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Stranger Than Fanfiction
By Chris Colfer
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- Trade Paperback $10.99 $14.99 CAD
- ebook $9.99 $11.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
- Audiobook CD (Unabridged) $25.00 $32.50 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 29, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Chris Colfer comes a funny, heartbreaking, unforgettable novel about friendship and fame.
Cash Carter is the young, world famous lead actor of the hit television show Wiz Kids. When four fans jokingly invite him on a cross-country road trip, they are shocked that he actually takes them up on it. Chased by paparazzi and hounded by reporters, this unlikely crew takes off on a journey of a lifetime–but along the way they discover that the star they love has deep secrets he’s been keeping. What they come to learn about the life of the mysterious person they thought they knew will teach them about the power of empathy and the unbreakable bond of true friendship.
In this touching novel, #1 New York Times bestselling author Chris Colfer takes us on a journey full of laughter, tears, and life-changing memories.
It wasn't WizCon unless someone was trampled. At least that was how the employees of the Santa Clara Convention Center saw it. The success of the annual event was never measured by the number of attendees (sold-out crowds were always a given) but by the number of injuries the enthusiastic crowd inflicted on one another.
Thankfully, the WizCon incidents were never malicious; the patrons simply buzzed with so much excitement they became a danger to themselves and others around them. So, the more reported accidents, the more the event planners were confident they had done their job.
And as the early comers outside pressed their bodies against the glass doors, rabid with anticipation, the convention staff knew WizCon 2017 was about to break new records.
"It's twelve-oh-one!" said a little boy dressed as a gray alien. "You were supposed to open at noon!"
"Come on, we've been waiting for hours!" said an old woman dressed as a headless Marie-Antoinette.
"Some of us have been here since yesterday!" said a very sleepy teenage girl from a group wearing dinosaur onesies.
The convention center was surrounded with a massive gathering of historical figures, extinct species, and extraterrestrial creatures. It was an alarming sight to every passing observer, but it was much more innocent than the psychedelic cult it appeared to be.
All these people were at WizCon because they were fans of the hit television series Wiz Kids. The show was an action/adventure series that followed a trio of young geniuses who travel through space and time in an invention they constructed out of a port-a-potty.
Naturally, when it first premiered the critics treated the show like a piñata. Each review of the "ridiculous premise" was more scathing than the last. Reviewers took great pleasure in ripping it to shreds and even became competitive with their convictions, each claiming to have "hated it the most." However, with each fatal blow Wiz Kids only received more and more attention. People tuned in to see the "absurdity" for themselves, but they were not repulsed as promised. Audiences found the show's campiness to be rather charming, its unique underdog spirit resonated with them, and a global phenomenon was born.
No, it wasn't Shakespeare, but on the bright side, it wasn't Shakespeare.
Seemingly overnight, the cast of young teens became household names. Their likenesses were plastered across T-shirts, lunch boxes, bedsheets, and various hygiene products, and their personal lives became the subjects of tabloid debates.
Nine seasons later, the Wiz Kids viewership was larger and more passionate than ever before. The self-proclaimed "Wizzers" dominated the Internet with more hashtags, trending topics, discussion forums, and fanfiction than any other show on air. And like a religious pilgrimage, every fourth weekend in June, Wizzers from around the world traveled to Santa Clara, California, for the sacred Wiz Kids convention to celebrate the show together.
"It's five past twelve!" said the mother of triplets dressed as Roman Soldiers. "Open the doors already!"
"Let us in! It's hot out here!" said a man dressed from head to toe as a Martian Slug.
"My mustache is melting off my face!" shouted a little girl dressed as Edgar Allan Poe (or so people hoped).
Finally, at ten past twelve, the doors opened and a stampede of alien creatures, deceased world influencers, and large reptiles stormed inside the convention center—WizCon 2017 had begun! Security guards cautiously ushered the excited crowd like they were herding a flock of explosive sheep. Medics stood by with their gurneys ready. The other convention center employees made bets on which guests were most likely to "snap."
The first Wizzers through the door made a mad dash to the convention center theater, where the "Wiz Kids Cast & Creative Panel" was happening later that afternoon. Only the first six hundred people would have seats; the other poor saps would have to watch from a telecast in the Exhibit Hall.
