Teenage twins James and Samantha Blake are caught up in a seemingly random terrorist bombing while on a school trip. Many of their friends are killed. When the twins wake up in hospital, their lives have changed forever.
The doctors are amazed at the speed with which James and Sam recover from their injuries and, when the twins begin to exhibit extraordinary powers, it is obvious that something incredible has happened.
As James and Sam attempt to overcome their fears and embrace their new abilities, a series of murders and disappearances start plaguing the hospital. The twins aren’t the only ones with special abilities and it becomes apparent that someone is coming for them.
Will James and Sam be able to survive the nightmare into which they have been plunged? Who, or what, is behind the murders at the hospital? And was that terrorist incident quite so random after all?
Targeted Age Group:: 14+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to write the kind of book that I loved reading when I was a teenager. I would read anything from a James Bond novel, to a Jeffrey Archer thriller, to Asterix, Tintin, Doctor Who, and the Willard Price stories. I loved them all, with their pace, sense of humour, scale and imagination.
I gave the characters superpowers because I’ve always loved superheroes and the twins needed to be able to take on the adult world on even terms. Even when I was a teenager, I didn’t like stories about kids who foil the plans of nasty, hardened criminals. It never convinced me. The only way that I could think of to get the characters in interesting and dangerous situations, and give them a chance of getting out alive, was to give them some unusual abilities.
I also wanted the characters to be as real as possible. Yes, the situations they find themselves in are fantastical, but I wanted James and Sam themselves to be believable.
I like claustrophobic books. Most of A Class Apart takes place in the upper floors of a sky-scraping hospital in London. Tall buildings and hospitals in particular are very isolating and I thought it would make a great setting for a story that was a bit scary and a bit weird, where the reader doesn’t know what to expect next.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I chose a brother and sister (twins James and Samantha Blake) as the main characters for two reasons. First, families always create the most dramas, and with a brother and sister there was a lot of scope for teamwork, arguments, and comedy. Second, by having a boy and girl who have quite different personalities, I as a writer, and hopefully the reader, get two different perspectives on the stories.
Plus, as readers of the Class Heroes books know, there is a third main character – Lolly Rosewood. She has a fairly fleeting (although important) appearance in A Class Apart, and she comes in to her own as the series develops.
Samantha Blake was awake. She was not sure what had disturbed her sleep. She had been having another strange dream. She couldn’t remember what it was about, but she was sure Philip Randerson was in it. What would he make of that? Proof that she fancied him? Why did dreams make you have uncomfortable thoughts about the oddest of people?
It was 01:39, according to the clock on her mobile phone – or her lifeline, as she was beginning to think of it. It was impossible to keep track of time, or even what day it was, without constantly referring to her mobile and the internet. It was the middle of the night and her room felt more like a prison. All she could see were the white walls, the moonlight spilling into her bathroom and the door to the corridor.
James was lucky. In a shared ward he could chat to his friends, talk about what had happened to them, maybe even have a laugh. And he was mobile. Mum and Dad said that he was getting on fine and was being his usual golden-child self. All the nurses adored him and his class mates all looked to him for inspiration and a sense of leadership. James had always been like that, though. He was a kind of natural leader. Sam loved him for it. She wanted to see him now. In fact, she wanted the reassurance of just being able to see someone.
Sam considered phoning Mum and Dad. But it was the middle of the night and that would just be selfish. She could only imagine what they had been through. The worry, the dashing to and from the hospital, seeing both their children close to death.
Sam thought about her best friend Nina Palmer. She’d had texts from Nina. She’d come out of the explosion without even a scratch. At the first suggestion that the children might still be in danger, her parents had decided to decamp to India for a few months, where Mrs Palmer’s family lived.
Sam texted Nina Palmer. She couldn’t remember how many hours ahead India was, but she thought Nina must be awake.
‘Hiii. I’m awake at last. And bored. Thanx for all ur texts. Can’t believe u only got a broken fingernail. Bet u were mad. When u comin home?’
Sam sighed. Usually if she was worried by something, or bored, she’d go out for a run.
She reflected on the bandaged patients from earlier. That had been so weird. But it had also hammered home how she felt so cut off from everything. A nuclear bomb could have gone off in the rest of the hospital and she would be totally oblivious. She could be the only person in the building. She shivered. It made her want to pee.
