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  • The Outcasts
  • Written by L.S. Matthews
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307497215
  • Our Price: $10.99
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The Outcasts

Written by L.S. MatthewsAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by L.S. Matthews


List Price: $10.99


On Sale: January 21, 2009
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 978-0-307-49721-5
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Four of the Outcasts don't really participate in class, and all five could care less about a group activity, so the fact that all of them actually go on the fieldtrip is something of a miracle.
And when reality splits, and they end up in another dimension, you can imagine how badly they'll all wish they'd stayed home. Five outcasts fall out of reality. How many will make it back to the world as they know it?

From the Hardcover edition.


Joe came across Iz on his way to Maths first thing on Monday morning.

He had been looking for his friend, but now he hung back for a moment, because he knew Iz well enough to see he was up to something, and Joe didn’t want to be caught up in it.

If there was trouble, Joe always seemed to be caught up in it, and, generally speaking, Iz was trouble. It fizzed from him in little blue lightnings Joe almost felt he could see. And it was very important right now that Joe did not get into trouble.

Joe stopped for a moment and eyed up Iz, who was gangling his thin, wiry frame into some kind of impossible sitting position on the high, narrow windowsill in the corridor. Screwing his top half sideways, his dark fringe flopped over his face, he seemed to be writing something. As few teachers ever succeeded in getting Iz to pick up a pen, this, in itself, was suspicious.

Two sixth formers were standing looking out of the window next to him. One of them—pale, medium-scrawny, with badly formed dreadlocks—called something to two girls down below in the quad.

Joe hardly had a moment to take this in. A fast-flowing river of students appeared behind him and swept towards him. When the first body collided with him, his bag took the brunt, and he barely staggered. Joe was a solid, square-shaped boy, somehow also round, and when he stopped, it was likely to create an impression in a narrow corridor full of stampeding fellow students.

Iz jumped down from the sill when he saw the pileup of pupils getting interesting.

Joe, with his short, dark hair unruffled, stood gazing at him thoughtfully, saying “Oof” at regular intervals as another boy cannoned into the scrimmage massing at his back. Further down the corridor, girls were now coming across the blockage of boys pushing and jostling each other. The girls stood back for a moment, then started protesting loudly that they could not pass through. One of the boys in front, trying to swing his bag at a neighbor, accidentally clipped a girl with a ponytail of long, golden curls.

She flashed her large, beautiful blue eyes, swore loudly above all the noise in the corridor, and drew back her arm to strike.

In the distance, through the mosh pit, Iz could see a pale jacket and a shining forehead approaching.

“Move, Joe,” he said, stretching out an arm and sweeping the larger boy alongside him before marching swiftly along the corridor. The dam removed, the river of students flowed behind, around and in front of them once more.

“What’s that?” Joe asked suspiciously, as Iz flourished a scrappy piece of white paper ahead of him. Iz did not answer but darted forward suddenly, between two girls, and lightly touched the paper onto the jacket of the dreadlocked sixth former, who was now in front of them. Wary of reading, Joe could still make out the words in black pen: please comb me.

He sighed.

“Iz, did you hear about the trip?”

“No, what trip?” asked Iz, but his eyes were not on Joe. He was carefully pulling at the key ring attached to the bag of the girl to one side of him. This successfully undid the zip, so that in a flash, Iz had her pencil case out of the bag. In only one more flash, he was doubled up on the floor with his hands around his head for protection.

Joe stood back again, this time avoiding chaos by backing against the wall, until the girl, with long, dark hair flying, had decided to stop hitting Iz with the pencil case in case she damaged any of its contents, and flounced off triumphantly.

Iz straightened up, laughing.

“What trip?”

“Weren’t you at registration?” said Joe, peevishly.

“I never go to registration,” said Iz.

“Why? We all have to go,” said Joe. “Well, if you’d been there, you’d have heard—that trip they asked us about ages ago, remember? We put our names down. Well, we’ve been picked out of the hat to go. Us! But we have to stay out of trouble—or we’ll lose our places.”

“Oh!” said Iz, for once lost for words.

There were lots of questions queuing up in his head, but at the moment, he couldn’t get over the fact he’d been chosen. He never got to go on trips—not even trips where there wasn’t a limit on places. Staff didn’t want to take boys like him. They never said so. There was always a reason—it was easy enough to find one. He was always temporarily excluded just as the trip was due, or something. He hadn’t been on a trip since he was little.