Desperate to see their favorite actors in the flesh, the teenagers in the crowd charged through the halls, knocking over booths of overpriced merchandise and unsuspecting senior citizens in their path. They squeezed through the narrow doors of the theater and threw themselves into the first available seats they could find. Within minutes, all the seats were filled with giddy young people. Pitying looks were cast upon the unfortunate souls without seats, as if they were third-class passengers on the Titanic.
Not a single Wizzer could sit still as they waited for the panel to start. The entire theater jerked and twitched like everyone had to pee so badly it hurt. The anticipation was suffocating and some had to breathe into paper bags to keep from passing out—but who could blame them? This was it! The panel they had been waiting for all year was just a few agonizing minutes away!
Their eyes darted back and forth across the stage, as they wondered which wing their heroes would enter from. A table was set on the stage with four chairs, four microphones, and four nameplates. The crowd squealed like hyenas as they read the names of the cast and creator of Wiz Kids, especially the nameplate of Cash Carter, the lead actor of the show.
Without a doubt, the Wizzers were more excited to see Cash Carter than anyone else on the panel. If they weren't in costume, almost everyone in the theater wore a T-shirt with a picture of his character, Dr. Webster Bumfuzzle. The doctor was famous for his thick glasses, green bow tie, and blue laboratory coat. The Wizzers whispered among themselves as they speculated what Cash Carter was doing at that exact moment and if he was as excited about the panel as they were.…
From the greenroom backstage, the commotion in the theater sounded like the rumblings of a distant storm. Cash Carter found serenity in the bathroom, where the crowd was drowned out entirely by the hum of the fluorescent lights. He stood in front of the mirror with his eyes closed, enjoying the quiet while he still could.
Cash was not a jealous person, but he envied people with quiet. Only in absolute silence could he simply exist and not be reminded of who and what he was, or according to his critics, who and what he wasn't. But finding a space that wasn't dominated by the commotion of a television set, the rapid clicks of paparazzi cameras, or the murmuring of a hungry crowd was very rare. The bathroom may have had cracked tiled walls, peculiar stains on the ceiling, a terrible musky smell, and someone definitely had been murdered there in the past—but to Cash, it was a sanctuary.
His tranquillity was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Mr. Carter?" asked an underpaid stagehand. "Are you still in there? We're hoping to start the panel in five minutes."
"Five minutes? I thought we weren't starting until two," Cash replied.
"It is two," the stagehand said.
Cash had been in the bathroom for over an hour without realizing it. He opened his baggy, bloodshot eyes and stared at his reflection. The twenty-two-year-old actor was thin, unshaven, and sported messy hair. He wore a black blazer over the T-shirt he'd fallen asleep in the night before and strong cologne to mask the fact that he hadn't showered in two days.
"Is everything okay?" the stagehand asked. "You've been in there for a while."
"I'm fine," Cash mumbled. "I just lost track of time. They can start the intro to the panel—I'll be out in five."
"Actually, the producers wanted to have a word with the cast before the panel begins," the stagehand said.
Cash grunted. "In that case, I'll be out in ten."
The stagehand let out a deep sigh. "Copy that," he said, and clicked a button on his headset. "He says he'll be out in ten—yes, I know we're already running behind. Let the crowd know we'll be starting closer to two thirty. Calm down, Gary—this is WizCon, not the Oscars."
The stagehand walked down the hall in a huff, granting Cash a few more moments of peace.
A rush of nerves swept through Cash's core like a flock of bats. Even after nine years of conventions, he always got anxious before appearing in front of an audience. Call him crazy, but there was something about walking into a room of screaming, applauding, and crying strangers that Cash just couldn't get used to. Although he never took the Wizzers' affection for granted, it was a lot of pressure being the source of so much happiness. With one slip of the tongue, he could emotionally scar a generation of young people for the rest of their lives and trigger a wave of resentment for the rest of his.
Being beloved was fucking tough.
Luckily for him, these days Cash had a little help to take the edge off. He reached into his pocket and pulled out three large pills and two marijuana gummy bears. He swallowed the pills, chewed up the gummies, and chased them with a sip from a flask tucked in his blazer. Sure, it wasn't exactly the healthiest combination, but the goodies always worked faster when they were taken together.
Cash closed his eyes again, took a deep breath, and waited for his secret weapons to do their magic. A moment later, there was another knock at the door.
"Mr. Carter?" the stagehand said. "It's been fifteen minutes. Are you ready?"