She very nearly did two seconds later when a vase of flowers pitched onto the floor with a deafening crash. Sam jumped out of her skin. The vase was lying in hundreds of tiny pieces on the floor in front of her bed.
Sam looked at the door, expecting nurses to come running any second to comfort her and to clean up the mess. Nothing happened. Surely someone must have heard the noise? She didn’t know whether to press her alarm button or not. It seemed kind of wrong to drag some poor nurse in at this time just to clear up some broken glass. It wasn’t exactly hurting her, but this was the second time something like this had happened.
As she was pondering this, the television buzzed into life. Just static, but it was nerve-jarringly loud. What was happening? Surely this would attract attention. Whoever was in the next room would be kept awake. Assuming there was a next room. Perhaps she was in a room just stuck at the end of the corridor with nobody else around? Sam looked at the trolley table near her bed for the remote control, before remembering that the TV didn’t have one.
Still no one came. No, wait. At last! A shadow fell across the hall. She could see it through the door window. Her heart leaped. The face of the person at the door was just completely wrapped in bandages. Was it the same figure as earlier? It was impossible to tell. Why had he or she come back? The figure continued to look through the glass for a while and then Sam saw the door handle moving.
During the day, the appearance of the bandaged person had felt a little weird. In the middle of the night it was frightening! It was not as though this person was likely to mean her any harm but, lying immobile in the bed, Sam felt horribly vulnerable.
The door opened and the figure walked in with a measured slowness. Sam was fairly sure it was a girl, although the number of bandages made it hard to be sure. The patient uttered no sound.
“Hello,” said Sam. She tried to peer closer, to look into the patient’s eyes to see if she could recognise the person. The bandaged figure came closer, still not speaking, but just with the inscrutable eyes staring at her.
Sam was severely freaked out now. She shifted slightly in her bed, but this only succeeded in delivering a shooting pain into her right leg.
“Are you lost?” asked Sam, hearing the fear in her own voice. Was she dreaming? Please let her be dreaming. Please let it be the medication giving her hallucinations. The figure was walking slowly towards her, like an Egyptian mummy from a horror movie. The glass fragments from the smashed vase crunched under the bandaged foot of the approaching figure. It appeared not to even be aware of them.
The figure was standing right next to Sam now, the head leaning slightly forward as if trying to peer into her eyes to work out who she was. Sam couldn’t move her legs but she could move her arms and she raised them towards her head protectively. A bandaged hand reached out towards her face. She was unsure of whether to touch the patient’s arm, because if the person was severely burned then taking hold of their wrist could be intensely painful.
Sam moved her left hand to block the bandaged hand from touching her head. The hand just kept coming closer.
“Stop it. Please. Please stop,” said Sam, trying not to cry. James had made her watch several horror films with him, and each time it had given her nightmares. Now it felt like she was in one.
Sam finally took hold of the patient’s wrist. She was jolted when she saw the identification bracelet that was looped around the bandages. It read:
Sam jumped as a second bandaged hand came up and touched her hair. She screamed.
“Get away from me!!!!”
The hand stopped. Sam continued to scream.
The eyes of Emma Venton looked out through the mask of white wrappings. They were emotionless. As slowly and deliberately as she had entered the room, the girl departed.
Sam sat on the bed, gasping for breath. This time she had no qualms about pressing her alarm button to call a nurse, or doctor, or anyone. Nothing happened. No noise, no response, nothing. She pressed it again. Still nothing. Desperately, she stabbed at the button again and again, feeling like a horribly cruel joke was being played on her.
Stephen Henning is the author of the Class Heroes book series. He lives in the UK with his wife, Rebecca, who – rather handily – is an editor and proofreader. Equally fortuitously, whether it be out of love, duty or genuine enjoyment, she also reads his books.
Stephen studied English Literature in Sheffield and went on to become a journalist for a regional newspaper in Manchester. He then moved into publishing and now writes the Class Heroes books.
Stephen has always enjoyed writing stories, making films and having fun. The Class Heroes books encompass all three of these hobbies, in no particular order. Oh, and he has two cats called Sookie and Rogue, both of whom like sitting on the keyboard of the laptop while he writes.
Stephen also writes for the popular entertainment website WhatCulture!
Links to Purchase Print Books
Link to Buy A Class Apart Print Edition at Amazon