Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #21


It's not like I'm looking for trouble.

I've just scored two seats in the back corner of the cafeteria--as far away from the food-fight starters and wedgie-givers as I can get--when I look up and see a kid with arm pit hair and a bad case of acne standing over me.

“You call that a sandwich?” he says. A thick finger reaches down and punctures the plastic bag in front of me, grinding into what was about to be my lunch. Ketchup oozes everywhere.

He leans against me, his chin digging into my collar bone. “What's wrong, pretty boy? You got something to say?”

What I want to say is that he should consider investing in a toothbrush, but don't. Instead, I stare at the nutrition facts on the back of my milk carton and pretend to be fascinated by how many grams of protein are in a half-pint of chocolate milk.

A raspy voice from across the table answers him for me.

“It's a veggie burger,you idiot.”

I look up and cringe. Franki Saylor may be my best friend, but if word gets around Gatehouse Middle that a girl had to stick up for me on the first day of school, I might as well write my own death warrant.

The kid stands up and shoves me sideways.

“You talking to me, girl?” he grunts, leaning across the table.

Franki pushes her nose up against his, so close their freckles mix together.


  1. I like this a lot. The MG voice is great and there's a lot of humor here.

    One thing I didn't care for was the bully's line, "What's wrong, pretty boy?" because it doesn't come across as much of an insult and isn't that believable. Surely the bully would have something better to say.

    Other than that, the story is great and I'd definitely keep reading. This is entertaining and fun passage.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  2. I agree--the voice here is great! I only have a couple of tiny comments:
    1) "as far away from the food-fight starters and wedgie-givers as I can get" -> how does he know this on the first day of school?
    2) How does Franki know he has a veggie burger? Does he ALWAYS have a veggie burger? This is really minor but I think it would show us that she is his best friend (rather than you just stating it) if you were to justify this with a comment that explains how she knows.

    Good luck!

  3. This is wonderful. Great job!

    Tiny edits: I'd take out "but don't" after the line where he tells us what he wants to say to the bully. I don't think you need those two words, because your next sentence starts with "instead."

    Some of the phrases sound a bit mature, but maybe he's just a really smart kid. For instance, "might as well sign my own death warrant." Is there another comparison you could use that's younger sounding?

    Just some thoughts! Hope this helps and best of luck to you. :)


  4. LOVE the voice on this! My only question is how he knows how things usually are set up in the cafeteria if this is his very first day in this school? Unless Franki is a year older and has been here before, and Our Hero has been in the school system and is just new to this particular school. I'm guessing, though, that he's been homeschooled until now, and this is his entrance into public school. That way he's new but still knows Franki.

    Really love this one! I'd read on. :)

  5. The writing and voice are good here, but I have to confess the subject doesn't hook me - cafeterias, cliques, stereotypical bullies... Yawn. But then you get to Franki and that drew me in, so I'd read on a little bit just to see what she does next.

  6. I really like the voice in this entry, the low-key demeanor of the MC. My question, why doesn't he stand up for himself? Is he still smaller than the other kids of his class? In the second paragraph, suggest you use another catchy phrase other than "as far away from the food-fight starters . . ."? How would he know that on the first day? Did an older student tell him? Good writing!

  7. I really liked this. The MC has a great voice, it's well written, the humor is funny rather than gross and dumb, and I liked Franki as well. Great title, too!

    I didn't have a problem with the first day of school. I assumed he's been going to this school, and this is just the first day of a new year.

    I'd read more.

  8. The title is what grabbed me the most, and it's why I would totally read on. The voice and writing are strong, and I like them a lot.

    I was a little creeped out at the image of the bully putting his chin on the protag's collarbone, like putting his head on his shoulder. But maybe you want the reader to be creeped out :-)

  9. I think this is a very strong voice, and it's very well written. I agree with Adam about the chin-collarbone thing. Although bully-novels may have saturated the market, I loved the voice and the style. I'd definitely read on.

  10. I love this! The voice is awesome. The character is likeable. The middle grade fear comes through strongly -- both of bigger kids (bullies) and to have a girl be stronger in character than he is. Nice set-up. Would I read on? You bet.

  11. You have a wonderfully funny middle grade voice and I love your characters. Would love to see your story start somewhere other than the school cafeteria and the first conflict to be something besides a bully. The world is a big place and your choices are endless! But you have to keep the line "Franki pushes her nose up against his, so close their freckles mix together"! Also, my middle grader at home would definitely use the term "death warrant."

  12. Love the title. And the images are pretty real and humorous to me. I have two middle grade boys that would definitely get into the visual gross out. I really like that a girl has to stick up for him--after all--most of the 6 and 7th grade girls are much taller than the boys the same age.

  13. This is great! Love the voice. It reads wonderfully - no stumbles at all.

    I agree with duwarr's "pretty boy" comment. Maybe something like "runt" would work, a good lead in to his fear and why a spunky girl might need to come to his rescue.

    I see potential for a lot of fun, though. I'd definitely read on! Thanks ~

  14. What I liked: The voice, the strong writing, the setup. I particularly liked the last line, “Franki pushes her nose up against his, so close their freckles mix together.”

    What needed work: Nothing specifically about the sample, though I tend to see a lot of super hero stories in middle grade, and they can be tough to do well.

    Would I keep reading based on these sample pages? Definitely.