A new YA Dystopain to sink your teeth into... Imani Unraveled by Leigh Statham (Excerpt & #Giveaway)

Welcome to my tour stop! Check out an excerpt and giveaway below...

Imani Unraveled
(Daughter 4254 #2)
By Leigh Statham
YA Dystopian
Paperback & ebook, 260 Pages
February 5th 2019 by Owl Hollow Press


When her head is artificially filled with more information than she knows what to do with, Daughter4254 finds she can’t trust her own thoughts, much less the words of anyone else.

Rumors come creeping in the night, and she finds herself faced with a choice she thought she’d left far behind when she’d walked out the doors of the compound.

(Affiliate links included.)



After what has to be at least an hour on the boat, my stomach twists and my eyes feel heavy, despite the cold. Or maybe because of it. I wish that I would have gone to eat with Hamen immediately after I woke up. But I shake away those thoughts, reminding myself that I would have missed seeing Thomas outside my window.

Thomas. Now that I’ve had a chance to examine him more closely, I notice his dark hair has been trimmed. His beard, so rough and patchy from neglect in prison, has been shaved and is growing back. Dark stubble dusts his jaw and chin. He sits straight and tall at the front of the boat, guiding it with a long stick. As if feeling my gaze, he turns to smile, revealing bright white teeth, crooked enough to make it obvious he’s not from the city. He looks so happy, but his eyes have dark circles etched under them. I wonder if he has found anything to eat or a warm place to sleep during the days I was in the Institute having my brain rewired.

The jagged dark gray rocks and needle-laden evergreen trees on the shoreline are blanketed with soft white snow. Focusing on them helps to keep my attention as I try not to think about the boat tipping over or the frigid temperature of the water. As I relax, I realize the names of the trees we pass, their life cycles, their uses, are slipping painlessly through my mind. I let the information flow through my mind instead of fighting it. When I try to focus on any particular detail, the flow pauses but a headache threatens to blossom, and I let the information flow through me like the river rushing by on either side. I wonder how many people Hamen pumped full of this lost information. Where are they now?

“Oy, love!” Thomas calls out over the sound of the river. “Check that knapsack there, would ya?”

I look at the floor of the boat where he is pointing to a dirty brown bag gathered at the top by two crude laces. The bottom third of it appears darker than the rest, soaked by a bucket’s worth of water sloshing in the bottom of the boat.

I pull the bag between my feet, not wanting the wet bottom on my pants, and stick my hands in the hole, pulling the laces loose, then open. My mouth begins to water. Inside are bread, apples, and dried meat, all protected from the water by a wax lining.

“Where did you get this?” I say. “Where have you been staying the last few days?”

“I’ve got friends under every rock.” He winks at me. “Help yourself.”

I reach in and pull out the apple first. I can’t remember the last time I ate one. The food rationing was so severe in the weeks before I left Secondary School that many of my friends were starving. I shared my meals—reward for doing well in my classes—and rarely ate more than bread and canned fish most days. Prison food was actually a step above that, offering an occasional bowl of mush or unidentifiable overcooked vegetable.

Now I hold a bright yellow apple covered in tiny brown spots like the freckles on the face of a child. I turn it over in my hands, appreciating it, then take a huge bite. The fruit is cold and stings my teeth, but the juice is sweet and dribbles over my lips and down my chin. I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. I’m embarrassed to find Thomas watching me, but his expression is pure joy.

“It’s good, yah?” he says just as I say, “It’s so good.” We both laugh and end up talking over each other again.

“Have you ever had—” Thomas starts.

“Thank you so much,” I interrupt him.

“Ladies first,” he says and holds out a hand indicating I should speak. We don’t have to lower our voices for fear of being overheard by guards. The freedom is intoxicating and terrifying.

“I have had one before, but it wasn’t this good,” I say through bites of apple, answering his unfinished question. I chew and swallow, then ask, “Do you want one?”

He shakes his head, his smile so bright, so rewarding. He’s happy because I am happy, and that is enough for both of us.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

Images of tall, thick men with dark red beards and stern faces flash through my mind. They have swords and axes and are obviously warriors. I push them away and try to focus on Thomas’s answer.

“My people. The mountain folk. Only they don’t exactly live on the mountains anymore.”


“Aye. After the batty old lady ratted on us, they moved back into the mountains. Under them, I suppose you could say.”

“How do you live under the mountains?”

“Where do you think they get all those fancy metals for all the fancy gadgets your folk are so fond of?”

“I don’t know.” That is the truth. I haven’t ever thought about where the materials came from to supply us with trucks and pods or even circuitry for doors and autoeyes.

“The mountains, lass, and we’re the trolls that dig it out for you.”

“Then you were in contact with the Leaders before they raided your village? I thought you hid from them.” My daydreams of running off to join the mountain people always involved a community far from the influence of the Leaders and their society, not part of it.

“We hide our way of life. They think we are a part of your system, but we’re not. We never were.”

“Don’t call it my system.” I turn away from him and take another big bite of the apple.

