Wednesday, July 15, 2009

8 Secret Agent

TITLE: Shut Up, My Name Doesn't Stink!
GENRE: Middle Grade Novel

Chi! Chi!” My little brother, Duc, screams in my ear. Big Sister! Big Sister! He raps his black chopsticks hard on the headboard of my bed. Tap, tap, tap. “Wake up! You’re late.”

I’m late?

I force my sleepy eyes open and jerk up from underneath the covers, my heart beating fast. Thump, thump, thump.

How can summer vacation be over already?

The nightmare that is my life will soon start—all the teasing, the mean tricks, and everyone laughing at my name, just because it’s different from theirs.

See, I’m Vietnamese. I was born in a village in the Khanh Hoa province of Vietnam, but I moved to this tiny town in Central Tennessee in third grade. I don’t even know if it’s on any maps—it’s that small. I call it the Middle of Nowhere (MON), Tennessee. Most of the people here are white, some are African-American, some Mexicans and Hispanics, but there are only like three Asian families within a one hundred mile radius.

And I am the only Asian kid at Mitchell Middle School, and the only one with a weird name. Everyone else has names that are easy to pronounce like Emily or John.

My name is My Dung Tran.

No, you didn’t read that wrong. My first name is My Dung—it’s a double name, like Lauren Kate or Mary Sue—and it has nothing to do with animal poop, so put that out of your mind right now!


  1. haha love it! I'd read on!

  2. YES!!!!!

    I'm cracking up over here and want to read more. :]

  3. Wow! Another present tense story! I really don't care for present tense, but I have to say that, despite that, this intrigued me. The sound effects were a little jarring, but I'm not used to MG, so it might be fine there.

    I'll admit...I started to think, "Another kid-who-doesn't-fit-in story." But as soon as I did, the different-ness of Vietnam caught me enough to keep reading, your humor (MON) caught me a little more, and her name finished the job. I'd keep reading.

    Of'd have to keep throwing surprises like that at me. If these are the only differences from the myriad of other getting-picked-on-at-school stories, I'd get bored pretty quickly. But if you keep throwing in unique things that pertain to Vietnam, those fascinate me. And if your humor continues to be so unexpected, that would keep me going too.

    Good job!

  4. Like it..not sure about the title though. Maybe better to start with an actual incident of teasing rather than thinking about and anticipating.

  5. I think the info about the kid being Vietnamese would be conveyed more smoothly if you worked it into the story instead of info-dumping it. We haven't had a chance to know the protagonist yet, so it feels premature to launch into his school travails.

    Otherwise, well done.

  6. Wow, guess I read different here than others.
    First; a middle school kid sounding very complexed would concern me, especially as a parent or his future psychiatrist.
    Why is it a nightmare?
    She had been there since third grade right? I would need to read more, but that is the key right?
    I think a paragraph starting off about her life in a nightmare would have been better, maybe actually in the nightmare, then to be woke up and realize this is her life? Just a thought.

  7. As an adult, I'd want to read on, just because there are so few books with Vietnamese MCs. But as a kid, I'd rather start with an actual scene and find out more about (her?) and her background as it needs to come up in the story.

    There's so much you could show about her home life, the culture, that could draw us in more than watching her wake up. And while I can relate to the fear of being teased,'s not enough to drive a plot forward.

  8. This is certainly well-written and smooth. And I like the concept of a Vietnamese child struggling to fit in in a rural US town. But overall this bit feels like the story will be very didactic.

    The "Dung" humor gives a nice hook, but the voice and the sound effects make this feel very young, and there does feel like a lot of dumping in info right up front - I'm not sure the target audience would read on.

    And I will say that while I think there are not enough MG books with Asian immigrant characters, I think the story would be more appealing if it started with a more primary plot and the struggle to fit in were secondary to it.

    good luck.

  9. This rocks.

    I love it and would totally read more.

  10. The angle is good, and the first four paragraphs are great. I like the style and idea. Yet starting in p5, the reader is told everything and shown very little. Does the backstory need to be known up front? Could it be incorporated into a scene? There'd be much more emotional pull if I could see the effect her world has on Dung Tran, rather then just hearing about it from her.

    I really enjoyed how the 3p lead into the 4p - very funny and well done.

  11. I like this premise for two reasons: it's going to make kids laugh and it's a great conflict.

    But I think this could be tightened up. For starters, writing out the sounds is ok, but it reminds me of a picture book, not middle grade. It's cute but a little too cute, if you get my drift. But that's just my opinion.

    The other thing is: where is the action? You tell us a lot of back story, but not what the character is doing. You could shorten the back story and give us some action (dragging her feet, groaning, barely tasting her breakfast) that shows us how much she dreads going to school. That'll get across the point that she doesn't want to go and it'll give readers a better picture of the character. If you want to show that she's Asian, try describing hair, eyes, skin color...she could fiddle with her hair or stall while combing it.

    There are plenty of ways to show us she's different, she's in Tennessee (just putting Asian and Tennessee together should get that point across without telling the reader how many other races are in the town), and she hates her name. Show us, don't tell us, because you could bring in more humor and strengthen your hook!

  12. I really like the concept, but I think there is a bit of info dumping here, which could probably be better woven into the story.

    Also I wondered why the little brother had chopsticks in the bedroom--it seems a little too "Red Flag: This is a book about an Asian Kid." It seems to me a little brother would be more likely to poke (or even jump on) his big sister, regardless of his ethnicity.

    I'd give it a few more pages.

  13. I loved it, especially the name.

  14. The fact that they're Vietnamese was the only thing that grabbed me. You don't get to read too many stories about the Vietnaqmese here in the US.

    But everything else was very generic. Typical story, typical writing.

    I agree with the person who suggested giving her another problem, and letting fitting in at school be a subplot.

    I'd suggest you keep working on it. It could be something very unique.

  15. For Middle Grade, I like it. Would continue to read a few more pages to see how it goes.