YA Works in Progress


When Jess comes across the forgotten diary of her long-dead cousin, she's horrified to see he's included in it his homework from the course he's taking on taxidermy. All she knows about Jack is that he died of an infected rat bite. Now she's thinking maybe it was the animals taking their revenge!

But as she reads on, skipping the pages with his gruesome drawings, she finds herself being drawn into the life of this boy no one in the family ever talks about. What was it that Jack did that turned him into a deep dark secret?

 Here's an excerpt from Chapter 6:

I’ve been vegetarian since I was eleven. Here’s ten good reasons to start:

1.  Respect for animals. Animals are sentient beings. I have no desire to kill them or cause them harm.
2.  Factory farming. It’s pure torture.
3.  I believe in non-violence. Slaughter of animals is violence.
4.  Conservation. It takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of beef protein. By eating plant foods, I am conserving non-renewable sources of energy.
5.  Saving forests. Every day tropical forests are destroyed to make more land to farm cattle on.
6.   Pimples. You get worse acne from eating meat. It’s the hormones.
7.  Health. Being a vegetarian means being healthier, so spending less on health care.
8.  World peace. How can there be peace among people while we’ve declared war on other animals?
9.   No need. You can get vegetable-based substitutes for meat. Even a tofu turkey.
10. Intelligence. One study says vegetarians are five IQ points smarter on average than meat-eaters.

I’m not a Nazi about it. I don’t expect everybody to see it the way I do. “I’d be a vegetarian, but no way I could give up eggs,” Jon said to me the other day, right after polishing off half a pound of bacon.

“You don’t have to give up eggs to be a vegetarian,” I said. “Not unless you’re vegan.”

“But when you eat eggs, you’re killing a baby chicken.”

I guess that’s true if it’s Mrs. Hughes’s eggs from the village, but I try not to think about that. “The eggs you buy in supermarkets aren’t fertilized,” I told him. “They couldn’t ever become baby chickens.”

“Well, that’s just sad,” Jon said – proving point #10.

Courtney and Mom are mostly vegetarian. Dad and Grandpa Fred aren’t, not at all. People have probably been eating animals for a million years, and that isn’t going to stop all at once. Bacon frying smells great even to me. But people can change. Like, when I was a kid and I used to fish with Gramps, I put worms on my own hook. No way I’d do that now. I couldn’t.

People used to believe that animals don’t feel pain, which is stupid. Just ask Willow if you accidentally step on her. Also, there’s been studies that prove animals feel both love and fear. My friend Angelina has two pet rats, Olive and Oily, who are very affectionate to humans and each other. I’ve read that rats form societies where the strong ones help the weaker ones get food. Rats can laugh and cry.

Every 10.5 seconds, an animal dies from research. Scientists infect chimpanzees with AIDS and then watch them die. In one YouTube video I saw, scientists sprayed pollution into rats’ windpipes and killed them afterwards by lethal injection. Then they took lung tissue samples and found out the rats’ lungs were damaged by the pollution. What did they expect!

The point I’m leading up to is that taxidermy isn’t the same as research on animals, but they do have something in common.

For people to do either of them, animals have to die.

(Interested? To find out more, email me at maureen@kingston.net)