Friday, November 30, 2012

(41) YA Contemporary: Ticket to Redemption

TITLE: Ticket to Redemption
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Guilt-ridden after the suicide of her best friend, seventeen-year-old Tenley seeks redemption by helping a boy—who hasn't left his house in over thirteen years—overcome the fears his agoraphobic mother instilled in him. But as Tenley tries to give him a life, her own is crumbling around her as she battles problems at home and a past that's never too far behind.

My toenails are naked. A year ago, I would've never allowed such a travesty—especially in the summer. It's funny how little you care about things like that after your best friend kills herself. Actually, it's funny how little you care about anything.

"What are you thinking about, Tenley?" My dad's voice cuts through my thoughts.

Sitting in a patio chair with my legs propped up on the weathered deck railing, I try to think of an answer that doesn't involve my best friend or my unattractive toes.

Shielding my eyes from the sun, I twist my neck to look at him. He's standing behind the sliding screen door with his hands in the pockets of his pleated khaki shorts. I force the corners of my mouth into a reluctant grin. "Nothing. I'm just enjoying the weather."

The weather? Did I really say that? He'll never buy it. Then again, he might be so desperate to avoid an argument that he forces himself to.

My dad rocks back on his heels. The same forced grin I gave him gets returned to me. "It is beautiful, isn't it?"

And there's my answer.

My dad is trying so hard to pretend this summer is just like any other summer spent at our beautiful lake house in the lovely town of Ludington, and that I'm the same girl I was last year.

Except, I'm not. I'll never be that girl again.

36 comments:

  1. Nice work--I like the feeling you convey in this little scene. And shout out for Michigan! Good luck.

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  2. I like the honesty here. Having experienced life after a friends suicide this simple beginning about naked toes held me and I would read more.

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  3. I really like this! It feels authentic and totally captures the awkwardness between the MC and her dad. It makes me want to read more about what happened to her friend and how that's affected the MC's life.

    (And yay for Michigan shout-outs!)

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  4. I LOVE this! I love the melancholy tone mostly. But I also love the voice of the MC, how she interacts with her father, knowing this conversation is just two people putting on a show for each other. It's amazing how much character development you've squeezed into just a few short paragraphs, and how much I really would love to keep reading this! Good luck!

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  5. Agree with all the above. This is brilliant. So much about character, situation, and back story conveyed so simply and naturally. Love the voice. There's a little humor even given the heavy situation. Really beautifully done.
    Good luck with this!

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  6. Wow, this is so beautifully written. I love the detail about her toenail polish. It feels very realistic.

    Honestly, there's nothing I would change about this (except that I wish I could read it right now!). Good luck to you!!

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  7. I like the opening that shows a simple way her life has changed, especially given how grief can cause people to stop taking care of themselves. It's a practical way to show that.

    The two sentences that start with "Sitting in a patio chair" and "Sheilding my eyes" can probably be streamlined. You only need a few key points to set the setting. "I propped my legs on the weathered deck railing" and you can omit the shielding eyes and twisting neck and just move on to dad standing in the door. If your MC sees the dad, we assume she's looking at him and we don't need to know she turns her head. Maybe nitpicky, but that extra body movements slow the pace.

    The author has set up the tension nicely. I would love to keep reading!

    Great line about her dad pretending like this summer is normal, although I got caught up on the "beautiful" and "lovely" descriptions; I wasn't sure if she was being sarcastic since it's an odd thing for a teen to say.

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  8. Very intriguing! I especially love the first two sentences because something so simple says so much. I would definitely keep reading!

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  9. This is great. From the very first line you've captured the tone of the piece and drawn us into her melancholy. The tension is palpable and I'd really want to read on.

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  10. So much emotion evoked in such a small space. And the voice feels authentically teen--well done!

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  11. I want, want, want to read this! I love it all. So far my favorite of the whole contest. I hope this gets published soon so I can read the whole thing. Good luck!!!

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  12. Lovely! And the pitch is intriguing, too. A boy who hasn't left his house in over thirteen years?

    Love it!

