The Similars (The Similars #1)(2)

The Lorax reaches the bottom of a hill and turns onto a gravel road that winds through brush and woods to the center of Darkwood Academy.

“I wonder if you’ll meet them right away?” Misery muses. “Or later, once everyone has settled in their roo—?”

“Can we turn on the feeds?” I interrupt.

“Of course, Emma! I’d like to hear what they’re saying too!”

“I was actually thinking music might be nice…”

But Misery’s already tuned to a news station and clearly didn’t hear me. I don’t feel like repeating myself, so I settle back in my seat to listen.

“It’s a pleasure to have you with us today,” says a distinguished woman whose image pops up in my view space. She’s nearly three-dimensional, but not quite. “For those in the audience who aren’t acquainted with his work, our guest today is Jaeger Stanwick, the journalist known for his vocal involvement in the pro-clone movement.”

“Happy to be here,” says a familiar voice. In my view space, Jaeger’s figure materializes, looking characteristically disheveled. I recognize him, and not just because he’s made himself famous, or rather, infamous for his views on cloning. Jaeger’s also the father of one of my closest friends at Darkwood: my roommate, Prudence Stanwick. Everyone calls her Pru.

“Can you put this momentous day into perspective for us?” the reporter presses.

“‘Momentous’ doesn’t even cover it,” Jaeger says. “The arrival of these six teenagers at Darkwood Academy—”

“The Similars,” the reporter interrupts. “The teens just released a written statement to the media sharing their nickname for each other with the broader world. ‘The Similars’ is what they began calling one another when they first learned the circumstances of their birth.”

Jaeger nods. “I believe these teens wanted to take control of how the world views them. By giving us—and the press—a name to call them rather than allowing us to craft our own, they are signaling that they’re in charge of their own destiny. And they’re doing it with a commendable sense of humor, I might add. But as I was saying…”

“Go ahead—”

“The arrival of these six teenagers at Darkwood is an enormous opportunity.”

“How so?”

“It’s our chance to welcome them into our lives with open arms. To give them the space and respect they deserve, so they may show the world who they are.”

“And that they harbor no evil agendas?” quips the reporter.

Jaeger frowns. “They are boys and girls, just like our children, Demetria. Like every other teenager in America, they have goals and dreams, fears and ambitions. They can be hurt, deeply. They can feel pain and love—and joy. It’s time the world acknowledged that.”

“Off!” I shout. “Please.” All this talk about the Similars is making my head spin.

“Are you finished listening already?” Misery asks. “Do you already know everything there is to know about the Similars?”

“No,” I say, trying not to let Misery get to me. She’s only a bot; she can’t help it if she’s been programmed to be overly eager. “We’re here. At Darkwood. See?”

“You’re right! So perceptive, Miss Chance.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes as we pull up in front of the main house, a Queen Anne–style manse that looks unbalanced, like it exists on several overlapping planes all at once. As the Lorax inches behind the other cars idling in front of the school, I feel myself tensing. Classmates line the driveway, hugging and gossiping. That would have been me and Oliver. But no more.

The silver car in front of ours stops, and a girl steps out, teetering in high-heeled boots. I instantly recognize her. Tessa Leroy. We aren’t friends, but I know all about her—everyone does. Birdlike and petite, Tessa is one of the Ten. She’s a year ahead of me, a senior, and her stratum from last year will guarantee her a spot, once again, in that elite group. In spite of her Ten status, no one envies Tessa anymore. Not since the police came knocking on the door of her family’s home on Central Park West and arrested her father, Damian Leroy, for fraud.

The Lorax slowly pulls to the front of the line. It’s my turn.

“Have a wonderful school year!” Misery calls out as I retrieve my luggage from the trunk. “I’d be bursting to meet the Similars if I were you! I wonder if you’ll get one as a roommate. That would be simply—”

I shut the trunk with a clang and wheel my bag straight into the throng of students. I pass a girl sporting gorgeous box braids who hoists her cello onto her shoulders, a tenth grader signing up new members for the on-campus LGBTQ+ club, and another girl I don’t recognize, probably a first year, who is plugging her bestselling memoir about growing up on the International Space Station. We haven’t even unpacked our bags yet, and kids all around me are already raring to go, advertising auditions for the fall musical, Hamilton, and recruiting players for several on-campus sports teams. I’m not the extracurricular type—sports bore me senseless, and I’ve never been good with musical instruments. But I’m like a bot when it comes to numbers, and in eighth grade I wrote a short story that won a bunch of awards, so here I am. Enrolled at Darkwood Academy. Sure, I’m a legacy—my father went here when he was a teenager more than twenty years ago—but that’s not enough to get admitted without something “extra.” Not that I care about any of that showiness. I didn’t before Oliver died, and I definitely don’t now.

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