Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #21

GENRE: YA Contemporary

Rule number one for surviving my mother’s love life? Always keep your eyes on the horizon. That’s why, instead of putting my things away in my new bedroom, I’m alternating between writing an English essay that’s not due for two weeks and obsessively refreshing the admission status page on KU’s website. Good grades and a college two and a half hours away from here. That’s what’s on my horizon right now.

“Amber,” a voice says, and I look up to see Mom standing in my doorway. She raises an eyebrow and looks from me to Buffy, my German shepherd, who is stretched out next to me on the bed.


“You know what.”

I sigh. Kevin, mom’s new boyfriend and the owner of this house and this bed, is not a pet person. He doesn’t want Buffy on the furniture. Mom had to know I’d break this rule, but I don’t think she expected it on move in day. “Buffy, off.”

Buffy shoots me a hurt look and slinks off the bed.

“Thank you,” Mom says, her gaze flickering between me and Buffy and all of my unopened boxes. “Are you taking a little break?”

“Uh, yeah.” I dig my toes under the pillows at the head of the bed and nod at my laptop. “Had to do some homework. I put all my clothes away, though.” I don’t mention that other than that and Buffy’s food and water bowls, I haven’t touched a thing.


  1. I really liked this. You have a strong voice, a solid first line, and the fact that she's reluctant to unpack makes me think she's done this before and doesn't have much hope for her mom's relationship with Kevin, but that she's optimistic enough to look toward the future. Shows character. My only suggestion would be to check into hyphens for two-and-a-half. Nice! Best of luck!

  2. Great voice. I feel for her having to follow her mom from relationship to relationship. I like how she doesn't want to unpack because at a moments notice they could be at another man's house. I think it is a very solid start and I like your MC from the start.

  3. I like this, too. Good voice and just enough description. Subtle but strong nuance about how they adjust themselves to the new BF's rules.

  4. Great voice. I love your MC. Also, I always distrust non-pet people.

    My only criticism, and it's small, is that horizon was used twice in the same paragraph, but you get away with it here.

  5. I love the setting and voice here, great natural opening. You made me like and feel for her in less than a page. I'm with Carleen on non-pet people. My animals rule me. Good luck!!!

  6. I agree you've got a strong opening and likable MC right off the bat. Love all the character than the conflict over Buffy being on the bed tells us about Amber, her mom and Kevin.

    My only suggestion would be to trim the "voice," since she would recognize her Mom's voice, and looking up to see standing....
    Perhaps cleaner something like:

    I look up.
    Mom's standing in the doorway, her eyebrow raised. She looks from me to Buffy....

    Super strong opening. Good luck with your story!

  7. I *love* your first paragraph. I instantly know so many things about your MC--that she's going to college soon, that she's excited about college and likes school, that her mom and her are...complicated.

    My only recommendation would be with this --> “Amber,” a voice says, and I look up to see Mom standing in my doorway. She raises an eyebrow and looks from me to Buffy, my German shepherd, who is stretched out next to me on the bed.

    1.) She probably would recognize her mom's voice so it wouldn't be "a voice."
    2.) You don't need the "my German shepherd" part. I don't feel it's important to know the breed of the dog or even that it is a dog. There's the implication in the following paragraph that it's a pet, and the assumption is a dog. It'd be one thing if Buffy were a pot-belly pig, if that makes sense.

  8. I hope Amber can take Buffy with her to college! My only suggestions are a couple of simple ways to tighten up. Skip the voice bit: "Mom stands in my doorway." Skip the explanation about Kevin: "Mom's new boyfriend is not a pet person. Kevin [made it clear he] doesn't want Buffy on his furniture." Those were my only stumbles. You have a nice balance of dialogue and internal monologue. Good luck!

  9. This is definitely a strong opening. We get to know Amber, what she likes and doesn't like, her current conflict and her goals. The opening line is wonderful, too. Best of luck!

  10. Yes, great opening. I want to know more about your MC's life! And I love the name of her dog! Agree with comments above about not recognizing her mother's voice and having her mom look at the dog first because this part confused me. Good luck!

  11. Your voice is shining through on page one, which is great. Your MC seems relatable right away, and we feel for her having to put up with Kevin. I’m not sure from the sample where the book is going exactly, but make sure your YA contemporary stands out in some way from what’s already been done.