Sia by Josh Grayson
Publication date: November 20th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
When seventeen-year-old Sia wakes up on a park bench, she has no idea who or where she is. Yet after a week of being homeless, she’s reunited with her family. At school, she’s powerful and popular. At home, she’s wealthy beyond her dreams. But she quickly realizes her perfect life is a lie. Her family is falling apart and her friends are snobby, cruel and plastic. Worse yet, she discovers she was the cruelest one. Mortified by her past, she embarks on a journey of redemption and falls for Kyle, the “geek” she once tormented. Yet all the time she wonders if, when her memories return, she’ll become the bully she was before…and if she’ll lose Kyle.
While I wait for my driver, I sit on a step outside the school. I watch the kids go by. No one stops to say hello to me, and I'm starting to understand why. Then I see Kyle trudging out of the school, shaking his thick brown hair back from his brow. I decide to go talk to him. But he changes direction when he sees me approaching.
“Wait! Kyle? Is that your name? Kyle?”
He stops, but doesn't turn around.
Undaunted, I run up from behind. “Listen, I just wanted to apologize for Duke in the cafeteria today.”
“Why? Can’t he take care of that himself?”
“I guess he can, but I don’t think manners are his strong point.”
Kyle squints at me, trying to read my expression, so I keep my eyes wide open. If he's looking for dishonesty or cruelty, I'm determined he won't find any there.
“I don’t get it,” he says skeptically. “Why would you apologize to me?”
I shrug. “Because it was wrong of him to be like that.”
“If you're gonna apologize on behalf of Duke, you should apologize to Ben, not me.”
“Um…okay, I will.”
After a moment of quiet, Kyle says, “Okay. Thanks.” He sniffs and looks at the ground, obviously uncomfortable. “As long as we’re apologizing, I guess I owe you one, too.” He runs his fingers through his hair. “I’m sorry about yelling at you at the soup kitchen. That was you, right?”
“So I guess it was my yelling that made you run into the street, wasn’t it?”
I nod again.
“Well, I’m really sorry. About all that. I had no idea.”
“Of course you didn't. Don’t worry about it.” I look down the street, past Kyle, but I can't see John and the car yet. I glance down at my nails, still torn and ratty from living homeless. “What were you doing there, anyway?” I ask.
He shrugs. “I volunteer there sometimes.”
“My parents own a bakery nearby. I work there almost every afternoon. When we have day-old bread and stuff, I take it over to them.”
“You…Oh!” I suddenly recall the slice of bread I'd enjoyed just before Kyle yelled at me that day. Soft, homemade, and unforgetable. It brings a smile to my face. “Well, I know from personal experience that they really appreciate that. It’s very generous of you and your family.”
“It’s the least we can do.” He hesitates. “So you’d been eating there?”
“Yup. All week. With my friend Carol.”
“Carol? That older lady? I know her. She’s sweet. Helps a lot of the kids out. I guess she’s kind of a teacher for lost souls, huh?”
“You could say that,” I agree, remembering my wise friend fondly.
A dark car pulls up to the curb.
I smile with apology. “Sorry, but I have to go. That’s John, here to pick me up. So are we okay?”
“Yeah. You and me.”
After a second, he returns my smile and holds out a hand. “Sure.”
I step closer so I can shake it, and while I'm there I purposefully inhale the smell Amber had so detested. She's right. He smells like bread. Banana bread, I think. And cinnamon. Not unpleasant at all.
Reviews for SIA:
(1)“A compelling read full of intrigue, romance, and lots of surprises. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next!” - Jennifer Read Hawthorne, #1 New York Times bestselling author
(2)“An original and captivating story with a beautiful message.” –Lola’s book Reviews
(3)“There have been very few books that made me think they made to someday become a movie (i.e. Warm Bodies, The Host). And I guess Sia can join the club, because this book, I say, is perfect for it. I felt like I was reading a script for a movie, the plot is fantastic and the characters are great, there's a little of humor as well as tragic situations.” -Bookish Randomness
(4)“Sia completely blew me away. Within the first few pages I was hooked and the book refused to let me go until I reached the end.” – Obsession is a Book
(5) “Sia would be an excellent novel for the Disney Company to adapt for film. Hers is a story of cruelty and kindness, pain and redemption and ultimately of making the world in which you live a better place. A good example for any teen who might choose to read this exciting work of fiction.” –Rabid Readers
(6) “Well I finished this book amazingly fast. This whole book will leave you amused, intrigued, in awe, and most importantly in love with the whole story line until the very last word. I'll have to go with 5 stars for this book.” - Lovely Reads
(7) “Beautifully written…this one will have you reflecting on your current and past actions. Although a fiction, Sia inspires.” –A Starry-eyed Heart Review
(8) I started this book and finished it in one day. It's the type of story that makes a person feel good inside…a story filled with hope.” –Musings of a Reader Geek
(9) “A beautiful story about forgetting the past and living in the present to make a better future. Sia is a heroine we can all relate to and aspire to become. I really enjoyed it, and I had a smile almost the whole time reading this. Because if a mean-girl like Sia can change her ways and overcome her meanness, can't we all? If you've got an afternoon, go read this one. It'll make you happy.” -Manda-Rae Reads a Lot
(10) “A heartwarming, sometimes tear jerking story that reignites one’s faith in humanity. An excellent debut!” – Alexia Purdy, Bestselling author
By the time we return to the bakery, it’s ten o’clock. We stand outside the door talking for a while.
