Matt thought nothing could be worse than going to jail. He was wrong.
It seemed to Matt that he was out of choices in life. When his parents had been killed in a car accident six years ago, he'd had no choice but to live with his aunt and her boyfriend. And now at fourteen, he's had a run-in with social services and the truant officer, partly because his only friend Kelvin could talk him into doing things he knew were wrong. But Kelvin was his only friend—he had to go along with him, or Matt would be completely alone.
That's why Matt agreed when Kelvin said they should break into a warehouse stacked with computer games, CDs, and DVDs. There was no security system, and it would be dead easy to avoid the one guard snoozing in the front of the building. But Kelvin's information was way off the mark, and suddenly Matt found himself under arrest and charged as an accessory to murder. The judge gave him very little choice. Since his aunt didn't want him any more, he could go to jail, or he could go into the new government program called LEAF, Liberty and Education through Fostering. It had been created for kids who haven't been able to succeed in the social services system, kids like Matt. How bad could this new program be, he wondered, surely it couldn't be worse than jail. But Matt was wrong. He should have chosen jail.
There was something evil and sinister about Lesser Malling, a tiny village in the middle of nowhere that was to be his new home. The people were strange, even the children, and some were even hostile. His new foster mother Mrs. Deverill and her farmhand Noah were grim and unsmiling, and her huge black cat bit Matt when he tried to pet it. It didn't take Matt long to make up his mind. One way or another, as soon as he could manage it, he was leaving. Even living on the streets of London would be better than Lesser Malling and Mrs. Deverill!
He'd only been there a week or so, when something woke him up at midnight. Looking out the window, he could see a faint white light coming from the nearby forest. And then he heard strange whispers he couldn't understand, and a low humming noise coming from the area near the light. He went outside and realized that Mrs. Deverill's car was gone. He was alone—and tonight he was going back to London. All he needed was money. Surely there was grocery money around the house somewhere. He began to search, and finally there was only one place left-her bedroom. And in a box, tucked away in the back of the closet, Matt found a photograph of himself at his parents'funeral, with two pieces of paper attached to it. He began to read. It was a police report marked confidential. "The witness's statement is not to be released, and a complete media blackout is recommended. The child, Matthew Freeman, is only eight years old, and had demonstrated precognitive abilities far beyond…." Matthew shoved the papers back into the box and made his decision. Money or no money, it was definitely time to leave.
What had happened the day his parents were killed? What had he seen? What had he done? And how and why did Mrs. Deverill have that photo and police report? There was something going on in Lesser Malling, something strange, something dangerous, something evil, and somehow he was involved. Matt knew that once again, he had no choice. He opened the front door and began to run.
This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart.