Evan Angler

Evan Angler is safe, for now. He lives without the Mark, evading DOME and writing in the shadows of Beacon. But if anyone asks, you know nothing about him. Don’t make eye contact if you see him. Don’t call his name out loud. He’s in enough trouble already. And so are you, if you read his books.

Evan Angler

The Underpass, the Success, and the Failings

In New Chicago is an underpass, out by the water at the Ruins’s edge. It’s where the sidewalk is still walkable, and the houses nearby aren’t completely destroyed.

I was there recently. Swung by on my way out from Spokie in search of more answers for Sneak. I’d heard Logan had been there at some point while running from DOME after his successful escape from the Pledge. I’d heard that he’d stayed with a huddle in that underpass. That he’d been helped by a Markless named Bridget, along with Bridget’s friend, Andrew, and a handful of others.

I’d just drafted the first few chapters of Sneak, and I wanted to know if I’d gotten things right, if it was accurate. So I went out to see for myself.

It didn’t take long to find Bridget among the huddle. Everyone knew of her throughout the Ruins

“Bridget?” I asked, walking up slowly under the veil of nighttime dark. “Name’s Angler. I’d love to talk with you.”

She eyed me cautiously for several moments, from her perch by one of the underpass pillars. “You’re the one who wrote the book,” she said finally.

I nodded. “Working on the second, actually. I was hoping you could help. Tell me if I’ve gotten it correct.” I waved the ream of loose papers at her. I was casual about it, but those papers meant the world to me.

“Well, why not?” She shrugged. “Long as you’ve come all this way.”

We spent the rest of the night talking—whispering, actually—while most of the rest of the huddle slept. We talked over by the underpass’s Markless library, thumbing through the banned books. Swipe was one of them. By that point I noticed though it was hand copied and didn’t have a cover. We talked about Bridget’s time spent with Logan, and she agreed to look through what I’d written so far for Sneak.

For a while she sat, flipping through those pages. Reading, frowning, rereading, laughing . . .

That early draft spoke of Logan’s heroic escape, of his determination to forge on. It was triumphant. Inspiring, I thought, after the turmoil of Swipe.

Finally, Bridget looked up, handing me the papers and leaning back against her favorite pillar. She nodded slowly, thoughtfully, considering her words. Then she let out a short laugh. “The great thing about putting yourself out there is that, by and large, no one ever sees your failures. People see only your success. From the outside looking in, everyone thinks you’re so lucky, that you can do no wrong, that you simply must be leading some charmed life, because all anyone sees is the highlights. No one ever sees the stuff that comes between; the bumps along the way.

“Think of the Marked student applying for university. For all the stress that student has, worrying about outcomes and how it all might look to the rest of the world. The truth is that no one will ever know which schools he or she didn’t get into. They’ll only know about the one that worked out. In their eyes, this student’s success rate will be one hundred percent—no matter how many rejection letters were received.

“Think of any Marked—any one with a good career and a happy family. So they have a nice job—that’s great! But you’ll never hear about the dozens of jobs he failed to get.

“Or think of the people in love that you saw on the sidewalk. Well, what haven’t you seen? All the failed friendships and courtships and heartaches along the way. You haven’t seen their stories but only glimpsed the happily ever after.

“Do you see my point?” Bridget asked, suddenly, interrupting herself.

I shook my head, a little apologetically.

“My point is that you’re writing about Logan as if he just happened to take this remarkable journey to Beacon, happily, triumphantly. You’re writing it like that because that’s the part you’ve heard about. No one ever talks about the nights Logan

spent freezing, certain of his own capture or death. No one ever talks about the bridges he burned with everyone he ever knew. They talk about his escape from the Pledge Center. They talk about his cross-country adventure through the American Union as if it were some wondrous thing. They talk about this stuff as though the successes were all there was to it.

“Well. That’s not all there was to it. There was sweat and blood and tears and doubt . . . and you can’t just gloss over all of that because the fun stuff’s in the success. If you’re going to tell Logan’s story, then you need to tell Logan’s story.”

I swallowed hard, taking this in. “Because otherwise I wouldn’t be doing Logan justice? You’re saying it wouldn’t be fair to him, to miss out on explaining the hardships?”

“No!” Bridget exclaimed. “I’m saying it wouldn’t be fair to your readers!”

I looked at her, confused.

“People need to know that there’s nothing superhuman about Logan or Peck or Hailey or any of the other members of the Dust. They need to know that these kids are lost and scared and that they fail all the time. The need to know that what little luck these kids do have is simply because Logan and his friends keep at it. They keep rolling the dice. They keep playing the game, taking loss after loss and just running with it. They keep playing until they win.

“You need to explain this so that your readers know that everything Logan does, they could do too. The Markless who read Swipe and who read Sneak . . . they need to know that they’d win just as often as Logan does, provided they’re willing to keep rolling the dice. If they think Logan got it all right, right off the bat, then your Markless readers will roll once, lose, and simply figure they’re not cut out for the task. But they are. They are. And the only way they’ll know it is if they see behind the curtain of Logan’s public success into the dark corners of his uncertainty and mistakes. They need to know how often and how badly he fails. Or else you aren’t being fair. To them.

“You’ve heard, through the grapevine all about what Logan’s done right. Now let me tell you about what he’s done wrong.”

So I listened. Carefully. And I revised those first chapters. And Bridget’s words have stuck with me long after that visit.

The truth is it won’t be smooth sailing for Logan. Not in Sneak, and not in any of the books that follow.

Our successes are not our stories. There’s a reason that “happily ever after” comes only after there’s nothing left to say. Our failings all along, hidden behind the curtain of what anyone else can see—those are our stories.

Thanks to Bridget, that’s the story of Logan, as well.