I glance at my wristwatch. “I have to head home,” I say reluctantly.
“Let me drive you,” Kyle offers.
“You have a car?”
He offers a little shrug. “Not exactly. Wait here.” He disappears into the store, leaving me to wait on a bench outside. A few moments later he returns via a side alley, astride a small, beat-up motorcycle. Exhaust rattles against the alley's brick walls. Kyle grins at me and holds out a white helmet. “Climb on!” he shouts over the noise.
I look at the bike, hesitating.
Kyle laughs. “What? You’ll take on the psychos of LA at night, but you’re afraid of a little bike ride?”
Determined not to appear weak, I garner my courage and climb on behind him. He tugs his sweater over his head and hands it to me.
“It’ll be cool once we get going,” he warns. “You should wear this.”
“But what about you?”
He shrugs. “I’m used to it.”
There's already a chill in the air, and I have no doubt the bike ride will be freezing. As much as I want to refuse, I decide the sweater is a necessity. “Okay, thanks.” I pull his sweater on and can't resist inhaling as it slides over my head. I think of Amber complaining about him, but again my nose is graced with that doughy, cinnamony sweet smell, and I don’t see how she could insult him. I hug my soft, woolly arms around my body, feeling absurdly pleased. Being with Kyle is making me happy. I start to wonder if he feels the same way about being with me. Could he? After everything I've done in the past? Probably not. I mean, really, we have nothing in common. Until a few hours ago he couldn't stand me. There's no point in getting interested in him that way, I tell myself.
“Do you know where I live?” I ask.
He rolls his eyes. “Everyone knows where you live, Sia. Helmet.”
I slide it over my head.
Kyle looks back. Once he sees that it’s on right, he gives me a thumbs up. “Hold on,” he suggests.
Battling an insane rush of shyness, I lean against him and wrap my arms around his waist. He’s lean, I discover, but not as skinny as I'd originally presumed. Muscular, not weak. When he pulls into the street I squeeze my eyes shut, expecting a crash at every turn. But after a while I relax and start to enjoy the ride. And though I know I have no right, I secretly relish the strong, solid feel of his body within my arms. By the time we get close to my house, I wish we could just keep on driving.
Josh Grayson was born in Mexico, raised in Massachusetts, and now lives in Martinsville, Virginia. It was his move to the South that stirred his imagination and gave him the courage to start writing. During his free time, Josh enjoys reading, jogging, swimming, and watching YouTube videos.
Josh currently works as a medical driver, shuttling people all over Virginia and North Carolina. He has also worked as a machinist, film sales rep, administrative assistant, and telemarketer (he apologizes if he called you).
Sia is his debut YA novel.
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Question & Answers With Josh
If you could fly anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?
Italy, simply because it’s always ranked as having the best food in the world. Its beaches are nice too. I’ve Googled it.
What is your favorite genre to read/write?
Young adult (YA), because those stories carry universal themes we can all relate to, a peek into the lives of characters who are more intriguing, real, and raw.
What is one silly fact about you?
I can mimic Enrique Iglesias’s voice pretty well. I sang “Hero” at a friend’s birthday party once and received an enthusiastic response. Some applauded, others laughed. Overall, though, I felt good about my performance.
What got you started on your writing journey?
My move from Massachusetts (where I’d lived most of my life) to Virginia. The first year here was difficult. I was alone, depressed, and in completely new surroundings. But it was here in the South that I began seeing all these stories in my head, and that my “writing gene” got activated. So it seems the old saying is true, everything does happens for a reason.
Why do you choose to write clean/sweet romance?
I don’t choose, per se. I just write whatever I see in my head. And so far, all the romantic parts have been sweet and clean, which is fine with me.
What other things do you have planned with your writing for the rest of the year 2013?
