Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #21

TITLE: All She Needs is Love
GENRE: Contemporary YA

“Happy birthday to me,” I mumble as I walk out the front door holding a garbage bag with all my possessions. Every last one fits in this bag. Pathetic, I know.

When you’re a foster kid, you do a lot of borrowing. You never really own anything. So, I guess I’m lucky I even have something to put in my garbage bag.

I’ve been preparing for this day for a while though. When you turn eighteen the state washes there hands of you. Jan was nice. She let me stay an extra day. Didn’t want to kick me out on my actual birthday.
I’ve been working since I was sixteen, saving every penny I can. I’m not gonna end up like those other foster kids who take to the street when they officially become an adult. I’ve got big plans: graduate high school, four year college, a job in marketing.

“Emma!” little Jimmy calls from the porch. I turn and look at the tyke. I am gonna miss him, even if he did steal most of my socks.

“What’s up little man?”

“Where ya goin’?” he asks as he runs down the front steps. “I mean, can I come visit ya sometimes?”
I ruffle his hair and put on a smile. “Course you can little man. I’m not goin’ far. You know the diner where I work?” He gives me a big nod. “Ms. Shepherd is letting me live in the apartment above it. You can visit me anytime you want.”


  1. This was very sad! I probably wouldn't keep reading because this kind of story isn't my cuppa, but it's well written. You draw a clear picture of what's happening. Your MC is in a terrible situation but isn't whining or spending a lot of time feeling sorry for herself.

    "The state washes there hands of you" should be "the state washes their hands of you." Also, I'd drop "I know" after "pathetic." It feels stronger that way.

    You've got a great beginning here. Good luck.

  2. i like your MC's voice here--very clear and well-defined. i'd keep reading.

  3. Actually it should be 'the state washes its hands of you', but maybe you meant 'there' because she's not very literate?
    I like the premise but I do think a note of self-pity comes through which is a bit off-putting. Is she angry?

  4. Wow, Jan IS nice. And the voice is good.

    I would read on, but that title is not working for me.

  5. Nice voice and it certainly made me feel a lot of sympathy for the main character.

    You could cut the sentence which tells how long she's been working and that she's saved money, and trust that your reader will get this when she mentions where her apartment is.

    I'm assuming Jan is her foster mom, but I had to stop reading and think for a second to get it.

  6. Would a 18 year old use 'tyke'.

    "What's up, little man?" Comma?

    'washes their hands' cliche.

    I don't think I'd read on. It doesn't really draw me in.

  7. Despite the grammar issues--which may or may not be there(ha, get it?) on purpose--I enjoyed your writing in this piece. It flows, feels real, and even made me laugh and frown. Good work. I would read on.

  8. I was interested until the last couple of lines, when I abruptly stopped wondering how she would cope - because she has a place to stay. It's like you set up her problem (very nicely) and then took it away again.

    Am I mean thinking it's not that bad for an 18 year old to have their own place? She has a job and somewhere to stay, so I don't see a hook. Sorry.

  9. I don't see a hook. Yes, she'll have to struggle to make something of her life, but that's a general problem. What does she want, specifically? A family? A college degree? What is it specifcally she is working toward?

    I'm seeing a situation here, but not a plot.

  10. The situation you set up here drew me in, and I like the voice. You know when to throw in little details, like how Jan wouldn’t throw her out on her birthday, and how Jimmy steals her socks, that make this world feel real.

    It hadn't occurred to me that grammar issues might be thrown in on purpose, but in case they're not, in the third paragraph, I’d suggest a comma after “eighteen.” And both times you have “little man” in dialogue, I’d put a comma before it (“What’s up, little man?” etc.).

    I’m also not sure about the word “tyke.” I feel like that’s not a word most teens today would use—I think just “kid” would be fine there. Calling him “little Jimmy” already gives us the idea that he’s pretty young.

    I’d certainly read on to find out where your MC’s life is going. Good luck!

  11. I think the stakes are plenty high for the protagonist, and you've set up bleak enough circumstances that it won't take much to derail her plans.

    Since I'm already rooting for this character, I'd read on.

  12. I like this, but wonder if it's the best place to start if you want to hook the reader. The emotion and mood is set, but it's just sad. It feels more like an ending than a beginning to me.

  13. It’s the rare contemporary YA that grabs my interest. Everything here is very nice and solid, but I don’t feel that extra oomph that makes me want to pick it up. It seems very “the life of a girl,” which is perfectly lovely, lots of agents like that. Just not this one.