Wednesday, March 18, 2009

17 Secret Agent

TITLE: Reunion in Narrow Ridge
GENRE: YA Mystery Romance


“You got to be freakin’ kidding me!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “I don’t have a grandmother.” I slouched back in Mr. Dempsey’s couch, crossed my arms over my chest, and stared at a small hole in his wall. I blinked hard to keep from crying.

“I’m sorry Emma, but that’s what it says.” Mr. Dempsey paged through my mother’s will again, like this time he might find something different. “Everything gets sold and put into a trust that you will receive when you turn twenty-one. You’ll get a small living allowance, of course. But, in order to inherit you must do two things: live with your grandmother until you turn eighteen and complete your education.”

“My whole life, she’s always told me I don’t have any relatives. It’s just been me and her. Why would she lie? I’m telling you, I DON’T HAVE A GRANDMOTHER.” I couldn’t help it. I cried this time.

Mr. Dempsey fidgeted behind his desk. I guess he wasn’t used to soothing crying girls. “Look.” He slid an old photo across his desk. “Her name is Gemma Bentley and she lives in Narrow Ridge, North Carolina.”

I didn’t move towards the photo. Instead, I sat kicking my crossed leg up and down.

“Do you want me to make the arrangements?”

No reaction.


  1. I'm hooked. The character seems close and believable, and I want to know why this kid's mother has kept her grandmother a secret.

  2. Preface = Prologue? :]

    I did think that the crying was OTT, but I can understand her reaction if she is angry and frustrated and freaked out. And maybe resentful.

    And why didn't she look at the photo? Maybe look for an imposter with alien features, rather than face the realization that the remnants of her life is going to be turned completely upside down.

    Anyway - would read on. :]

  3. Good, solid writing. I'd like to see something about what she's most angry about. Her mother dying? The secret her mother withheld? Not getting the money? But I'm guessing that's revealed shortly.

  4. My favorite line is kicking her crossed leg up & down. I don't like the all caps, I'd italicize, but I like the story & I'd keep reading.

  5. Hooked!

    This is solid. I'm assuming her mom died very recently, and that's why she needs a guardian. To me, her crying doesn't seem over the top. She just seems fragile and confused and pissed-off.

    I don't like the all-caps, either. But other than that, I'd absolutely read more.

  6. I'd read on. It sounds middle grade, though. The girl sounds twelve, thirteen tops. Also, with character driven fiction, it's nice to take a bit of time for set up. That's what I'm wanting here. Mood as well as plot.

    My immediate assumption is that mom is pretty cruel to dictate such instructions without talking to the child about it first. So I'd be reading on to see if I was right.

    The situation is pretty familiar, though. So if something unique (or some unique perspective) doesn't turn up soon, I'd put it down.

  7. This is very interesting and you have some great description. The only think I can nit, is that the good description almost takes away from the dialogue. For example, if you started the first para with:

    "I don't have a grandmother," I said.

    And then started the action in the next paragraph, with the lawyer rifling through the papers, I think the dialogue becomes stronger.

    I'd read on.

  8. I like this. Clear conflict right off the bat, and the voice feels appropriate for the YA market. Yup, I’d read on!

  9. I like this. Clear conflict right off the bat, and the voice feels appropriate for the YA market. Yup, I’d read on!

  10. She does seem a sulky, pouty type. I like that! Her behaviour does seem a little young for YA, but teenagers are quite capable of amazing mood regressions, so it's hard to judge on 250 words.

  11. Great voice! One thing you might consider is that instead of saying that the principal fidgeted, show it. Maybe he adjusts his tie or coughs or whatever. Good luck with this, I'd definitely read on!

  12. The premise sounds interesting and I want to keep reading just to know why the grandmother's been kept a secret. However, I have to agree with macaronipants: the voice seems a little young to be YA. Maybe MG?

    Also, I wonder if this needs to be a preface/prologue? I'm sure you have a reason, but I've found that in most cases, a preface/prologue is unnecessary and should just be the actual first chapter.

    One other thing, I'm guessing that Mr. Dempsey is an attorney or something? He's reading Emma's mother's will? You don't say, so I'm not sure if he is or if he's just a friend of the fam or something.

    Hope that input helps. Good luck!

  13. Watch your point of view shifts. Perhaps it is because the 250 words ended at that point, but that last sentence really rubs me wrong. 'No reaction.' Up until that point, you'd been describing everything down to the way she's crossed her legs from a first person point of view. Then she is posed a question, and [shift!] 'No reaction.'

    Perhaps something like: 'I didn't even blink.'

    This isn't my genre, but I agree with other reviewers who don't hear this as a young adult voice. On the other hand, depending on the situation, I have seen 15 year olds go from behaving like they are 30 to behaving as if they are 10 years old (and back again) - so maybe you've captured it better than I thought.

    In any case, if this is the opening for your book, I think you want her voice to match the target age group. As a teenager, I remember opening YA books and skimming the first few pages to see if I thought it was too young for me. An author had about a 2 minute window to grab my attention before that offering was shelved, never to be glanced at again. (Of course, I remember loving Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's August 1914 when I was searching out recreational reading in the school library during my freshman year in high school. In other words, you may wish to take this last with a grain of salt.)

  14. The writing hooked me. Very well put until the last, jarring line. Don't take it out of her POV.

    Why wouldn't she look at the picture? I suspect it was a matter of having too few words to explain what she saw, though we'd like to know.

    I realized later it must be a lawyer, but my first thought was he was the principal. A small thing--instead of saying 'she always said I didn't have a grandmother,' say "Mom always.... There are too many she's in that paragraph.

    This first page intrigues me and I do want to find out more. I imagine the relationship between MC and her new relative will be interesting.

    I see this as an older MG, not YA. Unless it can be classed as young YA.

  15. I'm hooked because the premise is interesting. However, I think even a cranky 15 or 16 year old (that's what her voice said to me - I have a 17 year old daughter)would want to see the picture. Also, the third paragraph didn't fit to me. It might work better as her thoughts. Either way, I don't think she'd keep insisting she didn't have a grandmother at this age (if I'm right), but would wonder why her mother lied. I'm guessing it's her father's mother, but I don't know and that might help. Agree with the fidgeting comment - "Mr. Dempsey shifted uneasily in his chair." or something like that. But all of this is easy to fix. Oh, one more. I can't see the lawyer asking the kid if she wanted him to make the arrangements. I think he'd tell her the arrangements had been made or her grandmother would be there tomorrow to get her, etc. Again, easy to fix and her reaction could be the same or close. I'd keep reading.

  16. I think this is an interesting premise, and I am very curious why her grandmother's existance was kept from your mc. But I question if this is where you want to start your story.

    I think it would be far more interesting to begin the story with her meeting her grandmother rather than talking to the lawyer. This whole scene could easily be described in one sentence of backstory.

    Unless the lawyer is an important character or you are going in a completely different direction.

    Good luck, it sounds like an ineresting story.

  17. (Previous post eaten; I hope I remember what I said...)

    So this isn't bad, but I'd need to see where it goes. It's not a terribly unusual setup: Kid finds out about need to go live with unexpected people in unexpected place. Lemony Snicket, Roald Dahl, many, many others. But there is no reason to think this isn't going to work. It's well enough written, and we get the setup right away, and the world won't end if we don't know EVERYTHING after 250 words :)

    So I'd read on.