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80,000 WORDS

As sixteen-year-old Richard Frame grew, so did his mother’s hoarding—and it escalated into something downright hazardous during the quarantine of Covid-19 a few years back. He survives living inside his depressing dumpster house by writing dark stories and clinging to his only friend, Jill. Only, now that they’re back in school full-time, she’s clearly out of his league and doesn’t need her secret pandemic texting buddy anymore. He’s not good enough for her, even if he hides all his shameful family truths. Even if he never tells her about the horrible night in eighth grade when he did something unforgivable. 

So, he’ll have to clean up his act to keep her. He buys new clothes, starts showering regularly, quits eating his feelings, and moves into his car so he won’t reek of his house anymore. But he soon realizes Jill’s too busy falling for popular senior Luca Birch to notice, and Richard’s fear of losing her quickly morphs into something worse. Only Richard knows about the monster beneath Luca’s charm and charisma—because he was riding shotgun in Luca’s car on that regrettable night in eighth grade. The two share the crime…and a horrific secret. If only Richard could warn Jill about Luca without sounding like a jealous loser. Of course he can’t confess the truth because Luca might kill him. And what’s worse: he'd finally have to face his guilt.

Yet Richard refuses to be like his mother, a woman who has built walls of trash to protect herself from the world. As the ghost from that tragic night continues to hang around, Richard wrestles with his conscience—and realizes just how much bravery lies in the heart of the boy from the hoarder’s house.

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