Genre: YA Dystopian
Word Count: 98,000
A chime on Livvy’s tablet notifies her that she’s reached her quota for profane language. Again. She has a penchant for swearing and a talent for insulting even the nicest of boys. Whenever seventeen-year-old Livvy Moore is matched to a potential date by her ever-present tablet, her foot finds its way right to her mouth. Where the government encourages teens to find a permanent match by eighteen and speaking some of her favorite words is a punishable offense, none of this bodes well for Livvy.
In her seventeen years of life, no one new has ever entered Sector Two of the American Northwest Territory. Just weeks before graduation from one of ten Academies that feed into the central government, though, Livvy meets her first stranger. Everything has always been the same, from identical homes, to pristine landscape design, right down to the uniform Livvy wears every day (save for her butt-kicking boots...those are hers alone). This stranger, Wes, makes Livvy wish she was better at flirting. But more than his mysterious appeal, Wes needs her help.
Wes has lost his ability to speak, and Livvy’s father, a renowned psychologist in the Department of Psychological Defense, is treating his condition. Livvy’s final project is the last step before she follows in her father’s footsteps, and Wes agrees to be her subject, expecting her to succeed where her father has not. When Livvy induces lucid dreaming, a therapy once used to help her escape her own nightmares, Wes utters his first words to her. He reveals to Livvy what he’s been trying to hide. The government she’s about to join has brought Wes here to end his life.
The Administration plans to execute Wes once he gives them the whereabouts of his mother, someone involved in a psychological experiment that involves Livvy, Wes, and all other final year students in Sector Two's Academy. Livvy’s contact with Wes somehow triggers the return of her nightmares, and if she believes one of them, it means she will kill him in the name of the Administration. Escaping the fate of this dream means turning her back on her family, her future, her entire existence as she knows it. Staying loyal to her government will mean Wes’s life. Livvy must decide whether to trade hers for his.
A name stares at me from my tablet. This is the first in a while with potential. His name is the second of two required dates this month. The Administration made a huge mistake with the first, especially knowing our history, but I won’t speak openly about that.
Pausing briefly, I open the door to my home away from home, Joe.
He’s there, sitting at my favorite table. This has to be a good sign. When I walk in, he stands to greet me. Another sign.
“Hey, Livvy.” Though we’ve known each other all our lives, there is a shyness to his voice I have not heard before.
“Hey, Will.” The tiniest break in mine betrays my nervousness too.
I sit, and the tabletop scanner reads my identity from my tablet. My order history pops up, and Will laughs.
“Quite the purest, aren't you?”
According to the stats, I've been to Joe each day for the past week, my order always the same—large black coffee, dark roast.
“Is there any other way?” He brings out the smile in me, and I think maybe I’m not so bad at this flirting thing.
His blue eyes fix on mine. The faint sprinkling of freckles across his nose and cheeks are boyish reminders of playground chases and jumping off swings. But boyish he is not. I want to memorize the newness of Will Connelly in this moment, recreate him later on my sketch pad. His smile is warm, and my cheeks flush. That’s when I realize I’m staring.