REVIEW and EXCERPT
What Lies Within
by James Morris
What Lies Within is the debut novel by author James Morris. James stops by today to share an excerpt from the book. You can also read my review.
"You're going to die."
Shelley Marano is an ordinary, unexceptional high school senior ... until the day she receives a cryptic text message, and her world tilts sideways. Now she's in real danger, although she doesn't know who would want her dead, or why. As she starts to unravel the mystery, the truth about who she really is proves to be more frightening than she ever imagined. With the lives of her and her friends hanging in the balance, one thing is certain:
Nothing will ever be the same.
Packed with suspense, What Lies Within is a page-turning, plot-driven roller-coaster ride that fans of Stephen King, James Patterson and Rick Yancey will be sure to enjoy.
The engine rumbled beneath him, his one hand atop the steering wheel, the other holding a cigarette, and the streets of Chicago seemed to open up to him. Too old to be called a boy and too young to be called a man, he drove an old Plymouth Duster, bought for $300 in crumpled tens and twenties, its dings and dents worn like a warrior from battle, bucket seats crisscrossed with duct tape, its paint now faded to beige, and other drivers knew to give him space.
A pedestrian waited at a crosswalk, and he gunned the accelerator, laughing after he sent a wave of icky muck into the air, soaking his target. “How’s that taste?” he shouted, not awaiting a reply.
A few blocks away, in one of Chicago’s narrow streets, he roared down the lane, tight to the side, smashing into drivers’ side mirrors. They shattered with satisfying bursts, hanging loosely like broken appendages, car alarms wailing in his wake.
Sometimes he would drive out to the suburbs the night before garbage pickup and swing into cans, sending debris and recyclables over well-manicured lawns. Other times he drove past museums or Millennium Park, blasting his stereo, more screech than song, his bass sending sonic earthquakes to the hordes of camera-toting tourists.
They may not know my name, but they know who I am.
He never stopped to think why he did the things he did, only that they brought him joy. In those brief moments, he was in control. Let others know what it was like to feel powerless. Let others become victims of life. Today, he was a victor. Driving the Duster, he was a king atop a leather throne, surrounded by the scent of smoke and years of ingrained sweat.
Blood didn’t pump through his veins; anger did. Whenever he walked into class at school, he felt the tremors of fear emanating from his teachers like so much heat on a sunbaked highway. He hadn’t learned much in chemistry, but he knew this: he was a particle and others around him reacted.
And it felt good.
He hand-rolled down his window, flicked his cigarette outside, and noticing he was low on gas, turned into a corner station. He rolled to a stop, stepped out, and unscrewed the gas cap.
As he filled up his tank, waiting under the flare of lights, a motorcyclist pulled into the station and stopped next to him. The cyclist wore a leather jacket, gloves, and a dark helmet with a mirrored visor that covered his face. The kid had the feeling of being stared at, a kind of sixth sense, and he turned. All he saw was his face reflected back at him: not so tough now, just an acne-scarred seventeen-year-old on a joyride in a city that made him feel small. A vague shiver rippled through him. The motorcyclist didn’t move, just stared back, and then he looked down at a photo in his hand and slipped it into his back pocket.
Ordinarily, the kid might’ve made some smart remark, but the motorcyclist looked like a well-armored samurai. Something in the kid’s brain told him to screw the gas—just peel out and don’t look back. Only when the motorcyclist turned away and put in a credit card to unhook the nozzle did the kid relax.
Seconds passed and he sensed something was wrong. He couldn’t discern why until he realized he hadn’t heard the normal sounds of a motorcycle gas cap being unscrewed or the clank of the nozzle against metal. In fact, there was no sound at all. He turned—
The motorcyclist held the gas nozzle in his hand.
In the span of a second, as time expanded, the kid’s eyes glanced downward. The motorcyclist’s hand tensed against the handle, unleashing a torrent of gasoline. It sprayed with the force of a fire hose, nearly waterboarding the kid in the mouth. Its unmistakable aroma consumed him, and he fought the urge to gag. His mouth stung, hands held up, blind, eyes burning, the sting, the smell, the fear—
Then it stopped.
The gas dripped from his face, little beads of toxic perspiration, his hair wet, his clothes soaked, face contorted in a rictus of poison. He opened his eyes, the world blurry, grainy, and he caught the glint of something shiny in the motorcyclist’s hand followed by a sound: flick, cap, flick, cap.
The kid squinted to try and focus.
Flick, cap. Flick, cap.
He saw then what it was.
The motorcyclist snapped his fingers against the flint wheel and the Zippo lighter ignited. All the kid could think was, Oh god, no, oh god, no—
The motorcyclist casually tossed it, the flame arcing in the night sky before coming into contact with fumes.
And as the kid’s world came to an end, his rage and the flame became one.
Praise for the Book
"Shelley Marano is a great, complicated character, and her relationships (especially with Winston!) are interesting and complex, even as she's discovering that she's not quite like everyone else. A great thriller-adventure!" ~ NYT Bestselling author Lani Diane Rich
"What Lies Within is a unique story that will captivate you until the very last word...the plot was really what held the WOW factor ... it was just so unique ... it just shocked me and it was positively addicting. It's something that every single reader has to witness." ~ Teen YA Book Nerd
"A fast-paced story with unpredictable twists and a strong female lead character." ~ Katherine's Bookcase
"This is an impressive debut from an author who I will definitely be keeping my eye on. Highly recommended." ~ Lucy Literati
By Lynda Dickson
In the opening scene, a teenager is burned alive in Chicago by a mysterious man on a motorcycle. Miles away in Valencia, California, Shelley Marano hears about the incident and can't stop thinking about it. Shelley has always been the odd one out - a red-head with a dead mother and a weird best friend, Winston, who likes her as more than just a friend. All she wants to do is leave home and travel the world, but she feels pressured by her father to join the family business. Everything changes the day she gets a threatening text message: "You're going to die", from someone claiming to be her brother.
What secrets is her father keeping from her? Who is her real father? Why is she in danger? Who can she trust? What is the mystery of her birth? And the biggest question of all: Who is Shelley Marano? The truth is worse than anything Shelley could have imagined.
This is a suspenseful book with cliffhanger chapter endings that keep you reading. The story is beautifully written - witty, clever, poetic - and the characters are believable. While this story is complete, the author leaves the ending open to a sequel. I, for one, would love to read more about Shelley.
A perfect read for young adults looking for something a bit different.
About the Author
James Morris is a former television writer - with producer credits including "Smallville" and "Crossing Jordan" - who now works in digital media. He is also the author of the Kindle Scout selection What Lies Within. When not writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching "House Hunters Renovation", or trying new recipes in the kitchen. He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles.