The first book from LA Times Book Prize and Printz Honor winner A.S. King--a witty, snarky tale of love and family, revenge and reincarnation, and pirates.

In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with "the dust of one hundred dogs," dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact.
Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs to escape her no-good family and establish a luxurious life of her own is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica...
© A.S. King
Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the best YA writers working today,” A.S. King is the author of over a dozen books for young readers. She is the only two-time winner of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is the recipient of both the Margaret A. Edwards Award and the ALAN Award for her lifetime contributions to young adult literature. King lives with her family in Pennsylvania, where she returned after living on a farm and teaching adult literacy in Ireland for more than a decade. View titles by A.S. King
Prologue
 
With one last, almighty roar, the Frenchman fell to his knees and died. When the smoke cleared, Emer kicked him to make sure he was dead. Bent on one knee in the moonlight, holding his head with her left hand, she took a marlinspike and removed his right eyeball with relative ease. She rolled it in the sand next to his head and shoved the spike deep into his empty socket.
               She placed her pistol gently into her waistband and looked toward the sea.
               "I curse you!" she screamed at the dark water. "I curse you for all you gave me and for all you pilfered! I curse you for the journeys you begin and the journeys you end! I curse you until I can't hate you anymore! And I scarcely think I will ever hate you more than on this wretched day!" Her fair hair stuck to her face, wet with sorrow and surf, and her hand-embroidered cotton blouse clung to her, stained with her lover's blood.
               Turning again to the two dead bodies, she retrieved the shovel from underneath Seanie—Seanie, her first and only love. She limped back to the clearing. Looking around to make sure no one was watching, she sat down on the edge of the hole and talked to herself.
               "There was only one reason to stop all of this poxy business." She turned and looked at the distant dead. "What worth is a precious jewel now? Damn it! In all these years, over all this water! And I end up a fool with a lap full of precious nothing!"
               She dragged the two crates into the hold and began to cover them quickly, concerned that the Frenchman’s reinforcements would arrive at any minute. She buried the shovel last, on top, and used her hands to fill the remaining depression, covering the sand with sticks and dead leaves.
               Returning to the scene of the dead men, she lay down beside Seanie, placed her head on his chest, and sobbed.
               “It’s like two different lives in the same bloody day.”
               Through her sobs, Emer heard footsteps. A voice boomed from the darkness, making her jump. She scrambled to her feet and reloaded her pistol.
               “Foul bitch!” he began, in island-accented English. “You have meddled in my life for too many years! I’m sure you didn’t know every whore in these islands heard him scream your name a thousand times! And me, too! Now look at him! Dead!”
               Emer saw the man emerging from the tree line, his hands hidden. She had seen him before, on Tortuga and on board the Chester. The Frenchman’s first mate.
               “You will see!” he yelled, jumping from the brush. “You will see how true love lasts! You will see how real love spans time and distance we know nothing of!”
               He rushed forward then, shaking a small purse toward her. From it came a fine powder that covered Emer’s hair and face. She reached up and wiped her eyes clear, confused.
               “What are you at?” she asked, spitting dust from her lips.
               He stood with his arms and face raised to the night sky. “I curse you with the power of every spirit who ever knew love!” he screamed. “I curse you to one hundred lives as the bitch you are, and hope wild dogs tear your heart into the state you’ve left mine!” He began chanting in a frightful foreign language.
               Still brushing the dust from her hair, Emer took aim with her gun and fired.
               As she watched the man fall, she felt a burning prod in her back and stumbled sideways—long enough to see that the Frenchman had miraculously not been all dead, and long enough to see that he was covered in stray pieces of the strange dust his first mate had thrown at her.
               She tried to fall as near to Seanie as possible, and managed to get close enough to reach out and grab his cold hand. She took her dying breath lying halfway between her lover and her killer, covered in the dust of one hundred dogs, knowing she was the only person on the planet who knew what was buried beneath the chilly sand ten yards away.
 
