HarperCollins
Jami Ganz
April 04, 2017 AT 12:34 PM EDT

Kimberly McCreight (Reconstructing AmeliaWhere They Found Her) made her mark on the YA world with her debut, The Outliers, the first in the trilogy of the same name. The book’s sequel, The Scattering, picks up shortly after the conclusion of its predecessor, with Wylie aware that she’s nowhere near home free. She comes to realize that her ability is the answer, and finds herself torn between self-preservation and putting herself at risk to help others.

Check out the exclusive excerpt from chapter 17 of The Scattering below. The book will hit shelves May 2. The paperback version of The Outliers is out now.

Excerpt from The Scattering by Kimberly McCreight

WE DRIVE INTO CAMBRIDGE, PAST THE IMPOSING IVY-COVERED BUILDINGS OF

Harvard and the packs of jostling students so filled with all that

promise and possibility. I fixate on one girl walking alone. She

is tall and slim with short jaggedy hair, but cut intentionally

that way unlike mine. She even has a backpack like the one I

used to carry. It’s amazing how she and I could look so similar

and yet the gulf between us is infinite. Permanent maybe, too, I

am beginning to realize.

By the time we park in an alley a few blocks off Harvard

Square, a full-blown summer storm is overhead. There is a distant

rumble of thunder, and the air feels heavy and wet, even

inside the car.

Without pressing for details, Jasper drove all the way to the

address I gave him following the GPS on his phone, pulling into

one of the only open parking spots a couple blocks away. He was

so happy that I’d agreed to leave the hospital that he probably

would have gone anywhere. But I could feel him getting more

anxious the farther we went into the Cambridge side streets.

“Okay, now you have to tell me where we’re going,” Jasper

says as he turns off the engine.

“To the address I gave you,” I say. And I know it’s stupid to

delay the inevitable, but I do anyway. “That’s where we’re going.”

He rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I got that part. I mean what’s at this

address?”

Really, I shouldn’t drag Jasper into—well, that’s just it. I

don’t even know what I’m dragging him into. I can’t do that

without telling him what’s going on.

“It’s the address that was on the note.” Even

without looking at him, I can already feel Jasper’s anger in my

toes.

“I get it, you want to help the other girls, Wylie, but this is—”

“Listen, I can try to explain what it’s like to

have this Outlier thing. How sharp and clear it can be. Maybe

someday when my dad gets all his research done there will even

be some way to measure it. To hold it up for everyone to see. But

right now, it’s only a feeling. My feeling. And I can’t promise you

that it’s right.” I turn to look at Jasper. “But at least it’s a good feeling right now. That’s something.” I smile, trying

to lighten the mood. It’s not working.

“Do you think this is some kind of joke?” he snaps.

“Listen, you don’t even have to come—”

“Don’t give me that bullshit,” he says. And he is angry. Angry

because he is worried. “Obviously, I’m going to come. And you

know it.”

Do I know that? Did I realize that when I made Jasper drive

me here? Maybe.

I will do this on my own, there’s no question about that. But

I would prefer to have somebody with me when I knock on this

door. And I would prefer for that person to be Jasper. I feel how

much he wants to hear that. He needs me to say it: that I want

him with me.

“To be clear, I would like you to come with me. You specifically

because I trust you and you make me feel . . . better.” I

wince. Wow, for someone who can feel everyone else’s feelings,

I am still shit at talking about my own. Even the ones that I am

willing to admit, which—I am beginning to realize—may be far

less than their true sum. “But I won’t be mad if you don’t come.

And you won’t be abandoning me. I can and I will do this on my

own.”

Jasper looks up at me out of the corner of his eye, then ahead

again through the windshield. Finally, he nods. His anger has

vanished, replaced by a faint twinge of satisfaction. And warmth.

That was exactly what he needed me to say. And there it is: the

first time that I’ve used what I know from being an Outlier to

make someone feel good, to make things better. For a moment it

lifts the heaviness off everything. For a second, it gives me hope.

IT STARTS TO rain as we climb out of the car. Huge, scattered drops

plunk to the ground as Jasper and I lift our hoods and follow

the little blue dot on his shielded phone through several more

rights and lefts, deeper still into the maze of narrow Cambridge

streets. The stormy blue-black sky makes it seem much later

than four p.m.

When we finally turn onto Gullbright Lane, the sky opens

and it begins to pour. Jasper tucks his phone into his jeans, trying

to protect it from the rain as we dash down the street looking for

number 323. People have newspapers over their heads, jackets

pulled up as they sprint for cover. I’m glad for the rain, though.

Now everyone is running from something.

Finally we spot 323, about halfway down the block. A narrow,

run-down, pale-blue Victorian divided—judging from the

buzzers—into five apartments, the lower windows covered from

inside in some kind of brown paper. We hover under the short

awning as I dig out the note with the code.

