Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Secret Agent #7

GENRE: YA Contemporary

I sat behind you in world history. That Monday, when everyone assumed you were absent, home sick or whatever, I remember staring at Jahmil's hair. I usually couldn't see the back of his head since you were always there in front of me, but that day you weren't and we were discussing battle dates, so I let my mind wander to the dreds Jahmil was growing. I wondered how long he was going to let them get and imagined what my mother would say if I wanted to do dreds. The salon on Third, they'd probably do a good job--I could check them out. Later I wondered if that's when you did it, while I was sitting in class thinking about Jahmil's hair.

The next day when the rumors caught and crackled down halls, smoldered at lockers and ignited in classrooms, your empty seat was wildfire. We couldn't stop staring at it. Mr. Lucas tried to ignore the distraction, but his eyes kept darting nervously over to your desk while he explained the assassination of emperor whoever. Finally Evan raised his hand. We all knew he wasn't going to ask about anarchists.

"Yes, Evan," Mr. Lucas exhaled uneasily. He knew what was coming.

"Um, Emily's not here, and people are know."

Mr. Lucas looked at Evan, then uncomfortably around the room at the rest of us. He coughed into his fist. "Yes, we've all heard the rumors, but we don't have the facts."


  1. I really like this. You set up the stage so we know what's happening right away. A couple of minor suggestions: I would change 'let my mind wander' to something else. It seems to be an overused phrase. Maybe use 'I stared at the dreds' or something like that instead.

    Also, after "Yes, Evan," I would change the comma to a period. The next sentence lets us know who's speaking and can stand alone.

    Otherwise, very nice job. It drew me into the story right away!

  2. Intriguing beginning. I definitely want to know more about what happened to Emily and what the rumors are. For me, the language of the first paragraph didn't flow as well as the second paragraph. The second was more in the moment where the first felt a little like set up.

  3. I like this premise and am intrigued. I got a little confused in the opening paragraph due to the phrasing of sentence two, but in rereading, I think you could omit the first sentence. We know that the subject is world history from what the teacher is talking about.

  4. I was also drawn in to this serious situation. I like the rambling, free-writing nature of the first paragraph, though a little tightening could help it flow like the second paragraph.

    Great set up as I am curious about the narrator's relationship with Emily. I also wonder if we'll see more of Jahmil and his hair.

  5. Intriguing premise and excellent voice! Your main character is coming through as conversational and quirky; I imagined it narrated by Ellen Page as Juno. :) I agree with what's been said already, that the rambling works here. It doesn't feel info-dumpy, but instead seems in keeping with the character's personality. "Your empty seat was wildfire" threw me just a tad, so maybe consider adding a "like" or making it a less direct metaphor (e.g., "Your seat was the source of the wildfire.").

    Also, I really like that the main character is speaking *to* Emily. It makes us wonder about their relationship to one another, Emily's fate, the main character's feelings about it, and so many other things! Great openings of doors in this first page!

  6. Nice set up. You pull me right into the classroom with the narrator. And the voice in this was great. You step on the threshold of a serious topic and yet descend into it delicately. I love the last line because to me facts are everything and rumors are nothing more than wasted stories conjured by the curious. As I was reading it, I immediately got thrown back to when I was reading Thirteen Reasons Why. Very good job and thanks for entering.

  7. Love the pov you've chosen and the fact that he's speaking directly to Emily. If you had written this in third person, past tense, or even first person telling us about Emily, it wouldn't have the same impact. Very nicely done. I'd read more of this in a minute.

  8. I like it, focusing on the back of someone's head that normally you wouldn't see was kind of a cool, unexpected detail. It rings really true. Not sure about the teacher being so nervous though.