THE ASCENDERS Takes You To the In-between Where Teens Who Died Young Go On the Epic Adventure of an After-Lifetime
Walker Callaghan doesn't know what happened to her. One minute she was living her teenage life in suburban Chicago...and the next minute, she was in a strange place and in a brand new school with absolutely no homework, no rules, and no consequences.
Walker Callaghan, 17, is dead.
She doesn't go to heaven or hell. She lands at The Academy, a middle realm where teenagers have one thing in common: They were the morning announcement at their high schools because they died young.
These high school kids are now caught in a strange “in-between” zone where life hasn’t changed very much. In fact, this special teen limbo looks a lot like life in a quaint Michigan town complete with jocks, popular girls and cliques. "There are even cheerleaders in death," Walker observes. It's not a coincidence that the music teacher is a guy named Kurt who "used to have this band." The drama teacher, Heath, is crush worthy because back in his life, he starred in some superhero movie.
Principal King explains the rules -- there are none. Why? You can't die twice.
There is no homework.
You're just there to learn because the human brain isn't fully formed until you're 24.
By the way, you can't get hurt physically, so race your Harley off that hillside. But falling in love is the most dangerous thing you can do ...because no one knows how long you'll stay in this realm or what's next.
"Losing someone you love would be like dying twice," Walker says.
She finds out her new life is a bit of both as she falls in love with tat-covered, bad boy Daniel Reid who is about to break the only sacred rule of this place. He's looking for a portal to return back to the living realm.
He needs just one hour to retrieve his younger brother who strangely never arrived at The Academy. Bobby is an Earth Bound Spirit, stuck at a plane crash site that took both of their lives as their rich father piloted his private jet nose-first into a cornfield on Christmas Eve.
Walker loves Daniel and risks it all to go with him.
Have they learned enough to outsmart dangerous forces while transporting a young child with them? Can their love survive the fragmented evil parts of themselves that are now hunting them down as they try to find a way back to the middle?
At the Academy, you learn the lessons of an after-lifetime.
One word to describe this book is EPIC. Sheer writing brilliance.”
Amazon: “A new ‘Twilight Zone’ of a world. Speaking of Uncle Stevie, otherwise known as Stephen King, ‘Ascenders’ reads like something he might have written back in the Twilight Zone of his own youth. I love Koontz and King and haven’t been this excited about an author in a long time.”
Author Groupies: “If you’re a fan of dystopian epics, this bring a whole new element to the genre: the afterlife. I loved this book. What an original concept! Constantly changing, riveting and thought-provoking.”
Amazon: “The next big book series. Powerful and beautiful. I was so moved by this book that I actually cried, tears streaming down my face. Five minutes later, I was cheering. I felt like I had just seen a movie.”
Mugglenet, The #1 Harry Potter Site: “Ascenders is one of those books that stays on your mind for days after reading it. Though you continue your days, your mind keeps wandering back to the main characters, the overarching theme, and of course, the scenarios of what could possibly happen next. I finished this novel within the span of two days, and I wish that I could start over and read the whole thing again. “
Mugglenet: “Walker and Daniel are incredibly believable and realistic. Walker is a strong female character that isn’t afraid to fight for what she loves. Daniel, while having a hard, cold exterior, is actually soft underneath it all and incredibly loving. C.L. Gaber did an excellent job describing the setting and places. I felt like I was right there. The dead celebrity appearances kept me on my toes.”
Mugglenet: “I can’t wait to read the second book. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about a book.”
Amazon: The story is so amazing, and completely unique, I have never read anything like this or that will compare to this. I would rank this up there in my top reads of 2015. The tail is enchanting and I fell in love with Daniel and his family and I wanted to be best friends with Walker, this was the book that kept giving. Perfect storytelling!
The Pen and the Muse: Ascenders by C.L. Gaber was an utterly refreshing, original, and an un-put-down-able read. This book was brimming with emotions, feels, and had a striking story line that kept you glued to your e-reader. I was completely mesmerized with the characters and their journey of the "in between." With a concept so unique, Ms. Gaber had her readers totally invested with the story of Walker and Daniel. Be prepared to get spell-blinded and fall in love with this beautiful and enchanting story.
Booknerds: “I was completely absorbed in the Ascenders world. It’s an insanely creative world. AMAZING, AMAZING concept and characters. Daniel and Walker had great chemistry. Daniel is everything a male lead should be. Total crush material. He walks that line of bad boy and sweetheart. Walker was one hell of a strong female character. She was intelligent, quick witted, charming and a bad ass in the best possible way.”
