Skip to Main Content

Bite Risk

Part of Bite Risk



Buy from Other Retailers

About The Book

The Last Kids on Earth gets a lupine twist by way of Margaret Peterson Haddix in this eerie middle grade adventure set in a small town where all the adults are werewolves but the kids begin to suspect something else sinister is putting them at even greater risk.

When everyone’s a werewolf, it’s hard to spot the monster…

Thirteen-year-old Sel lives in the remote, isolated town of Tremorglade, where nothing interesting ever seems to happen. Well, unless you count the one night a month when the full moon rises and kids like him must lock up their parents while they transform into werewolves (though Tremorgladers prefer to call them Rippers). But that’s the whole world’s new normal since the Disruption changed everything well before Sel was born.

But when strange things begin happening in Tremorglade, like drones emitting sickening sounds and people behaving oddly, Sel and his friends begin asking questions about what’s really going on in their small town. And suspiciously soon after they do, Rippers begin escaping on confinement nights, people start disappearing, and the kids suspect they’re being followed.

Maybe there’s a reason no one ever seems to leave Tremorglade…and it’s up to Sel and his friends to figure out the truth someone doesn’t want them to know before another full moon puts them all at a bite risk.


Chapter One: April—Confinement Night CHAPTER ONE APRIL—CONFINEMENT NIGHT
I’m so busy repairing the tripwire across the front porch that I almost forget to take Mom her dinner. It’s only when I hear her clanging about downstairs that I realize it’s nearly eight o’clock. The streetlights cast a feeble yellowish haze as far as the house, but I don’t need them—the moon is more than enough. It hangs heavy and ripe over Tremorglade, watching everything we do.

At least the explosive charges are finally set round the outer perimeter of the house, and the graphene nets are checked. Satisfied, I sit back on my heels and watch the neon warning bunting flapping in the breeze. All safe for tonight, even if I did leave it a little late. Dangerously late, Mom would say, if she knew. She always complains that I never change, and I point out that I definitely will, just not this month, but it never makes her crack a smile. She doesn’t think we should laugh about that stuff.

My eyelids feel like sandpaper and my fingers are sore from twisting the wires, but I shuffle to the fridge and haul out tonight’s meal, wrinkling my nose as ever at the smell. In my haste, I pull the shelf out too far and it tips forward, its contents thudding wetly into my chest. Great.

The clanging downstairs is louder now. Mom’s getting antsy, like she always does around this time. I should’ve left dinner with her ages ago, but I got distracted.

The basement stairs are steep and the light stays off when I flick the switch. It happens from time to time. We don’t always keep up with the bills and occasionally the electricity company notices. Mom will call them first thing tomorrow and plead for mercy until she gets paid at the end of the week.

I hold the tray against my chest with one hand and feel my way down the wall with the other, treading super carefully on the stone steps. I don’t want to fall and injure myself right now. Especially not before Mom’s eaten.

There’s a soft moan as I approach the bottom of the stairs and I feel guilty for my lateness.

“Sorry, Mom, it was just really fiddly tonight.” Plus I reached level twenty on Happy Trappers, but she doesn’t need to know that.

Silence. I get the feeling she’s not in the mood to hear excuses.

I can’t see a thing in the darkness now, so I take my phone out of my back pocket and fumble to turn on the flashlight. I accidentally shine it right in her eyes, and she rears back. A flash of white teeth.

“Sorry, sorry.” I place the tray and the phone on the basement floor so the beam of light points up at the ceiling and pick up the slab of raw beef. It’s as big as my head, and I realize I’ve forgotten to cut it up. The bone is still in it. It might not even fit through the bars of the cage.

Too late now, though—she can smell it. At once, she looms out of the darkness, fast and hard. There’s a sharp metallic clang as she throws herself against the door, making the whole cage rattle, then she retreats a little.

Better get on with it.

I throw the meat on the floor and stamp on it to flatten it, trying not to splatter the neatly folded clothes she’s left to the side, then pick it up and step forward, holding it next to the cage at arm’s length.

She doesn’t move from the shadows.

