Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July Secret Agent #5

TITLE: Brothas Torn
GENRE: YA African-American Mystery

"On the count of second-degree murder, we the jury find the defendant... guilty as charged."


There it was. The verdict that would determine my dad's future. He was going to prison.

My stomach felt like a dead weight had been dropped into it. I closed my eyes, wishing this was all a mistake. Wishing that at any moment the jury foreperson would yell, "Psych! We really found the defendant not guilty."

But, of course, she never did.

Dad turned around to look at me sitting behind his seat. His dark brown face looked concerned. Funny, there he was wearing an orange jumpsuit, with a cop nearby ready to handcuff him, and he was concerned about me. It was his life that was practically over now. Although it felt like mine would be too.

Dad turned back around to face the front. The judge, an old black man, was looking at him. "James Ahmir Taylor, the court has found you guilty of the crime. Your sentencing will be two weeks from today. Bailiff, take him away." He rapped his gavel once to adjourn the trial.

I jumped to my feet, swallowing. I had told myself I wasn't going to cry no matter what happened, but I could feel my eyes stinging. How embarrassing. Sixteen-year-old boys weren't supposed to cry.

Dad stood too and spun around to face me again. I leaned forward and threw my arms around his neck.


  1. I really liked how concerned the dad was for his son. Made me care about the man who was going to prison, which I think was the point, and I already felt for the son. To be honest, the "Psyche!" part kind of took me out of it for a second, but I see what you were going for. Good job,
    Ninja Girl

  2. A touching scene that immediately gets us on the side of the father and son, regardless of the crime (for the moment). Three things that stood out for me:
    1) I think you can do away with that opening quote and just jump to...
    There it was. The verdict that would determine my dad's future. He was going to prison.

    2) I agree with Ninja Girl's comment about the "Psyche!" exclamation. Maybe something a little more subtle to go with the gravity of the situation and the "dead weight" in his stomach?

    3) A nitpick, but I don't think you need to show his father turning back around to face the judge. It interrupts the flow and isn't a necessary visual. It might be MORE dramatic if the father remains facing the son as the judge tells the bailiff to take him away.

    A very unique entry with great voice! Good luck!

  3. Nice emotion here. You made me care about your MC.

    A few suggestions --

    Perhaps cut parg 3 to just - My dad was going to prison. Because the first two sentences of the parg. are just a repeat of what we learned in the firts parg.

    The psyche sentence seems out of place. It's too light compared to the rest of the piece. Maybe say the same thing in a different way cloer to the mood you've created?

    I wonder about dark, brown face. We always seem to do that with African Americans - describe their color - when we never describe the color, or lack of, of a white person's skin. This is his father. Wouldn't he see more in his father's face than his skin color? Would he even see color?

    If it's there simply so you can get across that he's a black man, there are better ways to do it. And if you're labelling it as YA African-American mystery, (and I wonder about that label also. Do they separate books in categories for white and black?) we'll know he's black, so you don't even have to go there.
    The same with -- the judge, an old black man. Describe the person, not their color. See Amos Fortune, A Single Shard, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, for examples of how the pro's do it.

    When the judge says - guilty of the crime, perhaps either end at guilty, or say guilty of 2nd degree murder.

    And in the end when he leans forward and throws his arms around his father, he wouldn't be sitting that close that he could lean forward. He'd have to walk to him.

  4. Hi!

    I'm drawn in right away. Did the dad do it?

    I'm also a sucker for father/son stories, and this seems like this is going to have a great one.

    But I would be careful of being repetitive and adding unnecessary information. We hear the verdict too many times, as some people have commented. I would take out the sentence, "how embarrassing" as that's indicated by the next sentence.

  5. I though this was a very interesting concept - and I have not seen a novel written from this perspective. If you keep the voice consistent and keep your writing controlled and not too wordy I think this has real potential - the idea of delving into the mind of a kid who has to go through that kind of experience is really interesting to me. I would read more...