Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #38

TITLE: The Headhunters Race
GENRE: YA Adventure

Persevere. That's what comes to mind when I see the signup sheet tacked to the wall. Verla said it to me on multiple occasions. Like every time I brought up King's name or cursed my step-brother Gavin's. I know why this word speaks to me, because it's a significant day in the prison. It's the day I start planning revenge on the man who put me here.

For now I suppress thoughts of vengeance and see how many will race. Forty-eight spots are filled so far. I'll make forty-nine. Curious to see who signed up, I scan through the names. I recognize a couple of prisoners everyone stays clear of, Kurt, the young hothead and the old guy everyone calls Squint. Both black, both muscular, and rumors say both have killed citizens of Water Junction. I don't believe it though. No one here was sentenced to life because they're robbers or killers. Not initially anyway.

I'm still scanning the list, finding that none of the other names are familiar when a thump from behind startles me, like someone hit the wall that leads into the east wing. I whirl around, but I don't see anyone. All the same, prickles of fear soar up my spine and settle in my chest. With my senses on high alert, I quickly add my name to the list. Avene is all I write since I don't remember my surname. I was only five when my mother married King and I refuse to use his.


  1. I absolutely LOVE the first para. Quite the grabber! Now I not only want to know WHY she is in prison, but WHO this person is that put her there and WHY? Awesome. The race deal sounds very interesting too. Why does she want to enter? Are prisoner set free if they win? Hmmm... The first sentence in the last para seems a little wordy though. Maybe break it up? Might flow better. Excellent start!

  2. I don't quite know what's happening. I would like to know whether the MC is male or female. I assumed male since this is a prison and the other entrants are male - Kurt, the old guy etc..and of course prison populations don't mix. There seems to be the stands of a few stories in the opening 250 and I would prefer a sharper focus to begin - the rest can come later. But, the fact that the previous commenter thought for sure it was a female and I thought for sure it was a male should indicate that something needs to be more clear.

  3. This opening contains plenty of intrigue to raise the reader's curiosity. It's a bit static, though, with the point of view character staring at a sheet of paper on the wall. I'd recommend looking for a way to make the opening more active and less reflective.

  4. Great premise, and some great writing. I'm left a little confused, but maybe that's intentional. I think maybe you could condense a little to get his/her name on the list faster and get into some more action to help us get to know your protagonist.

    Good luck!

  5. Narrator must be male (in a male prison) but I didn't get that at first.

    I'd use scan instead of see in the first sentence and add 'prison' before wall. Sets up setting right away. Then in the next paragraph you can just delete this sentence because we know he's scanned the list:
    Curious to see who signed up, I scan through the names.

    Could you find better descriptors for the prisoners instead of hothead and black. You have an opportunity to go beyond cliches. Instead of muscular, could you tell us how much they bench-press?

    Doesn't Headhunters in title need an apostrophe?

    Also... my first impression was this was very similar to the movie Death Race (2008) where people are put in prison (even if innocent) in order to compete to the death in car races.

    I'd probably read on.

  6. Form rejection. I love, love YA novels set in non-school settings, particularly prisons and hospitals, but it's not working for me here because there's too much information, too many names, on the first page. I have no idea who Verla is, and (s)he only comes up once, not enough for me to know if (s)he was a mentor, a fellow prisoner, a guard, etc. And was one of the people in the first paragraph the one who put Avene in prison? That wasn't clear to me.