from difficult backgrounds and are portrayed as weak or their motivations are not organic with their experiences. Elena is what I would describe as a wonderful example of a strong female character with a difficult background who is realistic. I cannot count the number of times that characters like this end up looking to “adults” for help or being extremely trusting after being abused and mistreated by society – an aspect of many novels that does very little to realistically portray a small segment of society adequately. I felt Briggs did this wonderfully. When I saw that I was accepted to receive an ARC copy of Future Shock I was overjoyed. I figured this novel would be amaze-balls from the summary and it turns out I was right. Future Shock is a novel that I easily devoured in one sitting and I am genuinely looking forward to the next book to this series. This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy books about time travel, diversity YA, strong female leads with dark histories, romance that boosts the plot rather than becomes the plot and large does of a suspense.
There is nothing better than a good Young Adult story that is full of adventure, young love, and suspense. Add in the musings of a gifted author and you have yourself a great book and start to a series that is sure to be great! Future Shock mixes so many themes and elements into one story, bringing together allies you would not expect at first glance. It couples a band of misfits with an incredible theme: time travel. When I was younger I always wanted to travel to the past to understand history in a real way and explore what happened. In this book, I turned my eye to the future and was caught up in the excitement. This book nailed it. The future is masterfully shared in such a way that it is most definitely something that could happen. It has enough elements of what we know today mixed with the things that are slightly evolved and fantastical. Elizabeth Briggs does a great job of building this world into something that is real and taking the reader on a adventure that is both exciting and dangerous. Elena is a brilliant YA heroine. She is the marginalized girl in society without hope for a future, a foster kid who has been pre-labeled and cast aside before she even has a chance to make her mark. I loved the depth of her character and the reality of her situation. Briggs does a great job of sharing something personal and relevant, connecting the reader to her character. Elena has the odds stacked against her but I loved watching her fight and muddle through everything the future throws her way. She is brilliant and kind, all encased in a tough as nails exterior. Her emotional balance and struggles add depth to the story and give the reader a story that is fantastic. Every person you meet in this book adds a spice of life to what is happening. I loved getting to see each person who was hand picked to go into the future and to understand their gifting, the reason they were recruited. What starts as a band of misfits barely keeping the peace turns into a team that works well together. When fear beings to rule, we see the system break apart but learning to trust is a high component of this story; both learning to trust others and learning to trust yourself. Future Shock is a brilliant debut for Briggs to break into a new genre. I knew she could write great stories and switching it up has just upped her game. I am excited to see where the series leads and hope for a few things to come out in the end of the series. I won't share since they would spoil the ending but I am sure once you read it, we will be on the same page!
I thoroughly enjoyed this young adult time-travel sci-fi thriller. The main character, Elena, is strong and smart. I liked the other teenage characters too. Future Shock is fast paced and full of action and intrigue. I liked the future/past time travel concepts and there was a twist I did not see coming. It was hard to put down.
What a great fast paced ya novel. I think people who ya novels will absolutely love this one. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and 2 thumbs up.
I have read a surprising number of time travel books lately. So when I opened up Future Shock, I was not sure what to expect. I was happily surprised, as it was so different from what I had been reading. For one, it is a future time travel, not past and the time travel was not mystical in nature, rather it was purely science based. That made for some interesting twists and I am glad that the beautiful cover housed such a great read. Elena is a foster kid hiding an eidetic memory and a shattered past. She thinks she has succeeded in hiding her talent and past, until a giant corporation offers her the chance to travel into the future for a ridiculous sum. The only rule for the group of five teens is that they are not allowed to look at their futures. Sounds easy right? It is until circumstances change and they are forced to break the one rule to try to save themselves. The plot of Future Shock was an interesting mix of action, drama and heart. I really enjoyed Elizabeth Brigg’s writing. She was able to incorporate diversity, teen angst and a deep backstory all together. The pacing was very fast, with everything happening over only a few days. The world built was a little lacking, as I think the action was so fast paced that the world it happened in took secondary consideration. The emotions were great; nice heart pounding action mixed with loss and a smidge of romance. The characters were very well fleshed out and well rounded. There was a nice mix of race, gender and sexual orientation that gave each person a special distinction. Future Shock was a surprise in a good way. I really enjoyed Elizabeth Briggs’ take on time travel and that she really though outside of the normal box. I also appreciated the author’s attention to detail; when something was alluded to, it was picked up later and finished off, I was never left hanging. Future Shock is Briggs foray into YA and I think she succeeded. I eagerly await her next release and recommend this one if you are looking for an action packed read with heart. I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Elena, is a foster kid with an incredible memory. Every detail she can remember. One fateful day a knock comes at the door with an offer she can't refuse. With only days left, before getting kicked out of her home. She signs on the dotted line. This is a thrilling, heart racing, and intense ride. Five teens sent to the future, trying to find information. For a company, that may not be telling the whole truth But they only have 24 hrs to fix anything that happens in the past. But can it be fixed? Briggs takes you to another world. She doesn't miss a beat and your on this crazy ride with all five of them. They were taken for their strengths but I don't think they could of imagined what was going to happen. I was on he edge of my seat from the beginning. I had to know what was going to happen and their lives were really hanging on the truth. The mystery involved in this story, is truly fantastic. I never guessed the end while reading. I feel that's really important. I wish I knew what's going to happen next! Briggs is an excellent story teller. She weaves a concept and brings it to life. I knew when I saw this book, that I had to read it. I'm glad I was given the opportunity to do so. It was different, unique and what I think the YA world needs....Lissa
