Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #42

TITLE: Lost in a Heartbeat
GENRE: YA thriller

The late afternoon sun hugs me, a subtle reminder I'm still alive . . . for now.

At the traffic lights, I bike across the main road and enter the busy beach parking lot of the northern Minnesota lake. One of the bike racks near the beach has an open slot. I slide my bike in.

My muscles tighten, like they used to do before a swim meet, before I had a chance to do the relaxation exercises our swim coach taught us. I scan the faces for a familiar one. One I hope to never see again.

Several guys I recognize from school walk past, their words too faint to hear, other than, "Dude, you gotta be kidding me?" Kids run across the sand, giggling and screaming. A few families pack up to go home.

A shaky breath escapes my lips. He's not here, watching me, making sure I'm being a good girl.

I remove my sneakers and socks, and run across the warm sand to where Alejandra, my best friend, is unrolling her towel.

"Hey, you made it." She grabs the hem of her lime-green Camp Chippewa t-shirt, the dorky one the junior day-camp counselors wear, and yanks it over her head, revealing her bikini top and light olive skin.

I unzip my backpack and pull out my towel. "Sorry. Had to gone home first to change."

She eyes my jeans and hoodie. "I don't suppose there's a bikini under that?"


  1. I like the little hints that the protagonist is edgy and watching out for someone. I noticed you're pitching this as a YA thriller, though, and thrillers usually start with a real crash of action of some kind. This is a little bit sedate for something pitched as a thriller. Perhaps pitching this as general YA would take the pressure off?

  2. You've done a good job of showing the protagonist's tension. The scene is now set for the stalker (or whomever) to appear and ruin an otherwise good day at the beach.

    (BTW, I tripped up on bike being used in three consecutive sentences. Probably not a big deal, but a quick rephrase may be in order.)

  3. I thought this was a strong opener - though full disclosure I don't read a whole lot of YA thrillers. I'm curious to see what has her so jumpy and hiding her appearance. Thought the descriptions were good. We also get a lot of details about the MC which help with the character early on.

  4. I really liked the first line then I started to feel like it didn't really jive with the rest. It's one thing to think someone from your past is stalking you, it's another to think he's going to kill you.

    If I thought someone was following me and probably going to try and kill me, I'd ride to the police station not for a day out at the beach. Her actions don't mesh with the level of tension.

  5. I liked the tone. It creates the kind of mood you'd expect in a thriller, like something foreboding is about to happen.

    There were a few small things that stood out. 'Of the northern Minnesota lake.' - That's for the reader. Nobody would say that. Name the lake and get in that's it's Minnesota some other way.

    The fourth parg reads like the little kids are giggling and screaming at her, and that people are leaving because of her sudden appearance, but I think you're trying to show kids just running around and having fun, and people leaving because they want to? Perhaps make that clearer.

    And if she doesn't want to be noticed, why show up in jeans and a hoodie? That's certain to draw attention to her. Whoever's stalking her would notice her right away.

    And I personally would have liked a hint as to who was stalking her and why. Telling us gives us a reason to empathize with her, and I'm reading on because I have an interest in your story, rather than reading on to find out what your story is about.

  6. The opening line is good and caught my attention, as did the line about him not being there to make sure she's being a good girl.

    I'm not clear yet as to whom "he" is. I'm getting a vibe of either stalker, jealous controlling boyfriend, or something worse like a person she knows who's molesting her or has some power over her. So I’d read on because of that.

    These are the things that tripped me up:

    Repetition of bike. You may want a variation on bike, such as: I pedal across, to avoid using bike three times. Not a big concern of mine.

    northern Minnesota lake--People from the area wouldn't refer to it like that but by the name or the nickname. It's strong to name it.

    Had to gone home first to change--I think that is "go."
    Also I'm not sure if she's dressed in a hoodie because she doesn't want the stalker to see her body, or because she has an eating disorder and extra body conscious anyway.

    This doesn’t seem very heavy on the thriller side yet for me, though any of the creepy guy scenarios that came to mind is a scary situation. Maybe pump up the anxiety a bit in this section.

  7. Not hooked.

    Some really good descriptions.
    Nice job with her tension and voice.

    But craft has some hickups. The echo of bike three times.
    The transition from swim practice to scanning the faces, a big jump there.

    Name the lake.

    And I'd like to get into the "thriller" of pretty quick. I'd read a page or two more, but need the story to come on.

  8. I like the little hints, like someone is stalking the main character, which indicate that this is a thriller.

    The first line is fantastic but doesn’t entirely mesh with the rest of the introduction. I’d like more indications of danger because otherwise this reads like a general YA in high school story.

    Some language needs to be tightened up and clarified. “The northern Minnesota lake” should be named, because I don’t know which lake in Minnesota is the northern one. I also thought "Dude, you gotta be kidding me?" referred to the protagonist at first.

    I’d probably keep reading a little further, but I’d want some action and danger quickly.

  9. I liked this overall - some of the details, like the dorky junior day-camp counselor T-shirt really grabbed me, but I like details like that. It was interesting to think that she was being stalked. I got the feeling it was a molester or something like that, because of the "good girl" line.
    I'd read on.

  10. Also not feeling the connection with the first line and the rest. It's a good one, but... Considering she feels she could die any minute now, she's being pretty calm about it. No way would I go to the beach if I thought someone was going to *kill* me. Being watched by a controlling ex or whoever is making sure she's being a "good girl" -- that fits a little more with her actions.

    I feel like you're falling into the play-by-play trap of present tense, where it's *in* present tense and authors feel the need to chronicle every moment of the character's life. She bikes here. She sees a bike rack. She puts the bike in the bike rack.

    That said, I do find this intriguing. I'd probably give it a couple more pages. I want to know what's going on.

  11. I do agree with the statements that this reads a bit sedate. There needs some more hint of danger. The tension is really good, but give us some hint of what's wrong.

    More than that, though, I don't think the present tense is quite working for you here. I don't have anything against present tense, but you seem to have several similarly-constructed sentences, and so it starts to feel repetitive to me, which makes the present tense stick out, rather than help you. Vary your sentence structure some more, and it'll help.