Mentor Name: Kate Foster
Mentee Name: J.S. Roberts
Category: Middle Grade
Word Count: 48000
Forced to sit together, five unlikely friends must form an alliance to unravel the mystery behind their bus driver’s unscheduled visits to an abandoned gas station. What they find is worse than anything they imagined—and could cost them their lives.
Olivia Ryan glared at the school bus as the door swung open. Did her driver forget how to tell time? She climbed the steps and swiped her bangs to the side, stealing a peek at the driver’s seat. Instead of a dimpled middle-aged woman with glasses, a scowling lumberjack gripped the steering wheel.
“Back seat, driver’s side.” His voice was deep and rough like he’d swallowed a handful of gravel.
Olivia caught herself before she rolled her eyes. The guy was fifteen minutes early and assigning seats? If she had any hope of presenting the new sophisticated image she’d planned, she needed more time to get ready, not less.
She glanced over the almost empty bus. Obviously she hadn’t been the only one surprised by the new time, but luckily overeager Mom had set her clock thirty minutes early. The bus lurched forward, and she flung her hand out to grip the back of the seat beside her. Shouldn’t the new guy have gone to some kind of school to become a bus driver? Linda, who drove for the last two years, took off so smoothly Olivia could’ve danced to her seat.
She sighed. A new driver, a longer ride, and assigned seats; not exactly the perfect way to start eighth grade. She squinted at the shadow in the back seat. Seriously? She had to sit with Jenna McKinley? Miss Popularity Princess herself? Ugh. This day was getting better by the minute. Lumberjack must have assumed all eighth-grade girls wanted to sit together. Well, he was wrong.