Wednesday, March 18, 2009

14 Secret Agent

TITLE: Ghost Boys Give Cold Kisses
GENRE: YA mystery, also, a ghost...

I would never be happy here. Never, never, never.

I ripped open the door, but that was just the screen door, so then I had to
rip open the actual front door. Once I'd made it into the hallway I had to
slam the screen door first, which didn't slam well because it had one of
those poxy self-closing hinges that closes at about zero miles an hour.
Slamming the real door rocked the house, though, as did my backpack crashing
on to the wooden floorboards.

The look on Mom's face as I flashed past the kitchen on my way to the garden
made it worth the effort. Steve's voice wafted out of the kitchen window:
'Give her a minute. A first day at a new school is always hard.'

He had no idea.

My insides writhed with resentment, as if a scabby beast were swelling up
inside me; yearning to throw itself down on the grass and scream like a
thwarted toddler. But Australian grass is so dried out and spiky it's liable
to poke your eye out, so instead, I peeled the sticker that said 'I'm India
and I'm new!' off my sack of a school dress, flung it on the grass and
ground it into the dirt with my foot. Grind, grind, grind. Slowly,
deliberately, mercilessly. From the branches of the tree above me a fat grey
bird with a long beak screeched in mockery.


  1. Author, You give us such a detailed picture of setting and characterization! I'm immediately drawn into your prose. Nicely done!

  2. Really liked this up to the last paragraph, but the writhing insides and scabby beast images didn't feel as real as the rest. I'd keep reading, though - good character, good emotion right up front.

  3. I love, love, love this. It's so fun and engaging and as a YA writer myself I spend a lot of time reading the genre and if I flipped this open in the store, I would totally buy this based on the first few paragraphs alone.

    India is so immediately likable and easy to empathize with. Very well done.

  4. I'm very drawn in by this one. The description of her slamming the doors was perfect. The first and last sentences of the last paragraph seemed a little off to me. The word choices in the first sentence seemed different than the rest of the writing. The last sentence kind of pulled me out of the deep POV of the rest of it.
    Aside from that, I think this is very, very good writing. I could visualize what was happening and identify with her feelings.

  5. I was a little confused about whether she was coming inside or out.

    First she slammed the screen door, then the regular door, and then back outside to the garden? Where is the garden? In the house? :]

    I do like this otherwise<:

  6. Very nice. The only thing that hung me up was the doors. Wouldn't she have to push open the second door? They usually open in opposite directions.

    I would definitely read on.

  7. This is really well written, but -- especially for first person -- the voice feels a little too adult to me. I can't imagine my teenage cousins thinking "thwarted toddler," for example. "Toddler throwing a fit," maybe.

    You had me till the third paragraph though :)

  8. I agree that the language of the last paragraph feels different than previous, especially the first sentence. Something simpler might fit better, like:

    "He had no idea.

    I wanted to throw myself on the grass and scream like a toddler. But Australian grass..."

    But I would read on. ;)

  9. Definitely hooked. Great voice, great start. Deft, to the point, and yet very well fleshed out.

    Good job!

  10. Ha! Rolling and hooked. I love the voice.

    She seems bratty, yet not annoying. Could take a turn for the worse if she stays in this mood for too long, but I like it so far.

  11. India trying to slam the screen door with the pneumatic hinge made me laugh out loud. We had one of those in my house when I was growing up, and I haaaaated it!

    I agree with the other comments that the last paragraph doesn't fit. It doesn't match the voice you've established, and it's a little overwritten. But, India is immediately likable, and I would definitely turn the page.

  12. I liked the fast pace and the honesty - kids sure do try to tick-off their parents. Well done!

  13. Loved the writing (except the scabby beast sentence, which was too mixed), but I'm confused. Didn't she just come into the house? How is she able to throw her nametag on the grass if she's inside the house? I know she was heading for the garden, but she never went out another door, so I read it through two more times confused. Maybe add her slamming another door to emphasize that she's in one door out another?

    Hope this helps. :)

  14. Kisses! Wonderful comments. Thank you so much for your help.

  15. So many of these YA entries sound like middle grades to me. I just don't see a high school girl carrying on like this, at least not in the fiction I've read. Also, you are starting with something really familiar - girl just moves to a new town and has a bad first day. Of course there are only so many ways to open a story and familiar doesn't equal bad. But there should be some kind of twist, either in the plot or the voice that would make me want to read on. This one didn't quite have it for me.

  16. Judging from the language and sentence structure, this feels more MG to me than YA. Also, I think you spend too much time describing the door, which detracts away from the *why*, which is a better hook, IMHO.

  17. I liked this but agree that it sound MG. The last paragraph didn't bother me as much as some others. The title/genre makes me want to read more too - I'm really wondering where it will go from here. Hooked.

  18. Hooked. Her emotions were realistic and it wasn't hard to get inside her head and feel why slamming the doors and her mother's face would be satisfying. One thing that stopped me briefly was the description of the door. Something felt long about it.

    I would read on.

  19. I'm hooked. Warning though. The January SA told one writer (who's a friend of mine and a brilliant writer) that the new kid in a new country/new school and having a bad first day theme is hardly original and it would take something great in the plot to overcome that. Since yours is a mystery, possibly a ghost story, you might be okay.

    I did like the writing, and can relate to the frustration of the zero miles an hour door when you want to prove a point.

    Good luck!

  20. Poor girl, trying to have a hissy fit and the durn door won't even slam. Funny. Plenty of doors like that out there for kids to identify with.

    So, she goes in front door and out the back without stopping? Love the man's voice being overheard. It settles the scene. Just a kid having a mad fit. Much as she'd tried, she didn't impress him as much as she did her mother. He'll be a keeper character, I think. This sub is well written. Good luck.

    Could you drop 'scabby' from beast's description? When she tear of the first day label from her dress, I first pictured a bookbag. Maybe describe dress another way? Also, the stomp, stomp, stomp jarred me. I think it would be fine w/o it.

    I like the Australian setting and think it will be an additional selling point, simply because of the geography lesson kids will get.
    That said, a bird US kids know is a paraqueet, or budgy. Don't you have plenty of those? A few illustrations would be nice.

  21. I love this. I'd definitely read on but I agree that it feels more MG (I am struggling to find the line, too. MG is 9-12 and YA is 12-18 so there is some overlap)

  22. The commentators here are so strong! First, I will say this is one of the best samples. Energetic writing, nice take (frustration of not having a satisfying slam). You provide place and set the scene very well.

    BUT yes, it is a familiar scene (new kid etc); the voice sounds slightly young (could be fixed by eliminating "never, never, never)"; the writhed/scabby is somehow wrong. But I would definitely read on. Good job!