Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #20

TITLE: The Jumpers and the Sandglass Calendar
GENRE: YA Fiction

The school cafeteria is its loudest on the last day of classes. With 6th graders planning their attacks for the incoming freshmen, swarms of 7th graders chasing after 8th graders to sign their yearbooks, and 8th graders doing their best to be cool in the face of the summer before high school.

The largest herd of 7th graders gathered at Lola's table. Lola Denali - 5'7" with flawless olive skin, raven hair, aqua-green eyes, and perfectly plump red lips, Captain of the soccer team, Class President, and youngest daughter of the millionaire archaeologist, Donatello Denali. It was with no great surprise that she was the most popular girl in school. However, it was, with great surprise that this very morning, she had passed a very important note, to one River Jacobs.

River - Please meet me today at the Chandler Greenbelt at 5:00.

~ Lola

She had only spoken to him once in the nine years they attended the same schools and sat in the same classes.
River watched as Lola flashed a smile as she patiently signed each yearbook presented to her. Her grace was hypnotizing and left River wondering what she could possibly want from him. He had been surprised that she even knew his name. Could she be luring him into some kind of humiliating trap? Nah, he shook his head, he didn't think so; she wasn't cruel...
was she? River tapped his fingers nervously on the thin wood table.


  1. You tricked me. Your style of writing made me feel I was reading 1st person, but it was 3rd. This may be aching to hear, but I would switch it to 1st.

    I would also open with River and the not being passed to him, put the opther stuff about the caf after that beat.

    Also, I would cut the 'popular girl'. The 'singles ad' description already speaks what she is.

  2. I was quite confused by the POV here. If River is your MC, I think you need to define that from the beginning. The omniscient view doesn't really work when you go back to 3rd person by the fourth paragraph. Personally, I think you should start with, "River watched as Lola flashed a smile as she patiently signed each yearbook presented to her." so we know whose eyes we are looking through, right off the bat.

  3. P1: I'm confused by some of this. Freshmen are 9th grade (at least when I grew up), so 6th graders wouldn't attack them. Why are 7th graders chasing 8th graders for yearbook signatures (I always just got them signed by my friends and girls I liked)?

    P2: That's a long, uninteresting description. There may be a voice here, but since I still don't know who the protagonist is or what the conflict is, I'm not interested in reading a long description.

    I say start at the note and get to the conflict as soon as possible. And I agree with Holly about the POV.

  4. I'm also confused. This is YA, but the characters are in middle school. (6th,7th,8th grade)

    Freshmen start in 9th grade.

    Sorry, not hooked.

    Good luck with SA!

  5. Is this YA? With a middle school focus, it seems like it could be upper MG unless you're getting into some really mature topics. It's hard to tell from this first page.

    I think it would be best to stay with River's POV. I was a bit confused by the beginning. It would make more sense to describe the scene through River's eyes so that the reader will immediately connect with him.

    I think you've set up a situation that would be interesting to kids- the popular girl contacting the not-popular boy for some reason. They would want to read on to find out why. But it would help to know more about River himself, so that the reader likes him right away and is rooting for him.

    Good luck!

  6. I like how you move from one character's head to another. This feels like a trustworthy narrator so far, although I agree with Holly about starting in your main character's head.

    Just a few other things that jumped out at me: All the details about Lola seemed like info dump and "the most popular girl at the school" borders on cliche.

    Also, this feels more like MG than YA to me.

  7. I agree with mepurfield about cutting the description of Lola in the second paragraph. It doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the voice, and it's better to just let those details about her appearance flow out over the course of the story.

    Is this written from an omniscient POV? It seems like we're doing a "zoom in" in the beginning -- swooping in from an overhead shot of the whole school to focus on a small area of the cafeteria. Interesting technique.

    I don't know enough about River to know if I like him or not, but I'd keep reading to find out what's going to happen between him and Lola.

    (I agree with the others that this would probably be better categorized as upper MG or tween rather than YA.)

  8. I won't reiterate the above comments (which I agree with) but I have to say I liked the first paragraph. Change freshmen to "newbies" or something similar. It's a pretty good description of what the last day of school looks like on a Jr. High campus.

  9. I thought the paragraph about Lola was way too much telling. All of those details could be presented in a better format than the list it's currently in. Listing her height in particular was offsetting to me.

  10. I thought Lola was going to be the MC. I think the POV needs a little work.

  11. Not hooked. It still needs a lot of work, mostly on the issues everyone has already pointed out. It did start to work better once you got into River's POV. Perhaps start with him.

  12. I'll be the oddball out. I'm hooked by the style and the voice, and I love the narrated beginning. I didn't mind her lengthy description at all. Thumbs up from me.

  13. I'd start with the note and then make sure that what comes after is firmly in River's POV. Those first two paragraphs are telling, and I have no idea whose POV we're in. Work the important details in through the lens of your MC's experience. Pay attention to your word choices too - some of the language doesn't sound like it comes from a middle schooler.

  14. Hooked.
    I actually think that what you've done - in the lead up to River - is refreshing.
    I really want to know why Lola has arranged to meet him.
    Good job! And Good luck!

  15. I liked the note and wanted to know what happens next. The first paragraph confused me though. Plus most kids this age know pretty much how kids act in a cafeteria, so you're spending your valuable first paragraph describing what they already know.

  16. I was surprised to find that this was third person POV, because I had read it as first person. I was much more intrigued by the voice in the opening paragraphs, but I didn't get enough of the third person POV to make a solid judgement.

    This is definitely a middle grade book, based on the ages/grade levels described. I'm not a fan of what some would call a 'police' description. I.E. "Lola Denali - 5'7" with flawless olive skin, raven hair, aqua-green eyes, and perfectly plump red lips, Captain of the soccer team, Class President, and youngest daughter of the millionaire archaeologist, Donatello Denali." It's all information that could be given in a much different manner that would still allow the reader to form an image of the character.