"Part teen drama, part horror story... Readers will want to finish in one sitting." —Kirkus Reviews
A music fest goes wrong in Lorence Alison's comic YA thriller Solstice as selfie-mad concert-goers wake up to realize their tropical island fantasy is a deadly nightmare.
When Adri is offered an all-expenses-paid trip to the exclusive Solstice Festival, she throws caution, her prestigious summer internship, and her parents goodwill to the wind. She just wants to live a little before the first day of the rest of her life, planned and scheduled in accordance with her parents’ law school dreams.
But when she and a horde of affluent, entitled teen partiers arrive at the island paradise, it looks nothing like the luxury vacation they were promised. There’s barely any food, nowhere to stay, and not nearly enough porta-potties. Pretty soon, the festival is trending on social media for all the wrong reasons, and the music acts are cancelling left and right.
And then the first dead body washes up on the beach.
Adri has a front-row seat as everything devolves into chaos—and she's in a prime position to put together the clues to who—or what—is killing off the helpless attendees. But even if she finds the killer, how can she hope to stop them?
Check your privilege at the door—before it gets you killed. This is one vacation you can’t escape.
An Imprint Book
"Topical, tropical—and terrifying! A fast-paced read that will have you on the edge of your seat."
—Caleb Roehrig, author of Death Prefers Blondes
Release date: February 18, 2020
Print pages: 288
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I WISH I COULD SAY that table nine was grateful when I set down the heavy tray of eggs, pancakes, Belgian waffles, and other random brunch items at their booth, but that would be a lie. Everyone at the table—they were college students, probably jonesing for sustenance to ease their hangovers—was staring intently at a video on a cell phone. They were so agape I thought something awful had happened—an assassination, a terrorist attack, the death of a major celebrity. But as I set down the scruffy-haired guy’s western omelet and hot tea, I noticed it was a YouTube video shot on a pretty island beach. I figured it was a music video, but then I saw the logo: The Solstice Festival.
Oh, right. I’d heard about that.
Ms. One Egg White, No Toast, Black Coffee, and Large Fruit Platter—who was as skinny as you’d imagine—pressed her long, lithe fingers to the sides of her face. “Do you think this concert is for real? Lavender, Jay-Z, and Cardi B, all in one place?” She breathed in sharply. “I literally might die!”
“The weekend is after our exams,” her seatmate, a tall, gangly guy with a buzz cut said as he dug ravenously into his steaming bowl of steel-cut oatmeal—without, I might add, thanking me for delivering it. “If I got to party with Ice Cube, my summer would be made.”
“Do you really think the artists are going to have open-invite parties on their yachts?” Egg Whites cried, goggle-eyed.
“That’s what this says.” Scruffy Hair pushed his giant iPhone across the table. The title of the article read “The Music Festival for the 1%.” It was from a clickbait site, I noticed, and not a reputable news organization, like the New York Times or the Journal-Constitution.
“I’m going to ask for this as an end-of-the-school-year present,” said the fourth person at the table, an athletic girl with dangling gold hoop earrings. At least she’d cast me an appreciative smile when I set down her French toast. “But do you think there are still tickets available? And what about flights?”
“The flights will kick the cost well over ten thousand for sure.” Ms. Egg Whites daintily bit off a tiny piece of melon. “And my parents are still pissed at me for crashing the Mini Cooper they got me for graduation—”
“Oh please, they can’t say no,” Scruffy Hair interrupted. “It’s the concert of a lifetime. Surely they went to a concert of a lifetime when they were young? Like Woodstock or whatever?”
Egg Whites shot him a look. “My parents aren’t seventy.”
That was it. I could no longer resist. “I’m sorry,” I blurted as I placed a pitcher of maple syrup next to the ketchup. “But did you just say tickets to that music festival cost ten thousand dollars?”
Everyone looked up at me as if I’d dropped a dead mouse beside the salt and pepper shakers. I didn’t know what I’d done wrong—expressing astonishment over the steep price? From what I’d observed in people like this, wrinkling one’s nose at all things expensive was a major faux pas. Or was it the fact that I, the waitress, a lesser person in their eyes, dared to speak … period?
