We called Candice Montgomery’s debut novel, Home and Away, one of the best Young adult books of 2018. She penned a stunning story tackling identity and first love, making it the perfect read for fans of authors like Robin Benway, Nic Stone and Brandy Colbert.
This year Montgomery’s releasing her sophomore novel, By Any Means Necessary, in which she explores gentrification and…beekeeping? Yep, the novel’s setting is an aviary left to the main character by his uncle. Here’s the scoop on the plot from Montgomery’s publisher, Page Street Kids:
On the day Torrey officially becomes a college freshman, he gets a call that might force him to drop out before he’s even made it through orientation: the bee farm his beloved uncle Miles left him after his tragic death is being foreclosed on.
Torrey would love nothing more than to leave behind the family and neighborhood that’s bleeding him dry. But he still feels compelled to care for the project of his uncle’s heart. As the farm heads for auction, Torrey precariously balances choosing a major and texting Gabriel—the first boy he ever kissed—with the fight to stop his uncle’s legacy from being demolished. But as notice letters pile up and lawyers appear at his dorm, dividing himself between family and future becomes impossible unless he sacrifices a part of himself.
You’ll have to wait until October 9th to read the novel, but we’re thrilled to reveal the cover Laura Gallant designed and share an excerpt today!
“By Any Means Necessary is an exploration of personal growth, familial ties, legacy and that magical, muddy, complicated place we all swim in as we start growing into who we’ll become,” Montgomery tells Paste. “The neighborhood I write about is the one I was raised in. And, like Torrey, I watched gentrification steal it away, piece by piece. Writing his story was just one of the ways I felt I could fight back. It’s sort of an indirect love letter to a city that’s no longer mine; I feel indebted to Los Angeles the same way Torrey does.”
“Which is, I guess, why I adore this cover so, so much!” Montgomery adds. “With the L.A. skyline in the background and Torrey front and center, chin high, grinning at his bees, literally walking on top of a city that once walked all over him. He’s clearly taken something back. That was my personal goal for him and myself, too. We won, I think.”
Check out the first chapter below, and look for By Any Means Necessary on October 9th.
There is a special kind of hell for people who wait to open their official-looking mail. People like me.
It’s not my fault.
Can I say that?
Shake the blame, here? It’s the way my aunt Lisa always operates. Having her in my life for seventeen years has ingrained in me a long habit of avoiding bill collectors, debt companies, delinquent hospital bills, and Girl Scouts.
Those cute little assholes will finesse you for $50 and ten boxes of Thin Mints before you can blink twice. The Girl Scouts, not the debt collectors.
I like to call this horrific habit a symptom of “Poverty PTSD.” (I won’t trademark that, you’re welcome, have at it.) The avoidance, not the addiction to waxy, chocolate-mint cookies.
Comes from being broke all the time, from being a Black kid constantly screwed over by the system, unable to catch a break, from hearing your uncle’s been gunned down by the police for no discernible reason.
So, here we are. Jump cut to me, standing just over the threshold of my new home, my new dorm room at college, duffel heavy on my back, phone to my ear as my auntie Lisa yells in my ear.
“Torrey, did you hear what I just said?”
Yes, but my brain’s, like, waiting for a jump start or something, and my dumbass doesn’t own jumper cables. I also suddenly have to pee, but I don’t think I passed a men’s bathroom on the way up.
Lisa is the one in charge. I put things in her hands as I left for what I naively thought was my way out. My one and probably only chance to walk away from the thin strings holding me to the shreds of my sad excuse for a family. But this, my bees: I trusted her to handle this, and I don’t know how things have already fallen apart.
I laid everything out. I put the entire operation on a silver platter and said, Here, Auntie, bees, simplicity, money—all you. She isn’t the best at organization. But she’s smart. Capable. A scientist, even!
But should’ve expected it, you know? The neighborhood doesn’t just let you walk. It doesn’t just let you out sans so much as an ass scratch or a backward glance.
“Torr. Listen to me.” And then she enunciates, which is probably a good thing. “This letter is talking about shutting down and selling the apiary.”
Even though I just dropped my bags, I say, “I’m coming home.” Calling it home is such a farce. Home is a safe haven. Baldwin Hills is a place I reside.
“What? No. You’re not. There’s no reason for you to come home. Yet.”
Then why the hell would she call me with this letter, all panicked? “Where are you? Where’s Theo?”
“I’m at Theo’s now.”
Lisa is my aunt by marriage.
“So he knows? What’s he saying?”
For a second there’s some shuffling on her end of the line and it prompts me to walk fully inside the dorm room. It’s a double. Not huge but big enough for at least (and at most) two people to breathe in at the same time.
Aunt Lisa exhales slowly. She mostly does this for me, to help regulate my breathing. “Well. You know Theo, baby.”
I am very self-actualized. Self-actualized enough that I understand that Lisa is my stand-in for maternal comfort and has been for a while now. She doesn’t have any kids of her own. And she’s only, like, a decade older than me. But still. She’s all I got anymore. And all I want, really. My high school counselor used to say I was lying to myself about wanting more because I never got a “real mom,” whatever that is, and I guess I’m supposed to feel cheated out of that? But like I said, I’m self-actualized. And Lisa’s enough.