Poor time management was a side effect of Cash's special treats, but his anxiety was completely gone. In fact, Cash could barely feel anything at all. Everything felt light and easy around him, as if he were drifting through the clouds in a hot-air balloon. Only when he opened his dilated eyes and looked around was he reminded he was in a bathroom at all. His preconvention cocktail had done the trick!
"Mr. Carter? Did you hear me?" the stagehand asked, growing more impatient by the millisecond.
Cash giggled. There was something so funny about being called Mr. Carter by someone almost twice his age.
"Yeah, I heard you," he said. "Showtime!"
Cash begrudgingly left his porcelain sanctuary and followed the stagehand down the hall. The greenroom was more crowded than he thought it would be. Seven people were seated with their chairs facing him, and in Cash's delayed state, it took him a couple moments to recognize them.
Damien Zimmer, the creator of Wiz Kids, was seated in the middle with the show's executive producer, Jim Kaufman. To their right were Cash's cast mates, the beautiful Amy Evans and the hunky Tobey Ramous. To Damien and Jim's left were two middle-aged men and one woman, each wearing a designer suit. Cash knew they were executives from the network, but since executives were fired and hired so frequently, he didn't know their names.
"Well, this is a surprise," Cash said.
"Would you give us a minute?" Jim asked the stagehand.
The overworked man was desperate to get things started, but he gave them some space.
"Sit down, Cash," Damien said, and nodded to an empty chair.
"Um… okay," Cash said, and took a seat.
All of them stared at him with stern expressions—except his costars; they were looking down at social media on their phones. Cash could tell they were all pissed off at him for something—something much worse than taking his time in the bathroom. Perhaps he had said something uncouth in an interview or forgot to live-tweet during a rerun.
"So…," Cash said. "What's up?"
"Before we begin, it's important you know we're all here because we care about you," Jim said.
"Duh, it's WizCon," Cash said. "Everyone is here because they care about me."
The remark inspired several eye rolls and exhalations, but Cash wasn't trying to be a smart-ass. On the contrary, after three painkillers, two edibles, and a shot of whiskey, he was too numb to be anything but literal.
"This is serious, Cash," the woman executive said. "This isn't going to be a pleasant conversation, but it's a necessary one before things get out of hand."
"Out of hand?" Cash asked. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Everyone passed the responsibility of leading the conversation to the next person, until it landed in Damien's lap like a heavy stack of books—books he did not want to read.
"Things have always been rocky between us, so I'm probably not the best messenger for this," Damien said with a dramatic sigh. "Ever since we wrapped season nine and went on hiatus, you've gone totally out of control. At first we thought it was just a phase, but after two months of utter nonsense, we're afraid it's far worse. We've all cleared our schedules so we could be here today and address your recent behavior."
Damien was right—he wasn't the right messenger. In fact, he was the last person on earth Cash would listen to about behavior.
At just thirty-five years old, Damien Zimmer had the ego and the entitlement of all Hollywood's worst clichés put together. He began his career as a child actor on a cheesy sitcom called Who's the Parent?—which was more memorable for its obnoxious laugh track than its writing. When Damien was in his midtwenties, he developed Wiz Kids as a starring vehicle for himself. The network purchased the show but thought Damien was too old and forced him to cast younger actors. Even though Wiz Kids became a huge hit and made him filthy rich, Damien had always despised Cash for "stealing" his part and the spotlight that came with it.
"Hold up," Cash said. "Is this an intervention? Right before a convention?"
"Damn right it is," Damien said. "And I believe it's more than warranted. You've been seen getting wasted at clubs all over town, getting high in public places, speeding down Sunset Boulevard with hookers in the backseat of your Lamborghini, and the LAPD are at your house every other night to shut down a ridiculous party."
"First off, those were strippers, and I drive a Maserati," Cash clarified. "And it's not like throwing parties and getting drunk is against the law."
"No, but child endangerment is," Damien went on. "You're lucky you weren't charged after taking the Boys and Girls Club of America skydiving or those poor kids from Make-A-Wish to the shooting range."
"We're also aware you were caught trespassing," Jim added. "Someone filmed you climbing an elephant statue at the La Brea Tar Pits naked while screaming 'I'm the king of the mammoths.' You have no idea how much damage control the network publicists went into to keep it off the Internet."
Cash giggled. "You've got to admit, that was pretty legendary," he said. "By the way, could I get a copy of that? I lost my phone that night and it might show where I dropped it."
His request was denied with passive-aggressive silence.
