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Destroy All the Monsters Blog Tour: Excerpt

A crucial, genre-bending tale, equal parts Ned Vizzini and Patrick Ness, about the life-saving power of friendship. Solomon and Ash both experienced a traumatic event when they were twelve. Ash lost all memory of that event when she fell from Solomon’s treehouse. Since then, Solomon has retreated further and further into a world he seems to have created in his own mind. One that insulates him from reality, but crawls with foes and monsters . . . in both animal and human form. As Solomon slips further into the place he calls Darkside, Ash realizes her only chance to free her best friend from his pain is to recall exactly what happened that day in his backyard and face the truth—together. Fearless and profound, Sam J. Miller’s follow up to his award-winning debut novel, The Art of Starving, spins an intimate and impactful tale that will linger with readers.

Destroy All Monsters
by Sam J. Miller
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 2nd 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Mental Health, Contemporary

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Chapter One
“He’s sleeping on the front porch again,” my mom said, her voice sounding sad the way only Solomon can make it. “Do you want me to have your father talk to him this time, Ash?”
I did not want that. Dad would scare the shit out of Solomon. Our front porch was probably the last safe place Solomon had, and I could never let Dad take that away from him.
“I’ll go,” I said, getting out of bed even though it was 2:00 a.m.
Not that the time mattered. I hadn’t been asleep. I stopped by the kitchen, fished two sodas out of the fridge. Diet Coke for me, vanilla Coke for him. I always made sure we had vanilla Cokes cold and ready.
When I stepped out onto the porch, I was almost ashamed to wake him. There was a cold edge to the night, and he was wearing a tank top and what looked like boxer shorts. He seemed so small, in spite of the bulk of his biceps. The sturdiness of his shoulders.
Another reason I didn’t want to disturb him: he was smiling. I only ever saw him smile when he was asleep.
Someone at Solomon’s aunt’s house—or was it his mother’s friend Sioux he was staying with these days?—might have been wondering where he was. Might have been worried about him. But that was a big, unlikely “might.” If Solomon had anyone else who cared what happened to him, he probably wouldn’t have been sleeping on my porch in October in the first place.
“Hey,” I said, sitting down on the porch swing. I noticed he was curled up just right to leave enough space for me to sit.
He mumbled something, curled up tighter. I grabbed one of his feet and squeezed it.
“Ash, hey,” he said, like it was nothing, like this was totally normal. The night smelled like rain and smoke and a little bit of skunk.
“Everything okay?”
He didn’t answer me right away, and I knew he was weighing his words. Wondering how much to tell me. The stories he told—they were part of why everyone was afraid of him. Crazy stuff he didn’t seem to understand was crazy. A city full of monsters and magic and vicious police officers.
And dinosaurs. With Solomon it was always dinosaurs.
But he didn’t talk about any of that. Not this time. He sat up, rubbed his eyes. “Skunk,” he said, wrinkling his nose, and all of a sudden he’s a little boy and we’re ten years old and the world is so big and full of wonderful, terrible things.
I put my arm around his shoulder and he leaned into me so fast and gratefully that it made my throat hurt.
“You’re okay,” I said. “We’re okay.”
“We’re not,” he whispered.
I knew he was right, so I didn’t say anything. His breathing slowed down. Solomon was safe, now. We were both safe, so long as we stayed there. Stayed still. Every awful thing was asleep. The night protected us, a deep black star-studded security blanket. I gave him his soda and he guzzled it greedily.
Anything could happen once he stepped down off my porch. Returned to the real world with all its terrors and uncertainties. But in that moment, we had each other.
“You’ll be up all night if you drink that,” he said, taking the Diet Coke away from me when I popped the top.
“That was already the way things were going.”
His eyes were huge, and wouldn’t move away from mine. I tried not to look into them, but they were unrelenting. “Why?”
I started to say, It’s the meds, but decided against it. The last thing Solomon needed was another reason to be afraid of medication.
I’d gotten on antidepressants three weeks before. They were just starting to take effect. And they worked . . . mostly. The ground I walked on was feeling less and less like thin ice that might crack open at any moment and plunge me into the dark freezing water where I’d sink like a stone. Any side effects seemed slight when compared to that.
“It’s this photo project,” I said hastily. “It’s a ton of work.”
“What’s it going to be about?”
“That’s the work. Figuring out exactly what I want to focus on.” Then I said, “Connor was asking about you.”
Solomon stiffened. Sat up. “You two are still a . . . thing?”
“You sound like him,” I said. “Always wanting to put a label on it.”
“But you still see him. Still hook up.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Is that a problem?”
“Of course not,” he said, leaning forward, holding his head in his hands. So, yeah, This Was Very Definitely a Problem.
I didn’t know what his deal was with Connor. Less than a year younger than us, he’d always been Solomon’s adoring little stepbrother. If something went wrong between them, I couldn’t imagine what it was.
“I should go,” Solomon groaned.
