Dear Agent,

Four months ago, seventeen-year-old Malena killed her best friend. She doesn’t remember the party, much less the accident—too much alcohol and a severe concussion. Under the weight of her guilt, Malena limps through her senior year with a simple strategy: bury her head in some manga, don’t burden her mom (any more), escape high school and this crappy little town forever.

The plan lasts until she befriends Zoe, the new girl, who says the crash wasn’t an accident. How would she know? But what if she’s right? Hoping for redemption, Malena digs for the truth and unearths pot dealing football players, a corrupt sheriff, and her friend’s secret phone. And Zoe always one step ahead. When more kids from the party start dying in ‘accidents’ and a van tries to run her over, Malena realizes someone is either removing the witnesses or punishing the guilty. If she hopes to save anyone, including herself, she must uncover what really happened that night.

FOG LINE is a Young Adult mystery complete at 89,000 words and would be my debut novel. It has the small-town character and rising tension of books like BURN FOR BURN by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian and THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry.

I live in a small town on the coast of northern California and am a member of the Writers of the Mendocino Coast. Several of my short stories have been featured in the club’s annual anthology. I won the professional’s pick in the Freshly Squeezed first chapter YA contest and attended the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference on scholarship. I’ve worked in education, middle management, and as a professional kayak instructor. I’m now a stay-at-home dad raising a two-year-old daughter, a rescue dog, and a dozen chickens along with my wife who works in special education.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Bryant Burkhardt

Chapter 1

It had been four months since the accident and I still looked away when I passed Josh in the hall after second period. Four months since he saved my life.

Four months since I killed my best friend.

I tried to hurry away but pain rippled up from my ankle and stopped me cold. I didn’t need to see Josh to remind me of what happened—the pins in my leg were always there. The scar on my head, my weakened hand. And not seeing Aisha in the hallway. No gleaming smile coming around the corner, no ebony skin breaking up the sea of white. Constant reminders of the guilt in my soul telling me she’s never coming back.

A flash of color pulled me back into the world. A baby blue hoody topped by curly black hair zig-zagged between the matte flannel and faded denim of the farm kids. The buzz of a dozen conversations disappeared and the lockers spun around me. Aisha?

My books dropped from my good hand. I craned my head to get a better look as the sweatshirt disappeared into a classroom. Lightning shot through my leg with each step as I lurched after, my heart too tight and my hope too big to give it any attention. In the doorway I held the frame as tears blurred my vision and there she was, sitting in the back as usual, in her stupid Penguins sweatshirt, the only black girl in the whole school.

A gasp caught in my throat and my vision cleared. No, not Aisha. Same hair, same height, but a different face and a different sweatshirt.

Was this the dream again? Or real-life?

“Out of the way, burrito-butt.”

A kid in a green jersey pushed past. Mr. Nelson wrote on the board. No one freaked out over a dead girl in their class. And the pain was still there, in my leg and in my heart. Real.

The girl looked up and smiled sadly, like she knew what I was thinking. Who was she? What was she doing there?

The bell rang and everyone stared at me now, standing in the doorway with my mouth hanging open.

Mr. Nelson followed their eyes. “Everything okay Miss Thompson?”

I blinked.

“Shouldn’t you get to class? Malena?” He stepped towards me, a grey-haired white guy offering pity to the broken Latina girl. Pity I wasn’t entitled to.

I nodded, took one last look at the mystery girl and limped away. The pain felt good. Very real. I picked up my books and headed to Pre-Calc.