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I wanted to slap him again, but I was too busy running my hands all over myself. I had no idea why I was still breathing or talking or looking at this asshole as if he were some sort of lunatic, which is exactly what he was . . . a lunatic who just stood there looking gravely concerned and even a little bit sad.
Nothing seemed weird or broken on me, except I was soaking wet standing in the snow and not shivering one bit. I knew my mom was going to kill me for coming home drenched. But first I had to send my new music-class buddy off to the men in white coats.
“Yeah, we’re all dead inside. Teenage agony. All the pain. Being this age sucks,” I ranted, taking one step closer to him to look into his eyes for some clue that he was just kidding—a mean, kidding, maniac who almost let a girl drown right in front of him. No Boy Scout points for that one, jerk ass.
“No, you’re dead—inside, outside, upside-down dead,” he said, looking hard into my face where I’m sure the only thing he saw was my utter disbelief.
I made a mental note to tell my mother that we were packing up and moving back to Chicago first thing in the morning. Whatever these people up here had could be contagious.
“You need a shrink.” He only smiled sadly. Then he did the one thing I couldn’t possibly see coming. He pulled off his jacket,
yanked off his shirt, scooped me up in his arms, and walk-raced toward the spot where I had fallen into the freezing pond. I could almost swear that his boots had turned into blades and he was setting some speed-skating record on that lake of doom. The oppressive black night sky minus a moon or any stars made his face look dark and formidable.
“So, you’re the kind who needs proof—just like me. I’d say kindred spirits, but that would be a really bad joke,” he said. Looking down, I could see that I was hovering above the hole where I had landed in the lake just moments ago.
“You wouldn’t!” I shouted as we teetered above the rushing water only inches below us. “If you do this and we live . . . then I will kill you!” I announced in a calm voice.
“Famous last words,” he said with a half smile. “I prefer, Remember the Alamo!”
As his words rang through the night, he bent his knees and jumped hard into the air, landing both of us in deep freeze. The splash was epic, and so were my last words. “You are so dead,” I mouthed.
The great splash began with a loud roar and then it settled into an even louder nothingness. My heart began to pound because this time I didn’t even have a moment to catch my breath, but I knew enough now to conserve what little oxygen I had inside my lungs. It was more of a reflex when I reached wide for both of his shoulders, which were rock-hard; I held on with the tightest grip possible. For what seemed like five minutes, we just floated underneath this chilled-out amusement park.
When my eyes cleared a bit under the murky darkness, I could see that Daniel was smiling in a way that made his eyes crinkle at the corners, which made him devastatingly handsome. On the inside of his arms, near his biceps, I could see tattoos that read, JENNA, ANDY, PETER . . . and BOBBY. Who was Bobby? And then there was a strange tree tat that started on his right wrist, the thick trunk looking half-dead and black as it raced up his arm and past his thick bicep. Curiously, the closer the tree climbed to his shoulder, it came alive with supple summer leaves that were wide-open and vibrant green. They cascaded on thin braches lushly onto his shoulder and then seemed to multiply past that area as they rained halfway down his chiseled back like falling stars.
Under this water—that should have turned me into a human ice cube, but actually felt warmer now—I didn’t have time to memorize it all because Daniel shocked me again when he reclined all the way back like he was a human raft. It was a reflex when I settled
onto his chest as if I was riding on him. Our bodies fit into the right grooves like puzzle pieces. His hands settled on my hips and our faces were only inches apart as we sunk much deeper into the dark abyss.
A moment later, his body disappeared and I began to plummet down into what seemed like a bottomless pit. That’s when I felt his right hand grab my wrist and hoist me hard into protective arms. When we were face to face in the drink, I watched his look of concern fade into what was mischievous wonder. At that moment, he took his hand, placed it on top of my head, and dunked me as if we were two kids playing some sort of game in the deep end of our community pool.
Only one thought went through my mind: Revenge. He moved like a human eel, too fast to catch, easily slipping out of my grasp.
Time passed slowly as I tried to calculate the minutes we were under the water. One. Two. Three. Ten. Finally, I saw a finger that motioned me to swim after it. Given no other choice, I obeyed, blinking my eyes twice when I saw what seemed like just a vision, but it was real. A brand-new murky figure had swum up next to us and I stifled a scream; but it wasn’t a prehistoric swamp creature. It was Daniel’s kid brother, Peter, who was now underwater and having a grand time of it. He bypassed us to grab his younger sisters who were also swimming near us and were engaged in a watery wrestling match.
