Wednesday, February 10, 2010

35 Secret Agent

GNERE: Young Adult

I dreamed of you long after you were gone and I reached for you in my sleep, but my fingers groped only unwrinkled sheets. You've been gone almost a year now and, yet, I remember you as clearly as the bus ride to school this morning.

I remember us lying in your bed, translating each other’s silence into words and thoughts. You lay on your back and stared at the ceiling with the same expression you had at the movies: concentration, breached by brief absent stares. I couldn't gauge what you were thinking.

You asked, "Do you know what it feels like, Sylph?" but I had no idea what you were talking about as the rain outside slowly turned to snow. It had rained all day and the temperature was dropping fast.

"No," I said. "Tell me."

You were eighteen at the time and had just moved into your own little room in a building you shared with three other girls. I was two years behind you. You liked the other girls--I forget their names--but you never told me any stories about hanging out together and I didn't ask. I knew you didn't feel the same affinity for them as you did for me.

That was one month after Caden's funeral. Your first boyfriend.

"Caden will now forever be frozen in time," I heard one of the teachers at school remark. I wondered why people tell each other such lies.


  1. This has an interesting premise and I want to read on.

    However, if I were reading this first page in the bookstore I'd probably put it down because of the second person. If you could change those references to a name that would make this much easier to read.

  2. I am potentially hooked, but it would be stronger if I already knew what the relationship was between the MC and the second person. I love the first paragraph.

    Also I'm a bit confused by the timeline, especially what "eighteen AT THE TIME" refers to.

  3. I think I could go with the second person for a paragraph or two, but beyond that it makes it sound too lyrical. The relationship between Sylph and "you" is intriguing. I would read more.

  4. I like your writing and your style, and I want to read on. However...I feel like I' missing something.

    Is this really written in second person? If so, I'm having trouble making sense of it. Am I supposed to be a guy or girl? LOL!

    I... I don't know. Your writing is beautiful, but I don't know who I am, which is just too weird!

  5. I am undecided. I like the voice but I find the scene rather pale. If something happens, soon, something beside remembering someone who has been gone for a year, I'd read more.

  6. It is beautifully written and I don't mind the 2nd person POV, I just think you can give us a little more info to ground us in the emotion. I couldn't tell if this was a sibling or a friend/boyfriend and I don't want to go that far in not knowing if the characters are male or female, etc. SO I'm partially hooked.

  7. I liked the writing in this, but the story was a little bit too vague for me.

    I didn't read this as 2nd person. I thought it was 1st person and that this was a letter (whether written or only in the narrator's head) to someone.

    I would like more info on who this is about. I can't tell if the narrator is male or female (not familiar with the name Sylph) or what their relationship is to the person being addressed. The flashback only sort of confuses that more.

    All in all, I would keep reading because I think the writing is beautiful in many parts, but I would hope that this is just an intro and the story would move into something more active and no longer addressing the mystery person.

  8. * I'd like to clarify 2nd person for future readers - second person is written from an outside perspective aimed at the reader with the tag "you." There is no "I" in second person. This is first person with the focus prominently on a second character for the moment.*
    I found this excerpt to be too lyrical for YA. The YA I've experienced tends to be more concise and straightforward.
    Also, I found the shifting of character references to be very confusing, another missing element of the straightforward nature of YA writing. I'm not sure who's gone, or why, or who is talking, or who is dead, or why, or who I am supposed to care about. In the first 250 words you mention the MC, this secondary "you" character, Caden, three other girls, and teachers at school. All of these characters have been introduced before the MC has been properly introduced, which as a reader makes me feel unanchored.
    Also, there is a great article on Joelle Anthony's blog about overused things in YA fiction, including unusual names. Not to discourage your name use, but just as a caution because you've already mentioned two very unusual names here.
    Also, as a side note, how would one go about pronouncing Sylph? And is this meant to connect to the mythological sylph? Just curious :)

  9. I like the voice, but I found the timeshifts distracting. Sometimes the need to imediately give backstory is an indication that the story has been started too late. Have you tried starting this story with Caden's funeral?

    Personally, I thought the name Sylph went with the tone of the story.

  10. Hmm. I honestly don't know what to make of this just from these first few paragraphs.

    I love the writing. It is so poetic. I also had no confusion over POV. Very clearly first person, with the narrator talking about a second person.

    I have some misgivings.

    I am not a big fan of first person, but that is just a personal bias.

    I have no idea yet what is going on, and I hope you would give me something tangible to hold on to fairly soon.

    I also think that if the whole story is written in this style it might be very hard work to read.

    Finally (and this is just another purely personal bias) there is a very sad tone to this: death, and someone else gone but we don't know what has actually happened to her. I would need the tone to lighten up for me to want to keep reading. But right now I don't know enough to say whether or not I'd keep going.

  11. Well, I liked it. I'm still not entirely sure if the narrator is male or female, but I liked it enough that it didn't matter. I'm sure I'd figure it out after reading on a little further.

  12. Beautiful and haunting. The POV was clear and the references to "you" didn't throw me at all. I loved the boldness of style here. The only bother was not knowing the gender of Sylph (love that name, by the way) and his/her relationship to "you". So many things I liked about this one. Hooked and would absolutely read on.

  13. There wasn't anything for me to latch onto here, and I had to do too much guessing.

    If sylph is a girl and Caden was the boyfriend of 'you' my natural inclination is to think 'you' is female. But the way sylph talks about 'you,' makes me think she's in love with 'you.' which makes me then think 'you' is male. So then I'm thinking that at least one of these characters, and maybe more than one, is gay or bisexual? But it's all guesswork. I don't know for sure. And I don't want to read on with one thought in mind, only to find I was wrong and have to readjust everything I thought was happening. You've made it too difficult for me to enjoy what I'm reading.

    Perhaps simply start the story and let things play out, rather than having your MC go on and on.

  14. I found this confusing. It was the tense -- I don't think it worked. I wasn't sure if it was second person or first and it just felt off. I think you should start with the very last lines, except turn it from a line of dialogue into narrative.


    When one of the teachers at school said that Caden would now be forever frozen in time, I shook my head. Why do people tell each other such lies?

    Just a thought.

  15. Second person is extremely difficult to pull off, and I don't think enough was gained by using it here for it to work for me.