He’s quick to apologize. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”

But something else he said has already distracted me. “Why did the Leaders raid your village in the first place? Was it only because of illegal activity?” I’ve never heard of Leaders letting a community get away with any kind of subversion without severe retribution, but clearly the mountain people have continued their way of life.

“That and we were starting to push back on their demands, asking for more in return for the metal we sent to them. There’s been talk of splitting off from the Leaders for a while now. Everyone is pretty fed up, but there are two different groups of thought among my people.”

I nod at him to continue, soaking up the information about the people I’ve longed to join my whole life.

“Some want to split off and fight the Leaders, try to gain back some of our land and set up our own government. Others want to keep things low and slow. They want to be free of the Leaders, but no war.”

“No one wants to stay with the current government?”

“Would you?” he asks, smiling at me.

“Good point,” I say. “Where do you fall?”

“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” he says, then points ahead. “We’re nearly there. Just around the bend and then we hike up the mountain a bit.”

He looks back to the river and the sound of the water fills the silence between us. I may have a lot of old-world history crammed in my head, but the information Thomas revealed about his people is brand new, and I’m struggling to fit it in with my experience of the Leaders and their world. The job of navigating the river keeps Thomas busy for the moment, but as he works the pole to steer the boat around the bend and toward a sandy shore, my heart starts to race, anxiety kicking in again.

When we land on dry ground, it will just be me and Thomas. Nothing between us. I have never been alone with a boy before. There were always autoeyes watching or a Leader or parent around the corner, bars separating us in prison. Even now, there is a boat on the verge of capsizing and the need to escape. And this is Thomas. His dark hair and strong face are so familiar to me. His hand on the pole, guiding the boat like he guided me through each miserable day when we were locked up. His ready smile even when the situation is bleak. His quick laugh and the way he openly shows affection. He’s free from the laws I grew up with, free from all of my hesitations and fears. I feel my breathing quicken and my palms grow hot in the cold winter air when I think about being free like that, forever, with him.

With a soft grinding of wood on sand, our boat catches on the river’s edge. Thomas cries, “Here we are!” and jumps into the shallow water, circling around to the back of the boat to push it farther onto land.

I throw what’s left of the gnawed apple core into the water and stand, wobbling, with the crude knapsack clutched to my chest with one hand and the side of the boat with the other as I work my way to the front.

The front of a boat is the bow.

The back of a boat is the stern.

When a person is facing the bow, left side is port and the right side is starboard.

 The information, unbidden, is accompanied by a stabbing pain behind my right eye.

“Got it,” I whisper through the pain and try to focus on climbing out the bow without re-soaking my already wet shoes and feet.

“What’s that?” Thomas wades around to the side and offers me his hand.

The pain from the memory fades, leaving me slightly dazed. I look at his hand, trying to understand why it’s there. It’s rough, darker than mine, nails chewed to their beds and crisscrossed with lines that seem drawn on with a writing tool instead of creased by nature. Do I want to touch that hand? I clutch the bag closer to my chest.

“What is it?” His voice sounds as if it is coming through a fog. “Imani?”

Startled by my name, I remember I’m with Thomas; this is Thomas’s hand, Thomas who helped me stay sane in prison and escape the revolutionaries. Did my hesitation hurt his feelings? He definitely isn’t wearing his usual happy-go-lucky smile.

I take his hand in mine. Even through the glove I can feel that his fingers are like chunks of ice. I feel selfish and cruel all at once. Of course, he is freezing. He is standing in a frozen river, patiently waiting while I decide if I trust him or not.

He came back for me. Even after I abandoned him on the cliffside in the prison yard, watching him fall and then be shot. How could I not go with this boy now? How could I not trust him? All of that aside, I want to go, to find something new.

I use his arm to step carefully out of the boat and onto the beach, avoiding the icy waters. Once we are both on dry land, I drop the bag and tackle him in an embrace. Hopefully it’ll both warm him up and act as an apology for not taking his hand sooner.

“Whoa there, darling.” He laughs and hugs me back.

I bury my face in his chest and close my eyes, letting the warmth of our connection spread through my body. When Thomas speaks, the words rumble through his chest.

“This feels mighty nice and all, and I’d love to warm up together any other day, but we’ve got a ways to go and I’m not sure those fellas are done following us.”

I step back, my face burning red, and look around for guards or a trail or something other than Thomas. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Give me a hand with the boat, will ya?”

He drags the boat past the sand and into the twigs and grass bordering the snowline. I take a few quick steps forward and grab the rope above him. He motions for me to take a hold of one side as he takes the other. The boat is surprisingly light. We easily lift it high enough to clear the snow, and I follow him into the woods.

“Right here’s good.” He motions to a giant fir tree with large branches reaching the ground in all directions, ends buried in snow “Just hold it steady a second.”

He braces the boat on his knee and tugs a branch’s end out of its snowy confines. Once he lifts it up, I can see a dry area under the tree large enough for three boats like the one we are carrying. In fact, there is another boat tucked in the space, like a sleeping bear waiting for spring, along with a large wooden chest.

