A major debut in the queer YA space is almost here: Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron.
As this provocative thriller begins, metallic “Beings” are falling out of the sky: What remains of them are commodified and exploited, and cults are emerging in the wake of their arrival. Jaya MacKenzie, a teen grieving the recent death of her mother, moves to Edinburgh at the whim of her father, who’s obsessed with catching one of the winged Beings. She happens upon the first Being to survive a crash landing on Earth, a chance encounter which kicks off a touching LGBT romance and sets the stage for thoughtful takes on disability, grief, and sexuality.
Out of the Blue was won at auction by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, and is already scoring strong reviews. Safe to say: Its May 15 publication date is eagerly anticipated. Until then, EW has a taste of what all the buzz is about: Below, you can read an exclusive excerpt of Cameron’s debut. Check it out, and pre-order Out of the Blue here.
Excerpt from Out of the Blue, by Sophie Cameron
I wait for the crash. I wait for bones cracking, a neck snapping. My eyes are scrunched shut. My hands are clenched so tight, the handle of Perry’s leash digs into my skin. There’s a noise that sounds like fabric ripping, another of wood breaking. I wait for that aching thwunk, the sound of a body breaking against the earth.
It doesn’t come.
And then Perry begins to bark. She runs off, yanking on the leash so hard I almost fall into the bracken. I open my eyes and see a bulky shape stuck in a tree on the edge of the hill, just a few hundred yards away. My mouth goes dry. Images swirl around my head: dull eyes, a smashed skull, blood seeping into the ground. I don’t want to see that. I cannot, cannot see that. Not again.
But for some reason I keep running. Perry bounds ahead, a white blur against the dark grass. I run full speed after her, sprinting until
I’m just a few meters from the tree.
The shape shifts.
It’s moving. It—he? she?—flounders between the leaves, thrashing and kicking. The tree’s trunk groans, and with a strangled yelp, a Being slips through the branches and comes tumbling down to earth.
And this time, for the first time since the Falls began, the Being is alive.
She’s not like any of the others I’ve seen (or what was left of them, at least). Her skin is a shimmering shade of rose gold, and her hair falls in dusky pink tangles around her shoulders. She’s young, maybe eighteen or nineteen in our terms, and small but muscular, like an athlete or a ballet dancer. Her cheekbones are sharp, her lips thick, her eyes the color of garnet in the dim light—eyes that are wide and twitchy, darting around the hill and up to the sky before settling on me.
We stare at each other, this angel and me, both of us too shocked to move. Her eyes flick past my shoulders, over the place where there should be wings but aren’t. Her mouth twists in disgust; mine opens and closes a dozen times, but I can’t form any words. I don’t know what to say. I come in peace? Welcome to earth, population seven billion?
“Um,” I say. “Hello.”
My voice breaks the spell. A fault line of fear shudders through her and she scrambles backward, scraping her wings against the gnarled tree trunk. She screams something in a language I can’t understand, though it hardly sounds like a language at all: more like whale song and waves and high-pitched pipes, all blended together with the volume turned up.
“Shhh! Shhh!” I stumble forward, my palms up. “It’s okay!”
I try to think, but my mind is full of white noise. I should help her. I should hide her. I should get Dad, let him know he was right. (Oh my God, Dad was right—he’s going to be unbearable when he finds out.)
The Being grabs the lowest of the tree’s branches and hauls herself up on trembling legs. She teeters for a moment, but then her knees buckle and she slumps to the ground. I move forward to catch her, but she screams and swings a punch at me. I duck, and a great ripping sound tears through the air.
My breath catches in my throat.
Her right wing is torn down the middle, its pinkish feathers littering the ground. The left, however, is perfect: a vast sail of feather and sinew, curving in a slick arch three feet above her head. Even in the darkness, the fibers of the feathers glisten like oil on water: countless shades of pink, speckled with tiny hints of azure and turquoise and teal.
The Being’s face contorts in pain as she beats the wings together. There’s another light tearing sound, as if she’s ripped through gravity, and she begins to rise. She beats them a second time, creating a gust of wind so strong it sends me staggering backward, my hair whipping around my face. Relief radiates out of her as she floats upward: six inches, a foot, a meter . . .
But then she starts to wobble. The wings move faster, but instead of taking her higher, she just spins in a jerky circle, arms and legs flailing like she’s treading water. She falls back to earth with a bump, then gets up and tries again. And a third time, and a fourth. I can see the panic begin to set in. There’s no way to escape. She’s trapped here, on earth, with me.
My brain is a swamp, but one idea keeps bubbling up to the surface: I need to get Dad. He came here to find a Being. Now that I’ve done his job for him, we could probably go back home. I could get back to my friends, back to the village and my own room—
The Being lands with another dull thud. This time, she doesn’t get up. Her lip quivers, her eyes close, and she starts to cry.
“No, shhh! It’s okay, you’re okay!” I reach out a hand toward her, but the Being flinches and pulls away. The noise swells, her sobs growing louder and louder until Perry starts to howl along. The Being looks up, so surprised she forgets to keep crying, but then her entire body begins to tremble. Wherever she comes from, they clearly don’t have dogs there.
