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Neverdying by Shanti Hershenson - Book Tour + Giveaway

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This is my post during the blog tour for Neverdying by Shanti Hershenson. Neverdying is a Young Adult Science Fiction Dystopian novel by a fourteen year old author. In a dystopian future where “Immortals” are hunted and exterminated, an immortal and exterminator meet, sending them both in a journey of triumph and sacrifice.

This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours and the tour runs from 10 till 30 October. You can see the tour schedule here.


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Neverdying (Neverdying #1)
By Shanti Hershenson
Genre: Sci-fi/ Dystopian
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: June 30, 2022

Blurb:
If you could live forever, would it be a gift… or a disease?

A doctor created a genetic mutation meant as a gift to society—to those at random in future generations who were born with it: Immortality. But the risk of overpopulation and questions rising about the imbalance of only few being Immortals brings the ruthless President Wilde to a different stand—a facade of peace and equality whereas Immortals are executed daily—thus creating the ruination of the United States… and the world soon after.

Scarlett Caldwell is a girl of many mysteries—but along with that, she’s an Immortal. Having run away from a very young age and forced to forget the part of her identity that could get her assassinated, she turns to very few of her friends and spends the majority of her days hiding in the Immortals Legion, a compound for Immortals in hiding. But times are changing and tensions are only growing—Scarlett knows she can’t stay hidden forever. When she encounters an unfairly attractive Exterminator who, despite seeming rigid, has an amusing thing or two to say, she is left absolutely livid. But beyond that, beyond all the parts of him that she hates, there’s a secret. And Scarlett will do anything to unravel it.

Cain Hawkins is an Exterminator, a member of the country’s new authority specially trained to hunt down and exterminate the remaining Immortals. He truly believes that being an Exterminator is what he is meant for—despite what he may or may not know. And when a skirmish with an Immortal on the street leaves him questioning every last bit of himself, he will have to rise to stand with his president and failing country, or run from everything he was conditioned for. Besides, Cain has a secret: He is an Immortal too.

Their first encounter is far from the last, for an opportunity rises for the two to (unwillingly) work together. Already, they are left with a spark—a spark of hope for a future where Immortals are not prosecuted. And no matter if Cain sees the spark or not, the question still remains: How long will it be until a single spark ignites a fire?

TUCK EVERLASTING meets STAR WARS in this compelling and romantic novel by 14-year-old author, Shanti Hershenson.


Links:
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- B&N


Excerpt
When the lights flicker on, my heart drops. Apprehension builds up inside my stomach and my chest. It rises and falls in the form of a heaving breath, a string of possibilities that leave a trill of panic in the breath’s place.

The name pinned onto my gray Exterminator Trainee’s uniform—that will hopefully be replaced with black—is C. Hawkins, and the words below it, read: UNCHECKED TRAINEE. Tomorrow, like every other Trainee hand-selected by President Wilde, I turn twenty-one. For a Trainee like myself, twenty-one—becoming an adult—comes along with a multitude of obstacles and tests, mostly physical attributes with the exception of one that I already know I will be passing.

The Immortal examination.

But that stands only as a challenge for tomorrow—something I’m to worry about when I wake up in my quarters the next day. Today is for skill, for strength, for everything I’ve been trained and conditioned for over the last few years.

Over the time where things have changed.

I stand in the training chamber, a state-of-the-art room plated with marble and silicone, lit up so bright it feels impossible to see. My final test of the day—the one that, truthfully, I’m the most afraid of—does not simulate any terrain, nor does it give the slightest inkling of an actual situation. It’s for close combat only, and, more specifically, the assassinations that Exterminators are trained to complete.

The time ticks by in complete silence as I stand alone, my face rigid, hands clasped neatly behind my back. A gun is clipped to my waist—the gun that I am to use in order to complete the task required.

Exterminate an Immortal.

“Cain Hawkins, are you ready?”

I jump ever so slightly. The voice startles me from my state of thought, a sign that it’s time to begin. I can dawdle for no longer. I can no longer think about my chances and think about what I’m about to do—and how I’m going to do it.