With a thick roof-like plank of ice overhead, but posing no real concern, Peter did a breaststroke near me and then mouthed words I could easily read, but couldn’t believe at the same time.
“Marco Polo,” he taunted, opening his mouth and drinking a big gulp of water. Then he rubbed his belly as in, “Man, that was tasty.”
At that point, I just closed my eyes and waited for the world to go black. When I realized I hadn’t moved an inch underwater in what seemed like ages, I wondered if I would just freeze in place like some sort of teenage mermaid on her last swim. My mind was racing, but my body was in absolutely no distress. Placing my hand over my heart, I felt it beating ba-dum-ba-dum-ba-dum in a resoundingly normal way. How? Why? Without any answers, Daniel grabbed for my free hand and yanked me to his side where we swam under the ice until we could see the night sky drifting through the open hole.
The suction of the water was great as we shot like human darts to the surface. I found myself in his arms once again, and then gingerly deposited back on land in a nice, fluffy snow bank. Around us, the wind whipped in our faces, but I wasn’t freezing cold; despite the fact that I was soaking wet and probably in some sort of shock or in the middle of a really bad dream. “I’m out, angel. The rest is up to you to find out,” Daniel said, wrenching his shirt back on before shrugging into his jacket and shaking water droplets off his face in one animalistic movement.
“You’re out—of what? The rest—of what?” I said in an exhausted voice as he picked up his backpack and shoved mine into my arms.
“The rest of everything,” he said, walking away from me. There was no choice but to stand up and follow him.
We walked home in total silence. One foot and then another. It was dream walking. Until I thought I heard Daniel grumble something about reaching my front step, which didn’t look the least bit familiar.
“Jenna, stop needling your sister,” he yelled to the girls tromping behind us and then stopped for a moment to reign in Peter who was now throwing hard-packed snowballs at both of them. Then he turned to me and pointed to a red front door. Obviously, it was mine. “Home sweet home, princess of the sea,” he said.
I stepped onto the porch, but before I opened my front door I gathered the courage to ask him one more time, in a voice that wasn’t much above a whisper.
“Dead in what way?” I demanded. “Dead, as in socially dead? Dead as in DOA, when it comes to having friends in this town? Dead as in dead to you? Which is what I should be because I plan on never speaking to you ever again—after you let me drown twice.”
“No, just plain dead-dead, Callaghan,” Daniel said with a little smile as if he got my sense of humor and appreciated it for some strange reason. “You’re standing here bitching me out, which means, for purposes of historical accuracy, that you haven’t drowned – and you’re still speaking to me.”
“I hate it when I’m right,” he said.
“You’re an idiot,” I told him, continuing my rant. “And who told you that I was dead? Did you read about in the newspaper or was it on the local news? Did it make the CNN crawl?”
“The fruit appreciation teacher told me,” Daniel said in a cautious voice. “He’s the only one who has . . . universal Internet access for all time. Don’t ask me how he arranged it, but he covered that one before he even arrived,” Daniel said.
“He told you what?” I demanded, still occasionally checking for signs of brain damage from being under for so long. While half listening to Daniel, I began to recite the French national anthem that I had learned French 101 class. The words came easily in both English and French. Let’s go children of the fatherland, the day of glory has arrived.
“Are you even listening to me?” Daniel demanded and I snapped out of it for a moment, quite certain that all my brain cells were indeed intact. “If you’re listening, it’s something Steve showed me; something he reads about every new student before they arrive. He printed it out for me since we’re neighbors. But I don’t think this is a good idea because you already know too much for your second day.”
“Second day where?” I demanded. “There are actual rules for your second day in Michigan? Did someone forget to give me the guidebook?”
“Michigan!” he said in an astonished voice. “I’ve never heard this place called Michigan!”
“It’s not Michigan?” I demanded. “This isn’t Michigan,” Daniel said.
“Just read this damn thing,” he insisted, pulling a piece of paper from his backpack and shoving it into my hand. For a moment, my heart actually did stop in a way that made the icy lake seem like a swim in soothing tropical waters.
It’s not every day that you stand on your front porch, ready to go eat dinner and do some homework, but first you must do one more annoying thing: read your own obituary.
CL GABER is the author of ASCENDERS and the sequel ASCENDERS: SKYPUNCH (Book Two).
She is also a journalist writing about film and television for the New York Times Syndicate.
CL lives in Nevada with her husband Ron, bonus daughter Sabrina and two unruly dogs. You can reach her at CLGaber@Yahoo.com