Kids on Fire: A Free Excerpt From YA Novel Ten Rallies

We’re happy to share this post from our sister site, Kids Corner @ Kindle Nation Daily, where you can find all things Kindle for kids and teens, every day!

Last week we announced that Pasquin’s Ten Rallies is our Kids Corner Book of the Week and the sponsor of our student reviews and of thousands of great bargains in the Kids Book category: over 300 free titles, over 500 quality 99-centers, and hundreds more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!

Now we’re back to offer a free Kids Corner excerpt, and if you aren’t among those who have downloaded this one already, you’re in for a treat!

Ten Rallies

by Pasquin

5.0 stars – 1 Reviews
Or currently FREE for Amazon Prime Members Via the Kindle Lending Library
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

“Teacher doesn’t like you reading this, bro. Don’t blame me if they knock this book right out of your hand. Got that straight? Good. Now, let’s begin.”You wake up one morning and find your supposed-to-be easy senior year of high school is going to be demolished by something called CoreAmerica. Camera crews are everywhere. It’s taking over your school, and they’re calling it an experiment. And in the middle of it all is this girl, Everett — man— she has it all. Never in a million years did you ever think you might get her. And she’s smiling at you now, boy.Problem is—to keep her—you’ll have to give yourself up.Hell of a senior year.Seventeen year old Reed wasn’t looking to change the world, just graduate high school. He didn’t know he would first have to choose between who he loves and what is right.


And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:


First day of school. You’re sitting sideways on the ripped vinyl school bus seat. Head bangs against the side window with every speed bump on Rae Edna Rock High’s front drive.

Man. Look at all those people. You don’t know what CoreAmerica means, but you worry ‘screw Reed’ might be in the definition somewhere.

The bus door opens with a hiss, and you step out onto asphalt. Blue-bright lights immediately heat up your face, and reporters with minicams and voice recorders start asking you questions.

“How do you feel about CoreAmerica?” asks one reporter.

“Pimple on my buttocks,” you deadpan.

Reporter sighs. Some kids laugh. Reporters move on to the students behind you.

Must not have been the answer they wanted for the six o’clock news.

A sign out front says to report for the CoreAmerica orientation in the field house. That’s the only place in the whole school where over three hundred students can find a seat—even if they are only bleachers. Talking enormous gymnasium here. Press a button, basketball hoops lever down from the ceiling; press another, theater lights move into place and you got Shakespeare. Championship banners hang from the rafters. The last one dates back to the twentieth century.

That wasn’t yesterday, bro.

Yeah, Rae Edna Rock High isn’t exactly known as a scary, powerhouse sports school. You think that’s the way they like it. What other school has a mandatory freshman class called Competition vs. Cooperation: A Perspective in a Non-winner World? If you’re wondering which way the curriculum comes down on, let’s just say it wasn’t lovin’ on the team that runs up the score—Rae Edna makes their cheerleaders cheer for both sides.

Kids are crowding through the double doors to the field house like they are going to a concert with general admission tickets. What’s their hurry?

Your friend Hoder has been shunted to the side, all discombobulated. Too proud to say, ‘Hey, I’m blind over here. Somebody help me out?’ Maybe somebody would if he ever wore those dark blind-guy sunglasses of his. Instead, Hoddy likes to pass for sighted.

He’s balling his fists and talking to himself. Bad sign. Something about ‘ruddy limbs and flaming hair.’ Well, his every-which-way hair is red. You tap him on the shoulder and duck under his swinging fist.

“Hey, it’s me,” you say. “Lay off the round house.”

“Reed?” Hoddy guesses where you are. Guesses wrong, turns out, looking over your left shoulder. Weirds you out sometimes that he can’t look you in the eye.

“Yes, bro. And quit the poetry recital.”

“It’s not poetry, it’s Blake.”

“Whatever. You creep me out, talking to yourself.”

“I wasn’t talking to myself!”

He’s facing a potted plastic fern. Nobody else in sight. You say that—almost.

So why not? All big mouth with the reporter, but not here? He’s your bro, bro. Besides, Hoddy’s face would turn the color of his hair. It’s embarrassing to watch.

