Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #26

TITLE: Lynchpin
GENRE: YA Contemporary Sci-Fi

The moment Noelle sits across from me at lunch, an excited gleam in her eye, I can predict how this conversation will go.

“Come with me to Patrick’s back-to-school party.”

I smile apologetically. “You know the answer.”

Squeezing a dollop of ketchup beside my fries, I can feel her roll her eyes at me.

“But you’re a senior. Your dad has to let you go out sometime.”

At the mention of Agent Stephens, my adoptive father, I instinctively touch my sleeve to confirm it’s covering the red, puckered scar from my last torture session in the White Room. Twenty-seven people died in the earthquake I caused — the most I’ve ever killed in one session. Nausea rolls through me, and I fight the urge to push my tray aside.

“Earth to Alanna?”

I shift my hand away from the scar, sliding my smile back into place. “Sorry, what did you say?”

“Can’t you ask your dad about giving you some freedom this year?”

For once, I tell her the truth. “He’s not really the negotiating type.” I avoid the D word — dad — whenever possible. “So what are you going to wear?”

Thankfully, she takes the bait.

Noelle is my favorite of Gina’s friends, and she’s the only one who still talks to me. When you don’t belong to any teams or clubs and say no to every non-school-mandated event, people don’t become more than acquaintances. Before Noelle, Gina was the one person who never gave up on me.

If she had, she’d be alive.


  1. Ok, wow. I am super interested in this. I feel your MC's pain, and the part with the scar totally got to me. You've managed to get across Alanna's despair, the torture she's going through, and the threat (she believes, at least) she poses to others.

    I think you've done an awesome job of whetting our appetites and giving us a taste of the intrigue we can look forward to.

    Can you tell that I really like this? Lol!

  2. Intriguing. I am not sure yet how I feel about the White Room (burned out on listening to the whole Red Room of Pain thing from the Book That Shall Not Be Named). Colored rooms involving pain might drawn unintended parallels. I do like the setup though, and I would read more.

  3. I definitely would have kept reading. The last sentence is especially powerful. It's obvious that Noelle has no idea what Alanna is going through, and Alanna is practiced at keeping it that way.

    A few thoughts:
    -The first sentence feels a little awkward. Perhaps you could change it to something like "I can tell immediately from the excited gleam in Noelle's eye that I'm going to refuse her. Again."

    -"smile apologetically" is a mouthful. Maybe have her smile but shake her head.

    -I'm a little confused as to why Noelle is so persistent about asking her to go since Alanna always refuses. Especially since there is obvious history between Noelle, Gina, and Alanna.

    Great job!

  4. only suggestions is maybe, "She'd still be alive." Adding the still stretches out the sentence and the tension/intrigue.

    Great start!

  5. I'd read it. I second the comments about the white room. I believe that she's lost a lot of friends, but question the reason. If she's got scars and there's torture and earthquakes and death and all, I think her personality would change A LOT and that would cost her friends. PTSD and flat out weirdness seem a more likely reason for her to lose friends than just not going to parties. Great beginning - can't wait to see it print.

  6. This was great! You dropped those little hints of weirdness in at exactly the right moments.

    My only issue was the opening. WHen she says she can predict how the conversation will go, I imagined the following dialogue was what she was imagining, but it seems it actually took place. And that was probably just me not getting it because no one else seems to have had that problem.

    Very nice. Good luck with it!

  7. I found the line "the most I'd ever killed in one session" somewhat disturbing. She had killed multiple people on other ocassions?? One of whom was her friend? Yuck.

    Sorry, but the tone is completely at odds with her history. she appears to know it's wrong, but sounds as if she's slightly upset by it, as if she's run over a cat or something. Why is she not a nervous wreck?

    I'm guessing that her step father is torturing her to manipulate her powers. This is a great set-up, but I'm not buying it because she is otherwise allowed to go to school. Why would he let her out of his sight? What's stopping her from spilling the beans or running away?

    Maybe these questions are answered in the narrative, but in the opening, they strain my willingness to suspend disbelief long enough to read on and get the answers.

    Read the opening of "shattered", as the MC is in (what I think) is a similar situation, but is raging against the ties that bind her right from the start.

  8. I love it. Although there doesn't seem to happen much (on the surface) there are deep undercurrents and feelings there. I find it very believable that she doesn't dare to revolt against someone who has been "in charge of her" for a long time. Sometimes, victims become so dependent on their captors, they start to like them. So this is very good. Your main character has a lot of room to grow (more confident, more trusting etc.)

    One thing you might want to consider (although at this point it might be moot), the name Alanna is very tightly connected with the Alanna series by Tamorra Pierce. There won't be any problems legally, but emotionally, your character might get compared to TP's character. ;-)

  9. You have a lot of elements at play here, and I’m intrigued. You’re revealing a great deal in your first 250, and I would recommend focusing in on one element – Alanna’s relationship with her “dad” – rather than trying to explain the weighty backstory with Gina, and the earthquake. The reveal that your MC caused the death of twenty seven people is a huge piece of information, and I would hold off on that reveal until we’ve better established who she is. I’m more interested to know about how she feels about living a double life. Is she sad she can’t go to high school parties, or has she resigned to it by now?

    I would also focus on showing us how Alanna feels rather than telling us – instead of a wave of nausea rolling through her, maybe she feels like she can’t keep down the gross cafeteria fries she just ate (just as an example.)

  10. I really loved this! You left me wanting to read more. I loved the dialogue, very teen and even her problem with friends, parents etc is very relate-able.
    I did have a problem with the last paragraph. You start off with Noelle and Gina – then jump to generic people and not belonging to teams or clubs etc. – then back to Noelle and Gina. I think if you left out the middle – more generic sentence, the paragraph would have more impact and be a better lead-in to your ending bombshell. WOW!