Today I’m bringing you an exclusive sneak peek at a captivating upcoming young adult book, Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams, that releases from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers June 9th! Plus, keep reading for preorder information, virtual tour details, and your chance to win a finished copy of the book!
I previously reviewed Agnes at the End of the World — check out my 5-star review here.
With the help of Kelly McWilliams and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, I am excited to share with you part of Chapter 1 from Agnes at the End of the World.
Sickness is punishment for your rebellion. It must be corrected by prayer alone.
—Prophet Jacob Rollins
“Agnes, are you in rebellion?”
The questions started her like a rifle’s crack in the dark. Agnes froze with her hand on the trailer’s doorknob, her backpack slung over her shoulder. It was a quarter to midnight, and her fifteen-year-old sister was sitting bolt upright in bed, staring hungrily at her.
Agnes’s pulse throbbed in the hollow of her throat, beating a single word: Caught.
She’d been sneaking out the last Saturday of every month for two years, and she’d never been seen before.
Such an obedient daughter, the matrons always said.
No one would ever suspect that such a sweet, hardworking girl regularly broke one of Red Creek’s strictest Laws—no contact with Outsiders.
It was an act for which she could be banished, and she never would’ve risked it if her brother’s life weren’t at stake. Luckily, her family were deep sleepers. But some sound—or dark intuition—had woken her sister tonight.
Are you in rebellion?
Agnes shut her eyes, dreading the truth.
She’d always wanted, more than anything, to be good. Would God understand she’d never wanted to break His Laws?
Would the Prophet, if he ever found out?
“You can tell me,” her sister coaxed. “I won’t condemn you. I’m the only one who wouldn’t.”
“Please Beth,” she pleaded. “Go back to sleep.”
Beth was already standing, shivering barefoot in her white nightgown. Her eyes shone lambent in the dark, and Agnes felt a cold wash of fear. She was well acquainted with her sister’s stubbornness.
Oh, why couldn’t she have slept on, like all the times before?
“Wherever you’re going, take me with you.”
“It’s too dangerous.”
Beth’s eyes flicked over the living room. “I don’t care. I’m bored to death here. Please.”
The twins rolled over in the cot. Agnes held her breath, but the younger girls didn’t wake. In the far corner, a crucifix nightlight illuminated Ezekiel’s sleeping face.
For as long as Agnes could remember she and Beth had shared everything—a bed, a hairbrush, their dreams.
Everything, except this. Agnes’s only secret, too dangerous to share.
Beth’s eyes lit up. “Is it a boy? Is that it?”
Agnes pinched the bridge of her nose. She loved her sister dearly, but people whispered she was trouble waiting to happen. They whispered that she was impulsive, spoiled, vain, and exactly the sort of girl to lead an innocent boy into the shadow of the valley of death.
But Agnes loved her too much to believe it.
“No,” she said miserably. “I’m not meeting a boy. Why would you even ask me that?”
Beth cocked her head, calculating. “If not a boy, then what on earth—?”
Agnes’s cheeks burned. She hated living this shadowy double life—the lies breeding ever more lies, the constant shame like a ball of fire in her chest.
She met Beth’s too-pretty eyes, green as lake shallows, and nearly confessed.
I have no choice, she wanted to say. I sold my soul two years ago. If I hadn’t, we’d have buried Ezekiel in the meadow.
Yet to save his life was a grave-deep sin, and so it must be her cross to bear—hers, alone. As much as she loved her sister, she knew Beth wasn’t strong enough to carry that burden for long.
To save her brother’s life, Agnes bit her tongue.
“If you are in rebellion, I understand,” Beth insisted. “Don’t you know I have doubts, too? Lately, I think Red Creek is—”
“Stop,” Agnes whispered fiercely. She’d had enough of her willful younger sister for one night. “It’s none of your business where I go!”
Beth rocked back like she’d been slapped. Then a chill settled over her fine features, an icy mask of rage, and Agnes trembled despite herself.
“Everyone always says you’re so faithful,” Beth bit out. “But it’s all lies, isn’t it?”
“Beth.” She willed her to understand. “I’m trying my best.”
And not everything is about you.
Agnes glanced at Ezekiel clutching his stuffed toy Sheep, then quickly looked away.
“You think I’m a child.” Beth’s voice smarted with hurt. “But you can’t keep me in the dark forever.”
“Don’t tell,” she said urgently. “Hate me if you want, but don’t tell.”
“Fine.” Beth turned her back, digging under the mattress for her diary. “But I’ll never forgive you for this. Never.”
She scribbled furiously in her book, sheltering in her own little world.
Beth, I love you, Agnes wanted to say, but didn’t. Beth, I’m sorry.
She glanced at the clock, and her heart contracted. It was nearly midnight. She didn’t have much time.
Quietly, Agnes pushed open the trailer door and slipped into the evening air.
The night smelled of lavender, dust, and danger.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Handmaid’s Tale meets Wilder Girls in this unique, voice-driven novel from Kelly McWilliams.
Agnes loves her home of Red Creek–its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town’s strict laws. What she doesn’t know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.
Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn’t a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?
As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn’t safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?
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JOIN THE VIRTUAL TOUR
Due to the COVID-19, launch events for Agnes at the End of the World will be held virtually. Kelly McWilliams will be on virtual tour with her mother, author Jewell Parker Rhodes. Check out the events below, some of which require pre-registration, and support these authors in this unprecedented time. Stay up-to-date on these events and more by following Kelly on Twitter and Facebook.
June 5th @ 5 PM EST: #AuthorChat
June 9th @ 6 PM CT: Interabang Books
Virtual Launch Party via Facebook Live!
June 9th @ 7 PM PST
June 16th @ 5 PM MT
Tattered Cover Bookstore featuring Kelly McWilliams & Jewell Parker Rhodes
June 26th @ 11 AM EST: ALA
July 11th @ 1 PM
Colorado Springs, CO
July 20th @ Time To Come!
August 8th @ 2:00 PM
August 9th @ 5:30 PM
August 25th @ 7:00 PM
Talk & Book Signing at Third Place Books
Lake Forest Park, WA
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelly is a mixed-race writer who has always gravitated towards stories about crossing boundaries and forging new identities. For this and so many other reasons, young adult literature will always be close to her heart. She is a graduate of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Brown University. Her upcoming novel, AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD, benefitted from a We Need Diverse Books Mentorship.
Kelly has crafted stories all her life, and her very first novel, DOORMAT (2004), was published when she was just fifteen-years old. DOORMAT became a Junior Library Guild selection and led to a feature in Seventeen magazine. Kelly has previously worked as a staff writer for Romper, covering issues important to women and families. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, cooking (with mixed results), or hiking. She lives in Colorado with her partner and young daughter.
Source: Author Website
1 winner will receive a finished copy of Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams, US Only.