We stow our boat next to its brother, then Thomas opens the trunk and digs around while I admire our secret hiding place.

We didn’t have trees this large in the community I grew up in. I try to guess its age by the circumference of its trunk, nearly twice that of the trees I am used to. How does such a tree exist when all the flora and fauna were wiped out a few decades earlier? Maybe it is a different hybrid. I run my fingers down rough bark of the trunk.

“How old do you think this tree is?” I ask, wondering if Thomas might know having grown up on the mountain.

“Older than us, that’s for sure. These aren’t the quick producing trees the Leaders put out for their mills. These are the Douglas firs that survived the devastation or sowed themselves and grew up from the ashes of the wars.”

“They seeded themselves?”


“But I thought nothing could grow after the wars. I thought the land was wasted and barren after the Neuroadvanced came out of their bunkers.”

“Do you believe everything those fancy pantsers tell you down there?” He motions back up the river in the direction we came from.

I close my mouth and think about what he’s said. He is right. There are plenty of things the Leaders lied about. I wonder for a moment how much of what is in my head might be a lie as well. How will I be able to tell what is real and true?

“Here it is.” He pulls something out of the chest. “Dry clothes and some better boots for ya, lassie.” He hands me a pair of thick green woolen pants and brown boots, then goes back to digging around in the chest. “There are socks inside the boots as well.”

Dry clothes sound very nice, but I hesitate. “Thank you, Thomas, that’s wonderful, but… where am I supposed to change?”

“No better place than right here.” He turns around holding his own pair of dry pants and boots in his hands, a wicked grin creasing his cheeks.

For a split second I regret the hug I’d thrown so carelessly at him earlier. Maybe I’d given him the wrong idea. Or the right idea at the wrong time? Then again, maybe it is normal for boys and girls to see each other change clothes where he comes from. I grew up under the constant watch of the autoeye, but that’s not the same thing as a live human boy standing in front of me while I strip to my underwear beneath a tree in the middle of nowhere and with no supervision.

My shock must be clear because he laughs.

“I’m fooling, lassie! I’ll be out there clearing up some of our tracks. You get yourself dry and ready and holler at me when it’s safe for me to come back in. Alrighty?”

I breathe a sigh of relief and feel my cheeks burn hot again. Unbidden, the memory of his kiss on the cliff just before he jumped over the edge shoots from my head to my feet, and I long to revisit that kind of closeness. Somehow my cheeks burn even hotter and a heat matching it rises in my abdomen.

I step aside and look down as he walks straight at me on his way to leave our shelter. But he pauses in front of me and puts his cold hand on my hot cheek.

“It’s a good day, Imani.” As if he had read my mine, his eyes twinkle as his lips press into mine, warm and full.

As soon as it happens it’s over, and he is ducking under the branch, humming a tune as he makes his way back to the shore.

Other Books in the Series

Daughter 4254
(Daughter 4254 #1)
By Leigh Statham
YA Dystopian
Paperback & ebook, 286 Pages
November 7th 2017 by Owl Hollow Press


Daughter4254 used to think life in a community where art, music and names are outlawed would suffocate her creative spirit. Now that she’s rotting in a prison cell, she’s not sure her dying mother made the right choice when she entrusted her with the secrets of rebellion. Prison has given her plenty of time to relive every mistake and lose all hope.

Then she meets Thomas, a fellow inmate, who tells her stories of the mythical mountain colonies where people have names and the arts thrive. Together they plot an escape, knowing if they fail, they will die. Or worse, their consciousness will be taken by the MindWipe, leaving their bodies free for the government to use. When nothing goes as planned, Daughter4254 must choose between using her mother’s secret to better the world she hates, or following Thomas to the quiet life of freedom she has always craved.

(Affiliate links included.)

About the Author

Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho but found her heart in New York City. She worked at many interesting jobs before settling in as a mother and writer.

She now resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, eight chickens, a fluffy dog, and two suspected serial killer cats.

Leigh is currently working on an MFA, has written countless short stories, and is the author of lots of mediocre poetry. She is also the winner of the 2016 Southeast Review Narrative Nonfiction Prize for her short story “The Ditch Bank and the Fenceline.”

Tour Schedule

Week One:
2/11/2019- BookHounds YAExcerpt
2/12/2019- Smada's Book SmackSpotlight
2/13/2019- Kelly P's BlogExcerpt
2/14/2019- Wishful EndingsExcerpt
2/15/2019- Christine's Book CornerSpotlight

Week Two:
2/18/2019- Some Books and RamblingsExcerpt
2/19/2019- Jena Brown WritesReview
2/20/2019- Two Chicks on BooksExcerpt
2/21/2019- Owl Always Be ReadingExcerpt
2/22/2019- Good Choice ReadingSpotlight

Tour-Wide Giveaway

2 winners will receive a finished copy of IMANI UNRAVELED, US only.

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Have you read either of these? What did you think of the excerpt?

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