Mark Oshiro’s debut novel about a teen whose father was murdered by a police officer sounds riveting, and we can’t wait for its release. Titled Anger is a Gift, the book from the Hugo-nominated writer of the Mark Does Stuff universe hits shelves on May 22, 2018 from Tor Teen. And it’s going to be timely:
Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near-debilitating panic attacks.
Now in his junior year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals in their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department officers stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.
When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.
We’re thrilled to reveal the cover, which was designed by Adam Carvalho. Oshiro tells Paste, “It took five years for this book to come together, so it’s incredibly overwhelming to see my name and one of my characters adorning such a gorgeous cover. Adams Carvalho’s interpretation of Moss, the setting, and the energy of Anger is a Gift left me speechless (but full of tears!) the first time I saw it.”
“It’s been a dream of mine to be published by Tor,” Oshiro says, “so I’m thrilled that not only is Tor Teen publishing Anger is a Gift, but that I have also gotten to work with the talented and brilliant [editor] Miriam Weinberg to develop Moss Jeffries’ story.”
Weinberg adds, “I’ve long been a fan of Mark’s critical pop culture and fandom engagement, and it’s been a joy and a privilege to be working with such a passionate and determined writer, particularly one with such an original voice.”
If you can’t wait until May to start reading, you can check out an exclusive excerpt from the first chapter below.
He saw the lights first. Blue and red, flashing in a regular pattern. Lots of them, scattered south of the station in the parking lot, and he couldn’t help himself.
Moss had boarded the train in San Francisco that afternoon expecting nothing out of the ordinary, just an afternoon with his best friend Esperanza. The train was crowded, plenty of people eager to get back home at the end of the weekend. They’d been lucky to find an empty set of seats near one of the doors. Moss had leaned his bike up against the side of the car and scrambled to claim the spot next to Esperanza. But then their luck had worn off. The train now sat motionless, caught between the Embarcadero station and West Oakland, where both of them were bound. Moss closed his eyes and sighed.
“We’re never going to get off this train, I swear.”
He looked over at Esperanza, who had taken out her half of the headphones from her left ear. Moss could hear the tinny sound of Janelle Monae as he removed his own earbud. His best friend’s head was thrown back over the seat in frustration. She removed her thick-framed glasses and began to rub her eyes. “This is it,” Esperanza said. “This is where we’ll be stuck for all eternity.”
“Well, we can’t be stuck here forever,” he replied. “They’ll do that… that thing they do where they just redirect us around a train.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “Can they even do that here?”
Esperanza sighed while putting her glasses back on. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I haven’t ever been stuck inside the tube itself.”
“It’s giving me the creeps,” he said. “What happens if there’s an earthquake while we’re down here?”
She slapped Moss’s arm playfully. “Don’t say that! That practically guarantees it’s going to happen!”
“Then this really is like the start of all good apocalyptic nightmares,” he said.
“Well, we better get used to living here, Moss. There’s no escape for us. Our life as we know it is over! Which means we need to start planning out how we’ll design our new home.”
She stood up, grinning, her white blouse hanging loose on her body, and she gestured above the BART doors next to her. “We’ll definitely have to install some curtains here,” she explained. “I’m thinking… something that’s gray. To accent the dreariness of this place.”
Moss shook his head. “I am a man of high taste,” he said in the most grandiose voice he could manage. This was always their game. “I cannot rest my body on this filth.” He pretended to be deep in thought before exclaiming, “I’ve got it! Bunk beds. They’ll save us space and give the place a youthful atmosphere.”
Esperanza faked a swoon back into her seat. “Moss, you are just so full of good ideas. Plus, it speaks to the reality of the situation: We shall remain celibate for the rest of our lives, as I highly doubt that there are any cute girls for me on this train.”
“Hey, speak for yourself,” Moss shot back. “I’m pretty sure I saw a hella hot dude with a fixie a few cars down.”
“Gonna corner the hipster market on this train, then? Smart, Moss. Very smart.”
“You think so?” Moss shot back.
“Well, they’re young and ambitious. Lots of disposable income. Willing to gentrify your neighborhood at the drop of a cupcake.”
Moss laughed at that. “Well, it otherwise seems like there aren’t any cute guys in this whole city that I can stand for five minutes, so I’ll take what I can get.”
“That is surely a tragedy,” Esperanza said. “Well, after being confined to a train car until you wither away and die, but a tragedy nonetheless.”
