Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from Sourcebooks for blog posting and giveaway, purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it
Ivy, I pray that it’s you reading this. And if you are, well, I suppose you’re the new me…
When shy Ivy’s troublemaking twin Scarlet vanishes from Rookwood boarding school, Ivy is invited to “take her place.” But when Ivy arrives, she discovers the school’s true intention; she has to pretend to be Scarlet. She must think like Scarlet, act like Scarlet, become Scarlet. What on earth happened to the real Scarlet, and why is the school trying to keep it a secret?
Luckily for Ivy, Scarlet isn’t about to disappear without a fight. She’s left pieces of her journal carefully hidden all over the school for Ivy to find. Ivy’s going to figure out what happened to Scarlet. She’s got to.
But the staff of Rookwood is always watching, and they’ll do anything to keep their secrets buried…
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Excerpt from Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin:
This is the story of how I became my sister.
I got the letter on the first of September. I remember that because it was the day after our thirteenth birthday. My thirteenth birthday. The first one I wouldn’t share with my twin sister, Scarlet.
I woke up and made my way down the winding stairs of my aunt Phoebe’s house, breathing in the smell of bacon cooking as I went. The early morning sun was already warming the air. It could have been a good day.
As I emerged from the shadow of the stairs and into the sunlit hallway, I noticed it. An envelope lying on the stone floor.
For a moment I thought it could be a belated birthday card, but as I picked it up it felt more like a letter. The only birthday card I’d gotten that year was from my aunt, and looking at the single, lonely name written at the top had hurt more than I could say.
Scarlet had always liked to send me secret messages, but she sealed her letters so haphazardly that you could probably have opened hers just by breathing on them. This one was closed tightly and sealed with wax. I turned it over and saw that it was addressed to my aunt. I ought to open it, I thought. Aunt Phoebe didn’t object to me reading her mail—in fact, it was usually necessary, because she just let it pile up in the hallway if I didn’t.
I went into the kitchen and sat down on one of the rickety chairs. I took a closer look at the seal on the envelope: it was black, with a raised imprint of a bird on top of an oak tree. The words “Rookwood School” were stamped underneath in dark-colored ink.
Rookwood School. Scarlet’s school. Why were they writing to Aunt Phoebe?
I slid a butter knife from the drawer along the envelope.
Mrs. Phoebe Gregory
Dear Mrs. Gregory,
As you are the guardian of Ivy Gray, I am writing to inform you that—in light of recent unfortunate circumstances—a place has become available at our school, and your niece will take it. Her parents have fully paid the fees, and she is due to start as soon as possible. A teacher will be sent to collect her, and the details will be explained upon her arrival.
Edgar Bartholomew (Headmaster)
I threw the letter down as if it had singed my fingers. Could they really be referring to my poor sister’s death as “unfortunate circumstances”?
I sat and stared at it, questions racing through my head. For some reason, Rookwood School wanted me; the twin who wasn’t good enough. Surely there were hundreds of other girls they could give the place to. Why me?
It was then that I noticed that the smell of bacon cooking had turned into the smell of bacon burning. I jumped up and ran to the iron stove, waving the smoke away from my face. It was too late; the bacon was already cremated.
Aunt Phoebe must have wandered off somewhere in the middle of cooking. This was a common occurrence. I glanced out of the kitchen window and spotted her sitting on the bench in the garden, her hands folded neatly in her lap and a faraway expression on her face. Aunt Phoebe’s husband had died in the Great War, leaving behind only a study full of books and a small pension for my aunt. She hadn’t been quite the same since.
I grabbed the letter and went out into the back garden. My aunt didn’t look around even though my footsteps crunching on the gravel betrayed my presence. She was watching the goldfish in the pond. Little ripples curled as they bobbed to the surface and then darted away, their golden scales glinting in the sun.
“Oh, Ivy,” she replied, blinking up at me, and then returning her gaze to the water. “I didn’t see you there, dear.”
