Thursday, July 17, 2008

#88 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: School Of Charm
GENRE: middle grade



“Tell me again why we have to move to Grandma’s?” I chewed on my thumb waiting for Mama’s answer, but I knew what she was going to say. I was still hoping she’d change her mind though, and sometimes nagging helped. Mama said if nagging was an Olympic sport, I’d win a gold medal. But I only did it for important things. And this was the most important thing ever. This changed everything.
Mama’s eyes flashed in the rear view mirror. She yanked the steering wheel and pulled over the car. Me, Charlene and Ruthie slid across the seat, crashing into each other. Our U-haul trailer rocked to a stop and dust blew up around us.

Rats. Sometimes nagging ended like this, with Mama madder than a bee in a pop can.

Mama stuck her head between the front seats. She smiled hard with her mouth but not her eyes, just like in her Miss North Carolina first runner-up picture. “Brenda Anderson, do not ask me that again. I told you we have to live with Grandma now because we don’t have enough money to stay in our house.” She kept smiling and blinking fast. “I don’t like it either.”

We sat quiet in the back seat. Since Mama was already mad and couldn’t reach my earlobe to give it a good twist, I decided to get brave. “But we’ve never even met Grandma. She doesn’t send us birthday cards or presents. She didn’t even come to Daddy’s funeral.”

31 comments:

J.Tuttle said...

I thought the kid had a good voice. The relationship between the mother and the kid felt real to me also. I liked the premise of the story, and I wanted to read on.

Em said...

Loved your title. That drew me in to read. And the voice is charming. The bit of mystery over why they've never met the grandma is intriguing and the stakes seem quite high for this kid. Very nicely done.

Sigyn said...

Great job with the voice!! You also give us just enough information to make us want to find out what's going to happen, and what's already happened in the past.

Anonymous said...

yes. good job, i really like this.

Emily H

Karen Duvall said...

Love it! Yes, I'd read on.

Craft Write said...

Good voice. A lot of information given in the first page. Good read.

Ebkita said...

I want to read more! What's up with Grandma? Why so "out of the lop?". I think this is a very timly piece with many people losing ther homes and lifestyles changing under les than wonderful circumstances. Keep it up!

Katie said...

Yes<:

I think the only thing I could nitpick about was "Mama" instead of "Mom" <- but that's just personal preference<:

And I love the possible difficult "background" setup with the grandma. At this point, I'm curious if she just didn't like the guy "Mama" married, or what.

supermuppet said...

Yes, I already love Brenda! I would certainly read on to find out about the mysterious grandmother, if nothing else.

Captain Hook said...

Yes! You have an excellent start here.

Victorine said...

Yes, I would read on. Great job. Your biggest hook for me is 'what is up with grandma?' But the voice did draw me in, and that was very important to keep me reading to the grandma part.

Lori said...

Yes. Teh MC's voice was real and the interaction with the mother was well written. And I like how yuo brought in only the important elements of the backstory, rather than giving us every single fact we need to know. So yeah, I would definitely read on.

writermutt said...

Yes, you have us hooked here! I like the Southern feel of it. I also like the imagery such as "madder than a bee in a pop can." I want to read more to find out why they've never met Grandma.

Yunaleska said...

Yes! I want to learn why they have to move. And if Grandma is as scary as she sounds.

LMT said...

Yes. I would red more. Good job.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this is really good. Two tiny things: why aren't these kids wearing seatbelts ;) (kidding) and I feel the name 'Brenda' is a bit dated IF the story is set in current times. Even in the South (I am a Southerner and don't know any Brendas under the age of 50). Charlene and Ruthie were a bit wrong-notey as well, but not as much as Brenda.

Alicia said...

Yes, at least for a while. I love the voice, and the relationship between Brenda and her mom feels realistic. The characterizations are great. I'd continue with caution, because I don't tend to read much in the genre. It depends on the plot. Good opening!

J. Lea Lopez said...

yes, I'm hooked. You have a good voice, and interesting characters. I adore Brenda's smart mouth and attitude! Plus, I have to find out why they're going to live with a relative they've never met (as opposed to some other relative).

Anonymous said...

Yes.

Excellent voice and imagery, especially the phrase "madder than a bee in a pop can."

MLF

Just_Me said...

I'm not into mid-grade novels but I like this. I like the tone and I like the sense of humor. I'd keep reading.

Merc said...

Yeah, I like it so far, the voice is good.

I'm not too overly fond of stories beginning with car trips and there is some back story here, but I do like the voice, so I'd read on for a bit more.

Good luck,

~Merc

fairchild said...

Hooked.

Good strong voice. I liked the dynamic between the mother and daughter. I'd read further to find out what living with Grandma is like.

Anonymous said...

Isn't "pop" is a midwestern thing? We definitely do not say it in the south. Other than that, fabulous job.

secret agent said...

Hooked. Love the thoughtful MC and the details she observes and the setup with Grandma. Great work here; I'd ask to see more.

Beth said...

Sorry, no. If she's angry, why is she trying to hide it by smiling? I'd cut the bit about how "naggy" she was.

Best o' luck

Beth

cynicide said...

Love this! The voice is dynamite, there are just enough sharp details, and the dialogue sings. Very, very nice work!

Inkblot said...

Wow, majorly going against the grain here - not for me, sorry. There just doesn't seem to be anything unique or different about this to make me sit down and read.

Glad you got lots of positive comments, though :)

I must say your last line did make me sit up and go 'Hm', so maybe I'd give it a couple more pages, blurb depending.

candycana said...

yes, but.

The first paragraph seemed to ramble a bit. Consider some tightening there.

I'm wondering why Mama pulled over so recklessly.

The names seem dated. Is this a contemporary mg? I have a feeling it's not, and that's perhaps why you used pop? In the south it seems everything is called coke. Or soda. But "pop" seems to have not only geographic significance, but also time period. Maybe the 70's? (Which would also explain how the girls slid across the seats, no seatbelt laws back then.) If so, that needs to be established sooner.

I like the voice, but I' not sure if I want to read about a whiny nagging kid.

The last line was the real hook for me.

Jengt said...

I find it really hard to get into middle grades, but I'd definitely keep reading here. I like the promise of conflict---father passed away, no relationship with grandmother---but I particularly loved that Mom was a beauty pageant queen. I liked the strained smile!

I do agree with another comment---Brenda seems like a really dated name.

Blodwyn said...

Yes - I was hooked. I liked the character's voice and the way the mom reacted - angry and sad but trying to cover it with a strained smile. I do agree that perhaps the names should be updated in order for kids that age to identify with it more. Nothing trendy, but perhaps something more enduring like Emily, something like that.

I also know that I would have been drawn in by this as a middle grader - I can picture myself going to the library and taking this out. Good work.

Zona said...

Sorry, didn't hook me till the last line. Lots of good comments above!