Hoder. He lost his sight fighting with his brother over a girl, four summers ago. This little Thai exchange student staying at their house. His brother flipped him over, and the back of his head met stair edge—lights out.

What does it take to turn one brother against another? A smile on a pretty face, it seems.

“Give me your arm,” Hoder says, unclenching his fists. “And hope I don’t punch it.”

“Awright, tough guy.”

He takes your arm, and you both make your way into the field house.

It’s not easy letting another guy take you by the arm like that, but for you this is a service to your fellow students. That blind-man cane of Hoddy’s sends more kids to the school nurse than that time of the month.

The bleachers are pretty full by now, and you have to help Hoder step between kids and go up a few rows. There is a space next to a blue-haired, buzz-cut kid wearing a t-shirt that reads you suck in Latin. That’d be Neuron. There’s always a space next to him.

You heard right, neuron. Like what they call a brain cell in biology class.

“Start yet?” you ask the human calculator.

He shakes his large head no. “This had better be quick. I’m missing my first advanced physics class.”

“Advanced physics?”

“Yes, not just rudimentary particle behavior…”

“Oh, no, nothing so simple,” you nod, as if you could buy a clue as to what he’s talking about.

“Cooorrect! This year we’re using computers to design virtual soap box racers to compete on courses on Mars, asteroid 951 Gaspra, and in a hypothetical fourth dimension…”

You keep nodding. “You think I’m still listening, but I’m not.”

“The final exam is to design a robot lander that can survive the atmosphere of Venus. The winner gets an A plus…”

You stop nodding. “Not that you need anyone to listen or nothing.”

“…everyone else gets a regular A.”

You pray this is the end of the story. No wonder that nickname stuck.

Over at the makeshift podium, underneath the visitor’s basketball hoop, Principal Marks starts tapping on the microphone. He moves like he has no joints—all stiff—like his own skin doesn’t quite fit right. What’s he all nervous about?

Now you see why. TV reporters got lights, camera, action going on right in his face.

“Okay people, settle down,” Marks says, his voice buzzing across the public address system. He’s practically swallowing the microphone. “As some of you may know, we have been selected…to be a part of…CoreAmerica.”

That’s right. Marks likes to pause. A. Lot. In all the wrong places.

“To my right is Doctor Rosenbaum, Professor Emeritus of TOL Institute, and Chair of the Presidential Committee for Societal Reform, or PCSR for short.”

You wouldn’t want to have to say that five times fast.

“Due to dwindling enrollment, the school board, in conjunction with the Superintendent of Schools, Ninel, had planned to close the east wing of Rae Edna Rock High. An immediate benefit of this federal program…is that we can remain fully open for the next year.”

There’s a collective “Booooooooo.”

Yep, the east wing of the school was supposed to receive the kiss of the wrecking ball. Squashed flat. Doesn’t matter that much to you, one way or the other. The building known as the east wing was the original Rae Edna Rock High School and was constructed last century during the Great Depression. All tan brick and tiny windows. Didn’t have air conditioning in President Roosevelt’s time, so you’re guessing to keep the east wing all historical-like they never added any. Wonder where they hid the coal chutes. Classrooms have this nasty yellow tile—that is, where it isn’t missing altogether. The floors creak like a haunted house.

Marks explains that about twenty years ago the town added the field house onto the old Rae Edna. Then, two years ago, they added the west wing on the other side of the field house. A shiny metal-and-glass school. Each classroom is jacked for the Internet and equipped with those smart(er)™ boards that any student can doodle on from his desk. Makes for excellent mile-high tic-tac-toe, or drawing cartoonishly large boobs—if you have a mind to. All the lecture halls have padded stadium seating; it’s like being at the movies.

The school has the frosh start in the elderly east wing and later they graduate to the Welcome-to-the-Future! west wing. Why they want to save that sad antique is beyond you.

“It is my expectation,” Principal Marks intones, “that you will give Dr. Rosenbaum your full attention, and do your utmost to comply with the CoreAmerica experience.”

