Title: Sleeper (Book I in the Toy Soldiers series)
Author: S. M. Johnston
Release Date: December 2, 2013
Publisher: Entranced Publishing, Rush
Genre: Upper YA/NA speculative fiction
A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.
Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.
Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.
Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca for himself so that she can be the weapon he always intended her to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance.
SOMEONE WILL DIE SO I can live. I’ve come to terms with that. It used to turn my stomach, how my donor might die, but now I’m used to it. It’ll most likely be a car accident or a drunken fall from a height, especially at this time of year, with all the end-of-school parties. But not from illness or any other “natural” causes. A violent, painful death will be my savior. That’s how I will get my new heart.
I open my eyes and stare upwards, hoping the white, fluffy clouds that splotch against the blue sky will distract me from the images of people dying that flow through my head. I guess I’m not as used to the idea of getting someone else’s heart as I thought. The harsh Australian sun brings beads of sweat to my brow and a squint to my eyes. I swing my legs around and hoist myself upright on the stadium bleacher, looking out over the sports field. I readjust the singlet strap that had slipped off my shoulder and try to think happier thoughts. At least I won’t be responsible for the person who dies so I can get a new heart.
Yeah, happier thoughts.
I let out a sigh. This is not how I expected to be spending my schoolies week, with my dad as he puts hopeful rugby league players through their paces. My friends are all doing the traditional, Aussie, end-of-high-school celebration with a weeklong party, but instead of Airlie or the Gold Coast, they’re all in Bali, where I should be. It’s the big party to start our summer holidays before we find out which university we’ve been accepted into. When Mum and Dad found out I was at the top of the transplant list, they vetoed my November plans in case someone croaks this week. So all my friends left, minus me. I know it’s because Mum and Dad care. They’ve proved time and time again that you don’t need blood ties to be great parents, or overprotective ones.
“All right, boys. That wraps it up for today,” Dad calls out to the pack of sweaty guys.
“Hit the showers, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.”
I do my best not to stare as the group heads towards me. Half of them are shirtless, their muscles glistening after the training session. Okay, so I’m staring. A cute, red-haired guy catches me looking and winks. So, I reward him with a smile. A guy from school, who obviously chose a potential sporting career over a party week, nudges Cutie Ginger and then shakes his head. I hold back a huff. I thought with the end of an era, I could have a fresh start, but my reputation looks like it will haunt me beyond high school. Mishca the untouchable.
Dad lingers behind, deep in discussions with the managers and trainers, no doubt discussing the fates of the young men desperate to break into rugby league at a national level. They were all trying so hard to get Coach Tom Richardson’s attention. If only I had that many guys chasing after me. I wipe the sweat that’s formed at the edge of my almost afro, before it trickles down my brow. Yuck. Finally, Dad makes his way towards me, leaving his entourage behind.
“So, any contenders in your latest batch of victims?” I ask, picking up my discarded copy of West Side Story. I’d been rereading my university audition piece, torturing myself on how I could have performed it better. I wish I had tried out for plays at school, but I was a closet actor, only performing in drama class for fear that somehow my weak disposition would get in the way. But next year will be different. A new heart and new hope.
“There may be some. Tomorrow will be the clincher,” Dad replies, humouring me. He knows I’m not that interested in his latest player acquisitions. He puts his hand on my shoulder.
“I’ve got to grab some paperwork from the office before we go.”
“Sure thing,” I say to his back as he retreats up the tunnel under the stadium. I trudge behind him, my book clutched in my hand.With each step the tips of my curls brush lightly against my bare shoulders. It tickles and I regret agreeing with Mum to grow my hair out. I shove my hands into the pockets of my denim shorts and focus on the cool shade I’ll get once I’m inside.
My nose wrinkles the moment I step in the door. The whole place smells like dude, and not in a good way, but in the male equivalent of a stinky, wet dog way. I walk down the corridor and lean against the cool cement wall outside Dad’s office.
My heart transplant operation is like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, only there’s no countdown to watch. Evil thoughts invade my mind again, only now about my parents. Would they still have wanted to adopt me if they’d known I had a congenial heart disease, or in simpler terms, a hole in my heart?
“SLEEPER is a fast-paced adventure filled with mystery, romance, action, and humor. Mishca and Ryder rank up there with my favorite heroines and heroes ever! S.M. Johnston is an author to watch out for.” ~Wendy Higgins, author of Sweet Evil, Sweet Peril, and Sweet Reckoning.
About the Author:
Sharon is a writer from Mackay in Queensland, Australia who has short stories published in anthologies and was also runner-up in the Australian Literary Review’s Young Adult short story contest with KARMA. By day she is a public relations executive and by night she writes weird fiction and soulful contemporaries while her husband, two sons and cat are fast asleep.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/authorsmjohnston
Goodreads Sleeper Page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17837453-sleeper