Will West is just your average teenager…who can run a mile in about 45 seconds. Will leads a seemingly normal life, aside from his super speed. He has two loving parents, Belinda and Jordan. He's well-behaved. And he attends school in Southern California. Yet one Tuesday, his whole life changes.
It all starts when Will is followed by a mysterious black sedan. He manages to outrun the black car (because Will is most definitely an average teenager…who is able to outrun a motor vehicle. Mmhmm. Sure.) At school, Will learns that he aced a recent standardized test and has been accepted to a top-secret school in the wild woods of Wisconsin.
You'd think he'd be happy, but the West family is notoriously secretive for some reason. (Maybe they don't like cheese?) Will's parents have always discouraged him from being amazing or having friends, so this scholarship might prove a problem.
Will suspects something strange is up when his mother is called to the school, and she is actually excited about Will's academic excellence. That is very out of character. Will notices a few other odd things about his mother. Her eyes are blank and soulless. There is a giant festering wound on the side of her neck that is twitching. And she is talking to the bad guys in black cars.
Hmm, could something strange be going on here?
Something strange is confirmed when Will gets a video via text of his dad in a hotel room being attacked by bad guys. Will realizes he must flee, so he accepts the offer from the Center for Integrated Learning. Now he has to find a way to get to Wisconsin.
Will recruits a cab driver named Nando Gutierrez to take him to the airport. There's more to Nando than meets the eye, however. Nando says he had a vision that showed he needed to help "this really important person. Like in human history" (7.200). Nando safely delivers Will to the airport, and it's off to Wisconsin he goes. Bring us back some cheese curds, Will.
The skies aren't so friendly for Will West. Thankfully, he has a seatmate in Dave Gunner, a mysterious Australian man. And he isn't mysterious just because we can't understand his accent: Dave gives Will a pair of magical sunglasses, which allow him to see demons. Ignorance is bliss, though, because if there were demons on the wing of our plane, we wouldn't want to know about it. Thankfully, Dave teleports onto the wing of the plane and fights off the gremlins trying to take it down.
In Wisconsin, Will is driven by Dan McBride and Eloni to the Center for Integrated Learning. He meets headmaster Rourke and soon passes out, either from exhaustion or from the fact that Rourke is too manly to handle without swooning.
After Will wakes up, he is greeted by Brooke Springer. She's hot; just ask Will. Hot Brooke shows Will around campus, introducing him to Lyle Ogilvy, the provost marshal, a term that here means "psychic bully who uses his power to abuse others." Lyle confiscates Will's electronics, but Will hides his cell phone with Brooke.
In their pod, Will meets his three other roommates: Ajay Janikowski, tech geek; Nick McLeish, gymnast and comic relief; and Elise Moreau, chilly mind reader. She's chilly, not the minds.
During the course of the school year, Will uncovers a secret society called the Knights of Charlemagne, which is attempting to bring demons from another dimension called the "Never-Was" back into our realm. Will stumbles onto their secret room underneath the school gym. The secret society is working with Lyle and a few other students to bring the creatures over inside the Center.
Dave, who can appear out of nowhere at convenient times, appears in Will's room—not for creepy purposes, like watching Will sleep, but to give him helpful bits of information, of course. Dave tells Will that he is an "Initiate. A member of the Hierarchy" (37.52) and that he, Dave, is Will's guardian angel. What does all this mean? Dave doesn't elaborate. Doesn't the Hierarchy come with an employee handbook?
Meanwhile, Will learns that the student who previously occupied his bedroom, Ronnie Murso, is missing, presumed dead, and has left a few clues for Will to find. With Ajay's help, Will hacks into Ronnie's USB stick and discovers evidence of something called The Paladin Prophecy. The roommates work together to figure out exactly what the heck this is. Brooke is soon kidnapped from the library. The library. Is nothing sacred?
Will and his roommates must team up to rescue Brooke. She has been kidnapped by Lyle. Nick fights off part of Lyle's group but is soon cornered by the Paladin, a menacing statue that is the school mascot come to life. Nick is rescued by the track coach, Coach Jericho, who can shapeshift into a bear. If this were rock paper scissors, the Paladin is the rock, but the bear is the paper.
With Elise's help, Will is able to rescue Brooke. Elise has developed a super ability: She can scream really, really loudly, paralyzing everyone in the area. Thankfully, simply covering his ears protects Will, and he frees Brooke when all the other bad guys are knocked out. Somehow Lyle escapes. Maybe he has a bad earwax problem.
Will pursues Lyle into a cave, where he brings a Wendigo into this world from the other dimension called the Never-Was. Bad idea. The Wendigo turns on Lyle and devours his soul. Not that he was using it.
Dave swoops in to rescue Will, but he is pulled through the window into the Never-Was. Because Dave told Will he could save his life nine times—and this is only time number five—Will believes that Dave is still alive.
With the current demon crisis averted, it's time to return to the meaning of the Paladin Prophecy. Will has a dream about tennis and an egg, which leads him to realize that he and his friends are all test-tube babies who have been genetically engineered to have superpowers. Wow. We just have nightmares about being naked in school.
Throughout all this, Nando has been running errands for Will. He finds a medical bag in Will's dad's closet, but the bag has the initials H. G. on it. Either Jordan West is bad at spelling, or Jordan West isn't his real name.
Will realizes that his dad is actually Hugh Greenwood, the grandson of the person who founded the Center. Nando also informs Will that the standardized tests used to admit students into the Center are run by the same people who drive those sketchy black cars around. Just whose side is Will's dad on, and what does this all mean?
With the realization that Will's dad is still alive, the book ends. We'll have to pick up the second one.