Wednesday, February 11, 2009

38 Secret Agent

TITLE: How to Escape from Korea
GENRE: Historical Middle Grade

Kai added a plumeria lei to the damp pile around my neck before he squashed the flowers in a goodbye hug. I ached like crazy to kiss him, but my parents were staring.

He wore his favorite boardshorts and brown flip flops. “I’m skipping the Aloha Dance.”

How could he have considered the dance? I wiped my eyes, afraid they’d melt into the kind of crying that led to smeary make-up and runaway snot.

“The Wicked Wahinis play out of tune,” I said.

Mom tapped her watch. “It’s time.”

Kai and I made our final walk together. My new boots clunked along our driveway. I wondered how fast I could bolt in them, but didn’t want Kai’s memory of me to be ruined by bizarre behavior. In a few minutes, my dignity would be all I had left.

He kissed the side of my head that faced away from my parents. We parted with a long, silent gaze.

So this was heartbreak.

Burying my nose into my leis, I tried to memorize the scent of plumeria. I inhaled so deeply I had a headache by the time we reached Honolulu Airport. Each step to our departure gate felt automated, like we were on a conveyor belt to doom. As the plane door closed with a suffocating hiss, I knew that my months of making deals with God had been useless. No last minute miracles. We were headed to the land of kimchi and martial law.


  1. Great job. I'm hooked. But I admit, I didn't think it was historical. Seems pretty modern day. And it seemed more like a YA than MG. But your writing is terrific. I loved the 'making deals with God had been useless.' You can really feel the pain. Excellent.

  2. I don't believe this is MG. This is YA.

    Not very historical either, but I'd read on.

  3. Thanks for the comments so far.

    FYI - This takes place in 1974, when Korea was under martial law, and the year their first lady was assassinated.

    It's targeted to age 12 and up, so I was thinking old MG or young YA -- I probably should've gone with the latter.

  4. I agree, I don't think of MG on reading this. But it could be young teen, 12 to 15 or so. I thought it was well written, the wording spare and well chosen.
    My only mental question as I read was, when was this taking place? It sounds like now. Is there a way to work in the sense of when it was a bit earlier?

  5. I'm not knowledgeable about YA vs. MG placement - but I do agree that this is a very mature, reflective voice. I was very hooked by the attention to detail.

    I'd suggest placing a date at the beginning since it's a historical that's dated only 30 years back. And the social climate of Korea has gone through many changes in the last 50 years.

  6. The only difficulty I had was knowing where I was at first. I took me a few minutes to realize "lei" wasn't a Korean reference, but Hawaiian. Otherwise, beautiful writing and well done! I'd be interested in reading it and I don't normally do modern history.

  7. Lovely writing. It definitely sounds more YA than MG.

  8. I loved this! It's definitely YA. I'm hooked.

  9. Which Korea? North or South ?

    Sounds like North.

    There is a slight disjointed feel in the first paragraph, I'm not sure if that's just because I wanted to be more in the character's place, feeling what she did. You know - being hugged, maybe leaning into the hug a little bit. Or stiffening up, conscious of her parents eyeballs boring holes into her back. And I wanted more of a mental picture of the setting.

    The other thing is I didn't realize she was leaving. I thought that he was, until I got down to the last paragraph.

    This is something I'd definitely read, and I do like your voice<:

  10. Great voice - and your MC is wonderful (that runaway snot made me laugh). I agree with the other commentors - find a way to get the year into the first page. I, too, thought it was today (had to go back and read the genre).

    Fabulous last paragraph. Well done.

  11. I REALLY liked this. The way you wove in the background details and setting were really well done. Ditto that this feels like YA rather than MG. But regardless, I'd absolutely read on.

  12. Love it. I'm hooked. I agree though It feels like Y/A

    I must say though I felt conected to the girl, but the boy seemed a little distant.

  13. I am hooked! I agree with others that the voice is great, but it is mature and more YA than MG.

    I love the details and description.

    "So this was heartbreak" - very poignant.

    Great job :)

  14. I didn't get the historical part. But then I read historical romances that are set in the 1800's and earlier, so anything with an airplane is modern to me.

    Yep, sounds YA to me, too.

    I'm hooked...especially if it's YA.

    Great job!

  15. "We were headed to the land of kimchi and martial law" is what hooked me. Kai's comment about the dance and her response -- do you need that? I wonder, actually, whether it would work better jumping straight from the first paragraph to "So this was heartbreak." (Another strong sentence.)

    The voice, in any case, is compelling. Good luck with your novel!

  16. I really liked this. Great voice. Just the right amount of detail. And if it's targeted at 12+, it's YA.

  17. Love this! Hooked.
    I'd say YA. And I don't know the rules on historical, but IMO, if it's before the 50's maybe that's historical.
    I'd just call it YA set in 1974. :)

  18. hum... I have mixed feelings about this one. The heading mentions that it is historical middle grade but there's no hint of that in the setting that's described here. Feels pretty contemporary.

    Also, the emotion seems too much for the event that is actually going on. If she really loved Kai, their goodbye would have been done in private, I'm thinking, not something done in front of parents.

    Maybe the time setting would prohibit that but I haven't a sense of when this is so I don't know.

    As is, I probably would not read on.

  19. I liked it, although I do wonder that they can't get away from her parents for a minute or two. I loved the line "so this was heartbreak."