Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #17

GENRE: YA Contemporary

This day just took a really crappy turn. It hadn’t been overwhelmingly swell to begin with, what with my boyfriend acting awkward and distant all evening. He’d nibbled endlessly and silently through dinner, had texted through most of our walk along the beach, and now he huffed and puffed as he paced in front of the bench.

Our bench. The scene of our first kiss.

He sat down. Finally. All that pacing made me nervous. Chris clenched the edge of the bench as I leaned into him, hoping he’d kiss me and relax a little.

“Ivy, listen. We have to talk.” He stared at the ground as he spoke. “You know I love you, but I think I love you too much. I…we…can’t enjoy college if we’re in a relationship. We need to break up.” He kept speaking, but I couldn’t listen anymore. He loved me too much?

“You understand, don’t you?” he asked. In front of me, the sun was setting over the ocean. His eyes burned into the side of my head, but I didn’t know what kind of response he was waiting for. Beneath me, the bench shifted as he scooted closer.

Sure, I understood. My boyfriend, the guy I was in love with, was dumping me the day before our high school graduation. He laid his hand across mine. I turned toward him, fighting the urge to tuck back the sandy blonde hair falling over his forehead.


  1. I really like this.
    Using a sentimental bench as the scene for the breakup as well is great.
    I like Ivy's thoughts included like 'Our bench' and 'sure I understood, my boyfriend dumping me.'
    This makes it an easy read and enjoyable.

    My only critique and it was hard to think of something to help is the line 'beneath me, the bench shifted as he scooted closer.'
    I don't know how it's shifting. Is it literally moving as he's scooting closer or is this symbolic?
    I'm not crazy about the title. It almost sounds like a self help book.

  2. You have a very relatable moment on this page, of the breakup happening out of nowhere and right before a momentous occasion, but you undermine it by telling us from the first line that it has already happened.

    Try starting with Chris pacing and your narrator's internal reaction, the sensation of her nerves, what she's thinking, maybe about them or their future. Then you can get to his speech, and her shock and that sense of her world being turned upside down, making it all more immediate and therefore more impactful.

  3. Ditto on the above.

    What tripped me up was the sudden observation that the sun was setting. Great imagery, but a little too on the nose, and it felt out of place.

    Just nitpicks. You have great voice here and I want to read on. Nicely done!

  4. This scene is so relatable, and we really get the sense that she's blindsided by it. Nice work.

    I found myself wanting either a bit more or a bit less here. I feel like we read similar breakup scenes pretty often in the beginning of contemporary YA stories, so I either wanted something extraordinary about this one, or I wanted it reduced to a paragraph and then moving into the story.

  5. This is an inherently problematic kind of scene to open with: We don't know who these people are, so why do we care about their relationship? We don't know I'd this guy is awesome or a jerk, so we don't know I'd we should be sad that she's losing him or happy that she's rid of him.

    Also, word choice. What kind of teenager says "swell"? Or "huffed and puffed"?

  6. I have to agree with the previous commenter. I think starting with a break up scene is tough because I don't know who the characters are or why I should care about them.

    That said, I think you nailed Ivy's inner monologue with things like "our bench" and "he loved me too much?"

    Good luck!

  7. I liked the first line. It drew me in and kept me reading, and it's easy to read. If story is about change then change is being handed to your character on a platter. I'm thinking that in the next couple of pages we'll find out how the MC feels about that crappy thing that happened to her. I like the voice of the MC too, I get the feeling that she's scrappy.

  8. This didn't sound very contemporary YA to me. The words and phrases feel like they came from another time, like the 50s or something. Also, it felt awkward that she referred to him as "her boyfriend" initially, instead of using his name. I think the subject matter here is good. It's an interesting place to start a story, but the writing and dialogue itself needs a bunch of work.