Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July Secret Agent #43

TITLE: In Limbo
GENRE: Historical YA

I'm pretty sure this is what hell feels like. Sweat trickles off of the back of my neck as I pretend to pay
attention to my best friend, Sketch while he bumps his gums about some new art contest he wants to enter. It's fall but inside John Marshall High School, every season feels like summer. Especially in the

I catch the tail end of Sketch's sentence. "...wouldn't it be swell? I hear summers in California are nothing like the one's here--all sweltering and whatnot."

I nod and wipe the sweat from the back of my neck. I wish me and Sketch were talking about normal things, that would make me less agitated. We could be talking about how it's bunk that the baseball
season's been cut short thanks to "The Great War". Dad would say that's what boys our age talk about--not charcoal pens and canvases. Everything's uncomfortable. This conversation, the heat, the fact that
my knees always bump the top of the table. I think I grew out of this schoolhouse just as quick as Mom's victory garden died.

"You listening?" Sketch asks, not taking his beady eyes from this strange bear he's drawing.

"Sure." I scan the cafeteria. Jim Stervitz is supposed to bring me ten bucks today for the Panasonic two-way socket I lifted from the pawn shop.

"I mean, this is it, Syl. We're gonna graduate in one year, ya know? This is what we oughtta to be thinking about.


  1. It took me a minute to sort out the time-frame of this but that might be me....I think I'd want to know it before I heard a teen using "swell" because that made me stop reading to look at the genre again.

    I immediately took to your MC though and I already want to know more about the dynamic between him and his father who obviously disapproves of his art. :-)

    Good luck!

  2. I like the concept here, but I think the present tense here confused me. I'm curious what others think of this, but I feel like past tense might serve a historical story better. That being said, I love historical fiction and I would love to see more YA in this vein. I would like more indication of what time we are dealing with here, maybe even a direct year reference. "The Great War" was often what WWI was called, but other elements like "swell" made me wonder if you are shooting for a 1940s time period and the second world war. Good luck with this.

  3. Is his best friend named Sketch? Maybe there is a comma missing in that first sentence because at first I thought he was "sketching" something.

    Also in your second paragraph I think that the word "one's" doesn't need an apostrophe.

    But those are just nitpicky things. I was a bit put-off by the tense. But the material is interesting. A date at the beginning would have helped me place it better in my head. I was completely convinced this was modern from the first few lines and then was confused.

    I think the dynamics between the MC and sketch and his Dad are interesting and I would want to read more to see how they play out - but be aware of the "voices" people speak in so that they don't sound too modern.

  4. I felt a bit confused about the timeline in this -- it says historical fiction so I tried to locate the time. I read "victory garden" and thought about the Second WW, then I read about "the great war" and thought the first, but then I read ten bucks and thought it was a lot of money for earlier in the 20th century. Also, the use of "swell" seems from earlier in the 20th C. Despite this, there is interest in learning more so I would likely read on.

    Miss Aspirant

  5. I love the back and forth between Sketch and Syl, as well as the internal monologue of your MC. It really gives us a good overview of Syl's personality in very few words.

    I'll echo the above comments about timing as it's nice to be put in context sooner rather than later. Maybe something like:

    With the Great War going on, you'd think Sketch would talk about something other than art contests.

    If you can find a way to get us in the right time frame earlier, I think the rest of the dialogue (and the story itself) will flow more smoothly. Otherwise, there are some great dynamics set up here and I would certainly read on! Good luck!

  6. I love the idea of historical YA, but you still need to make the dialogue relatable to teenagers today, so even if it's authentic to the time period, I would recommend not using phrases like "wouldn't it be swell."

    And generally, watch out for grammar, etc. Summers in California are nothing like the ONES here, no apostrophe. $10 would be an awful lot of money during WWI. These little things will turn off an agent or an editor right away.

  7. I'm guessing this is the early '40's, WW II era. 'Swell" put me right there, as well as the victory garden. Nice touches to place us in time. The great war was WW I so you may want to change that. And even during WWII, ten bucks was a lot of money for a kid. A yearly salary might have been $5000 or less for a working class family.

    I did wonder if it was the conversation making him agitated, or something else because he's not really listening to Sketch and it seems something else is on his mind. And my interest grew a bit more after learning he was a thief.

    You might check out
    It's poems about kids here in america during ww II but it will give you lots of insight into things like rationing, air raid drills, etc things that became part of everyday life for kids, which could add some authenticity to the time period.