From Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’, comes the exciting conclusion in the origin story of fan-favorite comic character Faith—a fierce, plus-size superhero.
Faith Herbert can finally admit that she’s not a regular teen—and take advantage of her new flying superpowers. After the chaos of her first semester, Faith just wants to end her senior year in a normal way—enjoying all the hallmarks of graduating high school, like prom, with her best friends Matt and Ches.
But a new journalism teacher at school means things are off to a strange start, and suddenly Colleen Bristow, the quiet nerd-turned-supervillain, reappears, acting as if nothing ever happened. Fires are cropping up all over town. Then Faith hears that psiots have been going missing.
As if that weren’t enough, reports of sightings of Faith’s ex, the beautiful Dakota Ash, start to emerge. Everyone thinks she’s dead, but Faith knows better. . . . Will she make a reappearance?
As Faith tries to balance her quest with a memorable senior year and the heartbreak of Grandma Lou’s increasing decline, she learns to have faith in herself—and that sometimes fate will point you in the right direction.
Release date: November 2, 2021
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Print pages: 304
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Faith: Greater Heights
“I really have to go first?” I ask again.
Ches nods with certainty. “You’re the most likely to back out, and there’s no way Matt and I are getting matching BFF tattoos only for you to chicken out at the last minute.”
I hold one hand up. “I’ll remind you both that I’ve run into an actual burning building to save puppies.”
“And people,” Matt adds.
“And people,” I confirm. “I am the definition of ‘not a chicken.’ Besides, having a fear of needles is totally normal.”
Ches takes my hand. “We know that you’re not actually a chicken. Just when it comes to needles.”
“This the one you want?” Matilda, the petite tattoo artist with pink spiky hair, asks. Her voice is more gravelly than her appearance would lead you to believe. Her makeup is dark and dramatic and completely hides the person underneath. I wonder for the thousandth time on this trip if this is what happened to Colleen after the fire. Is she somewhere out here hiding beneath pink hair and bold makeup? Would I even recognize her if I saw her again? I hope so. And I hope she’s okay, wherever she is.
Matilda waits for my answer as she holds a stencil of the wings the three of us picked from the wall of designs. Not quite angelic enough to be angel wings, but strong and powerful still.
I nod. “Me first, I guess.”
“Let’s see your IDs,” Matilda says, and for the first time in my life, I realize that my ID is about to open a door that has been shut for all eighteen years of my life. A door of needles and permanence.
We each dig into our pockets and proudly hand them over. I’m pretty sure that getting matching tattoos with your high school best friends ranks high on the list of regrets for many people, but after last semester and all that the three of us have been through, I can’t see myself regretting this. I just wish someone would knock me out for the whole needle-poking-my-skin-over-and-over-again part.
“You know,” I say, “it’s not too late for us to just get those matching buttons at the Spam Museum instead. Buttons can be forever too. . . .”
“While I do indeed heart spam,” Matt says, “I think I’m ready to commemorate our friendship in a slightly more permanent way—and one that will make my mother say, ‘Matthew James, what in God’s name did you do to your body?’” His voice goes comically high and sounds nothing like Mrs. Delgado.
I snort as I glance at my phone. “I should check in with Grandma Lou.”
Ches grips my wrist. “You called forty-five minutes ago and she was just as fine then as she was forty-five minutes before that.”
This was, of course, Ches’s idea in the first place. When Matt finally turned eighteen on Valentine’s Day, she said we should get ink to bind us together before we all head off in different directions next year—even if I don’t quite know what direction I’m heading. Spring break was the natural time to do it. Our epic plan was to road-trip—a visit to all the great roadside attractions Minnesota has to offer. It would be our first sort-of grown-up expedition without any adult supervision. And because I am definitely a chicken, I’ve been putting off our date with a tattoo gun until our very final day.
“Faith?” calls Matilda from her station, where she’s suiting up with black latex gloves as she snaps them against her wrist like a war doctor going in for battle. “You’re up, babe.”
