If you're always on the hunt for the latest eerie, on-the-edge-of-your-seat, weird and wild psychological thriller then you're going to love Kara Thomas's upcoming release, Little Monsters. The story follows Kacey, who is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.
Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.
Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident. But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.
Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.
If that sounds like your kind of summer read, you're in luck! You don't have to wait too much longer for the July 25th release date. But, to hold you over in the meantime, Bustle's got an exclusive excerpt from the book right now. Keep reading below!
The shrill sound of the house phone invades my sleep. I turn over and see the time on my cable box—four-thirty a.m.—and snap to attention. There’s only one acceptable reason for someone to be calling this early, and that reason is death.
My heart hammers. Bailey. They found her. Or she’s home.
The landline stops ringing; I swing my legs over the side of the bed and pat my nightstand down, searching for my phone in the dark. The screen lights up, but there are no calls or texts from Jade. If they found Bailey dead, Jade would know, and she would tell me—
I flip on my bedside lamp and scan the carpet for my slippers, slip them on, then fly out of bed and throw my door open.
Ashley is standing outside my door, one hand poised to knock. The other is holding the house phone. Her eyes are red.
I swallow. “Was that about Bailey?”
“Oh hon, no. I’m sorry. But a bit of good news.” She sits on the edge of my bed. “There was a pipe burst at the high school. You don’t have to go to school today. Probably going to take the rest of the week to fix it, actually.”
I don’t know if she expects that to make me feel better. Still, my mind is on Bailey and the fact that she hasn’t come home.
“Did you hear anything from Mrs. Hammond?” I kick off my slippers and crawl back into the cocoon I made for myself with my comforter and sheets, pulling them taut over my body. It’s so cold.
“The Diamonds printed thousands of flyers with Bailey’s picture in their shop last night. Free of charge,” Ashley says. “Val has been getting the word out online to get volunteers to help hang them everywhere.”
“I’ll bet Jade is having a stroke over that. Bailey and Val don’t even talk anymore.”
Ashley watches me. Opens her mouth, and closes it. “What?” I ask.
“I just...remember being a teenage girl. All the secrets. Things I told my friends that I would never, ever tell my folks.” I’m quiet, because I realize what she’s getting at. She thinks I’m hiding something. Something Bailey might have told me that could help find her.
“Are you sure Bailey didn’t say anything to you?”
A flicker of a memory lights up my brain. We’d worked together on the local history project: “Design and budget a road trip of Wisconsin’s landmarks!” We were pricing out gas and tolls when Bailey dropped her pen and said, Sometimes I wish I could just get on the freeway and fucking drive.
But I don’t tell Ashley that. It might give her hope that Bailey is okay. And hope is the most dangerous thing you can give someone.
I brush my teeth and park myself in front of the living room TV. The local news channel is dominated by the storm; however, a search for her name on my phone reveals that Cathy and Ed Hammond have managed to get Bailey’s picture onto the website for the Broken Falls Register.
Eighteen-year-old girl missing from Broken Falls since late Saturday night
The picture Ed and Cathy chose is an odd one. Instead of one of her million selfies or her school photo, they picked the one of Bailey lounging in an Adirondack chair in our backyard. Taken at the birthday barbecue we held for Lauren.
Bailey’s rosebud mouth forms a smile, teeth hidden. She hates her bottom row of teeth. Bailey thinks she’s hideous, a troll, but I’ve always wished I looked more like her. Creamy skin, like she slathers it with milk and honey. A smattering of gold freckles on her nose to match her strawberry-blond hair. There’s just something naturally wholesome about her looks.
I am the opposite. People stare at me and I feel like I did something wrong. No matter how I style my hair or what I wear, I seem like the type of girl who’d get caught shoplifting eyeliner at Walmart.
I think of the conversation I had with Andrew that day on Sparrow Hill: It’s not like the whole world looks for every person who disappears.