“Titi. Can they really do that?” I ask. Titi. Kinda funny, isn’t it? How universal the nickname is. It’s a term all Black kids grow up knowing their favorite auntie as.
Her voice gets thick, and I can see in my head, clear as day, that she’s sucking on a cigarette, cherry-red lipstick staining the paper. She didn’t start smoking until her husband, my uncle Miles, died.
“I haven’t even gotten to make sure you’re settling in okay.” I can practically see her shaking her head. “Technically, yes. They can. The letter states there are unpaid property taxes, and as a result the property is being seized.”
“Unpaid property—What? But Theo…?”
“Fell behind. Couldn’t catch up.”
“Fell behind. That’s some bullshit.” My back finds the wall and I give in, sliding down into a melted heap of boy on the floor.
“True as that may be, don’t you curse at me, boy. I’m not the one.”
She really isn’t. “I apologize.” I know better than to say, “I’m sorry.” Not in Black families. You ain’t sorry, boy. You ain’t never sorry.
“Mm-hmm,” she says. “I understand what you’re saying. And I want you to know, Miles never wanted this kind of stress on you. He’d encourage you to save yourself before ever thinking about those bees. But Theo, on the other hand…”
“Yeah. He never wanted the farm, Titi. You know this. I know this.”
Theo only agreed to handle the financial end of things because when Uncle Miles died, he left his bee farm to me, and I was underage at the time. But I’m sure to Theo, it felt like a way to keep his son with him. It felt that way to me.
It’s what I thought I wanted—owning and running the apiary. I’ve been working with or learning about bees forever. Working with bees meant working with Uncle Miles. Uncle Miles is—was—the apiary.
It was always just me and Uncle Miles out there, shooting the shit. Talking, commiserating. He met me on his level. Never treated me like a kid who couldn’t understand things. Bothered to take the time and teach me things that were new. Bothered to educate me. Bothered to give a shit.
Yeah. Just me and Uncle Miles and the bees. I’ve loved bees longer than I’ve loved those frosted brown sugar Pop-Tarts and, for real, that is saying something, I promise you it is. Uncle Miles made sure of that.
But Theo. He never wanted any of this. Thinks the apiary is a waste of space, time, and money. Commonly refers to it as “punk-ass rich shit.” So I wouldn’t be all that shocked if this nigga fell behind and just decided not to give a single shit about it when things got hot.
Low-key, I feel like I’m about to cry when a deep voice behind me says, “Hey. This is real heavy, could I get some help?”
And just inside my open doorway is Desh. Desharu but Desh.
I recognize his tree trunk of a body and head full of almost too much curly black hair.
Coming to an immediate stand, phone crushed between my shoulder and ear, I grab the largest suitcase from him. It’s covered in Sharpie tags, doodles, and different stickers but the largest and most prominent of them all—the ones I catch and can differentiate at a glance—are the two flags. One for Korea. One for India.
Desh reps his people hard. That’s no secret; just take a gander at his Facebook reposts.
With his bags “settled” on his side of the room—they aren’t settled; they are thrown haphazardly on his bare mattress, his backpack on top of one suitcase, and the larger suitcase I grabbed is the only one that’s upright—we sit on our respective mattresses.
“Titi, I gotta go. Lemme call you back.” And I hang up before she can yell at me not to. I’mma pay for that later, I already know.
Desh pulls his hoodie off, tosses it into a corner.
When we selected our dorm preferences, I chose the “no preference” option. Meaning, my roommate could be a complete neat freak or a cyclone of a human, never a thing in place.
I’m somewhere in the middle, so I figured it didn’t matter.
Desh is the latter. We’ve spent the past few weeks DMing about it, among other things. But mostly that Desh has zero plans to clean or organize anything because “you think I’m gonna clean shit when, finally, my mother isn’t around to nag me about it?”
I drop my phone on the floor and it makes a nice thud sound. He takes one look at me.
Listen. Here’s the thing about Desh.
He doesn’t know what personal boundaries are. He doesn’t care if asking you about that sore on your lip in polite company is just a smidge too loud. He doesn’t care if the way he eats (he doesn’t breathe, like, not once during the entire meal does he stop to take a breath) is horrifying and probably a little bit dangerous, he doesn’t care if you’re not ready to have his Nikon pointed right up in your grill.
Desh doesn’t care.
I’ve learned all this from texts, Facebook messages, and the occasional FaceTime session with him since having been “introduced” two months ago.
And those are the things that make Desh endearing. The loudness, the devil-may-care, the camera that’s permanently attached to his hand. Those are the things that make it easy to be friends with him. He’s either going to judge you or he’s not. But no matter what, he’s gonna stick around (and probably photograph it).
Still, even though I like Desh, I don’t know him know him, when it comes down to it. I’m not the kind of person who’s gonna let all my walls down just because you tagged me in some random meme on Facebook once.
I scrub a hand across my head.
Desh clears his throat. “Damn, who died?”
I shake my head. Me. I’m kinda feeling like it’s me.