Courtney Gould’s thrilling YA debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect. The Dark has been waiting―and it won't stay hidden any longer. Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just come to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV's ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before. But the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there's more than ghosts plaguing this small town. Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his ghost following her ever since. Although everyone shuns the Ortiz-Woodleys, the mysterious Logan may be the only person who can help Ashley get some answers. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who―or what―is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness
Release date: August 3, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Print pages: 352
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Listen to a sample
The Dead and the Dark
BRANDON VOICEOVER: We’re back in the basement of the Calloway House in New Prague, Minnesota. Local legend says that Agatha Calloway once used this basement for satanic rituals, but no evidence to back up such claims has been found. While the daytime tour of the house turned up no unusual readings, Alejo and I return to the basement at night to see what spirits might linger between these walls.
ALEJO: Brandon, did you feel that? It was here.
[Alejo shakes his head, eyes color-inverted by the infrared camera. He waves a hand through the air in front of him, clutching his chest with the other. Brandon tentatively approaches. He adjusts his spectacles and powers up a clunky device.]
BRANDON: What did it do? What did it feel like?
[Alejo is silent.]
[Alejo’s grip tightens on the stitching of his cardigan. His eyelids flutter shut and he collapses against the wall.]
ALEJO: It went through me. God, it’s so cold.
[Brandon takes Alejo’s hands. The ThermoGeist Temperature Detection device flashes a startling shade of blue between their fingers, detecting an anomaly nearby. The two men look tenderly into each other’s eyes.]
BRANDON: We’ll survive. We’ve been through worse.
Logan scoffed and shoved another balled-up turtleneck into her suitcase. We’ve been through worse. She seriously doubted it. She’d seen every episode of this show, from the haunted windmill to the satanic rock museum to the toilet that doubled as a portal to hell, and this was the corniest one yet. ParaSpectors never shied from melodrama, but as the show crawled into its sixth season, these cheesy tear-jerker moments seemed to come every other episode. Logan wasn’t sure if it was the network’s idea or just her fathers’ penchant for drama.
She pulled two packed suitcases from the pyramid of bags at her feet and walked them into the hallway. Other than Brandon and Alejo muttering back and forth on the TV, the house was quiet. Logan sulked back into her bedroom and stood at the second-story bay window. White morning sun glinted off the surface of the swimming pool. Beyond her backyard, sprawling geometric houses rolled down the valley one after the other. She pressed her fingertips to the window and closed her eyes.
She really didn’t want to leave LA.
Behind her, boots crunched the loose popcorn kernels littering her carpet. Alejo Ortiz—the Alejo Ortiz of ghost-hunting fame—leaned against her bedroom door. Between his half-up black hair and lanky frame, he looked like he’d been plucked right from Logan’s TV. He surveyed her luggage, holding his phone walkie-talkie style. The real Alejo held himself differently than the one on TV. He was quieter, less dramatic, always slouched like he was trying to hear a little clearer.
“The lady of the house is in good shape,” Alejo said into his phone. He swept the popcorn kernels out of the doorway with the edge of his boot and raised a brow at Logan like the mess was their little secret. “We’ve got a few more suitcases to load up, then we can hit the road.”
“Nice.” Brandon’s tinny voice crackled on the other end of the line. “No bodies under the mattress?”
Alejo chuckled. “The dirty clothes put up a fight, but we showed them who’s boss.”
Logan rolled her eyes and kept packing. The cheesy FaceTime chats had been a daily fixture for the last six months. Every year, when ParaSpectors wrapped shooting for the season, Brandon and Alejo flew straight home while the production team set off to scout newer, “spookier” locations. But this year, Brandon had different plans.
“How’s Snakebite treating you?” Alejo asked.
“Same as always. It’s like nothing’s changed in thirteen years.” Brandon cleared his throat. “Except the snow. That’s finally cleared up, though.”
Snakebite, the rural Oregon ranching town where Logan’s fathers grew up, was the kind of place with no pictures on Google. It was a blip on the map, a tiny scratch of farmland torn into a sea of yellow hills. According to Brandon, it was the perfect place to film the next ParaSpectors season premiere. But what started as a week of location scouting turned into a month. The network threw the ParaSpectors wrap party for season six and Brandon wasn’t there. Alejo celebrated his forty-second birthday alone. Logan graduated from high school and Brandon watched from a spotty FaceTime call. A month turned into six and Logan wondered if Brandon planned to ever come home.
She was no expert on location scouting, but she was pretty sure it didn’t take six months for a single episode.
Something was off.
And then, last week, Alejo had announced that if Snakebite was keeping Brandon away, they would just take themselves to Snakebite. LA wasn’t home by any means—they’d only been in this house for a few years—but she’d lived here longer than she’d lived anywhere else. Just as she’d gotten used to the city, it was being snatched away.
Logan put a hand on her hip. “If you’re gonna stand here, can you help me move some of these?”
“Sure thing,” Alejo said. “Hold your dad.”
He passed his phone to Logan and grabbed a suitcase in each hand. Logan gave Brandon a brief glance; his short crop of dark hair was a bit more unruly than usual, but his thick-rimmed glasses and perpetual semi-frown were unchanged. He looked just as half dead as she remembered. He flashed a tense smile. “Hey, you.”
“Enjoying summer vacation?”
Logan blinked. “It’s not really vacation. I graduated. It’s kinda just … summer.”
Logan stared at Brandon and Brandon stared back. She grasped for something else to say but came up blank. With anyone else, conversation came as easy as breathing, but with Brandon it was always harder. She glanced at the hallway, then back at Brandon. “I should help Dad.”
She tossed the phone on her naked mattress and grabbed another handful of bags.
Brandon cleared his throat. “The drive will be worth it. I forgot how scenic it is up here. Lots of space.”
“I’m super looking forward to seventeen hours of bluegrass on the way up,” Logan groaned.
“Hey,” Alejo snapped from the hallway. “Don’t diss my music. And it’s nineteen hours to Snakebite. We have time for show tunes, too.”
Logan pictured Snakebite: big trucks, one-story houses, twangy country music thundering from every direction. She was sure her family was going to increase the queer population by 300 percent. It would be just like the hundreds of other small towns she’d been to growing up. Until she was fourteen, their little family hadn’t actually “lived” anywhere. They’d been creatures of the road, setting up camp in town after town while Brandon and Alejo busted ghosts and channeled the dead for small change. And while Brandon and Alejo peddled their services, Logan was by herself. From one motel room to the next, she was always alone.
That was the thing with the Ortiz-Woodleys. Even after her dads made it big with ParaSpectors, even after they bought the LA house for “stability,” even after Logan settled in and went to a public school for the first time in her life, it was like one extended base camp. Even if Alejo and Brandon promised that Snakebite was only temporary, packing up and leaving LA was a reminder that this had never been home.
Logan knew better than to think any of this was permanent.
“When do you think you’ll head out?” Brandon’s muffled voice asked.
“I’d say we’re about ready,” Alejo said. He scanned the room for his phone, raising a brow at Logan when he spotted it on the bed.
“Is it too late to run?” Logan nudged her backpack with the side of her boot. “I’ve got granola bars and fizzy water in here. I think I could make it in the wilderness.”
“The wilderness of West Hollywood?” Alejo scooped his phone from the mattress and turned to face the TV. “God, I wish you wouldn’t watch these.”
BRANDON VOICEOVER: With Alejo down for the count, I’m forced to continue the investigation on my own. I use the SonusX to detect any ghostly voices in the basement.
BRANDON: Spirit, we’re not here to hurt you. Please don’t attack us. Don’t attack my husband. We’re here to help you move on.
GHOSTLY VOICE: Who are you that disturbs me?
BRANDON: Brandon Woodley.
[Brandon kneels beside Alejo, placing a hand on his shoulder.]
BRANDON: And my husband, Alejo Ortiz. We’re here to—
“Okay, off,” Logan said. She snatched the remote and turned off the TV.
In only a few trips, she and Alejo moved the last of the suitcases to the minivan in the driveway. Alejo tucked his phone into the back pocket of his jeans, Brandon’s hairline just visible on a sliver of the screen. In the summer sun, the lime-green ParaSpectors logo tattooed on the side of the van was almost blinding.
Alejo slammed the trunk closed and slapped the top of the van in classic dad style. “All packed. Logan, any last words for your dad before we rock ’n’ roll?”
He extended the phone to her and the screen lit up expectantly.
Logan leaned in close. “See you in nineteen hours.”
Alejo took the phone back and walked to the other side of the van. Quietly, he asked, “Have you found anything else?”
“Not yet,” Brandon sighed. “There’s, uh … People are getting nervous. I’m getting nervous. The timing isn’t ideal.”
Logan narrowed her eyes.
Outside the van, Alejo nodded. He whispered something unintelligible into the phone, then turned the screen to face Logan. “Well, as our extremely eloquent child said, see you in nineteen hours.”
“Love you,” Brandon said, though it wasn’t clear if he meant both of them or just Alejo.
“Love you, too,” Alejo said. With a half smile, he ended the call.
Logan shuffled through her phone and queued up nineteen hours of her favorite podcast before slumping into the passenger seat. Alejo pocketed his phone and climbed behind the wheel.
Once they were situated, he sighed. “So, before we take off, I feel like I need to clear the air. Snakebite isn’t like LA. They’re … insular is a good word for it. When we get there, we have to remember that family’s the most important thing.”
Logan blinked. “Okay? We’ve been to small towns before.”
“Yeah, but this is a little different. I know things aren’t always easy with you and your dad, but in Snakebite it’s really important that we all try to get along.”
Logan gave a dismissive hand-wave. “What’re they gonna do, send a mob after us?”
Alejo frowned. He turned the ignition and backed the van out of the driveway without offering an answer. The hazy morning sky opened up behind the house, blue-green and bright as freshwater. Logan thumped her head back against the seat.
“It’s gonna be tough, but it’s only a few months,” Alejo said. “Just … try to have fun.”
“I will try my very best.”
Logan stuck her earbuds in and turned the volume high enough to drown out the van’s stammering engine. Alejo was right—Snakebite would be just a few months. Just another spot on the map. Like LA, it would be just another base camp on the road.
But this time was different. In a few months, she’d be eighteen and she could go wherever she wanted. In a few months, she could pack up all her things and set out to find a place that was real. Somewhere that would last longer than just “a while.” A home. Snakebite was just another stop on the road, but for her, it would be the last one. Alejo pulled the van around the corner and the sharp angles of the LA house disappeared. Logan closed her eyes.
It was a few months, and then she’d find a place she could call home.
Copyright © 2021 by Courtney Gould
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