“This book checks all the boxes of a hi-lo text. It has an exciting hook, a modern teen worldview, and is at a lower reading level...A must-buy for libraries looking for diverse and compelling hi-lo books.” —School Library Journal, starred review
Jason is sure his sister, Becca, was murdered, but he’s the only one who thinks so. After finding a photograph Becca kept hidden, he decides to infiltrate a boxing gym to prove that she didn’t die accidentally. As a transgender kid, Jason’s been fighting for as long as he can remember, and those skills are going to come in handy as he investigates. Quickly invited into the inner circle, Jason must balance newfound friendships with the burning hate that drives him. Jason soon feels torn between two worlds, determined to discover what happened to his sister but struggling with the fact that this is the first time he’s ever felt like he belonged somewhere.
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Copyright © Tash McAdam 2020
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Title: Blood sport / Tash McAdam. Names: McAdam, Tash, author. Series: Orca soundings. Description: Series statement: Orca soundings
Identifiers: Canadiana (print) 20190168773 | Canadiana (ebook) 20190168781 | ISBN 9781459824362 (softcover) | ISBN 9781459824379 (PDF) | ISBN 9781459824386 (EPUB)
Classification: LCCPS8626.C33 B56 2020 | DDC jC813/.6—dc23
Library of Congress Control Number: 2019943953 Simultaneously published in Canada and the United States in 2020
Summary: In this high-interest novel for teen readers, Jason is determined to find out the truth about his sister’s death.
Orca Book Publishers is committed to reducing the consumption of nonrenewable resources in the making of our books. We make every effort to use materials that support a sustainable future.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Edited by Tanya Trafford Design by Ella Collier Cover images by gettyimages.ca/CarlaMc (front) andShutterstock.com/Krasovski Dmitri (back)
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERSorcabook.com
Printed and bound in Canada.
23 22 21 20 • 4 3 2 1
For Alex, my big sister
Jason’s hands won’t stop shaking. He clenches his fists, his sister’s silver ring digging into his palm, but they keep shaking. He bursts into tears the second the door finally closes.
He can hear the footsteps of the police officer walking away. The same one who came six weeks ago to inform him of his sister’s death.
Door closed and case closed. In front of Jason, on the sad, small bed in the sad, small room, is everything Becca left behind. Two boxes—a whole life—and Jason’s hope for a future. He is about to age out of the foster-care system. In four months, when he turns eighteen, he’ll be booted out of the group home. Maybe onto the street. Becca was supposed to be here. Becca was supposed to take care of him. But all that’s left of Becca are these two boxes.
It’s hard to breathe. His binder must be too tight. His chest feels like it’s collapsing. It takes him three tries to get his shirt off. He pulls off the material crushing his breasts down flat and throws it on the old blanket on the bed. He feels better, but barely.
Two years on testosterone, male hormones, has changed Jason. It’s made his shoulders wider, his jaw bigger and his body hairier. But without a shirt, it is easy to see what he is. A transgender guy. Someone in danger. The staff at the group home know, of course. They take him to get his shots and see his doctors. But if any of the other kids found out, Jason would be in for a world of hurt.
He stands in the middle of the room, his mind full of pain and fear. He feels like he’s dying. He can’t breathe at all.
After a while the panic attack fades. As he calms down he realizes he’s half-naked. It would be so bad if someone walked in right now. Running to the bed, he grabs his binder. The door bangs open before he can put it back on.
Panicking, Jason drops the binder and grabs his shirt. If anyone sees his chest, they’ll know what he has been hiding. He pulls the shirt over his head, his back still to the door. He prays for his strong shoulders to help him pass. For whoever it is to see just a boy.
“Yo, Jase, saw the pigs came by again. Did they solve your sister’s murder yet?” The thick voice can only belong to Derek. Jason hates Derek. The guy is built like a monster and has a personality to match.
It takes everything Jason has in him to sound normal. “Not yet.” Ever since he’d yelled at the care worker that his sister couldn’t have overdosed, that she never did drugs, not ever, the other teens at the care home like to tease him about it. Especially Derek.
Jason’s whole body shivers as he wonders whether Derek wants to fight again. Jason’s ribs are still bruised from last time. If he stays facing away, his back is open to possible danger. If he turns around, Derek might see his chest under his shirt.
To his relief, Derek just snorts and bangs back out into the hallway. Jason waits until the door shuts behind him and then rushes to it. He kicks the door stopper tightly into place. It’s dangerous. In case there’s a fire. He’s not supposed to have it. They’ve taken four off him already, but it’s the only way he can breathe in this place.
Safely locked in, Jason walks slowly back to the bed. His whole body feels like it’s full of rocks. What is he going to do without Becca? How can this be his life now?
Dropping down on the bed, he knocks one of the boxes over. It tips sideways, spilling its contents onto the blankets.
The copy of Sherlock Holmes that falls out makes him gasp. It was their dad’s, the collected stories. When he’d lost his job and started drinking, he’d started selling most of his first editions. But Becca had taken this one. First it had been in her bedroom, on the shelf by her bed. Then, after she moved out, it was on display in her apartment, which Jason was going to move into once he left the group home. Part of their plan.
The book is light brown, with gold leaf on the leather cover and gold-edged pages. Becca has read it so often that the creamy cover is dirty. He reaches out to put the book back in the box. He can’t face looking through the pieces of her life. But as he picks up the book he realizes there’s something wrong. The page edges aren’t shiny like they should be. They are dull and brown, no gold in sight. Curious, he picks up the book. He runs his finger down the spine. The cover feels weird in his hand.
He opens the book. As soon as he does, he can see what’s wrong. The pages aren’t pages at all. The cover of the book has been stuck onto a box. Sherlock Holmes’s adventures aren’t anywhere to be seen. There are no pages inside. No stories. Instead there are dozens of newspaper clippings.
Missing girls. Reports of missing girls from the Downtown Eastside. Dating back more than two years. The one with the oldest report has a face he vaguely recognizes. Anna Kerov, one of Becca’s friends from work. She was a cocktail server, like Becca. Reported missing in 2017.
Why did his sister have these? Why was she collecting, and hiding, reports of missing girls? Jason’s heart is beating too fast. His hands are shaking again. Becca must have been mixed up in something bad. Why else would she have this stuff?
Under the clippings there’s something else. A flat white square. Not paper. Thicker. It is wedged into the corners of the box, and it takes a bit of effort to wiggle it free.
It’s a Polaroid photo. A shot of a street. Two dark figures standing under a neon sign. Even with two letters blown out, Jason can see that it should say Ray’s Place. A pair of red boxing gloves next to the name look like they probably flashed on and off.
What does this all mean? A photo of a boxing gym, in a box full of newspaper articles about missing girls. And now Becca is dead. Jason is more sure than ever that she didn’t overdose.
His hand tightens around the photograph and crushes it into a ball.
Jason has already missed most of this school term, so taking another day off isn’t a big deal. He’s failing everything and has been for years. Another phone call won’t make a difference. Going to class doesn’t hold any appeal at the best of times. Right now is definitely not the best of times.
Walking around the Downtown Eastside in sweats and a hoodie, he finds that everything looks normal. Jason keeps the crumpled Polaroid in his hand, hoping to recognize something. Nothing looks like the gray stone of the building in the picture, but he’s only been at it for an hour.
Just as he is about to quit and try to find somewhere cheap to grab lunch, he sees it. A dented old neon sign, flickering from bright red to dull gray. Two boxing gloves and a sign that says Ray’s Place.
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