Here at Justine we love it when one of our favorite authors – think THE TESTING trilogy’s Joelle Charbonneau – debuts her latest work  . . . and WE get the exclusive first look at the fabulous cover. But first remember #WordsHavePower . . .

So introducing VERIFY  . . .

Meri Beckley lives in a world without lies.

When she turns on the news, she hears only the facts. When she swipes the pages of her online textbooks, she reads only the truth. When she looks at the peaceful Chicago streets, she feels the pride everyone in the country feels about the era of unprecedented hope and prosperity over which the government presides.

But when Meri’s mother is killed, Meri suddenly has questions that no one else seems to be asking.  And when she tries to uncover her mother’s state of mind in her last weeks, she finds herself drawn into a secret world full of facts she’s never heard and a history she didn’t know existed.

Suddenly, Meri is faced with a choice between accepting the “truth” she has been taught or embracing a world the government doesn’t want anyone to see—a world where words have the power to change the course of a country and where the one wrong one can get Meri killed.

VERIFY hits shelves in September. But to lessen the wait – head to www.joellecharbonneau.com where YOU can become a Steward on the VERIFY street team, score some cool VERIFY swag and be entered to win an Advanced Reader Copy.

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And just because you are here – Enjoy our EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from VERIFY!

The minute we step across the threshold, the door behind us shuts. I hold my breath as my heart pounds hard against my chest. The click of the lock sliding into place echoes loud in the darkness.

No way out.

I swallow hard and fight to keep the building fear out of my voice. “What train are we getting on?”

“It’s not a real train.” He takes off his hat and moves deeper into the shadows while beckoning me to follow. “At least not the way you mean. We go through here.”

“I have a flashlight on my phone,” I say. “We don’t have to stumble around in the dark.”

“It won’t be dark through here.” He leads me through another doorway. A door shuts behind me and the light he promised flares to life.

The light is soft, but I still have to squint as my eyes adjust. There are two worn, mismatched armchairs in the middle of the room. I am about to ask Atlas to explain the train again when the walls of the room catch my attention and my heart squeezes. Hard.

The walls are filled with old-fashioned books.

Not real ones. Paintings of them. Stacked together. Strewn across the ground. Red. Blue. Yellow. Black. All with pages of white. Open. Closed. And flying out of the open books as if being set free into swirling air are carefully printed words that shimmer at the edges as if by magic.

The truth is found when men are free to pursue it. —FDR

The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is. —WC

Trust, but verify. —RR

Verify.

That word jumps out at me first among the words and sentences painted throughout the room—all of them drawn by a hand that I know as well as my own. Maybe better.

My mother was here. She was a part of this.

Whatever this is.

I ball my fingers into fists. My nails bite deep into my palms as I turn in a circle. “My mother painted this.”

She must have been in this room for hours. It would have taken days, if not weeks, to create this entire scene.

Atlas nods. “Your mother had some help, but, yeah, the design for this train station was hers.”

“This is a train station?” It wasn’t like any train station I’d ever seen. For starters, there were no trains.

Atlas smirks. “The term was chosen by my grandfather and his friends to honor the Underground Railroad.”

“The what?” I ask.

Atlas shakes his head. “Sorry. I forgot that was edited out of your history. We’ll get to that another time. All you need to know for now is that this is what we call a station, and what happens next is what we refer to as ‘getting on the train.’” He takes a seat in a faded red chair and nods to the one across from him. “For this little adventure, I will be your conductor.”

“My conductor?” I step cautiously toward the raggedy yellow chair. Next to Atlas is a round end table with a box sitting in the center. There is no table next to the chair designated for me. “You’re going to tell me why my mother painted these walls and what she was doing before she died.”

“I’m going to tell you the truth.”

The truth.

I glace at the words snaking along the wall next to me.

He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. –TJ

“I promise I will answer all the questions about your mother I can, but I have to admit that I only met her once and just for a few minutes. My father was your mother’s conductor. This was her train station. It was her experience almost two years ago that inspired her to create the design on the walls. Since then a number of our stations have undergone transformations to help make the transition onto the train a bit more . . . pleasant.”

“You make it sound as if we are going to do something dangerous.”

“Sometimes the most frightening leap is the one we make in our minds,” he says sternly. Then he shakes his head and laughs. “Sorry. It’s something my grandfather liked to say and my father repeats—a lot. Dad’s really good at this conductor thing. I’m new to it, so I’m still working out the kinks. Developing my own style, you could say.”

“Maybe I should wait and talk to your father. Is he one of the other people the guy outside the door said is here?” I look back at the walls and the dozens of books pictured. Each one has a title on the spine. Most I’ve never heard of.

“My dad isn’t . . . available right now. If you want to do this, you’re stuck with me.” The tension in his voice is less than reassuring. “Once you sit down we can get started.”

I place a hand on my stomach and take the seat across from Atlas, who still hasn’t told me his name. If he thinks I’m going to call him conductor, he’s dead wrong.

Atlas flips his hat on the table next to him.  Then he places his hands on the armrests and says, “I thought you already knew a bunch of this because of your mom. However, since she followed the rules, I’m going to have to start at the beginning—the paper you were given and the word written on it.”

“Verify.” Obviously, by the quotes on the wall, the word has a meaning.

“Have you ever heard it before this week?”

I want to say yes, since my mother clearly knew the word, but I am honest and shake my head no.

“Don’t feel bad,” he says, which irrationally makes me feel worse. “There’s a reason for that.”

“So what does it mean?”

He takes a deep breath and then carefully says words he has clearly taken the time to memorize. As if they are part of the conductor instruction manual or something. “The word ‘verify’ means to establish the truth, accuracy, or reality of something. As far as my grandfather could tell, it was first used in the fourteenth century. It was one of the first words banned from use by certain government agencies back when they started ‘cleaning up’ the streets and making the country ‘safer.’ Little by little, they removed crime and poverty, but they also removed words. Ones that would encourage people to question what they were told. And by doing so, they changed this from a country that believed in facts to one built on lies.”