Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #15

GENRE: Upper MG Science Fiction

Gary would do anything to be free of his prison guard.

Her scream pierced through his music. "Gary Elliot Jones, get down here and walk Buster before he pees on the floor. I’ve been calling you for twenty minutes.”

Ugh! Mom used my full name. How can I possibly be in trouble? It’s not like the cops picked me up again.

Spending an hour in a jail cell for property damage was long enough for Gary to know he never wanted a punishment like that again. Nonetheless, his mother’s watchful eye felt like an eternity in a cell. Now he had fifty three and a half seconds before she marched up the stairs and pounded on his door. After that came the threat to take the door off its hinges. She’d done it before and he’d hated it. He needed that barrier. With slumped shoulders, he slid off his bed and unlocked the door.

Trudging down the steps, he found his mom standing in the kitchen, arms crossed, dog leash in hand. Buster, their golden retriever, looked up wagging his tail and panting.

"It’s about time, young man." Her laser like stare threatened to cut him in two.

Gary shrugged and pointed to his ear, hoping she’d buy the excuse. With a swift movement she yanked the wire hanging around his neck and ripped out the earbuds.


  1. We get a good feel for the mc, so that's a good thing. I'd start with some more action, or something significant happening. Right now, it's just a typical day in the life of a teenager. There needs to be something urging us to keep reading.on

  2. You have to be careful about genre and metaphors. Because it's science fiction, I assumed the first sentence was to be taken literally: he's in a prison. The rest of the opening suggests he's at home, but you return to the prison metaphor, and it confused me. Of course, it might be just me.

    Also, this doesn't feel like a middle grade voice, even an upper MG. From this tidbit, I would say this might actually be YA.

    Hope this helps!

  3. I'm definitely intrigued by your intro! What property damage did an MG protagonist do to end up in a jail cell, even for an hour? I'm going to have to say I disagree with the first commenter, because I think that was enough to intrigue me to read on. I think you tied the metaphor of his room being a prison to actual time spent in jail well.

  4. Nice. I loved the opening. It made me squint in confusion and then smile.

    I'm not much for MG, I'll be honest, but your opening made me think I'd read more of this. I'm excited to learn more about why this has the title you gave it. The title alone caught my eye.

    I especially adore "fifty three and a half" seconds. :)

  5. I don't care about the MC enough to continue reading. We start with him doing nothing, and what he wants is to continue doing nothing. He has to be screamed at to take the dog for a walk (and he could still listen to his music while walking the dog, not to mention it would get him away from his prison guard which is what he wanted in the beginning.) He's just not someone I want to spend a whole novel with.

  6. I really like this opening. I think the voice is perfect for middle grade, which is hard to get right. I actually liked how he was thinking in terms of space, but his mother was just asking him to walk the dog. I would definitely read on. I also think my MG-aged son would love something like this.

  7. Reading the other comments, this seems like a pretty polarizing opening in terms of tastes. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. Like Rebecca, I took the prison guard comment literally. Then as I read on, I realized your character was just being dramatic. I found his continued drama and even his mother's dramatic reactions a little much. (She took his door away? Only fifty three seconds?) It stopped feeling as realistic and made it harder for me to connect with the character.

    I liked how you inserted the backstory/character development about Gary having been in jail, and I felt Gary's sullen personality worked. But I felt the drama thing was bit overdone.

  8. I was confused by the first sentence, as I thought that he was in a prison. Although the MC tells us that he was in jail, this seems like the melodrama of a sullen teenager, rather than the voice of a troubled young teen. I have no clue that this is sci-fi from this opening, which is fine, but if his “bad boy” status is the set-up for some type of sci-fi adventure, I think that you can find a better place to start, and to show us Gary’s character. Unfortunately, I’m not hooked.