Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #25

TITLE: Summer in Cow Central

Jamie stood beside Aunt Jo on the stone porch and waved as her mother, grandmother and sister pulled away in the car. Jamie fought back tears, waving her hand at her sister's head poking out the window. As the car reached the end of the gravel lane and paused to turn, a flash of pink in the car window catapaulted Jamie off the porch. She careened down the driveway, screaming and waving, and then she collapsed in a heap as the car pulled out and accelerated down the main road. Aunt Jo puffed up beside her and bent down, bundling Jamie onto her lap like a small child.

"Jamie, honey, what's wrong? Why did you run off like that?"

"My backpack-my backpack was still in the car. It has my wallet and my cell phone and my iPod in it, and the book I was reading. I forgot to text Shana that I couldn't go out with her tonight. She's going to think I blew her off."

"Well, let's just go in and call her, honey."

"Um, she just got a new phone and I can't remember the number. I had it programmed in my phone. Could I send her an e-mail? Could you show me where the computer is and get me to the internet?" Jamie scrambled to her feet and started towards the kitchen door.

"Oh, Jamie, honey, our computer broke.


  1. I think you have an interesting premise and I love the title of your work. However, I felt like the description of her racing after the car and collapsing "in a heap" was a little melodramatic. Also, for a YA it turned me off a little that Aunt Jo pulls her into her lap like a small child. I'm not sure any teenager that would be okay with that. This sounds like it might be more middle grade than YA?

  2. The voice and the way Aunt Jo bundles Jamie onto her lap screams middle grade. Plus, annalisag is right. The opening is melodramtic . . . even for a teen.

    Interesting premise, but I'm not sure I would read on.

  3. I agree with the other comments. I love the title, and that alone hooked me into reading it. However, would a teen really be that melodramatic (and would her backpack really be pink?). I would think her reaction might be more internal. We would get her thoughts about being stuck in "Cow "Central." Probably a good dose of sulking and teenaged angst once she realizes her situation.

  4. I agree with the previous commenters that this doesn't sound like YA to me.

    I guess the point of the missing backpack is to strand Jamie in the middle of nowhere without recourse to her modern electronics. But couldn't she just call her mom or sister to tell them she needs her backpack? She could even call her own cell phone--surely she knows that number.

  5. I'm hooked. I think there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Teenage girls talk to each other 100 times a day. If Jamie hasn't told her friend she couldn't meet tonight, something big and totally unexpected just happened. I'm thinking family emergency. And why isn't her sister staying with her? I want to know.

  6. I had the same thought as Sandra. The idea seems to be to strand her without any means of communicating with friends. But she could simply run inside, call mom or her own phone, and they could bring her backpack back. They just left and wouldn't be that far away.

    Unless Grammy doesn't have a phone, or it wasn't working, which would be a bit ubelievable.

    Apart from that, I agree the car chase was too melodramatic, and cuddling up in Granny's lap was a bit unbelievable.

    Still, the reason for her being there intrigues me, and that's what makes me want to read on. But if it wasn't something big, and the communication hole wasn't plugged up, you'd lose me.

  7. i'm on the fence with this.
    do i think a teen would die without her cell, thus access to taking, texting, networking--hell, yes. but i don't think she'd throw a tantrum like my eight-year-old child. tone that reaction down, and i think this would fare better.
    i am wondering why she's getting dropped off in the middle of b.f.e., i'd keep reading to find out why.

  8. This seems really melodramatic to me. I get that teenagers are seething pools of emotion but this is a little over the top. Jamie falling to the ground and being taken up into her aunt's arms over a lost cell phone doesn't ring true to me. If there's one theme to YA it's that teenagers can solve their own problems, authority figures are unimportant or nonexistent.

    As someone above mentioned, why not just call the phone or her mother or sister's phones (I refuse to believe neither of them have one) and ask them to read the number off.

    This feels like fake conflict.

  9. Echoing what others have said. The reaction seems over the top, and there's a huge logic leap. Even if the mom doesn't have a cell phone, Jamie can call her own phone; surely they will hear it in the car.

    Though really, considering how attached teenage girls are to their communication devices, I have a hard time believing she'd forget it.

    But, like the others, I really like the title and I'm curious about why she's stuck in cow central.

  10. Agree with most of the other comments. Your writing is clear and clever, though, so I almost think that just making this MG would solve your problem. I too suspect there is something more going on here and she's upset about more than the phone.

  11. Yeah, her running off the porch was a bit confusing, and this sounds like MG.

    Also, her problem can easily be fixed, I think. Call her sister or mom, and tell them to turn around. They couldn't have driven far.

    It's hard to believe she didn't have her phone in her hand or stuck in her pocket. Phones so precious to kids and YA.

    I like the title and want to know what she ends up doing in cow town.

  12. I tend to be of a mind with the other laura. Maybe I'm wrong, but the impression I got was that her sister deliberately let her see the backpack after she knew they were too far gone for her to do anything about it. I also think there might be some other, more secretive reason, why she needs it and to be able to communicate with someone.

    Yeah, maybe Grandma cradling her was a bit too much. But I'm really curious as to what is actually happening here.

  13. First let me address the voice. Without knowing the genre, I would have pegged Jamie as 8 in the first couple paragraphs. Once she brings up texting, I would have thought she was 12 - maybe.

    Part of it is fighting back tears. Most teenagers are going to be sullen and then cry alone about something but not a sister leaving. Without knowing why she's so upset, it seems very unrealistic.

    Also, the way Aunt Jo talks to Jamie makes Aunt Jo sound more like a grandma and Jamie sound extremely young. And she "bundled Jamie into her lap like a small child"? I cannot think of one teenager I came into contact with who would allow that.

    Also, avoid "Dialogue Soup" - keep the dialogue concise. People don't typically speak in paragraphs like that.

    You have a motivation problem as well. Why run screaming after the car if she thinks she can send an email? Why the terror over the phone, when all she has to do is call her service provider and have them send a new phone. They'll even bill the account and mail a new phone - it's easy.

    As for the premise, it feels overdone to me - at least from what I see here, which is the title and this scene. But there was a Lindsay Lohan movie about getting dropped off for the summer with grandma in a small town. Now, this story could be NOTHING like that movie, but at this point, all I'm thinking is of that movie and of several other movies and books with similar scenarios. This scene doesn't say unique or new and different. I wouldn't keep reading.

  14. Author of Summer in Cow CentralSeptember 26, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Jamie is not upset about the phone. She's upset about why she's being left at her relatives' farm. The phone is the last straw...which is explained in the next few paragraphs. I'll take the AUNT bundling her onto her lap under advisement.

    The situations that Jamie deals with are definitely not Middle Grade.

    You've given me some things to think about as far as where I'm starting the action. The rest of the chapter makes the reaction that Jamie has make sense. Taken out of context, I can understand how it seems over the top.

    I've never seen the Lindsay Lohan movie, have a vague idea what it's about, and it bears absolutely no resemblance to the plot in the rest of the story. The only similarity is that a city girl finds herself spending the summer on a farm.

    Thank you for your feedback.