Author: Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Published: August 30th, 2013 by Clean Teen Publishing
Word Count: approx. 92,000
Genre: YA Mature Dystopian Romance
Content Warning: Non-graphic Violence
Recommend Age: 14+
Synopsis: Rosa never thought she’d make it to sixteen...
When being unique puts you in danger and speaking your mind can be punishable by death, you might find yourself fighting to survive. Sixteen-year-old Rosa lives in one of the eight enclosed cities of The Woodlands. Where the lone survivors of a devastating race war have settled in the Russian wilderness because it’s the only scrap of land left habitable on the planet. In these circular cities, everyone must abide by the law or face harsh punishment. Rosa's inability to conform and obey the rules brands her a leper and no one wants to be within two feet of her, until she meets Joseph. He's blonde, fair-skinned, green-eyed, and the laid-back complete opposite of Rosa. She's never met anyone quite like him, and she knows that spells danger.
But differences weren't always a bad thing. People used to think being unique was one of the most treasured of traits to have. Now, the Superiors, who ruthlessly control the concrete cities with an iron fist, are obsessed with creating a 'raceless' race. They are convinced this is the only way to avoid another war. Any anomalies must be destroyed.
The Superiors are unstoppable and can do anything they want. After all, they are considered superheroes by the general public. But not everyone sees them this way. When they continue to abuse their power by collecting young girls for use in their secret, high-tech breeding program, they have no idea that one of those girls has somehow managed to make friends even she didn't know she had. And one man will stop at nothing to save her.
Then it started, very slowly. At first.
It began with restlessness—girls moving, shaking their heads, and touching their stomachs. Then we heard a girl shout out, then another, and then soon there was an immense chorus of wailing girls. I realized then that the purple smoke was some kind of quick working antidote to the fog. Some of them were screaming, “What have you done to me?” Some were crying, some were calling out for help. One thing was clear—these girls had woken up. The drugs were wearing off. The people in white were exchanging glances, nervously. What they had said before was true. There was only one of them to ten girls. One man was bracing himself, his fists clenched, his chest puffed out, as if ready for a charging stampede. I saw one, with a face as white as her coat, drop her gear and run for the trees. Action was necessary but they all stalled. Then the decision was made for them, as girls started to stand and run. Some pushed through, parting the bodies like they were swimming through a fleshy sea. Some just ran right over the top of the others. Most of them were trying pull themselves out of the fog still, and they were the first ones that received the needle to the arm.
It was pandemonium—girls dropping to the ground unconscious, girls fighting, girls screaming hysterically. One girl was louder than most, yelling, “It’s coming, it’s coming.” I stood up to help, but Clara was holding my arm, not allowing me to step forward. For someone so small, she seemed immensely strong, her iron grip making an imprint on my forearm.
Soon the needles were too time-consuming and the bigger men started walking through the crowd, knocking girls out with large, rubber batons. Swiping and chocking them in the temples like they were knocking posts into the ground. There was blood and pain all around me. I felt my nerves about to fray and spark into a thousand tiny threads, each one pulling at me, hurting me—burying hundreds of shocking, violent images in my memory.
A few girls who were not far along, their stomachs showing little or no bulge, turned on one of the men. He was hitting out at them desperately as they scrambled and scratched at his face, their eyes feral. They took him down and grabbed his satchel, needles falling to the sodden ground. One of the girls picked up a needle and plunged it into the man’s eye. Her reddish hair swung around her face as she whipped it from side to side quickly. She crouched over him like a deranged, wild creature protecting its prey. I have never heard a noise like that in all my life—a gurgling, strangled scream like a stuck animal. Just for good measure, the girl elbowed the man in the face, ceasing the screaming. She then sprung from her crouched position into a full sprint, her long legs carrying her gracefully to the edge of the woods and beyond.
Then I was dragged into the play. A man, badly bleeding from his leg, was limping towards me. At first, thinking he needed help, I moved towards him, not noticing the baton in his hand until it was too late. He raised it above his head, his eyes showing no mercy. He was as delirious as those girls, caught up in the craziness. I put my arm over my head and shut my eyes. Not even thinking to run or fight back, just sitting there, an easy target. I heard the deadening thwack of wood against flesh and opened my eyes to see him fall to the ground. Clara stood above me with a blood-stained branch in her hand.
“We have to go,” she said as she jerked me to my feet. Where she was pulling this strength from I’ll never know, but I followed her into the forest, leaving behind me a mess of panicked souls on both sides. To my left and right there were girls running, tripping, falling. Some were being chased. Someone must be chasing us, I thought.
Clara kept charging through, never letting go of my hand, never looking back. I, on the other hand, was fervently looking backwards, forwards, and sideways, wondering how long it would be before someone caught up with us. Anticipating rough arms grabbing my shoulders and pulling me down. Suddenly Clara stopped dead and listened, her head cocked sideways like a wolf.
“What are you doing?” I shivered as a breeze blew through my thin, cotton gown.
“Shh!” she said, pressing her tiny, dark finger to my lips.
I didn’t want to stop. I could barely hear the girls anymore. I didn’t want to think about why that was. I was hoping against hope that if we kept going, maybe we wouldn’t get caught, that we could escape this nightmare. I started tugging on Clara’s arm, figuring the horror had just hit her and she was temporarily incapacitated.
“Get down,” she hissed. But it was too late. I felt the sting, and then warmth coursing through me, before I dropped to the ground.
Lauren Nicolle Taylor is a 33-year-old mother living in the tiny, lush town of Bridgewater on the other side of the world in Australia. She married her high school sweetheart and has three very boisterous and individual children. She earned a Bachelors degree in Health Sciences with Honours in Obstetrics and Gynecology and majored in Psychology while minoring in Contemporary Australian Writing.
After a disastrous attempt to build her dream house that left her family homeless, She found herself inexplicably drawn to the computer. She started writing, not really knowing where it may lead but ended up, eight weeks later, with the rough draft of The Woodlands.
In 2013, Lauren Nicolle Taylor accepted a publishing contract with Clean Teen Publishing. Her first published novel, The Woodlands, was released on August 30, 2013. Currently, Lauren has finished her manuscript for the second book in the series titled: The Wall, as well as partially completed the third book in the series which at this time is unnamed.
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