Sofia has never felt special. Not at school, or with her track team, and especially not since she’s become sick.
She’s always been different, but this doesn't make her stand out . . . it's makes her invisible. Then something special lands right in Sofia’s lap. An ancient book that serves as a portal for the Greek philosopher, Xeno, one of Aristotle’s lost students. Sofia has been chosen to be the next Guardian.
Suddenly Sofia is not only trying to survive middle-school cliques and first crushes, she’s in charge of protecting grotesquely beautiful, lonely monsters that have roamed the Earth for centuries. Drawn into Xeno’s violent and unpredictable world of mystery, Sofia learns that loving outsiders has a price.
"While the fantastical elements are compelling, it’s the real-world situations that make this book stand out. . . a perfect recommendation for introspective kids who feel like outsiders."--SLJ
"Garrett's prose, frequently poignant and sophisticated, is punctuated with wry humor."--Kirkus
"The oft-used concept of finding one’s true self is employed here in a uniquely imaginative way, complete with occasional black-and-white illustrations. An appealing tale for readers dealing with their own insecurities."--Booklist
About the Author
Ginger now lives in Atlanta with her husband, three children, and two rescue dogs. She spends her time baking gluten-free goodness for her friends and family and mentoring middle school students who want to become working writers. Passionate about science, history, and women’s studies, Ginger loves exploring new ideas and old secrets. She especially loves good books read late at night.
Ginger is a popular speaker and a frequent guest on radio and television shows. She has been featured in and on media outlets across the country, including Fox News, USA Today, Library Journal, 104.7 The Fish Atlanta, FamilyNet Television, Harvest Television.
You can learn more at gingergarrett.com.
Read an Excerpt
Friday, February 21
I had to pick up a new leg after school.
Dark storm clouds hung low over the Children’s Cancer Center of Atlanta. Mom took the last turn into the parking lot, and all the old familiar fears coiled around me. I groaned under their weight.
Mom glanced at me, worried.
“It won’t stop people from staring,” I mumbled.
“Is that really what’s bothering you?” she asked softly.
I glanced at her andrealized her knuckles were white. She was gripping the steering wheel as if it were a life preserver. Coming here was just as hard for her as it was for me.
“I’m fine,” I lied. “The worst is over, isn’t it?”
She slowed the car as we approached the entrance. “I’ll let you off at the front door, in case it starts raining,” she said. “But wait for me before you go back.”
I nodded as I glanced out the car window. A hawk circled overhead, hunting some small, frightened thing that hid in the shrubs by the entrance. The bird screamed when it saw me, ashrill welcome.
Mom stopped in front of the double doors before leaning over to give me a quick peck on the cheek. Her lips were cold. This was our last big appointment for four weeks. We’d basically lived here for two months last year, from the end of October until just after New Year’s; then we had switched to outpatient visits. After a month of rest to build my strength, I had started physical therapy. So this place had been my second home for almost four months. Now the idea of freedom felt surreal. “Free” was a strong word, though. It was more like I’d gotten extra length on my leash. I still needed to come back. Cancer was a part of my life that I would never escape.
The wind moaned as Iopened the car door. I swallowed hard, my stomach in knots, as if this place were the nightmare I would never wake up from.
Inside, the TV in the waiting room was tuned to a twenty-four-hour health channel. I settled into a vinyl-cushioned chair that wheezed when I sat. The volume was so loud no one noticed. A special feature called Meet Your Meat was playing, a behind-the-scenes look at how meat products are manufactured. In the corner, a coffee machine sat undisturbed, its electric red eye watching us all.
“Sausage casings are made from the intestines of pigs, horses, or sheep. Machines remove the fat and mucus before extruding the final casing, which will give some lucky sausage that satisfying snap.”
My eyebrows shot up in horror. Sausages were like babies; I had a general idea of how they were made, but I didn’t want the clinical details. I glanced behind me, praying Mom would find a parking spot soon. We didn’t do the “free” valet parking anymore. Tipping required cash, and we rarely had any now.
I noticed a boy about seven or eight years old, hunched over, holding a beach sand pail in front of his mouth in case he vomited. A little bit of drool clung to his chin. He still had his hair, though, so he was probably a new patient, trapped between terror and denial. He cringed as images of greasy pink sausages flashed above his head.
The TV was mounted on the wall. If there was a remote control, I had never found it. The only way to change the channel would be to reach way up and press the buttons, and somebody needed to do that fast before the poor little guy hurled again. He glanced at me and nodded weakly in the direction of his mother. She was standing by the windows, chatting furiously on a cell phone, her back to us. Fat drops of sleet began pelting the tinted lobby windows. A bright whip of lightning ripped across the sky and split in five directions, like a giant claw. Strange, even for a city known for its weird weather.
“And now we’ll take a closer look at ground beef. The name itself is misleading, since it includes skin, connective tissue, fat, and even bone. . . .”
The kid put his head down and retched loudly into the bucket. I stood and walked to the TV, praying the other kids didn’t notice how one of my legs moved differently from the other one. The prosthesis I wore was too big, and it made my gait clumpy. The newprosthesis would make my gait very natural, but of course everyone at school would stare anyway, trying to figure out which leg was real. They got them mixed up.
I pressed the channel button repeatedly, but every other station was running a special bulletin on the weather. A bad storm was coming. Lightning in the northern suburbs of Atlanta was especially dangerous; we had huge blocks of granite under the ground that attracted lightning. When a storm came, it didn’t just give us a pretty show; someone usually got hurt.
Finally, I found thecartoon channel and released the button. I turned around to check on the boy and saw that his mom was still on the phone, unaware that he would never eat sausage again. The thunder boomed and a fragile-looking baby cradled in itsmother’s arms began to wail.
“Thanks,” the boy said to me. “You’re my hero.”
I nodded and quicklylooked away, my cheeks getting warm and probably red. My face had always been like a giant mood ring. “Hang in there,” I said. “It’s not always this bad, I promise.”
If he could tell I was lying, he didn’t show it. The boy rested his face on the side of the pail and sighed, eyes closed. I felt a little bit better too, which surprised me. All I had done was change a TV channel.
The baby’s crying suddenly grew louder, as if it knew something we didn’t.