A surprising thought roots in my brain: At least if Bailey’s really gone, she’s the type of girl the whole world will look for.
By early afternoon, all the roads are plowed, the downed lines from the storm intact, partially thanks to Jade’s dad, who worked overtime to get them up again.
Jade and I are in the backseat of my stepbrother’s Mazda. I let Tyrell, Andrew’s best friend, sit up front with him; we’re going to Pleasant Plains to hang Bailey’s Missing posters. A box full of them is wedged between Jade and me, and the reason for Jade’s scowl—DIAMOND’S PRINTING CO.—is stamped on the side.
When we picked up the posters from the Diamonds’ printing shop, Val’s mother said she and Bridget were already organizing a candlelight vigil. Jade’s eyes practically crossed.
“They just want to help,” I say to Jade now.
“Wolves in sheep’s clothing, Kace.” Jade’s head pricks up, like a dog that’s heard a whistle. She smacks the back of Tyrell’s headrest. “What did you just say to him?”
Tyrell’s shoulders hike up. He runs a hand over his dark, smooth head, but he doesn’t turn around. “Nothing.”
“Bullshit. If you can say it to him, you can say it to us.” Tyrell sighs and turns so he’s facing us. “People are saying that Bay may have killed herself.”
I see Andrew’s knuckles go white around the steering wheel. I’m the only one in this car who knows that he didn’t really miss a week of school and soccer practice his sophomore year because he had strep throat; he was hospitalized because he was so depressed he couldn’t get out of bed.
“Who’s saying that?” I demand. “That’s a shitty rumor to start.”
“I don’t know. People,” Tyrell says.
Jade’s eyes flash. No doubt Tyrell means Val and Bridget. “Well, people don’t know shit and should shut their stupid mouths. Bay wasn’t depressed.”
We spend the rest of the ride to Pleasant Plains in silence. Andrew parks in a municipal lot. As we climb out and he locks the car, I catch him cracking his knuckles. His nervous tic.
I put a hand on his shoulder and squeeze. Tyrell and Jade are on the other side of the car, out of earshot. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” Andrew shrugs me off. “Why wouldn’t I be?” Andrew’s dismissal stings; is he really that upset by the rumor about Bailey, or is he pissed at me for last night, for not telling him where we really went Friday?
“It might be faster if we split up,” Tyrell says.
“Sure,” I say, a lump sitting in my throat. “Divide and conquer.”
Tyrell suggests he and Andrew take the businesses west of the main intersection while Jade and I move east. My morning coffee sloshes like acid in my stomach as Jade and I break off from the guys and wait to cross the street.
Bailey’s dad reminded us to always ask before we hang a poster in the window of a business. People from Pleasant Plains, in my experience, have not earned their name. They’re rougher than the people from Broken Falls, more business-oriented.
More likely to kick you out of their sports bar for being rowdy.
In a few hours, when it gets dark, Main Street will be bustling with families out for dinner, hurrying past the homeless man stationed outside the dollar store. Twentysomethings who had too many margaritas at Tex Mex, looking for a fight. It’s the type of town people from Broken Falls call “sketchy.”
Jade and I came here together alone, once, to go to the art supply shop our teacher, Mr. White, was always talking about. You will die and go to heaven when you step through the door, he’d warned us. Jade and I decided to go one day over the summer when Bailey was working. Jade spent half an hour in the paint aisle while I looked at the colored pencils and a rainbow spectrum of polymer clays, indeed feeling like I’d found heaven.
When Bailey discovered we went somewhere without her, she didn’t text either of us for two days. Then, out of nowhere, she was bugging us to go to the flea market, as if nothing had ever happened.
Walking through the doors of the art supply shop now doesn’t feel very heavenly. The owner does not appear interested in Bailey or our situation, and shrugs when we ask if we can hang her poster in the vestibule. When we step back outside, a neon sign across the street catches my attention. PSYCHIC READINGS INSIDE. The store is called Enchantment Crystals and it’s next to a head shop.
