Entry nickname: Brain Gourmet
Word count: 60K
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Sixteen-year-old Jill has been disguised as a zombie since second grade. It’s the only way she can stay with her family, since mixed living/zombie households are not accepted in her community. Even decades after the zombie apocalypse – and the coexistence made possible when “brainchow for zombies” replaced fresh brains -- “zits” (zombies) and “pumpers” (living) don’t mix.
Keeping her secret while growing up in an all-zombie neighborhood hasn’t been easy, but things get tougher when Jill transfers into a new high school. It’s integrated, one of three schools bringing together zombie and living kids and an important test for equal rights. There's new hope for a world where zombies are not routinely oppressed and where Jill can be herself and still stay with her family.
Unfortunately, Jill finds, though undead and living kids are in some of the same classes, they don't sit together. And each day, a new restriction is put on the zombies. The atmosphere is tense and growing more so.
The one bright spot for the school is the integrated football team. If she can form a cheerleading squad that includes both zombies and the living, Jill hopes it will be a catalyst for tolerance and lead to more equality before things get dire.
That means stepping out of the shadows and increasing the chance she'll be exposed. If that happens, she knows it could trigger a riot and the failure of the integration experiment. And she is likely to be pulled away from the family she loves. Keeping her secret is harder than she imagined when she is so close to the music of the living, the food they eat, and, of course, her first interactions with living boys her own age – including Dave, the football team’s quarterback, who has athletic grace no zombie boy can match.
Every success makes Jill more conspicuous, raising the chance she’ll be torn away from her family and they will become outcasts. And her biggest challenge is her longing to be herself, a living girl.
First 250 words:
Jill sat on the edge of her bed and fingered the tray of zombie prosthetics. A gouged cheek. Part of a lip. The shoulder scar she’d hated since fifth grade.
She snatched up the ragged nose and placed it in front of her own small nose. She looked in the mirror. Most of one nostril had been torn free. She should have known. Each year, her disguise showed more decay, pacing her mom’s decomposition.
“I’m not wearing this,” she told her mom. “Not on the first day of junior year.” Not when living boys were there to gawk at her.
She dropped the nose back onto the tray. Her mother shambled over and aimed her good eye at her. “Then you’ll have to stay home. We’re all zombies in this family.”
“I’ll wear last year’s nose, okay?” That was fair. If her mom wanted more rot to show, she could do it with make-up.
“I recycled it.”
Jill scowled. This was the price of her secret. She strode over to the makeup chair, but hesitated.
“I’ve still got the old molds,” her mom said. “I’ll make a replacement nose. It’ll be ready in three days.”
Three days was a lifetime. She hadn’t seen Betsy all summer. Worse, she’d have to wait to meet the living boys she’d been dreaming about.
Jill threw herself into the chair, slumped, and folded her arms. Her mother went right to work, her hands practiced at turning her daughter into a zombie.