Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Secret Agent #46

GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary

There were a few givens in the formula, and my lenient, laissez-faire mother was one of them. This was supposed to be the easy part. But now, phase one of my plan is already a total disaster. Of course she would pick right now to decide to grow a backbone.

“Eighty dollars, Cori? Really?” She’s pushing the metal cart down the fiction aisle of the school library. My mom is our librarian, and sometimes, during my free period, she calls me down to help her out. “I just wrote a deposit check to the country club with a very big number on it.” She makes a face like she’s sucking on a lemon. It’s no secret that Mom’s not a huge fan of my sister’s fiancĂ©. And even less of a fan of the big fancy wedding April's insisting on.

“I know, Mom. But I wouldn’t need to order the costume for another three weeks.” I’m following behind her carrying a folding step ladder, feeling ridiculous.

“Cori, will you even still be interested in three weeks?” She holds out her hand.

“Of course I will,” I lie and hand her the ladder. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I know exactly what it means. I’ve quit every activity my parents ever signed me up for. Piano after a year. Horseback riding after four months. And, for the record, tennis after two hours.


  1. Ha! Love the voice here. "And, for the record, tennis after two hours."

    I usually get annoyed at MCs that don't have a backbone, but this one KNOWS she doesn't have one. Excited to see what she's going to do about it.

    Nice writing! So much luck to you!!!

  2. I'm a sucker for funny titles, so honestly you had me before the first line. I'd read on!

  3. Strong opening. Great title. Love that she knows her mom is a sucker and is willing to push her. The last paragraph is a great illustration of her disinterest in the activities. Only thing I'd do is leave out the "Cori" from mom's second dialogue. She doesn't need to repeat the name. I'm hooked.

  4. There's a whole lot to like in this. I love the quit list. Very well done, compact and telling, and I love the lemon face and the tantalizing detail about the country club. My only quarrel is actually the opening line. I felt like I'd missed the first line; this dropped us so completely in the middle that I was a little lost as to what's going on. But that could just be my own personal preference.

  5. I love the title and wonder what it means for the story. I agree about the opening line not quite working. Once I read on, I liked it though.

    The only minor suggestion I have is that the mother's face like sucking on a lemon seems extreme. Does that type of face really fit with the reaction of what's said? Maybe it does for you and I'm totally bonkers. Anyway, good luck with your writing!

  6. I really liked the voice and humor. The last line was great. I'm also intrigued as to the second part of the MC's plan and what the costume will be used for.

  7. I enjoyed this, and want to know what the costume is and why she needs it for part of her plan. Very much like the descriptive phrases you've used.

  8. This character seems strong so I kind of like the contrast of her in essence being a "quitter" when it comes to extracurricular activities. I'm interested. I'd read more.

  9. Agree with everything said above except the lemon face. I've seen that face. I love it!

  10. Love the voice and the title. Great work!

  11. This title is great! Made me laugh. Great writing too! I'd read on. :D

  12. I don't get a strong sense of a really important dilemma that would hook me.

    May I suggest you take some of the weak/inactive verbs (was, were, is, would) and exchange them for more active/stronger verbs. E.g., My formula contained a few givens...

    She pushes the metal cart

    My mom, the school librarian, calls me...

    As a teen, I'd be totally embarrassed and angry if my mother took away my free period and made me help her. Doesn't sound like her mother is easy going at all.

    Sucking on a lemon is a bit cliched; maybe try for something fresher?

    I want to like Cori, but so far she doesn't show me anything positive: she lies, is irresponsible, quits activities, and now is trying to con her mother out of money. Suggest giving her at least one positive quality so I can cheer for her.

    I think this has a ton of potential if you address some of these issues...good luck!

  13. I like it! Nice voice, I'd keep reading!

  14. Love this! The sucking on a lemon line is a bit overused. With your ability to write, I bet you could come up with an even better description! Other than that, the voice is excellent, and I would read on.

  15. Love the voice, and the way that the first paragraph sucks the reader right in.

    I respectfully disagree with the comment about Cori not showing the reader anything positive. It's a pretty sweeping judgment to make for just a few paragraphs. I fail to see how a teenager who fibs to her mom makes for an irresponsible con artist. Or how a mom asking her daughter to help her during the day makes her non-easygoing.

    I think the opening did its job well--to me, the dilemma/hook is the lying. I want to know why, and I'm reserving judgment on her for now, because to me the most intriguing part of a character is his or her motivation.

    Great job!

  16. I like this, and found myself hooked, but only after pushing through the first paragraph. I would consider starting with the 2nd paragraph (and obviously revising the language)- "dialogue", My mom, our school librarian, asks as she pushes a metal cart...

  17. I like cori and am curious about what she's up to. She's an interesting character and so is her mother. I think you gave the reader a good amount of information in a natural way. The dialogue flows and is not forced. I agree - the suck in lemon thing doesn't need to be there. Good work and thank you for sharing. I enjoyed it!

  18. I smiled at Cori's quit list - it reminded me of my own kids, (and my friends' kids, too). I think most kids could relate to it.

    The opening line refers to a formula, which sounds too much like a something out of a text book so early in the piece, and I wonder if it might put teen readers off. I wonder if "plan" or "scheme" are more seductive words to readers.

    I agree with the previous comment about Cori's mother calling her (Cori's female, right?) into the library to help, makes her mother appear less than spineless. Parents who work at the same school as their kids tend to follow the code to not embarass their children (with teenagers, this means giving them even less attention than they would to any other kid).

    It might be more consistent with Cori's plot if she states that offering to help her Mom during her free period is part of the plan to butter her up.

    Nevertheless, the section has done what it's supposed to, got me wondering about Cori's motives, and why she needs to milk $80 from her mother. I'd read on. Well done.

  19. The voice is strong but the first paragraph implies she is up to something and is trying to pull one over on her mom, but the rest just makes it sound like he’s signing up for a new activity. Could you give the reader a few more clues of the “plan” to make us feel like Cori’s co-conspirators?