“Hey.” I nod toward the store. “Look.”
“No,” Jade says. “There are some sketchy-ass people in there.” “Well, aren’t we supposed to make sure everyone sees her
Jade shifts. Pulls her scarf up around her mouth. I can only see her eyes, but she mumbles something inaudible, which I take to be a concession.
We cross the street when it’s safe. When I open the door to the small shop, the smell of incense brings water to my eyes. I want to cover my nose so I don’t start sneezing, but I’m afraid of offending the big-haired woman behind the counter whose gaze is locked on us.
“Good morning, ladies,” she says. “Are you shopping for yourselves, or for a friend?”
Jade’s eyes narrow at the jangly metal bracelets on the woman’s arm—rows of copper, bronze, and silver, almost up to her elbows. I step forward, Bailey’s poster in my fist.
“Our friend is missing,” I say. “Can we hang this somewhere?” The woman slides the poster from my hand. Peers at Bailey’s face. “Pretty girl.”
They all are, I think. I stomp the thought down, not entirely sure where it came from. Jade coughs into her shoulder. Says in her gravelly voice: “Can we hang it or not?”
The woman hands the poster back to me. “Of course. Maybe one in the window and one on the board?”
She gestures to a bulletin board by the door we came in. It’s papered with flyers in shades of neon, advertising Reiki sessions and tantric healing. As I pin Bailey’s poster among them, one catches my eye. medium for hire—communicate with the dead via a professional spiritualist. will come to your house!
I run my finger over the strips with a phone number stamped on them.
“I also offer similar services.” The woman is behind me. “You know, I could read cards for your friend. The missing one. It could provide some insight to her situation.”
Jade snorts. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
The woman rounds on Jade. Gives her a sad smile. “You miss her so much. But you have to stop beating yourself up.”
Jade scowls, but there’s the slightest flash of something in her eyes. Curiosity, maybe. “What are you talking about?”
“You think that if you were with her the other night, she wouldn’t have disappeared.” The woman takes a step toward Jade. “You didn’t want to be split up from her.”
I stare at Jade, who shakes her head. “You read the news. They’re saying Bailey left the party alone.”
I put a hand on Jade’s arm, ready to herd her out the front door. She pulls away from me as bony fingers clasp my shoulder.
The woman is looking at me. “Your aura is brown.” “Okay,” I say, stupidly.
The woman is still clutching my shoulder. “You know what happened to her. Deep in your soul, you know the answer.”
I pry myself away and muster up my best dirty look. “What are you talking about?”
Jade yanks me and drags me out the door. Her eyes demand answers. “What the hell was that about?”
I shake my head. My tongue has gone numb. “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.”
When Jade’s head is turned, I look back at Enchanted Crystals. Through the window, I see the woman, still standing at the bulletin board, frowning at the poster with Bailey’s picture.
Jade and I don’t say anything to Andrew or Tyrell about the woman in the spiritualist shop. But when we get back to the car, Jade leans against the side.
She’s crying silently.
I start toward her. “Hey—”
Jade shakes her head. “Just give me a minute, okay?”
I nod and stay back, breathing warmth into my hands. Does Jade really blame herself? If Bailey insisted on leaving the party alone, Jade shouldn’t feel guilty—or maybe it’s not guilt. Maybe it’s the fact that our best friend is gone, possibly not coming back. Jade is crying because she’s sad, and that’s what normal people do when they’re sad.
I put a hand to my cold, dry cheek. What is wrong with me? What kind of person doesn’t cry when their friend goes missing?
There is something broken inside me. That creepy woman in the store—those types of scam artists are really good at reading people, right? That’s why she made that comment, about my aura and my knowing what really happened to Bailey. She could see the ugly thing that lives in me, the thing that only makes me care about myself and my own survival. I wonder if Jade sees it too.
What kind of girl doesn’t cry when their friend goes missing?