I got attitude from these students sometimes. The private Atlanta liberal arts college closest to my parents’ diner attracted wealthy and, let’s face it, spoiled teens who’d usually never worked a day in their lives—unless it was a cushy internship at their dad’s law firm or something, earning twenty dollars an hour for sitting around and every so often answering a phone. Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt; they had no perspective, insulated in their little bubbles as they were. But let’s be honest—they were often rude to people who were only trying to make their lives seamless and easy. Don’t get me wrong, they were good for our neighborhood’s economy, buying up two-hundred-dollar T-shirts in the boutique my friend Andrea’s mom owned up the street, ordering Uber all hours of the night because they didn’t want to walk home from the bars in their pinchy heels—and, more often than not, it was guys from the neighborhood who picked them up, Uber stickers on their dashboards.
But they also looked at everyone who wasn’t like them with suspicion … and even disdain. I wished I could tell them that I could run rings around them academically. Then again, they’d probably just stare at me as blankly as they were staring now. Perhaps they thought I didn’t know English. I didn’t want to be obnoxious, and I didn’t want to stereotype, but you try slogging through ungrateful shifts in this diner … and, well, maybe you’d be a little jaded, too.
I lifted my empty tray. “Anything else?” I muttered. My cheeks were burning. When no one said anything, I stormed to the kitchen, feeling humiliated, though I wasn’t sure why. I’d asked them a totally legit question. Paying ten grand for a music festival made no sense to me, even if it was a whole bunch of cool artists on the roster and even if you did get the opportunity to party on a yacht with the bands.
“Adri!” my mother cried as I passed the hostess stand. “Come here for a sec, sweetie?”
My mom, Marguerite Sanchez, had an overexcited grin. Long ago, she’d declared she no longer wanted to work in the kitchen because bacon grease was giving her wrinkly skin, so she took over as hostess, which meant she got to gossip with all the customers. A tall, slender, freckled woman in dark-framed glasses stood with her. My mom pointed at the stranger eagerly, as though she was a celebrity. “Honey, you remember Mrs. O’Hara, don’t you? She worked as an aide in your elementary school?”
I groaned internally. Here it comes. Every shift I worked, I prayed no one would come that we knew, but we’d lived on this block our whole lives, and our family diner had been here almost as long. And my mother was always looking for a way to humble-brag about my accomplishments.
My mom squeezed my wrist eagerly. “Tell her what you’re up to, Adrianna! Tell her about college!”
Mrs. O’Hara turned to me, smiling patiently. I didn’t recognize her, but then who recognized their aides from elementary school? “Oh, I don’t want to jinx it,” I said sheepishly. “It’s not a sure thing yet.”
“Oh please!” My mother turned to Mrs. O’Hara. “She’s interning at Richards, Canopy, and Cairl this summer—you should have seen the essay she wrote to get the job! And one of the lawyer’s wives is on the admissions board at Emory, which means Adri is a shoo-in!”
“My, my!” Mrs. O’Hara said. “Emory! How impressive!”
“Adri works so hard.” My mother looped an arm around me, and I smelled her familiar scents—Dove soap, cinnamon gum, and, for some reason, oatmeal cookies, even though no one in our house eats them. “We’re finally going to have a lawyer in our family. Of course, my husband wants her to go into medicine, but I just don’t know. The malpractice insurance alone … and the stress!”
I hated when my mom got on this particular tear. It was 2020, music festivals were costing 10K a pop, women were CEOs and fed up and kicking ass, and yet I, Adrianna Sanchez, had no say in my future career. And my mom wanted the whole world to know it.
See, in my family, my destiny had always been mapped out like it was a square on the Game of Life board: Once I graduated from college, I would spin the rainbow wheel, and whatever number I landed on would determine whether I’d become a doctor or a lawyer. (Teacher and accountant were also job choices in the Life game, but those weren’t options for me.) It didn’t matter that I’d dropped lots of hints saying I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer. If I dared to bring up that I wanted to be a journalist—like when that guy in the CNN ID badge came into the diner for lunch and I screwed up my confidence to talk to him—my parents would just laugh it off. Or worse, they would look at me hard, their foreheads wrinkled, and say, indignantly, “Why have we been busting our butts for all these years if you’re just going to be a reporter?”