My hand travels to the belt tightly wrapped around my waist and unclasps the gun—the extermination gun.

The voice, almost robotic, startles me once more. “Hawkins?” it calls. “Are you ready? Are you there?”

I swallow nervously, adjusting the collar of my shirt. “Yes!” I reply, lowering my voice. “I’m ready.”

The voice speaks no more. Instead, the lights flicker off, leaving me in darkness for a spare second. The light floods in once more, and the sight I’m faced with is both what I’m expecting, and most certainly not.

Three beings stand before me, each of them containing the same weak face of despair. Their clothes are torn and their shoulders hang low. However, despite the differences in their looks, each of them wears the same orange uniform.

A prison uniform. Lovely.

These are prisoners—Immortals. They have been captured and they will be terminated as part of my training process. These are the weakest of the bout of prisoners who lie rotting in wait for their extermination. They slipped through the cracks—avoided their deaths once—but will not anymore.

“Hawkins, hurry!” a voice calls, pulling me from my thoughts. “Go!”

With no more time to spare drowning in my thoughts, I begin the test of a lifetime.

My hands, already laced with sweat, tighten around the trigger of the gun. This should be easy, I tell myself. There is no reason to struggle.

All three Immortals look at me, puzzled. Their eyes swim of deserved misery and, beyond that, a need to live. It will diminish soon enough.

My legs glide around the ground, as smooth as it is padded. One of the Immortals, a larger man, stops me. He grabs my wrist and twists it around, reaching for the gun in my other hand. Pain sparks within me. I grind my teeth. But I do not give up here. The other two Immortals, younger and skinnier (not that they all aren’t young and skinny), move in slow steps.

I turn my arm around in an attempt to end the struggle, the Extermination Gun high above my head. I do not wish for them to reach it, for that can mean a number of things.

They can kill me. They can end the test. I can undergo both at the same time—I can both fail the test, and fail as my life ends.

With my free hand—the one that doesn’t contain the gun—I send a punch towards the Immortal man’s face. The impact sends a soft quake through my muscles—the pain, of course, being even worse. But the man, whose grip on my wrist only gets worse, seems to be filled to the brim with surprise.

He didn’t expect me to do that, to punch him. I have a sweet, sweet advantage. His grip, once tight around my wrist, begins to loosen. I attempt to pull my arm away, only to feel the hold of the Immortal again, constricting my arm. I’m stupid. I’ve been stupid. I’ve forgotten about quite an important thing.

The man’s other hand.

A punch is driven deep into my gut. I cry out, coughing as my breath begins to fade.

“Shit…shit!” I gag. “Oh, God, this can’t be happening!”

The man smiles as best a prisoner—particularly an Immortal—can. I drop to my knees, barely keeping the gun in hand. I wonder if he’ll kill me right here and gain his revenge. He’s an Immortal, of a prosecuted kind. He has no right to do this. But as I kneel, gagging while the other Immortals—and above the testing room, soldiers—watch, I wonder if they’ll let me die.

The Immortal man grasps the collar of my gray uniform, yanking me to a stand. He pulls me around into a chokehold, pressing me close to his stomach and chest. I cough. Once. Twice. I can’t breathe. I can’t do anything but think… and prepare to meet my end.

“Let me go!” I scream, writhing around. “You have no right to do this you… you filthy immortal.”

To reply, he tightens his hold on me.

“Stop this, now!” I gasp for air. “Someone, help!”

My dignity and everything I’ve worked for are being torn to shreds. But at that moment, I think of something. A plan. A way to survive. An idea that falls under the category of a last resort.

I drop to my knees again, although this time, it’s my own will to do so. I dangle suspended, my knees just inches away from the ground. And then, a second later, the man drops me. He can no longer carry my weight. Along with my knees, the gun clatters to the floor. I brace myself for the pain—for what I know is coming.

The other Immortals dash to the Extermination Gun. The man attempts to kick me away from the gun. While his hit to my stomach is hard and breath-snatching, it is most certainly not debilitating. My fingers are mere centimeters away from the gun—almost in reach. I lay in a mess on the floor, sweat and blood drenching my face, my hair of a dirty blond dye.