I’m working on another YA novel that Sia fans should enjoy as well. If things go according to plan, I’ll publish that in the summer of 2014.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
Being able to partake in the wildest adventures imaginable, all without ever leaving your house.
Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader?
One reviewer said, “It, without a doubt, inspired me to find ways to help others in need. I’m looking into charity work.” I loved hearing that, because that’s exactly what I wanted Sia to do: to motivate others to become their best self, to make positive changes in the world, wherever they are.
Where do your ideas come from?
I find muses everywhere! In books, magazines, poems, movies, YouTube videos, and so much more. I always try to be receptive. You never know what might trigger your next story.
What inspired you to write Sia?
Initially? Oprah. (laughs). I saw an interview she did on a man with fugue amnesia that impacted me. Fugue amnesia occurs when someone, usually in response to excessive stress, takes off on some unexpected travel. And during the travels, that person assumes either a partial or complete new identity. I found it both fascinating and frightening to think that stress alone can cause the human brain to demand a reset like that. I often wonder why I haven’t gotten fugue amnesia yet!
Is it true you wrote the screenplay adaption as well?
Yes! I wrote it as soon as the book was finished. I’m about to hire a seasoned Hollywood screenwriter to polish it. When it is up to industry standards, we’ll submit it to film companies and cross our fingers. I think Sia would translate wonderfully to film.
If you could sum your main character into five words, what would they be?
Determined. Compassionate. Humble. Kind. Brave.
Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?
Because I believe it will leave you touched, encouraged, and—of course—entertained.
I reach my locker and just start unlocking it when Kyle stops beside me. He’s dressed comfortably in faded jeans and a black t-shirt with a yellow Batman logo on it.
I smile broadly. “Hey.” It's hard to describe just how good I feel, seeing him there. Yet I don’t miss the stunned expressions on Amber and Stacy’s faces, or how they spin towards each other to whisper something. In Amber’s world, Kyle is a loser, so I’m sure their words aren’t pleasant.
I turn my back to them.
“Hey,” he replies. He keeps his eyes purposefully away from the other girls. So he knows, I think. What must that feel like, knowing people are looking down on you? Saying cruel things? He doesn’t deserve this.
But he doesn't appear to care. He leans casually against the locker beside me. “Just thought I’d tell you I saw Carol this morning at the soup kitchen.”
I drop my lock and give him my full attention. “You did? Was she okay?”
He nods, grinning at my reaction. I can’t help thinking how much I like his smile. It's warm and genuine, and makes his grass-green eyes sparkle like emeralds. “Yeah. I told her hi for you. She said she can meet you at Elysian Park after school if you want to talk.”
“Awesome, Kyle! Thank you so much!” I throw my arms around his neck without thinking.
After only a slight hesitation, he hugs me back. I breathe in his delicious cinnamon scent, then let go reluctantly and back away. “Oh, I almost forgot. I have your sweater in my—”
Before I can finish, Duke charges in like a bull and slams Kyle into the lockers. “What do you think you’re doing, geek?” he roars. “You keep your floury hands off my girl, doughboy. She’s mine.”
Kyle pushes back, pressing his hands against Duke’s broad chest. “Get off me, Duke.”
But Duke isn't finished. He jams his forearm against Kyle’s neck, suffocating him.
Kyle’s fingers clutch at Duke’s arm as he struggles to break free.
I shove at him. “Duke! Let go!” my shouts echo in the hallway, but even with all my strength, I can’t move him.
“Back off, Sia. I’ll take care of this twerp,” Duke snarls. “He needs to learn a lesson. Nobody touches my girl!”
“That’s right!” Stacy chimes in from behind them. “Sia belongs to Duke!”
I belong to Duke? The nerve of these people!
The two girls press against each as they watch the action. Amber is smiling like a satisfied cat, obviously relishing the moment.
I'm so busy trying to rip Duke’s arm off Kyle's throat that I don't hear Mr. Barrow coming up from behind us. “Duke, would you mind letting go of Kyle? We don’t condone murder in our hallways.”
Finally, Duke drops his arm. But his furious stare remains glued to Kyle’s face.
Kyle stares back, his eyes dark with hate and humiliation. He doesn't bother swiping back the thick brown bangs that have fallen over his forehead during the struggle. “You have nothing to worry about, Duke,” he chokes out. “I’d never go out with a girl like Sia anyway. She’s your type. Not mine.” With that, he walks away, rubbing his throat.
I watch his back as he is swallowed up by the crowds in the hall. The sea of backpacks and t-shirts blur as my eyes fill with tears. It shouldn’t hurt so much, I think. I barely know him. And yet it does hurt. A lot. Like a fist squeezing my heart.