A Dark Presence Stalks Three Students In This Excerpt From Stranger Danger

Books Features Maren Stoffels
A Dark Presence Stalks Three Students In This Excerpt From Stranger Danger

Surprisingly enough, summer is one of the best times to read thrillers. Maybe it’s the fast-paced feel that makes these sorts of stories so much fun to enjoy poolside or the fact that scary stories are just easier to read when it doesn’t get dark until 8 pm. Whatever the reason, the upcoming novel Stranger Danger sounds like it will be a perfect addition to your 2023 beach reading list.

The latest novel from Maren Stoffels, author of fan-favorite YA titles Escape Room, Fright Night, and Room Service, Stranger Danger follows the story of three teens who’ve rented a remote cabin in the hopes of getting serious about studying for their end-of-year exams. After all, they can’t be distracted by social media and the internet if they don’t have access to either. 

But it turns out they’re not alone in the middle of nowhere, after all. And there are plenty of secrets—and dangers—to go around.

Here’s how the publisher describes the story. 

Don’t think you can get rid of me so fast. . . .

No phones. No internet. No social media at all. That’s what it’s going to take to finally get serious about school and focus on exams. Nova, Vin, and Lotus even rented a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere so they won’t get distracted. After that, everything can go back to normal.

But they aren’t alone. Someone is watching them from the forest. Someone who knows their secrets. Someone who wants revenge. And things will never be the same again.

Described as perfect for fans of Christopher Pike and Natasha Preston, Stranger Danger officially hits shelves on May 2, 2023. But we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from the story for you right now!1linebreakdiamond.png


The streetlights cast patches of yellow on the path through the trees. Spot drags me along, as if he hasn’t been outside for weeks. As he pulls the leash tight for the umpteenth time, I burst out laughing.

“Hey, take it easy, Spot!”

I’m following my usual route, through the woods, and then across the bridge and back home. The place is deserted, as it always is around this time. I love going out late at night. Feels like I’m all alone in the world for a while.

Something rustles in the bushes. Spot tugs at the leash, but in the opposite direction this time, which is weird. He usually runs after every bird or squirrel, so it must be something else.

I pause for a moment and hear it again.

“Hello?” My voice sounds unnaturally loud in the darkness.

There’s no answer. Of course not. Nothing ever happens here.

I walk with Spot toward the big clearing and take my phone from my pocket. Even this prehistoric cell phone, which belongs to my dad, is going to be forbidden soon. Nova came up with the idea of having a complete lockdown so we can focus on our exams. So typical of her, coming up with something like that. And renting a remote farmhouse for a week.

I have no idea where we’re going because Nova refuses to tell us. She wants it to be a surprise.

Just the thought of the next week is making me nervous. If it were only the two of us, it’d be cool, but now that Vin’s coming, everything’s different. He might be great at lying to Nova, but that doesn’t mean I am too.

Maybe I should have said I didn’t want to go, but then Nova would have started asking questions. And my best friend does not take no for an answer.

I flip open the cell. This isn’t my usual phone; it’s an extra phone, especially for him. It was my idea, just to be on the safe side. If Nova ever goes snooping around in my messages, she won’t find anything.

Nova . . . I feel nauseous again at the thought of her ever finding out.

Some days it’s like Nova can see everything that’s going on inside of me. Like my skin is made of Saran wrap and she can look all the way through me.

My thumb hovers over the send button. I know what I need to say. The sentence is ready.

How’s he going to react?

Do I really want to do this?

Spot barks impatiently, as if he’s trying to tell me I have to go through with it.

“You’re right,” I say quietly, and I press send.

We need to stop doing this. It’s getting too dangerous. X

When we reach the clearing, Spot squats down. I dig around in my pocket for a plastic bag.

“What do you think?” I ask Spot. “Did I make a dumb decision?”

Nova hates when I talk to Spot like he’s a person, but it’s automatic. Maybe because I can’t talk to anyone else about this.

“Think he’s going to be mad at me?”

I bend down to pick up the poop. When I stand up, I see something on the other side of the clearing. Someone’s standing in front of the bridge, exactly where I need to go.

In the five years I’ve been walking Spot here at this time of night, I’ve never met another dog owner.

But then I realize there’s no dog. It’s someone on their own.

Am I seeing this right? Or are they just standing still?

A shock goes through me. Are they watching me?

Yes, I can see it clearly now. They’re looking my way.

Spot has noticed them, too, and he starts growling quietly. He never does that. He’s always happy to see people.

What’s going on? What do they want from me?

“What a creep,” I whisper as, for the first time in five years, I turn around and change my route. “Come on, Spot. Let’s go this way.”

I don’t see anything out of the ordinary outside my house—the street is as quiet as ever.

Why did that person freak me out so much? It was just someone out for a late-night walk, someone like me who can’t get to sleep before midnight.

As I put my key in the lock, there’s a buzz in my pocket. Has he already sent a reply?

Leaving the key in the front door, I take out my phone. I don’t recognize the number on the screen.

That’s strange. . . . There’s only one person who knows this number.

When I click on the envelope symbol, the text message appears.

I stare at the words on the screen:

I know what you’re up to.

Stranger Danger hits shelves on May 2, 2023 from Underlined, but you can pre-order it now.

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.

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