Right as one of the two other Immortals—not the one who has me in a weak grasp—is about to catch the gun, I make my move. I feel my arm stretch as I bat his hand away, reaching further, and further. And then I feel it—the smooth trigger of the gun. I collect it in my hands, spinning around to face the Immortal man.

I swallow. A thought pierces my mind: I’m going to kill him. But in the split seconds that pass, another thought floats to mind: He’s not human; a mutation, an Immortal. He deserves to die.

I pull the trigger without any second thoughts.

A dart is thwarted from the gun’s barrel. The specially made Extermination Dart contains the sharpest needle ever created, attached to a glass circle. In the circle, fills a bright green fluid—the one thing capable of ending the life of an Immortal.

The needle, as small as it is, pierces the man’s skin with what I’ve been told is a painless prickle. His hands fly to his face, a scream spilling from his throat. Sweat drips from the side of his head, from his forehead to his chin.

“N-no! No!” he shrieks. “Please, no!”

And then he crumples to the floor; gone.

I withhold a gasp, vomit itching in my throat. The remaining Immortals are frozen just as I am. One of them—a woman with shortened hair—covers her mouth with a scarred hand. The other, is frozen, although I can’t miss the slight tremble to his body.

I’ve just killed a man.

I’m a murderer. The thought briefly passes through my head. In a swift instant, it is replaced with, I’ve exterminated one—now for the other two. I’m close to passing this damned test. And then, finally, this is what I’m meant for.

I wipe the sweat beading down my forehead. I suck in a long, quivering breath. My hand trembles from the force of the gun, still tightly in hand. Just two more. Two more worthless Immortals are all that stand in the way of everything I’ve been conditioned for.

I go for the woman first. The last Immortal, a scrawny boy whose appearance screams of someone younger than me, is not as attentive. I’ll take him last in order to make things easier.

My feet pound against the floor as I run, my shoes bouncing across the rubber. I press my finger to the trigger and in an instant, an unearthly howl fills the room. It’s the sound the Extermination Dart creates during the brief moment when it’s soaring through the air.

The sound is silenced. Then muffled by her screams. I raise a hand over my eyes to cover her vision, waiting out the remainder of her cries. And then silence ensues. The silence, as all things are, is interrupted by the muffled cries of the boy.

There’s something about the feeling of almost being finished that tugs me onward. There’s something about it that leads me to tighten my fingers around the Extermination Gun. And there’s something about the new familiarity of it—of extermination—that causes me to not flinch when I pull the trigger.

The boy falls to the floor a second later, landing beside the other bodies of those who were slain. By me.

“I’m done.” I sigh, repeating, “I’m done. I’m done. I’m done.”

That wasn’t so hard, was it? I think.

Not at all.

“Cain Hawkins,” a voice fills the brief moment of silence, “congratulations.”

Another long pause ruptures the voice, leaving me to suffer, for a moment, in eerie silence. I slowly turn around so as to not see the Immortals lying dead on the floor, their last pleads etched into their faces. They deserved to die, I tell myself, and I believe it. They did. They did. They did.

To my thanks, the voice again pulls me from my polarizing thoughts.

“You have passed the second to last test that bridges your adulthood and begins your career as an Exterminator. Tomorrow stands as the final roadblock; the final test. In the morning, like all the others who have succeeded today, you will take the Immortal Examination. The results to that are as uncertain as everything else.” The voice pauses, gifting me time to process everything. “We know you understand,” it resumes.

A weak smile pulls at my lips. I’ve made it. I’ve almost made it. However, I pose no worry for tomorrow’s test. I have no need to.

This is what I’m made for.

A door hidden among white walls screeches open to reveal a hallway—a way out. High above the exit, stands a plating of tinted glass windows. They were watching me. But now where those windows once remained empty, there are words flashing across it in a bold crimson hue.

CONGRATULATIONS.

I waste no more time staring like an idiot. Instead, I cross across the white room and turn my back on the dead. Much better things await me at the end of the hallway. My eyes can already sight some of them.

