Loss

by Jackie Kessler

The latest in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, Loss is about a bullied teenager who's tricked into becoming Pestilence, a Rider of the Apocalypse, and finds himself with the power to infect people with diseases.  After causing an outbreak, he goes on an adventure through time and memory to try and track down the White Rider and escape his fate.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780547712154
  • ISBN-10: 0547712154
  • Pages: 272
  • Publication Date: 03/20/2012
  • Carton Quantity: 24

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About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book
    Fifteen-year-old Billy Ballard is the kid that everyone picks on. But things change
    drastically when Death tells Billy he must stand in as Pestilence, the White Rider of
    the Apocalypse. Now armed with a Bow that allows him to strike with disease from
    a distance, Billy lashes out at his tormentors...and accidentally causes an outbreak of
    meningitis. Horrified by his actions, Billy begs Death to take back the Bow. For that to
    happen, says Death, Billy must track down the real White Rider, and stop him from
    unleashing something awful on humanity—something that could make the Black
    Plague look like a summer cold. Does one bullied teenager have the strength to stand
    his ground—and the courage to save the world?
  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    Chapter 2

    BILLY LURCHED OUT OF BED . . .

    . . . and ripped the buds from his ears as he staggered to the bedroom door. He was on autopilot, his body reacting to his mother hollering "Dad!" again and again while his brain tried to process that he wasn’t still sleeping. He’d been dreaming the sort of dream that felt like it was really happening. The images were already fading—the threads had begun unraveling as soon as his mom had started screaming—but one memory remained: the man in white.

    The Ice Cream Man, Billy thought muddily as he opened his door, the Ice Cream Man’s going to let me ride the white horse . . .

    His mother raced down the hallway, screaming for her father. "Dad! Dad, where are you? Martin! Come out!"

    Billy had to shout to get her attention. "Did Gramps get out again?"

    "I don’t know," she said too fast. "He might have, or he could be here in the house somewhere, there’s so many places he could be if he jimmied the locks and . . . oh God, the kitchen cabinet!" She bolted down the hallway, banking the corner and heading for the kitchen.

    Billy’s heartbeat thundered in his throat, his ears, behind his eyes. Here we go again, he thought bleakly, even as patted down his pockets to make sure he still had his keys and phone. The last time Gramps had been alone, he’d almost set the house on fire. When Billy had gotten the matches away from him, his grandfather had slugged him in the eye. The rest of the night, Gramps had screeched at Billy, calling him horrible names and threatening to kill him.

    "It’s not him," his mom had told Billy all that night, the next morning, the next week. "It’s the Alzheimer’s talking, not him." As if that magically made everything better.

    Billy locked his bedroom door and joined his mom in the kitchen. She was tugging on the cabinet under the sink, testing the child-safety lock. It was still on, so his grandfather couldn’t have gotten into the drain cleaner. Billy asked, "Any doors open?"

    His mom didn’t answer. She was still pulling at the cabinet door, fixated on it, as if breaking the lock would somehow produce Gramps.

    Billy tried the back door, but it was locked tight. Same with the door to the garage. But the front door, the one masked by the wall poster of a bookcase, was slightly ajar—the same poster that usually hid the door also camouflaged how the door hadn’t been completely closed.

    Gritting his teeth, Billy called out, "Front door!" And then he raced outside, looking around for any sign of his grandfather. "Gramps!" he yelled, then switched to cries of "Martin! Martin Walker! Can you hear me?" His voice echoed back at him like music.

    That was when he realized the block was oddly quiet. Usually, midafternoon on a weekday, cars streamed up and down the street; on a warm afternoon like today, kids should be hanging out, riding bikes or skateboards. But today, the street was barren. Dead.

    No, not quite. Down at the end of the block, a guy was playing a guitar.

    Thank God, Billy thought, racing down the sidewalk. When Gramps escaped the house, he tended to walk a straight line, so there was a good chance he’d gone right by the street musician. The guitarist was blond and lean, doing the grunger thing like he’d sprung out of a Seattle 1990s brochure. Not bad at the guitar, either. The musician started singing as Billy approached—a familiar tune, but Billy couldn’t quite place it. He stumbled to a halt in front of the guitarist’s open case, which was lying open on the pavement and sparkled with coins reflecting the sunlight.

    Pennies. All of the coins were pennies. Billy thought that was both odd and, for some reason, strangely appropriate.

    "Years and years I’ve roamed," the blond guitarist sang.

    That had to be a good omen. "Hey," Billy said, huffing from his sprint. "Did you see an old man walk this way?"

    The guitarist stopped singing, but his fingers kept strumming, keeping the tune alive. He smiled lazily. "What, walking hunched over and gasping for breath? Nope. But I did see a man wander past not even five minutes ago."

    Billy blinked, absorbed both the joke and the information, then asked, "Did he keep going straight?" He pointed farther down the street.

    "Yep."

    "Thanks," said Billy, then reached in his pocket for some change, just a small tip to thank the guy. But before he could toss the money into the guitar case, the musician grabbed his arm. Billy was stunned by the contact, and even more by the strength and chill of the guitarist’s fingers. It felt like frozen branches had wrapped around his wrist.

