Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #13

TITLE: requiem
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Marissa considers the word, lets it roll around on her tongue like a jawbreaker, the spicy cinnamon kind that burn if they linger against the inside of your cheek for too long. Pregnant. Pregnant. She repeats it to herself as if that somehow makes it more, or perhaps less, real. The nurse hands her a stack of pamphlets, covering everything from genetic tests to her options.

She looks at Marissa with a combination of sympathy and disdain. Marissa's used to this. To people looking at her like she is a person-- or perhaps an object-- to be both pitied and feared. But in this moment, she is grateful for the familiarity of it. As if nothing has really changed even though absolutely everything has.

"You have options," the nurse repeats, placing extra emphasis on the P. Options. Like she's spitting it out. Maybe she used to stutter.

"You mean I can pick the sex?" Marissa asks. She bites the corner of her cheek to hide the curl to her lips. It is her one tell.

The nurse looks at her sideways and Marissa can't decide if she is onto her or horrified. She is, of course, hoping for the latter.

"There's an adoption agency I can refer you to," the nurse continues. "Or if you'd rather talk with the counselor about how to manage your pregnancy, I can schedule that, too."

Marissa wonders about that word, manage. As if this pregnancy requires her to add a person to her payroll.


  1. I like your voice here. In your first paragraph you nicely convey the shock that Marissa is feeling as she soaks in the news.

    Probably the only thing that gave me pause was her snarkiness (although that added to her voice). In the first paragraph it seems she's just taking in the news, trying to wrap her mind around being pregnant, and it's a huge, life-changing thing for her. It feels a little off that, in her current surreal state of mind, she'd immediately have her wits about her to snark knowingly back at the nurse.

    Other than that, you've got your conflict right there on page one. And I think it's one that your target audience can relate to.

  2. Loved the voice here. The subject matter is a little too personal for me to feel comfortable reading on (I could have been the baby in this story), but I suspect a lot of people will like this a lot.

    Good luck.

  3. LOVE the first paragraph. It hooks the reader, but not with violence or action or dialogue. Very unique.

    I like the snarkiness, and I think it fits with the cinnamon jawbreaker, too. I was further hooked by the last sentence...does Marissa really have people working for her (or did I misread?).

    The YA crowd will be able to connect to this easily. Good luck!

  4. Love this. I can taste what she's tasting. Great description!

    Like that she can pick the sex of the unborn child.

    Last paragraph is a bit flat. Maybe show her debating with herself?

  5. I was only confused with the pick the sex line. I was also confused when it said that she was looked at like a person. Was that opposed to a non-human , such as an alien or paranormal thing, or just simply that she was somebody and not a faceless nobody?

    I'd probably read on to clarify these questions.

    I really enjoyed the jawbreaker line, creative and I could taste, feel and smell it, and instantly compare the news to the sensation of one of those-- biting, stinging, burning, lingering even after the word is gone.

  6. Great voice. I thought the snarkiness was believable -- for some, sarcasm is a defense mechanism. The first paragraph is particularly strong.

    You give us a sense of Marissa in one page, and I would certainly read on.

  7. Reading about teen pregnancy doesn't really interest me, but this is well written so I might keep going. I like how she teases the nurse with the pick the sex line and I'm curious about 'her payroll.'

  8. I love the writing in this one. Comparing the word pregnant to a cinnamon jawbreaker, the look of the nurse both sympathy and disdain. Beautiful.

    Definitely hooked.

  9. I liked the snarkiness and some of the descriptions.

    I did have some issues with the pronouns, since both characters are "she" and sometimes it was hard to tell which "she" the narrative referred to.

    For example, this sentence: The nurse looks at her sideways and Marissa can't decide if she is onto her or horrified. She is, of course, hoping for the latter.

    I wasn't on board with the present tense. Few people really good at it; most people need to work at it a lot to make it as invisible as past tense. I noticed -- and got hung up on -- the present tense immediately.

  10. I liked this, and I liked it more for the writing than the premise. I thought it worked on a lot of different levels. I thought comparing the word pregnant to a piece of candy was clever and original, and you chose just the right piece. Your character has attitude, but it's not all over the place saying look at me. I have attitude. The writing's smooth and clean, and I thought you did present tense really well here.

    I only picked out one thing here - To people looking at her like she is a person etc.

    The sentence is correct as written, but with the dash, it makes us come to a full stop after person, which made me immediately wonder if she was something other than human. Perhaps rewrite the sentence so the reader doesn't have to stop after 'person'?

  11. Good voice.

    I didn't like the payroll comment at the end. If the MC is a young girl, what kind of business would she have? If this was just a fun way to make a point, I'd change it.

    I'd read on.

  12. I liked this, and how you did this in third person present. I don't think I'd seen that before. It works well with Melissa's state of mind and the feelings of urgency and fear she has. I'd keep reading.

  13. Your writing is fabulous. The description in that first paragraph is PERFECT! I love it.

    But I have two things that would keep me from reading on.

    1) Voice & Verb Tense: I like the present tense, especially with a story like this. But it doesn't work with the third person here. Similarly, this feels like a very personal story, which would work better in first person.

    2) There are a lot of teen pregnancy books. Right now without knowing anything about it, I like Marissa as a character, but there's nothing in this opening scene that is going to make me forget about the pregnancy YA books I've already read. What's new and different here?

    On a much smaller note, the sarcasm in the "You mean I can pick the sex" line doesn't translate right. It took me a few reads to realize that this was, in fact, sarcastic.