Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #26

GENRE: YA Contemporary

My second biggest fear is that I'll wake up one morning and realize I've squandered the time away, just sucked up all my youth together and spit it out on one wasted shot.

So far, I'm doing an awful job. I've been sitting here for twenty minutes listening to my neighbor shovel her driveway. Our bathroom window is parallel to her bedroom window, which always makes hiding in here kind of like a covert operation, one where you have to check and see if her car is in the driveway before you come to steal a smoke when you don’t feel like trekking out in the cold.

I drop my cigarette in a cup of water, hearing the sad little sizzle it makes as it goes out, when my phone buzzes on the windowsill.

"No school kick off fest starts now!" Amelia texts.

This is the first night of winter break. I won't be inside Iron Hill High until next year, a weird feeling, since I've spent every other year desperately trying to get out. And now, I just want to hold on.
For the next two weeks, what I do is entirely up to me, though I'll probably spend half the time with Amelia. She has this way of turning everything boring into fun, like the one person you wish would walk into your boring party and breathe life into it for you. Though in the end, you'll always either get into trouble or get hurt.


  1. I love the opening line since it begs the question -- what's her first biggest fear? And when will she be forced to confront it? Nicely done.

    I'm not sure the image of sucking up her own youth works. Same thing with the 'So far, I'm doing an awful job.' I found that line a bit confusing. I got what you meant, but perhaps revise?

    Suggest trimming or dividing the 'Our bathroom' sentence as it's a tad long.

    I like the narrator's self-awareness that her friendship with Amelia gives her benefits but brings risks. Between the title and Amelia's text, it looks like winter break will bring something life-changing into the narrator's world.

  2. I like the visual of the winter snowstorm, the smoking, and the thrilling friendship with Amelia. I agree the "awful job" line can be a little more specific.

  3. I agree with Peggy that the first line is intriguing - I wondered what her first biggest fear could be. But I hope we actually get to find out, and that this isn't just a gimmick.

    I don't really like the 'sucked up my youth' line, and I agree with the others that the 'awful job' part that follows is a bit vague.

    I think the biggest issue is that this is missing a hook. So far we have a girl who's smoking outside her house on the first day of winter break, and her friend texts to invite her to a party. It's fine, but pretty dry. I'm not intrigued enough to keep reading. I'm sure something interesting/unique happens during winter break -- you don't have to say up front what it is, but a little hint would help me stay interested.

  4. I mostly really like this - I love the first line, that you're starting w/ the second biggest fear so we can wonder about the first biggest fear.

    I can see what's going on, and I like it.

    But like the others, I agree that the "awful job" line needs work - I sort of get what you're going for, but it doesn't make sense.

  5. The first line really hits me and I want more.

    But I feel like it loses me a bit and I can't quite determine why. It may be because I feel a bit removed even though this is first-person POV and all but we're observing a bit much. I like the cigarette and the hiding but what is this character hiding from. If there was a bit more opposition upfront like someone is outside the bathroom while the narrator is trying to smoke and then the phone buzzes and she/he just wants to get some quiet but is worried about not doing enough this may work.

    My main worry is that by having a nonactive protagonist upfront people may wonder more about them but not be as invested.

    But again the voice stands out and the first two paragraphs grab me a lot.

  6. I agree with the others, the first line has me instantly intrigued. What's #1? The rest is not gripping, but it's got a good voice and I can tell there's trouble to come. I do wonder why she would drop the cigarette in a cup of water and not just flush it down the toilet, though. I would read on.

  7. Like everyone else, I want to know what her biggest fear is. But I want to know it now and I want it to have relevance, and I want to know why we're talking about her second biggest fear instead of the biggest.

    The 'doing a bad job' doesn't work, because the way you've written it, a bad job would actually be doing something with her life, rather than wasting it, so you may want to revisit that.

    It feels like a coming of age story to me, but in the end, there's no hook, nothing to pull me in.

  8. Nice picture of typical high school senior (I'm assuming): sneaking a smoke, anxious about the future (wants things to stay the way they are), likes his "out there" (girl) friend, but knows she's trouble.

    Some questions: What do the the windows have to do with the driveway and shoveling it? Does the car in the driveway means she's home and can see him smoking in the bathroom through her bedroom window? Does the driveway go between the houses? Is it a second floor bathroom where she can't see him from the driveway, too? (Sorry, I'm very visual.)

    Maybe if you said: "I've been sitting here for twenty minutes listening to my neighbor shovel her driveway. At least she can't see me from there." Then leave out the checking the driveway bit.

    The timing is off in the 3rd paragraph. Maybe: I've just dropped my cigarette in a cup of water and am listening to the sad little sizzle it makes as it goes out, when my phone buzzes on the windowsill. "Sad little sizzle" is a great description!

    Consider: I won't be BACK inside

    Tighter (with a few suggestions): She makes anything more fun. She can walk into the most boring party ever and turn it into a rock festival! In the end, though, you're either gonna get hurt, or into trouble. Or both.

    NOT nice to talk about your second biggest fear and not mention the first! It better be in the next line: Which brings me to my first biggest fear...

    Should "No school kick off fest" have some hyphens?

    Nice job!

  9. I like that the opening line references the narrator's "second" biggest fear, begging the question of her first biggest fear. That said, the rest of the line reads a little awkwardly and has some confusing imagery. Why "the time"? Might "my life" read a little smoother? I'm also not sure what spitting one's youth out on one wasted shot *means*- this doesn't quite conjure an image for me.

    One other small point- is the narrator afraid the neighbor will catch her smoking? Is that why she has to check if the neighbor's car is in the driveway? Why should we assume the neighbor would care the narrator smokes? Maybe we need the neighbor to be characterized a bit more (as a busybody, say) for this line to make sense.

    But this a strong voice and a character I'd like to spend more time with.