Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #41

TITLE: Alaska: The Year My Mother Ruined My Life
GENRE: YA Contemporary literary YA

First, there was a note on the fridge in Mom’s barely legible scrawl: “Family meeting. Living room. 4 p.m. Tuesday.”

I wrote neatly beneath it: “No can do. Fencing match. 3 p.m. Tuesday.” She never attended my matches—they were just club matches—so it was no surprise she was clueless.

Later, there was a new note: “Familll neeting. Livi— rom. 4 p.m. Wed.”

Once again, I answered: “No can do. Volunteering for Mrs. Coates. 1–5 Wednesday.” Mom wouldn’t know about this, either, unless she looked at the wall calendar in my room, which, mind you, she was free do.

Note #3: “Fam m--t. LR. 6 p Wed.”

Gah! “No can do. Neither can you. Women’s dinner at the club, 6 p.m. Wednesday. Make sure your purple dress is clean.”

Then there was a fourth note: “Fam met. LR. 12am. Wed. Midnight. I’ll wake u.”

And there it was: Mom’s insanity on display. She was totally serious. And it would work: My schedule was wide open then, though my eyes wouldn’t be.

I couldn’t imagine what was up. We’d never had a family meeting. Given Mom’s flair for crazy and dramatic, I figured it wasn’t worth trying to guess: It could be anything, eensy or enormous, important or unimportant, brilliant or ridiculous. If I saw her between now and then, I’d ask, but chances were good our paths wouldn’t cross. She’s busy. I’m busy. Hence the notes.


  1. This is fantastic. I love the confident voice and how the exchange of these notes shows us so much about the family dynamics here. Cool hook to show us how this mother-daughter relationship works. I’d love to know what will happen at the family meeting.

  2. I love this: you've revealed so much about the relationship, so quickly, and I really want to know what the family meeting is about. Great beginning! (Is that cheerleading? If yes, I'll add one note of critique: I think the dashes and typos in the notes are confusing, I just thought it was sloppy at first. I think you could achieve the same affect just by abbreviating and having the abbreviations get shorter in each note, until the last one is FM. LR.)

  3. I like the way you begin. The idea of the notes back and forth is both funny and engaging. I want to know more about the family meeting and if there is another family member who might be there. I was a little thrown off by the son telling the mother what to wear to an event. Also, if they are going to an event together, why can't they talk then?

  4. I love this! Your MC's voice is strong and it really comes through, as well as the family dynamics! I'm intrigued and would definitely read more!

  5. I really like the MC’s voice and how the family dynamic is revealed through the progressive notes. Interesting that Susan P. thought the MC was a son, whereas the MC telling the mom what to wear made me think daughter. Either way, this detail tells a lot about their relationship, like their roles are reversed. I’m intrigued that the MC fences. I definitely want to read more.

  6. I like the voice, and the role reversal.. and the note thing is a fun and engaging intro. I'd keep reading, well done. Only real quibble is the three sentence fragments feel unnecessary, everything in them has already been shown and doesn't need (IMO) to be told.

  7. This is great. The voice, the set-up, the hints at the family relationship. I have nothing to critique. It makes me want to read more, immediately. Well done!