Full Tilt

By Neal Shusterman; Published In 2003
Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Fantasy, Thriller
Apparently Quinn had woken up a short time ago and immediately asked for ice cream, knowing that kids in hospitals got whatever they wanted.

Beautiful machines from 1920s and '30s, when automobiles were both monstrous and sexy at the same time.

Carl was just saying good-bye," Mom said.
"Really," I said. "He must speak in tongues.

Here, it seemed muscle wasn't made of flesh and blood, it was made of will and anger.

His life was a festival of excess that could not be contained. Deafening music, eye-popping bright colors, sugar added to almost everything he ate. Quinn's life was a bullet in a barrel ready to explode.

I don't want to be empty on the inside.

I guess we all can't help peeking at our own imperfections, just like we can't help scratching a scab that keeps itching. When those imperfections are pasted across your face like that, exaggerated and magnified, it's hard to find all those good thoughts you have about yourself. If you believe those distorted reflections too deeply, you'll never get out of the maze.

I hadn't lived a real life?I'd had just a model of a life. Everything I did, everything I thought, was suspended safely by strings, too high up for anyone to damage. Zero contact, zero risk. Now those strings had been cut and I was going to die, never having had a chance to live without them.

It wasn't just that he didn't see the big picture, sometimes he saw a different picture entirely.

Like everything else in his life, he crashed forward, caution the first casualty.

No mirrors in the real world had the ability to reach inside you the way these did. You could tell yourself that the mirrors were simply telling lies, but you'd be wrong. They took tiny truths, swelling them out of proportion?and the fact that there was a kernel of truth in what they reflected made the effect devastating.

Rocks eroded into astonished faces.

So much of my life had been under tight control. So much of Quinn's life had been wild insanity. What we needed now was both: a directed burst of controlled insanity.

Then his eyes glazed over for a second. 'I go places sometimes,' he told me, his voice as thready as his eyes. 'Don't know why I go places... I just do.

The rides are different for everyone. I'm convinced of that now. I mean, sure, there are some we ride together. Either we find ourselves drawn to some common experience, or maybe we're pulled in by the people we care about. Our friends, our families can drag us onto coasters and Tilt-A-Whirls that are really meant for them. But in the end, no matter whose rides we find ourselves on, the experience is all our own.

They say you never know who's the real hero and who's the real coward until you're looking death in the face. I've always been afraid of plenty of things, but fear isn't what makes you a coward. It's how depraved your heart becomes when fear gets pumped through it.

They were the screams of riders torn apart by the twisted reflections of their own inner selves.

To be completely helpless in the face of life?powerless to do a single thing?that's what I'd always feared more than anything. It was like I'd been keeping all the edges of my life neat and clean, pretending the neatness was all that mattered, pretending life could somehow be controlled.

Who am I? The sum of your dreams, the thrill you refuse to grasp, the unknown you fear.