“Anyway, nice to see you,” I said to Mrs. O’Hara. I looked apologetically at my mom. “I gotta go. There’s … toast burning.” It was the first excuse I could think of.
As I hustled through the double doors to the kitchen, steam from the dishwasher hit me like a wall. Pots and pans clanged, and there were thick, pungent, comforting smells from the fryer and stovetop. Jamieson, our dishwasher, hummed as he sprayed syrup off plates. Patty, our prepper, diced tomatoes with knife skills as deft as a chef on the Food Network. My father, Roberto, stood at the stove, simultaneously flipping pancakes and cracking a jumbo brown egg onto the griddle. Dad reminded me of an octopus when he multitasked, a tornado of flipping and stirring and sautéing and browning. In the fifteen years since my parents bought this diner, he’d never allowed anyone else to cook. He claimed it was because he was a micromanager, but in truth, he loved every minute of it.
My father turned, catching my eye—and seemingly noticing my glum expression. His brow knitted in concern, but I hurried away before he could ask me what was wrong. He could always read me better than my mom. I knew Mom meant well, but sometimes the Emory/lawyer talk put me into a funk. I did want to go to Emory—that much was true. And I knew my parents wanted the best for me. They’d saved their whole lives, forgoing all sorts of luxuries first to purchase the diner, and then to send me to a decent private school in our neighborhood—not my older sister, mind you, just me. “Because you’re smart,” my mother told me in confidence once. “Because you’re different.”
We skipped vacations and spendy Christmases so I could go to Huntley Academy. I did without name-brand clothes, and my mom drove around in a zillion-year-old Hyundai. I loved my private school, and it had been worth it … but now it was like my parents were expecting something in exchange for all their sacrifices: a daughter who did exactly what they wanted. Which was fine when it was delivering trays of eggs over easy and blueberry pancakes to snotty, hungry people—I liked working at the diner, most of the time. But it was different when it came to the rest of my life.
“Adri?” My mother poked her head through the double doors.
I straightened up. “Yeah?”
“Can you watch the hostess stand? I gotta pee.”
“Sure.” I wiped my hands on my apron and headed back out to the front. The hostess stand was littered with evidence of my mother: her old iPhone, clad in its cherry-red case, a copy of War and Peace—she’d heard somewhere that reading big, important novels could stave off Alzheimer’s—and, beneath that, a laminated menu, which had a picture of the diner on the cover. Our family’s restaurant wasn’t in an old classic Airstream trailer, but the outside was still pretty cool, with retro neon bars lining the roof and spelling out things like EAT and TAKEOUT and MAJESTIC, which was the name of the place when my parents bought it. My mother was an expert with Peruvian food, but my parents had decided the dishes we served at home might be a little too … adventurous for this neighborhood. So we stuck with what the diner was serving before: burgers, fries, breakfast all day. We kept the decor the same, too: The inside had checkerboard floors and bright-red tables. A jukebox stocked with Elvis and Patsy Cline and other oldies stood against the far wall. For a while, my parents even had the waitresses wear fifties-style poodle skirts, but when I came aboard, I put my foot down, saying that no woman had ever wanted to traipse around carrying heavy trays in thick wool midi skirts and three-inch heels. It wasn’t like the lone man waiter, a guy we’d known for years named Hal, wore a poodle skirt when he took everyone’s orders.
The bells on the front door jingled. When I saw who was walking in, I ducked. Why was he here?
“Hello?” his voice called. I could sense him standing above me, staring at the top of my head.
I rose slowly from behind the hostess stand, pretending I had a perfectly good reason for crouching on the ground. “Hey,” I said, tucking my hair behind my ear, praying my smile wasn’t too twitchy and weird. “I was just … there was something on the floor…”
“It’s cool,” he—Hayden Collins—said, with an irresistible grin.