Elena Martinez will be 18 in two months and she wants a better life. She has been in foster care for too long, her father is in prison for life; she needs money. She can’t seem to find a decent job, then one evening someone comes knocking, and it’s not a social worker. It’s Lynne Marshall, a lady from Aether Corporation, a tech giant. Ms. Marshall tells Elena that they have a program to help children in foster care, and Elena is invited to apply. At last, Elena’s eidetic memory might be put to some use in Aether’s research project; it’s very hush-hush, but with the money involved, Elena will be able to have her freedom and get herself the education she wants. They are five teenagers who will participate in this project: they are to live in the future for 24 hours and take notes and impressions of life 10 years from now, but they are not to alter the course of events. Elena and her colleagues are, of course incredulous, and it all happens, albeit not quite as anyone expected. When I read the premise for FUTURE SHOCK, I was quite intrigued and the resulting book is phenomenal! Whether you are a reader of Young Adult or not, this is a must-read! Ms. Briggs has built a completely plausible future, the technology feels just right; the descriptions are precise and concise; I felt I was experiencing it as well as Elena. Every single character is extremely well fleshed-out, believable, without any of the expected stereotypes. The action moves at a furious pace, and I was completely enthralled from the first pages. I could feel the emotions: the hope, the panic, the tension, the fear; I felt I went along on this voyage. Nothing happened as I expected, no one entirely behaved according to character, plot twists of epic proportions abound in an iron-clad story. There are things that happened that I never, but never would have expected; I was shocked, I was awed, and I was delighted at such an extraordinary story! Ms. Briggs’ writing is impeccable: the story flows seamlessly, there is not one single moment where the book drags, not one word is wasted, and the dialogues are perfectly suited to every character. FUTURE SHOCK is amazing any way you want to look at it, and I cannot wait for future books of this type – I do hope there will be many more – from this exceptional author! FUTURE SHOCK is as close to perfection as it gets! I received a complimentary of this book in exchange for an honest review.
A thrilling adventure with a no-nonsense heroine.
Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs is a fast paced fun read with a lot of twists and turns. A big corporation takes advantage of desperate gifted young people by sending them on an experimental time travel mission with real consequences. Our heroine is a smart young Latina who will keep you rooting for her even when things look the darkest. I liked each of the kids and a few of the “adults”. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
I would like to thank Albert Whitman Teen & NetGalley for a copy of this e-ARC to review. Though I received this ebook for free, that has no impact upon the honesty of my review. Creative and full of twists this book will take you on a great ride, so get comfy and prepare to travel to the future, and hopefully back again. The story certainly delivers, there's action, mysteries to unravel while racing a ticking clock, and high emotions that swing from mistrust, to violence, romance, friendship, and of course betrayal. Having the story be told from Elena's point of view allows us to see so much more than would otherwise be possible, since she has an eidetic memory. In other words Elena can't forget anything she's read, seen, or experienced - even if she wants to. While each of the other teens involved in the super secret project have their own talents, none seem to be as powerful as Elena. Not until they meet Adam and discover that he's a true genius, having graduated from college with two degrees before his eighteenth birthday. But Adam doesn't fit the profile of the other four kids, including Elena. He's so clearly not a product of the foster care system, and therefore vulnerable to the rest. Chris is a mountain of a guy, and has a temper. His new sidekick, Trent, is mouthy but more of a rabble rouser than anything else. And Zoe is a tiny, meek little mouse of a girl. But they all know the rules of the street and system, so when Adam blithely puts his foot in his mouth almost from the start Elena feels compelled to defend and protect him. And though she's small compared to the boys her reputation seems to have proceeded her, to her dismay. The truth is, none of these kids are what I just described above. They are all so much more than the quick labels that get slapped on them at one point or another. Yet because of what they've gone through they are very, very slow to trust in others. So watching them struggle with the lessons they've often painfully learned and the reality of their situation is a fascinating exercise in human relations. It's something Ms. Briggs handles with grace and sensitivity, all while managing to keep it feeling realistic (at least to someone who's had the great luck to never enter the foster care system). And it's the emotional baggage and leaps these kids are forced to deal with that make this book so compelling for me. Certainly the mystery and dangers they face are riveting, but without these characters and their unplumbed depths it would simply be your average future travel mystery. Instead it's a lovely blend of human emotions and what fighting for your lives brings to the fore in each of them. The twists and turns in the plot certainly keep the story moving forward at a relentless pace, but never so fast as to lose the threads that bind these kids together, wether they want to be together or not. Hands down a solid read, and one that will have you dreading the idea of putting it down, so prepare plenty of time because this book is a page turner that will get its hooks into you from the beginning straight through to the very end.