“It’s okay! She won’t hurt you.”
They say dogs can sense fear, but mine doesn’t notice the Being’s. Perry climbs onto her knees and curls up in her lap, just like she would with Rani or me, then gives a lazy woof and starts licking at the scratches on the angel’s thighs. Thousands of pounds’ worth of Being’s blood, being eaten by my dog. If the Wingdings could see this. If Dad could see this.
Then something happens. The Being sniffs. She puts her hand on Perry’s haunches, then snatches her fingers away as if she’s been scalded. After a moment, though, she touches Perry’s back. She strokes her fur, her expression veering from fear to wonder.
As I watch, my thoughts of handing her over to Dad slowly curdle into sickly shame. It would be the simplest solution, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Everything about her, from her eyes to the tentative way she strokes Perry, is just too human. Dad might sell her to science, and I know better than to think those researchers would treat her kindly. They’d probably slice her open like a lab rat, pull her wings apart to find what makes her fly, maybe even try to inseminate her to create half-angel babies or some weird shit like that. The cults would be worse. She’d probably end up as a pet for some billionaire’s bratty kids, or as a sort-of-human sacrifice.
I can’t let that happen. I have to help her. Not because I found her, not because it’s my destiny or any crap like that, but because she is, quite obviously, a person. She deserves to be treated like one. And that means getting her out of here.
I squint into the darkness. I need to find somewhere to hide her, and fast: other people are sure to have noticed the streak of pink in the sky as she fell, and it won’t be long until they head up here to investigate. This part of the hills is stark, with hardly any trees or bushes for cover. I remember the ruined building on one of the lower peaks, where I saw the photographer taking pictures on my way up.
The Being wipes her hand across her nose, still crying softly.
“We have to go.” I point toward the other side of the hill and mime running. “You’re not safe here. Not safe! Bad! We have to go!”
Her expression stays blank. Slowly, I edge my hand toward her and slide my fingers into hers. The touch of her skin is soft as mist, like she’s hardly there at all. Our hands only meet for a split second before she snatches hers away, but she grabs the lower branches of the tree and reluctantly pulls herself to her feet.
It’s a slow process. The Being is limping, and her right wing is drooping so low it almost brushes the grass. The sky is pitch black now and it’s hard to see where we’re going, although her skin glows like dying embers in the darkness. My stomach flutters with nerves. It’ll be a miracle if we can make it to the other side without anyone spotting us. Then again, it’s a miracle she’s alive at all—maybe a second one isn’t too much to ask.
As we follow the path toward the foot of the hill, the rotting building comes into view. I pull the Being back and crouch down by some gorse bushes. The ruin is just a shadowy lump before the glittering skyline, but there’s the tiniest bit of movement around it: the outline of a couple, kissing in the darkness.
I fall to the ground, pulling the Being down with me. She spreads her wings flat, or as flat as she can given the state the right one is in. The feathers tickle the nape of my neck.
A voice comes floating out of the darkness. “Did you hear something?” “You’re imagining things. Not scared of the dark, are you?”
The girl laughs and pulls the boy toward her. There’s some shuffling and lip smacking as they kiss again. My pulse is pounding so loud, I’m sure they’ll hear us. Footsteps crunch on the stones, but then there’s silence. I poke my head over the bushes. The couple have disappeared.
“Come on,” I whisper. “We’re almost there.”
We scramble up a steep, rocky slope, the Being grunting a little as the stones dig into her bare feet. The ruin is much more exposed than I realized. It’s perched on a low peak overlooking a pond, clearly visible from the road; three of its four walls have crumbled away, and the only one that’s left has several large windows gaping through it. There are cigarette butts scattered on the grass, an empty beer bottle smashed in the corner, the initials HW+DR chipped into the stone. I kick the rubbish out of the way, clearing a space for the Being on the ground. She starts to copy my movements, thrusting her right leg back and forward like a broken football player in a FIFA game.
“No! Look, like this.”
She follows my lead as I ease into a crouching position. The night air is starting to nip at my skin, but I shrug my arms out of my hoodie and put it around her shoulders. (Not very successfully, given the pterodactyl-size wings attached to her back.) She’s completely naked underneath. Until now, I hadn’t even given it a second thought.
Past the pond, headlights sweep across the road. I press myself against the wall, my heart in my mouth. The car glides by, disappearing around the corner and past the Parliament.
“That was too close,” I murmur. She can’t stay here, but there’s no way I can walk her back to our flat without her being swamped by a hundred Wingdings en route. Even if I could, there’s nowhere in the flat for her to stay—I can hardly stick her in the bottom bunk and hope Rani doesn’t notice.
“I’ll come back,” I tell the Being. “I’ll go home and get you some clothes, and then we’ll figure something out, okay?”
It’s far from ideal, but right now it’s all I can think of. I tell Perry to stay, pull the hoodie back over the Being’s shoulders, and sprint back down the hill. This is a dream. This is madness. This is really, really damn ironic.
But I don’t have time to think about why it’s happening, or what it all means. There’s only one question on my mind:
Where the hell am I going to hide an angel?