Hayden Collins. Tall—as in taller than most heads walking down the hall in my school. Thick eyebrows. Green-gray eyes that seemed to change color depending on what he was wearing. A square jaw, broad shoulders, a quirky smile. I cursed not spending a little more time on my hair this morning. I also cursed the fact that I had a big chocolate smear on my Galaxy Diner T-shirt.
“I thought you worked here,” Hayden said, smiling.
I wanted to gasp. Hayden was … thinking about me? “Yep, guilty as charged,” I heard myself say. “So … what’s up? You want some food?” Duh, Adri! my brain shouted. Of course he wants food! He’s at a diner!
Hayden pointed to the kitchen doors. “I ordered takeout. Apparently you guys make a mean egg sandwich.”
“You like egg sandwiches?” I blurted. “Me too.” Oh God. Stop talking. Just stop right now.
But Hayden just nodded. “Oh yeah. I could eat eggs for every meal. In sandwiches, in salads … even in ice cream.”
“Egg ice cream?” I asked, giggling.
Hayden winked. “And egg on a celery stick. Egg pretzel.”
“Egg burgers,” I suggested, getting into it. “Egg toothpaste.”
“Egg toothpaste,” Hayden repeated, stroking his chin like he was really thinking this through. “I like it. Don’t think it would give you fresh breath, though.”
We grinned at each other. Hayden had a goofy side. I liked that.
Then Hayden’s eyes fell to the book on the hostess stand. “You like Tolstoy?”
“Oh.” I touched the plastic cover of the library book, and it crinkled. “My mom’s reading this. But I’ve read it, too.”
His mouth twisted. “Of course you have. You’ve read everything.”
I could feel the heat rising into my face. He knew this about me?
“No, it’s cool,” Hayden added, noting my red cheeks. “I work as a lifeguard at the rec center, and I wish I could read on the stands. But it’s not allowed. They say it might distract me from noticing if people were drowning.”
I giggled again. “Well, that would be kind of terrible.”
I felt myself leaning a little closer. It seemed like he was leaning closer to me, too. My heart thumped wildly. I hadn’t wanted to read too much into it at the time, but after our calculus final, when I came out the school’s front doors, Hayden was … there. Waiting, it seemed … for me. He’d fallen into step beside me, chattering about the questions, asking how I thought I’d done, asking what classes I was taking next year.
I told myself it wasn’t a big deal. Hayden was just being friendly. I didn’t have a lot of experience with guys—it had always been drilled into my head that I could concentrate on guys later … that now was for school and working hard and getting somewhere. So I didn’t know the cues.
“So,” Hayden said now, propping his elbow on the stand. Behind him, I noticed that Ms. One Egg White had twisted around and was looking at Hayden with interest. I felt a little zing of satisfaction. “You going to Quinn’s party tonight?”
“Uh…” I’d been invited to Quinn Carey’s party—all of the Huntley juniors had. It was supposed to be epic: She had a huge swimming pool, a local band was coming to play, and I’m sure there’d be booze. It would be a mini Solstice Festival, actually—without the ten-thousand-dollar price tag.
I was about to tell him sure when I heard a voice behind me. “What party?”
My mother burst out of the kitchen, wiping her wet hands on her jeans. A brown takeout bag with a handwritten receipt stapled to the front dangled from her left hand. “A party?” she repeated, looking at me with narrowed eyes.
“Just this … end-of-school thing,” I said meekly, wanting to melt into the checkerboard floor. “I won’t be out late.”
My mother set her mouth in a line. “You’re meeting with Michael at the law firm in the morning, so that’s probably not a good idea.” Then she looked at Hayden, a businesslike smile on her face. “Are you picking up for Collins?”
Hayden nodded. She thrust the bag at him and punched the total into the register. A couple stepped through the front door just then, waiting to be served. My mother shot me a warning look, then scrambled off to seat them. This meant I’d have a few seconds with Hayden to myself, but I could tell that was exactly what my mom didn’t want.
I could feel him looking at me curiously. “Michael at the law firm?” he asked. “You suing someone?”
