Wednesday, April 15, 2009

18 Secret Agent

TITLE: Reign of the Juveniles
GENRE: Middle Grade (Sci/Fi / Adventure)

Reece punched in the combination again. This time he used his birth year. The lock beeped but there was no click like he’d heard whenever his dad had opened the safe. He tried once more using his mom’s favorite number. A warning tone pierced the air for the tenth straight time. He rubbed his forehead, wishing he had paid more attention when his dad had told him the combination. It had been something familiar, but at the time, all he could think about was his dad’s dying words, “Remember what I taught you about defending yourself.” His mom had passed on only moments before. It was a sad time for everyone. Only no one had time to mourn.

For the past two months, he and Bobby had tried every combination of numbers they could think of. They had been careful to keep it from Leah, their best friend. She’d freak out. She knew what was in the safe.

“Try your house number,” suggested Bobby, shifting his position in the small closet.

Reece glanced over his shoulder. “That’s too easy,” he said, turning back to the safe, “but I guess I could try it. I tried everything else.”

Reece carefully tapped each number on the keypad, biting his lip nervously as he hit the last one. The lock beeped. Then it clicked.

The twelve-year-olds exchanged triumphant grins.


  1. Nice beginning! In the first sentence I would say Reece punched in numbers instead of 'the combination'. You never mentioned where the children are now, if both parents are dead, they wouldn't be living alone in their house. And why didn't they have time to mourn? I would read on, I'd like to see what's in the safe.

  2. If it's two months later, I'd think they'd have time to mourn.

    I didn't understand why the dad was talking to him about defending himself. It almost seemed to take the story in a different direction. But, I guess they could be opening the safe to get a weapon...

    I'd read on to see what happens in the next couple of pages.

  3. I might read on, not sure.

    The one thing that didn't read true to me was the combination. If Dad had explained it to him once, even if he forgot it, I think he would remember immediately when his friend suggested it might be their house number. I don't think his response would have been the way you have it.

  4. It's a cute beginning. I like the last line, very MG. I don't know that a child would say his mom 'passed on' though.

  5. This is well written in my opinion, but I have a couple of nitpicks. I would like to see a little less backstory right at the beginning (I felt that slowed the pace down a bit.) Also, if his mother has just passed on, I think he'd be mourning, not trying to open the safe.

    I do want to see what's in the safe, though, so I'd probably read on. Great job setting up the hook.

  6. What's in the safe?

    In other words, I'd keep reading!

    I think it's weird to write their ages out though in that last sentence, I'd drop that personally. And in the very first sentence, when you say "combination" I was thinking it was his school locker, which wouldn't stand out to me. I wonder if one more sentence in front of that would be more catchy.

    Nice opening... AK

  7. I love it. The voice and the characters are great. I do agree that some of his words seem too old, and I'd want to know really soon why, in so long, they hadn't had time to mourn - but I'd definately read on.

  8. There something interesting in this that I'd probably read on a few more pages, even though I'm not totally sucked in and there are some implausible bits - like I find it implausible that they couldn't remember the code in 2 months...

  9. I am curious what's in the safe. The line "It was a sad time for everyone" seems very mild to me after reading about both parents dying and it took me right out.

  10. well done for MG. Hooked.

    I worry about the house number also. I think you might consider something simple, but forgettable. Hum, maybe they had to use zeroes on the dates...yeah that's it. 12 year olds wouldn't likely know right off, but they'd remember the dates and would have already tried them.

  11. I think this is well written, but I agree with the above posts. It seems like he would remember his house number, and if his friend said it, it would click. It also seems strange that his mom just passed and they are smiling about opening the safe. It is a good idea for a beginning (I really want to know what's in the safe) but IMO it needs a bit of work to make it ring true.

  12. Here are some things I misinterpreted as I read through, in case they help you out.

    In the first paragraph I thought there was a great sense of urgency for them to try the combo. I liked that and was hooked. I thought someone was after them and that the warning tone was some sort of intruder alert and not the safe.

    The sad time for one had time to mourn part sort of threw me. Up until then it seemed like it was all happening right then and there's this action and then there is a switch to mourning, etc.

    I was hooked and then, well, I got confused. But yeah, okay...I'm part cat, I need to know what was in the safe.

  13. I like this and I want to read on, but I agree with some of the comments above. He would remember the house number was correct as soon as his friend mentioned it. And I would just say 'died' instead of 'passed on.'

    I'd cut 'carefully' and 'nervously' from your second to last paragraph; they aren't needed.

    I like the last sentence, but 'the twelve-year-olds' seems outside of your MC's POV. Maybe you could work the age in as one of the numbers Reece has to type?

  14. *grins about the title* That has to be every adult's worst nightmare' :P

    I wonder if you could start a little earlier, or mix in a little character and setting intro in with the safecracking...

  15. I love the idea of these kids getting into the safe. Stick with that scene. You don't need the backstory of the dad and mom dying right away, do you? That information is rushed, too, so it makes your character seem shallow: "It was a sad time for everyone." What an understatement! What are the emotions of a kid who has lost two parents in a short space of time? I think taking out the second half of that first paragraph and saving that info for later would greatly improve this.

    Oh, and you have too many "had" words in the first paragraph. Most of them were unnecessary, imo.

    Good luck!

  16. Hooked! Love the tension and how your prose matches the MG genre perfectly! And I'm totally intrigued about how their best friend knows what's in the safe and that they don't want her to know about their attempts to break in. Awesome job! I'd read on!

  17. Some phrases leapt out as quite adult, like 'passed on' - kids tend to be more direct than that. It's a great situation for a start, though.

  18. Sorry, this is too confusing to me, what with the mom and dad both dead, and the kids trying the combination for two months. I think you're trying to get too much information in too quickly, and it doesn't work for me.

  19. I agree with above that the "deaths" don't need to be mentioned at this point and the house number is so obvious that they would have tried it first. Many people use a social security number even though they shouldn't. But the whole idea and your writing moved me down the page fast. I'd turn the page.

    Good luck.

  20. I was confused by some of the details too, like both parents being dead and the kids having a safe that no one could open. And I didn't think the beep and the piercing warning tone were the same sound, so I re-read to see if an alarm had been set off. And it seemed implausible that it would take two months to think to try the house number.

  21. Wow, Reece's dad doesn't know much about picking good safe combinations, does he? :-)

    It strikes me that if they've been trying combinations for two months, he would have tried his house number at some point, even if he didn't really think it would work. Same with his birth year.

    All that aside though, I'm hooked and want to find out what's in the safe, and why they're opening it.

  22. It's a bit flat. Both parents dead within minutes described as a 'sad time'. Not enough real emotion.

  23. Would read more, although I have a personal hang up on a sentence that ends with a preposition, "...they could think of."

    Title needs reworking. I don't suppose many MG or YA's want to read anything with Juveniles in the title.

  24. I too had a sense of urgency from the first paragraph that was lost in the next part.

    Had dad died two months ago and now mum just died? Either way, it was unclear - and the grieving comments didn't quite gel.

    I agree that the address didn't really fit the clue Dad gave two months before

    I'd lose the ages in that last paragraph too

  25. I was put off by the two month gap between the parents' death and this trying of the combination. It hardly seems like these times are so sad they have no time to mourn. I think this would be stronger if it started with the second-last sentence revised and a quick explanation of how long they'd been trying, and somehow change the two month gap.