We are in for a treat today, friends. Today, The Quiet Pond gets the honour to share the cover reveal and exclusive excerpt for If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang, a genre-bending contemporary about a teen who uses her newfound invisibility powers and teams up with her academic rival to discover and sell her classmates’ scandalous secrets.
I love stories where characters inexplicably receive a newfound power, revealing how far a character will go with such a power in their possession. If You Could See the Sun is certainly intriguing and provokes us to wonder: What would you do if you suddenly had invisibility powers? What would you do if you could no longer afford the tuition for the elite boarding school that you are attending? What if monetising your newfound power meant that you could continue paying for the tuition and you could stay? And importantly: What will these powers reveal about who you truly are?
I am so excited for what If You Could See the Sun and I cannot wait to see what Ann Liang has in store for us. Just wait until you see its gorgeous cover though – it is breathtaking and I cannot wait for you all to behold its beauty.
Here is the book’s summary:
Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible.
When her parents drop the news that they can no longer afford her tuition, even with the scholarship, Alice hatches a plan to monetize her strange new power—she’ll discover the scandalous secrets her classmates want to know, for a price.
But as the tasks escalate from petty scandals to actual crimes, Alice must decide if it’s worth losing her conscience—or even her life.
If You Could See the Sun releases on the 11th of October, 2022!
Cover Reveal: If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang
Cover Artist: Carolina Rodríguez Fuenmayor | Cover Designer: Gigi Lau
Exclusive Excerpt: If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang
Excerpted from If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang © 2022 by Ann Liang, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.
Then at last, at long last, it’s my turn.
The piano is wheeled away to some dark corner behind the curtains and the presentation slides change. The words Top Achiever Award flash across the screen in bold. My heart sings a little.
There’s really not much suspense when it comes to these award ceremonies. We’re all notified through email if we’re up for an award months in advance, and aside from Year Eight, when I underperformed in my Chinese exam because I came down with a severe case of food poisoning, Henry and I have tied for Top Achiever every single year since he got here. You’d think I would’ve grown used to it by now, maybe started to care a bit less, but the opposite is true. Now that I have an established streak of success, a reputation to uphold, the stakes are even higher, and the thrill of winning greater than ever before.
It’s sort of like what they say about kissing the person you love (not that I would really know): each time is like the very first.
“Alice Sun,” Mr. Murphy booms into the microphone.
All eyes swivel to me as I rise slowly from my seat. There aren’t any wild cheers, not like with Rainie, but at least they’re looking. At least they can see me.
I smooth out my uniform and head toward the stage, careful not to trip along the way. Then Mr. Murphy is in front of me, shaking my hand, guiding me into the spotlight, and people start clapping.
See, I could shrivel up and die on the spot if I ever thought people were judging me or talking shit behind my back, but this, this kind of positive attention, with my full name on display as applause pounds through the room like a drumbeat—I wouldn’t mind bathing in this moment forever.
But the moment barely lasts a few seconds, because then Mr. Murphy calls out Henry Li’s name, and just like that, everyone’s attention shifts. Refocuses. The applause grows noticeably, painfully louder.
I follow their gazes, and my stomach clenches when I spot him standing up in the front row.
It’s truly one of life’s greatest injustices—aside from youth unemployment and taxes and all that, of course—that Henry Li gets to look the way he does. Unlike the rest of us, he seems to have skipped that awkward midpuberty stage altogether, shedding his cute, Kumon-poster-boy image almost overnight near the end of last year. Now, with his sharp profile, lean build and thick, black waves of hair that somehow always fall perfectly over his dark brows, he could just as easily pass for an idol trainee as the heir to China’s second biggest tech start-up.
His movements are smooth and purposeful as he steps onto the stage in a single stride, that look of mild interest I hate so much carefully arranged on his beautiful, terrible face.
As if he can hear my thoughts, his eyes cut to mine. The twisting, burning sensation in my stomach sharpens to a knife.
