by Elle Strauss
Expected publication: September 12, 2012
Seventeen year old Zoe Vanderveen is a GAP—a genetically altered person. She lives in the security of a walled city on prime water-front property along side other equally beautiful people with extended life spans. Her brother Liam is missing.
Noah Brody is a natural who lives on the outside. He leads protests against the GAPs and detests the widening chasm they’ve created between those who have and those who don’t. He doesn’t like girls like Zoe and he has good reason not to like her specifically.
Zoe’s carefree life takes a traumatic turn. She’s in trouble and it turns out that Noah, the last guy on earth she should trust, is the only one who can help her.
PERCEPTION is a ( SF/mystery/romance) Young Adult novel that takes place in the not too distant future in a world changed by climate extremes, natural disasters and impending wars, and where scientific breakthroughs cause class divisions—both financially and philosophically. It explores the clash between faith and science and how differences can separate us as enemies or ally us together. And in some cases, even in the midst of betrayal and personal crisis, there’s room to fall in love. This is the first book in a planned three book series.
Lee Strauss writes historical and science fiction/romance for mature YA and adult readers. She also writes light and fun stuff under the name Elle Strauss. To find out more about Lee and her books check out her facebook page. To find out about new releases sign up for her newsletter at www.ellestraussbooks.com
PART ONEZOEChapter 1I balanced on my surfboard, right thigh burning and salt water stinging my eyes, whilethe best wave of the early morning carried me like a goddess on a pedestal to shore. My olderbrother Liam and I shared a friendly competition, and it gave me a certain, blissful satisfaction tocatch the same wave and to get to shore first.“Beat ya!” I shouted over the noise of the crashing surf.Seagulls flocked and circled over us, squawking loudly, adding to the cacophony.The sun glistened off Liam’s damp blond curls as he shook them out. His eyes sparkled ashis lips tugged up into a grin. “I let you win.”“Did not!” I smacked him playfully on the arm. “One more ride?”Liam unzipped his wetsuit letting the top half fall down past his waist. He was in fine form,and I understood why all the girls raved about him. He was responsible for a long list of brokenhearts.“I gotta get going,” he said, lifting his board.I fell into stride beside him, my feet sinking into the cold, wet sand. “So soon?”He nodded, the glint leaving his eyes. My lips tightened into a frown “You’re taking offwith Jackson again?”Jackson was my boyfriend but lately he’d been spending more time with my brother thanhe had with me. It was starting to tick me off.Liam stared straight ahead. “Lab stuff.”“What are you working on?” I rushed to keep up with my brother’s long, strong strides. Heflicked his head, tossing the hair out of his eyes but didn’t answer.“Come on,” I knocked into him sideways. “Tell me!”“It’s just stuff.”“Just stuff? Like what? Top CIA stuff? I know you’re smart but I think the government hasbeen doing a good job without your help.”I meant it as a joke, but Liam huffed. “It’s just stuff, okay? So leave it.”I stopped short shocked that he’d snapped at me.He turned around and exhaled, “Zoe, I’m sorry.”“Fine. If you can’t tell me, you can’t tell me.”We resumed our trek along the beach, and I pushed back my frustration. Liam used toinclude me in everything. It was always him and me against everyone else. Him and me againstAlison and Paul, aka our mom and dad. Him and me against the surf. We were a team. When didwe start keeping secrets from each other? Rather, when did he start keeping secrets from me?I re-adjusted my board under my arm. Maybe I could get Jackson to unzip his lips.Especially if I helped him. He could be easily persuaded if I poured on the charm. I hated to gobehind my brother’s back for information, but something about all this--this, whatever it was thatLiam was doing--made me uneasy. I couldn’t pinpoint why, it just did.We reached our home, a massive glass box with two floors of windows facing the PacificOcean. It was built after the San Andreas Fault shifted and triggered the Big Quake that, alongwith the subsequent tsunami, wiped out ten miles of shoreline.A nearby white-stucco storage shed housed all our water toys. We stopped there to hang upour wetsuits to dry.“Thanks for surfing with me today.” Liam said, smiling at me, back to his jovial self. “Iknow it was a sacrifice for you to get up so early.”I smiled in return. “No problem. It was fun.” Surfing with Liam was one of my mostfavorite things to do.“You’re back for dinner?” I asked.Liam didn’t know it, but once he left, I’d be spending the rest of the day preparing forhis surprise birthday party. He’d turned twenty-one yesterday and had celebrated at a bar withhis friends. I couldn’t go because I was underage, and it irked me that Jackson went and that heand Liam had once again shared a significant moment without me. I took consolation in the factthat Alison and Paul gave me free reign to plan this party. My heart beat with excitement, and Icouldn’t wait to see his face when he got home and found the house full of his friends.“Yeah, I’ll be there,” he answered.I bit my cheek to keep my voice even. “Good.We’ll see you, then.”Our property tiered twice before connecting with the sandy beach. Three glass doors slidopen disappearing into the corner and creating a wall-less view of the stone patio that encased aneternity pool. Its waters slipped over the far edge into a waterfall that was collected again on thesecond tier.Liam strode into the house, through the living room and down the hall to his bedroom atthe back, his wet shorts dripping on the glossy white tiles.I tightened the towel around my waist and climbed the open-slat staircase to my room.As I passed the maid, Saundra something, her brown face blanched. She stumbled slightlybefore grabbing the rail and catching herself.