Thursday, February 5, 2015

Blog Tour - Gray Island

Gray Island
J.C. Aster
Evernight Teen/69k
Teen Romance/Paranormal/Shifters



Sage Murdock has always felt different from the other students at his high school in Boston, and being bullied and ostracized has become a way of life he accepts…but at the same time, he worries that the whispers are true and that he is, in fact, mentally abnormal.

After a bullying incident at school provokes Sage to violence, his mother and stepfather tell him he is being sent to live with his biological father on Gray Island, a small weather-beaten island off the coast of Maine. There, Sage encounters many strange people who all seem to be hiding something.

A single bright spot is Cadi, a free-spirited girl about his own age. Unfortunately, Cadi is a member of a strange cult-like group that lives on the opposite side of Gray Island. Before long, Sage learns that his relationship with Cadi must end or the consequences will be catastrophic.
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Excerpt:
“I was out walking,” she answered, to his relief. She shook her head, sending a cascade of glistening raindrops from her honey-brown hair. The droplets seemed to descend in slow motion, twinkling like stardust.
“In the rain?”
“It isn’t raining anymore. Besides, I don’t mind. Rain is part of nature. We’re part of nature. It all fits, right?”
“I guess. I prefer to stay dry.”
“Oh? I can’t help but notice you’re out here, same as I am.”
“I…uh, yeah. I couldn’t sleep. And then I spotted you from my window.” He paused, fumbling for his next few words. “I…um…I saw Ivar tonight.”
Her rosy lips thinned. “I heard. I’m sorry he tormented you.”
Sage shrugged self-consciously. “It’s a public place. I guess he had a right to be there, same as I did.”
“Stuff like that happens because we have only one restaurant on the island. I know he goes there with his friends once in a while.”
“Do you ever go with him?” Sage asked hopefully.
“No. My parents won’t let me go anywhere that serves alcohol… besides, that place is a little noisy for my tastes.”
“I know what you mean.”
They fell into step together as they trudged through the sodden forest. The water dripping on her skin didn’t seem to bother her at all, nor did the chilly air. She was used to it, Sage supposed. Maybe he’d get used to it one day, too. But, no—he had no idea of staying that long.
Cadi did make it tempting to stick around a while, though.
“What’s the deal with you and Ivar, anyway?” he finally asked, unable to keep a note of strain from his voice. “You said once he wasn’t your boyfriend. But is he…I mean, are you and he…?”
She didn’t wait for him to finish. “I don’t like labels, personally. Do you?”
“I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to tell what’s inside the can without one.”
She laughed, a genuine and easy sort of laugh that banished the cold from his body. He smiled too. They walked on, side by side, not touching but enjoying the moment. At least, he was. And she seemed happy enough to stay beside him.
“I’m glad you have a sense of humor,” Cadi said. “Not many people around here do.”
“The weather makes them that way, maybe. No sun. I’ve been feeling kind of strange myself.”
“Not because of the weather. Haven’t you figured that out yet?” She stopped and looked at him intently.
“No. What do you mean? Figured what out?”
“Sage…you don’t know your father very well, do you? Or much about his life here?”
“Nah. Why would I? My parents split up and he took off when I was less than a year old. I haven’t had much contact with him since. Then, all of a sudden, my mother got this bright idea to send me out here to live with him.”
“She didn’t tell you why?” Cadi seemed genuinely concerned.
“Not in so many words. I figure she couldn’t handle me anymore. You know, hormones, bad temper, the usual teenage stuff.”
“No, Sage. It wasn’t the normal teenaged stuff. Trust me.”
“What do you mean?” He scowled and started walking again. “Are you trying to tell me my father is a serial killer or something?”
“No! No, Jeremy’s all right. I admit, my parents aren’t crazy about him, but they live on the other side of the island, so that’s to be expected.”
Sage scowled. “Don’t you come over to this side for school?”
“No. We have private lessons in the compound. Ivar’s father, Laurent—he’s sort of like our governor—appoints teachers for us. Sometimes he lectures to us, too. We can study at our own pace. I kind of like it that way. I don’t think I’d do well in your kind of school.”
“You’re kidding. That sounds like something from another century!”
“No, it’s modern enough. We have electricity and everything.” Her sardonic laugh ended in a sigh. “There’s a lot about this place you don’t understand, Sage.”
“I’ll be the first to admit that.”
She took his hand. He squeezed back. “You’ll find out a lot, soon enough. Too soon, and I hate thinking about it. I want to remember you like this: just a normal guy from Boston, taking an innocent walk with me through the forest. I wish it could stay like that.”
“What are you talking about? What do you mean? I’m lost.” He looked around at the dark trees that hemmed them in on all sides. Nothing looked familiar. “In more ways than one.”
“Don’t worry. You won’t be for long. Don’t try to answer these questions too soon. Let some things be a mystery. Once you look for answers, everything gets complicated.”
“I guess so. But I’d still like to know the truth.”
“And I like mystery. Maybe we’re not so compatible after all.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Then let some things stay unsaid. Don’t ask me things. Let’s just spend time together and enjoy it.”
“Okay. If that’s what you want.”
“I do, and I want things between us to be special. Like magic.” She grasped his hand, pulling him to a stop. Then she leaned up and kissed him on the mouth. Startled, Sage responded awkwardly at first. Despite what he’d seen in movies and TV shows, he wasn’t quite sure which way to tilt his lips, and at one point his front teeth knocked against hers. When she didn’t move away, though, he decided to let instinct guide him. That worked out better, as their mouths began to slide together in a balanced and highly enjoyable rhythm.
Magic was an understatement.

