Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Secret Agent #2

TITLE: The Color of Happiness
GENRE: YA Contemporary

I’m sitting outside Felicia’s hospital room on a Tuesday.

The nurse tells me room 209 has a view of the park across the street. I wouldn’t know. Her old man won’t let me in to see her. I saw the look he gave me when the nurse told him I was waiting outside. Like he wants to duke it out with me in the parking lot. He blames me for the whole mess. Now he’s in there with her, telling her every lie he can make up.

He doesn’t love you, niña.

This is Jehovah’s way of bringing you back to the church.

He’s not one of us.

I read once that patients in comas can hear everything going on around them. They remember conversations they were never a part of. I hope she isn’t buying any of his crap before I’m able to tell her I love her. I never did that. Yeah, I know, cry me a river.

It’s funny though. Before Felicia, I could say anything to a chola because I didn’t mean it. I told girls anything to get them in bed with me. It was all I cared about.

Te adoro.

Te necesito.

Quiero estar contigo para siempre.

They go crazy for that type of s***. But the girl I wanna say those words to has three fractured ribs, two cerebral contusions, and one severe desire not to wake up.

I drag my eyes away from a smear on the glass door to her room and glance at my cell.


  1. Ok, I'm hooked. I love how you slowly reveal the tantalizing details, while stringing us along just slightly. Unfortunately, I don't know a lick of Spanish. One word or phrase is fine, but I got a little lost, personally. Also, not sure a teenager would use the term "old man", but I don't know your protag well enough yet.


  2. I'm definitely hooked.

    The voice seems really strong. I agree with AG, though -- both "old man" and "duke it out" read older than the rest and pull me out of the story a bit. Maybe "dad" and "beat the shit out of me" would be stronger?

    Otherwise, though, I love the way you reveal details without seeming to. Seems to me that that's the mark of a good storyteller. ;)

  3. Great voice, very engaging, although something about the "Yeah, I know, cry me a river" jarred a little bit. Perhaps it was a little bit too flippant. Personally, I think it would have more impact if you left it at, "I never did that."

    One other very minor thing, I got confused for a moment with "Her old man won't let me in", because I thought you meant the nurse. I figured it out by the end of the sentence though! :D

    I love the "one severe desire not to wake up" line, and would definitely read more.

  4. Wow, I'd totally read on. Great voice, and I already feel bad for the MC. Nice job!

  5. I'm hooked. I love the voice, can feel both the internal and external conflict of the story. I instantly connected with the protagonist. I'd definitely read on.

  6. I LOVE this!

    I'm a fan of blending Spanish in narrative for a more authentic voice; Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkels does this well. You can assume the reader will pick up scattered words through context. I think all the Spanish works with the exception of the last line, like AG said, not everyone knows spanish, and while the first few examples' meaning is inferred in the context, maybe the last could be a mix up of English & Spanish: I need to be with you always. Siempre, mi amore (something like that).

    I agree for the need for a little more modern slang, and and you're set. Maybe "throw down" instead of "duke it out." "Old man" could work but maybe see if something else fits better.

    Like @ergoyle said, the "cry me a river" probably isn't needed. We get he's kind of a tough guy, a little sarcastic, but it comes from hurt, from a need to protect himself from this tragedy. That line kind of cheapens his reaction.

  7. I like it, but I had to read the last line several times to realize you are talking about a cell phone, not a prison cell. I'm sure it's where it breaks off.

    Good luck.

  8. I'm hooked. Love the voice! But also agree with all the other comments-especially cell. My kids just say "my phone" because they don't even think of phones coming any other way than cellphones.

    I do know some Spanish and "chola" threw me because, well, i thought chola was the word for asshole-as in besa mi chola (kiss my ass)- is that what you meant? I think chica would fit better, unless I'm just totally wrong on the meaning which is definitely possible, or you just wanted him to be that crass and then, well, I may not like him as much as I thought I did though its still a really great beginning.

  9. I agree with the others. And that last line did stump me too. Good job.

  10. “… one severe desire not to wake up.” Great line. It instantly leads to questions that will make a reader read on.

    Unfortunately, there were some details about the writing that turned me off: “old man”, “duke it out”, “cry me a river”. They sound too old fashioned. Also some of the details felt extraneous. Does the fact that it is Tuesday matter to the story? Do we need to know it is Room 209? Could you just say “her room”? (Some of these details may end up mattering; it is hard to tell with this short an excerpt.) And the Spanish lines, the first two are easy enough for a non-Spanish speaker to understand but you lost me on the third line.

    The Jehovah’s detail piqued my interest also, I’ve always been fascinated by them.

    In the end, the negatives outweighed the positives for me so I probably wouldn’t read on. But work on the writing and another agent will probably feel differently. Sorry.