Chapter 1

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"It's time, Bo," Ryan says, putting his hand on my shoulder.

I shrug him off.

"Come on, buddy." He reaches for me again, but I step further away. Buddy. Ryan's not my friend, and it's pointless of him to pretend like he is. Ryan is no one's friend.

My feet make hollow sounds on the weathered planks of the old boardwalk, but I have to stop soon enough. The giant metal gate before me is painted green to blend into the environment, which is dumb because the environment's not really that green around here. But either way, it stops me from going forward. Not that I have anywhere to escape to anyway.

Berkshire Academy, where I live five days out of every week, is on an island. Not a tropical paradise—nope, nothing like that. It's in Massachusetts, of all places. Everything good about living on an island is twisted here. Islands have beaches and the ocean, yeah? Well, Pear Island has those, but good luck having fun under the sun around here. I mean, we have the sun, obviously, but it's behind clouds. And rain. And sometimes snow. A lot of times snow. And wind. Wind so strong that it blows the sand in your face like it has a personal vendetta against you. And the short summer we do have, when there is actually sun, is interrupted by, like, a month of flies swarming around. Not buzz-buzz nice flies, but greenhead flies. They sting and bite and are basically the biggest jerks of the fly population, designed specifically to ruin the day of anyone who may dare think that living on an island means you should be able to, I don't know, lie on the beach or enjoy the sun.

We don't even have a decent boardwalk. Our boardwalk was built fifty years ago, so walking on it barefoot sucks. And oh, by the way, the boardwalk goes through a marsh, so the only people who actually want to use it are old farts who look at birds.

Oh, how I love my island life.

"Come on, man," Ryan says again, this time with more impatience in his voice. "It's time to go."

I turn, leaning my back against the green metal gate. "There's no point."

Ryan shrugs.

I push off from the gate and follow him back toward Berkshire, the bricked mansion just visible beyond the trees in the distance.

The Doctor said Berkshire was placed here—at the end of a particularly non-paradise tropical island—because of a special grant from the government. Most of the island is a state park. The southern tip, where we are, is just the Berk and some old ruins from seventy years ago, when there was a "camp" for people with polio. The top of the island is full of ice cream shops and tourists, but we hardly ever get to go there.

Ryan trudges ahead of me, keeping to himself. Good. I don't want to talk.

I'm mad.

This whole thing is meaningless. This whole day. There's no point to being here. To doing this.

"You have to understand," Dr. Franklin told me this morning when I informed him I wouldn't be going to the assembly. "People need closure."

"I don't," I growled.

The Doctor had given me that smarmy sympathetic smile that people do when they think they know more than you. "Come anyway," he said.

I'd hoped that if I ventured as far out into the island as I could go, he might forget about me. Or, if not forget, at least pretend to forget about me. Let me be the invisible one for once.

But no.

Berkshire Academy rises up from the ground before us as we round the path, all austere and formal. On paper, I guess my life is pretty sweet, living in a mansion on an island. But just like Pear Island is this twisted version of what an island should be, so is the giant brick building complete with point spires. It's not a Bruce Wayne palace; it's a boarding school. The Berkshire Academy for Children with Exceptional Needs. 

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