“Can my friends come with me?” I ask, eyeing the little gate separating us from the actual tattooing section.
“Normally just one at a time, but what the hell? You three get back here.” She waves us through the gate and into an Actual Adult Decision.
The three of us shuffle in and I sit in the tattoo chair, which reminds me of the dentist, which is . . . not good.
“I’m scared of needles,” I blurt.
Ches sits on the opposite side of me and takes my hand. Her long, bony fingers weave through mine and her grown-out bob tickles my cheeks as she places a quick kiss on my forehead.
“You and a third of the population,” Matilda says. “Just don’t look. It makes a major difference. And you got your besties to distract you. I can stop at any time. Just say so.” She holds the stencil up. “Now for this part I need you to look. Where is this beauty going?”
I point to the exact spot on my forearm where I want the tattoo.
She presses the sheet down so that the outline can transfer. “The skin is a little more tender here, so just remember to breathe.” She pulls the sheet back. “How does it look?”
There on my pale inner arm just below my elbow crease is an outline of wings no larger than a silver dollar. A constant reminder of my life-changing ability. The wings were Matt’s idea. I protested, saying if it was going to be something we all shared, it should be something we have in common. Not only about me. He smiled simply and said, “Faith, we were helping each other fly long before you became a psiot and did it for real.”
I’m still getting used to my best friends even knowing what a psiot is, let alone using it in reference to me. It was over Christmas break when I finally revealed the secret I’d been holding on to for months: that after undergoing an activation procedure, I was identified as a subspecies of humans with advanced abilities that manifest in many different ways. For me, it was flying and eventually learning that I can (sort of) control the force field that surrounds me.
But Matt was right. He and Ches had been my best friends since long before I even knew what a psiot was. I don’t know what I would have done without them over these last few months with Grandma Lou’s health declining, thanks to her Alzheimer’s diagnosis last fall. Then there’s the ever-elusive Peter going MIA yet again. Peter might have saved me from Toyo Harada and his Harbinger Foundation last summer when my power was activated and I was very nearly turned into another one of Harada’s psiot pawns. And the only evidence that Dakota Ash was ever actually a part of my life are the handful of leaked episodes of The Grove that were filmed in Glenwood before the whole show was put on hiatus when Dakota and the showrunner-creator, and my former idol, Margaret Toliver, got caught up in a drug ring right here in Glenwood and vanished soon after I caught both of them. I wouldn’t have made it through any of that without Ches and Matt. They’re not just my friends. They’re my family. My wings.
“How does it look?” I ask them, holding my stenciled arm out for inspection.
Ches squeezes my hand and Matt nods eagerly.
I lean back and close my eyes. “Do it,” I tell Matilda.
“Ches, read the care instructions once more,” I tell her, as Matt pulls off the highway exit for Glenwood.
Each of us wear our bandages proudly. Matt on the interior of his wrist, Ches just below her collarbone, and me on my forearm.
“You need to chill,” Ches says. “It’s not going to get infected. It’s like you overcame your fear of needles only to discover a new thing to obsess over.”
Matt eyes me in the rearview mirror. “Warm water, unscented soap, and moisturize as needed. Let it flake off. No picking,” he recites from memory.
I exhale deeply and dig around in the back seat for more trash to throw away. After a week of roadtripping in Matt’s car, it definitely has a specific smell—old fast food, gas station air fresheners, and the caramel latte Ches accidentally spilled on the floorboard. It probably doesn’t smell great to someone who hasn’t lived in it for the past week, and I don’t know what it says about me that I actually like it, but I do. I’m a little sad that it’s all coming to an end.
“I wonder what Grandma Lou is going to say.”
“That you’re a badass,” Ches says, full of confidence. And I think she’s not wrong.
As we roll into my driveway, I notice a shiny red Cadillac parked on the street, with a large magnet on the car door advertising Cedar Hills Retirement Community.
“Did Grandma Lou get a new ride?” Matt asks.
