A Missing Student Isn’t the Same When She Returns In This Excerpt From The Changing Man

Books Features Tomi Oyemakinde
A Missing Student Isn’t the Same When She Returns In This Excerpt From The Changing Man

Dark academia is all the rage in the world of YA fiction right now—with good reason. A subgenre that allows readers to explore everything from social issues to straight up horror, it’s a setting that’s perfect for digging into the larger questions of identity and belonging that are so crucial to the young adult experience. And this is exactly what  Tomi Oyemakinde’s debut novel The Changing Man sets out to do. 

An atmospheric YA thriller, it follows the story of Ife Adebola, a young British Nigerian girl who is accepted into an urban scholarship program at the overachieving, upper-class Nithercott School. She arrives right after another student named Leon has gone missing, but doesn’t think anything of it…at least not until another classmate, Malika, starts acting strangely after a brief disappearance.

Because like so many posh boarding schools before it, Nithercott is hiding some dark secrets in its expensive halls, and the rumors surrounding its local urban legend, a figure known as the Changing Man who targets the lonely and ostracized, are particularly disturbing. 

But, as Ife is slowly beginning to understand, that doesn’t mean they might not be true. 

Here’s how the publisher describes the story. 

If it was left to her, Ife Adebola wouldn’t be starting at Nithercott School. Because despite being in the Urban Achievers scholarship program, her parents can barely afford the tuition. No matter who, like her classmate Bijal, is trying to be friends with her or how much the prestigious boarding school tries to pull her in, Ife is determined not to get caught up in any of it.

But when another student, Malika, begins acting strange, Ife can’t help but wonder if there’s more going on at Nithercott than she realizes. Could there be any truth to the school’s decades-old legend of the Changing Man? Is there any connection to the missing older brother of her classmate, Ben?

As more questions arise, Ife has no choice but to team up with Ben and Bijal to investigate. But can the trio act quickly enough to uncover who is behind everything, before one—or all—of them is the Changing Man’s next victim?

The Changing Man won’t hit shelves until September 26, but we’re excited to give you a sneak peek at the story right now. 


The day wobbles by, slowly crumpling my chest like fabric after the thread is pulled too tight. I’m too distracted by the what ifs to focus on anything. Before I know it, I am in detention, and Malika is still a ghost.

The idea she has a bad hangover has felt less and less true as the day has gone on.

What if she’s missing?

I bring my pen to my mouth, flinching when I realize there’s no lid to chew.

That’s right, I chewed it to a pulp in my last lesson and threw it out. My eyes scan the room again, settling on Ben and the free space next to him. The teacher’s still on his cigarette break, so I relocate next to Ben.

He peers up from his sheets of paper with those blue eyes of his and sighs. “Yes?” he asks, going back to whatever it is he was doing.

I swallow. “I, uh, wanted to ask about Leon.”

“None of your business,” he replies, not missing a beat.

Be brave. “I know that, but it’s just what you said before about people not caring about the truth. I do. How did you know something was wrong?”

Ben sets his pen down and stares at the sheet of paper in front of him. “I just did.”

“So, then you reported it straightaway?”

Slowly, he turns his head toward me and I know I’ve hammered a nerve. There’s a pained expression on his face. “I didn’t think . . .”

His voice loses all of its sharpness as it trails off. Without saying another word, he dips his head and starts writing. It’s obvious I’m not going to get anything else out of him.

“S-sorry if I upset you,” I mutter before heading back to my seat.

The rest of detention is a blur as I chew on my lip, worrying about Malika. Why isn’t anyone else taking this seriously? A chilling thought crosses my mind. Would anyone do this for me if I hadn’t been seen for nearly half a day? I push the morbid thought out of my head and clench my jaw. Malika has to be okay. I think about rushing out of the classroom and finding a teacher that might listen to me about my concerns. And each time I’m frozen by an anxiousness that frosts my insides. My toes scrunch in my shoes. What if I’m overthinking it?

“But what if you aren’t?” Bijal asks, pushing through the door to the dining hall. “Shouldn’t you say some—”

“Bijal!” I exclaim after I slam into her back. “What are you—”

“Your two o’clock.”

“My what now?”

She points and I follow her crooked finger over to a table near the floor-to-ceiling windows. Blinking slowly, I lower Bijal’s arm because they’re looking at us. She’s looking at us. Sound distorts as if I’ve suddenly been dunked underwater.


In the flesh.

Most of her piercings are out, except for simple studs in her earlobes.

Someone’s rubbed out her attitude.

The Changing Man myth fills my head. It’s not like I believe it. But a part of me won’t let the possibility go. I remember when I didn’t think demons were real, but Mum told me it would be a mistake to disbelieve in their existence.

All at once the noise of the dining hall rushes back.

“Is she really hanging with Fran? And is that a miniskirt and blazer?” Bijal scoffs. “You told me she thought their sense of fashion was giving basic girl aesthetic?”

Stacey smirks in my direction, pulling Malika into a hug. Without thinking I stride over, a tangled ball of confusion and anger that wilts with each step. Fran and her girls all stare at me.

“Ife,” Malika says, stepping toward me. A thoughtful look colors her face. “Everything okay?”


She turns away and walks toward the floor-to-ceiling windows. “I sometimes forget how fortunate we are to be here. Porthaven House is lovely, isn’t it, Ife?” she asks, her gaze fixed on the half of the orange-brick building visible. The blue flowers look velvety in the dusk light.

“I—I guess?” My eyes flick back to her. “Are you okay?” I bring my voice to a whisper. “Since when were you cool with Fran and them?”

“Yeah, funny, right? I never realized how cool they are. We just hit it off.” She gives me a playful bump against my shoulder with hers. “Sorry about last night and the radio silence by the way. I’m feeling much more myself. I’ll do better.”

I blow out my cheeks, before releasing the air inside. “Are you, um, sure you’re okay? I dunno, you’re, uh, acting weird.”

“Am I?” she asks with a grin.

I open my mouth to respond but close it without saying a word. My nails are digging into my palm. Suddenly my clothes feel way too small. Am I overthinking this? Heat flushes my face. “N-never mind.”

Stacey loops her arm through Malika’s and examines her face. “You look so much better without all those piercings.” She turns to me. “Everything good?”

“Uh, yeah it is. I’m going to . . .” I let my words trail off as I walk away, utterly confused.

The Changing Man will be released on September 26, 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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