Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Secret Agent #40

TITLE: Redefined
GENRE: YA Contemorary

Most seniors didn’t stay home on a Friday night to babysit their mom. I did.

I was chopping tomatoes at the kitchen island, helping Billie finish dinner. Dad hired her to take care of Mom during the day, but she also liked to cook for us, a definite bonus. Billie’s cooking tasted almost as good as Mom’s used to. Almost.

Dad called at six, one hour before the football game Em and I had been looking forward to all week. We’d waged our last battle against the SAT monster, and I’d written college application essays until the glare of my laptop made my eyeballs burn. We deserved a night out, even if it was just a Keene County football game.

So when my phone hummed on the counter, and Dad’s picture appeared on its screen, I kept slicing tomatoes.

Bzzzz. Bzzzzz.

Billie glanced at me over the top of her glasses. “You gonna answer that?”

“Fine.” I accepted the call and tucked the phone between my shoulder and my ear. Dad started talking before I finished saying hello.

“Catherine, I’m in the ICU waiting for lab results on a patient.”

I held the paring knife in midair. “You’re not coming home.”

“Not for a while.” His words wrapped around me, tight.

“I wanted to go to the game tonight.”

“I’m sorry, Cat. I’m tied up. I need you to stay home with Mom.”

I glanced at my mother, sitting in her wheelchair with her head dropped to one side.


  1. The premise is very poignant, and I think you've set a good scene here to establish it. I'm not sure that the first sentence is necessary. If you do want to keep it, I would try rewording it. "Senior" is just vague enough that I wasn't immediately sure if it referred to the high-school class or a senior citizen. The verb tense is also a bit murky. Using "did" makes it sound like a one-time event, but I'm guessing this is a recurring problem? Perhaps try something like "Most teenagers didn't have to stay home..."

    Good luck!

  2. Great opening line! Right away you show us how this MC is different. You have some nice tension here between the MC and her dad. It's clear that this isn't the first time Dad has left her to take care of her mother when she wants to go out and so a normal, high school thing. Your writing is nice and tight and I'm interested in what happens next.

    I agree that you could tweak the opening line for clarity, as another comment suggests, but I still love the picture it gives me as a reader.

  3. I agree with the other comments about the opening line. But you've painted a sad picture, tension with Dad, and I can feel the tug of something getting ready to happen to upend Cat's world. Good luck.

  4. I really like this and would definitely keep reading. However, I think you have things just a little bit muddled for me to work thru it smoothly. I don't know. Maybe it's just me.

    I think you could move the first sentence to the end of this bit and it would be fine. Also, I would prefer that you didn't tell us dad called before he actually did. That kind of threw me out of the present and I had to go back and check on the order of things.

    Other than that, I really like your concept. Obviously mom is in a bad way, and your MC is missing out on a lot because of it, and I want to know how things work out for everyone. Good job.

  5. Nice opening line and great job setting the scene! I second that you don't need to tell us the dad calls before he actually does, I'd prefer to see things as they happen.

  6. I'm not sure about the opening line. Is this a flashback to what happens below (in which case you are ruining the suspense) or is this referring to MOST Friday nights and we're supposed to figure out that this one was supposed to be different?

    Also, it's odd for her dad to call her Catherine and then Cat in the next breath. Most parents have a name they call their kids and they stick to that.

    Good luck!

  7. This is an intriguing premise and these initial pages do a good job of showing what the main character may be up against. I really enjoyed the voice! That said, we are told a lot of information upfront that I would have liked to have seen woven in throughout the action (chopping and answering the phone call) so that the story flows more seamlessly. Knowing about the phone call before experiencing the phone call hurts the overall tension. This is a very promising start, but a few more tweaks would really allow the reader to be pulled in from the get-go.

  8. This is heartbreaking. I've been where she is. It definitely needs some tightening up and smoothing, but I want to know what's next.