Any Second, by Kevin Emerson

I was very impressed by Kevin Emerson's middle grade sci fi story, Last Day on Mars.  So when I saw he had a new book coming out this fall, my ears pricked up.  Any Second (Crown Books, November 2018) is neither middle grade nor speculative fiction, being instead realistic YA, but it's not like I only read mg spec fic, and so I approached it with eager interest, and was not disappointed.  (This one needs trigger warnings, for rape, physical abuse of a child, self-harm, and suicide).

This is the story of two teenagers who met at a mall during dire circumstances.  One, Eli, was there to blow the mall up after being made into the weapon of a crazed zealot after four years of being  brainwashed, tortured, and raped.  Maya was the girl who stood next to him and kept him from letting go of the release mechanism that would detonate the bomb.  Almost a year latter, both are traumatized.  Eli has been reunited with has family, and is trying not to drown in post-traumatic stress.  Maya is also trying to live in the present, and not let her obsessive hair pulling be her one release mechanism (she was dealing with mental health issues even before the mall, and now things are worse....).

And then fate rolls the dice, and they end up at the same high school.  None of the students are supposed to know who Eli is, but Maya recognizes him.  The two are drawn to each other--they were both at that same defining moment, and they are both trying to move away from it.  But will they help or hurt each other?

They aren't left to peacefully discover which it will be.  The evil zealot who kidnapped Eli is still on the loose, and Eli lives with police protection.  Maya is in a toxic relationship with another girl, that's holding her back on her road to recovery.  And Eli makes the worst possible friend at high school--a socially ostracized boy who became obsessed with Eli's story, and who fantasizes, like the kidnapper, of striking a blow against the "sheep." When he finds out who Eli really is, his obsession grows.

So not a comfort read.  But though what has happened, and what is happening, to these three teenagers is grim, it manages not to be a grim book.  It has more a feel of spring slowly coming after long winter.  Maya and Eli practice their coping strategy of living in the present, and really noticing things around them, and their growing friendship, so improbable, brings both comfort.  It is uplifting to see them getting stronger.  Things end for Maya and Eli on a hopeful, forward-looking note.

It is also a very gripping page turner with the reader terribly anxious about the kidnapper and the third kid who might or might not go off...So even if you mostly read MG spec fic, you'll find this a good read!

disclaimer: review copy received from the author


  1. Emerson does a wide variety of books-- he had a vampire or zombie middle grade series I once had that went over well. This one though... will pass.

  2. I don't read much YA, but this does sound like a real page-turner. Maybe I will get to it. Thanks for the post.


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