I’m shaky as I step forward to the panel of buzzers stacked

up in a row, each with a small number taped alongside. I try not

to think about what will happen. Maybe I will ring all those

buzzers in the order the note says, and everyone in the building

will burst angrily to the door. And who could they be? My

fingers are trembling as I punch the first button and then the

next.

I hold my breath until I am done. Then I wait for the door to

spring open, for some terrible possibility I haven’t even considered.

But nothing happens. The door doesn’t open. No one jumps

out. There is only silence.

“Try it again,” Jasper says, which surprises me. I’d have

thought he’d be happy for any excuse to turn around.

And so I press the buttons again in the order the note

instructed. This time I hold each number for longer. My finger

is still on the last button when the door finally opens. But only a

crack. Whoever is inside has left the chain across.

“What?” A male voice, deep and aggravated. On the upside,

at least he didn’t come charging out the door.

“Um, we’re here to see Joseph Conrad,” I say.

It feels reckless, like I’m taping a target to our backs. And

yet—a bigger part of me is pushing onward.

“What?” the voice barks.

“Joseph Conrad?” I offer again.

The door snaps shut without a reply. There are voices inside,

followed by other sounds: cabinets opening and closing, footsteps.

A beat later the door opens again, this time a little wider

and without the chain. But more like someone forgot to be sure

that it was all the way closed than an actual invitation.

I look over my shoulder at Jasper. If he tries to stop us again

I might listen. But he nods a little—go ahead—and so I push

open the door with one spread-fingered hand all the way until

it bumps back against the wall to be sure there is no one hiding

back there.

I take a deep breath as I step into the darkness inside. The

smell hits me first. Mildew and dust and something else, thick

and rotten. My throat clamps shut and I try not to gag.

“Hurry up,” comes a voice to our right in front of the blotted out

windows. “And close the goddamn door.”

In the dim light, I can make out only a short, slight outline.

He sounds super pissed, but at least he isn’t huge.

“You sure?” Jasper asks.

I nod, though I am not sure that I am sure, and motion for

Jasper to close the door.

“Come on, come on,” the small guy says, stepping from

directly in front of the window so we can see something of his

face now. He has messy, shoulder-length hair and a bony face.

He’s wearing oversized clothes—a green denim army jacket

and super-low, baggy jeans. Massive black gauges stretch out

his earlobes. Both the clothes and his angry voice seem meant

to make up for his size. He’s waving us toward the back of the

room. “Let’s go. Hurry up.”

He was expecting us—or somebody like us—but he’s also

annoyed that we’re there. He heads past us toward the back of

the room and jerks open a door. Dim light from a stairway down

brightens the room. I can see now he is even younger than I

thought. And smaller.

“Hello?” he snaps, waving us toward the steps. “Come on,

let’s go. They’re down there.”

Jasper peers in the direction of the stairs without taking

another step. “They who?”

“Fuck off,” the kid spits back, like he’s sure Jasper is messing

with him. He pulls himself tall, too, for emphasis. Or taller. “Get

down there now or get the fuck out.”

Jasper makes a noise then: something between a huff and a

laugh. Then he closes the space between them and I think: don’t

Jasper. This will not end well. But he is already looming over the

jittery kid with the stretched-out ears.

“What did you just say?” Jasper asks.

The kid leans in. Stupidly unintimidated. “I said: get down

there or—”

Jasper has grabbed him by the throat. In one hand. And so

fast and sudden that I have to blink to believe what I am seeing.

But there is Jasper, this small kid’s neck locked under the fingers

of one hand. He has him lifted, too. On his toes. It is not the first

time that Jasper has done this either. He is too good at it. A complete

and terrifying natural.

“Jasper,” I whisper.

Finally, he loosens his grip a little and the kid starts to

cough.

“Who is down there?” Jasper barks.

But instead of answering there’s a flash of movement as the

kid’s arm jerks back and then forward.

Then: stillness.

The kid has his arm outstretched, a short knife only inches

from Jasper’s neck.

“Stop!” I shout, staring at that knife so close to Jasper’s skin.

This is all my fault.

Jasper raises his hands in surrender. He is afraid now, I can

feel it. But not nearly as afraid as he should be. “Okay, man, I

don’t—”

“Shut the fuck up!” the kid screams, his voice shrieky and

wild. “Asshole, do you not fucking see that I am the one with the

goddamn knife?”

It’s when the kid readjusts his grip on the knife that I notice

the tattoo on his hand. A grid of nine black circles arranged in

a perfect square. I have seen something like that before. Where?

When? Who? Then it comes to me. On the neck of one of the

two men we passed coming out of the main cabin up at the camp.

Level99. Hacktivists, that’s what Quentin called them.

I have to think. I have use what I can feel to help Jasper.

What is it that this kid is worried about? What is it that he

actually wants? What can I do to get Jasper away from him in

one piece? I try to see past his fear to what lies beneath. Concentrate.

Concentrate. Not to fuck it up. That’s what this kid wants, to

prove to Level99 that he should get promoted off the door. But

he is scared. And fear can make a person do anything.

“Level99 is expecting us,” I say. “You can ask them. My name

is Wylie.” It’s a risk. Despite the note, I seriously doubt

they’re expecting us. But this kid won’t check. He’s too worried

about bothering them. “We’re supposed to be here. We knew the

code. They’ll be pissed if we don’t show up.”

The kid keeps his eyes locked on Jasper, knife still right at his

throat. “Then go,” he says. “Get the hell downstairs.”

I tug gently on Jasper’s arm, trying to get him to move.

“Come on, Jasper. Let’s go. They’re waiting.”

THE STAIRS ARE narrow and uneven and creak hard underfoot. I

brace myself against the walls as I make my way down, feeling

both better and worse with every step. Better that the knife is

farther away, worse that we are getting more and more trapped

inside this house. And I realize then that it doesn’t even matter

if we were told to come here. No one had any way of knowing exactly what would happen once we got here. What that kid would do. How I would respond. How Jasper

would.

Outlier Rule #4: Someone telling the truth—isn’t the same

thing as them being right about what will happen.

Behind me, Jasper is breathing hard.

“I’m so sorry,” I manage. “This is my fault.”

Though the choking is on Jasper, that’s for sure.

“Yeah,” he says, more angry than I had expected. “It is.”

Eventually, the stairwell opens up on one side, and when my

head clears the ceiling, I lock eyes with the person seated at the

desk below. It’s the blond guy from the camp with the beaked

nose and the dark circles under his eyes. The one with the game

board on his pale, ashen arm. It’s obvious he recognizes me, too.

And not in a good way.

“Shit,” he says, annoyed, exhausted. Like I am yet another

human spill he will now be forced to clean up.

Beyond him there are a dozen young women and men sitting

at a long table in the center of the room, headphones and

hooded sweatshirts on, hunched over laptops. And beyond them

is a partial wall, a light in the corner as though there might be

another desk there out of view. If the people at the laptops notice

us, they pretend not to. They don’t even look up. It is stuffy and

dim down there, and there’s a distinctly sour smell—too many

pairs of jeans worn too many times.

“I don’t know why the hell you’re here,” the blond guy says,

sizing Jasper up as he comes into view, “but we’re done with you.

Period. That comes straight from her.”

I am close enough now to read the newspaper clippings taped

above his desk—Emails Surface Proving FDA Fast-tracked Profitable

Painkillers over Lifesaving Cancer Meds and Servers Down at

Oil Giant Following Spill. There’s a big white bedsheet tacked to

the opposite wall with the game board spray-painted below the

words: Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. Amelia

Earhart.

“What ‘comes straight from her’?” a girl shouts from behind

the partial wall.

“I’m handling it!” the blond guy shouts back with an edge.

Like he and the girl are already in a fight about something else.

“You don’t want to come out here. Trust me.”

“Oh, please,” comes the snorted response.

When the girl finally emerges, she is petite but muscular,

wearing boyfriend jeans and a snug white tank top that sets off

her crimson lace bra and her olive skin. Her black hair is held

up in a high, thick ponytail, and she has piercings that run the

length of one ear. Near her collarbone, she has the same game

board tattoo.

“Riel, you didn’t have to come out here,” the blond guy growls

at her. “I’m handling it.”

“Handling it,” she snorts again, like that’s the most absurd

thing she’s ever heard. “And thanks for telling her my name,

asshole. Well done.”

The blond guy frowns and looks down.

When Riel turns in my direction, her eyes search my face

so intensely that it feels like she’s climbed inside me and is busy

inspecting my internal organs. Contempt, that’s what I read

when she’s done. But it is so complete that it seems weirdly

suspect. Most people usually feel more than one thing at any

given time.

“Who are you?” she asks finally. Her eyebrows bunch sharply

when I stay silent. That’s when she glances up and notices my

hair—I can only imagine how bad it looks like now.

“What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you talking?” She’s still

pointing at me when she turns back to the blond guy. “Does she

not talk?”

“She’s the one from the camp,” he says, like this alone explains

everything. And in a way I suppose it does. “Her dad’s the scientist.

You know, she’s the ‘Outlier.’” He hooks quotes in the air as

he shakes his head. “I told you not to come out here.”

Of course they’ve got opinions about me. Level99 were the

ones combing through all our personal data, heading off my dad’s

texts. They might know more about me than I know about myself.

 

Excerpted from the book THE SCATTERING by Kimberly McCreight. Copyright © 2017 by Kimberly McCreight. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Children’s Books.

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