The night of a high school graduation party turns deadly in All This Time, the latest novel from authors Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott. After making readers cry last year with Five Feet Apart, which followed the heartbreaking saga of two cystic fibrosis patients falling in love, the writing team is back with another emotional story. All This Time opens with a breakup and a fatal car crash, meaning you’ll need to keep the tissues handy while reading.
Don’t believe us? You will after checking out the book description below:
Kyle and Kimberley have been the perfect couple all through high school, but when Kimberley breaks up with him on the night of their graduation party, his entire world upends—literally. Their car crashes and when he awakes, he has a brain injury. Kimberley is dead. And no one in his life could possibly understand.
Until Marley. Marley is suffering from her own loss, a loss she thinks was her fault. And when their paths cross, Kyle sees in her all the unspoken things he’s feeling.
As Kyle and Marley work to heal each other’s wounds, their feelings for each other get stronger. But Kyle can’t shake the sense that he’s headed for another crashing moment that will blow up his life as soon as he’s started to put it back together.
And he’s right.
Simon & Schuster will publish All This Time on October 6th, and you can pre-order it here. We’re excited to reveal the cover and share an exclusive excerpt ahead of the release this fall!
Cover art by Lisa Perrin, who also illustrated the cover of Five Feet Apart.
In the excerpt below, Kyle is still recovering physically and emotionally from the accident that caused him to lose his ex-girlfriend Kimberly. He’s visiting her grave when he runs into a girl named Marley for the second time, and she just might understand what he’s going through.
A few days later I find myself back at the cemetery, at Kim’s grave, just wanting to feel close to her. Not in the creepy-vision kind of way, but in more of a I-don’t-know-what-else-to-do kind of way.
I lay a fresh bouquet of tulips next to my wilted irises, but a larger bouquet of them is already resting against the headstone. I wonder how many bouquets Kim’s parents have left before I even came once.
At least this time I brought the right flowers.
I pull the silky scarf from the box carefully out of my pocket, draping it gently over the headstone as I return it to the owner.
“Well, Kim,” I say as I pull away, “Like always, I’m finding it difficult to figure out what it is exactly you want. I keep thinking I know but…”
I pause, half expecting to hear her answer me, but there’s only the sound of the wind in the trees, the leaves rustling above me.
I sit down and rest my back against the headstone, silently waiting for a moment of clarity. Five minutes pass. Then fifteen. But nothing comes. And the same questions roll through my head like a news ticker that can’t unloop.
I look around and spy the sea of pink flowers two plots away. Pushing myself up, I let my curiosity get the best of me.
I reach out and touch one of the flowers, the petal soft underneath my fingertips.
“Stargazer Lilies,” a voice says from beside me.
Jesus Christ. I jump, nearly having a heart attack as I look over to see Marley standing next to me, her long hair pulled back with a yellow hair tie. She plucks the Stargazer I was touching, her hazel eyes studying it.
My eyes study the headstone nestled within the pink blooms.
“My sister. Laura,” Marley says softly, before I can ask.
“She was my hero. Loved me just the way I was,” she says, as if we’re picking up a conversation we’d already begun. She places the flower on top of the headstone. “It didn’t matter to her if I was different. Or sensitive. Or quiet.”
She looks up at me and I can see finally where the intensity in her eyes is coming from. It’s loss, buried in the deep hazel, a familiar pain wrapped around the irises. I know that pain. It’s like looking in a mirror.
“I wanted to be just like her,” she adds, breaking the gaze and turning her face back to the flowers.
“How old were you when she—”
“We’d just turned fourteen.”
We? But before I can ask, she answers that, too.
“Twins. Identical, in almost every way,” she says.
“Oh, I don’t tell sad stories,” she says. Then, she smiles sadly, and it’s as if a curtain drops behind her eyes.
Alright then. That’s clearly a sensitive topic. We stand in silence for a long moment.
“Oh!” she slips the yellow bag she’s carrying off her shoulder and surprises me by pulling a single flower out of a side pocket. Her eyes clear, and she holds it out to me as if I asked her to bring it.
Cautiously, I reach out and take it, inspecting the circular yellow center, the petals around it perfectly even and white.
“It’s a daisy,” she says sensing my confusion “Flowers have different meanings.” She nods to the flower in my hand. “This one made me think of you.”
“What’s it mean?” I ask, honestly a bit surprised flowers have any meaning at all. I thought they were just nice to look at.
“Hope,” she says simply.
Hope. Does she think I’m hopeful? To be honest, I don’t hope for much of anything anymore.
“I’m happy to see you again,” she adds, suddenly, not looking at me. “I wasn’t sure I would.”
I decide that I probably shouldn’t add I wasn’t planning on seeing her again. I just smile, and then almost as if we’d already planned to, the two of us find our way down the path and to the pond. We buy some popcorn from a vendor and then walk to her side of the pond where the ducks are. They gather around her feet to reverently stare up at her, quacking so loudly I swear they must all be holding mini megaphones.
I watch as she reaches into the red and white striped container and throws some kernels to them, her hair falling in front of her face. I mimic her, taking a handful of my popcorn and scattering it in front of me. The ducks converge on it like they’ve never eaten in their entire lives.
“Do you come here a lot? To feed the ducks?”
She hesitates, a fist full of popcorn in her hand. “Not as much as I used to.”
I nod, but don’t ask why. I know what it’s like to stop doing things you loved.
A duck snaps at the popcorn in her fingers, and she squeals, breaking the tension with a laugh. She jumps back and releases the kernel before he can take off her pinky. Her shoulder brushes against my arm, lightly enough to leave a trail of goosebumps behind it.
I clear my throat and take a step back.
