Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Pulse
GENRE: YA Contemporary

It was bitterly cold in the mid-December twilight, but not cold enough to keep Jessica Joiner and her friends indoors. Despite the snow covering the pitcher’s mound and dusting the bases, the park was packed. Jamaica Plain Recreation Center was no Fenway, but every kid around that field could picture the Green Monster scoreboard and smell the franks carted through the stands by an imaginary vendor.

“You ready, Princess?” A freckle-faced boy jeered from the pitcher’s mound.

Home on a two-week reprieve from The Academy at Hartford Grove, Jessica’s ribbon-adorned, auburn ponytail gave the mistaken impression she embraced boarding school life. In truth, she wore her Academy Wildebeests sweatshirt with the hope of staining it to the point of ruin. Stepping up to the plate, she gripped the bat in her small hands. Jessica glared straight into freckle-face’s eyes and smirked.

“Bring it.”

The pitch sped toward her like a comet, bright white in the dusky sky. She swung the bat and heard the satisfying crack of wood against leather. The ball shot way over the pitcher’s head, over the second baseman’s outstretched glove and into the trees framing the park. The girls cheered as Jessica skipped around the bases, ignoring a small cluster of unfamiliar kids watching the game from the sidelines and taunting boys she’d known since childhood as she passed each one. As her grand finale, she leapt gracefully onto home plate.

Her best friend, Sunnie Johnson, squealed, “double-you-tee-gee, Jessie!” and the other girls cheered her name.


  1. I like your voice and smooth writing style. I'd read on for that. You did a great job with the setting. I feel like I'm there.

    From the first page alone, it feels a little more MG than YA to me. "Freckle-faced boy" and "taunting boys" and all the cheering for her. But as you'll be sending your query, I'm sure the plot contains older elements.

    Good job!

  2. As a Bostonian, I like your sense of place, but I feel as though there are too many "name-drop" moments here. The less cluttered with proper nouns, the better.

  3. As a Brit, I have no idea about any of the places you mention..nor what was going on..but that's OK, it's meant for a US audience. Is there any way of stating without a weather report? I agree it sounds more MG than YA.

  4. A twilight baseball game is an interesting scene. The setting is nicely, though passively, drawn. Perhaps integrate those first paragraph details throughout. You could even cut that first paragraph since you bring the scene to more vivid life after she hits the ball.

    I'd also like to know how Jessie is feeling about being there. Right now I am watching her but I'm not 'with' her.

    It definitely feels MG to me.

  5. Having grown up in Boston, it was nice to recognize your setting, but I did wonder about a few things. Why are all those kids at a baseball field in the dark and freezing cold? Did they all know about this game ahead of time? Is the park the local hangout? And would even baseball fanatics set up a game in those conditions?

    Also, if they're all her friends, shouldn't freckle face have a name?

    Parg 3 - Jessica's ribboned ponytail is home on leave instead of her. Perhaps rephrase. And the unfamiliar kids are taunting the boys, so that could be rephrased also.

    It didn't feel MG to me. I could buy that this was YA. I would have liked to have had a hint at some kind of problem though. From this piece I get, a girl who plays baseball hates her private school. I'm sure it's about more than that, but that's what I get from this piece and it's not enough to pull me in.

  6. This is a beautiful piece of writing, and it flows so nicely.

    I was also skeptical of a baseball game in the cold and dark, but am willing to believe some people would play under those conditions. I was disappointed that she leapt gracefully onto home plate instead of sliding into it and ruining her detested sweatshirt, though. The sentence where she steps up to the plate and holds the bat made me second-guess her age, perhaps if she's petite and fine-boned you could save the description of her small hands for later.

    I'd definitely keep reading.

  7. The writing is very good here. I think you did a great job grounding us in the setting and introducing your protagonist. I had no issues with the cold night ball game. We did things like this all the time when I was young. Great job.

  8. I love your writing style and everything flowed well. I like Jessie's spunk.

    I didn't understand the double-you-tee-gee part. What's that stand for?

    I'd keep reading, but I'd want hints at a deeper reason to care about the character in the next few pages

  9. We get a nice sense of physical setting here, but I felt sometimes you tried to make it feel too general. Jessie clearly knows the freckle-faced boy, so why doesn’t he have a name? Is he not an important character? If not, why is he here? Right now, this feels all like setting the scene, but I want more of a sense of conflict beyond “Jessica doesn’t seem to like going to The Academy.”