Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May Secret Agent Contest #36

TITLE: Smarts: Escape from Wonder
GENRE: YA Romance

I sit in the corner of the stuffy, stadium-styled classroom here at Princeton, scribbling a picture of a birthday cake on my notebook. When I’m done with my little drawing, I make a wish and use the eraser to blow out eighteen slightly lopsided candles on top of the cake.

I wish my hair was blonde.

Brushing red eraser crumbs off my paper, I roll my eyes. I really can’t think up a better wish than that? And wishing for a completely different life is against the rules, isn’t it?

A frown creeps onto my face before I catch it. But come on, what girl wouldn’t feel a little sorry for herself if her parents stopped celebrating her birthday when she turned eight? If that wasn’t bad enough, they also made me change my name and my hair color.

Yep, my hair color.

“Okay,” Professor Bell says as a smile steals over his chubby cheeks. I love that teaching Smarts 101 is the highlight of his life. Inside, my frown turns into a small smile, but I make sure it doesn’t really show on my face. “You all know how I love brain teasers. I have two quick ones for you.” I gradually perk up in my seat. “Teaser number one: How many students do we have in this class? Don’t answer out loud, just glance around the room quickly and make an educated guess.”


  1. Immediately, you have painted a very intriguing character! What kind of parents MAKE their child change their hair color? I guess the kind who stop celebrating their birthday... Either way, I feel hooked. My only note is to maybe hint at why they made her change her hair color. What is her hair color now? Is it a dark brown - appropriate for ivy league and more eligible to be taken seriously? (Legally Blonde is popping into my head.) I think that might bring a little clarity to her parents and create a better picture of her character upfront. (Although, I realize this is only the first 250 words, and you probably get to that.) Overall though, I'm very intrigued!

  2. I love the birthday cake drawing and how she "blew out" the candles! It's so creative, and it definitely paints a picture of the situation. The combo of changing name and hair makes me think the family is in hiding or something. I wonder if that's true... Regarding the paragraph with the italics: having a question in italics followed by one not made me a little confused about why since I feel like she could be asking both of those questions in her head. If not, maybe find a way to turn the second question into a statement.

  3. Hello! What a great scene! It gives a clear setting and action that makes the MC relatable in such a short time! One question I had was about the wish making- to me the way it's described seems like the wishes could really come true (like a fantasy or magical realism). I think specifically the line about wishing for a different life "is against the rules." Also with Smarts 101 I started to think this was set in a different reality. Of course, Smarts 101 might just be her name for the class she's taking, but it made me wonder. Overall, this was great!

  4. This really gives you an image and her voice is stellar. The flow is great as well. But what made me pause was the age, how old is the main character and going to Princeton? I suppose I was thinking more of High School. Sorry if I missed something. But overall, I enjoyed it.

  5. I enjoyed this opening paragraph! Immediate sympathy for the lack of birthday celebrations since the age of eight. Change her name and her hair color? Now I'm suspicious of her parents. They must be on the lamb. Intriguing!

    Random thoughts as I read:
    She's eighteen. She can change her hair color if she wants. Why hasn’t she just dyed it? What is Smarts 101?

    Wanting “a completely different life” is relatable but also generic. Maybe her wish could be more specific to give a hint at the conflict?

    Thank you for sharing!