August 31, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
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Emily Lipson; Imprint

Sara Faring's new novel might technically be Young Adult, but it's a ghost story that will spook even the most hardened grown-ups. White Fox centers around two sisters, Manon and Thaïs, who grew up on a remote Mediterranean island. After their mother (a famous actress) disappears, their pharma tycoon father sends them away from their childhood home — but a decade later they return, tempted by the discovery of what would have been their mother's last screenplay (titled White Fox). The screenplay itself is terrifying enough, but as the sisters search for clues to their mother's disappearance they're drawn into the twisted underbelly of the island they thought they knew.

White Fox won't hit shelves until September 22 — but you can read an exclusive excerpt, which sets up some of Manon and Thaïs' family history, below.

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When we pull up a half hour later, Mama’s hyper-enlarged face beams with posed humility on the screens above the car. Pixels of freckled skin shower the crowd with angelic light: Mireille Foix Hammick, the caption reads, Icon of Film.

Icon of Film. Ugh. My stomach burbles beneath the damn corset, and I burp champagne. Sort of a tribute to Mama, honestly, who drank her body weight in the other champion of French grapes (Burgundy) weekly. I open the door before I can second-guess myself—camera flashes blind me, shouts ring in my ears.

“Ready?” I say, turning back to face Noni. Her face is pale and drawn in the shadows of the backseat. Sometimes I forget how painful the spotlight is for her.

But you don’t know me if you think I can’t do this in my sleep.

Powered by a cool rush of adrenaline, I strut down the red carpet to the institute ’s door, royal-waving (screw the lightbulb, touch the pearls) at faces erased by rows of enormous lights. I hold Noni’s hand in mine—it’s dripping wet—and I feed her all the energy I can. I smile as big as possible without my cheeks bursting and take in the scene: They made sure the Foix Institute suited Mama perfectly. Dressed in silk and dripping in lanterns, it exudes glamour. And the crowd: It’s too surreal an experience to not appreciate. I might be sort of famous online, but I’ve never seen clamoring, sweating throngs like this. One fan leaps out of the shadows wearing two white fox ears and a distorted mask of Mama’s face, the eyes alone punched out. Sharp-edged holes exposing two glassy beads.

“I miss her!” He moans, collapsing over a waist-high metal barrier. “She will return to me!”

Noni shrinks back just as he crumples, pushed aside by rabid teen- age fangirls bearing signs with Mama’s face.

“They’re only children,” Noni whispers to me. “Why do they care?”

A group of girls calling my name asks for a selfie, thrusting wiggling hands toward me, each fingernail painted a different neon. A groan escapes the impromptu mosh pit. As I’m leaning in, I smell bubble gum and sweat, and just then, a rosy flash fills my left peripheral vision, but it’s no brain-blasting flashbulb. Noni gasps just as I catch the object flying toward my left cheek: a slip of hot pink fabric. I open it: skimpy girl’s hotpants.

Ew. What?

I burst out with a laugh.

“Not my size,” I say, tossing it back into the crowd, roaring in my ears.

A schoolgirl screams with barely contained joy beyond the fence, setting off a second flurry of technological lightning.

“The fuck,” I whisper to Noni, squeezing her hand. I can feel how all of this nourishes me and how it compromises her.

“Mama wore hotpants just like those in one of her first movies,” she whispers into my ear, her heartbeat in my hand. “Remember? Not Another Girl of Ice?”

And then I remember. She was just sixteen. She played a young and feisty prostitute with waist-length icy-white hair who wields a tire iron in her quest for revenge. Sort of your typical pre–Me Too, I’m-an-old-white-guy-director stuff.

“Remember when we saw the poster?” Manon asks, as we continue on. I let her talk even though it ’s not the time or place, because I can feel it steadying her. “She said she felt free during filming, for the first time in her life. As if she could fight for anything she wanted, anything at all. Unstoppable, uncapturable.” I don’t say this, but I don’t remember that. It sounds like bull-s--t, and my own memory cuts through the champagne fuzz.

I’m only a year younger than my sister, but all I remember is being fourteen and coming across sleazy merch from that movie on the internet. It was cool, that year, to dress up as the dead version of that character, bloodied and spent and very much not free.

That character reminds me of White Fox.

I give a final wave to the crowd, desperate for my heart to swell as much as it can, before letting Noni tug me inside.

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