Friday, November 30, 2012

(35) MG Contemporary: Harold - The Kid Who Ruined My Life and Saved the Day

TITLE: Harold - The Kid Who Ruined My Life and Saved the Day
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Twelve-year-old Jake is D-O-N-E with Harold. Sure Harold’s a genius at baseball trivia and Algebra, but he also has Asperger’s and a knack for ruining Jake’s social life. When Jake gets an opportunity to play shortstop for the undefeated Comets, he’ll get his chance to ditch Harold and the rest of Jake’s second place team—unless winning isn’t everything.

On the first day of sixth grade, I cracked open the front door and looked outside. The bus stop was empty. So far, so good. I’d figured Harold’s mom would drive him this year like she did when he was in kindergarten. Harold had trouble when it came to new things. Well, that was one of his problems.

I walked toward the stop and from behind I heard, “Hey Jake! Wait up! It’s 8:03. Bus Number 6 will be here at 8:07.”

I walked faster and called over my shoulder, “Thanks for the update, Harold. I didn’t know I was so early. Tomorrow, I’ll sleep in a whole 4 minutes.”

Harold caught up with me and said, “I woke up at 6:33, but Mom said I couldn’t come out until I saw you.”

Great. Where is that bus?

“Hey, Jake, have you ever heard of Harvey Haddix?” he asked while he rummaged through his bookbag.

I knew what he was looking for. Each year before school started, Harold added one green composition notebook to his school supply list and in that notebook he kept track of the times he beat me at anything—Texas Hold’em, NCAA 12, checkers. He’d write down the date, the game, and the score. He also wrote down baseball stats.

“Yeah, Harold, I know all about Harvey.”

I didn’t have a clue, but I thought just this once Harold wouldn’t go into his never-ending monologue about one more Major League ballplayer I’d never heard of.

35 comments:

  1. SO. Much. Voice. I love Jake's snark but I also love Harold's earnestness. Makes me think of the Wonder chapters from Jack Ryan's perspective landing their own book- I'm sold! Since middle school is so much about not standing out in any way, I love that the conflict sounds like Jake is going to have to make some tough decisions about befriending the weird kid versus fitting in. Very age-apporpriate and great MG voice. Love it!

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  2. I'm totally impressed! This is super nit-picky, but I wonder if you want to use a game name without the year (or maybe just say Xbox?) to avoid dating it? There are quite a few great autism/Asperger's titles in MG and this would go along with them so well. Great job!

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  3. Your writing is great - really smooth, and I'm instantly caught up in this scene and can picture it perfectly. I hope that on the next page or two Jake shows some softness, and we get hints of how the two boys used to be good friends when they were younger. I can see the challenge you have here of holding on to Jake's great voice and not making him seem too mean in his dialogue with Harold.

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  4. I love this. I think it's awesome. Love the voice, love the characters. So spot on. I wouldn't change anything. Good luck!

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  5. Really well done. Great voice, characters, conflict, tension.
    Good luck!

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  6. Definitely would keep reading. It's just 250 words, but I already feel like I know Harold and Jake.

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  8. Hmmm. Great title and good first page, nicely written, and you get their characters across well. But... your premise sounds a little offensive to kids ( or anyone) with Asperger's. I get by the mention in your byline of 'unless winning isn't everything' that this will show your MC learning some truths about himself and life, but all the same... If Harold were simply a bit eccentric, that'd be different, but saying he's autistic then portraying the MC as embarrassed of him and wanting to get rid of him - even if he eventually sees the light, and Harold saves the day - it just kind of rubs me up the wrong way.

    I don't know, I don't actually know any kids with autism, so perhaps someone who does can tell me whether I'm being oversensitive. But I'd hate any kid with Asperger's to read a book that made them feel bad about themselves.

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  9. YAY! I'm so happy to see this entry (I actually voted for it to go through to the agent round during the GUTGAA event a few months back)! I loved it then, and I love it now. Everything about this entry just pulls me in--the voice, the setting, the characterization . . . Mwah! Fantastico! ;)

    I think I told you back then what a great job you did with Harold. As an aunt to a child with Asperger's, I can tell you that obsession with time is a CLASSIC symptom (actually, obession over anything). Well done!

