"A fast-paced thrill ride of a book, filled with great characters, swashbuckling action sequences, secret passageways, mystery, and plenty of humor. It’s Batman meets Annie. " —Stuart Gibbs, New York Times bestselling author of the Spy School series
“A fast-paced thrill ride of a book . . . it’s Batman meets Annie.” —Stuart Gibbs, New York Times best-selling author of the Spy School series
“An adventure-filled read with a twisty mystery and spunky friendships. I loved it!” –Melissa de la Cruz, New York times best-selling author of The Descendants series
April didn't mean to start the fire. She wasn’t the one who broke the vase. April didn’t ask to go live in a big, creepy mansion with a bunch of orphans who just don't understand that April isn’t like them. After all, April’s mother is coming back for her someday very soon.
All April has to do is find the clues her mother left inside the massive mansion. But Winterborne House is hiding more than one secret, so April and her friends are going to have to work together to unravel the riddle of a missing heir, a creepy legend, and a mysterious key before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever.
“And on the right we have young Gabriel Winterborne!” April looked to her right, but it was just another painting. In a whole room full of paintings, none of which were all that impressive to April. After all, you can’t eat oil-covered canvases. Or, well, you could. But April strongly suspected you probably shouldn’t. You could burn them for firewood, of course. Maybe sell them down on Front Street to the old woman with the long white braids and the dog that looks like a fox. But there was no point in wondering what a painting like that might be worth. No one like April was ever going to own one.
But that didn’t stop the young woman in the burgundy blazer from looking up at the painting like it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
“Note how Gabriel clings to his father’s hand? He was ten when it was painted, and it’s the last known portrait of the Winterborne family. A month after it was finished, his whole family would be dead and young Gabriel would be orphaned. Can you imagine?” the docent said, but then she seemed to remember who she was talking to. She looked at the kids who filled the room.
Some ran a little too fast. Some stood a little too still. All wore clothes that didn’t quite fit, and they looked at those paintings as if they too were wondering how many meals one of them might buy. But Blazer Lady just threw her shoulders back and raised her voice, shouting over the Johnson twins, who were arguing about which superhero’s farts would smell the worst.
Because they were at a fancy museum.
They were on their best behavior.
“Follow me, children! Follow me!”
The museum was super pretty, April had to admit. Nicer than the group home. Cleaner than the school that was only open four days a week because they couldn’t afford to run the buses on the fifth day. Which meant on the fifth day, there was no free lunch, which meant on the fifth day, April usually had to be “creative,” but that was okay. Being creative kept April sharp. And, besides, it wasn’t going to last forever. As soon as her mom came back, everything would be okay.
So April decided to enjoy the bright, clean rooms with the shiny wood floors and tall windows. Even the air smelled fancy (fart debates aside). They were close to the ocean, and the breeze was clean and fresh. April felt like maybe she’d climbed onto a spaceship that morning instead of a rusty school bus. It felt a lot like it had brought her to another world.
For reasons April couldn’t quite pinpoint, she turned around and took one last look at the steel gray eyes of the Winterbornes.
“Hey, April!” Girl Taylor whispered. Boy Taylor was on the other side of the room, joining in the fart discussion. “I dare you to touch it.” Girl Taylor pointed at the painting, crossed her arms, and tried to look tough. But April was very good at a number of things; ignoring foolish dares happened to be one of them.
“What’s wrong?” Caitlyn with a C asked.
“Are you too chicken?” Kaitlyn with a K said, chiming in.
“Nope,” April told them. “Too smart.”
April shouldn’t have said it. She was always doing that—letting her inside thoughts become her outside words. It was one of the things she wasn’t good at, and it made people like Girl Taylor and the C/Kaitlyns hate her even more than they already did. But April couldn’t help the fact that she was different—that foster care was temporary for her. That her mother was coming back—probably any day now.
“You think you’re so much better than us.” Girl Taylor’s hands were still crossed over her chest, and she was sticking out her lower lip. It was her tough-girl stance, and April knew she was supposed to be intimidated.
She just wasn’t very good at that either.
“No,” April said, trying to sound nice and sweet. It wasn’t her fault she had the kind of face that looked mad unless it was smiling. And smiling for no reason made April’s head hurt.
“I just know what that is.” April pointed to the tiny sensor that was sticking out from behind the painting. “Laser,” she whispered, like that single word should be explanation enough. But judging from their expressions, it wasn’t. “It’ll cut off any finger that touches it.”
“No, it won’t.” Caitlyn with a C’s voice sounded sure, but her eyes lacked conviction.
“Of course it will. That particular kind of laser burns at fifteen hundred degrees. It has to cauterize the wound as it slices because the museum can’t risk getting blood all over everything.”
“Yeah,” Girl Taylor said. “That’s true.” (It wasn’t true.) “I knew that.” (She totally didn’t know that.)