1
Isn’t She Sweet?
 
Imagine my surprise when, after three centuries of fighting with siblings over a spare furry teat and licking my water from a bowl, I was given a huge human nipple, all to myself, filled with warm mother’s milk. I say it was huge because Sadie Adams, my mother, has enormous breasts, something I never inherited.
               When I was born into a typical family in Hollow Ford, Pennsylvania, in 1972, my life was finally mine again. No more obeying orders from masters, no more performing silly tricks, and no more rancid scraps to eat. Within seconds of my birth, I was suckling like no other child in the local maternity ward, in order to grow strong quickly and return to a life cut short by the blade.
               A puppy can walk and wander and whine from the minute they leave the amniotic sac. There is a freedom in that which I learned to appreciate during those first years as a human again. Lying on my back for hours in a crib, wearing a diaper, and drooling made me feel like an idiot. I first tried to walk again at five months old and promptly fell over onto the linoleum floor, wailing from pain and frustration.
               I was the youngest of five children born to Sadie and Alfred. Being the last, there was no wonder for them in my first steps or mutterings, and only a sigh of relief when I started to use the toilet by myself.
               I don’t know if my parents saw it then, but they certainly noticed later that I was completely different from other children. When I first began talking, I sometimes spoke of places I’d never been, and they would look at me, confused. When I started school, my kindergarten teacher arranged a meeting with them and asked where I’d gotten so much knowledge of history and language. They shrugged and figured I was going to be the genius in the family—so I didn’t let them down.
               In all fairness, they needed a genius. As I grew up, I started to notice that life in the Adams household was less typical than it appeared on the outside. My father suffered horribly from the side effects of his tour in the Vietnam War, and my mother had never recovered from her childhood. Their lives had been lived on the edge of poverty and emotional instability. In me and my superhuman intelligence, they saw a way out of their troubles and shame, and so they rarely questioned any of it.                  But after a meeting with my first grade teacher, they had to sit me down and ask a few things.
               “Saffron, how did you know so much about the second world war?”
               “I guess I saw it on the TV,” I answered, trying not to sound coy.
               My father frowned. “You couldn’t have seen it on the TV. They don’t say that much on the TV.”
               “Must have read it in a book, then.”
               “Sweetie, we don’t have any books like that. Did you read it somewhere else?” my mother cooed.
               “I must have.”
               “Hmmm.”
               “Saffron, we know you’re a very clever girl, but do you think there’s a way you could stop showing off in class? Mrs. Zieber is concerned that you’re making the other children feel bad,” she said.
               “Then why don’t they put me in a higher grade?” I didn’t like Mrs. Zieber, but now I had reason to like her even less. I pictured myself liberating her eyeball from its socket and tossing it onto the merry-go-round in the first grade recess area.
               “But we thought you liked being in Mrs. Zieber’s class.”
               “I do, but I’m pretty bored. I’m sick of counting to a hundred,” I whined.
               They looked at me, and shrugged at each other. Two weeks later, after winter break, I was enrolled in the district’s gifted program—the ultimate place for showing off knowledge that no other first grader could have. I blabbered about everything—the goings-on in the Truman White House, the main tenets of Hinduism, the political complications of Central Africa. My peers envied me, even the teachers envied me. I was like a miracle kid or something, and people started to talk.
               The next year, I realized that life as Saffron Adams would have to be far more inconspicuous. I couldn’t go around claiming to be a genius, and I couldn’t go telling stories from history that I shouldn’t know yet. I guess I realized that the more I said, the more chance I had of ruining everything I was working toward.
               It was then, in 1980, the year I turned eight years old, that I forged my plan to return to the Caribbean Sea. Most of the other kids in my class were toying with being rock stars of President of the United States, but I had something much more appealing in mind. Finally done with my one hundred lives as a dog, I would one day reclaim my jewels and gold, hold them close to my heart, and live happily ever after.
               So from that day forward, in order to seem my age when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered accordingly.
               “I want to be a pirate,” I would say. And they would smile and think, “Isn’t she sweet?”
  • FINALIST | 2009
    Cybils
  • AWARD | 2009
    Indie Next
  • AWARD | 2009
    YALSA Best Books for Young Adults
"Pirates, reincarnation, dogs, teenage angst, a romance that spans the centuries, magic, treasure--all are wrapped up inside a fun Goth cover. . . "--SLJ

"An undeniably original book."--Booklist

"King weaves an unusual and astounding story from these disparate premises...A remarkable and compelling story for readers seeking something out of the ordinary."--VOYA

"An intricate and sometimes very funny story. The character of Saffron is the embodiment of an escapist fantasy." --The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

"Exciting, fascinating, spellbinding. I'd follow Saffron into the briny deep."-Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

"A non-traditional pirate tale with a dangerously raw, mystical edge and a unique modern twist. Deliciously fresh and starkly unforgettable."-Lisa McMann, New York Times best-selling author of Wake

"Sparkling, original, both swashbuckling and contemporary...This gripping adventure is sure to be devoured by both teens and adults."-Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of Crazy Beautiful

About

The first book from LA Times Book Prize and Printz Honor winner A.S. King--a witty, snarky tale of love and family, revenge and reincarnation, and pirates.