About the Author:
J.C. Aster is a teacher and freelance writer who is a huge fan of young adult fiction, especially stories with a paranormal twist (they sure didn’t have cool books like that when she was a kid or she might have had a more exciting childhood!).  GRAY ISLAND started as a National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) project and quickly took on a life of its own.  She is currently at work on new projects and hopes to visit the magical shores of Gray Island again soon.


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Guest Post:
YA Fiction, Utopias, and Dystopias
J.C. Aster
Is Utopia possible? Thomas More coined the term in 1516, but he deliberately made it ambiguous—in Greek, the word can mean either “good place” (eu-topos) or “no place” (ou-topos). This implies that More suspected that a perfect place, where everyone behaved with the best intentions and all actions were taken for the public good, was an impossibility. (He was probably convinced when Henry VIII had him beheaded 19 years later). Nonetheless, people have been fascinated with the concept ever since.
Young people, in particular, tend to have a lot to say on this subject, which makes sense. After all, they have been told over and over that they are the future of our world and that they will be our future leaders. Governments spend millions educating them both academically and morally so that the members of the next generation will be prepared when their turn comes to take the reins.
Yet a lot has changed since 1516, and the world may have seen too much evil to embrace optimistic tales like More’s. Dystopias, which are basically sinister places that represent the worst features of human society, have been featured in both adult literature (1984 and Brave New World are the best-known examples) and YA fiction (such as The Giver). Apparently, many people could relate to the more cynical views expressed in these works, and sales soared.
Most classic dystopian novels start off by introducing a society that seems, to outward appearances, to function well and care for its citizens. The twist comes when one of the formerly content inhabitants begins to uncover a dark side to the supposedly well-meaning government. It would seem there are only so many variations on this theme one can read before even the most carefully plotted story becomes predictable.
Or are there? Admittedly, it may be more difficult to establish conflict and set up dangerous situations in a society that runs perfectly and for the good of all its inhabitants, but could stories about actual utopias also succeed? Such societies could have no hidden agendas, since that would make them secret dystopias. On the other hand, by nature of being societies at all there would have to be all types of people living there. Utopians, even young ones, would presumably be noble in outlook and deed, but they would still be subject to all the usual passions and hormone-driven angst. Could such a setting give rise to a story that would hold modern (and sometimes cynical) readers’ attention?
To go back to the original question, is Utopia possible? And if it were, would we want to dwell there, even for the few hours it would take us to finish a novel? I would be interested to hear what other readers, especially fans of dystopian literature, think.

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