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First Look at New YA Sci-Fi Horror Novel '172 Hours on The Moon' (Exclusive)

Mia went up to her room in the attic and started practicing. 

When it came to her music, she never slacked off. She’d been playing the guitar for two years, and for a year and a half she’d been a vocalist in the band Rogue Squadron, a name with a nod to the seventies appropriate for a punk band that sort of sounded like something from another era, maybe 1982. Or 1984. Even though she didn’t always care about getting every last little bit of her homework done, she made sure she knew her music history better than anyone.

Her latest discovery was the Talking Heads, a band she had slowly but surely fallen in love with. Or, rather, that she was doing her best to fall in love with, because she could tell it was good. She still struggled a little when she listened for a long time. And she wasn’t quite sure if the music was post-punk or rock or just pop, and that made the whole thing even more complicated. But it had such a cold, electronic eighties sound, she knew it would be a perfect fit for her if she could just get into the music.

She kept practicing her guitar for an hour and wrote a draft for a new song that worked off a riff she’d stolen from songs she was totally sure no one had heard. It would be okay to show up with that at her band’s rehearsal tomorrow. After she’d played through it five times and was pretty sure she remembered the chords, she set her guitar down, plugged her headphones into the stereo, and pressed play. Music from the band she had decided to start liking filled her ears. She lay back on the bed and closed her eyes.

“What are you listening to, Mia?” her dad asked, raising one side of her headphones. He was trying to smooth over the negative vibe from earlier in the day.

“Talking Heads,” she answered.

“You know they were really popular when I was young.” 

Mia gave him a look but didn’t respond.

“You know, it’s an amazing opportunity, Mia, the moon. I — we — just want what’s best for you. You know that.”

She groaned but tried to smile at him anyway. “Dad, please. Just drop it, okay?”

But he wouldn’t drop it.

“And for your band, have you given that any thought? Don’t you guys want to be famous? I don’t think it would hurt Rough Squadron in terms of publicity if the vocalist were a world- famous astronaut.”

“Rogue Squadron,” she corrected.

“Anyway,” he replied, “you know what I mean.” And then he left, shutting her door carefully behind him.

Mia lay down on her bed again. Was there something to what he said? No, there wasn’t. She was a musician, after all. Not some astronaut wannabe. She turned her music on again, and vocalist David Byrne sang: “I don’t know what you expect staring into the TV set. Fighting fire with fire.”

It was almost May, but the air was still chilly in Norway. The trees lining the avenue were naked and lifeless with the exception of a couple of leaves here and there, which had opened too early. Two weeks had passed since Mia’s parents had suggested their silly idea to her.

Now she was standing outside school, scraping her boots back and forth over the ground as she waited for Silje to come back from the bathroom. Lunch break would be over soon, and around her other students were scurrying back into the building for fear they’d be late. But Mia was not in any hurry. The teachers always came to class a few minutes late anyway. They sat up there in the teachers’ lounge eating dry Ritz crackers and drinking bitter coffee while they trash-talked individual students.

Mia felt her school was the kind of place where the teachers, with a few decent exceptions, should have gone into pretty much any profession other than teaching. Janitorial work, for example. Or tending graveyards. Something where they didn’t need to interact with living people. Most of them had just barely squeaked through their teaching programs about a hundred years earlier. They had almost infinite power here, and they did their best to remind the students of that every chance they got — because they all knew that this authority disappeared like dew in the sunlight the second they left school grounds and headed out into the real world, where they were forced to interact with people their own age.

Silje came out of the bathroom. She and Mia were the only ones who hadn’t gone back inside yet.

“Cool boots,” Silje said.

“I’ve been wearing them all day,” Mia replied drily. “Didn’t you notice?”

“Not until now. Where’d you get them?”

Mia looked down at her worn, black leather boots that laced up just above the ankle. “Online. Italian paratrooper boots.”

“Awesome,” Silje said. “Well, should we go in?”

“What do you have now?”

“Math,” Silje said.

“I have Deutsch. With ‘the Hair,’ ” Mia said with a sigh.

They went back in and took the stairs up to the second floor.

“Are we rehearsing tonight?” Silje asked right before they went their separate ways.

“I think so. Leonora’s going to call me as soon as she knows if she can.”

“Let me know, okay? I can be there at seven. Not before.”

“Seven’s fine. Hey, I wrote a new song yesterday.”

“You did? What’s it called?”

“ ‘Bomb Hiroshima Again,’ I think. I haven’t decided yet.”

“Cool,” Silje said with a laugh. “See you later.”