Sunday, September 16, 2012

CAGI Finalist #32

Genre: YA fantasy
Word Count: 76,000


Sixteen-year-old Wren is Tainted.

Unlike the other survivors of a toxic explosion, Wren’s body isn’t disfigured by hideous black spider web scars. Her skin is pale and perfect—and dangerous. Her icy touch causes excruciating pain for everyone she touches, but her flawless skin is the reason she wasn’t banished with the other Tainted. Still, she’d love to walk through her town without inducing the usual cringes and gasps of fear.

When a town leader declares that the Tainted are diseased and demands the normal townspeople purge them, Wren barely escapes to search for them. What she finds are not the battered people she expected. They are knife-wielding, eager for a fight, and welcome Wren into their hidden home with scarred arms. Then Wren meets Asher, a normal boy whose aid has kept the Tainted alive since the explosion. If she ignores his exasperating confidence and knack for getting under her skin, she’s almost eager to have him around.

But the battle between the Tainted and the townspeople is ballooning out of control. As the fires of slaughtered Tainted bodies burn at night, and more of her new friends leave to save the others, Wren realizes her new life could crumble into the ashes. Unless she can do something she never wanted to: utilize her skin’s terrible power and fight back.

First 250:

Three layers of hand-knit sweaters and my gloves protected my skin. I tweaked the silk over my wrists, ensuring that no portion of my flesh was exposed.

“You’re too cautious, honey,” Jolie said. Her soft, clumsy hand pinned my mother’s old jade brooch to my outermost sweater. “Everyone knows what will happen if they touch you.”

“Accidents happen,” I said. Actually, an accident hadn’t happened in years thanks to my layering, but I didn’t dare risk it. It’s not as though I could overheat, anyway.

I saw Jolie’s lips purse in the silver-framed mirror by my bed. Her full face appeared weary from a morning volunteering in the kitchen. One frizzy knot of hair stuck out of her brittle blonde bun. She’d been my caretaker for a decade, yet I didn’t think I’d ever seen her hair out of that style.

I smiled, contemplating how much trouble I’d get in for snatching the elastic away. Since Jolie was the only person who could touch me without any painful consequence, she’d probably chase me down.

My grin was all it took to wipe the pout from her expression. Simple, hair-brained Jolie. Her Scar never altered her cheerful view on life.

Her fingers prodded against the back of my neck as she adjusted the sweaters. I experienced no heat, no cold. Just the pressure of her touch on my skin.

Neither of us had felt temperature for ten years.

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