Friday, November 28, 2014

(43) YA/thriller: DEAD SILENCE

TITLE: Dead Silence
GENRE: YA/thriller

A pandemic sweeps the globe and Hawaii loses contact with the rest of the world. A teenage girl learns her father has the antidote . . . but he’s missing. She must find him before the airborne virus reaches the islands.

Friday, December 12, 2025

The day the world fell silent, I sat in Basic Chinese, a class I was going to fail. Again. Chinese would be my doom. It was a required course in Hawaii, so I had to pass.

Fat chance.

Millions of Chinese babies learned the language without any trouble, but here I was, a reasonably intelligent tenth grader falling further and further behind.

While the teacher scanned the room for someone to torture, I scrunched down behind a boy the size of a Sumo wrestler. His bulk hid me from Mrs. Wu and spared me the humiliation of responding to questions I couldn’t answer.

Beyond the classroom walls, surf pounded and called me to the beach. It was wrong, flat out wrong, to trap me here when I could be windsurfing or snorkeling or jogging on the beach.

And I was supposed to care about Chinese?

Mrs. Wu left her desk. Like a shark circling its victims, she stalked down one row and up the next and asked students random questions.

Not me, not me, I inwardly chanted. Pick someone else. Anyone else.

She stopped in front of Tiffany Warrick and smiled with all the warmth of a cobra. “Zhè shì shénme?” She held up a book.

What is this? That was an easy one. Even I knew the answer.

“Zhè shì shū,” Tiffany said without hesitation.

Mrs. Wu gave a swift nod, but no praise. She interrogated other students, but luckily, I escaped her attention. Hands laced behind her back, she returned to her desk.

Relief rushed through me. The inquisition was over.

Mrs. Wu pivoted. Her gaze burned a path straight to me.


  1. Oh, I love this! Interesting premise, interesting culture, interesting beginning. And it's easy to fall into. I'd pick this one up in a heartbeat.

    Best of luck!

  2. I love me a good disaster/pandemic story. I particulalry love your title.
    Her voice is great, that sort of snarky/self-depricating fatalism i like.
    I feel like, though, the opening could be a little stronger.
    The first sentence:

    The day the world fell silent, I sat in Basic Chinese, a class I was going to fail.

    Might add an extra pop if you split in in two. Right now, as it is, you tell us two big pieces of heavy info: today the world is going to fall silent (Exciting! I want to keep reading) and that she's failing chinese (Exciting! I want to keep reading)
    But because they're both in the opening sentence, they're fighting against each other which I think weakens the opening, if that makes sense.

    I also don't know that we need to know so early on that it's a requires course in Hawaii so she had to pass. Presumably she has to pass because failing is bad. I'd consider taking it out and letting your other clues (surfing, sumo wrestling) fill us in on the location.

    I hope that helps some and good luck in the auction!

  3. I'll say ditto to everything Sarah pointed out above. I feel like this exposition could be tightened up without sacrificing the narrative or impacting the voice. And I definitely concur on Sarah's point about the first line. I think you could also strike, "Chinese would be my doom" through "Fat chance" and pick up with "Millions of Chinese babies," for example, without losing anything vital. Mrs. Wu is great, though, and your depiction of her shows me your other characters are likely to be just as vibrant. I want to keep reading!

  4. I agree with everything Sarah said. I did like the Chinese class scene, since it showed off her personality.

  5. Very enticing beginning, writer. I liked your similies like the way Wu circled her "victims" and the Cobra thing.

    I had to wonder, based on the opening line where in the world the story would go. but that's a good thing...right? Good Luck

  6. Great premise and wonderful voice and depiction of the classroom. The first line absolutely drew me in to her world. And your word choices kept me in Hawaii and the culture. Great work.

    I have one small comment, I don't know if it applies, but might. The schools my kids are in have been offering Chinese for a while now and none of the teachers use "Mrs." They all have the kids address them in the more formal Chinese way, for example--Laoshi. This might also add to how tough and precise the teacher is.

    Thanks for putting this out there and the best of luck!

  7. Great job. There isn't a person reading this, (even me at 53) who doesn't recall this discomfort. Sounds like you've got a winner on your hands.

  8. Loved the premise for this, and I really like your main character's voice and the fact that the day starts in such a mundane fashion, but you know that things are about to change

  9. Interesting premise. I loved the voice and would like to read more. Good luck!

  10. Hi there!

    Nice concept!

    I love that little moment at the beginning with " Again." And it's strong enough that the following line feels redundant and weakens the impact.

    That said, you've got a great voice here! I feel like I'm already getting a feel for the character, and with very economical prose, which fits the subject matter and I can only assume will serve well with the urgency of the story to follow.

    A very small note, but an article of transition between "The inquisition was over." and "Mrs. Wu pivoted." Even and, "And then..." but ideally something. When you've got so many short sentences abutting, a little variety goes along way.


  11. Great voice. Fun to read. Excellent work with the "don't pick me" tension. I'd happily keep reading.

  12. I like the premise and the location. I wonder if starting closer to the moment when the world goes silent, or when she learns of it, would make a more compelling first page, and this may be it here, for all I know. But if it is, you might want to get it on the first page. In this opening, nothing happens. We don't even get to the point where she has to answer a question.

  13. Very cool concept, and I love the idea of the whole story taking place on an isolated island - it's very LOST! I also love the main character's voice. She feels like a real teen and someone I want to know more about.

    I do think you could tighten this beginning a bit, as others have suggested above. It feels as though there's a tad more detail than necessary - we know the main character is failing Chinese within the first paragraph, so I don't think we need to be reminded so often that she dislikes the class and doesn't want to participate.

    Based on your logline, I also wonder if this is the right starting place for the story. This sounds like it will be an action-packed thriller - so I'm unsure whether you really want to dwell on this classroom scene, which (seemingly) doesn't have much to do with the rest of the plot. Of course, I don't know exactly what happens next, which could potentially change my opinion - so, just something to think about!

    Lots of potential here. Good luck!

  14. ooh. You snuck in there. I got busy and didn't get a chance to check back!

  15. Just one of the perks of working from a home office. I'm never more than a hallway away from kicking literary butt. :)