Malulani Moreno (tophersghost056 on QT) has signed with agent Allison Hellegers of Stimola Literary Studio.
This story is a bit of a mash-up of previous stories I've written. My Aaron character comes from a story I wrote nearly 10 years ago about a girl with mutism. My Keoni character comes from another failed story of mine about a native Hawaiian boy who connects more with western culture than his own Hawaiian heritage. The mashup wasn't conscious. I needed characters for a new story, and lo-and-behold, these two came up.
Fiction was always in the background during my journalism years. Then I got my MFA in Creative Writing and my writing began in earnest. I've published a chapbook of poetry and a chapbook of stories, so far.
Life as a sixteen-year-old gay outcast in the rural sugar plantation town of Wahiawā, Hawai'i isn't easy for Keoni. He loves Renaissance art and longs for the day he can escape to a bigger city, where he dreams of finding people who accept him. He's trying to hold on to his only friend, whose newfound popularity leaves Keoni on the margins. When his longtime bully disappears, Keoni is both relieved and apprehensive—especially when more boys, all native Hawaiians, start to vanish.
Meanwhile, Aaron moves to Wahiawā after years of homeschooling have made him feel like a permanent outsider. He's determined to change that at his new high school, but friendships are intimidating for a guy with debilitating anxiety, selective mutism, and an overprotective dad. Though his dad runs an occult shop, Aaron doesn't believe in the supernatural—until he starts seeing the ghosts of the missing boys.
When Keoni defends Aaron during a fight at school, the two begin a hesitant friendship. Bike rides turn into hours-long conversations about Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the ways they don't fit in, and their desire to escape island life. Soon Aaron confides in Keoni about the ghosts of the missing boys, and Keoni tries to help him interpret the visions. Both boys seem to have finally found someone who understands them. But as the disappearances hit closer to home, Aaron's mental health deteriorates and secrets from Keoni's past begin to surface. If Keoni and Aaron don't find the courage to accept themselves, they could ruin their fragile, growing relationship.
WHY WON'T YOU SAY SOMETHING is a contemporary YA novel with speculative elements complete at 75,000 words. It will appeal to fans of DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY and WE ARE THE ANTS. As a native Hawaiian and gay man, this is an #ownvoices story.