Friday, November 30, 2012

(43) Contemporary YA: Operation Breakup

TITLE: Operation Breakup
GENRE: Contemporary YA

Crushing on the hottest senior in school who already has the perfect girlfriend is a lose-lose situation for wallfower Abby Wheeler, until a shady frenemy proposes a risky plan for attaining the unnattainable. But the plan is far from foolproof and has social suicide written all over it.

No less than five minutes into Global Studies and the first stab of a migraine pierced my left eyeball. It started when I shoved my hand into a brown bag and pulled out a slip of paper with Ian Koch’s name scrawled on it.

“First partnership: Ian Koch and Abby Wheeler!” Mr. Rausch said with a flourish and handed the paper bag to his next victim.

You could hear a pin drop. The entire class looked up like Mr. Rausch had said, “Ian Koch and Osama bin Laden!” They stared at Ian with these big, concerned eyes, like he was going to the gallows or something.

Really? Was I that bad of a partner? I might not have been valedictorian material, but I wasn’t warming the bench in the principal’s office, either.

Ian lifted one hand, looking like it pained him to wave me over. I dragged my a** to the chair next to him, then slammed down so hard I almost paralyzed myself.

Great. Front row. As if Global History wasn’t excruciatingly bad enough.

I loathed sitting up front. Aside from looking like a bonafide dork, Mr. Rausch had this charming habit of spitting when he grew passionate about war (which, in Global History, was just about every day). And since Staples doesn’t sell spit-shields in its school supplies section, I always steered clear of the front row. Hiding somewhere in the middle suited me just fine.

“Should we move into Mr. Rausch’s chair instead?”


  1. I loved the logline (you had me at wallflower paired with shady frenemy!) and Abby's voice really drew me in. Loved the line about Staples not selling spit-shields (although as a history buff myself, it pained me a little that she hates the subject so much, but I know not everyone can love it ;) I felt the same way about science). The only thing that left me a little confused was not having a dialogue tag (or some other description) attached to the last sentence. Did Abby say that or Ian? Or someone else? But I know this is just because you could only submit 250 words and it's really just me saying I want to keep reading to see what happens next! Great job.

  2. YA romances are my favorite and the pitch alone for this makes it sound like it's going to be page-turner. And then you actually start reading and *BAM!* Hooked! You jump right into the story AND let us get a feel for your MC's funny, snarky voice. I loved the part at the end about how Staples doesn't sell spit-shields!LOL I would LOVE to keep reading this, and sincerely wish you the best of luck in the contest!

  3. I love this. I've read this entry in another contest, and this reads stronger now. The first paragraph is great, and I laughed at the Bin Laden reference. The line about slamming down in the chair and paralyzing borders on melodrama; I think you can lose it because the tension is already there. The second to last paragraph is funny, but you may want to keep the flow of why the pairing of Abby and Ian is causing such a reaction. You've got our attention, so make sure the rest flows with what you set up. I know this is picky for the first 250 words! This sounds like a fun story.

    My other suggestion for your pitch it to say outright what the plan is rather than hint at it. The voice in the pitch is great. More specifics will entice further. Good luck!

  4. I agree with the others that the voice is spot on. I love snarky! And while the set-up (classroom) might feel over-used in YA lit, the humor in this scene makes it a winner. I, too, would like the logline to be less of a tease.

  5. It would be nice if the logline was a little more specific about the plan and what the implications of it might be (social suicide is kinda vague).

    Love the voice though, and the idea of spit-shields as a necessary school supply. I had a few teachers whose classes were hazardous in that way.

  6. I loved the logline. It made me read on to the first 250 (this is key to me).

    Not sure the "and" in the first sentence works for me. I had to read the sentence twice. Consider "No less than five minutes into Global Studies, the first stab of a migraine pierced my left eyeball."

    Speaking of "Global Studies," it is "Global History" in subsequent chapters.

    Not sure if "Osama bin Laden" (although a clever reference) is a good comparison. I think this will 'date' your story in years to come (realizing how long it takes to get a book published) IMO. I might've used something iconic and everlasting, such as Godzilla, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, etc., instead of a recently-killed terrorist. Unless of course Abby Wheeler has a reputation of being a terrorist...

