Category/Genre: YA Psychological Thriller
Word Count: 70,000
Is your main character hot or cold?
Pax Thomas never comes off as warm and fuzzy. Her OCD keeps her wary and on edge, walled off from most people, cold. She cares deeply about her family and the eco-commune where they live, but has learned to keep her tics and feelings in check. Dak Aquino, on the other hand, carries his fierceness like a torch, connecting easily with people and charming more than a few. Hot-headed as they come, he doesn’t shy away from passion or entanglements, although that sometimes gets him into deep trouble.
For sixteen-year-old Pax Thomas, life in The Refuge—the Virginia eco-commune where she was born—revolves around her large family. The intrusive thoughts and tics she can’t control make her wary of most everyone else.
But when Pax sees the commune’s director, Samsun Conner, arguing violently with a female assistant, she can’t shake the feeling that something’s horribly wrong. Fixated on the possibility that her home is not what it seems, Pax becomes desperate to uncover the truth before this new obsession pushes her into madness.
While breaking the rules to access the Internet, she runs into one of the commune’s migrant workers, an eighteen-year-old Filipino named Dakila Aquino. Dak’s been raking the commune for clues about his younger sister’s depression and self-destructive behavior, which began after she spent time at The Refuge and continues in the Philippines, where she’s returned. In the U.S. a second time despite the mysterious objections of his sister, Dak offers to help Pax in exchange for her help sneaking him into the director’s house and lab.
Dak and his family desperately need the money and training The Refuge gives its migrant workers, but he’s also determined to punish those who hurt his sister, even if he has to destroy the commune in the process. For Pax, accepting Dak’s offer means betraying everyone she knows to trust an outsider when she can’t even trust her own mind.
Told in the alternating voices of a girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and a migrant worker from the Philippines, REFUGE is GATED meets THE BUTTERFLY CLUES with a dash of ELEANOR AND PARK.
First 250 words:
In The Refuge, we’re safe.
In The Refuge, we don’t complain.
Mom has said this a million times, but that doesn’t stop Theresa from screaming like a wildcat.
“You’re getting these shots whether you like it or not,” Mom says. “So cooperate, young lady.”
I help Mom keep my sister in the kitchen chair while Doc Betty stands by, her thin face unworried, ready to give everyone in the house their immunizations and flu shot. Mom’s told us that people in town go to a doctor’s office for every little bump and bruise, paying lots of money for fancy drugs. Not here. We have one doctor, one medical assistant, various kinds of healers, and two midwives. And they all make house calls.
Theresa pale and covered with sores.
Theresa sucking at the air.
I tap the chair in four sets of four to protect her, tap like her life depends on it. No one pays any attention. They accept my strangeness like I accept the ugly images that penetrate my mind.
Though more often than anyone knows, I want to scream.
Theresa’s surprisingly strong for a six-year-old, with a mean streak like a starving raccoon. I press her legs down, while Mom holds her arms in place.
Only I’m not just holding her legs down.
I’m stabbing her with a kitchen knife,
suffocating her with a tea towel,
holding the cloth over her mouth
until her body goes limp.
The cloth, slightly damp,
smells sour. The chair’s
sticky with blood