Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #16

TITLE: The Art of Insanity
GENRE: YA Contemporary fiction

A high-school senior wants to earn a scholarship to art school, but a diagnosis of severe bipolar disorder interrupts her life.  When she throws her best art pieces off a bridge while in a manic state, she's in danger of missing the competition deadline. 

            The car accident last summer wasn’t an accident.
            Secrets have weight, and that one is heavy.  It’s not the light, fun kind of secret that provides fodder for late-night sleepover chats or hallway gossip.  It’s the dark kind of secret that lurks in shadows, and I spend my days hoping that it stays there and never comes into the light.
            I step out of my new-to-me Toyota Camry, and I run my fingertips along the metallic silver of its side.  I won’t let anything happen to this car.  I grab my backpack, shut the door, and head across the parking lot to my last first day of school.  Do I look like a senior?  I don’t feel like a senior.
            My new blue shirt matches my eyes, and I’m hoping people will notice that instead of my slight limp.  People always say I have beautiful eyes.  I’m wearing jeans and old tennis shoes because I don’t want anyone looking at my legs.  Look at my eyes, people!  Remember how beautiful my eyes are?!
            I take a deep breath and walk into the school.  The one-story brick building is big enough to hold our 600 person student body, but small enough that news travels fast.  I think that perhaps because the accident happened in the summer, maybe not many people know about it.  Maybe I can pretend it never happened.  I’m wrong.
           “Oh my gosh Natalie!”  Alyssa Jackson runs over soon as she sees me.  I had physics with her last year (I think), but I never talked to her outside of class.  She gives me a hug, which feels awkward.   “How are you?!  I heard all about the accident!  How terrible!”  She pulls out of the hug and gives me a once-over, looking for evidence of injuries.


  1. I like this opening. There's a lot of tension present and I think it's well-written.
    I would just change around a few things.
    In your first full paragraph, instead of 'lurking in the shadows', you might say 'it's the dark kind of secret that you hide deep inside, the one no one wants to talk about.'

    In your fourth paragraph, I would take out the part 'Look at my eyes, people. Remember how beautiful my eyes are?! because it took me out of the story. I don't think you need those two sentences.

    Also, I think you could use fewer words and still get your point across by condensing 'The one-story brick building is big enough to hold our 600 person student body, but small enough that news travels fast.' to 'News travels fast in a one-story brick building with 600 students.' Just a suggestion.

    Overall, I liked your introduction and your story ide. I would definitely read further. Good luck!

  2. I saw that first sentence and immediately opened this entry in a new tab. Great tension building. I agree with the comments Susan made, all things I'd planned on mentioning before I'd noticed she'd written them already.

    I suggest rearranging these two sentence:

    I had physics with her last year (I think), but I never talked to her outside of class. She gives me a hug, which feels awkward.

    I think introducing the awkward hug, and then giving the reason why it's awkward after could work better.

  3. I'd read this, no question. I thought the "Look at my eyes" bit was very effective, it brought me right into her head. There's a little room for tightening, a couple of stage directions that could be cut and the occasional bit of wording that sounds more authorial than teen ("I think that perhaps"), but nothing that's hard to fix. I'd like to take this journey with Natalie.

  4. I like this premise, but I think you need to allude to her bipolar disorder more in the opening. Is the accident a direct result of her disorder? If so, give the reader a hint that while it might have been her fault, it wasn't really her fault.

  5. Overall, I liked this opening.

    However, I don't think your pitch is working. It seems like you should start with whatever led her to be diagnosed with bipolar in the first place. Like "when Natalie drives her car off a bridge right before her senior year..." or whatever happened. Also, the stakes presented at the end are too low. Why should we care if she misses a deadline for some competition? What happens if she misses the deadline? I miss deadlines all the time, and life goes on. Think about the stakes in her internal journey. Being that she's bipolar, what's at stake internally is probably more interesting and dramatic than the stakes of her external journey. Good luck!

  6. Agree that the stakes as written feel kind of small. If she misses the deadline can't she just reapply next year? I do like the "remember how beautiful my eyes are" plea, I thought was a good way to show her insecurities.