'The Unlikelies' Is The Teen Superhero Story You Need To Read This Summer — EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT
This is a superhero story unlike anything you've ever read before: The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone, author of The Loose Ends List, is about a group of teens who spend the summer doing good deeds undercover. It all starts when Sadie steps in to rescue a crying baby from a dangerous situation — and accidentally becomes the star of a viral video. Newly Internet-famous, Sadie's introduced to four other "hometown heroes" with impressive stories of their own — and together, the five heroic teens form an unlikely alliance.
As the summer progresses, Sadie and the rest of her philanthropic friends decide to anonymously spread good deeds, and to right the wrongs they discover in their communities. Calling themselves "The Unlikelies," the group successfully stands up to bullies and online trolls — but when they try to help out a friend battling a heroin addiction, the five teenagers find themselves way out of their depth.
The novel comes out on June 6, but Bustle have got an exclusive sneak preview for you to read right away. In this chapter, you can dive straight into the drama of Sadie's superhero antics, and discover the scary situation that leaves her in hospital breathing through a tube. The Unlikelies is the summer read that'll remind you how much good there really is in the world, and of how much impact even the smallest acts of kindness can have.
On day two of work, the family of tourists stood in line behind old Mr. Upton, who swatted at a mosquito on his cheek, leaving a crush of black and blood the size of a dime on the rosy area to the right of his bulbous nose. He held a quart of peaches and I noticed his nails were long and yellow. I tried to tell him there was something on his face, but his hearing aids weren’t in. “What?” he kept saying, until I mouthed Nothing and walked away. His aide, Sissy, wandered up to the farm stand counter. Sissy held two bunches of flowers and a head of Swiss chard. Sweat beaded on her dark Caribbean skin. She wore teal mascara, and her loose-fitting rust-colored T‑shirt had a purple stain near the collar. I wondered if it was plum juice.
The car barreled through the gravel parking lot so quickly a few rogue pebbles flew up and hit Mr. Upton’s Lincoln. We all stopped where we were. Mr. Upton and Sissy. Daniela. The two women near the wildflowers. The family shopping for their Montauk picnic.
The car made that much of a commotion.
A guy jumped out and slammed the door. He called somebody a fucktard on the phone as he pushed past the berry display and into the building where we all stood, staring.
“What are you looking at, rich bitches?” the guy slurred.
I hadn’t seen someone so angry drunk since a kid from Watermill had had to be transported out of Shawn Flynn’s snow day party in anambulance to have his stomach pumped.
“Eat shit and die,” the guy yelled into the phone before he shoved it into the pocket of his faded jeans. He clumsily wove around the vegetables and opened the cold case. He grabbed a fistful of cheeses and threw them into a basket. His face, mottled with acne scars and covered in patches of salt-and-pepper facial hair, was almost purple,probably because he was wearing a flannel shirt and work boots in ninety-degree weather.
Sissy shook her head and raised her eyebrows. Mr. Upton fumbled with his wallet. A noise came from the parking lot. At first it sounded like the guy had left the car radio on. But then the noise revealed itself.
She was a crying baby.
I stepped away from the counter and walked out to the guy’s burgundy sedan. The tinted windows were up tight, except for the baby’s window, which was down only an inch or two. The baby’s shape moved frantically as the wailing sounds got worse.
“What the hell?” His voice hurtled toward me from behind. “Getaway from my car, you little A‑rab.” He was talking to me.
I whipped around. The stink of liquor and B.O. hit me in the face. His eyes were wild, the whites stained yellow. Some sort of valve opened inside me and adrenaline shot through my body. It was massive and electric and, in a weird way, calming.
My voice was measured when I said, “Sir, why don’t you take out the baby and get her some cold water? She’s probably really thirsty.”
“I don’t want to offend you, sir, but I think you’ve had a bit todrink and maybe it’s not a great idea to drive right now.”
His face purpled even more. “I don’t want to offend you, but you’re a twat.”
The crying got louder.
The guy hurled the plastic basket onto the ground. Cheese bricks,strawberries, and jars of honey scattered. One of the jars smashed and honey oozed into the gravel. He reached into his pocket for his keys and stumbled around to the front of the car. I tried the back door handle. It was locked. I ran around to the driver’s side, where he was climbing in, and I dove on top of him, trying to grab for his keys.
I was not going to let him put his key into that little slit.
Sprawled across his foul-smelling body, I felt his hand grab my ponytail and yank my head upward. For a split second, I was angled toward the backseat and noticed the baby’s face, bright red and tear streaked, brown eyes fixed on the guy’s hand pulling me up by my hair.
For another split second we were all suspended in silence. The grip tightened on my ponytail and forced my head down‑ward. My face collided with something hard on the passenger seat. He yanked up and forced my face down again. The cold metal of a toolbox cut into my forehead. I cried out before reaching again for the keys.
In an instant, he let go of my ponytail and grabbed a nearly full bottle of liquor. The amber liquid swished upward before he struck me on my back. My body curved instinctively. Blow after blow, he pummeled the bottle into my torso. I cried out from the crushing pain of each blow as my own guttural sounds blended with the staccato cries coming from the backseat.
It was only after the sirens were surrounding the car that I noticed the police. A cop reached in to pull me out. I resisted at first, because I still hadn’t gotten the keys.