The Trainees from my unit stand waiting, grins and chuckles embedded into their faces.

“Cain!” they chant. “Cain, you did it!”

I smile at this, at the amusement they hold—at the happiness and pride they hold for me. A waiting area sits on the other side of the hallway—a lobby, perhaps, is a better word for it. There are leather couches and soft carpets that cover the usually cold, metal flooring. Refreshments await on the table, and although they aren’t fancy, the thought and the act—the courtesy of our leadership—is all that matters. On the wall adjacent to the hallway, is a display screen. It doesn’t take long before I realize the footage it displays—a live screening of the testing for everyone to witness.

Not everyone, I come to realize. I’ve known these boys for long enough to see the holes in the crowd. This lobby is only for those who have passed. For those who have made it. An unseemly amount of pride fills me at this. I’ve done everything right and now I will bask in the rewards of it all. Perfect.

“Cain, you, you did it!” a cheerful voice brings me to the present. “Dude, that was insane!”

Immediately, my elation is replaced with reality; with the rigidness I’m supposed to grasp; with the person I need to be.

I straighten my collar which appears to be twisted. “I’m glad you find our work insane,” I state, withholding a groan. “But I don’t think anything about our jobs is a laughing matter, Rowan.”

“Come on, man!” Rowan persists. He creates a gap between myself and the others, preventing me from passing through.

“No.” I will not budge. Neither will he, however.

“No what?”

I roll my eyes. I refuse to even formulate a reply, this time. I shoulder my way past and join the crowd of others. None of them are nearly as thrilled; nearly as energized as Rowan is. But that is a usual thing.

On the outside, Rowan consists of what could be mistaken as a stern face, brown skin, and shaved curly hair that makes him look older than he really is. On the inside, his mind is a rollercoaster of jokes and a laid-back sense that has no place here. While I am grateful to call him my friend—maybe even best friend, perhaps—I am not at all pleased with his ever-growing behavior. I can’t change it, though. He’ll learn his lesson eventually, if he continues to see everything through the bright eyes of a child.

To not linger on the thought, I make my way over to my boss: Commander Price, head of the San Diego Unit—one of our country’s ten capital cities. He’s a man who shows little pride. A man whose entire middle-aged years have been spent on the very same thing that is dawning on my life.

Hunting and exterminating Immortals.

I clear my throat. “Greetings, sir.” I cast a nod in his direction. “I am looking forward to starting my duties this coming week.”

He sends me a slight nod, his body still from where he stands. His eyes tonight shift to my direction—nothing of that sort—but he does speak, to my gratitude.

“Well,” he begins, “If you’re looking for critique, I found your skill to be quite sloppy, as was your overall attention. If you don’t want to die at the hands of a filthy, cursed Immortal—if you aren’t one of them yourself—you’ll fix your act immediately. Understood?”

“Understood,” I choke back.

Commander Price’s coldness does two things to me. It motivates me; sends a drive of anger through my being, pushing me forward. But his words also provide a boost of stress and worry—tomorrow can mean a number of things. And I am unsure as to whether or not I’m ready for all of this.

I have to be, I tell myself. I’m born for this.

The room suddenly feels too cramped and hot—it’s a miserable sensation. I can hear Rowan’s footsteps, a sound I’ve grown to recognize. But I don’t want to deal with this; with him. I need to break free from all of this, if only for a few moments.

I need a whiff of fresh air.

“I’m going for a walk,” I promptly decide.

 


Shanti Hershenson author picture

About the Author:
Shanti Hershenson's first two novellas were published when she was in the sixth grade, although her writing journey started long before then. Ever since she could hold a pencil, marker, or crayon, she was creating stories. They started from pictures, mere scribbles, and eventually, turned into captivating tales.

Author links:
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Giveaway
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Neverdying. Five winners each win a paperback copy of Neverdying by Shanti Hershenson (US Only).

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1 Comments

Please try not to spam posts with the same comments over and over again. Authors like seeing thoughtful comments about their books, not the same old, "I like the cover" or "sounds good" comments. While that is nice, putting some real thought and effort in is appreciated. Thank you.