In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with "the dust of one hundred dogs," dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact.
Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs to escape her no-good family and establish a luxurious life of her own is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica...

Author

© A.S. King
Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the best YA writers working today,” A.S. King is the author of over a dozen books for young readers. She is the only two-time winner of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is the recipient of both the Margaret A. Edwards Award and the ALAN Award for her lifetime contributions to young adult literature. King lives with her family in Pennsylvania, where she returned after living on a farm and teaching adult literacy in Ireland for more than a decade. View titles by A.S. King

Excerpt

Prologue
 
With one last, almighty roar, the Frenchman fell to his knees and died. When the smoke cleared, Emer kicked him to make sure he was dead. Bent on one knee in the moonlight, holding his head with her left hand, she took a marlinspike and removed his right eyeball with relative ease. She rolled it in the sand next to his head and shoved the spike deep into his empty socket.
               She placed her pistol gently into her waistband and looked toward the sea.
               "I curse you!" she screamed at the dark water. "I curse you for all you gave me and for all you pilfered! I curse you for the journeys you begin and the journeys you end! I curse you until I can't hate you anymore! And I scarcely think I will ever hate you more than on this wretched day!" Her fair hair stuck to her face, wet with sorrow and surf, and her hand-embroidered cotton blouse clung to her, stained with her lover's blood.
               Turning again to the two dead bodies, she retrieved the shovel from underneath Seanie—Seanie, her first and only love. She limped back to the clearing. Looking around to make sure no one was watching, she sat down on the edge of the hole and talked to herself.
               "There was only one reason to stop all of this poxy business." She turned and looked at the distant dead. "What worth is a precious jewel now? Damn it! In all these years, over all this water! And I end up a fool with a lap full of precious nothing!"
               She dragged the two crates into the hold and began to cover them quickly, concerned that the Frenchman’s reinforcements would arrive at any minute. She buried the shovel last, on top, and used her hands to fill the remaining depression, covering the sand with sticks and dead leaves.
               Returning to the scene of the dead men, she lay down beside Seanie, placed her head on his chest, and sobbed.
               “It’s like two different lives in the same bloody day.”
               Through her sobs, Emer heard footsteps. A voice boomed from the darkness, making her jump. She scrambled to her feet and reloaded her pistol.
               “Foul bitch!” he began, in island-accented English. “You have meddled in my life for too many years! I’m sure you didn’t know every whore in these islands heard him scream your name a thousand times! And me, too! Now look at him! Dead!”
               Emer saw the man emerging from the tree line, his hands hidden. She had seen him before, on Tortuga and on board the Chester. The Frenchman’s first mate.
               “You will see!” he yelled, jumping from the brush. “You will see how true love lasts! You will see how real love spans time and distance we know nothing of!”
               He rushed forward then, shaking a small purse toward her. From it came a fine powder that covered Emer’s hair and face. She reached up and wiped her eyes clear, confused.
               “What are you at?” she asked, spitting dust from her lips.
               He stood with his arms and face raised to the night sky. “I curse you with the power of every spirit who ever knew love!” he screamed. “I curse you to one hundred lives as the bitch you are, and hope wild dogs tear your heart into the state you’ve left mine!” He began chanting in a frightful foreign language.
               Still brushing the dust from her hair, Emer took aim with her gun and fired.
               As she watched the man fall, she felt a burning prod in her back and stumbled sideways—long enough to see that the Frenchman had miraculously not been all dead, and long enough to see that he was covered in stray pieces of the strange dust his first mate had thrown at her.
               She tried to fall as near to Seanie as possible, and managed to get close enough to reach out and grab his cold hand. She took her dying breath lying halfway between her lover and her killer, covered in the dust of one hundred dogs, knowing she was the only person on the planet who knew what was buried beneath the chilly sand ten yards away.
 
