Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #3

TITLE: All the Answers But One
GENRE: Contemporary YA

It’s not always easy to be the perfect child. Not that it’s a bad role to play in the family. For the most part, I’d say my parents are unaware of what’s going on in my life, and I believe I thrive on the independence that affords me. Translation? I get away with a lot. Or I could if I weren’t the type to worry that it would upset my already uptight parents.

And even though I don’t get the pity gifts that my eleven-year-old brother Joe does—like his new sound system, and his bedroom, which is larger than mine and comes with his own bathroom—they definitely appreciate that I don’t add to their tensions.

Joe’s lawsuit has taken up residence in our home, becoming like a second sibling, demanding my parents’ attention. This is fortunate for me because I have enough on my plate with my friends and their issues. I’m not sure how it happened exactly, but somewhere along the line I became my group’s designated problem solver. My best friend Lissa teases me about having magical intuition, but I think it’s just that I pay attention. Practice has taught me that you can tell a lot more about a person from their body language and facial expressions than from what they say.

That’s why I know that Lissa isn’t as laid-back as she pretends when she mentions that her father hasn’t called her yet to find out how the new school year is going.


  1. I'm hooked by the narrator's voice. She seems savvy and honest. I especially like lawsuit/sibling metaphor. It took a little reading to get hooked, however. I'd reword the first sentence. Maybe something like, "Being the perfect child is not as much fun as it sounds."

  2. As the child who got away with everything, the first paragraph caught my attention immediately. I also like the narrator's voice.

    However, I feel like there's too much backstory. Is the lawsuit immediately relevant to the action? Or could we learn about it later? I do like the metaphor, but I'm not sure if that's the place for it.

  3. The voice of the narrator feels very natural to me. She's not overly angry at her family; just wishes things were better. Whenever I read a narrator who spend all the first pages complaining, it makes me want to shut the book.

    I would keep reading because the lawsuit thing definitely made me curious. But I think if I got too far without more information on it, I might start to lose interest a bit. A lot would depend on how far the narrator's voice could carry things.

  4. Nothing happened on the page, and the MC is rambling on about things that seem unconnected. In the end, I don't know what the story is about or where it might be going.

    Perhaps consider starting this at a point where the MC is doing something, or speaking to someone--someplace where something is happening that gives us an idea of what the story is about. Is there a problem she is facing? What is the inciting incident that sets the story in motion? Try starting there, or at least close to it.

  5. Agree there's too much telling and not enough showing, emotion and dialogue.

    Add some and you'll strengthen your story a lot.

  6. I like the voice here. It feels natural in most places. I do agree with the others that a more active setting would take this from backstory-infodump to a more organic way of showing us the plot.

    In the first paragraph, I think you can cut "I believe I thrive..." and the "translation" and just say the translation. Parents unaware...I get away with a lot. It reads less narrator that way.

    It might work to cut the second paragraph, and go right to the third, while mixing in interaction with another character. Perhaps show how his lawsuit has taken up residence--she could be looking for something in a pile of mail in the kitchen and all the court paperwork is spread out on the table. Mom or Dad are ignoring the MC because they are on the phone with an attorney or a social worker (whatever fits). Then the backstory will feed in more naturally.

    Good luck!

  7. The narrator's voice hooks the reader right away, and I feel like I can relate to this character. However, I feel like there's a little too much overview here. Is there a reason we need to know that the MC is her friends' go-to person for advice now? And if so, is there a way to more show this through a scene rather than telling us up front?

    I'd also like to see more action in the beginning. If you want to start out with Joe's lawsuit, maybe have a scene where someone is complaining about it, arguing with an attorney, or (depending on the nature of the case) trying to get rid of someone from the media.
    You've got me hooked, though -- I'm curious to see what this lawsuit is about!

    Good luck!

  8. I like the voice. I can see a nonchalant teenager. I am talking about my daughter and all the high schoolers I teach. My question is what is she the best friend go to person?

  9. The first paragraph felt a little generic to me, but I like the voice, and the lines about Joe's room and the lawsuit in paragraphs two and three definitely caught my eye. I’d like to see the main character interact with her parents or Joe or Lissa, so I'd read on a bit to find out where this is going.