“You got a letter from—”
I started, but my aunt interrupted, seemingly unaware that I had spoken. “Scarlet loved the fish, didn’t she? I remember when you were little, she used to kneel by the pond and make faces at her reflection. She always said that it was like another twin, only even more wet than you.”
I gave a weak smile. Typical Scarlet. She made fun of everyone, and me the most, but I never thought anything of it. Or tried not to anyway.
Scarlet and I were mirror twins. Before we were born, our mother thought she was only having one baby, but then I arrived—a slightly smaller and weaker version of my sister, but a perfect mirror image. Our birthmarks were the same but on opposite sides. I was left-handed while Scarlet was right-handed. Aunt Phoebe’s husband, Dr. Gregory, had once told me that our hearts might be reversed too. I was like Scarlet’s reflection come to life.
I sat beside Aunt Phoebe on the bench. It wasn’t surprising that my aunt’s thoughts were of Scarlet. She had always been everyone’s favorite, bold and brash and outgoing. I was just Ivy. Shy, clingy Ivy. I could have been Scarlet’s reflection, but I might as well have been her shadow.
“Oh goodness, I am sorry,” Aunt Phoebe said. “I was just reminded of her.”
“I understand,” I said.
But I didn’t. I didn’t understand why Scarlet had died. I didn’t understand how someone so full to the brim with life could be gone. I didn’t understand why God, if he was up there, would give me a twin only to take her away again.
Or that somehow the world was still carrying on.
“You got a letter,” I repeated, waving it at her.
Aunt Phoebe looked up. “Oh? What does it say?”
“They want me to go to Rookwood. To take Scarlet’s place.”
Her eyes widened considerably. “My goodness!” She paused. “That’s quite an honor. It’s a prestigious school, isn’t it?”
Rookwood School. Barely a few months ago, just before the summer had begun, Scarlet had died there. A sudden fever, they said, flu or pneumonia—something that couldn’t have been predicted or prevented. My stepmother casually told me these explanations as I sobbed, as if they meant nothing, when half of my world had just been torn away.
I never wanted to go to that place. Not now, not ever.
I looked up at my aunt, her gentle face framed by graying hazel curls. “And your father has already agreed to it?”
I sighed. It was just like him to agree such a thing without telling me. “According to the letter. It says the fees have been paid in full.”
“Well, then it’s decided, my dear,” said Aunt Phoebe.
I didn’t reply.
“I’ll leave you to think about it,” she said brightly, patting me on the leg. Then she wandered off down the garden path, past the privy and the vegetable patch and began pulling weeds. She started to sing quietly to herself, already a world away.
I felt helpless, like I was being slowly dragged toward Rookwood, a place only seen in my imagination, but nonetheless filled me with terror.
Maybe it will somehow be a good thing, I tried to tell myself. A new start, new friends. Any friends. After all, Scarlet had always said that she wished I could join her there. I would be closer to her there, somehow, wouldn’t I?
Without warning, I started to cry and hastily wiped the tears from my cheeks. Who was I kidding? The last place on earth I wanted to go was the place where Scarlet had… Just thinking about it made my head pound.
I threw the stupid letter into the grass.
Aunt Phoebe looked up, clutching a handful of straggly dandelions. I put my head in my hands and heard her walking back toward me down the gravel path.
“Oh, Scarlet,” said Aunt Phoebe, looking over me with blank eyes. “I’m sure you’ll be all right going to this school. I’ll miss you terribly, of course, but you will be fine on your own, won’t you?”
She didn’t even notice her mistake.
I didn’t think I would ever be fine on my own.
Sophie Cleverly began writing Scarlet and Ivy in her second year at university, where she studied Creative Writing. She knew she had to finish telling the story, and when she heard that the university offered an MA in Writing For Young People she realized it was the perfect opportunity. She has hair to dye for too- we're so jealous! She lives in Wiltshire, England. This is her debut. Visit hapfairy.co.uk for more info, and follow her on Twitter: @Hapfairy
2 Copies of Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin
(Runs May 1-May 31st; US & Canada only):