Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #17

TITLE: Faking Survival
GENRE: Contemporary YA

My sister never conformed to the traditions of minor holidays she couldn’t find a real purpose in. She never wore red or pink on Valentine’s Day or green on St. Patrick’s Day. Not even blue or yellow. And despite being twenty-one years old, she didn’t get drunk and wear a revealing costume on Halloween under the pretense that, well, it’s Halloween.

But apparently this year she decided to participate in Spring Cleaning.

By getting rid of me.

Okay, her actual words were, “I’m leaving.” But as I stared at her through the dim light from our lamps on the long table between our twin beds, it felt like the same thing. We didn’t share a room when there were two and a half empty ones in our house because it made life more fun or something.

“What do you mean?” I asked as my intestines tightened themselves into a knot. Dayna couldn’t mean what it sounded like she meant.

Rule number one was very simple: We never leave each other.

Not exactly open for interpretation.

Plus, we made a pinky promise, back when I was eleven. A couple days after my twin brothers left for college and the first night my father came into our room, shoved us off our beds. The night he stopped being Dad and became my father. I shook while Dayna held her bruised head and made me lock my pinky with hers. Contracts were something I’d vaguely learned about in school. But pinky promises—those were everything.


  1. Wow. This is disturbing and powerful. Totally hooked me. (Even though I don't normally like contemporary YA.) Flawless prose. Subtle characterization. Awesome voice. ("well it's halloween. HA!") I immediately care about this girl.

  2. I love YA contemporaries, and I really like that the relationship between the MC and the sister is so pivotal.

    The transition to Spring Cleaning didn't quite work for me because the set-up was that her sister didn't care for holidays,and it's written as if spring cleaning is a holiday. It just read off to me. I also got a little stuck on "two and a half empty ones" wondering what half a room is. I get what you are going for but it reads a little confusing.

    The sentence about father came in, "shoved us off our beds." The phrasing here feels jarring, and it's the action that should not the sentence structure. I think it might work better to put the shoved us off into its own sentence along with some context. The next line doesn't piece it together for me, when he stops being Dad and became my father. I get that you are hinting at abuse, but it reads a bit too obtuse. Maybe just arranging the sentences with a few more concrete details will help.

  3. I agree with Stephsco and want to add my confusion regarding the "our lamps" and "our twin beds" being followed by "We didn't share a room". Did they or did they not share the room?

    Had I not seen the YA, I'd be wandering if the girls were twins too-at age 21. Maybe a better hint at the MC's age.

    I love the reference to the pinky promise being everything! Because in a girl's world, you nailed the truth!

    Good luck.

  4. I'm sorry, but this beginning doesn't work for me.

    o First problem is grouping minor holidays like St. Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day with Spring Cleaning. Spring Cleaning is not a holiday in any sense.

    o Then we get a mini lecture about scanty Halloween costumes.

    o Then linking Spring Cleaning to getting rid of Narrator by sister moving out. That is illogical.

    o Then having her twin brother leave for college at age eleven. Not beyond the range of possibility but very unusual.

    o Then throwing in backstory about Dad/father.

    Consider beginning with the info. about the pinky swear. To mean that is where the story really starts. Her sister is breaking the sacred pinky swear by moving out. Let the story flow from that point. Let the Dad/father issue come out in dialogue between the sisters directly or through vague references if you plan to have a scene describing it in full later on.

  5. I agree with Margo. The pinky swear would be a much better start. Nothing you've told us about the sister before that really matters, and as others have said, they don't really relate the way you imply they do.

    The situation with Dad is also muddy. His twin sons go off to college so he goes into his daughters' bedroom and shoves them off the bed? WHat does that mean?

    SO yeah, maybe start with the pinky swear and why they made that promise to each other in the first place, and then go into the sister's leaving and what a betrayal it is to the MC. It could be much more powerful.

  6. You establish a great foundation for the sisters’ relationship, and the opening is well written (the only line that tripped me up was “We didn’t share a room where there were…”). I really like how the first paragraph reads, but I admit that I did have the same “spring cleaning is not a holiday” thought that was expressed in some of the other comments. I don't know that scrapping this opening is necessarily the only solution, though. I'd be curious to see if you could focus on the "traditions" that are mentioned here as well, or find some other way of introducing spring cleaning, and still make this work.

  7. I like the sisters' relationship too. I just wonder how spring cleaning has anything to do with her sister leaving. I think you should get rid of the spring cleaning thing altogether.