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