✅Clean YA Portal Fantasy
✅Slow-burn Romantic Subplot
Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands.
Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.
When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil.
Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?
Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time?
And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?
Spark (The Firebrand Chronicles 1) by J.M. Hackman
Tiny flashes sparked from my fingertips. I yanked on my locker, and the door crashed open. Thrusting my shaking hands into the murky interior among the books and papers, I waited.
It had happened again.
The magnetic mirror on the inside of the door reflected my pale face, my gray-blue eyes too wide. My heart pounded, making my head throb with a dull thud thud. One by one, the flashes winked out. Releasing a breath, I sagged against the bank of metal lockers. All day long, whenever the flickering lights sparked and flashed, I hid my fisted hands in my hoodie pockets. Dry, fall air created static. That must be it. Don’t freak out.
Closing the locker, my hands tingled a warning. Warmth spread over my palms, making them sweat. Maybe I carried a bizarre incurable disease. Didn’t strange stuff like this happen before a diagnosis on those cheesy television movies? Nausea swirled through my stomach, flipping my lunch like pizza dough. Closing my eyes, I leaned against the wall. Scents—floor polish and chicken noodle soup from lunch—mingled in the hallway. I hated chicken noodle soup.
At mid-period, only a couple of kids roamed the blue-tiled hallway. Tiny, my best friend, would be here any moment. She’d borrowed my American history notes, and we’d planned to meet here so I could get them back. I checked my watch. The pass from the study hall teacher was only good for a few more minutes. Where was she? I needed every available minute to cram for the test. Tomorrow morning. In first period.
Despite my good intentions, I’d spent last night watching the new reality show on television. Thank you, ADHD.
Tiny appeared at my side, her blue eyes laughing. “Jumpy much?” Her long, platinum-blonde hair hung straight down her back, emphasizing her petite five-foot frame. Even in a baggy hoodie, gauzy skirt, and boots, she didn’t weigh more than eighty pounds after a Dunkin’ Donuts binge.
Buried in the pockets of her hoodie, her hands were shapeless lumps. She pulled them out, and I stared at her hands. Her empty hands.
“Do you have my notes?”
Dumb question. Of course she did. Dependable Tiny—one of the few people who didn’t get annoyed when I zoned out or hyperfocused. We’d been inseparable since I moved here.
“Um, funny thing about those notes…”
My heart sank. “Yeah?” Why oh why had I watched that stupid reality show?
“They’re kinda, um, lost.” She offered me a guilty smile.
“What?” My voice was loud in the empty hallway.
“I’m sure I’ll find them.”
“Tiny, I need them for the test tomorrow morning!”
“Look, they’ll turn up. Or I’ll find them. Okay?”
Without those notes, my exam would receive a big, fat, red F scrawled on top. Definitely not okay.
Behind her, next to a glass trophy case, hung the school spirit display. Red and white glittery pom-poms surrounded a sign reading Go Cloverdale Lions! I bit back my rising anger and focused on the red block letters until my eyes crossed. Breathe deeply. Inhale. Exhale. Not helping. One, two, three…
Her voice interrupted my efforts. “Maybe if you would’ve studied more, the notes wouldn’t be so important.”
My temper exploded. “Thanks a lot! It wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t lost them!” I pointed a finger. A narrow yellow flame burst from my fingertips, shooting over her shoulder.
The fire didn’t fizzle into a shower of sparks like embers from an arc welder. Don’t know why I was expecting that. Instead, the flame arrowed straight into a red pom-pom, melting a hole and shriveling the glittery plastic strands. With a quiet hiss, it devoured all the other pom-poms arranged in the display. In seconds, the blaze engulfed the pep-rally poster.
“Whoa,” Tiny said, her eyes going wide.
I couldn’t move. Racing along the poster’s edges, the greedy flames crackled. The fire alarm began to shriek.
She tugged my arm. “Come on.”
We turned to leave, and the sprinkler system in the hallway kicked on. Great. Just great. I hunched my shoulders against the cold spray. Exactly what I needed to make this day perfect.
Outside, the vivid landscape of reds, golds, and browns barely registered. A flame had burst from my hands. The faint scent of smoke clung to my fingers. But no pain. What was going on? Shouldn’t my skin be red or blistered? Flexing my fingers, miniature yellow flames flared. A cold sweat broke out under my arms. I didn’t want to see that again, and I didn’t want anyone else to see it either. Hiding the evidence, I pressed my fisted hands together and joined my class lining up on the football field. Mr. Lynn, the study hall teacher, began counting students.
A fire truck siren pierced the air, growing in intensity.
Tiny stood in line, flirting with a cute guy from our Geometry class.
“Hey.” I nudged her. “Why aren’t you freaking out?”
“Like fire?” My voice cracked. “That doesn’t just happen.”
A fire truck pulled into the school parking lot, spilling its firefighters into Cloverdale High like an invasion of yellow jackets.