Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #35

TITLE: Rules for Running Away
GENRE: Middle Grade Realistic

Everything changed when I found that letter in the recycling bin. I tugged the envelope out from under a bottle. But the left-hand corner, where the return address should’ve been, was torn off. Wasn’t it illegal to throw away someone’s mail?

My name was below Mom’s and stained in a circle of olive oil. Care of Ellen Berger. Apparently, she hadn’t cared enough.

“Hey!” Craig said.

I jumped back. My chest was throbbing. “You can’t just walk up on people like that--”

“Sorry, Big A,” Mom’s fiancĂ© said.

It was the most annoying nickname. Every time he said Big A, I heard, You’re fat. Which I wasn’t.

“What’re you up to?” His grape-colored yoga shorts matched his sweatshirt.

“Recycling!” I held up an empty can, hoping he believed me.

“Gotta take care of the earth, you know?”

Craig turned around to leave the kitchen. I dug my hand back into the recycling.

But he whirled back around. “I knew I’d come in here for something!” Craig strolled back into the kitchen and turned on the faucet. “Don’t forget to hydrate today, Big A.”

I’d never get to the bottom of anything with him around. “Mom told me you held a headstand for two minutes the other day,” I said.

“Almost two minutes!” He tipped his water bottle back and took a long gulp. “I didn’t even hear you come home, Big A. I was meditating. I must’ve gone into another world.”

Craig was always in another world.


  1. I like the opening, though I admit I was a little confused at first about who the letter was for-- until I got to the part about the narrator's name being on it. Maybe move that sentence up higher and then mention that the return address is gone. Otherwise, I;m not sure why the narrator cares about this letter.

    For me, anyway, "my chest was throbbing" feels like a bit too dramatic a reaction. That line suggests something dangerous, not just startling.

    On a minor note, the line "Gotta take care of the earth, you know?" seems like it should be in the previous paragraph-- otherwise, I feel like Craig might be saying this.

    I like how he uses the annoying nickname-- but I was left wondering if the narrator was male or female. Not sure if there's a way to reveal that or how important it is, but it did make me curious.

    I liked the last line: "Craig was always in another world." It sums up how the narrator feels about him.

    This is intriguing, because I'm waiting to find out who the letter is from and why it changes everything for the narrator.

  2. "Grape-colored yoga shorts" It says so much about the step-dad!
    My only confusion is whether this is a bit of a flashback or not, based on the opening sentence (which I like.)
    Another great title---it creates part of the draw into the story.
    I'd read on.

  3. I like the interaction, but I don't know whether your main character is a boy or a girl. This passage tells me a lot more about the step-dad than it does about the person telling the story.

  4. I like this first page-it shows a clear link with your title. I assumed based on the passage that this is a boy, but agree you could make that clear. Why not have him/her read his name off the envelope and have that be what caught his eye? Otherwise, I was wondering why he's digging in the bin in the first place and why an oil covered letter would attract his interest.

    Also, I am not sure about the first sentence-seems like you are trying too hard to set up the whole story. Perhaps you could still do that, but without making it so obvious that the narrator is telling something that happened some time ago. "The sight of my name on an envelope in the recycle bin changed my life." Then you could just add the character's name before "Care of Ellen Berger."

    I agree with the "throbbing" being a little too much-probably not the word MG narrator would use anyway. Last point, using "Big A" three times on one page might be a bit much unless the fiance is really that annoying.

    Overall, great job showing the tension between the MC and the stepdad and creating a mystery. I would keep turning the page to find out what the letter is about.

  5. Great start. I really don't like the mom's boyfriend already. And I like the narrator. What he notices about the boyfriend tells me how he thinks. He's smart. He's got a sense of humor. When he says "she didn't care enough" he sounds a little bit full of self-pity, which can be a killer. So I would read on, hoping that he'd be funny and smart and that he'd fight back, rather than being whiney and pouty.

  6. I don't have much to add as the comments before seem to sum it up. Have to say the yoga pants and the description of the guy makes me dislike him from the get go. Very interested in the contents of the envelop.

  7. The 2 opening lines really pulled me in. And then, I got stuck on why the narrator made the "illegal" comment. Why would he or she assume that "someone" other than Ellen threw the mail away?

    If there's a "throbbing heart," I kind of want to know why. What's at stake?

    Craig, in his purple outfit (great!), could be suspect, but, there's no indication of this. If he is, perhaps it could be stated.

    "Gotta take care..." who's talking?

    When the narrator's hand goes back into the recycling bin, what is he/she digging for?

    This looks like a wonderful beginning. I just need a little clarification, a few more details.