She’s waiting for something.

If she thinks I’m going to open the door she’s got another think coming, although I doubt what’s going through her mind right now could really be described as thoughts.

Sensations, maybe. Hunger. Rage.

Blood from the meat is oozing over my wrist, dribbling down the statutory notice welded to the middle of the cage door: CAUTION—BITE RISK.

“Come on, will you, it’s heavy.”

My arm’s getting weak, I’m dead tired. Even though it’s Confinement, I was seriously considering staying in tonight and just chilling out in front of the TV. But now I can’t, plus she’s messing with me. A wave of irritation overtakes me, and I shove the meat in farther, the bone resisting against the bars, then finally pinging through.

It’s all she needs.

A millisecond later her teeth are bared and snapping, claws ripping at my sleeve as I struggle to withdraw my arm through the bars.

Adrenaline surges through my veins as I yank back in panic, eventually remembering I need to let go of the meat. But my knuckles are in the way, bashing against the iron cage. At last my hand slithers through and I crash-land on the floor into the puddle of bloody meat juice.

I sit there for a moment letting my heartbeat return to normal. It’s okay. She’s tearing into the beef, crouching, watching me with her yellow eyes.

My arm still seems to be attached to me, though there’s a thin red line down the back of my hand where the tip of one fang has caught it and drawn a neat incision. It’s just a scratch. Could have been a lot worse. Stings so much, though.

I rub my back and tut. “Mo-om.”

Chunks fall from her jaws, and a pink-tinged string of saliva drops to the floor as she makes short work of her dinner. In my annoyance, I’m tempted to take a photo right now and put it on the internet, but she’d kill me.

It’s ten past eight, according to my watch. There’s a dull throbbing at the back of my head and around my shoulders—the usual Confinement headache—but I’m wide awake now, thanks to that little shot of adrenaline.

Too fidgety for a movie now, and with no electricity anyway, I decide to hang out with Elena after all. Unlike me, she’ll have had her dad and brother sorted out hours ago.

I leave Mom to it and head gingerly up the stairs, out the door, and through the garden, skipping neatly over the tripwire and heading to Elena’s house across the road, where there’s a faint light seeping between her bedroom curtains. Earlier, when I was setting the tripwires, I could hear her singing. She has a pretty good voice.

It’s a warm spring evening; the scent of the first cut grass is in the air. The bunting and luminous DANGER signs mark the hazards at every house, like twisted birthday-party decorations. Up and down the road loads of kids are out, the younger ones playing, older ones standing and scrolling on their phones or talking in groups, tranquilizer guns slung over their shoulders. Even little Mika, who started Caretaking only a couple of months ago, is already settled on her front porch in the wheelchair she’s using while she recovers from her operation, cleaning the barrel of her X50 like a veteran. Rudy and Asim are in the middle of a ten-pin bowling game in the street. A few toddlers have been plonked in the handy fenced-off area around the hazel tree, where they’re happily chucking handfuls of grass at one another and eating bugs. They’ve all been ready for ages.

I should be more organized, I know. Set up, lock in, watch out. The protocol we all need to follow.

Here in Tremorglade, because we’re so isolated, we don’t have to put up with many of the horrors that the rest of the world does—deadly weather, plagues, violent crime, and marauding pirates.

We just have to live with one another’s mistakes.

About The Author

S.J. Wills grew up in Chelmsford, Essex, where her parents let her choose any books she wanted from the library, no matter what. She has worked as a freelance copyeditor since 2003, alongside rediscovering her childhood love: writing her own stories. She lives in Kent with her writer husband, two sons, and a large, bouncing poodle.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 29, 2023)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665938013
  • Grades: 5 and up
  • Ages: 10 - 99
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ Y These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

"Full of action and intrigue. The dystopian and science-fiction elements are well-crafted and seamlessly introduced into the narrative, which makes for rich and interesting worldbuilding, while the horror bits are delightfully dark, thrilling...An immersive, hair-raising page-turner."

– Kirkus Reviews, August 2023

Awards and Honors

  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award Master List

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images