“Excuse me,” she said softly at my astonished look.The woman really didn’t look well, and I was thankful for my enhanced immunization. Iwas glad I didn’t have to worry about diseases brought in from the outside.“Are you okay?” I asked.She nodded weakly, and proceeded to clean the rails. I’d requested extra staff to get thehouse ready for Liam’s party.A trill of anticipation reclaimed my thoughts. I couldn’t wait for tonight.The door beside my bathroom opened into a second room, a walk-in closet big enough tohouse another bedroom set. Racks of clothes and shoes lined the walls, a well-lit mirror stationwas located near the sky light and a cushioned leather bench was placed in the middle for sitting.I stood in my closet and stared at the rows of sundresses, blouses and shorts.What to wear?I settled on a lace blouse and cotton shorts, then went to take a luxurious shower, rinsingthe sea water out of my long, blond hair. I leaned into the built-in seat that was designedspecifically for my body height and shape. Laser lights mapped my head and twenty-eight siliconfingers reached out to massage my scalp while shampooing and conditioning my hair. Most daysI had to watch or I’d doze off, but today I was excited. I commanded the water to turn off as soonas the rinse was done.When I was dressed and my hair combed out and tied back, I slipped my platinumCommunication Ring onto my left middle finger. I tapped it which produced a holographicimage of my phone apps on my palm. I touched the clock icon and holographic digital numbersappeared in the air.Ten already? Where did the time go? That was the thing with summer holidays; every hourran languidly into the next.I imagined the cook and her crew were busy preparing for the party in the kitchen. I’drequested fresh sea food and simulated roast, fresh fruit and vegetables, an assortment of fancychocolates and baked items plus a three-tiered, surfer-themed birthday cake.I skipped down the stairs to check on the progress, but in my hurry to the kitchen, Islammed into a body.“Sorry,” a male voice said.I stepped back agitated. I recognized the dark-haired boy wearing the white tunic mymother made the male staff wear. He was the maid’s son and I guessed he was part of the extrastaff. He held a wet mop in his hand, and I figured he’d been cleaning up Liam’s spotty watertrail.He stepped politely out of the way, but the expression on his face was stoic. Even thoughhe was clearly from the outside and the help, I still expected some small sign that what he sawwhen he viewed me was pleasing. A twinkle in the eye, a slight upturning of the lips. These werethe responses I got from all the boys. The straight ones, anyway.He wasn't especially attractive but I didn't see people with his appearance very often. Hehad eyes the color of imported coffee beans and skin like caramel candy. His nose was wide andhis jaw-line sharp. I was suddenly intrigued by him and surprised myself by thinking he lookedexotic.“Excuse me, what was your name again?” I asked.“Noah.”Right. I remembered now. I waited for him to say something, but he stayed quiet.Footsteps echoed from the hall above. My parents spoke together, their muffled voicesfloating across the high ceilings.“Do other maids send their sons to do their work?” Alison's voice had a brassy tone thatcarried through the cavernous space.I felt a flare of red creep up my neck when I realized Alison was talking about Noah. Myeyes darted to his, but he kept his averted.“He does a good job,” Paul responded. “That's the main thing. Besides you know they needthe money.”“So we're charity now?”“What's wrong with a little charity? Besides, they're not just anybody.”“I don't care. I still don't trust him.”I was mortified. My feet felt cemented to the floor and I didn’t know what to say. Anythingwould come off as trite since nothing I could say could undo what Noah had heard.“Did you know the Pikes have a household robot now?” Alison, again. “Apparently it’svery efficient, and at least Mary doesn’t have to worry about things going missing.”Noah’s jaw tightened and he turned his back to me. He attacked Liam’s dried and dustywater spots aggressively and soon had disappeared around the corner.“Zoe?” Alison click-clacked down the wooden stairs. She wore a pale yellow pant suit andhigh heels even though it was Saturday. She was in-between careers now, having spent the lastfifteen years in law. She barely looked thirty years old and with lots of time ahead of her, shecould do anything. Probably several things.“Mom! You have to keep your voice down. How many times do I have to tell you yourvoice travels in this glass box?“Oh.” She looked mildly shaken. “No matter. Is everything coming together to yoursatisfaction?”“I’m just checking in on things now.”“Your father and I are meeting people for lunch. What time is the party again?”I blew a frustrated breath. She could at least pretend she cared enough to remember detailsI’d told her a dozen times already.“Seven.”“Right. We’ll see you at seven.”Things proceeded throughout the day as planned and I was pleased with my ability to pulloff an event like this on my own.The decorators showed up at 1:00 as promised.The band arrived to set up at 3:00.I got dressed at 4:30, having bought a thigh-length mini-dress that sparkled with tinycrystals just for the occasion.My hair and makeup girl arrived at 5:00.I tapped my ring and called Jackson at 5:30.“Where are you?” I said to the three-inch holographic image of him that popped up abovemy palm. “You said you’d help.”“Sorry, Zo. Got tied up at home.”“Are you okay? You don’t sound so good.”It was odd. No one in Sol City ever got really sick, but it wasn’t unheard of to get rundown if you pushed yourself too hard. Jackson had been working a lot lately.“I didn’t sleep well last night. Uh, spent most of the day in bed.”I felt a little panicky. “You’re still coming, aren’t you?”“Of course. I’ll be there soon.”Alison and Paul arrived at 6:30 along with all of mine and Liam’s friends.I hushed everyone at 6:55, giving instructions on when to shout “Surprise!”It was all a wasted effort.Liam never showed.