Publisher: Burst Books
Publish Date: October 7, 2013
Book Links: Burst Books
Synopsis: The year is 2036. Fifteen-year-old Kelly Tracer moves to Rivertown, Missouri, population 1,900, where she enrolls in the local high school to begin her sophomore year. Kelly finds it difficult making friends at first--Rivertown being cliquish and the school pecking order having already been established--and so she begins to despair.
One brisk fall morning in biology class, Kelly learns a Neanderthal boy who was time transported from 40,000 years in the past will attend RHS within days. She recalls news stories of his arrival to this century nine years ago when he was six. Kelly also learns Neanderthals were not fellow Homo sapiens but were instead a separate species of humans unto themselves. A species long extinct.
Curious and not possessing an infinity phone, Kelly goes to the local library after school to research the boy's people. There, she meets a girl named Diane from biology who is there for the same reason. They strike up a fast friendship. When Kelly sees artists' depictions of Neanderthals, she is put off by their brutish appearance. Diane, on the other hand, finds them fascinating.
Two days later, the principal brings the boy (Adam, humans have named him) into biology. Despite his primitive looks--a sloping forehead, protruding muzzle of a mouth, extreme muscularity, huge nose, etc.--Adam turns out to be not so different from the other students. His English is perfect, he having been raised by an elderly paleoanthropologist and his recently deceased wife. He is socially awkward, shy even, but seems nice enough. And he has a sense of humor. Kelly and Diane befriend the former cave boy. The three become inseparable.
Adam's adoptive father, Dr. George Stancil, and the school principal meet with science teacher Clive Crawford and ask him to look out for Adam, act as a mentor. Crawford, Adam's biology teacher, likes him and agrees. Meanwhile, the school's football coach recruits Adam for the team, after Adam breaks the school bench-press record by nearly a hundred-fifty pounds. This earns Adam the enmity of the team's all-conference linebacker, strongman Kevin Geisler who does not enjoy being out-lifted and is further enraged to learn Adam never touched a weight before that day .
Later, Geisler will rudely challenge Adam, who has no experience with confrontations, to an arm-wrestling match, which Adam wins nolo contendre. Being naive to the ways of the world, Adam has no idea he has made an enemy.
Kelly notices Adam seems to have a crush on her, just as she is aware her new BFF Diane has feelings for Adam, thus creating a dilemma. That's about the time Kelly develops a mad crush on Darnell Nixon, the football team's quarterback. Darnell is also attracted to her. They flirt and begin dating, despite the fact Darnell has a steady girlfriend.
Adam is a good kid, and students at RHS gravitate to him. Even so, Kevin Geisler and his "Hitler Youth" take advantage of every opportunity to mess with the former cave dweller who does his best to ignore them. Meanwhile, Adam becomes the team's star running back but, in the process, brings out jealousy in his friend Darnell who is not used to sharing the limelight with anyone.
During this time, the uncomplicated Neanderthal boy learns, via dream flashbacks plus hard scientific evidence, that his clan was murdered en masse by our human ancestors, using their superior weaponry. His whole world seems to collapse. He'd thought of humans as his saviors, rescuing him from the dangers of the Ice Age to adopt him in the present. Now he is angry.
Things are not all skittles and beer for Kelly either. The student body as a whole turns against her for stealing Darnell from his popular cheerleader girlfriend, even though the girlfriend, Dottie Holt, seems to bear Kelly no grudge. One day after seeing Dottie cry, a touched Kelly breaks up with Darnell, sacrificing her own happiness for the sake of another. This lays her pretty low. On top of that, Diane comes to realize Adam "has the hots" for Kelly and comes to believe Kelly has set her cap for him. Moreover, in a classic case of bad timing, Kelly becomes aware just how decent a young man Adam truly is and sees past his physical ugliness to fall in love with him, further complicating matters.
Hurting beyond measure, Diane will have nothing to do with her two former best friends. This breaks Kelly's heart but doesn't stop her from playing matchmaker between Diane and another guy who is attracted to her. While all this is happening, Kevin Geisler and one of his buds turn Darnell against Adam. A fight breaks out in the locker room, Geisler and his minion and Darnell verses Adam. Poor odds, you say. But Adam is a Homo neanderthalensis and therefore far stronger than a human being. Fueled by his anger toward humans, Adam wins the fight, nearly killing Darnell before he comes to his senses, thanks to Mr. Crawford who will later patch up Adam and Darnell's differences.
Darnell and the two humans are kicked off the team just before the first-round game at the state championships. Adam plays heroically, but the team loses. But, by now he and Darnell are friends again. So are Kelly and Diane. Just as things are looking up, Dr. Stancil--Adam's 85-year-old human father--dies. Adam's stepbrother from Florida comes to Missouri and takes Adam away to live with his family, thus splitting Adam and Kelly up.
Thirty-nine years later, Adam and Kelly reunite and fall in love all over again. When they marry, Darnell's wife Dottie informs him and he remarks, "It's about time."
Author Bio: An air radio operator in the U.S. Air Force in Thailand during the Vietnam conflict, Cotton also acted as interpreter for the squadron administration. Later, after discharge, he worked as a reporter for newspapers and was a stringer for a national karate magazine. He also managed restaurants in Washington, D.C. and retired in 2003 after working in the records section of the Spokane Police Department in Spokane, Washington, where he was employed more or less as a clerk. Cotton has been retired the past ten years and now resides in Missouri, his place of birth.