Thursday, July 17, 2008

#58 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

GENRE: A Middle Grade Novel

Mary Louise and I were sunbathing on the roof of our apartment building. It was early afternoon and we were enjoying the peace and quiet of having the entire place to ourselves. In another few minutes story time would end downstairs and all the little kids would come stomping their way to the roof, taking over the playground area and making mature twelve-year-old conversation nearly impossible.

Mary Louise was fanning herself with one of those old-fashioned cardboard fans. On one side was a calendar. The other was an advertisement for the funeral home where her dad worked. I had a book on my lap but couldn’t bring myself to open it. It was one I’d read a hundred times before, or at least twice.

“I’ll say it again,” said Mary Louise. “This has got to be the most boring summer yet.”

I nodded in agreement.

A bee buzzed over my head and I followed him with my eyes. Buzz to the right. Buzz to the left. Then with a sudden jerk, he flew off towards the utility shed door.

“Even that bee has a more exciting life than us,” I sighed. “At least he has somewhere to go.”

“Face it,” said Mary Louise, “summers are dull, there’s just no getting around it. They always have been. They always will be. Summer vacation is day after endless day of the same people doing the same boring things.”


  1. It's always dangerous opening a story by telling the reader how boring things are. And by pointing out that your characters are saying things "again." It's a little, well, boring.

    If you're going this way, give us a hint how things are going to become un-boring really quickly.

    You could tighten things up by eliminating some unnecessary words.

  2. Too passive voice.

    If the mc is bored, why won't we be bored with her? I think you need to start when things get interesting.


  3. I hate to agree, but I was bored reading it. I think the story needs to start, well, where the story starts. This doesn't sound like it.

    Sorry, I wasn't hooked. :(

  4. I think you have a very good voice. This is well enough written that I'd keep reading just to see where you're going.

  5. Sorry, but no. Ditto on the cliche boredom, which also isn't enough of a conflict/problem to hinge a novel on. Plus, I'm wondering about the realism of a playground being on the roof of a building? Did I read that wrong?

    In another few minutes story time would end downstairs and all the little kids would come stomping their way to the roof, taking over the playground area...

  6. I don't know if a twelve year old would understand about the old-fashioned cardboard fans. A little more decription is needed or maybe a different fan. I agree that this may not be the best place to start the story.

  7. No, sorry.

    I did like the voice, but as others have said, having the MC and her friend bored is just NOT an exciting way to open things and I wouldn't want to read on if they just plan to be bored all summer. ;) I'd like to see them start when they've found something interesting to do.

    Good luck,


  8. If the intent was to make me feel their boredom, I'd call the tactic a success. That said, I wouldn't read more unless I found the plot blurb intriguing. As it stands, nothing compels me to read further.

  9. I'd give it a few more pages for the sake of the voice, but I think this would be a lot tighter and hookier if you gave us a hint of what's going to happen, and what the conflict of the novel will be :)

  10. No.

    This just seems blah to me. Two people talking about their blahness while baking in the sun. And they aren't behaving in a realistic manner for kids (I assume they're kids since this is a MG novel). B[

    And "Mary Louise" kept reminding me of "Driving Miss Daisy" for whatever reason.

  11. No.
    This seems a little old-fashioned.
    Two tween girls subathing?
    Wouldn't they be inside, online, or on the phone, or something?

  12. Unsure at the moment. I'd read a bit more to see what happens next.

  13. Maybe.

    It starts off a little slowly. I'm wondering where things are going. It needs a little intrigue, mystery, or incongruity to capture my attention.

    I was trying to reconcile story time with summer time. Why are the little kids at story time?

    I kind of want to read more to see if it picks up soon.

  14. I kept being jerked out of the pov by phrases that didn't fit for me. For instance, I wasn't sure that a twelve year old would say things like "mature 12 year old conversation." My kids would have just said how annoying the little kids were. Anyway, I guess, no, I wouldn't read on.

  15. Mildly hooked.

    I got the feeling that since there's so much talk about boredom....something exciting is bound to happen. I'd read a little further, because I like the voice of the MC.

    But, like everyone else said, the entire opening is about boredom. You should trim that back and get to what shakes things up.

  16. No for me. One of my bugaboos is kids referring to their youth--remember that 12 is the oldest she's ever been and therefore feels old to her. There's also a bit of the self-aware in the line "a hundred times before or at least twice" and Mary Louise's final lines, and I think in a kid narrator, that kind of narrative self-awareness either needs to be a defining trait or taken out, because it often reads as authorial interjection if done halfway. The line of dialog about the bee worked for me, though, and I wondered if you might pull back to the narrator and let her kick things off with that observation, instead of all the dialog on boringness.

  17. I think perhaps if you got quicker to the point--what they're going to do about being bored--I'd be more interested. As it is, it seems a bit mundane to hook me.