Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Jumping Off Bridges
GENRE: YA Contemporary

If one more guy asked him if he played basketball, Eli would punch him in the throat. Order after Fun Burger order, he listened to every open-mouthed customer—or guest, as he was meant to call them—as they followed one another through the waiting-line maze and offered up Sherlock Holmes-worthy observations: “You’re huge” and “I bet you’re a ball-player” and “Do you even have to jump to dunk?”

Each phrase forced Eli to pinch out a smile—he still needed his job for another month—say, “Thank you,” and feel the phoenix flames flare in the hollow pit of his chest. Afterwards, the guest’s growling belly would trump every oral operation, and they’d settle into a corner booth, then proceed to stuff fries into a gaping maw, a troll filling its face with the limbs of its victims.

The entrance bell chimed.

Two of Eli’s former classmates—a guy drawing a tribal design on his hand with a Sharpie and a girl with a frizz of hair more frightening than a witch’s—shoved through the doors. Eli recognized both of them from his sophomore year Lit class, but he couldn’t remember their names. Still, he wanted to ask if game nights were still as loud as a Titan’s scream.

“You can be so unromantic,” Witch Hair said. “We’ll be just like Romeo and Juliet.”

Tribal Hand’s face crumpled in annoyance, as if this were a conversation he’d grown tired of long ago. “You think they heard voices, too?”


  1. I like it, but I was a little thrown off. I thought we were in the restaurant where he worked and then all of a sudden an entrance bell chimed. It took me a minute to get my bearings and realize he was at school.

    I might keep reading for a little while to see where it was going.

  2. But it talked about he needed the job...I thought maybe he was at work, thinking about school, when classmates came in, and the bell was one of the chimes that tell a shop owner when a customer comes in... I agree. A little confusing.

  3. Overall, I think the writing is pretty tight here. The characters already feel real and intriguing, and there's an emotional conflict right off the bat with Eli wanting to forget basketball, but still wondering about games. (At least that's how I read it.)

    I got that he was in the restaurant the whole time, but the first two paragraphs (even though reflective) do kind of paint a picture of a crowded restaurant and then w/ Eli noticing the entrance bell, it appears the restaurant is probably empty, so maybe this first page could use a tad--just a tad to keep it tight-- more transition? On the other hand, if the restaurant really is crowded at that moment, I'm not sure he would notice the bell chiming.

    I would read on : )

  4. I thought the scene was interesting and it raised some story questions about Eli and what Witch Hair is proposing to Tribal Hand. I would have read more, but I do have a couple of points of confusion:

    I thought this was urban fantasy before I read the genre label. There are a couple of mythological references that seem out of place here: "the phoenix flames" and "a Titan's scream"... unless these are sports mascots. They made me think, briefly, that Eli is a demi-god or something.

    "You think they heard voices, too?"... Are both of them hearing voices? Or is it just Witch Hair?

    Although, I liked the scene, I feel like I missed some of the setting is strangled by a sacrasm/complaining overkill. I think that could be streamlined--for example, I don't see how the line about "the guest's growling belly" really adds to the scene, except to say that he hates his customers, which has already been implied.

    Good job, though. It sounds like it'll be an interesting story.

  5. There's a mystery here that has me intrigued: what happens in a month that means Eli can leave his job? Why are the kids his "former classmates?" (Was he kicked out of school? Did he switch schools for a different reason?) What part of Romeo and Juliet is the girl comparing her relationship to? From the title, I worry it's a suicide pact she's referring to.

    I did get pulled out of the story by the line about the guest's growling belly. "Oral operation" especially struck me as an awkward phrase.

    I'd read on a little longer, but I'd be wary of more passages like the one about the guests.

    Good luck!

  6. I agree with the above comments, so I won't repeat. I just wanted to say that I love how your MC gave the two people names in regards to their appearance. Witch Hair and Tribal Hands are great and really give the reader a good description, without inundating them with boring physical descriptions.

  7. Overall, I liked it and I would probably give it another page or two, but I was put off at the beginning by how whiny Eli seemed. He needs the job but he hates everything about it. I hope that mellows out soon because I don't think I'd spending a whole book with him if he maintains that attitude.

  8. I agree it is a bit confusing, but the writing is quite nice. And love the opening line. And love seeing a male MC for YA.

    I'd keep reading.

  9. I must admit I'm a little confused by the genre - the label says YA Contemporary but when I was reading this I was thinking it was more Urban Fantasy because of the references: trolls eating limbs, "Witch Hair", Titan's screams, hearing voices.

  10. I thought the writing was good and easy to read, but I didn't get any sense of what was happening here. It says contemporary, but with the references to trolls and witches and titans, I was suspecting it might really be fantasy. But I don't know anything about Eli except that he's tall and doesn't like his job, although he needs it. It wasn't enough to hold me.

  11. Ditto on the "oral operation" comment. But I like his attitude. It seems he is sorely missing basketball and hates hit job. I'd have a bad attitude too. I'm intrigued by how he got into his situation, and I'd read on.

    I like the descriptions of his classmates, and referring to them as Tribal Hands and Witch Hair. It makes me think as a superstar basketball player he didn't bother to learn the names of people who clearly don't belong to that crowd.

    I disagree that it sounds like urban fantasy. Just because some disgusting customer eats like a troll and some chic has crazy witch hair doesn't mean there are going to be trolls and witches. It just shows us how the MC views the people around him with a dehumanizing disdain. I like it.

  12. I'll echo what everyone said, and then add something extra.

    The way the em dashes were used were correct, but there were so many in just the first 250 words that I took notice of them. Punctuation should never pull a reader from the story, or draw attention to themselves. At least that's what I've always heard.

    Hope this helps!

  13. I feel so funny commenting on my peers because I feel like, "What do I know?" But here goes ...

    I have to echo RachelRussell, but also admit that I use those damn em dashes like crazy too! So now I'm going to go look at my MS and see which ones I can get rid of.

    I understood that the entrance bell was the chime of the fast food chain's door, but I may be incorrect in that understanding.

    I think the storyline is intriguing, and you've sparked my curiosity, but some of the descriptions were a bit wordy.

    Other than that, I'd be curious to read more!

  14. I'd definitely keep reading. Good mix of reflection, action, and info. And I want to read more about Witch Hair, she sounds hilarious. (I love when people make off-base R&J comments)

    Do listen to the above commentors--though I wasn't confused as to what was going on like they were. The mythology-related descriptions added a richness to it, but do make sure it fits his voice on purpose and it isn't your voice coming through the narrator. Keep control of the story.