    Wishing you the best of luck!

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  10. The writing is really strong here. I'm slightly worried that Jake might end up as an unsympathetic MC, but I'm assuming (from the title) that he finds some redeeming qualities in Harold eventually. I don't read a ton of MG, but I would be interesting in seeing where this one goes!

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  11. I like this a lot. Great, distinct voices for each character. I think there are a great many kids who would be able to relate to one of these characters or the other. I have to disagree that the kids who identify with Harold would feel bad. I have a feeling we're all going to love Harold before we get too far into the book and besides, we already know he's going to save the day.

    This is a very strong entry. Good luck with the auction!

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  12. I'm not ready to think that Jake isn't a sympathetic MC. He's a kid -- and I can see a kid being annoyed with Harold. In some ways, he's treated him like anyone else who might annoy him. And the author's voice is just so spot on. I just love the first line of the logline. I'm hoping you get some agent interest on Tuesday.

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  13. Your character voice sings! From the start, I know who Jake is. I know who Harold is. And you’ve introduced tension between them. Fantastically handled.

    This is one of those premises that’s going to be a bit tricky. Some people will rush to it and gush all over it. Some people will be uncomfortable. I think it’s fine – even important – to make the reader unsettled. It means they have to think beyond the book, so don’t fear that. Still, you’ll have to be careful about treading that line between honesty and meanness with how you handle Jake, because it will be a thin line.

    I suggest you take another look at the final sentence of this sample. It’s a little clunky. I think what’s missing in this thought is the sense that Jake is trying to take control of the situation, preventing Harold from the monologue. A minor quibble in a strong start.

    I’m not sure that this would be quite the project for me to personally take on, but I’m confident that you’ll find your fans.

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  14. I'm a little late to the party, but wanted to add my kudos and best wishes. The characters ring with authenticity, and the writing is excellent. As others have mentioned, watch that Jake remains sympathetic. We can relate to him wanting to ditch Harold, as long as he learns to appreciate, value, and include him by the end.

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  15. This is like a no no*. You don't talk about it until the last pitch is thrown.

    AMAZING. Someone is going to jump on this puppy, and fast.

    (For the non-baseball folk out there, a no no is a no hitter. Major superstition to acknowledge one during a game.)

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  16. I got so excited I signed in under the wrong account.

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  17. I'm not reading previous comments, so if anything I say is redundant, I apologize.

    Kids like Harold are my heroes. Truly. I know a whole bunch of kids with Aspergers, and see how they struggle with social cues and are often ridiculed or shunned. Yet they also have wonderful spirits. So it's going to be great that Harold eventually saves the day, and in the process teaches Jake some great lessons.

    Jake's desire to differentiate himself from Harold is wholly believable. I figure we're in for a good story here.

    Reads smoothly; no head-scratching on my part. Good luck tomorrow.

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  18. I'd like to request the first five pages.

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  19. I'll go 50

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  20. sorry Melissa, I'll go 75

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  21. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    150 pages.

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  22. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    full.

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  23. 120 pages

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  24. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    HOW DOES IT FEEL, LAPOLLA!?!

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  25. Drat you, internet! Congrats, Lauren!

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  26. Ugh. I hope the author knows you only wanted this out of spite! (It's true, author... totally 100% true.)

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  27. OH WHAT THE EFF! I leave for 5 seconds cause I need WATER and this goes out from under me. No. NOT ACCEPTABLE, MARINI. I need to get my head in the game!

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  28. Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy LiteraryDecember 4, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Oh, Lauren. I shake my holiday candy bowl in your direction.

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  29. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    I will not pretend that stealing this out from under you, Sarah, does not *significantly* sweeten the already lovely victory for me!

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  30. BIDDING ON THIS ITEM IS NOW CLOSED.

    ReplyDelete
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