Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Author: Gina Damico
Pub. Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Paraffin, Vermont, is known the world over as home to the Grosholtz Candle Factory. But behind the sunny retail space bursting with overwhelming scents and homemade fudge, seventeen-year-old Poppy Palladino discovers something dark and unsettling: a back room filled with dozens of startlingly life-like wax sculptures, crafted by one very strange old lady. Poppy hightails it home, only to be shocked when one of the figures—a teenage boy who doesn’t seem to know what he is—jumps naked and screaming out of the trunk of her car. She tries to return him to the candle factory, but before she can, a fire destroys the mysterious workshop—and the old woman is nowhere to be seen.
With the help of the wax boy, who answers to the name Dud, Poppy resolves to find out who was behind the fire. But in the course of her investigation, she discovers that things in Paraffin aren’t always as they seem, that the Grosholtz Candle Factory isn’t as pure as its reputation—and that some of the townspeople she’s known her entire life may not be as human as they once were. In fact, they’re starting to look a little . . . waxy. Can Poppy and Dud extinguish the evil that’s taking hold of their town before it’s too late?
In this scene, Poppy is in her bedroom with Dud, the somehow-magically-alive wax boy that she has
inadvertently adopted. Dud does not yet understand how humans work.
Poppy faced Dud. It took a monumental amount of self-control to say rather than shout, “Why are you
Dud put his hands on his exposed hips. “What’s a naked?”
“Why,” she seethed, staring intently at the floor and definitely not at anything else, “aren’t you wearing
“Because it’s time to wear the sleeping bag?”
Poppy blindly pawed for the sweatpants her father had lent Dud, averting her gaze. Avert. AVERT. “The
sleeping bag is not something you wear, it’s something you put yourself into. Where are your pants?”
“But I put my arms into my sleeves—”
“—and I put my feet into my shoes—
“Found them!” Poppy shoved the pants up against his anatomically-correct pelvis, then practically threw
herself onto the other side of the room. Her face felt like it was about to burst into flame. “Get dressed.
He gave her a look of concern, dropping the pants in the process. “What’s wrong, Poppy?”
Don’t look at it, don’t look at it.
OH GOD I LOOKED AT IT.
“Clothing is important,” she blurted. “I’m wearing clothes. Everyone wears clothes. It’s rude to suddenly
not be wearing clothes.”
“Oh. Okay. Sorry.” He put the pants back on and grinned. “Good?”
“Good. I’m going to open a window, it’s broiling in here.”
“Is it? I don’t feel—”
She opened her window and sat on the sill. The crisp fall air thwacked her back like a spray of cold
water. It felt amazing.
She looked back at Dud, his nudity startling her once more. “Can you put your shirt back on too?”
Dud picked up his shirt but stopped there. “Wait. Can I ask a question? What are these things?” he
asked, pointing to his chest.
Poppy calmly licked her lips and focused on keeping her voice even. “Nipples.”
“What do they do?”
“For boys? Nothing.”
“What do they do for girls?”
“Um, well—when women have babies, milk comes out of them—”
“Milk comes out of the babies?”
“No, milk comes out of the nipples.”
“Milk comes out of the nipples?”
“Yeah, to feed the babies.”
They sat quietly for a moment. Poppy fanned herself. Dud thought some more.
“Where do babies come from?”
“It is officially bedtime.
Gina Damico is the author of Croak, Scorch, and Rogue, the grim-reapers-gone-wild books of the Croak trilogy. She has also dabbled as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. A native of Syracuse, New York, she now lives outside Boston with her husband, two cats, and one dog, and while she has never visited hell in person, she has spent countless waking hours at the Albany Regional Bus Terminal, which is pretty darn close. Visit her website at www.ginadami.co.
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