Friday, November 28, 2014

(60) YA Contemporary: CATCH HIM BY DISGUISE

GENRE: YA Contemporary

To catch the boy who put her younger brother in a coma, sixteen-year-old Hannah trails him to summer camp as a boy. It’s the perfect plan—as long as no one catches Hannah first.

Mattie Matt,

1.4 seconds. I looked up a velocity formula online, so I know that’s how long it took you to hit the dumpster. 1.4 seconds. Less time than it takes the average person to be thrown from a mechanical bull—which would have been a smarter stunt.

You do these stupid things without considering the consequences. You think you’re invincible. Well, you’re not. You might never wake up, and it’ll be all your fault.

And mine. Because I should have

The doorbell rang, and I jerked, leaving a blue streak across the page.

“Hannah! Could you come down here, please?” Mom called, her voice muffled through my bedroom door.

Probably another church member with a foil-covered casserole dish. Except Mom didn’t need me for that. Maybe it was Lena. She’d been bugging me to go out with her this weekend.

I snapped my notebook closed and flicked a glance in the mirror to make sure I was decent—not a sure thing lately. I’d greeted the youth minister the other day in skimpy pajama shorts and a cami with no bra. He’d stared over my shoulder while he asked how I was holding up. Talk about awkward.

Satisfied I was fully dressed, I slipped out of my room. Multiple voices mingled in the foyer, including, I realized with a start, Dad’s. He usually only left Matt’s room in the trauma ward for work or sleep.

I peered around the corner down the stairs. Two strangers, a man and a woman, stood just inside the door. Well-dressed and with the kind of proper posture that made my shoulders ache.

“Thank you for seeing us, Reverend and Mrs. Davies,” the man said. “William felt strongly


  1. I like the way you started this book. Interesting idea. So interesting, in fact, I read on when normally I would not because I am not a big fan of YA. But you hooked me right away and didn't let go. Now I want to know what happens next!

    Well done! Good luck in the auction.

  2. This premise grabbed me, and I read rapidly. Three personal and nitpicky things bounced me out of the story a bit. (1) At the interrupted journal entry, and em dash would help me visualize what the main character tells us. (2) I would be more likely to jump if my mom called my name than if a doorbell rang while I'm in my room. (3) "Satisfied I was fully dressed," is a transition-to-the-present phrase without an associated mental image. Sometimes we let the reader fill in, but in this case it doesn't work for me.

    These are personal bits that may not affect other readers. I would not notice if I didn't like the story. I'd read on to find out what happens to the comatose brother and guilt-wracked sister. Good luck!

  3. Good start, here. I'd read on. I like the way you incorporated Hannah's mathematical mind and her quirky sense of relevance--math and mechanical bulls. Good luck in the auction.

  4. The snippet where she described how she'd been dressed previously took me out of the story. I think you could lose that. And I'm a bit put off by beginning with a crossed-out word, but it might be unusual enough to catch the attention of agents.

  5. I like the premise, though I'd like to be grounded in the character before the letter/journal entry. The paragraph with with the youth minister let's me know this is YA and I found it humorous! Great job. All the best come Tuesday!

  6. I liked the first half (notebook entry) more than the second half. It made me wonder how her brother was hurt, and what he was doing. There was enough info there to make some guesses. I had a reason to read on.

    There was nothing in the second half to pull me along. The draw would be who was at the door, but because you didn't give me any hints, it could be anyone.

    Perhaps cut all the stuff about getting dressed and how she was dressed previously, since it doesn't advance the story in any way. That leaves you enough room to get to who was at the door, which would be a better place to end the excerpt, because then you leave the reader with something to wonder about, which would be - what are these people going to do, or say? How will it complicate things even more?

    In terms of presenting a whole novel or even a first chapter, it may not matter. but if all you have is the first page, it could make a difference.

  7. Love the first line, and what a great hook to leave us off with! Who are those people at the door? Who wouldn't want to read on to find out???