We follow the ducks down to the water, their quacks leading the way. A few feet from the edge Marley pauses to look up, her hand frozen on top of the kernels.
“It’s going to rain,” she says thoughtfully, her head tilted back to see the heavy, dark clouds above us.
I follow her gaze, nodding. Something about it reminds me of the sky on the evening of the graduation party. The same ominous grey, the clouds dense with rain.
I’m struck again with the feeling that I shouldn’t be here.
“Kim always liked it when it rained,” I say, shaking my head at the sick irony of that.
As I pull my eyes away, I catch sight of a blue butterfly fluttering over the dark pond, its wings struggling to move.
Something’s definitely wrong with it. It’s airborne, but just barely. It painfully inches its way toward us, closer and closer to the water with every pump.
“Kim,” Marley says. Hearing her name in Marley’s voice makes my scar throb uncomfortably. “The grave you always go to,” Marley continues. “She was more than just a friend, wasn’t she?”
“Yeah,” I say, an avalanche of memories rushing at me. I can feel my hand in hers as she pulled me down the empty school hallway during junior prom. See her running onto the football field after I’d thrown the game winning pass. Feel her lips on mine that very first time when she found my message in her diary. “She was more.”
I remember the pain I saw in Marley’s eyes earlier. Something tells me I can talk to her about this, that she could understand in a way that my mom and even Sam can’t seem to. But I don’t know how to even begin.
So, I turn back to the butterfly and watch as it drifts closer and closer to shore. I silently cheer it on. Hoping it makes it. Hoping it gets there. Almost…almost…
“She didn’t make it,” I say.
The butterfly’s blue wings give out and it drops onto the water’s surface, so close to the bank, but not close enough. It twitches, struggling against the current. I hurry to the edge of the water and carefully scoop the insect into my hand.
I look down into the water expecting to see my own twisted expression, but instead I just see the tree branches above my head, the outline of the leaves. The stormy grey of the clouds in the sky just past them.
Frowning, I lean closer.
There’s even the butterfly, but not…me.
Like I don’t have a reflection.
I swallow hard and try to collect myself as the familiar pain blooms in my head. I fight to keep myself here and not let my broken brain take over as the words in Dr. Benefield’s note pops into my head.
Chill out. It’s not really happening.
I focus on my heart beating in my chest, my rib cage rising and falling all around it, the butterfly flitting around in my palm.
Another reflection appears in the water. Marley, her face concerned. I look quickly over at her and the butterfly takes off, still struggling, but moving.
“Poor thing,” Marley says as she watches it go.
I look back at the water, holding my breath, and this time my eyes stare back at me, dark and panicked. Instantly I feel like an idiot. I probably looked like I was freaking out over a butterfly.
These brain spasms keep getting weirder, not better. I reach up to touch my scar but disguise it by running my fingers casually through my hair. The doctor said this is happening because I’m protecting myself. Is it because I was talking about the accident?
Marley leans over my shoulder and peers into the water at me with those curious hazel eyes.
“She was lucky,” Marley says, her hair lightly falling onto my arm as she leans closer, making my skin prickle. “With that scar, you look like Harry Potter. Without it, you’d practically be Prince Charming or something.”
“Oh no. Prince Charming?” I laugh. “Is that the kind of fairytale you write? Are you filling kids’ heads full of that nonsense?”
If I learned one thing from what happened with Kim, it’s that I’m definitely no prince. And love is not a fairytale, no matter how perfect the story sounds. I don’t believe that anymore.
Our images blur as it begins to rain, heavy drops rippling across the pond’s surface.
“I hope it’s not nonsense,” she says, her voice quiet. “I hope there’s something better ahead to believe in.”
She raises her face to the sky. I take in the pink of her lips, the openness of her face to the rain. In that moment I want to tell her everything. Because even though it seems so impossible after all that’s happened, I want to believe there’s something better ahead, too.
But the rain starts falling too hard, and before I can make up my mind, we have to leave.
That night I sit at the kitchen table, twirling and untwirling spaghetti around on my fork, my hair still wet from walking home in the rain.
“Well,” my mom says, scanning me with that X-ray vision all mothers have. She takes a loud, crunchy bite of garlic bread. “She sounds like a nice girl.”
I stupidly told mom about Marley when I walked through the front door, soaking wet and holding a daisy. She asked me where I got it from, and my broken brain couldn’t think of any other possible reason I’d be holding a daisy.
I’m realizing now that any excuse would have been better than telling her the truth.
I tighten my hand around my fork as she presses for details.
“I barely know her,” I say, stabbing another bite of spaghetti. “Don’t make this a thing, okay? She’s just…easy to be with. She…gets what I’m going through.” I shake my head. It’s not like I met her in the park or the mall. It was a cemetery. And not just any cemetery. It was in the middle of the cemetery where Kim was buried. “But, I mean…shit.”
We stare at each other and she reads my mind with yet another mystical mom power.
“Kim would want you to be happy.”
“Mom, I told her I’d love her forever. Even just being friends with someone new feels wrong.”
“That’s not very fair to you, is it?” she asks.
I let my fork clatters against my plate, “How could you even say that?”
Not very fair? What wasn’t fair was that Kim’s life was taken away from her because of a fight and a freak storm. The least I could do was keep this promise to her.
“Kyle,” she says calmly, ignoring my outburst, just like she always does lately, “I just meant that you have a lot of life left to live. You never know—”
“No,” I say as I push back from the table and stand up, the chair legs squeaking noisily against the ground. “I do know. Kim was the only one for me. And I’m the one not being fair to her.”
With that, I storm downstairs to my room, and a new kind of clarity forms.
If I can’t go to the cemetery just for Kim, I have to stop going.
I have to stop seeing Marley.