The Terminals by Royce Scott Buckingham
Freedom has a time limit.
Interests/Topics: survival, music, teamwork, soccer, adventure, conspiracy, morality
Curriculum Connections: English, Music
Blurb: Really, for the most part, high school sucks. You’re stuck taking classes and doing homework and getting up early and freaking out over exams and avoiding embarrassment and pretending that you’re fine when you’re actually so mortified that you may never get out of bed again. Worse, you want to be an adult but you aren’t, and you have to obey your parents and your teachers and everyone else with authority. All you want is to make your own decisions so you can finally start living life. Freedom is so close you can smell it.
So what will you do with it once it’s yours? Travel? Paint? Raise chickens? Sleep?
Cam, in The Terminals, is going to attend college and play soccer and ask Kristi Banks on a date. His years of being the “nonthreatening, nice-guy buddy” are finally paying off. People want to spend time with him; want to be his roommate. Freedom smells pretty sweet.
But that was yesterday.
Cam’s just been told that he has an inoperable brain tumour. Goodbye sweet-smelling freedom. Goodbye soccer. Goodbye Kristi Banks.
So now all Cam can do is buy time, unless, of course, he joins a top-secret, elite group of terminal youths specially trained to complete clandestine missions. They are horrifically dangerous and almost certainly fatal, but Cam’s dying anyway: Might as well go out with a bang.
The problem? Cam’s never felt better.
Flavour: “’The way I see it,’ [said the stranger,] ‘you can spend the last year of your life slowly deteriorating….[o]r you can join our organization and help save your fellow man.’
Cam shook his head. ‘I thought so. Sorry, I’m not interested in joining some religious cult just because I’m dying.’
‘Ah, but the special young men and women we recruit travel to exotic locations, drive insanely fast cars, and jump out of planes. Does that sound a bit more interesting?’ [asked the stranger.] Cam couldn’t help but perk up. ‘A bit. Yeah.’” (20)
“We choose candidates for three basic reasons. Additional rule-out factors narrow the field from there. You ten are the result. The first reason is because nineteen years old is the perfect psychological age to accept a new life philosophy. We don’t take anyone over twenty-one. Second: only people with nothing to lose would willingly take the incredible risks you’re about to take. And finally, you all care deeply about doing what’s right…. Our goal is to do the most good in the shortest amount of time.” (47)
“[Cam] wondered if he should take notes, but Ward’s list was mercifully short. Five Rules.
1) Everyone trains.
2) Everyone dies.
3) No one communicates with the outside world.
4) No one reveals the organization.
5) The good of the many outweighs the good of the few.” (48)
“Siena went to the doorway to make sure no one was coming. ‘Look, idiot, I was your team’s first mission. You weren’t there because you were the last-minute replacement for the poor sap who fell over the cliff chasing me. And I know damn good and well that I’m not a bad guy.’
Cam fumed. It was interesting information, he had to admit, but was it true?
‘Who do you think is funding all of this?’ Siena asked. ‘You know the organization has to be a fucking pharmaceutical company, right Cam?’
For a moment Cam couldn’t speak. The idea was so overwhelming that it bounced around his head and he had trouble getting hold of it. ‘Just because there’s money behind all this doesn’t mean it’s evil,’ he said.
‘Unless we were never dying to begin with.’” (158)