Doctor Rosenbaum looks like she just stepped out of a black and white film. Wearing a hat with a tiny veil and a dress that could have doubled as a uniform, she smiles a smile that says, ‘you’re mine, don’t try to fight it.’ She doesn’t tap the microphone, and she looks right into the camera’s eye when she speaks.

“It is my pleasure to introduce you all to CoreAmerica.” There’s polite applause that draws another smile from her. “When our President was inaugurated nearly four years ago, he said in his speech that there are certain ideals we hold as Americans that make us unique among the Earth’s nations. This notion has been called old-fashioned by some, America-centric by others, and some use plainer monosyllables that I care not to repeat.”

There is some nervous laughter. You don’t follow politics much, but the Prez is getting it from all sides. There’s even a video channel dedicated to mocking him online.

“Even supporters, who will give full throat to their enthusiasm for this American exceptionalism, cannot necessarily explain why. Some people, more’s the pity, have no opinion whatsoever.

“That is why we are here today, to answer the question: What makes one society more exceptional than another? A debate absent facts leads only to shouting. Not understanding. Where facts are lacking, we have to go find them. In this case, by experimentation.”

There’s murmuring and the shuffling of feet on the wooden benches.

“Oh, I know what you are thinking,” Rosenbaum says, taking the podium’s wings in both hands. “And no, there will be no electrodes put to your brains.”

You laugh—because that is exactly what you are thinking.

“Figures,” Neuron says, leaning on his hands. “That would have been cool.”

Rosenbaum looks down at her speech and starts speaking again. “This is not so much a lab experiment as it is a contest. A way to see which of two teams—using very different game plans—will win. Perhaps you wonder, why choose only one plan or strategy? Why not flip-flop between them? Well, sometimes strategies are so dissimilar, at their core premises, that to switch between the two negates all the benefits of the better choice.

“You, the returning senior class of Rae Edna Rock High, are facing a similar choice right now: Skip college and make money right away, or gamble that higher education will pay off? We face these types of dilemmas all the time. Sometimes they are moral ones: Suppose you find a wallet on the ground? Do you find the owner or pocket the money? Any one of these choices is exclusive of the other. You can’t have it both ways at the same time. That’s what CoreAmerica sets out to demonstrate. These choices are what define us as human beings and, in its aggregate, as a nation.

“In this competition—what we like to call ‘The Challenge’—the strategies will be subtly different, but we believe fundamentally so. In the next week these two sides will compete for your membership. At the end of the week you will be required to choose your affiliation. Your chosen group’s task? Form a working society. Then, at the end of every week, I will come back to monitor your progress, enforce the rules, answer questions. Not to influence, but to guide.

“I do ask you to carefully consider your choice. It will affect the months to come, and, I believe, the results will open many eyes.”

The Professor folds up her notes. “Your first decision: Which philosophy do you want to have govern your society? The one in which the group is considered more important than any individual member, to be called groupism; or one in which the citizen is more important than the group, to be called soloism? Don’t be hasty with your choice. Think it through. Because in the next eleven weeks you will live out the consequences.

“Students will be in charge of all facilities of the school. Sanitation….”


“Food preparation…”

On my…



She’s talking cooking the lunches, buffing the floors, and Johnny mopping the toilets—all the dirty deeds.

“The staff will be paid to stay home…”

Dad would like that deal.

“Students, however, still have to go to class, do homework, and take tests. Yes, what I’m saying is that the teachers are staying.”

“Booooooo,” goes the crowd.

“One group of pupils in the east wing, the other the west…”

You can’t believe it. This is supposed to be your easy senior year. Two terms of English and gym. Nothing else. Just sit back and laugh at the freshmen.

“…In exchange for this unique opportunity, we will ask all participants to surrender their social media devices, phones…”

Welcome to Rae Edna Rock High—leave the twenty-first century and your whole life at the door. Doesn’t matter you don’t own any of these things, bro. You had DREAMS of owning those things.

Didn’t sign up for this. Did not.

Rosenbaum seems to answer you. “Some of you will be thinking, ‘I didn’t ask for this.’ And you are right…”

Damn straight.