  8. I liked the opening pages. What read awkwardly to me was the pitch. I would have reversed the first sentence because the pronoun "him" was ambiguous. I at first thought she was tracking her brother to camp, but it turns out it was the boy who put the brother in a comma that she was tracking.

    The first pages intrigue me mostly because I want to know how she knows that it took him 1.4 seconds to hit the dumpster. Did she time it? Did she record it?

    The first 250 words definitely have already a sense of quick movement, although I don't know much about the narrator yet. I could live with it, considering the promise of the pitch.

    Good work, and good luck.

  9. Love the premise, and while I'm usually not a fan of tricks like opening with a letter, I think it really worked here, ESPECIALLY with the number statistic. I really loved that, and it gave us something immediate and telling about Hannah.

    I do think I'd consider cutting the part about getting dressed; it slows the scene and I'd rather get Hannah into the action. If she were getting dressed as a boy, or the dressing were something very relevant, I'd keep, but it doesn't seem to be pulling it's weight here.

    That said, I was totally compelled! I would love to read more. I found myself wondering if at this moment she thinks it was an accident--she called it a stunt--and is about to hear it wasn't...


  10. Hi! This is a great concept. I'd change the pitch: To catch the boy who put her younger brother in a coma, sixteen-year-old Hannah cuts her hair and follows him to an all boys summer camp.

    The journal entry is confusing. You want the reader to be curious, enough to continue reading. But you don't want the reader to ask questions because they're confused. A few added words to give some clarity should do the trick.

    The rest is written well! :) Good luck!

  11. I really enjoyed reading this and was very intrigued by the letter at the beginning and the visitors at the end. Great job and good luck!!!

  12. Hi! First of all, I have to agree with everyone else that this is a totally compelling concept. I also loved the letter that opened the story - it puts us immediately into the main character's head and really gives us a feel for her voice.

    I did feel that the tone here shifted throughout the scene, and I found that a bit jarring. The subject matter in the letter feels so serious and important, but then Hannah quickly begins thinking about a funny embarrassing incident, and that pulled me out of the story. The pitch here indicates that the story will be a thriller that contends with some heavy themes (revenge, loss, etc), and though of course that doesn't mean you should get rid of all moments of levity in the story entirely, I wonder if you want to have the more funny bits here up front when you're just setting the tone for the whole story. As others have pointed out, maybe cutting down the description of Hannah getting dressed could focus the voice a little more.

    I would definitely keep reading this! Nice start!

  13. I really liked the premise and excerpt. For development, I felt that I immediately wanted to see you push a bit farther than: "And mine." so that we get a stronger sense of how she feels she is responsible which I imagine is a significant aspect of the novel. "And mine" for me gets lost. I also wanted to know how long it had been since the accident. I felt that you could layer that in with some words following this sentence: "Probably another church member with a foil-covered casserole dish." But as a reader I'd be really interested in seeing how she manages to keep her cover at the summer camp and would want to read on. Good luck!

  14. Bids must reach 150 before a full. Bidding stands at 97.

  15. Is it 5 bids then a full?? Or is the full the 5th bid?? Clearly I'm asleep at the wheel this morning.

  16. I thought Jennifer's counted as a bid. Ruling, Miss Snark?

  17. Mwa ha ha ha! Min 5 bids and 150. Finally! I got one I wanted. Right?? Can someone official please confirm? Otherwise I'm appointing myself the official and confirming myself.

  18. I think Carlie is right on this one - I done goofed!

  19. Maybe. To me it looks like the valid bids go:
    (authoress closed it, I think incorrectly since only 4 bids before full)
    self-proclaimed reopen :)

  20. Carlie's bid of 150 was the 5th valid bid, so her bid of full follows the guidelines and is valid.

    CLOSED! Full goes to Carlie Webber.

  21. Congrats on the win. I agree with the commentators on the bit about getting dressed. It needs something unusual to make it relevant.