"I believe you've entered a downward spiral of selfishness, stupidity, and self-destruction," Damien said. "You're ruining your reputation and jeopardizing the viewership of the show in the process. Even though we're not currently filming, you are still a representative of this network, this studio, and my production company—"
Damien recited the rant like a Shakespearean soliloquy, but Cash's eyes drifted away from him. His attention was completely captivated by Amy, who had started taking selfies with her phone. Cash couldn't think of anything more inappropriate to do in the middle of an intervention—it was like ordering a pizza in the middle of a funeral. Then again, he wasn't surprised. Amy's narcissism had always fascinated him.
Once when they were on set, Cash accidentally saw inside Amy's photo album when he confused her phone for his. Every picture was a different selfie with the same exact pose and her favorite expression—sultry surprise. He scrolled for miles but never found a single picture of friends or family—it was all just Amy. Sometimes he worried Amy wasn't actually Amy at all, but Amy's stalker wearing a suit made out of her skin.
"Cash, are you even listening to me?" Damien asked, and leaned forward to take a closer look at him. "Wait, are you stoned?"
"Not enough for this conversation," Cash muttered under his breath.
This got a serious rise out of his coworkers, especially Tobey Ramous, who was so annoyed he threw his phone aside.
"This is going nowhere!" Tobey said. "He doesn't give a shit about anything we're telling him. I'm supposed to be back in Los Angeles tonight for a night shoot. How much longer is this going to take?"
Tobey (or Roids McRage, as Cash called him behind his back) was referring to the set of Moth-Man, the multi-million-dollar comic book movie he was starring in. He had bulked up so much for the part, and so quickly, it was a miracle he could tie his own shoes. Moth-Man was an opportunity every actor dreams of and Tobey was using his entire hiatus from Wiz Kids to shoot it. Still, Cash found it very ironic that Tobey spent eighty hours a week dressed as a giant insect yet somehow thought his time was more valuable than anyone else's.
"Allow me to wrap things up," Cash said. "I understand my behavior has raised a few eyebrows, but after nine seasons of playing by the rules, always saying and doing the right thing and never rocking the boat, I think I've earned the right to have a little fun. Come on, guys, I've been doing this show since I was twelve years old. You're only young once—I just want to be young while I still can."
If the looks being exchanged were any indication, there wasn't an ounce of sympathy for him. No one gave a fuck about his desire to be young.
"Unfortunately, your definition of youth is a breach of contract," one of the male executives said. "You and your representation agreed to the studio's morality clause when you were hired, and then again during renegotiations in the sixth season. If your behavior doesn't change, we'll be forced to take legal action."
It was a very serious threat, but instead of trembling where he sat, Cash only laughed.
"You can only sue me if I'm still under contract," he said. "And at the rate I'm going, I doubt you'll be employing me much longer."
"So that's what this is really all about?" Amy said. "You're trying to get yourself fired? That's pathetic!"
"Dude, you're a fucking idiot," Tobey said. "If you get fired from the show you'll never work again and the fans will hate you!"
Cash was overwhelmed by the love and support coming from his costars. They were nailing this whole intervention thing. He was totally inspired to change his ways so their lives would be easier.
"Everyone, calm down," Jim said. "No one is getting fired. We're here to help Cash, not scold him or accuse him of anything."
They were obviously on different pages about the matter, because Damien was giving Cash the most scornful look to date. Not once in nine years had he ever turned down an opportunity to scold Cash.
"I feel so sorry for you, Cash," Damien said. "You're not mature enough to understand how lucky you are. There are millions of people in this world who would kill to be sitting where you are. Like it or not, you're the lead actor of a network's highest-rated show—they'd sue you for everything you've got before they'd fire you. So you're going to fulfill your contractual obligations and you're going to do it on your best behavior. I'd make peace with that if I were you."
Cash didn't know if he should be appalled or applaud him—Damien gave his best performances when he was ticked off. However, his allegations couldn't be further from the truth. Immaturity and ingratitude were languages Damien spoke, not Cash. The truth was, Cash had made peace with reality—he had made more peace than anyone else in the room could possibly understand.
"There's more than one way to get out of a contract," Cash said.
A wide grin spread across his face. No matter how much they tried scaring him, Cash knew he wasn't returning for the next season of the show. There was something he wasn't telling them—something he would have loved to confess just to prove them all wrong, but he had to be strategic about it. A better time would present itself.
