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Sneek Peek:

Their song was majestic. Mesmerizing. I loved to lie spread-eagled in the grass beneath the speckled maples, oaks and willows in the fields, listening to their hypnotic hum, feeling the buzz electrify my freckled skin and ignite the fuzzy blonde hairs on my lanky arms.

It was early May of 2038 and the pharaoh cicadas were sprouting all across the Eastern United States for the first time in seventeen years. Where I lived, a little fisherman-style village called the Wharf in Reston, Virginia, was one of the older neighborhoods in the area, lending itself to a particularly hearty emergence of Brood X. It was astounding to think that these tomato-eyed, jewel-winged, dopey-flying, outspoken little critters were older than me by an entire year. For all but the last six or so weeks of their lives, they tunneled underground as tiny nymphs, feeding on the sap of tree roots. Then, suddenly, in the spring of their seventeenth year, when the soil-temperature reached sixty-four degrees, they surfaced all at once, by the millions, just to sing, mate and die, in rapid succession.

It was wonderfully-tragic in a sort of Shakespearean way, how suddenly their lives blossomed then ceased. They spent nearly two decades waiting, waiting, waiting in the dark, not only silent and blind but virtually alone, for a mere blink of glory at the end—for a single season in the sun, spreading their orange-laced wings for the inaugural time, singing louder than lawnmowers, mating singularly and monogamously, laying eggs in the treetops… then, quite literally dropping dead, falling to the bases of the same saplings that provided their sustenance, giving their bodies back to the soil from which they emerged, fertilizing their home-base for the next generation.

How beautifully heartbreaking it was, yet poignant with purpose. Cicadas never had to wonder what their goals were—it was wired in their instincts. Cicadas didn’t have to worry about dating and breaking up, dating and breaking up, over and over and over again until your heart was nothing but bleeding carnage lying in the dirt. Their paths were simple, clear, obvious. They were guaranteed to find their soulmate in a timely fashion, without the painful rigmarole that plagued the lonely teens of South Lakes High School. Courting was straightforward for them: the males sang their one-hundred-decibel magicicada septendecim chorus, interested females would approach and flick their wings in consent, and that was that—they were a couple. While some cicadas mated more than once, roughly ninety percent stayed loyal to their one true love. It was a real-live Hallmark movie.

It was this awkward, shy, sixteen-year-old, eleventh-grade musician’s dream come true.

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Genre: Imaginative Young-Adult Literary Fiction


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