“Don’t,” I said. “Sleep here tonight. You can crash on my floor.”
“Your father would murder us both.”
“Not both,” I said. “Probably just you.”
“Very comforting.”
“Hey, is everything okay?” I asked. “Why’d you come here tonight?”
He rubbed the back of his head. “I don’t know. It seemed important at the time. Had to tell you something. Warn you. I don’t remember what about.”
“Ah,” I said. “Well. You can message me, if you remember.”
Solomon nodded. His face looked like it was about to crack open.
I wondered: What was it like, losing your mind? Being unable to tell the difference between dreams and the waking world? Not knowing what’s real and what’s not?
“Later, Ash,” he said eventually, standing up. Which is when I noticed he had no shoes. Six-foot-plus, muscular like most guys wish they could be, and he’d always look like a helpless little boy to me.
I watched him lope off, into the darkness. The smell of smoke was stronger now. The cold weather was upon us. Summer was officially over, and I should have been in bed. I stayed on the porch until my soda was finished, and then headed inside to browse through 150 years’ worth of photography on the internet until sleep snuck up on me.
Chapter Two
I shouldn’t have gotten involved. They were police officers, and there were three of them, and they were in a bad mood.
It was a cold night, and the streets smelled like a hundred different kinds of smoke. Burning plastic, wood, paper, garbage—all the things people were lighting up to keep warm. Summer was officially over, and I should have been in bed.
My stomach grumbled. I wanted to eat a piece of apple pie and fall asleep for the next several days. I didn’t want to save anybody. And chances were pretty good the cops just wanted to scare the old woman pushing the shopping cart. She had a velociraptor on a leash. I wondered if they’d hassled her for its license. Dirty cops harassing othersiders was nothing new; it happened a thousand times a day in Darkside. But once in a while they picked on the wrong person or pushed someone too far, someone who wasn’t shy about summoning up fire or ice shards—which meant the cops were legally within their rights to respond with deadly force.
Which, I suspected, was what they wanted in the first place.
But the old lady’s face was kindly. So I did the dumb thing. I started trouble.
“Come on, girl,” I said, kicking gently at Maraud’s sides. My allosaurus flexed her nostrils, which is how she smiles. She doesn’t like bullies any more than I do. Her claws opened and closed and she stepped out of the alley and into the street.
“Hey. Leave her alone,” I called.
They looked up at me. Astride Maraud—her mouth open and dripping hot, hungry saliva—I must have been an imposing sight. For a split second, they were afraid. Then they remembered their guns, their power, the city that supported their abuse, and the fear melted away.
“What’s it to you?” said one of them. The woman pushed her shopping cart off and hurried down the street, turning only once to mouth Thank you at me. Her velociraptor, scuttling beside her, made a guttural noise that Maraud echoed back.
I didn’t have a good answer for him. So I did what I tend to do in stressful situations: I took a picture.
It’s an instinct. If you stop to think, you’ll miss the shot. And since selling a photo to the Clarion often meant the difference between eating and starving, I tended to take the shot.
Problem is, cops hate having their pictures taken.
“Hands up!” they hollered.
My hands went up.
“Drop it!” they said.
“It’s not a weapon!” I called, bending my knees, holding up the camera. “It’ll break if I drop it, and I can’t afford to replace it. So I’m going to put it down very slowly, okay?”
“I said drop it, you—” And they called me a whole bunch of superhorrific names. Fine. It gave me time to set the camera gently on the ground the instant before they walked up and punched me in the stomach. And kept on doing so, until I fell to the ground beside my camera.
“Somebody needs to learn to mind their own damn business,” the shortest cop said, picking up my camera. He inspected it, deciding it probably wasn’t a weapon after all. He held it out to me, but when I reached for it, he pulled it back and let it drop. Something cracked. I bit my lip to keep from exploding with a string of curses. Maraud huffed and stamped her foot, sharing my anger.
“What’s your ability, punk? You a watersider? You have something to do with that robbery last week, down by the docks?”
There was no use trying to deny that I was an othersider. Nobody else would be walking around this part of town at night . . . with an allosaurus. It’s why they call us monsters, because we’re not afraid of the creatures that walk the streets of the city. “I don’t know what my ability is,” I mumbled.
Lady cop laughed. “You expect us to believe that?”
“I don’t expect anything from the fine upstanding police officers of Darkside,” I said. “Not when law-abiding othersiders get jumped every day by goons, and you never do a damn thing about it. Not when those attacks are on the rise and y’all never seem to notice.”
Unfazed by my attitude, dude cop continued, “We run your name, we gonna find anything? Prior offenses, associations with illegal organizations?”
“I don’t have any current offenses,” I said. “Let alone priors. I’m not doing anything wrong. I just don’t think it’s right for you to harass helpless old women.”
“This punk,” the lady cop said, and came at me fast.
“Shit,” I whispered, closing my eyes and bracing myself for the inevitable assault.
Instead, an explosion rocked the street.
I opened my eyes to see two of the cops running down the street. One was on his radio. Flames swirled up from a scorched hole in the side of a building around the corner.
