Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #14

TITLE: The Chemistry of Curses
GENRE: Contemporary YA

I always thought I wanted people to notice me. Not that I was jealous of Lexie--she couldn't help being richer, prettier, or quicker with a joke--but I wished that, just once, when I walked through the wrought iron gates into La Jolla Prep, the seniors sitting on the lawn would glance at me for more than a fraction of a fraction of a second. Now that it's happening, I realize I should have put a little bit of that wish energy into specifying admiring stares.

"Are those cargo pants?" Kendra Banks falls into step next to me. She's wearing jeans with elaborate embroidery on the pockets and a fuzzy v-neck sweater that appears to have been woven from the fur of something small, cuddly, and endangered.

"Uh...." Despite it's wide, boat neck, my t-shirt feels like it's strangling me. I risk a glance around for backup. It's five minutes before first bell, and the quad is full of people talking, lounging on the Sun God sculpture, and giving me pitying stares, but there's no sign of Lexie. "I was stuck in Arizona, so my mom ended up doing my back-to-school shopping, and...." My voice trails off as I realize I'm making things worse. High school students do not let their parents choose their clothes. And high school students at La Jolla Prep do not shop anywhere you might find cargo pants.

“What are you doing here, anyway? I thought you were going to some geek school now.”


  1. "fuzzy v-neck sweater that appears to have been woven from the fur of something small, cuddly, and endangered."--Great line! I'd probably keep reading for this line alone.

    Nice job getting us in the narrator's head right away and bringing us into this scene. She immediately has my sympathy, because who can't relate to that fish-out-of-water feeling? I'm curious to know more about her.

    The only thing I wanted a teensy bit more on was Kendra Banks--is she a friend of the narrator's? An antagonist? The school mean girl or something else? On first read, I assumed she was a friend being critical of the MC's fashion choices, but by the time I got to the last line I thought she was definitely an antagonist of some kind. I don't need much--just a hint about who she is to the MC.

    I enjoyed this opening.

  2. Fun beginning. I did find the tense shift in the first paragraph a bit jarring. I'm definitely curious to know more. Why did she need to have her mom pick out her school clothes? Why is she at the school she's at instead of "geek school"?

  3. I, too, felt a little jarred in the first paragraph. Not only by the tense change but also the very first sentence. the 2 "I"'s and the "me" tripped me up for some reason and I had to read it a couple times to make sure I had it right. It didn't feel like quite enough of a hook to me but that might have been why. Your first sentence is the priciest ticket at your show. Make sure it's worth it.

    I also felt confused by who Lexie is. You name drop her a couple of times without telling us who she is in relation to your narrator. I agree with G.B. as well. I felt animosity between Kendra and the narrator but wasn't sure if that was just my interpretation.

    I also thought Kendra's cargo pants line might be a good opportunity to tell us your narrator's name so we can feel especially connected with her.

    Love the cuddly endangered fur sweater. Very cute character rich detail.

  4. Great beginning! Like everyone else I LOVE the fuzzy v-neck comment. Funny, and helps to show how important fashion is at this school.

    My one comment is around the first paragraph. it felt like a bit too much telling. I think you can easily show us this information via the interaction with other students. In fact you start to as you drop us into the below scene.

    Otherwise, I think you're off to a great start, and you have some fantastic visuals happening. Great job!

  5. First paragraph isn't needed. Too much telling. You'll lose an agent in 30 seconds.

  6. It's a nice opening, and one that I can see catching some attention. If I were reading it in my slush, I'd probably keep going a bit more to see what the major conflict is, as it seems rather standard fare for YA, but it's nothing that jumps at me screaming "read me!"

  7. I like this, your MC comes alive well, and I'd read on to see what happens. However I think a bit more of a hint of what the main plot problem will be would be nice, at the moment I have no idea where this is going and if it's just going to be another standard high school story. Although, with your title and her talk of wishes in the first para, I'm wondering if these are going to be literal wishes and curses, which would make this fantasy or paranormal rather than contemporary YA as listed?