Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Operation Magic
GENRE: MG, Contemporary

I could tell Shannyn was going to lie before she opened her mouth. It was the hesitation, then the fake, toothpaste commercial smile—a look she’d perfected in the first two months of middle school.

“I can’t come over Friday." She twirled a curl around her finger and glanced back at the boys climbing off the bus. "I have to help my sister at the pep club bake sale."

The cold breeze suddenly turned monstrous as it bit through my jacket, and my belly clenched. “We’ve been planning this night forever.” We were going to order take-out from the Golden Dragon and practice magic spells and watch our favorite witch, India Rodriguez, save the world over and over again.

“How about next weekend?" Shannyn asked.

Unbelievable! I pumped my legs, trying to catch up as she started the short walk home from the bus stop. “How about after the sale? We could still watch India Rodriguez two or three times before morning.”

Shannyn didn't look at me. “We made those plans ages ago, Beth.”

“So?” I held my breath as I jogged alongside her. She had to say “yes." She had to come over and have a blast like we used to. Then things would go back to the way they were before middle school—when Shannyn was Shannon with an “o,” not a “y,” and we were best friends forever.

She bit her lip, a kicked-puppy look stealing across her face, like that time she didn't get invited to the tennis club's Future Stars Party.


  1. I quite like this! Great first line. I don't read much MG, to be honest, but to me this concept feels like it would be really appealing to people that age. Very relatable.

    Like it a lot. :)

  2. Love the opening line! This sounds very middle grade, the former best friend trying to hang on to whatever scraps the alpha girl will throw her way. Shannyn isn't likable, and even though the MC is disappointed, she doesn't get whiny. I like the reference to magic thrown in there too. Would love to see where that goes.

  3. Hi, I really enjoyed reading this and think it is definitely aimed at MG. Loved the first sentence and would keep reading to find out where it goes. Good luck!

  4. Both these characters come alive for me. I want to find out what's really going on, and how Beth gains strength and Shannyn gets her comeuppance. If I had to pick a nit, I'd say "ages ago" doesn't ring true for me. But as the story progresses, it could be a clue to whoever's influencing Shannyn. So. Good luck!

  5. I am hooked by this story. I feel for Beth and understand her motivation and Shannyn is very well defined already. I am definitely invested in both characters.

    At first, I felt the addition of describing Shanyn's perfecting lie smile with "the first two months of middle school" was an info dump to create setting. But by the end, this information was relevant and important. Still, it took me out of the story when I read it, so perhaps work that in elsewhere.

    Otherwise, great start and I would absolutely keep reading. Poor Beth.

  6. I like how you explain the spelling of her name because I was wondering what the odd spelling was about.
    I was a bit confused by who was talking from the paragraph that starts "Unbelievable." You mention "she" (Shannyn) right before the quotes. So maybe clarify that by reordering the sentence or adding a speech tag. And then I was thrown off in the subsequent paragraphs.
    I really like the last line because it reveals so much - how she tries to manipulate her friends with a "look" but also that she wasn't always the most popular person around.
    I hope this helps. Good luck!

  7. I really like this! I got a very clear picture of the characters and the conflict. One small suggestion: consider saying that Shannyn started walking away after she asked "How about next weekend?" I got a little confused in the following line when the MC is pumping her legs (were they on swings? wait, catching up?). Very minor, though. Overall, great job!

  8. I've seen this before. I know I have. I can't remember when or where, but I've seen this before.

    And I'm SO GLAD to see it again!!
    I loved it then, and I love it now.

    Your voice is strong and the conflict is right out front. Having had a friend or two do this to me in Middle School, I can relate. I love it.

    I'd say the "pumped my legs" line confused me a bit, but other than that I'm well into the story.

  9. This is great. I love seeing a m.g. take up this issue- of best friends maturing at different rates. And "toothpaste commercial smile" hooked me immediately.

    A minor confusion, which may become clear later in the story: Why doesn’t Beth take Shannyn up on her offer to meet next weekend? Why does it have to be this weekend? Is Beth just being impatient?

    Another small thing- you may want to let us see Shannyn begin to walk away before Beth has to pump her legs to catch up. As is, I at first saw Beth pumping her legs while standing in place...a bit confusing.

    Both these characters are so well realized in just a few short paragraphs. (Shannyn changing the spelling of her name- love that!) I'd certainly read on.

  10. Nicely written realistic situation of a friendship that's going through changes.

    "monstrous" seems a bit over the top.

    If you change to "We'd", this bit of dialogue could be part of the MC's thoughts instead of spoken: We’d been planning this night forever--eating take-out from the Golden Dragon, while we practice magic spells and watch videos of our favorite witch, India Rodriguez, saving the world over and over.

    "Pumped my legs" stopped me also.

    "have a blast" is telly. Describe: giggle, stay up all night, stuff ourselves with Kung Fu Pork, dissect the meaning of our fortune cookies, etc.

    I liked the simile in the last line, but it didn't seem to go with Shannon's lying act. But the next sentence probably explains it.

  11. I also really loved the voice here and your use of language.

    You might tighten up the first line to say something like:
    "I KNEW Shannyn WOULD lie before she opened her mouth. It was the hesitation, the fake, toothpaste commercial smile—a look she’d perfected in the first two months of middle school."

    Great work!

  12. Congratulations on being a winner!

  13. Congratulations!!! I'm so excited about this one being picked :)