“It’s okay, Sadie.” I heard Daniela’s voice echo through the pound‑ing in my head. I stumbled and collapsed onto Daniela, who couldn’t handle the weight of my body, and we fell to the ground. The gravel tore into my knees as the cop who’d pulled me out and several others wrestled with the guy until they finally got him down. He landed inches from me, his face stuck to shards of glass and honey. I looked up and saw another cop carefully unbuckle the baby. She had stopped wailing, as if she knew she was safe.
For a single moment, it all shifted into slow motion. I noticed the two city women had never left the wildflower stand. One clutched the other, and they stood with their hands over their mouths. I noticed the family talking to the cops over by the willow tree.
I reached up and felt the blood seeping out of my head.
The blood from my head gash felt sticky, more like Jell‑O than juice. The paramedic pulled out my ponytail holder and released a matted knot of hair. They covered me with a thin white blanket, and I fell in and out of sleep.
“Sadie, I’m going to need you to wake up.” The words floated somewhere beyond the deep, pulsing pain in my head and my back. I looked up, only for a second, and saw a woman’s face, blue eyes with deep half-moon bags underneath.
“What’s up?” My mouth tasted like metal and dried leaves.
Every time I fell asleep, somebody bothered me awake.
“Sunshine, it’s Daddy.” I opened my eyes, strained hard to keep them open. Dad’s face hovered above mine, his gray eyes ringed in red. He forced a smile.
“What’s wrong, Dad?” The pain tore through my side. “Ow. My back.”
Mom appeared from behind Dad and took my hand. Her handwas freezing.
“Sadie, you’ve got some injuries from the incident back at the farm stand. I don’t know how much you remember, but it doesn’t matter. You’re okay, sweetie.” Mom’s voice sounded like it was echo‑ing through a tunnel.
“Can you turn the lights off?” I said as they wheeled me toward the CT scanner. My head hurt more than anything else, like a terri‑ble, unrelenting, migrating toothache.
A guy in green scrubs tried to talk about normal things as he searched for a vein plump enough to stick a needle into.
“Do you know what happened to the baby? In the car?” I asked him.
“No, dear, I don’t. I’ll try to find out.”
“I need to use the bathroom,” I said.
I had a concussion and a deep monster of a gash on the side of my head. A doctor with the voice of a radio DJ talked to my parents behind the curtain. “Sadie has two fractured ribs, displaced inward. There’s some blood around the spleen, but I don’t think we’re going to need to intervene surgically. We’ll keep her here for observation.”
I fell asleep again.
A nurse shined a bright light into my face.
“Hi, Sadie. I’m blah, blah, blah.” I didn’t hear what the nurse was saying.
“I can’t breathe.”
The panic rose up toward my throat. “I can’t breathe!” I yelled.
“You can breathe, Sadie. It’s just uncomfortable.” She held up a plastic thing with a thick tube hanging out of it. “I need you to suck air through this tube every few minutes. It’s going to hurt. But just breathe through the pain. This will prevent you from getting pneumonia.”
I sucked air from the tube while my parents hovered over me, trying not to lose their shit.
A newswoman wanted to interview me from my hospital bed, but Woody the ice cream man told her to Please get the hell out. I was still in and out of sleep the next morning, still breathing into the plastic thing, waking for vital signs and questions about what number my pain was on a scale from one to ten. The pain traveled from my side to my shoulders to deep inside my head to my badly skinned knees.
I hadn’t eaten in a day and a half, but I wasn’t hungry. The doctor wanted me to get up and pee on my own. A new nurse with a platinum-blond weave kicked out my parents so she could remove the catheter and walk me to the bathroom.
“It’s burning,” I said to the nurse, who stood in front of me whileI tried to pee. I took small, shallow breaths to avoid the searing rib pain.
As the nurse helped me up, I glanced down at the plastic tub attached to the toilet seat. It was full of blood.
“Um. Okaaaaay. Uh.” I froze and studied her face, wondering ifI was dying
.“It’s totally normal with a spleen injury,” she said, helping me to bed.
I had no idea what a spleen was.
Dad talked loudly on the phone in the hallway, and I tried to shush him but my breath was too shallow to make sounds. Mom worried I might get addicted to the painkillers. My grandmothers prayed to Jesus and Allah in the waiting room. They wandered in periodically to make sure I had enough blankets. At some point, I was awake enough to check my phone. I had hundreds of texts. From Shay. From Seth. From the seniors. Daniela. Some of the people in my class.
Shay had taken it upon herself to organize a get-well origami-crane project, so people were texting me images of badly made origami cranes while I tried to piece together what had happened. I remembered it in fragments: the man barreling through the farm stand, the liquor breath, and the baby girl.
The baby girl.
I couldn’t get her terrified, wailing little face out of my head.
A woman named Officer Estrada sat in the upholstered chair and asked me questions. Her pinched face and irritated tone coupled with Mom’s “Think, sweetie. Tell her exactly what happened” paralyzed me.
“Can you tell me what’s going on with the baby?” I stared blankly at the officer.
“I’m not at liberty to talk about the case,” she said.
“Aren’t we talking about the case?” I said, confused.
Finally, Dad had the doctor kick Officer Estrada out.
After a liter of water, my second attempt at peeing was more successful. I winced as I leaned forward to try to wash my hands. That’s when I saw my face in the mirror. I had a blue-black jellyfish-shaped tumor spilling out around the tight white bandage. It looked like my eyes had been hollowed out and smeared with wet charcoal.
I smiled. It hurt to move my face, but I still had all my teeth. And for that, I was grateful.