“CoreAmerica only takes volunteers. Those under the age of eighteen will have to have a parent’s consent. No signed permission slip, and we’ll bus you to another adjoining school district.”

Loophole. You heard her. A way out.

Dr. Rosenbaum tips her head, dipping the veil down over her eyes like she’s closing a curtain on a performance. “I do hope you all choose to participate.” There’s tentative clapping.

No way are you joining this experiment. Sounds like the freakin’ army.

While filing out of the field house, Neuron jibber jabbers about what he will do first once the contest starts. What’s that all about? You sat through the same speech as he did and you still don’t know what CoreAmerica is all about. Not really.

Hoder only wants to know if Rosenbaum is pretty.  “She has a silky voice,” he says.

“And did you see that bikini?”

Hoddy feels for your arm and punches it.

“Is it raining marshmallows?”

Punches harder.

“What are you going to do, Reed?” Hoder asks, now whaling on your arm like a jackhammer.

“Lady said I need a permission slip to participate. Dad’s got to see reason. That simple. Now knock that crap off, my t-shirt is starting to wrinkle.”

Hoder starts quoting. Probably that Blake guy. Something about fools not seeing the same tree as a wise man.

You don’t know about this kid. Rosenbaum didn’t mention trees once.

“What do you mean, it’ll be good for me?

You can’t believe your dad would say such a thing. And after you explained it: the hijacking of your senior year, infringement of your rights, and the big one—you don’t care about this stupid Challenge, period.

Dad signs the permission slip anyway, and stuffs it in the envelope. Licks it shut, right in front of you. “They’re gonna have you work.” He points to the truck. “Get in.”

You fume. This lecture carries a lot of weight coming from a guy who brags about how long he can stay on unemployment. Free checks in the mail. Or how slacktastic he can be on the job. But you can’t say anything to break the illusion of the hard. Working. Man. Nah, can’t happen. Not that and still live under his roof.

You remember your mom talking back to him. Get a job, you bum. Then that one morning. The smack of an open palm on cheek. You cocked your fist and flew into the living room. You remember that day like it was this morning.

You were ready to bury him with one punch.

Put him six feet under.

One. Punch.

Instead, you found your dad was holding his face. And Mom with her hand still held high like she might hit him again. Her disdain. Dad backing out of the room.

You don’t know what backtalk set her off, but soon after she packed up and left with your brother and sister—runts both—but not you.

There is no breaking the illusion.

You think about that day the whole way to the post office. Country music blares out of your dad’s truck radio. Songs about dying mutts, cheating wives, and roping them doggies.

How could this be your life?

The day your mom left, your heart threatened to thud its way out of your rib cage. You’d have done anything to go with her. Sleep in the car, eat out of garbage cans—whatever it took. Just not to be left behind.

But the answer was no.

All she said before she left was, “You’re the oldest. An adult. You can hold your own with that man. These kids can’t. Understand?”

No, you didn’t understand. Don’t understand. You said so—almost.

She promised to call.

Maybe she did.

Sometimes you would pick up the phone and there’d be sobbing on the other end. No words. Then a soft click. On her next birthday, you called her. Got a guy on the phone, and he said he would pass your message along.


You called again and again. Finally her sister called—said your mom had found a good man willing to take on the little ones. But not you. “Don’t bother her,” Aunt Marnie had said. “That woman’s gone through enough. Don’t guilt her none. She can’t face you, is all.”

But she’s my mom, you wanted to say.


Your dad pulls his truck into the post office. Hands you the envelope and waits. When you don’t get out, he leans over to open your door. Scoots you out. He watches through the windshield.

Never leaving the truck.

You slam the metal lid of the mailbox shut when you’re done.

“Don’t it feel good to do the right thing?” he asks you. Doesn’t wait for an answer. “This is what a good parent would do. Believe me.”

Good. Parent. Mom left because of him.

One day you’re gonna pop him one—right in his face. Swear it. Watch him lose that smirk, look all stunned that his own son has mashed his lips. Watch him spit out teeth.

Just not today.

Not time yet.

Not today.

Click here to buy the book: Pasquin’s Ten Rallies>>>


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