Excerpt from Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Tonight We Rule the World

by Zack Smedley

Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley X
Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2021, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    May 1, 2023, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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Principal Graham's face tightens. "Why don't you have a seat?" I do as she says, then dig a notebook and pen out of my backpack. Early on growing up, my father taught me the first rule of being in trouble: Whether or not you know what you're being accused of, take notes of everything you're told.

"Owen, I know you do best with directness," Principal Graham says. "So frankly, I want us to drop the HR lingo for a second and just talk to each other here. We're going to go over this step by step, then we'll answer every question you have— I promise. To start off, are you familiar with the ERAT system we have?"

She says it like "air-at." When I shake my head, she explains, "ERAT is short for Electronic Reporting and Tips Service—it's a website the county rolled out in schools a few years ago. Students can use it to anonymously report incidents they've become aware of concerning their classmates."

"Incidents?"

"Things like bullying or harassment," Officer Hewitt jumps in. "Even potential crimes."

He looks like he's about to say more, but Principal Graham cuts him off. "Owen, earlier this morning, this system received a report that was filed about a potential incident that may have taken place last month."

I'm in the middle of writing out the acronym when my pen freezes.

"Keep going," I murmur. An ugly chill works its way from my stomach to my chest to my throat. I'm not religious, but I start saying a vague version of a prayer—hoping for a scenario where this isn't what I suspect it is.

"Alright." Principal Graham's voice is aggressively eventempered— each inflection meticulously controlled. "The report that was filed on our site stated that, during the senior class trip to Lanham University last month, you were sexually assaulted by one of your classmates. This would've been during spring break, so just over a month ago."

It's like when you spend all night working on a paper and your computer crashes without saving it—all your work vanishes.

It's so quiet, so instant, that you never react right away. There are always those few seconds of overwhelming denial: This isn't happening.

The next few seconds feel like that.

Principal Graham tries to meet my eyes. "Owen?"

Snapsnap.

I tug the beads farther back each time, snapping them on my skin with increasing sharpness. Officer Hewitt leans to steady me, but Principal Graham taps his arm, like, let him do his thing. "I didn't write that," I tell them. "I didn't submit that, I swear. You can check my phone or whatever if you need to prove it."

"So ... a few things, to start off," Principal Graham says.

"The first is that you're not in trouble."

"Why would I be in trouble?"

"Owen, please. The second thing is that our response here is guided by a lot of different policies. Which ..." She holds up both hands as though cutting off an audition. "I promise we'll go over all that, but we need to wait for a parent to be in here."

Parent? Oh, God.

"No," I say, forceful. "You can't tell them. Not allowed."

"I already gave them a call—Owen, you're still seventeen; I had to," says Mr. Yacenda. The rain against the window feels like it grows more violent—increasingly agitated.

We all sit in silence for a minute, maybe two. I spend it saying another small prayer to myself, urgently hoping that it's Mom who shows up, and not—

Down the hall, footsteps thunder so loudly that it's like they echo through the classrooms. The room damn near shakes. Some woman is saying the word "sir" a bunch, but the steps only grow more menacing, and the door flies open with such force that Principal Graham jumps to her feet. Me—I scoot back in the chair, taking myself as far out of the way as possible. That's always what you do when he's pissed.

"Everyone freeze," Dad orders, a notebook and pen already in his hand. "Owen, not another word."

Excerpted from Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley. Copyright © 2021 by Zack Smedley. Excerpted by permission of Page Street Kids. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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