Three guys from the Briar Academy fencing team went up to the cliff that night for a hazing ritual—but only two came back alive. Now Luke’s best friend, Hayden, is in jail and the pressure is on Luke to report what he saw. But what did he see? An accident—or a murder? Luke has always followed Hayden’s lead, but this is one decision he’ll be forced to make on his own. And to do it, he must face the truth about his friendship with Hayden and his own painful past.

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Related Categories

  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547552163

  • ISBN-10: 0547552165

  • Pages: 252

  • Price: $14.99

  • Publication Date: 03/07/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 48

  • Age(s): 14,15,16

  • Grade(s): 9-12

  • Reading Level:

    • Lexile Reading Level HL590L
    • Guided Reading Level Z+


Ariela Anhalt

ARIELA ANHALT grew up in Guilford, Connecticut. She began writing her debut novel, Freefall, when she was fourteen years old. At the time of its publication, she was a student at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  
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  • reviews

    “Nineteen-year-old Anhalt displays some definite polish in her debut novel…Teens drawn to boarding-school-scandal dramas will find plenty to gasp about here.”--Booklist


    "Anhalt seems to know the boarding-school world well, creating a rich setting for this drama of family demons, school friends and rivals, and an anguishing struggle of conscience. . . . An unusually rich and layered first novel."--Kirkus Reviews


    "Teens will love this title because it is full of page-turning events and is difficult to put down."--VOYA, 5Q, 5P (highest rating)


    "The high stakes, complex character development, and realistic dialogue and interactions will keep readers riveted—and likely have them imagining themselves in Luke’s position."--Publishers Weekly


    "Teens will appreciate the action and the drama, without being overwhelmed by trendy names and labels as in other books set in boarding schools. . . . Anhalt, a college sophomore, shows great promise in this debut novel."--School Library Journal


    "[There's] plenty of jealousy, drugs, and misplaced loyalty to keep the pot boiling."-Bulletin

  • excerpts

    Chapter One

    Luke Prescott stood at the top of the cliff, his toes

    curled over the edge and pointing downward. Back straight

    and shoulders relaxed, he let his eyes close peacefully. And

    he jumped.

     A rush of power surged over him. Luke never felt so much in

    control as when there was none, when all that existed was Luke and

    the air and the inevitable stop at the end. It was all up to him in

    those moments. He had decided that he was going to jump and that

    he was going to land in the water below, and there was absolutely

    nothing and absolutely nobody that could stop him. He had all

    the power.

     He hit the water with a splash that, months before, had

    knocked the breath out of him. Now he merely succumbed to the

    water, letting it close over his head, a stream of bubbles pouring

    from his mouth and nose as his feet hit the sandy bottom and

    pushed him to the top. His head broke through the surface of the

    water, and the solid pounding in his eardrums subsided. He floated

    on his back, eyes still closed.

     His peace was broken just as quickly as it had come over him.

    “If you keep doing this, you’re gonna kill yourself.”

     Luke turned sharply and choked as he accidentally inhaled

    what seemed to him like the entire contents of Briar Lake. He

    coughed, twisted himself around, and began to tread water. He

    looked up to meet the intruder’s eyes and smiled. “Hayden. What

    are you doing here?”

     Hayden stood a few yards away on the bank. He was dressed in

    his pajamas and a sweatshirt, and his feet were bare. At eighteen,

    Hayden had the broad-shouldered body of a much older man and

    the clever, round face of a boy. “I heard you leave,” Hayden said, giving

    Luke a lopsided grin, his ice-blue eyes dancing beneath a mess

    of dark hair. He reached out a hand to Luke, who paddled over to

    the edge of the lake.

     “I’m fine,” Luke said, though the question hadn’t been asked.

    He let Hayden help him out of the water and then collapsed

    onto the bank. Stretching out on his back, his wet shorts clinging to

    his skin, Luke shut his eyes again. It wasn’t the same. He opened


     “You should probably stop doing that,” Hayden said, nodding

    toward the cliff. He shuffled his feet awkwardly in the dirt.

     Luke grunted noncommittally. I’m not hurting anyone, he thought.

