Wednesday, September 9, 2009

49 Secret Agent


Friday afternoon, March 15th



I can’t believe I found U! And I thought the Ides of March were ‘sposed 2 be bad luck or something.

But when Tamiko & me were surfing the net during guided study 2day & saw your photo on your illustration website, I knew U had 2 be my dad’s older brother. And it’s not just because U have the right name, U look exactly like him, so I know U have 2 be my uncle. Please write me. We need 2 talk. It’s really important.

Your 14 year old niece,


P.S. This is 4 real. I’m Jared’s daughter. His only kid.

P.P.S. Why R U using your middle name? I like Nick better.

I reread my email message and muttered, “It sounds stupid.” But what do you say to someone you’ve never met? To someone who’s been invisible your whole life? To someone your father pretends doesn’t even exist.

I stared out my bedroom window a moment. A cedar branch whispered against the glass. When Dad noticed how much it was encroaching on the house, he’d hack it off. Was that what he’d done with his brother Nick? But why?

It isn’t fair that no one will tell me.

I opened up the Internet to

There he is. He even has a smile like Dad. Not that Dad smiles much lately. Especially since the doctors brought up the bone marrow deal.


  1. I don't like the text speak (annoys me it does), but am hooked by this.

  2. I'm hooked, too. You did a good job to bring realism into your writing.

  3. I had a small problem with the narrator after the email. I thought it was the uncle who was reading the message. Maybe you should say "I reread the message I had written" jsut to make it more clear who the "I" is. Otherwise, hooked.

  4. I also thought it was the uncle who was reading the email, and windered why a YA novel was being told from the PoV of a grown man.
    I like the voice and the premise.

  5. Sounds realistic, but I don't know if I'm interested enough.

  6. If she's smart enough to proofread and wonder whether she sounds stupid, surely she's smart enough not 2 rite like this? The two bits didn't match up for me.

    It has possibilities, though. I liked her comment about knowing him by the smile--it seemed a teen thing to say.

  7. I want to be hooked, but the shift between the online R U teen speak and the proper narrative was just a little too much for me, unless your MC actually decides not to send this version, of course.

    It is certainly an intriguing premise, Dad needs a bone marrow transplant, estranged brother found by daughter online. Sounds like a great story if the tension stays high.

    Good work.

  8. I'm interested, but the use of teen netspeak drives me up the wall, so that alone would turn me off. Otherwise, it seems intriguing.

  9. Once I got past the email, I liked this. The writing is clean and to-the-point. But the MC of the narrated section seems thoughtful and savvy enough to choose a less "OMG we're bffs" style of writing for an adult, a stranger, especially when she clearly feels writing this letter is momentous.

  10. I'm hooked, but it was tough going getting through the "text speak." I think you can cut down a lot on the 4, R, U and still get across the concept.

  11. Hi,
    Bravo for innovating. Starting with the letter is a brilliant and refreshing way to characterize and lay hooks...which I am (hooked)...if I was a young reader...all the more reason to teen speak via email. Perhaps you should drop in these epistles at the beginning of each chapter...just a thought. You have got to be having fun with this.

  12. Not really hooked. I didn't really care for the test speech either, but it would fly with YA readers since that is how they type, so I don't think it's bad. I guess I'm not really sure why she cares about this long-lost uncle...

  13. I also thought it was the uncle speaking after the e-mail. And I agree with Amy and Lianne; I think the e-mail speak doesn't match up with her proofreading it and also with it being a "momentous" e-mail to an adult. Plus, I think teens use the "R U 4 real" stuff more for texts than for e-mail. But since we're likely all adults here, maybe you should take what we say with a grain of salt and show it to an actual teen!

  14. Yeah - if the narrator thinks in complete sentences, I would think the voice of the email would be more articulate as well.

  15. I think the email technique shows how all of us use this medium now and then. BTW, I am hooked.

  16. I thought the uncle was reading this, and had to read it a couple more times.

    Who is Tamiko, and why bother mentioning her at this point?

    That being said, it has a good hook at the end. I liked the voice of the character too.

  17. I really liked everything but the email. I find text speak annoying and I was ready to give up there. But I'm glad I didn't because once I got past that, I loved everything else.

  18. I'd leave "U" lower case, as teens wouldn't take the time to capitalize it.

    I'm also not sure why she cares. Idle curiosity is fine, but not very hooking.

  19. Not hooked. I was just too weirded out by the disconnect between the e-mail and the main narration. I think the e-mail's a good idea, and I think teens/tweens would find it intriguing, but (I would think) teenagers who write like this in e-mail mode wouldn't suddenly become wonderful writers outside of it.

  20. Yippie. This is great.

    "A cedar branch whispered against the glass."


    And the voice?

    Spot on.

