Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #50

GENRE: MG Contemporary

A common double knot. Most often
used to join the ends of two disconnected lines. 

The Complete Book of Knots sits open in my lap, flapping in the steamy wind that gushes in through the car window. I wrap a length of rope around my fingers. Tight—until the tips turn white and start to go numb. Then I slump onto the back seat and let go.

I should know by now that numbness doesn’t solve anything.

Dad glances at me in the rearview mirror, his eyebrows thick and dark like two furry caterpillars. “How you doing back there, Petra?” he asks.

How does he think I’m doing? Three weeks ago he and Mom started their “trial separation”—whatever that means—and just when I thought Amber and I would finally get some alone time with him I find out my ex-best friend and her mother are crashing our vacation. Does he want me to act like we’re headed to Disney World?

“Just wanted to check on you,” he tries again. “You’re so quiet.”

“That’s ‘cause I’ve got nothing to say.” No one ever asked me if I cared if the O’Leary’s came.
Upfront, Amber takes a break from texting and turns around, eyeing me carefully. She knows why I’m not talking. Her hair is pulled up in a messy bun, and her perfectly pedicured feet are perched on the dashboard. She’s sitting where Mom usually sits. Or used to.


  1. A nice start. We have a character in a situation, doing something. That something, tying knots, is not something that shows up a lot and could be used as an interesting plot device. We're also presented with a problem right away, which pulls me in as a reader.

    I didn't get a real sense of Petra's age. I was leaning toward early teens, 13-14, until she didn't know what a trial separation was. I felt someone that age would know. Seeing that it was MG, I assumed she was at the top of the age group, 12, and still thought she'd know what it meant. If she's younger, perhaps state it somewhere, or change her voice a bit so she comes off as younger. To me, the voice makes her seem more a teen than MG. But a nice start!

  2. OH! I like the idea of the knots. I think starting with "I should know by now that numbness doesn't solve anything" and then going into knot 1. Would be a more intense opening.
    I think the character descriptions are done well and SHOW us a lot about the characters. Nice start!

  3. I loved this. I kinda thought Petra was a boy's name. Its foreign for Peter? I guess a girl could tie knots. And if Amber is his best friend, why is she sitting in the front. I guess I'm confused with the characters. I would read on as I'm easily confused at times. I want to know more about these people.

  4. I loved the fact Petra is tying knots like the knots in her life right now. I wonder why her friend (ex-friend) is sitting next to her dad. Good job of giving the readers questions to be answered. Good luck!

  5. Maybe the page begins with "Dad glances...." Then the next paragraph is "How does he ...." Then "The complete book ...." would be the next paragraph and so on.

    I, too, was confused why Amber is up front. I guess the O'Leary's are in the car.

    In just a few words I get this trip will be more than interesting and I would continue reading. You've definitely set Petra's mood.

    Your voice is easy and natural but it does sound more like a YA. However, having said that, some 12 year olds are pretty snarky. Perhaps she should understand what a trial-separation is.

    Great writing. Best of luck!

  6. Oh wow! So many good things to say about this post:
    1. Interesting beginning. Reader is wondering why the fascination with knots?
    2. Strong verbs
    3. Stand alone sentence...reader senses that MC is in trouble...seeking solution
    4. Description of dad
    5. Problem is stated right away.
    6. Timely topic: I teach 4th graders. Many, many children today deal with the pain of a torn apart family, with girlfriends of dads and boyfriends of moms, with step-siblings.
    7. Continuation of the knot metaphor: the MC has a life and a heart tied up in knots right now.
    I would want to keep reading.
    I would like to know very soon the age of the MC? Sense that the older sister is a teenager with the messy bun, pedicured feet, and sitting up front. Best of luck to you!

  7. I was pulled in right away! Nice job establishing the main character and conflict right away. I would defintel want to keep reading. One little thing: I'm not sure where, exactly, this car is, but I had a hard time imagining steamy wind gushing in the car window. Why is the window open if it's that hot? Is there no A/C? This doesn't seem like an impoverished family, so that detail didn't quite ring true.

  8. I like the symbolism of the knot at the beginning, too. Knots can either be seen as a problem or as a solution bringing two points together into a new connection. What I like even more, though, is that our introduction to this character has him in control of that knot making, even if he doesn't recognize it as a sense of being in control of the mess.

    The relationship between the family and the plausibility of connection between his dad and his (ex) best friend's mom is good, too. I want to know if Amber says anything or if they just do the sibling thing and know where each other is at in the situation. The fact that she's sitting where her mom used to, too, offers more symbolism, but none of the symbolism seems overdone.

    I really liked this, and I want to keep reading!

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