“What about this guy?” asked the woman, lingering with her hand in the air in front of me, like she was aching to get in one last punch.
“Don’t be an idiot,” short cop said.
Then they were gone. I breathed a sigh of relief. Exhaustion washed over me. I needed to be in bed beneath the bridge.
“You’re welcome,” called a voice from a doorway across the street.
I squinted into the shadows. “Who’s there?”
He strolled into the street with a smile on his face and his hands full of lightning. A single bolt spun in a beautiful sphere, dozens of strands of it intricately coiled together. It was beautiful—almost as perfect as his face, which looked like summer even though summer was gone.
“Hi, Niv,” I said. “I take it that’s your handiwork burning a hole in that building over there?”
“Hey, Solomon. You looked like you could use a bit of help.”
“Thanks,” I said.
He clasped his hands together and the lightning shrank down to nothing. I felt so happy to see him, and I hated how happy I felt.
Niv was the personal bodyguard for my best friend, Ash. Yes, that Ash—the Refugee Princess, living in hiding in the very same city where her mother was queen.
Niv’s job was to move her from safe house to safe house. Because Ash was an othersider, and the queen’s advisers assured her that if the bigoted citizens of Darkside ever found out that her daughter was part of that hated and feared community of so-called criminals and parasites, there’d be a full-scale uprising.
So Ash and Niv were on the run, in the city she’d rule one day. If she lived long enough—and the city didn’t tear itself apart before then.
“Cops have been getting even crazier lately,” he said. He smelled like burning sage—a clear, cleansing smell.
I’ve never trusted him. I don’t know why. Maybe because he’s so beautiful? Pretty people can’t be relied upon. They have too many options.
“Can’t you talk to her mother about that?” I asked.
“You know as well as I do that the police are a law unto themselves. They don’t even listen to the queen.”
“She could fire the commissioner, hire somebody who isn’t such a bigot.”
Niv laughed. “You think she’s in a hurry to trigger a coup? They’d take her out in a second if they thought she was trying to change the way they do things.”
“I guess,” I said begrudgingly. Cass, the editor in chief at the Clarion, Darkside’s scrappy opposition paper, had said the same thing to me not so long ago. “How’s Ash?”
“She’s . . . the same.”
I winced, remembering Ash staring out the window at the snow, not even seeing it. Playing our favorite songs for her and seeing that she felt nothing. “Can’t the doctors . . .”
“She’s seen dozens of them, and they all say the same thing. The only way to bring her out of this . . . whatever it is . . . is to lift the spell the court sorcerers put on her.”
“Shit,” I said. We both knew her mother would never allow that. The spell kept Ash’s powers in check, buried them deep. Since the age of twelve, Ash had been childlike on the best of days, and semicatatonic on the others.
“She’s fighting it. Wherever she is in there, she’s working hard to break the spell. That’s why they have to keep making it stronger. She’s nobody’s victim.”
“Of course she’s not.”
“Come see her,” Niv said, and named an address in Raptor Heights. A rough-and-tumble working-class neighborhood where lots of othersiders could afford to live, because its bad reputation kept the rents down.
“Should you be telling me that?” I asked. “Isn’t her location supposed to be a huge secret?”
He looked hurt, and I didn’t feel bad about it. Protecting Ash was my primary purpose in life. This pretty boy I’d been crushing on since I was ten didn’t matter, in the grand scheme. “She loves you, Solomon. There’s no secrets from you.”
“But if you’d tell me, who else would you tell?”
Niv frowned, and his face flashed red. “Good to see you, Maraud,” he said, patting her side. She blinked slowly, in happiness. Then he turned and left.
Maraud took two steps to follow him. When I pressed my hand to her neck to stop her, she turned to look at me in confusion.
“Sorry, girl,” I said, climbing on board. “Let’s head for the bridge.”
As we went, she kept trying to turn. Still following Niv’s scent—and Ash’s, on him.
“Ash is going to be okay,” I said, knowing she could hear the lie in my voice. “We’re all going to be okay.”

A ship’s horn sounded in the distance, low and lonesome, arriving from the Spice Islands. We hurried home through streets that stunk of cinnamon.

About the Author:

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula-Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (HarperTeen), one of NPR's Best Books of 2017. His second novel, Blackfish City (Ecco Press/USA; Orbit/UK) was a "Must Read" according to Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Magazine, and one of the best books of 2018 according to the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and more. Joan Rivers once asked him if he was gay (HE IS!). He got married in a guerrilla wedding in the shadow of a tyrannosaurus skeleton. He lives in New York City.

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Tour Schedule:

July 2nd

July 3rd

BookCrushin - Interview
The Reading Life - Promotional Post

July 4th

Snark and Squee - Review + Favourite Quotes

July 5th

The YA Obsessed - Review
Dazzled By Books - Promotional Post

July 6th

Frayed Books - Review
Confessions of a YA Reader - Promotional Post

July 7th

Belle's Archive - Review + Favourite Quotes
A Dream Within A Dream - Promotional Post

July 8th

Port Jericho - Review

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