    Finally, your last line needs a dialogue tag or action beat of some kind. I realize there is a 250 limit, but it leaves the reader in a state of confusion rather than curiosity. It was totally irrelevant to the story without relevance.

    In closing, I think you have a strong voice and good premise. A little bit of tweaking and it will be great. I would definitely want to read more.

  7. I enjoyed the voice here but was thrown by something--the social suicide as consequences in the logline didn't ring true for me b/c given what is happening in the first page, it seems like she is already quite unpopular, so I am left wondering what she really has to lose in terms of social status.

    The premise promised by the logline and the title are intriguing, though, and I would like to learn more about this break-up plot.

  8. I'm in LOVE with your logline! Definitely one of the snappiest I've read. Fabulous voice, perfect amount of description, great stakes. Also gives a hint of grit, and I love stories where a protagonist is drawn to the "dark side," so to speak -- compromising their morals to achieve a goal. Solely based on the logline, I'd pick this up in a heartbeat.

    You do such an awesome job with taking a common setting (classroom) and infusing it with your/Abby's voice. In just 250 words, I have a great idea of who both Abby and Ian are. And I love the humor (going to the gallows, spit-shields). Not sure if it was a conscious decision, but you have a lot of war language on this first page, which is very clever considering this is a history class and you mention the teacher getting passionate about war. Sign of a great writer :)

    For me, at least, the lack of a dialogue tag at the end didn't detract from the sample at all. I honestly don't know if I can gush enough about how much I admire the voice here. It's sarcastic, clever and hilarious, and I can sympathize with Abby right away. This early hint about the shady partnership between them is great foreshadowing.

    Good luck!! I have such high hopes for OB :)

  9. I find your logline a bit generic. Honestly, I can think of half-a-dozen YA contemporaries with the same premise, so I think you need to do the work to make your novel stand out.

    Abby’s voice is just right for this kind of lighter contemporary. I like the wit laced in it. You’ve given me a very solid sense of Abby’s viewpoint, how her classmates see her, and where your novel will go.

    But you need to be careful that your reader can keep up with your meaning. I have no idea what you mean with the Osama bin Laden snark. I know nothing about Abby’s social standing or her background. Is this an obnoxious crack because she’s of Middle Eastern background? Is it just a social outcast thing? I don’t know, because I don’t know Abby. Not yet.

    I also feel like there’s a bit of an inconsistency in establishing her. Clearly she’s on the radar as an outcast for whatever reason, but her remark that she likes to stay somewhere in the middle, along with her remark about being neither valedictorian nor principal’s office flunky, suggests that he like to walk the line of being invisible in the middle. Which is it?

    One last nitpick. Cut the “a**” out. Unless you’re going to be cursing and going to mature content (ie drinking, drugs, sex, etc.) with clear purpose, it’s just better not to going there at all, since you’ll just limit your market.

  10. I love the voice and love the concept. Frenemies working together to get what they want is just so delicious. I wasn't clear if Ian was the crush or the frenemy but I'm sure that would quickly become clear in the pages that follow.

    I agree that while the stuff about the spit shield is funny, you might want to first tell us more more about how Abby feels about being paired with Ian and why the class is so shocked about it.

    I really hope to find this on the store shelf soon because I really want to read it.

    Great work.

  11. Great voice and I already love the MC. I like the log line and it would definitely push me to buy the book but it may need something extra so your book stands out. There are a lot of "similar" books so include something that will get it noticed over the others.

    I also, agree that is was a bit confusing as to where she is socially with her classmates. But, even with the confusion I still want to read more and love the MC!

    Great job.

  12. We could use a little detail about Ian and why the whole class had an opinion. Is she more upset about working with him, or about what people think of her?

    I love the voice, and I know exactly what Mr. Rausch is like! I agree with Alison about the cursing. Avoid it if possible.

  13. I love this premise! You've nailed the pitch, and your writing displays a strong voice and a likeable protagonist. Love the reference to Osama bin Laden. I'm already rooting for Abby and Ian (assuming Ian is her crush?)!

  14. Hmmm. I hope "the plan to get the hottie" will make your story shine---if it's different enough. That will be the clincher. )It's so hard to tell in the first 250, eh? Great voice, great logline! Good luck!!