Share this Manuscript

The Ballad of Ami Miles


A girl flees her sheltered home to traverse a dystopic landscape on a journey of self-discovery.

see full description

Advance Reader Editions are in!


Swoon Index

  • Heat

    6 (7 ratings)

  • Tears

    7 (7 ratings)

  • Laughs

    6 (9 ratings)

  • Thrills

    7 (9 ratings)

Full Description

Raised in isolation at Heavenly Shepherd, her family’s trailer-dealership-turned-survival compound, Ami Miles knows that she was lucky to be born into a place of safety after the old world ended and the chaos began. But when her grandfather arranges a marriage to a cold-eyed stranger, she realizes that her “destiny” as one of the few females capable of still bearing children isn’t something she’s ready to face.

With the help of one of her aunts, she flees the only life she’s ever known, and sets off on a quest to find her long-lost mother (and hopefully a mate of her own choosing). But as she journeys, Ami discovers many new things about the world... and about herself.


I’d like to think that if I had been home, they would have told me he was coming. Or that they didn’t know he was coming and that’s why I didn’t know either. I’d like to believe that my family wouldn’t ambush me like that, but after everything that’s happened, believing such things is just about impossible. I’m sure now that they did know, and whether I had been home or not, whether he surprised them or not, it doesn’t matter. Wouldn’t have mattered. I still would have run, and nothing would be different.

As things were, I had been gone since the morning before, which was nothing unusual. I was 16, old enough to be married and old enough to go off on my own to forage. The compound is right on the side of what Papa Solomon called the hi-way. All back behind us and across on the other side of the road, the ground slopes down and away into forest land. I would go way back in there to check the snares and traps and forage for wild lettuce or violets, kudzu shoots or the first young shoots of poke. I’d stack fallen limbs for firewood that the men could come back later and drag home in big bundles.

It wasn’t that long ago, Ruth used to tell me, that cars came down that hi-way all day and most of the night, heading down to The Gulf from places like Mississippi and Tennessee. We had an old truck that had could go a little ways on a sun charge, and I had seen Tennessee and Mississippi as shapes on a map and been made to learn the spellings of their names, but those places seemed so far away to me, not just in place but in time, that I could never really imagine them. I could look at the old junk heaps of cars and trucks that rusted on the handful of abandoned farms around us and picture in my mind how it would look to see a whole river of them moving down that hi-way, full of people going somewhere.

I walked up into the yard of the compound that late afternoon without the slightest idea that anything was different. It was early summer, and I had a bucket brimming with the first ripe blackberries and sweet dewberries, plus my blanket roll which I always took now that I was allowed to sleep out in the woods. I could go farther that way, find new things to see and maybe bring back, and it was too early to be real hot yet, so I was singing and galloping along like just a silly little girl, and then I looked up and everyone was standing real still watching me. I take that back; the man was watching me, and Ruth was, but Papa was watching the man.

He was not as old as either of them but a lot older than me. I guessed he was about the age my mama would be now. My mother got me in a sinful way, with one of the last of the travelers to ever come down the hi-way, but since almost no one could have babies anymore, the ways of thinking on that had changed. Now, Papa argued, it would be a sin not to try to plant more children on God’s still-green earth, and if there was not a suitable husband for a woman who was able, then he guessed the Lord would send her a chance some other way.

Anyway, the man was about the age my father should have been, and I did not know who he was, but as soon as I saw him, the understanding of why he was there flew all over me like an awful swarm of gnats. I closed my eyes and mouth and held my breath against the knowledge, hoping I could make that swarm move on if I wouldn’t let them in, but I knew I couldn’t. In the best case, he was there to marry me, and failing that, if we didn’t spark to each other in that way, he was there to put his seed in me while everyone prayed it would find fertile ground. Because I was the last hope, and if I could not have a baby, the bloodline would die out. Since my mama was able to have me, there was a chance I was also immune to the sickness. It was down to me to bring new life into the world, and instead of facing up to it like the Godly woman I was raised to be, I ran away like a selfish child.


"Alley takes on a number of complex topics, including individual freedom, women’s rights, sexual identity, and racism. ... [An] intriguing take on themes reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale." —School Library Journal

"Page-turning ... and suspenseful." —Booklist

“This book has stayed with me. I found the setting, which somewhat juxtaposes a future post-apocalyptical landscape with historical Southern conservatism, engaging and different. I also liked Ami's voice and traveling with her on her journey, both physical and emotional.” —mbkreads, Swoon Reader

“This book is, honest to god, incredible! Ami is a great character, and seeing her personality develop through the story is so fun. And seeing Ami discover the parts of herself that she never knew about is so beautiful!” —Kloe Brooks, Swoon Reader

“I quickly got caught up in Ami's life and her struggles. There were some big surprises and twists … . I appreciate how this story tackles religion, racism, sexism and LGBT rights in a way that makes sense! Well done!” —Selena Kristeen, Swoon Reader

“Ami’s voice is so distinct and clear, I read the whole thing with a southern accent in my brain. The world building is fantastic. The pacing is great. I ended up sitting in bed and reading the whole thing in one sitting.” —Personalmaps, Swoon Reader

Latest Update