Courtesy of Brendan Reichs and Ally Condie
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April 16, 2018 at 01:00 PM EDT

Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs are wading into The Darkdeep together.

The best-selling authors have teamed up for an addictively dark new middle-grade series, which is being pitched as Stranger Things meets The Goonies with the heart of Stand By Me. It centers on a group of friends who are struggling to figure out both themselves and their place in the world. But when they stumble across a mysterious portal, figments of their imagination are inexplicably turned into reality.

The first book of the series, The Darkdeep, finds the group discovering a hidden island. Shrouded by dense trees and murky tides, the island appears uninhabited, although the kids can’t quite shake the feeling that something about it is off. Their suspicions grow when they stumble upon an abandoned houseboat with an array of curiosities inside: odd-looking weapons, unnerving portraits, maps to places they’ve never heard of, and a glass jar containing something completely unidentifiable. As the group delves deeper into the unknown, their discoveries — and their lives — begin to intertwine in weird and creepy ways.

Fans of Condie (Matched) and Reichs (Nemesis) will find that their storytelling talents are well-paired here. The authors have exclusively shared with EW the cover for The Darkdeep, as well as an exclusive excerpt. Read on below, and pre-order the book ahead of its Oct. 2 release here.

Bloomsbury Children’s

Excerpt from The Darkdeep, by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs

“Get out.” Nico took a step toward Logan and pointed at the curtain. “Now.”“Get out.” Nico took a step toward Logan and pointed at the curtain. “Now.”

“No. I don’t want to, and you can’t make me.” Logan lifted a book from the ‘Maybe’ stack and flipped the pages roughly. “What is this place, anyway? What’s with all the junk?”

“Give me that, Logan.” Opal stepped in front of him and held out her hand. He snorted and pushed past her. Nico hurried to Opal’s side.

“Did you tell him?” he hissed. She felt Tyler and Emma watching.

“No!” Opal folded her arms. “Logan. Put the book down.”

“Dear Diary,” Logan whined, pretending to read. “My name is Nico. All my friends are weird and wimpy. Also, I’m in loooove with Opal Walsh. How can I get her to like me? Maybe if I take her to a secret trash barge, she’ll—”

“Shut up,” Opal spat. Any sympathy she’d felt for Logan vaporized.

Logan closed the book. Opal nearly sighed in relief as he set it back where he’d found it. But his words had been a slap to all of them. The tension in the room was choking.

Logan’s eyebrows rose as he peered past Opal. She followed his gaze. In its jar atop the pedestal, the strange green thing was floating upright. Two dark spots had appeared. They looked like eyes.

“Gross.” Logan strode over and tapped the glass. “You guys steal this from a bio lab?”

Opal stormed over and grabbed his arm. “Don’t touch anything.”

Logan gave her an icy glare. “Hands off, Walsh.”

He’s using my last name now, too. 

Opal tightened her grip. “You need to go. You don’t belong here.”

Logan flinched. “And you do?” he said acidly.

Emma and Tyler hurried around the pedestal, blocking Logan’s view of the back wall. But Tyler kept glancing over his shoulder. “Just stay … stay where you are!”

“Oh wow.” Logan pulled free of Opal’s grasp. “Are you hiding something?” He pushed past Tyler and Emma. “Whaddya got? A hidden vault full of gold doubloons?”

He rapped a fist against the wall. The panel popped open, revealing the staircase.

Logan stepped back in surprise. “Oh, crap. I was kidding.”

“It’s just the hold.” Emma shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Go ahead if you want, but I’m not coming with you.” She made a scurrying motion with her fingers. “Spiders.”

The ploy almost worked. Logan squinted into the darkness as if having second thoughts. Then he clicked his tongue. “Yeah, right.” His shoes rang on the stairs like warning chimes as he headed for the basement.

“Logan!” Opal raced after him, the others trailing behind. “Hey, seriously. It’s not safe down there!”

She took the steps two at a time, tripping on the last one and staggering into Logan, who stood at the Darkdeep’s edge. “What is this?” he whispered, ignoring the collision.

“Nothing,” Tyler said reflexively.

“A well,” Emma answered at the same time.

“Something that can hurt you.” Nico was the last to reach the bottom. “Trust me, Logan. That water is dangerous.”

“Right. Trust you.” Logan began to circle the pool. “Why is it moving like that?”

Opal stood statue-still, not daring to answer. What if he touches the water? 

“This is your fault,” Nico hissed at her.

“I didn’t invite him!” Opal’s hands were shaking. Logan stared into the Darkdeep with a predatory gleam.

Nico’s eyes blazed. “He followed you.”

Emma looked away. Emotions warred on Tyler’s face, but he didn’t say anything.

Opal couldn’t breathe with the unfairness of it all. They were holding her responsible for Logan’s actions. Why was she guilty for what he did? No. She answered for herself and no one else. “I am tired of you doing this to me,” Opal spat through gritted teeth.

Nico flinched. His mouth opened.

“Doing what?” Logan had come full circle. “Are your friends being mean, Opal?” He’d said her first name this time, but that meant nothing. Not with that taunt in his voice. Not after he’d stalked her across Timbers and ruined everything.

“Get out of here, Logan,” Opal said.

“Not a chance.” He pointed at the churning water. “I want to know what this pool is, and why you’re being so weird about it.” His tone became mocking. “Will it turn me into Spiderman or something?”

Nico raised a palm. “I promise you, that well is toxic. You need to stay away from it.”

“I almost believe you, Holland.” Logan smiled wryly. “The problem is you’re a wimp.”

He knelt and reached toward the water.

“No!” Opal rushed at Logan. She had to stop him.

Nico got there first. He grabbed Logan’s arm and yanked it back.

“Get off me!” Logan tried to shove him away, but Nico held on, and the motion knocked them both off-balance.

“Look out!” Opal cried.

Locked arm-in-arm, the two boys tipped, toppled, fell.

Logan touched the surface first. For a moment, the dark water stilled.

Then it swallowed them whole.

Nico felt the cold of the Darkdeep envelop him.

His body seized as he was dragged down into the bottomless black. A pulse of energy ran over him, through him. He wanted to scream but suffocating liquid pressed in from all sides. He was drenched. He was frozen. He was unmade.

Then it all vanished. He floated in a void. Days. Seconds. An instant.

Like the times before, but also … different.

He felt another presence struggling with him. Lashing. Twisting. Panicking.

Logan?

The sensation flickered. Currents of pure emptiness scattered Nico’s thoughts.

Beneath them, Nico sensed a deeper awareness.

Something murky. Alien. Impossibly old.

The Darkdeep wrapped him like a funeral shroud, then tightened, enfolding Nico in a net of midnight black.

His mind blanked, and he felt nothing more.

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