Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #41

TITLE: The Dangerous School, Class of 2030
GENRE: MG adventure

The Danger Awareness Buzzer at the bus station droned with a steady annoying beep. Hill glanced up at the vidscreen projected above it. There was nothing new in the scrolling list of dangers: eco-terrorists in Nueva York had halted the subway lines but no one was injured, Boston curfew was starting an hour earlier due to shorter daylight hours, contamination at the Protmeat plant had slowed production and moderate food shortages were expected. Nothing unusual. Hill’s aunt Denise frowned at it as though it personally offended her.

“The noise on that stupid DAB…I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it. Hopefully you’ll have an older bus, Hill, without one of those miserable things.” She smiled brightly, as though his five hour bus ride into backcountry Maine would be so much better if it didn’t have a DAB installed.

Hill just shrugged. There was a beat of panic rising in his chest. He was leaving. He was actually leaving what was left of his life, the little bit that was still normal. He had a sudden desperate desire to change his mind; to tell Denise and his uncle Stu to take him back to their house, that he didn’t want to go, that he had no interest in this strange school, even if it was better than the last one. But he didn’t say anything. In five hours and ten minutes he would be in Bathel, home of the Outdoor Academy of Maine.


  1. Great job setting the scene! Your mc seems real, a scared but plucky young dude who kids will like and admire. The voice is great: not over-the-top, but clear and distinct.

  2. Yes, I want to read more.

    I'd replace was with strong action verbs throughout.

    Your MC really grabs me, and I like the voice.

  3. Good job with the voice and the world. I understand exactly what's going on.

  4. I'd definitely read on.

    My only nitpicky thing is that I wanted the school's name to give me more of an idea of what kind of institution it is. "Outdoor Academy" doesn't give me much to go on. (And now I'm wondering about the "Dangerous School" in the title--that doesn't help me either!)

    Regardless of what it's called, I want to see it :)

  5. This is great! Good set-up, good emotions of both characters and the dread of what's to come...realistic enough in a near-future world. I'm hooked.

  6. I enjoyed this, but I dunno...maybe me, didn't quite read as MG. A little older, more mature. But still, I liked it and would definitely keep reading.

    Good job!

  7. I really like the first paragraph a lot. I love the idea of the DAB- it sets your world up so well in so few words and the voice is strong.

    When the Aunt speaks in the second paragrpah she sounds like she's complaining and then you write "she smiled brightly". That threw me off.

    I wanted a little more info in the third paragraph. I want to know why he is leaving and what this school is so I was hooked for sure.

    I think your title is a bit clunky.

    I don't think the voice is too old. It is when MG writers try to write young that it bothers me. Kids are much less young than they used to be (if that makes sense).

    I'd want to read more for sure.

  8. I really liked the writing here, but I agree with LindaH that it seemed more YA than MG. Maybe it's on the border? I don't know if you need "Class of 2030" in the title, because "The Dangerous School" is great on its own, but I'm glad it was there because it gave me a better sense of how far into the future this is. Well done!

  9. I love this opening, love the voice, love the setup. The only thing for me (and maybe I'm alone?) was this line:

    Nothing unusual. Hill’s aunt Denise frowned at it as though it personally offended her.

    For some reason the two sentences need a transition or a bridge to make sense for me.

    This is def. a winner.

  10. You have me hooked with your first para. The set up is great and makes me want to read on. I agree about the last sentence needing a better transition though and the aunt smiling brightly. Just doesn't seem to go with the tone, but I do see how she's trying to make light of what is going on. Maybe if the smile was noticeably forced?

    All I know is I want to get to this academy and find out what it is!

    Great job all around. I'd keep reading for sure!

  11. I'm hooked too! Love the 'beat of panic rising in his chest'.

  12. I had only two problems and they were mentioned by Janine and Melanie. Especially the transition between "...unusual. Hill's aunt...." I read it a couple of times and it didn't jive.

    But I love the voice and the way you've worked in so many world building details.

  13. I love how you manage to set the entire "world" in the first paragraph.

    It doesn't particularly read as MG to me either, but I AM hooked by his voice in the third paragraph and intrigued. I'd keep reading.

  14. I would read on. My nitpicks - I would rather focus on Hill for the first paragraph instead of the world he lives in. I immediately thought "Hillary" when I heard Hill so I was surprised to see he was a dude. The separation in space between Danger Awarenes Buzzer and the first mention of DAB could cause brief confusion. I like the fact that you have Aunt Denise speaking but I think she could say something stronger that moves the plot along. As it is, she basically says in dialogue what you have just told us previously - i.e. "as thought it persoally offended her." Perhaps she could say something to Hill that gives us our first clue as to what the school is all about. Outdoor Academy of Maine sounds very innocuous. Maybe a better name. That would hold true for the title also since "Dangerous School" sounds like the kids are going to get there and the school will attack them. I also got a slightly older vibe than MG but not much. But, I did like it and would read more.

  15. Ooo, The Dangerous School.

    I love that name. But then there's a Danger Awareness Buzzer, which makes me confused about what the word danger means in this world. And the school isn't actually the Dangerous School, but an Outdoor Academy?

    Already just tons of questions.

    So, I don't really get a sense of Hill here. I get more about Aunt Denise; she's irritated by the DAB, but trying to put on a good show for him as she sends him away to a new school far away from her.

    I think starting with the world wasn't as strong as if you had started to tell me about Hill. What has gone wrong for him? Why does he have to try another school? Does he want to go? Is he irritated that he has to go? There's hints of this, but I just don't have a chance to figure it out and I think the first paragraph should be more about his conflicted state. You can tuck details in about the food shortage, the terrorists, etc., later, as I'm sure they will come up.