“Uh, no. She’s on strict orders from her doctor not to drive.” I look down at all the trash still in the back seat, panic sinking in my chest. I shouldn’t have gone. She was too quick to say yes. I should have known she was up to something.
“Go,” Ches says, keying in to the dip in my mood. “I’ll help Matt get all this stuff cleaned up.”
I nod quickly and fish my duffel bag out of the trunk before taking the front steps two at a time. Sparing my friends a quick wave, I open the front door and dump my bag on the floor. “Who the heck is parked outside our house?” I demand.
Sitting at the kitchen table across from Grandma Lou and Miss Ella, my grandmother’s longtime best friend and nosy neighbor, is an older man with narrow eyes and bushy gray brows. He smiles widely at the sight of me, and I know it’s meant to be a warm gesture, but something about his exaggerated features reminds me of a caricature at a carnival.
“Well, you’re just about as polite as a stampede of elephants, aren’t you?” Miss Ella asks with a dry smile.
“Oh, Faith, you’re home early! Come, come.” Grandma Lou pulls out the chair beside her. “This is George from Cedar Hills. He came by to talk to us a little about their assisted living facilities.”
Miss Ella and Grandma Lou share a look, like they’ve been caught. And they have been! There’s no reason for Grandma Lou to be looking into assisted living. This wasn’t supposed to happen until after graduation. It’s too soon. She’s still so much . . . herself. And more importantly, I’m still here. With her.
“Nice to meet you, Faith. I’ve heard so much about you.” George stands. “I was just finishing up, actually. Lou, I’ll leave you with plenty of literature. We’d be happy to set up a tour for you and Faith as well.” He turns to me. “We have a really lovely facility. She’ll never want to leave.”
“Said every villain ever,” I say without thinking.
“Faith,” Miss Ella chides. “Manners!”
“George, thank you so much,” Grandma Lou says. “I’ll give this a think.”
I don’t take my eyes off him as Miss Ella walks him to the door. He’s too tall, too smooth for a man his age. Everything about him is suspicious.
“Well, tell me all about your great big trip,” Grandma Lou says, trying to change the subject.
“You can’t move,” I say, and I’m surprised to find that even though I’m angry, my voice sounds sad. Betrayed.
Grandma Lou sighs, frowning regretfully. “Faith, darling, it’s time. I know it’s hard to think about, but you’re grown enough now to finish out your senior year on your own, and Miss Ella will be right next door. You can visit me as much as you want and—”
“What about a live-in nurse? One who could come during the day when I’m at school, and then I’ll be here at night.” Even though I know how poorly the interviews for a daytime home care nurse went when we tried to hire one back in December.
“Listen to the woman, Faith,” Ella says, abruptly reentering the room. She gathers the coffee cups and takes them to the sink.
“Is that all I’m supposed to do? Listen? Don’t I get a say?” Anger boils up in me. At both of them, because they did this on purpose. They cut me out. “I can’t believe you went behind my back and did this!”
“Faith . . .” Grandma Lou’s voice is thick with hurt.
“Now wait a minute.” Miss Ella spins around and flips a dish towel over her shoulder. “This woman has sacrificed so much for you over the years, and now she’s decided how she’d like to live out her remaining years while she still has the mind to do so. The least you can do is respect that and show a little gratitude.”
“Ella, that’s enough,” Grandma Lou says with a soft sternness. “I’ll see to those dishes. You head on home.”
Ella throws her arms up, like she’s washing her hands of us. “I’ve said my piece.”
Once she’s gone, Grandma Lou stands carefully and makes her way to the sink. I watch her like I’ve never watched her before. Looking for signs I might have missed. But she’s just like I remember her: a little hunched, a little slow, and a little ornery.
“You should go and unpack,” she says, taking over the dishes Ella left behind. “We can talk about this again a little later. I want to hear all about your trip when you’ve had a minute to settle back in.”
I nod, my gaze unmoving from the stack of pamphlets George left behind. And even though she’s standing right here, in her cozy little kitchen, the house already feels entirely too empty.
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