Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #2

TITLE: The Blinded Gardener
GENRE: YA Edgy Contemporary

One moment I’m Dad’s personal punching bag, and the next, well, I’m a pawn in his maniacal master plan. That was, until Danny entered the picture and discovered my secret ...

I stepped into another maze of lockers and endless corridors. Great. I hated this. Another first day at a new school ... third time in two years. Damn him.

The warning bell rang. Lockers slammed and the halls cleared. Dad’s starched and mind-numbing military code 24/7 should’ve prepared me for days like this, but here I stood without a clue as to where to go. How much more could I take? No honorable discharge was in my future. When I turn eighteen ... that’s if I live that long.

Dad’s usual methods of persuasion always won out. Why else would I have left San Diego and ended up in Beaufort. I glanced down at the school map as an angry throb pulsed through my arm to the tips of my fingers. I shook it off. Should’ve seen that one coming?

As I searched for my classroom, someone approached me from behind. Long bangs fell over his eyes as he loped past me with a kind of natural ease. Doesn’t he see me standing here, screwing around with this frickin’ map?

“Hey, dude. Could you tell me how to get to room 305?”

A slight curl formed on his lips as he faced me. He tossed his head. Platinum fringe shifted to the side and revealed freakish blue eyes that glanced toward me, unfocused.


  1. I love the opening line. You reeled me in with a great hook. Then you started with the first day of a new school. It seems intuitive for many YA novels to start on the first day of school because it's good to start with change. The problem with that is too many writers do it. Try to find a more unique opening.

    The writing and voice is good. It's an ordinary setting-- looking for a classroom-- but you infused tension and hints of mystery without giving anything away.

  2. I didn't buy into the teaser line. I would have been interested in it if the scene had continued from there and I got to see how the MC was the pawn, but the shift to a mundane, first-day-of-school scene felt like a bait and switch.

    While I did think you had a lot of tension in this scene, all of it is about something removed from the here and now. In the present moment, which is where I'd like to be engaged, there's no real conflict other than the character not knowing where class is.

    I also couldn't tell the gender of the MC from the narrative and it'd be nice to have that early.

    I hate to say this because it's going to sound really jaded, but I'm actually not really interested in a character who spends the first page doing something relatively boring while alluding to being abused. It's not that I don't sympathize; it's just that before you know a little bit about a character and can relate to him, it sort of feels like a strange walking up and dumping their problems on you. I'd much rather get to know a character first and then find out about the abuse so I'm in a better position to feel for him. A ton of people probably feel differently, but I don't think abuse, in and of itself, is an enticing "hook," however tragic it is.

  3. I'd drop the punching bag comment (maybe first full paragraph) and allude to the abuse in the narrative, giving the reader tiny clues.

    I think you already try to do that with the throbbing arm. (I assumed the dad hit her.)

    Also, the inner thought "Damn him" confused me. I assume she damning her dad, right?

    I, too, believe the hook isn't the abuse, but maybe how her dad's maniacal plan is thwarted.

    Good luck!

  4. The opening parg is a teaser. It tells us what happened before it happens, and for that reason, I'm not hooked. I want a story, not a gimmick.

    From there, this goes into back story. If you want us to know about Dad's numbing military code, show us a scene. The same for the other things you go back to.

    If you want to start this in school, then start it there, and show us what happens there and leave out the backstory.

    An introduction to her at home with Dad might be a more compelling opening scene

  5. I also had trouble determining the sex of the MC. The first line felt like it was trying to hard to hook. I would be more likely to continue reading if you start with 'Another first day at a new school'. I'm also not invested enough yet for the abuse to infuriate me like it should. A little more about the MC, a little less about the Dad and I think you could have something here.


  6. i agree with Barbara -- drop the teaser and give us a present day scene so we can get to know the MC and his/her situation before you go off into backstory.

  7. I would have to agree with the other comments; I don't really think you need the teaser. Also, I agree that you should leave out the back story (maybe allude to the problems at home), and give the audience more of an opportunity to get to know the character and setting. What are the MCs impressions of the school so far? What does he/she make of the students?