Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Secret Agent #15

TITLE: Worth the Risk
GENRE: YA Contemporary

            Turn Three rushes at me. I blow the entry, swerve way to the outside. The concrete barrier looms on my right like the wall of doubts I’ve built in my brain. Maybe Dad’s right, maybe I should’ve waited till next year to move up to Juniors.

            I’m driving my worst practice laps ever.

            I pound on the wheel. Focus! I’ve got to show these older drivers that just-turned-sixteen doesn’t mean I can’t blow their doors off.

            Sure, these laps have zero effect on tomorrow’s race. But if I don’t nail the groove today, I’ll end up at the back of the pack tomorrow before I can say “Chase Elliott.” I need a top ten finish in each of the next four races or my first Junior Circuit season ends before it’s half over. I am not gonna spend the rest of the summer at home and count the days till school starts. I’ve dreamed of this for way too long.

            “Everything 10-4?”

            My brother Rick’s voice over my two-way radio startles me and I jerk the wheel, skid through Turn Four. The smell of scorched rubber stings my nose as I fight with the wheel, the brake, the clutch, finally drag my Pontiac back in line. Stupid, blowing a turn I’ve nailed all weekend.

            “Jessica?” Rick asks again. “Did something happen?”


  1. Terrific adrenaline rush beginning. I had to pause at the sentence, “Sure, these laps have zero effect on tomorrow’s race.” The next sentence tells us all we need to know about the importance of tomorrow. Keep the reader in the moment and perhaps cut that and start the paragraph with, “If I don’t nail the groove today…”

    Keep the reader with the narrator’s action. Get rid of “and” in this sentence. It’s more immediate: “I am not gonna spend the rest of the summer at home counting the days…”

    And she’s a girl—love the surprise!

  2. Love this premise! I definitely wanted to keep reading. Female race driver - that's awesome!

    One suggestion - her brother would know that something is off. Especially if they do racing together. He would know that she lost focus because he can see what's happening too.

    One question - Other than winning the race, are there bigger stakes at play?

  3. I LOVE the idea she's a race car driver. She seems tough and competitive, and as soon as her brother called her name, I instantly connected with her. You've done a great job of setting the scene up, as well. I feel like I'm right there with her. One suggestion: If she's done this (racing) for sometime, wouldn't she be used to her brother's voice in her ear? It just seemed like the wrong reaction--to be startled. Great job, though!

  4. This is set up beautifully. With all the action going on, it feels like you're right there in the car. And then the surprise in the last line, the race car driver is female. Nice job! Sounds like an exciting story. Good luck.

  5. I was intrigued by the junior racer, the MC's obvious drive (pun intended), the older brother, and the girl twist.

    I did have to read the first paragraph a couple of times before I understood what was going on. What if 'I'm driving my worst practice laps ever.' was the first line? Or maybe even more direct: I'm driving the worst laps of my life.

    Another suggestion to tighten: The concrete barrier looms like a wall of doubt. (I think it's probably given the doubt is in her brain.) Also consider: Maybe Dad was right. I should've waited another year to move up to Juniors.

    This makes me want to know what else moving up to Juniors means to her and the sacrifices she's made to get there.

    Nice job!

  6. You've got a great premise here with a 16 yr old female race car driver, but I don't think the opening does it justice. You haven't shown us a girl racing around a track. You've given
    us a girl complaining.

    Perhaps instead show her actually racing. Let us feel the speed, smell the rubber and exhaust, make us scared when she misses a turn. In other words, show her drive the car. Then, when she's done, her brother can ask what happened, and she can have a conversation with him saying the things she thought in this version. Show the story. Let it play out. Don't tell it to us.

  7. I’d rephrase that first sentence because I didn’t know what “Turn three” meant until later and so it kind of confused me and pulled me out of the story.

    I could tell how much driving means to the character and how they wanted to show everyone that they had what it took. I loved the fact that it’s revealed at the end that the protagonist is actually female (and that it was revealed in a natural way) and so it made me curious about what’s going to happen next. I just had total flashbacks to the Disney movie, Motocrossed. Good job and thanks for entering!

  8. The opening lines really jarred me. I'm a sci-fi/fantasy kind of person, so I was imagining some futuristic game in my head and trying to figure it out, then I saw the genre label and was just left confused.

    That said, though... once I realized where we were, I loved it! I love how Jessica is so hard on herself; she's clearly a flawed character with an interesting journey ahead of her. With a story about a girl in a male-dominated sport, it would really easy to give her no flaws and just have the story be about her overcoming everyone else's bad attitudes. I get the sense this is more than that.

    Overall, some clarification at the beginning to establish the scene a bit better and I think you've got a really solid opening on your hands. I hope I get to read the book someday!