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  13. This is great. You've created a believable, melancholic atmosphere within the first few sentences. (Which is hard to pull off without it sounding like you're trying too hard - but you've NAILED IT.) I really like your MCs voice and the interiority is also handled well.

    Good luck with this!

    PS I agree with Marewolf - the pitch is very intriguing. I'd definitely turn the page to see what develops.

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

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  14. Terrific logline and first 250. I agree with Maggie about your wonderful melancholy tone. It's not too depressing for the reader, yet you convey the weight of her feelings.

    As a reader, I'd love to get to the part about the boy with the agoraphobic mother. He seems like the perfect person to help her through her despair.

    Tenley - I like that name.

    Great writing! Good luck!

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  15. So far, this is the one that has engaged me the most. The narrator is someone I'd go along with for this journey. Doesn't promise to me a fun ride, yet I will come along because this holds promise of an honest exploration of grief and likely hope.

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  16. Loved the opening! The comment on her naked toes drew me in right away; I can totally relate to that. Great voice, and--from your logline--this sounds like it's going to be a great story. Good luck! (Also, I second the shout out for Michigan!)

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  17. This is totally the kind of YA I'm look for. (Not stepping on toes, so don't query me--you WILL get a bid for a full.)

    One note: seeking redemption for her friend's suicide makes it sound like the boy is a charity case, so be aware of that if she's genuinely interested in him.

    And maybe reconsider the word "travesty."

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  18. I found your logline very intriguing and I loved the tension that you have already created here between your MC and her father (and YAY! for Michigan).

    I'm interested to see if the boy ends up as a romantic interest or not. I think it would be SOOO refreshing if they're just friends....

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  19. Love the depth of characterization. And the idea of an agoraphobic teen? Spectacular! The writing is lovely, too. So much emotion! :)

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  20. I love the idea of bringing a secluded teen out into society, simply because it’s not heavily treaded YA contemporary territory. I guess Beth Kephart’s YOU ARE MY ONLY tackle this a bit, but it’s from a different perspective with a different purpose. In any case, I think it’s a great idea, coupled with the more typical death of a friend premise.

    I think you need to be very careful about the words you choose and how they change the very nature of your narrative. Your main character’s best friend committed suicide. I find it difficult that she’d rate her bare toe nails as a “travesty” now, even if perhaps once a time she would have. The narration is now. For me, that word alone stripped away much of the rawness that you’ve built. The redundancy of Dad’s voice cutting through her thoughts by asking what she’s thinking is a similarly sloppy choice. I’d also try to avoid the echo of “force” in paragraphs 5 and 6.

    Even so, Tenley’s voice is fantastic, and I do like how you’ve captured the awkwardness of a fairly normal interaction where both parties are afraid to actually put their cards on the table. The emotional baggage behind their fairly mundane, consciously forced words is so smart, whether it was done purposely or not.

    YA Contemporary is the hot thing right now, so I feel confident with such a strong premise that you’ll get solid bids on this project. But I want to leave you with parting words of caution: What will make this novel strong and stand out is taking the serious, raw, contemporary bent. Obviously, I’m not privy to your full manuscript, so I have no grounding for this, but I sense a pull toward cutting the tension with a lighter thread. Don’t do it! I would love to see your project just be gut-slicing. Leave your reader entirely torn up. That doesn’t mean you don’t ultimately work toward redemption and hope. I think you have the tools here. And I would not be averse to seeing an e-mail pop up from an agent pitching me your novel.

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  21. I love how you've established the father/daughter relationship in such a short space. The sorrow is such a natural part of your voice, along with the way that people try to cling to "normal" in situations like this.

    I'm fascinated by the agoraphobic angle, and curious to see how Tenley is going to meet him.

    GREAT job.

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  22. I tend not to comment often. But your opening captivated me. And YA contemporary is not my usual genre.

    So reiterating the others, great job. Good luck with the auction!

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  23. Wow! I don't think I need to wish you luck!

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  24. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Full.

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  25. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    *glares*

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  26. BIDDING ON THIS ITEM IS NOW CLOSED.

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