Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #27

GENRE: YA contemporary

It begins with a choice.

Mama did everything with a deliberate purpose. Once she made a decision, she did not look back. That’s why he left China with Mia’s father to come to the United States.

“How did you know he was the one?” Mia used to ask.

“I knew,” her mother answered simply. “I saw better things here.”

When she was young, Mia believed her mother was clairvoyant. She saw things. She had a quality. She was neng gan. There was no English equivalent for it.

Mama always chose. But that day, she didn’t choose for her heart to stutter while she was at the top of those stone steps.

It’s funny that they say you die when your heart stops beating, because Mama’s heart didn’t stop. It kept going after it paused, but that crucial stutter changed everything. The fall cracked her skull so hard the bone splintered into her brain. She was brain-dead.

Once her brain was dead there wasn’t anything they could do to bring her back. No matter what they said, her heart was beating, but she was dead anyway.

They can restart a heart, but they can’t restart a brain.

For once, Mama wasn’t the one making choices. For all of her neng gan, she couldn’t make the one choice that mattered – the choice to stay.

Seventy-two hours after Mama’s heart pauses, Dad chooses to pull the plug, and he stops her heart forever.

And by all medical definitions, that means Mama is dead.


  1. I like the voice and the feel of the world you're building here, however I'm confused starting with 'That’s why he left China with Mia’s father to come to the United States.' Who's he? It doesn't appear to be the narrator because this is third person. The mother says 'I saw better thing here' but Mia asked a question about the he.

    There's a lot of important info in the first five paragraphs, but it's almost as if you should start with "Mama always chose." I could be way off base here, but that's where I begin to understand what's going on in the scene.

    I hope you find something helpful there. Good luck.

  2. I was confused by the 'he', but realized it must a typo.

    I like the voice and feel of this, but to me it "tells" to much. It's a bit too passive. The tone is strong and interesting, but I would breath more life into it by changing to a more active verse.

  3. The start feels like a prologue, but it hooked me. The story has a energy and flow that would keep me reading. There's so much emotion crammed into so few words - loved it.

  4. I'm really drawn into this story, and I love the voice of your MC.

    I did feel like there were a lot of different verb tenses being used and it was therefore difficult for me to feel grounded in time. How recently did Mama die? It feels distant in some paragraphs, but recent in others.

    Very lovely though, and I'd certainly read on!

  5. The verb tenses threw me, too. And the typo. But I am interested. I'd like to see where Mia will go after her mother is gone. And see if the 'neng gan' is within her as well.

  6. I like the voice, but here's the point where you snagged my interest: "When she was young, Mia believed her mother was clairvoyant." You could drop all the preceding text and lose nothing...but what a statement to open with!

  7. I liked this a lot and would definitely keep reading. Just a few little thing that threw me--the "he" typo in the first paragraph and the tense change between the third to last and second to last paragraph.

  8. I'm not sure I would have read more. I felt like there were tense issues and POV issues that prevented me from seeing this clearly. It's also very tell-y and I'm not really feeling connected to the this narrator, despite a fairly lyrical voice.

    The second paragraph frustrated me because the "narrator" refers to Mama but then to Mia's father, which makes it sound like the narrator is a child of Mama but not of Mia's father. It's just weird and jarring. The rest of it seems to be in Mia's perspective.

    Also, I would delete the first line. "It begins with a choice," seems like it's suppose to set the mood and the theme of choices, but then it goes through a long spiel about how Mama's choices were meaningless in the end.

  9. I'd like to echo everyone else. I definitely like the voice, but despite this I was confused. There's too much going on in these paragraphs. I like how you open with Mama making deliberate choices, perhaps just focus and expand. What compelled the choice? Why was the choice deliberate versus a long drawn out decision? What was it about Mia's father that made her feel like she could go to the U.S. with him? I just feel like you get her to the stone steps to soon. As a reader, I want to care about her first, so that when she becomes brain-dead it is all the more awful that it already is.
    I hope this helps. =)

  10. I agree this reads like a prologue; if it is, that might make more sense, as this seems like thought fragments and not the start of the story. I was also thrown by the typo/"he" in the third line. It stumped me and I had trouble connecting the rest of the page. There's some good advice in the other comments. Good luck!

  11. I would have to agree with the other comments.

    I was thrown off by the first lines, and felt it was a little misleading because the rest of page doesn't really have much to do with Mamma's choices, so the flow is sort of off for me.