Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #20

GENRE: YA Paranormal Thriller

17-year-old Daniel has survived five near-death experiences. After the fourth, he started seeing ghosts. The fifth murdered his brother. When another boy is brutally killed, Daniel makes a pact with a grim reaper to track down the serial killer and avenge his brother. Even if he has to sell his soul.

Six years old

You never forget the first time you nearly died. We were six. Mom took me and Ian to the pool. Abuela wanted to drive us to the beach, which really meant Mom would have to drive us, but Mom said the beach was too dangerous, which meant it was too far and she wanted to save on gas. Abuela muttered something like “bambalan,” which made Mom go, “What was that?”
So the public pool it was.
Ian blended in like chocolate to milk. He was always a bit darker than me, so he sported that effortlessly tanned, athletic kid look. He romped over the water like a baby killer whale, winning oohs and aahs from the pasty and elderly. I think at one point he was even chatting up some girls, who looked like hot college chicks in string bikinis, but were probably preteens at most, with frilly flattened tops.
By the time he joined me in the shallow end, I was sulking and not saying why. “Maldito, quit being a girl,” Ian muttered, and he splashed me. We started a splash war until a hairy dude told us to cut it out, then we played who-could-hold-your-breath-the-longest.
Just once I really wanted to beat Ian. I grabbed the pool ladder and crossed my feet around the bar and held on for dear life.
I nearly drowned.
Ian still beat me.

Nine years old
Abuela came to “housesit”—Ian said he’d riot if Mom got us a babysitter—because Mom had a church picnic and Dad was chasing down some killer who liked to leave heads in buckets. Abuela was watching the UFC finals, hollering stuff like “Harder, muchacho! Punch him to the ground!” so Ian suggested we watch our own special video, which was rated R for a whole different reason.


  1. Love the premise! In the log line, it's not clear who "the fifth" is - I'm assuming near death experience, but it makes it sound like the fifth is a ghost or something.

    Love the first line, but you slip tense (starts off present, but died is past). I would make that line stand as its own paragraph, because it's just that punchy.

    The rest goes into the near death experiences, which are interesting in their own right. The headers make it seem like it's going to be recounted from that age's point of view, but instead they're more like a recounting from the protag's current POV. It gets a little tell-ish, and might be better worked into the rest of the novel. Maybe take the character back through settings similar or where the near death experience occurred, so they can get that flashback and immerse in the feelings that went along with it. That would give your character something to do, rather than just recount the experiences. I would also take out the headings if that's how you do it.

    Good job, and write on!

  2. I also loved the premise of this. You have started with backstory. You need to begin in the present time and work this information into the story later. Start a scene maybe at Daniel's 17th birthday party. Or Daniel learning of another boy being killed. The premise is good. It seems you are figuring out your story and haven't begun it yet. My opinion though.

  3. I'm fine with where you start, because you're clearly establishing a pattern; and I expect that when we get through the last death and suddenly confront the heading "ME", it will be a gut-punch. I do agree that the "fifth" bit in the logline is not as clear as it needs to be.

    Overall, this promises to be a somewhat fresh take on a popular trope and I'd like to read it and see where it goes.

  4. I was hooked from the opening line, and I liked how the story of the holding-breath-under-water builds without spoiling anything until we get to that moment. All the details of the day, the differences between the narrator and Ian, the people at the pool, are vivid and move the story along. And the punchline of that story -- "Ian still won" -- is great.
    The second beginning, jumping ahead three years, threw me out of the story. Maybe it's the subhead denoting the age? Maybe it would flow better if the narrator moves on from the holding-breath story with a hint of its aftermath (a lifeguard hauling them out of the pool? a trip to the hospital?) that could serve as a springboard to the next near-death story.
    Really liked the voice of this.

  5. I like the counting down of the 5 near-death experiences (I am assuming that is what is happening). I also smiled at the line "Ian still beat me." The part of the logline that says "the fifth murdered my brother" is confusing. The fifth near-death experience murdered your brother? I can't quite understand that. I would keep reading, assuming the snippets remained brief, and then give a shot and what was happening in the present day.