Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July Secret Agent #41

TITLE: Degrees of Broken
GENRE: Contemporary YA

In second grade, I told the kids at my lunch table that the relish in my tuna-fish sandwich was really ground up fish eyes from the whole tuna my mom butchered once a month and forced me to eat. Back then, I didn't realize the kids I told didn't quite count, because they couldn't make my life any better, but it was the only thing I could come up with to try to make some part of them feel sorry for the way I was growing up.

The only thing that lie really accomplished was a sick-to-my-stomach, wasted lunch, and a
stay-away-from-the-weirdo-new-girl status, on top of everything else. No one believed me, but I tried, anyway.

Even with a better story, no one would have been swayed to my side, because from the outside looking in, my mom tied our lives up in a believable bow with her Martha Stewart housewife smile and apparent capableness; even the counselors with the job of stamping "ITINERANT/AT RISK" on my permanent folder through the years had trouble believing the words.

And if I squinted my mind's eye up hard enough, tilted my head far to the left, and got a temporary case of amnesia (and it happened once or twice, I'll admit), I could get caught up in the charade, too--mistake my mom and dad's temporary marriage make-believe for the real thing, believe my mom really was so
happy and honeymoon in the new kitchen, it might be the last one I had to get used to.


  1. This doesn't really sound YA to me and you have given nothing but backstory so I don't actually know how old this character is supposed to be or where this is set. Try to start with some present day action before you provide this much backstory. It provides better grounding for the reader.

    Good luck!

  2. I agree that action at the beginning would be better but I like the first paragraph a lot (although I'd break the sentences up a bit: "

    "Back then, I didn't realize the kids I told didn't quite count. They couldn't make my life better, but it was the only way I could make some part of them feel sorry for the way I was growing up."

    I'm also slightly skeptical of multiple counselors overlooking "at risk" status regardless of how pretty things look on the outside.

    Best of luck!

  3. I really like the way this starts out. It sounds really authentic and the voice is different. I was drawn in right away. Then at some point we lose that unique voice - that "edge" - what makes the character different and interesting.

    The voice somehow becomes older - looking back at it all and all of the sudden the voice is too sophisticated and the tone is lost.

    I like what you are trying to do here but I would have liked you to have stuck with the voice in that first paragraph. That was a voice I wanted to hear more of.

  4. I think this character is not very sympathetic despite the hardships at attempt to gain sympathy from classmates. Starting out lying to his/her classmates about the fish eyes made me dislike her and that is not a great thing to make me want to read on and spend a great deal of time in her point of view. If instead, you had another student look at her sandwich and ask whether those green bits were ground up fish eyes, I might be a bit more sympathetic to her. Agree with others that the voice seems a bit old for YA - as if this is an adult looking back.

    Miss Aspirant

  5. I can't find much to complain about with your actual writing, but the story itself isn't pulling me in. There's a hint of mystery here with the mother's fake behavior but I don't think it's enough to engage me. Is there a way you can give us a little more insight into your MC other than the "new girl with the dysfunctional family" angle? Or maybe put us in the present with your MC making the "fish eyes" joke, even if it was originally supposed to be in the past. Your writing is solid, but I think your delivery needs a little more polish.

    Good luck!

  6. The big problem for me here is that I don't know who this character is or what the story is. There's a lot of "telling," though not telling me what I need to know to understand where this is going, and no "showing."

    I'm sure that the story and character emerge later, but I need to be sucked into at least one of them right from the beginning in order to want to keep reading.

  7. Nothing happened in this 250 words. Your MC talked. So we get no insight into what is happening now in her life, and now is when the story is happening. Which means you have no story here.

    Perhaps start somehwere else, in the here and now, on the day that is different, that changes your MC's life. We need to know what she wants and what stands in her way, preventing her from getting it. Let her act instead of talk.

  8. i liked your tone and the squinting of the minds eye. you have a poetic way w/words, just iron your plot out and get into it sooner.