The two of them went silent, as Moss often could in her presence. She didn’t expect him to make conversation, letting him fade back comfortably. Moss turned his attention to the vacant and detached stares about the train, a familiar sight on the BART no matter what day it was. It was late in the afternoon, though, and he saw the exhaustion on their faces, in the way they slouched their bodies. He and Esperanza had spent an afternoon at the mall in downtown San Francisco, pretending to be elegant and well-off shoppers, building an imaginary wardrobe full of clothes that they would probably never be able to afford. They had drifted from store to store, Esperanza a successful poet on her book tour and Moss a world-renowned fashion designer helping her with her wardrobe. The last time they’d gone out, Esperanza was a back-up dancer for Beyoncé, and Moss played bass in her live show, and they had stopped in San Francisco on a world tour, casually drinking iced tea and wearing the most fierce pair of sunglasses they could find.
It felt good to pretend. Like Moss had another life, a future he could look forward to living.
The sudden crackle of the speakers in their car started him. “We apologize for the delay,” said a voice that reminded Moss of his mother, “but there’s police activity ahead of us at the West Oakland station. I’m not sure if we’ll be stopping there, but I will let you know once I have any information. Hold tight.”
Esperanza sighed again, though her exasperation wasn’t an act this time. Moss reached out and began to fiddle with the tape on the handlebars of his bike, impatience rushing over him. He just wanted to get home.
He leaned into Esperanza’s shoulder, thankful that they were both the same height. “I don’t want to go to school on Monday,” he said. “I know, I sound like the world’s most clichéd teenager, but I’m dreading it.” Moss paused. “You ever think it should be two days of school followed by five days off? That’s obviously the best schedule for learning.”
“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad,” Esperanza insisted and rested her head on top of his. “We’ll get through it fine.”
The train jerked forward suddenly and a couple people clapped. Moss watched a tall, lanky kid lurch forward and grab for the handhold that was attached to the wall just above Moss’s bike. When he grabbed the top bar instead, he balanced himself and winced. “Sorry, sorry,” he blurted out. “Got surprised, that’s all.”
“It’s okay,” Moss said. “No big deal, man.”
The guy ran his hand over the frame again. “This steel?”
Moss nodded, and he gave the boy a longer look. His hair was cropped short, his skin a deep golden brown, and he had that sort of lean muscle that came easy to some people through the gift of genetics. He’s cute, Moss thought, but probably tragically straight.
“Steel’s a good choice,” the boy said. “Better for the messed up streets.”
Moss narrowed his eyes at that, surprised that this guy seemed to know what he was talking about. “Yeah, I know! Everyone wants those fast carbon ones, but those things hurt unless you’re on the nice roads.”
“Right?” The guy stuck his hand out. “Javier.”
Moss shook on it. “Moss,” he said. “And this is my friend Esperanza.”
While Javier shook Esperanza’s hand, he stared at Moss. “That’s an interesting name,” he said. “Is there a story behind it?”
The sound that came out of Esperanza was a cross between a bark and a yelp, and Moss glared at his best friend and clamped a hand over her mouth. “Yes?” he said, drawing it out. “Do you have something to say, Esperanza?”
“Oh, please, can I tell him? It’s so adorable.”
“Maybe Javier here doesn’t want to hear adorable,” said Moss, and he shot a quick glance at him. Javier was already nodding, however.
“Oh, I definitely want adorable,” he said, and with those words, it was as if this stranger had found Esperanza’s true calling. Moss watched her face light up in excitement, dropped his hand, and she spread her own out in front of her.
“Picture it,” Esperanza said. “Moss is much younger and arguably a very cute toddler.”
“I dunno,” said Javier. “He’s pretty cute now.”
Moss’s mouth dropped open, and he looked from Javier, who smirked at him, to Esperanza, who also smirked at him. “Wait, what?”
“Nevermind,” said Esperanza. “Y’all can have a moment in a second, I promise. I’m telling a story here, remember?”
“Exactly,” said Javier. “And I wanna know what this story is!”
Moss’s heart jumped, thumping in his chest. He was caught off-guard, but Esperanza pushed past it, and he was thankful she did.
“So picture it,” she said again. “Moss is learning to speak. He keeps hearing his parents say his name over and over – Morris, Morris!” She leaned into Moss. “And Moss here keeps trying to say it back, as any studious young kid would. But it keeps coming out without those crucial Rs.”
“Moss,” said Javier, as if he was trying it out for the first time. “I get it! Man, that is cute.”
Esperanza stood and bowed. “It is my very favorite story to tell, and now I am gonna leave you two alone because clearly this is a moment.”
With that, she walked away from the two of them, drifting off towards the windows on the opposite side of the train. Javier gestured to the now empty seat. “Mind if I sit?”