Mr. Murphy steps out in front of me. “Congratulations, Henry,” he booms, then releases a loud chuckle. “Must be getting tired of all these awards by now, eh?”
Henry merely offers him a small, polite smile in response.
I force myself to smile too, even as I clench my teeth so hard my jaw hurts. Even as Henry takes his place beside me, leaving only two terrible, maddening inches of space between us. Even as my muscles tense as they always do in his presence, as he leans over, crossing the unspoken boundary, and whispers so only I can hear—
“Congratulations, Alice. I was afraid you wouldn’t make it this year.”
Most international schoolkids end up with some watered-down version of an American accent, but Henry’s accent has a distinct British lilt to it. At first I thought he was just following a step-by-step tutorial on how to become the most pretentious person alive, but after some stalking—no, researching—I found out he’d actually spent a couple years of primary school in England. And not just any primary school, but the same school as the prime minister’s son. There’s even a photo of the two of them together by the school stables, all wide smiles and ruddy cheeks, while someone’s cleaning out horse manure in the background.
Henry’s accent is so distracting it takes me a full minute to register his insult.
I know he’s talking about our most recent chemistry finals. He’d gotten full marks as usual, and I’d lost a mark just because I rushed through a particularly difficult redox equation. If not for the two extra-credit questions I aced at the end, my whole rank would’ve slipped.
For a moment, I can’t decide which I hate more—redox equations, or him.
Then I see the smug smile now playing at the corners of his lips, and remember, with a new spike of resentment, the first time we stood on the stage together like this. I’d tried my best to be civil, had even complimented him on doing better than me in that history test. But he’d simply worn the exact same smug, infuriating expression on his face, shrugged a little, and said, It was an easy test.
I clench my teeth harder.
It’s all I can do to remind myself of the goal I made earlier: refrain from pushing Henry off the stage. Even if it’d be very, very satisfying. Even if he’s been the bane of my existence for pretty much half a decade, and totally deserves it, and is still looking at me with that ridiculous smirk—
We’re forced to stay in place anyway as a photographer hurries forward to take our photo for the annual yearbook.
Then realization washes over me like ice-cold water: by the time the yearbook’s out, I won’t be a student here anymore. No, not just that—I won’t be graduating in this auditorium, won’t have my name listed under the Ivy League acceptances, won’t be walking out these school gates with a bright future laid out at my feet.
I feel the smile on my face freeze, threaten to dissolve at the edges. I’m blinking too quickly. In my peripheral vision, I see the school slogan, Airington is Home, printed out in giant letters on a strung-up banner. But Airington isn’t home, or isn’t just a home for someone like me; Airington is a ladder. The only ladder that could lift my parents out of their dingy flat on the outskirts of Beijing, that could close the distance between me and a seven-figure salary, that could ever allow me to stand as equals with someone like Henry Li on a large polished stage like this.
How the hell am I meant to climb my way to the top without it?
This is the question that gnaws at my nerves like a starved rat as I return to my seat in a daze, barely registering Mr. Chen’s special little nod of approval or Chanel’s smile or my other classmates’ whispered congratulations.
The rest of the ceremony crawls by at a snail’s pace, and I sit for so long, my body frozen to the spot while my mind works in overdrive, that I start to feel cold all over, despite the stifling summer heat.
I’m actually shivering by the time Mr. Murphy dismisses us for the day, and as I join the tides of students pushing out through the doors, a small part of my brain entertains the idea that maybe this chill isn’t normal.
Before I can check if I have a fever or anything, someone behind me clears his throat. The sound is oddly formal, like a person readying themselves to deliver a speech.
I spin around. It’s Henry.
Of course it is.
About the Author
Ann Liang is an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne. Born in Beijing, she grew up travelling back and forth between China and Australia, but somehow ended up with an American accent. When she isn’t stressing out over her college assignments or writing, she can be found making over-ambitious to-do lists, binge-watching dramas, and having profound conversations with her pet labradoodle about who’s a good dog.