“No!” I cried, aghast, though I knew he was kidding. “I have this summer internship,” I muttered glumly. “Of all the annoying things, the guy I’m working with wants to train me on a Sunday.”
“That sucks.” Hayden sounded genuinely disappointed. “But that’s impressive. An internship at a law firm will look way better on a college application than my boring lifeguarding.”
“Yeah, well, I’d rather lifeguard,” I said under my breath, nudging the register closed with my elbow. “Actually, what I’d really want to do is…” I trailed off, then shrugged.
“Is what?” Hayden goaded me.
His eyes were on me, which gave me a little jolt just below my belly button. “Forget it,” I muttered. I felt silly telling him about the internship I’d seen posted on CNN.com. It was something I’d desperately wanted to apply for. My advisor at the student newspaper, Mr. Richards, said I should. The ad probably wasn’t even up anymore, though. I’m sure they’d filled the position.
My mother stood at the far end of the aisle, hands on her hips. The people who’d just arrived were ready to order, so I had to do my job. My mother’s eyes flicked from Hayden to me, then back again.
I sighed, then gave Hayden a weary smile. “Back to work, I guess.”
“Good luck,” Hayden said, eyeing up my mother like perhaps he understood her type. “And I’m sorry you aren’t coming tonight. Seriously.”
“Me too.” Abruptly, ridiculously, I felt like I might cry. God, Adrianna, do not cry.
Suddenly Hayden pulled out his cell phone and started tapping. My spirits sank—maybe I wasn’t interesting anymore—but then I felt a buzz in my pocket, my own phone telling me I had an alert. Hayden gave me a cryptic wave before grabbing his takeout and turning for the door. I pulled my phone out and saw that someone named HHTK had followed my Instagram and sent me a DM. When I clicked on the profile picture, Hayden’s own face stared back at me. I widened my eyes in surprise. Then I looked at the DM.
It was great to see you. Here’s my cell.
My heart flipped. I wanted to text him with a dozen heart emojis right that second.
When I looked up, I could feel my mother’s steely, judging gaze. I tucked my phone back into my jeans pocket, trying to temper my glee. As she and I passed each other in the narrow aisle that separated the line of booths, I expected she’d be frosty, standoffish, maybe even angry, but instead she suddenly grabbed me in a strong, crushing hug.
I let out a bleat of surprise. My mother patted my back. She rested her head on my shoulder for a millisecond. Make no mistake—this wasn’t a hug that said, It’s okay. You can have a boyfriend. It was more like, I know I’m hard on you, baby. I know I suck the fun out of things sometimes. But it’s because we love you.
And what can I say? I loved her, too.
From the Solstice website:
Welcome, friends, explorers, pirates, and party people! This is the official site of the SOLSTICE MUSIC FESTIVAL taking place on the beautiful Caribbean Myla Island on June 19–21! Yes, we know those dates have popped up quick and you might have to rearrange your schedule, but we have a good thing going down here, so let’s make this HAPPEN!
If you are coming, please peruse the website for which items to bring and what you can leave to us. (Bring: bug spray, medications, chill vibes only. Leave to us: a decadent experience that challenges the borders of the impossible!) Please note: All travel arrangements must be made through private carriers. Also, you MUST fly to MYLA ISLAND AIRPORT. Those who fly to Myla will be brought to the Solstice Festival by private limousine. Your chariot awaits!
Check out our official Twitter account: @SolsticeFestZa
@JaredJ1920: Wow. By limo? Nice! Takes some of the sting out of the ridic price tag!
@DiamondsZ20: I’d much prefer a Range Rover.
@MoniMone: Are those girls in the YouTube ad going to be there? PLEASE SAY YES!
@_jbird43: Heard a rumor that Blink-182 is going to play a pop-up concert? Need deets!
@redflagatnight: I heard tix are already sold out. Scalpers selling at double the price. Still interested!
@BLankin: Dude, that island is infested with sea monsters! Abort abort abort!
@ruskybex99: @BLankin stop being a troll! Sea monsters? What you smoking?
@UlrichGreen1: @BLankin Uh do you realize how amazing a sea monster selfie would be? Think positive!
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