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Excerpt: Every Inferno by Johanna Parkhurst



Title: Every Inferno

Author: Johanna Parkhurst

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, LGBTQ 

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Book description:

Depressed. Defiant. Possible alcoholic. These are just a few of the terms used to describe fifteen-year-old Jacob Jasper Jones. Lately, though, JJ has a new one to add to the list: detective. He’s been having strange dreams about the fire that killed his parents ten years ago, and he thinks he finally has the clue to catching the arsonist who destroyed his family.

A murder investigation isn’t the only thing the dreams trigger for JJ, though. They also lead to secret meetings with his estranged sister, an unlikely connection with a doctor who lost his daughter in the fire, and a confusing friendship with McKinley, a classmate of JJ’s who seems determined to help him solve the mystery.

All JJ wants is to shake the problems that have followed him since that fire, and he’s convinced he must catch the arsonist to do it. But as JJ struggles to find the culprit, he sees there’s more than one mystery in his life he needs to solve.

Author bio:

Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.

Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband.

Book excerpt:

School sure wasn’t motivating JJ to do what his shrink told him and become more “outgoing.” As he sat through first period—Geometry—JJ remembered why it would have been so convenient to use his hand as an excuse to miss this class. Math sucked at the best of times, but at this hour of the day, it almost fell into the category of pure torture. JJ spent the period staring out the window and wondering if Dr. Ben would be working that afternoon.
At least Creative Writing was next. That was JJ’s favorite class; it was the only elective he’d actually looked forward to when he was signing up for it. So far he hadn’t been disappointed. They wrote in journals most of the time and read “model writing” or each other’s writing. That was the only part JJ didn’t like: reading his writing aloud, or “workshopping,” as Ms. Lyle called it. The rest of the class was supposed to critique it for areas of improvement; JJ wasn’t having any of that.
He thought Ms. Lyle would throw him out of her class when he first refused to show his writing to the rest of the room, but she’d just shrugged.
“Since it’s on the syllabus for the course, I’m going to have to dock you points,” she told him. “But if you don’t mind that, I sure won’t take the trouble to lose my temper over it.” JJ spent the workshop portions of the class in silence, critiquing other people’s writing in his head but refusing to say anything. Sometimes Ms. Lyle would raise her eyebrows at him, as though she expected him to, and JJ always just raised his right back. It hadn’t thrown her off yet.
Today, though, they were writing for most of the class and then reading some examples of strong dialogue. Good. JJ eased into a desk and pulled his black marbled composition book out from between his other books.
“Good Lord!” exclaimed Ms. Lyle, eyeing his injured hand. “What happened?”
JJ shrugged, pulling a pencil out of his pocket and flipping the book open to write. Ms. Lyle just winced at the sight of the bandage wrapped around his skin and flitted across the room to start taking attendance. JJ smiled. This was why he loved Creative Writing and why Ms. Lyle was his favorite teacher. Other teachers were instantly pissed off by JJ’s nonresponses. They added other adjectives to the list they had running about him in their heads. Words like “passive-aggressive,” “depressed,” “defiant.” Then they either held his silence against him for the rest of the class, week, or year, or they made it a goal to get him to speak by asking him as many questions as possible. That always led to more monosyllabic or non-answers from JJ, which led to more mental adjectives stacked against him in their heads. It was a vicious cycle.

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