The stagehand reentered the room very awkwardly, like he was walking in on his elderly parents having sex.
"Excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt," he said. "We told the crowd we were starting at two thirty and it's now two forty-five. Are we close, or should we tell them we've pushed it to three?"
"We'll put a pin in this conversation until we find time to finish it," Jim said. "We've brought our concerns to Cash, now it's his job to take them to heart. But let me reiterate, no one is getting fired and no one is leaving the show. We're here to talk about the upcoming season and nothing else. Now, let's go out and make the fans happy. None of us would have jobs without them."
No one objected. Everyone was relieved the conversation was finally over, especially Amy and Tobey. The meeting seemed to have taken a toll on them more than it had on Cash. He almost offered them some of the treats in his pocket, but thought it was probably tacky to offer drugs right after an intervention.
Jim and the executives left the greenroom to watch the panel from the audience. The stagehand escorted Damien, Tobey, Amy, and Cash to the stage and had them wait behind the curtain.
"When they call your name, step through the curtain and take your seat at the table," the stagehand instructed.
"Oh, is that how it works?" Tobey said, and did an impression of someone with special needs.
"Yeah, like we've never done this before," Amy said, and took another selfie.
Cash chuckled, but not at his costars. He thought it was funny how there was hydrocodone, weed, and alcohol flowing through his veins at a work event but he wasn't the biggest douchebag onstage.
"Sorry, they make me remind you every year," the stagehand said, and clicked the button on his headset. "We're ready back here. Cue the introduction!"
An energetic announcer was blasted over the audio system and filled the theater like the voice of God.
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, extraterrestrials, reptiles and insectoids, people from the past, present, and future, and Wizzers from around the world, welcome to the 2017 'Wiz Kids Cast and Creative Panel'!"
The audience went berserk. If the energy emitting from their bodies could be absorbed, it would power all the homes in Central America for a decade.
"Please welcome the former star of Who's the Parent? and the creator of Wiz Kids, Damien Zimmer!"
The words former star seemed to have sent a sharp pain down Damien's spine because he twitched uncomfortably. He stepped through the curtain and bowed before the audience. The Wizzers greeted him with warm applause but mostly tried to look past him to see the cast standing backstage.
"You know him as the goofy anthropologist Professor Fitz Luckunckle! Please welcome to the stage the man who puts the 'buff' in 'history buff' and the star of the upcoming movie Moth-Man, Tobey Ramous!"
Tobey leaped through the curtain like a bull released from its pen. His silhouette darted across the curtain as he ran around the stage doing backflips and flexing his muscles for the crowd. Tobey was so amped up an elephant tranquilizer wouldn't have calmed him down.
"You know her as the mechanical engineer with the heart of gold, Dr. Jules 'the Tools' Peachtree! Please welcome actress turned supermodel and outspoken pescatarian the gorgeous and talented Amy Evans!"
Amy glided through the curtain like she was on a catwalk. She blew kisses, made heart shapes with her hands, and then took a selfie onstage—but oddly, didn't include the audience in it.
"Last but certainly not least, you know him as the lovable, nerdy, and quirky quantum physics expert Dr. Webster Bumfuzzle! Please give a warm WizCon welcome to the one and only Caaaash Caaaarter!"
Before the announcer was finished, the audience was screaming so loud Cash could barely hear his cue to come out. He stepped onstage and was hit with a tsunami of affection. The audience roared twice as hard as they had for the others. The stage lights made it very difficult to see anything and a tardy spotlight practically blinded him. All Cash could see was the manic flashing of cameras in the audience, as if he were facing an endless, pulsating galaxy.
When his eyes finally adjusted, he saw Wizzers shaking, crying, and jumping hysterically throughout the theater. He politely waved at the crowd, only causing the commotion to magnify. Cash found his seat at the table beside his coworkers, but the audience continued cheering until their voices went hoarse.
"Please welcome the panel moderators. From Entertainment Weekly, Jennifer Smalls; from The Hollywood Reporter, Terrence Wallem; and YouTube personality Kylie Trig."
"This quick read touches on many current trends, using teen jargon and references while also tackling identity issues of gender, race, and sexuality, among others."—School Library Journal
"[Colfer] has a flair for combining poignancy and hilarity so that readers find themselves laughing even as their hearts break a little bit."—Booklist
- On Sale
- May 29, 2018
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers