Puzzle Trees<br/>

Author: Thom Shepard
Publisher: Kindle
Published: 2015-01-01
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Youth (13 to 17)
Genre(s): Literary, Suspense, Action Read Excerpt >

Mom tells me I couldn't possibly remember so far back, and maybe she's right. Maybe our baby visions are simply old photos that come alive through our imagination.

But I can recall lots of stuff you won't find in our family albums. My first steps, for instance. Working my way from chair to couch and back again, holding tight to things, not because I was afraid to fall, but thinking I might float away.

And I remember my teddy bear.

He was a feathery little thing, softer than my favorite washcloth, just the right size and weight for a toddler like me to carry around without losing his balance. Even Mom admits we were inseparable.

One day, drawn by the roar of our great white tub, I carried my teddy bear into the bathroom. Feeling my way through warm, white steam, I touched the cold tub and leaned over its smooth stony wall. Though I couldn't see past my own nose, the soft sizzling sounds told me that soap bubbles were growing there, and when I dropped him in, my teddy bear hardly made a splash.

Expecting him to rise on a cloud of suds, I waited.

And waited some more.

He never appeared.

So I started in after him.

As warm foam tingled across my face, I touched his soapy fur. But he was too heavy to hold, and when I finally let him go, I felt myself soaring high above the tub.

Dad had snatched me by the straps of my big boy pants. Screaming and reaching, I tried desperately to speak the words tumbling in my head. When he finally got the message, he passed me over to Mom and plunged his arms deep inside the tub. As bubbles drifted and fizzed around us, I saw my teddy bear emerge, all bloated and dripping.

Next time I saw him, he was dangling by one foot from the clothesline. For several days he hung there, through sunny times and dark times, as I watched helplessly from various windows, crying for my parents to bring him inside.

When I finally got him back, it was just to say good-bye.

Burying my face into his ruined fur, I breathed in an odor so foul, even I understood that something horribly irreversible had happened to him. All day long I clung to him, growling at any grown-ups who came near us. But even toddlers have to sleep sometimes, and when I did, he got whisked away like he hardly mattered.

That awful smell has stayed with me ever since.

I find it strangely comforting.

Puzzle Trees   by   Thom Shepard   |   See Bio >
A high school freshman grapples with change, loss, and little green monsters.

Countless vampire and zombie novels have been published for young adults, but Puzzle Trees uniquely explores the impact of horror entertainment upon one vulnerable high school freshman.

The Story
High school freshman Joe Sheffield has only recently begun to control his obsession with all things grim and gruesome. But when two of his best friends move away, and his last best friend gravitates toward a new set of friends, Joe feels his dark fantasies and phobias returning with a vengeance, even as he is drawn to Gina, a mysterious bird-like classmate with her own dark secret.
While searching for his principal's kitten, Joe discovers that several cats have disappeared within a single day from his principal's neighborhood. Unable to accept a more rational explanation, he comes to believe that predatory green primates have moved among the "puzzle trees," those decaying woods that lie between his principal's house and his own. When Theo, his skeptical but equally troubled half-brother, pays Joe a surprise visit, they go hunting for these possibly real, possibly imaginary creatures. Their astonishing discovery opens the door to a deeper mystery, one with potentially tragic consequences, which Joe must face alone.

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