Genre: YA Fantasy
Word count: 65,000
When her father does things like slam her head into the fridge, sixteen-year-old Emma Sullivan copes the only way she knows how: she steals her mom’s pain meds and piles on extra makeup. What really hurts is that her mom would rather pretend she’s a total klutz than admit life is less than perfect. Emma has no one in her corner until she meets her late grandfather’s best friend, Ed Rossi. Certain that her grandfather would’ve done anything to stop the abuse if he’d known, Ed helps Emma run away and promises to keep her out of her father’s hands.
Ed’s plan goes to hell when Emma finds a magic key that belonged to her grandmother and ends up stranded in another world. Things only get worse when she meets some of the locals—people who think having a key that’ll always take them home is worth killing for. Won’t even be all that hard for them, since they can all shift into animals that could literally tear her apart. Except Robin, who’s been bullied ever since everyone realized he’s just a robin (hence the nickname). Robin sees Emma as his ticket out and plans their escape. Given the mob of shifters out for her blood, joining forces with Robin is her only real option. They begin searching for a key that can lead Emma home, all the while trying to find Robin his fresh start.
Emma knows going home, where magic is nothing but fiction and people don’t even know about the keys, is the logical choice. Ed promised her the safe and normal life she’d always dreamed of. But as she moves from world to world, she can’t decide what she really wants. Sure, magic can be super dangerous. Any member of the fairy royal family could probably kill her with a thought. Or there’s the Shakespeare-obsessed firebird, who has a tendency to set things on fire when he gets frustrated. But she’s just as fascinated as she is afraid. And as Robin shifts from reluctantly accepted partner to the most important person in her life, she has to decide just how safe she really needs to be.
When my left temple slammed into the refrigerator door, I knew I’d have to get up extra early the next morning. It would take forever to do my makeup and hair so no one would see the damage. My vision blurred to a whitish haze for a couple of seconds, and I took that opportunity to go limp, dropping to the floor. Not because I needed to. No, I could take much more than that without going down. But because he lost interest when he thought I was out for the count.
“Emma?” my father muttered, nudging my side with the toe of his three hundred dollar shoe. I didn’t react in any way. He cursed under his breath, and I heard the sounds of his footsteps through the floorboards when he walked away. “Grace!” he shouted as he moved toward the back of the house. “Emma fell again and hit her head! She’s in the kitchen!”
I could hear the murmur of my mother’s voice, but couldn’t distinguish any words. I knew of the gist of her reply anyway. Oh, poor, clumsy Emma, always hurting herself. Of course I’ll go help her. Why don’t you relax and have another glass of wine, dear? Even if that wasn’t what she said, it was close enough.
I heard the door to my father’s office slam, followed by my mother’s hurried steps. I waited long enough to make sure he didn’t change his mind and come back, and then picked myself up off the floor.