April forced a smile. “Of course you did. You probably saw the guards, too.”
“Uh . . . guard.” Kaitlyn wasn’t that impressed, and she made sure April knew it.
But April pointed to the other side of the room. “Yeah. One uniform. But that janitor has been cleaning whatever room we happen to be in since we got here. And she’s wearing an earpiece identical to the guard’s.”
That part really was true. April didn’t know how she noticed these things. Or why. Sometimes she thought it must be because her mother was a world-famous art thief. Or spy. Or thriller writer. But whatever made April think the way she did must have come from nature. Her mother hadn’t been around long enough for nurture to have had much effect.
After all, her mother was coming back. Soon.
“Yeah, well, maybe she’s not a guard,” Girl Taylor said. “Maybe she’s April’s mother.”
And just like that, everyone remembered the pecking order. April wasn’t the alpha female. She wasn’t the beta either. In fact, April wasn’t even part of the pack, and that was very much the way she liked it.
“No. I think that’s April’s mother.” Kaitlyn pointed to a painting by Picasso of a woman who was shaped like a Barbie doll that someone had put in the microwave.
“No,” Caitlyn said, catching on to the game. She foun...
★ "A modern thriller flavored with classic adventure."—School Library Journal
"[F]ast moving and surprise-filled, guaranteed to have readers racing on to the next deliciously gothic complication." —Kirkus
"In her middle grade debut, Carter (Not If I Save You First) offers up mystery, intrigue, and swashbuckling action in a rollicking story of long-lost secrets and found family." —Publishers Weekly
"The characters are likable and endearing, and the final paragraph, with its subtly shocking revelation, will leave readers demanding to know when the second book is coming. Hand this one to those who enjoy action, mystery, and kick-butt characters." —Booklist
"A fast-paced thrill ride of a book, filled with great characters, swashbuckling action sequences, secret passageways, mystery, and plenty of humor. It’s Batman meets Annie. My daughter devoured it in one sitting and immediately begged for more. I can’t come up with any better praise than that." —Stuart Gibbs, New York Times bestselling author of the Spy School series
"This is the kind of read that makes your soul sit up straight. At once a heart-wrenching tale of found family and a thrilling, atmospheric mystery that keeps you guessing at every page, Ally Carter's middle grade debut is a triumph. I loved April's character down to the barb wire wrapped around her heart, and I cheered for her journey and the extraordinary bravery required to open up to other people."
—Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of Aru Shah and the End of Time
“An unputdownable blend of humor, unique characters, and a mystery that’ll keep readers turning pages way past their bedtimes--and checking their basements... just in case.” —Alexandra Bracken, New York Times bestselling author of Prosper Redding
Praise for Not if I Save You First:
“Maddie's grit, humor, and cleverness make her an engaging action hero. Fans of survivalist fiction will be impressed by the well-researched, immersive Alaskan landscape and all its beauty and brutality. A tightly plotted thriller helmed by a firecracker that never loses her spark.” –Kirkus Reviews
“In this tense romantic thriller from Carter…the characters are dynamic and engaging. The teens’ childhood friendship evolves into a sweet romance, and the fast-paced thrills will keep readers up late.”—Publishers Weekly
“The chemistry and relationship buildup between these two friends is real and believable. The quick pace and witty dialogue will keep teens engaged. Recommended where survival and mystery stories are popular and where Carter has a following.”—School Library Journal
Praise for All Fall Down (Embassy Row Book One):
A New York Times Bestseller
"Carter knows how to construct a gripping thriller." —Publishers Weekly
"Action packed and meticulously plotted, All Fall Down keeps readers guessing." —Booklist
"With its intrigue and clever plot twists, this series opener will leave readers hungering for more." —School Library Journal
"Will appeal not only to psychological-thriller fans, but to those who want a little glamour, some A-list social politics, and a bit of high school nastiness mixed in with their suspense." —Kirkus Reviews
"Grace is a fighter, and she will stop at nothing to find out what happened to her mother. Readers will love this first book in what promises to be an exciting, thrilling mystery series." —Voice of Youth Advocates
"An amazing book." —The Guardian
Honors and Awards
2011 Texas Lone Star Reasing List (Heist Society)
2010 YALSA Teens Top Ten Book (Heist Society)
North Carolina Book Award Booklist, 2010-2011 (Heist Society)
Teens Top 10 Finalist, 2010 (Heist Society)
Romance Writers’ of America Rita Award Finalist, 2010 (Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover)
Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award Winner (I’d Tell You I Love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You)
Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award Winner (I’d Tell You I Love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You)
Amelia Bloomer Book Award (I’d Tell You I Love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You)
Kansas Notable book (I’d Tell You I Love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You)
Texas Lone Star Reading List (I’d Tell You I Love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You)
Georgia Peach Book Award Runner-Up (I’d Tell You I Love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You)
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