Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #50

TITLE: Boomerang
GENRE: MG (early)

Joseph was seven the day his parents ruined his life.

They came into his room together. Mom kissed the top of his head, and Dad said, "Son, we have something important to tell you."

Joseph nodded without looking up. His ninja armies were fighting their biggest battle yet, and he couldn't just stop in the middle of it. Whoosh! A giant pointed star swung down from the ceiling of the castle and skewered a black-clad warrior. With a horrible screech, he fell backwards, soaking the wooden floor with his blood.

Dad's big hand closed around the plastic action figure. "Joe. Let's put the toys away for now, okay? Come and sit up here with us."

Joseph groaned but did as he was told. Mom moved over a little so he could fit between them on the edge of the bed. She took Joseph's hand in hers and squeezed it while Dad went on talking.
"I'm sure you remember when your little sister was born." Squeeze. "Well, it's going to happen again. Your mother is going to have another baby!" Squeeze. Squeeze.

Joseph squinted at his mother's stomach. He remembered how fat she'd gotten before Riley came along. She wasn't anywhere near that big now. Maybe there was still time to stop this But Dad wasn't finished. "Actually," he continued, "I didn't say that right. Mom is going to have two babies. Twins!"

Joseph blinked. "I don't think that's such a good idea," he said.


  1. I really like this whole set up. The way Joe keeps playing just gives me a very clear feel of him as a little boy and what he said at the end was spot on. The tone was set perfectly. Great job and good luck.

  2. Very nice and I'm hooked for sure. Can't wait to see how Joseph tries to "stop this."

  3. The opening line is great! I have to admit, I thought this was heading somewhere completely different, and much more serious. Now I'm expecting a funny take on sharing your parents with more siblings.

    I also like Joseph playing with his ninjas. I do think that the writing needs some smoothing, though; I think the elements are all there, but it feels a little abrupt transitioning from one to the next.

  4. Joseph blinked. "I don't think that's such a good idea," he said.

    Love this!

    The voice and imagery are really good, but you had me at the last line. Good work.

  5. I'm hooked.

    That last line made me laugh out loud. It felt just like what a kid would say. As the mom of a eight year-old boy I can see you've done a great job in this opening of capturing that age. Poor Joseph, I'd read on to see what's in store for him.

    I love MG books that combine humor and heart, which is the sense I get from this opening.

    Good luck!

  6. I really like I would have liked to have had a little more differentiation with the Ninja, but I do understand that is the point of it. I would definitely read on.

  7. I, too, thought this was going in a different direction. Loved that it's not.

    I'm having trouble deciding if this is written for MG or for those of us adults who like to read MG. Maybe it's the seriousness of the parents that's throwing me. They seem rather somber given the type of news they break.

    Really pulls me into the scene. Good pacing. I'd read on.

  8. I really like this - if in fact we're going for the way the twins wreck his life.

    My only concern was his parents way of talking to him - seemed a bit stilted to me.

  9. Thanks for sharing your work in such a public forum. That takes guts.

    My comments are just a quick impression, as if I were browsing in a bookstore.

    Good opening line. Gets to the story problem quickly. Liked the boy doing ninja things.

    Also liked the closing line, with the caveat that it sounded older than 7. You've yet to show me that's the way this particular boy would talk.

    I was a little confused at "he fell backwards." Thought it was Joe falling at first.

    Nevertheless, I liked the voice and would definitely read on.

  10. I think this is a strong opening. I like Joseph and the way he keeps playing with the ninjas when his parents came in. I am with some of the others, that I thought this was going a different way--divorce or something. I like being surprised that it wasn't. This isn't really a negative, but I'm having a hard time placing Joseph's age. Early MG had me thinking 9-10, but action figures makes me think younger. Maybe playing a video game would be better.

  11. This is so cute! I would definitely keep reading.

    I think you capture the voice really well, but as other people have already said, I'm a little confused about the age.

    If he's not super young, I wouldn't have him playing with an action figure.

    That said, I'm totally hooked!

  12. I really liked this and would read on to find out how the twins ruin his life. Loved the voice and the hook at the end.

    I would change the opening sentence though, and sneak his age in in one of the next paragraphs, it's less telling that way.

  13. I'm hooked. I really like this.

  14. I'm hooked. I would read this to my eight year old daughter. In fact, I DID read it to her, and she asked when we could read the rest of it. So along, and get this published, because we're almost done with Lemony Snickets.

  15. Very cute excerpt.

    I was a bit confused during the "battle sequence" as to if this was a video game or action figures, but I guess that's not really important (although it may help you establish his age.)

    Definitely hooked! Thanks for sharing!

  16. I thought you did a great job with Joseph , I love his voice and the last line is perfect. I agree about the parents though, how they tell him needs some work.

    great job!

  17. Your first sentence sounds like a narrator, not your MC (who, I'm assuming, is Joseph?). It comes across as very mature.

    When you mention "ninja armies," I wondered if he was playing a video game. Only when Dad touched the action figure did I realize Joseph was playing with toys.

    Joseph seems a little too compliant when he's asked to put away his toys and sit with the parents. Can't he whine a bit?

    "Maybe there was still time to stop this" is an intriguing line. Do boys really think like this?

    Decent writing, but if you identify your readers as early MG, this might be a bit too old for them.

    Is this the right spot to begin this story?

  18. I really like the premise. Love the last line, though you can delete "he said." However, I thought the voice was a bit too mature for Joseph's age.

    I would read more.

  19. I thought this was cute and I think it has potential.

  20. I hate to be the one to break away from the pack here, but I don't think I'm hooked. It's very cute, and the voice is good, but I'm not convinced that Mom having babies is enough to keep me reading an entire 25K to 40K book. Joseph seems really young (perhaps 8ish???) and I wonder if this wouldn't work better as a chapter book than middle grade.

  21. In the opening, Joseph does seem a little young - but it almost seems to be more from the parent's POV, even though we're in Joseph's head. More like an adult book with a child in it. I think you can do young in a Middle Grade, like the Ramona books, but I'm not feeling that here. I'm curious how it progresses, though.

  22. My daugher was 8 when I had twins and we've had many laughs and adventures since their arrival five years ago. Right away I get a sense of your MC and wonder if the twins were his first experience with siblings it would have more impact and be more of a life altering event so you can carry the premise throughout a book length work. Good voice and I would read more.

  23. I'm with ant. If you've read a lot of these submissions, you'll see that at least half a dozen start out the same way. It was the day his life was ruined, or his life changed. It's a very cliche opening, and it's not in Joseph's POV.

    You also tell us he's 7. MG is generally 9-12. This is too young for the MG crowd. However, it may work for a chapter book.

    I'd suggest starting with Joseph and telling this from his pov. Show him playing with his toys, then have Mom and Dad come in. Then let us know what he's thinking about all this. What;s he thinking when he feels that squeeze? The last two paragraphs worked really well. I believed he was a 7 year old.

    Adjusting to younger siblings could make a great story, but I don't think this works for MG

  24. I think this is cute and I love the last line, but I had POV issues with this like some others. The toy scene seems to be in his POV, but the rest reads almost omniscient. I think it's supposed to be in his, but except for the toy scene, I can't decide. Yet, the writing is good, so I’d read on.

  25. Cute, I would definitely keep reading. The last line is gold.


  26. I don't much care for MG as a general rule, but I really love the last line here. It makes me wonder what else Joseph has to say, and what he'll discover by the end of the story.

  27. I really liked this opening. Sweet and innocent. It made me smile. Thanks and best of luck to you!