    "No need for that," said the musician.

    Billy stammered, "Wanted to thank you."

    The guitarist kept smiling, but now there was an edge to it. "Then give thanks instead of coin, William Ballard. Otherwise, you’ll get what you pay for, and there’s no time."

    Shocked speechless, Billy couldn’t ask how the musician knew his name.

    "You have only three minutes before your grandfather causes a rather messy accident," said the guitarist. His blue eyes glinted wickedly in the sunlight. "He’s walking in the street, and the driver’s about to text his girlfriend."

    Billy’s mouth worked silently, gaping like a fish suffocating in air.

    "Go," commanded the guitarist, releasing Billy’s wrist. "Less than three minutes now. You’d better run."

    Billy ran.

    The pale horse shook its head, as if shaking away a fly.

    "What?" said Death. "It was just a little friendly advice."

    The horse snorted.

    Death smiled at his steed. "You’re just annoyed that he didn’t see you."

    If the horse had a comment, the steed kept it to itself.

    Still smiling, Death began to play the guitar once more.

    Rushing forward, Billy’s thoughts were a mad jumble as he wondered how the street musician knew his name. Not a musician. A Rider. He’s the Pale Rider and he says Gramps is going to be in an accident, have to hurry, hurry, find Gramps . . .

    Lost in his mind’s free flow, Billy sprinted down the street. He was thinking now about his grandfather, of the man who’d read him bedtime stories and chased away any monsters crouching in the closet. Martin Walker had been a bear of a man when Billy was young, a towering presence that had filled the house and made Billy feel safe—

    (even after the Ice Cream Man, a voice whispered in the back of Billy’s mind)

    —even after his dad had gone away. Without Gramps, he never would have learned to ride a bike, or catch a fish, or so many other things. He vividly remembered the feeling of his grandfather’s calloused fingers over his smaller, softer ones as Gramps taught him how to swing a baseball bat; he heard pride in the memory of his grandfather’s voice, pride and love as Gramps encouraged him and congratulated him every time the bat connected and sent the ball sailing across the sky. Just believe you can do it, Gramps would say. Believe, and stand tall.

    He had to find his grandfather. Had to.

    You have only three minutes before your grandfather causes a rather messy accident.

    How long had Billy been running? A minute? Two? Surely not three. Only three minutes, the guitarist had said, and never mind how the blond man knew that his grandfather would be in an accident; the street musician had declared it, and Billy believed h...

  • Reviews
    PRAISE FOR THE RIDERS OF THE APOCALYPSE SERIES
     
    Praise for Hunger:

    An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

    * "Realistic and compassionate. . . . the writing is never preachy, and it allows an interesting exploration of both intensely personal food issues and global ones."
    SLJ, starred review

    "Jackie Morse Kessler does a fine job of taking a critical issue that has been explored in writing no small number of times, and putting a new and thought provoking spin on it. . . . Sheer genius."
    New York Journal of Books

    "Powerful, fast-paced, hilarious, heart-wrenching. . . . This story will grab the reader and never let go."
    Romantic Times Magazine

    "Hunger is not just a good book. It is a great book. It is funny and sad, brilliant and tragic, and most of all, it speaks truth. . . . I adore it."
    —Rachel Caine, author of The Morganville Vampires

    "A fantastic and gripping read that never shies from its difficult subject matter. . . . This book is a knockout."
    —A.S. King, author of Everybody See the Ants

     

    Praise for Rage:

    A Junior Library Guild Selection

    An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

    "Rage is raw and real, a truly dark, honest look at self-harm and the teenage psyche. Kessler left me breathless."
    —Heather Brewer, author of the New York Times bestselling series, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

    "The elegant mix of dark humor, brilliantly developed characters, and just enough moral threads to lead readers to make their own conclusions is impressive."
    Bulletin

    "Raw, visceral, pulling no punches, this story strikes home like a razor blade. It’s unforgettable, heart wrenching, and enlightening."
    Realms of Fantasy

     

    Praise for Loss:

    "Kessler blends fantasy, history, humor, and hard reality into a gripping tale."
    SLJ

    "Jackie Morse Kessler has a keen eye for capturing the awkward uncertainty of adolescence, which she wraps quite deliciously in a coating of mystery, fright, and suspense. Loss is a treat for readers, a one-of-a-kind, twisty turny carnival ride. . . . I loved this book."
    —Andrew Smith, author of The Marbury Lens

    "Whip-smart and elegant."
    —Saundra Mitchell, author of The Vespertine

    "Gritty and raw with powerful truths. An addictive read."
    —Sophie Jordan New York Times bestselling author of Firelight


     

    Praise for Breath:

    A Junior Library Guild Selection 

    "A riveting read."
    —Kirkus Reviews

    "The series is a strong and unique attempt to encourage troubled teens to consider their options and accept the help they need, while exposing all readers to the pain their friends may be experiencing."
    —Booklist
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