In the classroom, Iz took his place next to Joe, strangely quiet. He was torn between excitement and anxiety. Part of him was prepared for disappointment. It wouldn’t come off, there was bound to be a catch. He couldn’t even bear to ask Joe for more details.

Their teacher, a young woman still in training, noticed Iz’s quietness and wondered at it. She would have liked Iz if she had not had to try to teach him.

From the Hardcover edition.
L.S. Matthews

About L.S. Matthews

L.S. Matthews - The Outcasts

Photo © Bob Dron

"I wouldn’t write a book which didn’t challenge the reader with questions which maybe aren’t easily answered. I have to write books which at least have the potential to effect changes . . ."--L. S. Matthews

L. S. Matthews is the winner of the Fidler Award for her book Fish, an award given for a first novel for children. She lives and writes in England.


How I write:
When I wrote Fish, it was based on a dream I had. I woke up and thought (as you would, if you had a dream like “Fish”), what was all that about? I thought about it, and it seemed to start making a kind of sense. I think I had to put the events in order, as parts of the story appeared in flashback sequence in the dream. I am not sure, but I think I continued to dream other parts of the story later.

There is no sensible time, as an adult with responsibilities, to sit about writing stories, but I wrote Fish at a particularly silly time. I had two children, knew I had to sell my house, but had no idea where we were going to live, or how we could afford it - I had just walked away from three terms of strenuous teacher training.

With all these pressures on me, I watched news footage of determined and courageous refugees on television, and went off to bed, worrying about, of all things, how I would transport the three Koi Carp from our pond without distressing them, and to where?

All my writing seems to happen like this - it works from dreams; in the daytime, I correct and alter and move it around in my head till it seems to make sense; I don’t write anything down; and by the time I come to write, I know it pretty well and have got rid of all the worst mistakes. Because it’s hard to keep a whole book in your head and keep running through it to make sure you don’t forget, I’m very keen to get it down. I touch type (I was forced to learn how in my first job) so, having worked on a book in my head for maybe six months, I can have the first draft out in two to four weeks, because I am just typing out a story I have already written. I like to do this outside as much as possible, otherwise I get miserable from being inside too much. With Fish, I typed for 12 hours a day sometimes, in this very brief period; I calmed down a little with my second book.

I like to work like this because when it’s in your head it is easy to just rip out a chapter or move something to a different part of the story - no retyping time and time again!
When I was a child and had scary dreams, I learned to manipulate them, to control the events. I think this plays a part in the way my dreams form the stories to my books.

Where do you get your ideas for characters, settings, events?
All of my characters have different parts of my personality in them, I suppose, and parts of people I have known.

Events - well, I have never battled through a war-torn zone, but I came across a body when I was ten or so, and therefore I could write about Tiger’s feelings, sitting by the body of the young man who was shot.

I grew up the youngest of a family of five children; both of our parents worked full time and the house had a long garden which backed onto a wild area of land . . . much of my time was spent scrambling about, making camps, coming home filthy and scratched, but happy. I had two older brothers and singularly failed to notice that girls should be different until people started telling me so at about the age of 12. I had already noticed something was up when I was sent to our local school at 7, and didn’t get to play cricket and football like at home, but was pushed into a collection of people who played netball and rounders . . . hence the issue - or lack of it! - of Tiger’s gender in Fish. Some people still don’t get it. They say, “I thought it was a girl/boy” and then ask, “Well, which was it then? What was Tiger supposed to be?”

I answer: “Tiger’s not supposed to be anything.”

Then they say, “Yes, but what did you write it as? Girl or boy?” Just as they are sure there is an answer, I am equally fascinated by the fact they think it matters.

Animals (including fish and birds) are important in my books because:
They may appear in the story at a moment which makes them symbolic, but they’re real too.

I communicated with animals probably before I could walk or talk; they were just different kinds of “peoples” to me then. I am more likely to notice a small bird hidden in a hedge than a human passing in full view and I still find it hard sometimes to concentrate on a human conversation when an animal is talking at the same time.

What motivates me to write?
It gets things out of my system, things that I am cross about, and maybe I can’t put everything right, but I can say to the world, “What about this? This is not good enough.” And to readers who may not have been fully aware: “This is reality, I know you’d rather think it has nothing to do with you.” But at the same time I can show the inspirational qualities of people . . . I am angry at what they are put through, but their courage and determination is something to admire, and only tends to be shown when tested to the limit. It puts my own worries, and my own abilities to cope, in proportion. I wouldn’t write a book which didn’t challenge the reader with questions which maybe aren’t easily answered. I have to write books which at least have the potential to effect changes . . .

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