Every seven years in the town of Gentry, a child is taken and replaced with a look-alike that is not quite…human. The replacement child usually dies, leaving the family to grieve twice: once for the missing child and once for the replacement. The town doesn’t speak of it, but they know this sacrifice is necessary to ensure their town’s prosperity. Only not all the “replacements” die. And lately, not all has been going so well for the town. So who, or what, is upsetting the balance? And is it worth it?
When Tate’s baby sister goes missing, she turns to the only person she can think of who might be able to help her – Mackie, a 16-year-old “replacement”. Mackie knows what he is. How could he not, when he can’t enter his preacher father’s church or step on consecrated ground or be near blood or anything else that has iron in it? Yet his entire life, his mother, father, and sister Emma have done everything they could to help him keep his head down, appear normal, and blend in, for fear of the townspeople’s attention, which could lead to another lynching, like it did to poor Kellan Caury years ago. With this story hanging over his head, Mackie is disinclined to pay any attention to the one person who is throwing the truth in his face.
But Mackie hasn’t been feeling so well, himself. Getting sicker by the day for no apparent reason, he eventually comes face-to-face with the people/creatures of Mayhem, the city below Gentry, made up of dead replacements. They have the potions that can keep Mackie from dying, but he has to help them in return. Soon Mackie must face a choice: continue to help the people of Mayhem, a place and people that are beginning to feel familiar and like home, or rescue Tate’s sister, currently being kept as a living doll for the ruler of Mayhem, but who is scheduled to be sacrificed on All Soul’s Eve. Pulled in both directions, all Mackie wants to do is stay alive, stay well, play his bass, and explore all the feelings that come along with being a living teenage boy. Mackie must find the strength within himself to do the right thing for him, his family, Tate, her sister, the people of Mayhem, and the people of Gentry. No pressure.