Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #30


Malcolm Kennett's house exploded while his parents were on vacation.

His mom and dad sipped mai-tais oblivious to the hordes of teens clutching plastic cups full of beer and Everclear-laced punch, infesting their McMansion and spilling out onto the meticulously manicured lawn.

A handful of burnouts huddled around, philosophizing about the benefits of legalizing pot. A large group gathered in the kitchen and dared one another to the beer bong. Clusters crowded the living room--gossiping while grinding to the music blaring through the house. Others stowed away in an upstairs corner, seeking something they were too young and dumb to understand. Malcolm had laid down only one rule: his room and his parents' room were off limits.

Malcolm huddled over his father's desk in the den. He stared at the wildlife trophies and fiddled with the stapler and paper clips until his chest heaved with a sigh. He lifted his heavy lids and peered down the wide arched hall. A dopey grin formed as Malcolm spotted long honey-blonde curls, the gentle curve of hips. He knew every detail of Kat's face--green upswept eyes, the sprinkle of pale freckles across the bridge of her nose--despite her back turned. Blindfolded, Malcolm would know Kat in a crowd of thousands.

A twelve pack sloshing around in him, Malcolm managed to slip out the door and approach Kat with stealth. He grabbed her by the waist, satisfied when his buzzing fingers accidentally slipped to her hips.

"Come upstairs with me."


  1. Love the opening.

    Have to admit that I was a bit let down when it turns out his house didn't actually explode - but moving on...

    The description of the party is well-done. I'd read on.

  2. I loved the first line. It kind of goes downhill for me from there. If the house literally explodes at some point I think you should get to it and skip the clever descriptions of the partygoers.

    A surprise opening like that only works if it keeps pace with what comes after.

  3. Agree about first line.

    Voice isn't clear. Do I hear his parent's judgments ('infesting') or what MC is feeling?

    Why did he invite the partyers? Did it get out of control, or did he know it would be a letdown?

    "Seeking something they were too young and dumb to understand." This line wouldn't be in his head, would it?

    "A dopey grin formed" = passive.

    Description of Kat is all visual, so why would he know her with a blindfold on?

    "a twelve-pack" is a hell of a lot of beer.

  4. I think the chronology is a little jarring. If you're going to start with the explosion than start there. The backstory takes us out of the immediacy and urgency of that situation.

    It could be a simple transition issue. Think about starting with the bold statement and then back up with a "It wasn't supposed to happen" type of line.

    That first line tells us everything but if you wanted to combine the first and second "house exploded while his parents sipped Mai Tais on the beach" would perhaps pack more of a punch.

    Good luck!

  5. Loved the first line.

    Too bad the next parts don't flow from it. But I would keep reading just to see what happens next, and to see if the house really did explode as you promised.

    One other thing. Malcolm drank a twelve pack? I'm thinking he would be feeling more than a buzz right now. ;)

    Good luck!

  6. A great opening line, but then I realized it's just there to be a great opening line. All it did was make me wonder if the house will really explode or if it's a metaphorical explosion, and then I was disappointed by what followed - a drunk teenage boy wants to have sex.

    I'm looking for your angle, why this is different or more interesting from a thousand other teenage boys and there's nothing here. Perhaps as he sits behind his father's desk, you could let us in on some of his thoughts as a way to get to know him a bit? As is, there' nothing to make me turn the page. Yeah, the house might actually blow up, but then again, it might not. As good as that first line is, it made me not trust the narrator.

  7. Like everyone says. A great first line, instantly thrown away.

  8. Oh, darn, I wanted to see what happened when the house exploded!

    The rest of page is good, but I was disappointed.

  9. First line is great. Downhill from there though.

    I had a real problem getting into this because of the POV. I wasn't sure who's POV this was.

    The way things are described doesn't sound like Malcom at all, yet he seems to be the main character.

    Also, 12 beers is a lot. Plus, do they even make 12 packs? There are 6 packs and a case (which is 24 I think), but that's it.

  10. I also was drawn in by the first line and then got somewhat lost. I think it's because the voice isn't clear. The second para sentence is very long, and I had to read it a few times to get it. I do like the descriptions a lot, but need more of a sense of the voice to be hooked in.

  11. I thought literal exploding at first, but then I realized you probably just meant "with people." But, as you may have noticed, a lot of people will be disappointed by lack of literal explosions, especially given that kind of thing can happen in paranormals!

    I had a hard time liking Malcolm. The first thing he does is invite a bazillion people to trash his house. I just can't sympathize with that kind of character. (And couldn't even when I was a teenager.) But I realize that's probably a personal thing.

  12. Great first line, but it's deceptive. I was waiting for it to literally explode. Plus after that first line the pacing slows and the narrative feels distanced. The word choice almost feels like we're getting the voice of the parents...

    For this to work as a YA, it needs to have a close POV with a lot of the narrator's thoughts and feelings. Right now it feels slightly condescending towards teens. Words like "infesting" "too young and dumb to understand" "dopey grin" a fan of YA lit and teens, this bothers me.

    Also, If Malcolm is our main character, he's not very likable - a drunken guy who invited the whole school to his parents house while they were on vacation only to hide out in his dad's office and watch for some girl and smile a dopey grim when she arrives? This makes him seem kind of lame.

    Plus the contradictions - he's heavy lidded and drunk, but stealthy? He's going to invite a girl upstairs with him even though he doesn't seem cool, even at his own party?

    I wouldn't keep reading.

  13. Great opening, with the juxtaposition of the parents sipping cocktails.

    I avoided teens like Malcolm in high school, and I don't want to read about one now. It's completely a visceral personal reaction, but a drunk, sex-driven teen who thinks it's cool to trash his parents house with his friends is not going to have my interest.