Strange Girl by Christopher Pike
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Christopher Pike comes a brand-new fascinating and seductive new novel about a girl with a mysterious ability—but one that carries an unimaginable cost.From the moment Fred meets Aja, he knows she’s different. She’s pretty, soft-spoken, shy—yet seems to radiate an unusual peace. Fred quickly finds himself falling in love with her.Then strange things begin to happen around Aja. A riot breaks out that Aja is able to stop by merely speaking a few words. A friend of Fred’s suffers a serious head injury and has a miraculous recovery.Yet Aja swears she has done nothing.Unfortunately, Fred is not the only one who notices Aja’s unique gifts. As more and more people begin to question who Aja is and what she can do, she’s soon in grave danger. Because none of them truly understands the source of Aja’s precious abilities—or their devastating cost.Love Aja or hate her—you will never forget her.In Strange Girl, #1 bestselling author Christopher Pike has created the rarest of novels—a love story that swings between a heart-pounding mystery and a stirring mystical journey.
It was four in the morning when I heard the soft knock on our motel door. I appeared to be the only one who heard it.
Nearby, Janet and Shelly slept soundly on one bed, while on the other Dale lay like a dead man as Mike snored loudly. At the knock, I sat up on my foldout bed. I didn’t mind rollaways. If I was tired enough, I could sleep on the floor. Pulling on my pants over the gym shorts I’d been sleeping in, I slipped from beneath the sheets and answered the door.
“Hi,” Aja said and smiled. She had on the same dress she’d worn to the Roadhouse. Her hair was wet, though, as if she’d just showered, and her feet were bare. I saw no car. I assumed she’d walked over from her own nearby motel or hotel.
“This is a surprise,” I said. It was so good to see her I feared I might still be asleep, dreaming the whole thing up. “What are you doing here?”
“Want to go for a walk?”
I glanced at my friends; they were still out. “Give me a second, let me find my shoes and a shirt,” I said.
Minutes later we were strolling along the cracked edge of an asphalt road beside a twenty-foot fence, topped with barbed wire, that surrounded the base. The town was silent as Elder usually was at this time of morning. There wasn’t a soul in sight.
The air was heavy with moisture and the ground was damp; clouds had chased away the stars. It made me wonder if it had been raining and if that was the real reason Aja’s hair was wet. Had she been wandering around in the dark since we’d last seen her? I asked and she nodded.
“Are you nuts?” I said. “You should have hooked up with us hours ago.”
She shrugged. “You were playing and the place was noisy. Besides, I like to take walks late at night.” She glanced over. “You look surprised.”
“I’m surprised you’re here. What made you come?”
“You invited me to hear you play. You remember?”
“Sure. How did you get here? Did Bart bring you?”
“I took a bus.”
“Why didn’t you come with us?”
“I wanted to surprise you.”
“Let me get this straight. You rode here all alone, across half the state, with only the clothes on your back. And since we last saw you at the Roadhouse, you’ve been wandering around in the dark—barefoot—in a strange town all by yourself.”
“What part are you saying no to?”
“What about your shoes?”
“I brought shoes. But I got tired of wearing them.” She added, “They’re sitting on the hood of your RV.”
“Well, that’s a relief. You’ve got your shoes to protect you. Honestly, Aja, you can’t behave like this, not in this country. You’re too pretty a girl. Anything could happen to you.”
“Anything can happen,” she appeared to agree, before adding, “Don’t worry about me.”
I shook my head. “I do worry about you.”
“Because . . . maybe where you come from it’s safe to wan¬der around at night. But this can be a violent town. You saw those guys at the club. They were ready to kill Mike and Dale.” When Aja didn’t respond I looked over at her. “But they didn’t because you showed up. How did you get them to stop?”
“I didn’t do anything. They were afraid, that’s all. They didn’t want to hurt anybody. And when they understood that, everything was okay.”
I shook my head. “If Shelly had stood on that table instead of you and begged that drunken herd to calm down, they would have beaten the shit out of her. What you did was amazing.”
“I can’t be in danger one minute and amazing the next. You have to make up your mind.”
She had a point, sort of. I was contradicting myself. Not that she still wasn’t acting naive. “What I mean is . . . ,” I began.
She interrupted by reaching over and taking my hand. “I liked when you sang by yourself at the beginning,” she said.
Her hand felt good in mine. “You were there at the start? I didn’t see you.”
“Yes. At first you were nervous, then you relaxed.” She added as if to herself, “You enjoy singing in front of people.”
For such a naive girl, I thought, she was perceptive.
“I do,” I said. When she didn’t reply, I asked, “How have you been this last week?”
“It must have made you mad getting expelled on your second day of school.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll be there Monday.”
I shook my head. “I can’t understand why Billard hates you.”
“She doesn’t hate me.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s afraid of me.”
“We met over the summer.”
“At the town cemetery. I often walk there.”
“What happened at the cemetery?”
Aja hesitated. “Better you ask her.”
I pushed Aja to elaborate but she just shook her head and kept walking. I finally decided to shut my mouth and enjoy the touch of her hand, which was remarkably soothing. I don’t know how far we’d walked when I noticed that I was feeling awfully energized for a guy who hadn’t really slept in two days. More, I felt light, light as a balloon, as if I wasn’t walking but floating alongside the fence. And the clouds in the sky, they felt somehow closer, like I could touch them.