  21. I think the voice the changes too dramatically. You also run the risk of dating your writing too much by attempting text speak. Also, the text might seem authentic to you, but perhaps not to the teen reader.

  22. I'm going with those who say that the disconnect between the txt voice and the narrative voice is too jarring. I actually really like the set up, like the premise, love the writing after the email -- but I think that a 14 year old writing to a long lost uncle would try her best to sound mature and serious. This is how she'd write to her friend (OMG, u think hes my uncle?) but her uncle would get whole words.)

    I think I'm chiming in because I like this enough to want to read more (thus, I'm hooked) but it took me too many tries to get past the email (thus, I wasn't hooked).

  23. Hooked. I liked the e-mail idea and did have a hard time with the text messaging language, but I'm an adult who has never texted in my life. Teens will get it easily.

    You had a few tense changes in there you could fix.

    I loved your last line. It tied up the whole piece perfectly

  24. Hi, new here, but I wanted to comment. I haven't read any of the other comments yet, so I hope that I don't repeat them too much.

    Anyway, I love the concept and the last paragraph. However, I do not like the disparity between her writing style and her story narration style. The letter feels far too much younger to be a 14 year old, and I'm not talking about just the "2"s and such. Then narration feels like an entirely different person. If she's doing this on purpose, I suggest using some normal narration first, because the letter was an off putting style.

    Hope that helps.

  25. Not in love with the text speak as an opener. But I like the concept though and would keep reading to see where the story goes. I'd test your opening paragraph with your target group and see what they think about the text speak. Good luck!

  26. The bone marrow bit hooked me. But I have to add a vote to all of those saying the difference between the text talk and her narrator's voice is too large.

  27. This one grabbed me, though maybe just because I have a suspicious mind and immediately distrust the uncle. :D I liked the email, I thought it worked well for a 14 year old, and the bone marrow bit as well served to make things more baffling (in a good way.) e.g. if he needs a transplant, why didn't he go after his brother himself? Which serves to make me more sure that bad things are going to happen. :D

    I think the email was being read by the uncle at first, though. I want to know what happens next!

  28. Agree with other comments about opening email. It's tough to read and doesn't make sense for a 14-yr-old to write like this to an adult.

    Overall, I don't like the writing of this. The tense changes from past to present too many times and there are some inconsistencies in the voice. For example, I've never heard of an experienced Web user say they opened up "the Internet". They'd say browser or Google; not the whole Internet.

    Last comment: the narrator seems to know an awful lot about an uncle who has never been a part of her life. I have uncles I'm very close to and I'm not sure I know their middle names!

    Sorry, not hooked.

  29. I think her first email message to an unknown uncle would be more formal, she'd save the save the texting abbreviations for her friends or after she got to know him.

    I'm hooked, I can see this going in several directions and want to find out which path it will take.

  30. I, too, was jarred by the voice change between the email and the first person prose that followed.

    In the narration, the tween-speak didn't feel quite authentic to me. The phrase, though lovely, "whispered against glass," and the word "encroaching" would work fine, IMO, in third person, but not when a tween in narrating her own story.

    But wow, I'm hooked with the bone marrow issue!

  31. Hooked. Nice lead in. Even intelligent kids use textspeak. Annoying. Hard to read. Then again, I'm not a teen, who can read that quite fluently.

    I loved the voice and the "bone marrow deal" made me want to read more.

    Not only read more, but hooked me enough to stop and write this comment to tell you that it hooked me. And I have no idea if this is a genre that I'd read.

    Nice work.

  32. I love this. The email text is very authentic. I have an older teen in the family and trust me, they text much worse than your email, most of the time it looks like hierogriphics (I know that's spelt wrong) to me. Although I do think she'd use the shortcuts in the email, I would expect the overall message to be a bit more formal to express some of the nervousness she must be feeling at sending this email.
    I would definitely read on

  33. I'm intrigued by your idea but not the execution.
    Kid's write it text speech to talk to their friends. I don't think it's believable to have the protag email an uncle using this type of 'slang'. If she were emailing her bff, that would be different.

    'Opening the internet' completely killed my suspension of disbelief. Using the term incorrectly screams that you're a writer attempting to talk like a teen but without the needed research.

    I like the concept, you have something to work from. Stories with email diaries are popular with teens so I'd rework it and try again!

  34. I asked an actual 'like really' teenager about this one. She couldn't see anything wrong with abbreviating with a newly found uncle using email shortcuts. "Doesn't everybody," she said. She loved the strong character and wants to buy your book.

    U got a winner. if I had a fish hook icon, I'd put it here..

  35. I have to amend my previous post just a little.... Said teenager read it and wanted me to say I'll be buying her the book. Will do, but then she'll have to lend it to me.

  36. A couple of turns of phrases are not solidly teenagery to me. But I would keep reading.