1
Isn’t She Sweet?
 
Imagine my surprise when, after three centuries of fighting with siblings over a spare furry teat and licking my water from a bowl, I was given a huge human nipple, all to myself, filled with warm mother’s milk. I say it was huge because Sadie Adams, my mother, has enormous breasts, something I never inherited.
               When I was born into a typical family in Hollow Ford, Pennsylvania, in 1972, my life was finally mine again. No more obeying orders from masters, no more performing silly tricks, and no more rancid scraps to eat. Within seconds of my birth, I was suckling like no other child in the local maternity ward, in order to grow strong quickly and return to a life cut short by the blade.
               A puppy can walk and wander and whine from the minute they leave the amniotic sac. There is a freedom in that which I learned to appreciate during those first years as a human again. Lying on my back for hours in a crib, wearing a diaper, and drooling made me feel like an idiot. I first tried to walk again at five months old and promptly fell over onto the linoleum floor, wailing from pain and frustration.
               I was the youngest of five children born to Sadie and Alfred. Being the last, there was no wonder for them in my first steps or mutterings, and only a sigh of relief when I started to use the toilet by myself.
               I don’t know if my parents saw it then, but they certainly noticed later that I was completely different from other children. When I first began talking, I sometimes spoke of places I’d never been, and they would look at me, confused. When I started school, my kindergarten teacher arranged a meeting with them and asked where I’d gotten so much knowledge of history and language. They shrugged and figured I was going to be the genius in the family—so I didn’t let them down.
               In all fairness, they needed a genius. As I grew up, I started to notice that life in the Adams household was less typical than it appeared on the outside. My father suffered horribly from the side effects of his tour in the Vietnam War, and my mother had never recovered from her childhood. Their lives had been lived on the edge of poverty and emotional instability. In me and my superhuman intelligence, they saw a way out of their troubles and shame, and so they rarely questioned any of it.                  But after a meeting with my first grade teacher, they had to sit me down and ask a few things.
               “Saffron, how did you know so much about the second world war?”
               “I guess I saw it on the TV,” I answered, trying not to sound coy.
               My father frowned. “You couldn’t have seen it on the TV. They don’t say that much on the TV.”
               “Must have read it in a book, then.”
               “Sweetie, we don’t have any books like that. Did you read it somewhere else?” my mother cooed.
               “I must have.”
               “Hmmm.”
               “Saffron, we know you’re a very clever girl, but do you think there’s a way you could stop showing off in class? Mrs. Zieber is concerned that you’re making the other children feel bad,” she said.
               “Then why don’t they put me in a higher grade?” I didn’t like Mrs. Zieber, but now I had reason to like her even less. I pictured myself liberating her eyeball from its socket and tossing it onto the merry-go-round in the first grade recess area.
               “But we thought you liked being in Mrs. Zieber’s class.”
               “I do, but I’m pretty bored. I’m sick of counting to a hundred,” I whined.
               They looked at me, and shrugged at each other. Two weeks later, after winter break, I was enrolled in the district’s gifted program—the ultimate place for showing off knowledge that no other first grader could have. I blabbered about everything—the goings-on in the Truman White House, the main tenets of Hinduism, the political complications of Central Africa. My peers envied me, even the teachers envied me. I was like a miracle kid or something, and people started to talk.
               The next year, I realized that life as Saffron Adams would have to be far more inconspicuous. I couldn’t go around claiming to be a genius, and I couldn’t go telling stories from history that I shouldn’t know yet. I guess I realized that the more I said, the more chance I had of ruining everything I was working toward.
               It was then, in 1980, the year I turned eight years old, that I forged my plan to return to the Caribbean Sea. Most of the other kids in my class were toying with being rock stars of President of the United States, but I had something much more appealing in mind. Finally done with my one hundred lives as a dog, I would one day reclaim my jewels and gold, hold them close to my heart, and live happily ever after.
               So from that day forward, in order to seem my age when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered accordingly.
               “I want to be a pirate,” I would say. And they would smile and think, “Isn’t she sweet?”

Awards

  • FINALIST | 2009
    Cybils
  • AWARD | 2009
    Indie Next
  • AWARD | 2009
    YALSA Best Books for Young Adults

Praise

"Pirates, reincarnation, dogs, teenage angst, a romance that spans the centuries, magic, treasure--all are wrapped up inside a fun Goth cover. . . "--SLJ

"An undeniably original book."--Booklist

"King weaves an unusual and astounding story from these disparate premises...A remarkable and compelling story for readers seeking something out of the ordinary."--VOYA

"An intricate and sometimes very funny story. The character of Saffron is the embodiment of an escapist fantasy." --The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

"Exciting, fascinating, spellbinding. I'd follow Saffron into the briny deep."-Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

"A non-traditional pirate tale with a dangerously raw, mystical edge and a unique modern twist. Deliciously fresh and starkly unforgettable."-Lisa McMann, New York Times best-selling author of Wake

"Sparkling, original, both swashbuckling and contemporary...This gripping adventure is sure to be devoured by both teens and adults."-Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of Crazy Beautiful

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