Thursday, July 17, 2008

#71 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: The Road to Camp Brockman
GENRE: Middle Grade Fiction

Ryan counted the mile markers as the car whizzed by them on the highway. Up front his mom said something, but Ryan adjusted his headphones and pretended not to hear. Just after they passed marker 129, his mom slowed down and pulled off the highway onto the next exit ramp.

Ryan’s mother looked back at him through the rear view mirror. “Ryan, take off your headphones,” she said loudly. “We’re almost there. I want to talk to you.”

Ryan ignored her, pretending to be interested in something out the window. He didn’t want to talk to his mother. As far as he was concerned there was nothing to talk about.

Back in April, Ryan’s mom announced that she’d signed him up for camp again this summer. Ryan told her he didn’t want to go. He had argued with her, then begged and even pleaded, but she had barely listened. What was the point in talking about it now?

A sign with a picture of a round yellow sun shining over a blue lake announced that they were entering the town of Tilman, and Ryan knew they were almost to the camp bus depot. Tilman wasn’t much of a town. There were only about ten buildings on the main street, and three of them were churches. Next to the library was an ice cream store. Ryan noticed skinny girl with brown hair about his age sitting on a bench in front of the store eating ice cream.


  1. There are several things I like about this: you introduce the conflict fairly quickly and you capture the habits / behaviours of a young person quite well (headphones, ignoring his mother). I also liked the counting of markers: I used to do things like this!

    Not sure why his mother is not as persistent as some (many would pull the car over and make him take the headphones off) and we've no clue why he doesn't want to be at camp. Just a taste of why, even if you don't fully explain it now, would draw me in a little more. But I think I'd read on. :D

    (You're missing an 'a' in the sentence: Ryan noticed skinny girl with brown hair...)

  2. I like the headphones bit too but wondered if the fact that he was angry at his mother needed to take up the whole beginning. I'm assuming the camp itself is where the action starts so I'd probably just show the reader he's angry about having to go to camp again and get on with the story. However, a middle grade probably wouldn't mind because he/she will want to know what happens at the camp.

  3. I like your opening. I'm curious as to why he is so desperate not to go to camp, and you brought me into conflict immediately. And there is only so much you can do in the first 250 words!

  4. The story appeals to me. It was easy to read (and by that I mean effortless; the writing didn't take away from the story) and you managed to set the stage very well in a short amount of time. I would be compelled to read more. Then again, I love camp stories.

  5. This is very well written and your MC's voice is right on. However, I don't feel there's anything unique about it. I've seen plenty of YA novels where the protagonist doesn't want to go away to camp/school/etc. and gets all miffed about it. If you could hint at a deeper reason for not wanting to go, rather than just a pre-teen snit, then I'd be more hooked. Right now, it's just a tentative yes.

  6. I might read more, depending on the actual plot. You characterize Ryan well -- he seems like an irritated teenager. I'm curious what he hates so much about the idea of camp. Is he a loner? Does he dislike one particular camp or all camps? I also wonder if his mom is wanting to get rid of him for the summer. I'd read more with caution, since it's not a genre I prefer -- well, at least not with something paranormal happening.

  7. Sorry: not hooked.

    Some things I'd watch out for:

    -Saying Ryan's name too much
    -The girl. She seems to pop out of nowhere in the description. Feels a bit random to me.

    Just some of my thoughts and opinions.

  8. I like this, but I would not read it. You write well and there is nothing really wrong with it. Except the fact that it is completely ordinary. Even books that are about normal people in modern times need to be beyond ordinary.

  9. No, I'm sorry.

    This needs to be edited. I spotted missing words in a couple spots, you repeat Ryan's name too much, and I think there is a lot of telling instead of showing.

  10. No, the boy isn't likeable. If he's the MC he needs to be at least a little bit sympathetic. It might work for younger readers but I'm pu toff by his attitude.

  11. No, but I did enjoy reading it. I feel there is something important about to be revealed/happen. I think I'd prefer to start at that point, (maybe have this as a flashback?)

  12. You have an easy-to-read writing style, but I'm afraid this doesn't get going quickly enough for me. The first few paragraphs could be condensed to get right to the point with Mom. And I think by the end of the first page we need some indication of why we should care if he goes to camp or not. But again, the writing style I like.

  13. No, sorry, I'm not hooked.

    While I did like Ryan's quirks, the opening didn't grab me for several reasons.

    1.) Although there is conflict between Ryan and his mother, starting in the car and having him do nothing but look out the window and ignore his mom is static and not engaging, IMO. I get tired of openings that begin in a car unless something interesting or unusual (or explosions) happen right away.

    2.) I suspect that Mom will lecture him on his attitude and faults or whatever, and since we already have backstory here, I'm leery we'll get the full scope of it as they "talk" before he's dropped off at camp. I could be wrong (hope so), but that is the impression I got from the opening--that we'd be treated to a summary of all Ryan's problems via the Mom Lecture... I'd rather see this through his actions and dialogue and thoughts.

    Also, nothing about the style or voice quite engaged my interest, but that's a personal preference thing.

    Good luck,


  14. Not hooked.

    The premise is simply a kid going to a camp when he doesn't want to. There's not much intersting about that. Maybe something happens when they get there or in the next scene but it seems like a tired formula, to me. You introduce conflict with the mother and son but seeing as how he's going to be at a camp and his mother's not...the conflict will be gone soon. I'd have to really enjoy the characters to read on, and so far neither of them engage me.

  15. If this was my sort of read, I'd probably be hooked. You do a nice job of setting up conflict and scene. I think you might be able to tighten up some of his internal dialogue. For instance, "pretending to be interested in something out the window. [He didn't want to talk to his mother.]" That sentence can be removed. Trust me, it's understood! LOL. I think you did a very nice job with this and I think you'll do well if you continue in like shape. Good luck!

  16. Not hooked. I like the detail of Ryan in the backseat but I wondered how old he is. I think you could combine para 3 & 4: "Ryan ignored her, pretending to be interested in something out the window. As far as he was concerned there was nothing to talk about. Ryan told her he didn’t want to go back to camp, and she'd signed him up anyway. She had barely listened to him then, so what was the point in talking about it now?

  17. I think this needs more active voice, emotion, and action to properly catch young reader's interests. The sentence structure felt like it plodded to me. There's some great elements, but it needs polish.

  18. I'd give it a few more pages depending on the blurb, but I feel like this is just filler - a way to get him to camp, where the real action will start.

  19. Maybe.

    The word choice is a little rocky. The word "pretended" then "pretending" right after jumped out at me.

    This is a little picky, but why is he sitting in the back seat? Even though he's upset with his mom, it doesn't seem likely that he'd sit in the back.

    I liked the idea and I'm curious how camp will be, but, it's difficult to tell yet if things are going to pick up.