     “I mean, it’s just kinda weird, Luke.”

     “Yeah, well, I’m kinda weird,” Luke said, propping himself up

    on his elbows.

     “Trust me, dude, you’re more than kinda weird,” said Hayden,

    squatting down next to Luke.

     “Oh, thanks.”

     Hayden grinned. “You know, I almost broke my nose trying to

    get here. Tripped over a log, fell flat on my face. Naturally, I blame

    you for this.”

     “Naturally,” Luke agreed.

     “Yep. Totally your fault.”

     “Of course.”

     “Couldn’t have just been me, you know,” Hayden said, leaning

    conspiratorially toward Luke. “Because everyone knows I’m as

    graceful as a fucking ballerina.”


     “So don’t let it happen again.”

     “Sorry, Hayden. I’ll try to do better next time.”

     “Great. So no more jumping off cliffs in the middle of the

    night?” Hayden’s tone was suddenly serious.

     “Come on,” Luke said with a short laugh, giving his friend’s

    shoulder a shove. Drop it, Hayden.

     “Come on, what?” said Hayden. “It’s pointless. Why do you

    keep doing it?”

     Luke shrugged. “You wouldn’t get it.”

     “Try me.”

     I don’t want to. “Just let it go,” said Luke, annoyance creeping

    into his voice.

     “Is this about—”

     “No. ”

     “Because if—”

     “I don’t want to talk about that,” Luke interrupted, louder

    than he’d intended.

     “Okay. I’m sorry.” Hayden looked embarrassed.

     Luke sighed. “That has nothing to do with this. I just do this

    to unwind, to relax.”

     Hayden stared at him. “You know, I’ve done it, remember? I’ve

    jumped. And I wouldn’t exactly call it relaxing.”

     Luke remembered that night. It had been about a year ago. It

    was the week before the first fencing meet of the season. He and

    Hayden and about four other guys had just made varsity on the

    Briar Academy fencing team. Briar Academy, one of the more elite

    private schools in California, had many sports teams, but the fencers

    were the only ones that ever really won anything. Making the team

    was a pretty big deal.

     That night the new varsity members and one of the team captains

    had gone up to the cliff to jump off. It was a sort of initiation

    process for the team, and the experience of the jump was treated almost

    with reverence by the fencers. It wasn’t hazing; it was ceremony.

     Luke dug his knuckles into the dirt. “I know you have.” He exhaled

    loudly. “Look, I’m tired. Let’s head back.”

     “All right, whatever.” Hayden raised his hands defensively.

    “Have it your way.” They both rose up off the bank. “Keep doing it.

    Break your fucking skull for all I care,” Hayden mumbled as Luke

    padded off to retrieve his clothes from the end of the bank.

     They had to sneak back into the dorm quietly so as not to wake

    any of the resident teachers at the school, who did not particularly

    like the idea of students wandering off in the middle of the night,

    especially not off toward the lake. The wooded area around the lake

    was not visible from the academy, so the students mainly snuck off

    into the trees to smoke pot or hook up. The school itself was built

    in a circle formation, with a large green and a commons area at the

    center. Surrounding that were the dormitory buildings, and encircling

    them were the academic buildings. The lake hugged the east

    side of campus, and the woods stretched out from the north side.

    Through the woods, a five-minute hike and a sharp right turn away,

    was the cliff.

     Luke and Hayden managed to get back into their room unnoticed.

    Each of the four dormitories had a resident teacher, but luckily

    the one in Luke’s dorm was a particularly sound sleeper. Not that

    it really would have mattered if they’d been caught; Hayden could

    talk his way out of anything. He’d smile, crack a joke, make the

    teacher laugh, and soon he’d be off on his way with simply a warning.

    If you got caught doing something you shouldn’t be doing,

    Luke figured, Hayden was the guy you wanted with you.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547552163

  • ISBN-10: 0547552165

  • Pages: 252

  • Price: $14.99

  • Publication Date: 03/07/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 48

  • Age(s): 14,15,16

  • Grade(s): 9-12

  • Reading Level:

    • Lexile Reading Level HL590L
    • Guided Reading Level Z+

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