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PW #327: Young Adult Contemporary: OLD TOWN

Friday, 4 November 2016  |  Posted by Nikki Roberti

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor: Judi Lauren
Mentee: Clay Harmon
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 76,000


Sixteen-year-old Ben Nguyen skips town, headed for his sister’s in Denver to escape the bully back home and to confront his drinking problem. But the man he hitchhikes with crashes the car and leaves Ben for dead. Now Ben is stuck in a dusty Nevada town where alcohol isn’t the only drug available, and where calling home means facing the truth about the night that ruined his life. Go Ask Alice meets Twisted, OLD TOWN is about a kid escaping addiction and the tormentor who precipitated it.


The Beach Boys never made songs about the desert. The Mojave only knows how to kill, yet people build places like Barstow or Vegas anyway. This says something about the human race. I’m not sure what. But if my plan went to hell, I’d probably end up stranded here.

It was going to hell.

My car coasted down the freeway off-ramp, the gas needle sunk past empty. All I needed was a thousand feet, tops. Cars crowded behind me as I whispered prayers to my steering wheel.

The traffic at the light wasn’t leaving an opening, so I floored it and forced my way in. The driver taking up my rearview mirror laid into his horn. I moved slow and steady as people hooked around me, flipping me off. 

At the closest gas station, I parked in front of the air compressor. I killed the engine and leaned my head against the window. I’d made it.

But my problems had only just started. The battery symbol on my phone was at three percent. A red sliver, barely visible. I had a dead car, a dying phone, and a few minutes at most to decide if I wanted to stay stranded in a Mojave tourist town.

Then the phone would make its own decision.

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