Aja suddenly stopped and faced me, her big, brown eyes bright in the dark night. She reached up and stroked my cheek, my hair, and even though I did my best to stay cool I trembled. She inched up on her toes and kissed me on the lips, just for a second or two.
“Let’s go back to your RV,” she said.
“You mean the motel? You can sleep on my foldout. I can sleep on the floor.”
Aja shook her head and tightened her grip on my hand. She began to lead me back the way we’d come. “I want to sleep with you in the RV.”
I don’t recall much about the walk back. But I do remember lying beside her on the cushions in the rear of the RV, our two bodies barely fitting between the crush of our equipment. We didn’t have sex—we didn’t even make out, nor did she kiss me again.
But she held me and let me hold her and for the first time in my life I felt as if all my hidden fears had been deftly exposed and quietly put to bed, once and for all. I had fought with her that it wasn’t safe to wander alone in the dark, but when I slept with her cheek resting on mine, and felt the brush of her eyelashes as they fluttered during her dreams, I was the one who felt protected.
Since STRANGE GIRL was published a month ago, many people have written to ask about the mystical elements in the book. But the novel at its heart is a love story. Fred meets Aja in the opening chapter and pretty much gets a crush on her right away. True, Aja is a little strange, hence the title. But while writing the book I tried to go back in my mind to how I felt in high school when it came to falling in love and my relationship -- or my lack of one -- with girls as a whole.
I was extremely shy when I was in high school. I did not grow out of the quality until I became a successful novelist in my twenties. But as a teenager at La Mirada High in the early seventies -- I was so shy it was impossible for me to ask a girl out on a date. I was a strong athlete -- I ran track and cross country -- and I was a good student; I got mostly A’s and B’s. But I would just freeze up whenever I spoke to a girl, even if I knew she liked me.
For example, I had a lab partner in biology named Kathy, and I she was always going out of her way to do me small favors. I knew if I asked her out she would definitely say yes. Yet I postponed asking the question until February of 1973. I remember the month because Neil Young was touring to promote the release of his most famous album, Harvest, and I had two tickets to see him at the Forum. When it came to asking out Kathy, I figured, it was now or never. I didn’t want to be one of those guys who went all the way through high school and never went on a date.
I ran into her late one evening at the local library and we talked for a while and I finally popped the question. She looked all excited; I was sure she wanted to go. But then I discovered she had just gone out with another guy named Jim and she felt she would be disloyal to date two guys at once. So I ended up going to the concert with my older brother, who’s name is also Jim.
That experience ruined it for me with girls for a while. But there was another girl in high school that I had a crush on. Her name was Judy, and she was without question the prettiest girl in the school -- at least to me. Our lockers were in the same halls so between classes I would often see her. I watched her so much I knew every stitch of clothing she owned. But the thought of asking her out was out of the question. For one thing she was a senior and I was a junior. Back then a girl never went out with a younger guy. It was unheard of.
But a strange thing happened the last day of my junior year. I was all alone in the school library, reading a book, when Judy came in and sat down across from me. She acted casual at first, asked how I was doing. She even called me by name, which shocked me. I had no idea she knew I existed and here she was talking to me like we were friends.
Then, out of the blue, Judy began to tell me how much she liked me. How she had watched me for the last two years. How she used to go to my races to see how I did. She even went so far as to say she was sad she had never got to know me better.
Judy told me all these wonderful things and I just sat there and didn‘t say a word. I couldn’t express any of my feelings for her. I wanted to but I was in shock; my mind short-circuited. Finally I managed to say something like, “That’s nice,” but by then, after pouring her heart out to me, she felt like a fool and began to cry. I tried to comfort her but it was too late and she got up and walked away. Since I only knew her from school, I had no idea where she lived, I had no way to contact her over the summer. I never saw her again. But for years after that, I was haunted by that day. All the things I should have said but was too afraid to say.
Yet I think the above “encounters” made me a better YA writer. So much of the experience of being a teenager is about discovering what it’s like to fall in love for the first time. Of course, as adults we look back on that phase of our lives and say, “No, you’re not talking about real love. You’re talking about high school crushes.” Well, maybe that’s true to us as adults, but when you’re a teenager the intensity of the feelings are so great they feel real. They feel more real than anything else in the world.
Like I mentioned above, STRANGE GIRL is told from the point of view of a guy named Fred, who falls in love for the first time with a girl named Aja. Granted there are qualities Aja has that make their relationship particularly challenging, but none of that changes what Fred feels for Aja. For him, first love is wonderful, it is agonizing, it is all those things mixed together. It’s true that at the end Fred is left with a broken heart but I doubt he would change a minute he spent with Aja.
I hope all of you have a chance to read the book.
Yours, Christopher Pike
Christopher Pike is a bestselling author of young adult novels. The Thirst series, The Secret of Ka, and the Remember Me and Alosha trilogies are some of his favorite titles. He is also the author of several adult novels, including Sati and The Season of Passage.
Thirst and Alosha are slated to be released as feature films. Pike currently lives in Santa Barbara, where it is rumored he never leaves his house.
But he can be found online at www.Facebook.com/ChristopherPikeBooks
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25 paperback copies of STRANGE GIRL
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5 paperback copies CHAIN LETTER
5 paperback copies UNTIL THE END
5 paperback copies BOUND TO YOU
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