Wednesday, September 9, 2009

9 Secret Agent

TITLE: From the Fury of the Norse
GENRE: Young adult fiction

“Lice,” Mom sniffed, drumming her manicured fingernails on our polished mahogany table. “I refuse to send Eva to a school that's infested with lice. And their academic reputation doesn't impress me, anyway.”

I wasn't about to argue with her. I didn't want to pick lice out of my hair, either. Nasty. When I heard we were moving to the eastern coast of England, I pictured more elegance. More Jane Austen and Buckingham Palace and fewer bugs laying eggs in my hair.

“Where else do you expect her to study?” Dad asked. He tried to look concerned, but all three of us knew he was faking. Especially since he hadn't put his newspaper down yet. Dad's work for a defense contractor had taken us to many exotic locations. Exotic was blasé for Dad and terrifying for Mom, even after twenty years of marriage. In Russia Mom agonized over the mafia. In Kenya she obsessed over malaria. In South Africa she bit her fingernails over car-jackers. Even in Washington, D.C., where I was born, she worried about inner-city gangs. If Dad didn't get worked up about those, a little British head lice wasn't going to phase him.

As long as he's not the one with bugs crawling through his scalp, I muttered to myself, rocking back on the legs of my heavy, upholstered chair.

“We're not sending her to an American expatriate school. Out of the question,” he reminded us. “And St. Luke's was the last private school in the area."

31 comments:

Christina Farley said...

You made me giggle at the first line. Loved it! I also liked the fact that they are expats (me being one myself!). Just watch those commas after In Kenya and In Russia and so forth. I'd read more.

Catherine Kariaxi said...

I'm absolutely hooked. Love this.

ajcastle said...

Not completely hooked. To be honest, the lice thing creeped me out a bit. I'm not a fan of bugs and just reading this makes my head itch. Also, the family comes off as a bit snobbish (the mother at least). I do like the voice and the fact that they seem to move all over. Being familiar with that myself I could relate.

Keith Schroeder said...

The first two paragraphs hooked me, the thrid had me doubting. I found the "Dad's work" sentence difficult. I had to read it several times to understand the meaning. I think I got it. I was hooked with "lice" thing; then I threw the hook and got away.

Sarah Erber said...

Wow, wonderful voice, was my first thought.

HOOKED!

MeganRebekah said...

Loved the voice, but not crazy about lice as an opening hook. Maybe because it doesn't seem like a huge deal, as almost every school deals with it at some point. I do like the contrast with the mother and father.

Melissa said...

Definitely hooked! I got a great sense of the main character and her parents, and there's humor. Anything that can make me laugh in the first couple of paragraphs will keep me reading.

Keren David said...

Agree with MeganRebekah - like the voice, like the premise, but you'd have got lice at any school and in any country and it's not a big deal. Believe me, been there, done that.


Would like to know more exactly where in England - the 'eastern coast' is almost completely meaningless from an English point of view. Newcastle? Southend?

rhea said...

I agree with everyone about the lice. A shampoo can kill it.

Great voice. But I'm not hooked.

Barbara said...

You got me with 'lice.' The word itself makes you react one way or another. But, like Keith, you lost me.

You clued me in to her parents' problems, but I have no idea what hers is. She's an expat in England looking for a school to attend. So?

That's what's missing for me. Why should I care? What's her problem?

Not hooked.

Secret Agent said...

I'd keep reading.

RJayce said...

Absolutely love your voice, so would keep reading even though the lice issue seemed a bit unbelievable. I'm in the UK, and was starting to wonder if America doesn't have lice until I read the other comments -- you could actually get away with this by maybe having the dad point out that lice is universal, and then the mom could override him or pretend to ignore him or whatever

Chris said...

Hooked.

Nice sense of humor, and nice voice.

I'd keep reading.

Amy said...

I'm the author--

Thanks for the feedback! Sorry for offending all you non-Americans . . . I don't really think your schools are infested with lice.

The parents do talk more about it past the first 250, so I'm sorry you can't hear the whole conversation! Sadly, the mother is very snobby, and (as it turns out) looking for any excuse to send her daughter to a certain school.

I appreciate your thoughts! Please, keep them coming!

Abby said...

I'm not completely hooked, but I really like the voice and would be willing to read further to see if things pick up.

Good luck!

Nora Coon said...

Hooked. This is funny, has a great voice, and sounds like an interesting set of characters. I'd keep reading.

Keren David said...

Amy - where on the eastern coast? Am obsessing about this now..You have to say north-east, or East Anglian or Essex coast, something like that. No such thing as eastern coast. Tell me where you are thinking of and I'll tell you where it is!!!!

Shadowfeet said...

Love the humor, love the voice. Not sure that I care for her mother at first but actually quite liked her as we learned about her more. I'd definitely keep reading.

Oh and thanks so much for the itchy scalp. Not :)

Amy said...

Keren--I can't leave you in suspense! It's set in an imaginary city, but it's in the general area of Grimsby. Does that help? What would a true Brit call that area? I'll gladly change it! Thanks!

susaninvt said...

I liked it. The mother does sound snobby and I think that’s the intent. The little backstory in the third paragraph was a little distracting. I think you could get away with ending that paragraph at the newspaper sentence. It keeps us more in the present…you can add the backstory later.

Sam said...

This is great, I would curl up in an armchair with a cup of coffee and keep reading.

Snazel said...

This sounds to be slow-moving, but in a good way. I liked the daughter's litany of what her mom freaks out about. :D

Holly Bodger said...

I got stuck on the first line. Why is the mother sniffing? Does she have a cold? Is she crying? Is she trying to smell the lice?

Otherwise, I think it's fine but I wouldn't say I'm hooked.

Kristi said...

I'm hooked.

It sounds clever. I like the mc's voice.

Sniffing plus drumming fingernails makes me think snooty and disdainful.

This reads like a polished product to me.

Kendall said...

I liked that a lot. I especially liked the voice, and I agree that it did seem to be slow moving- but somehow in a good way. Cool.

Sara J. Henry said...

Absolutely loved this line (and the rest of this paragraph as well): Exotic was blasé for Dad and terrifying for Mom, even after twenty years of marriage.

You didn't actually hook me until the third paragraph. Perhaps tighten the first two? I think the manicured fingernails and polished mahogany table slow things down, and this was the least appealing paragraph (and made me think I wouldn't like this book). Could cut the whole first sentence and start with the quote (add a said my mother, of course) or something else more clever you can come up with. And maybe drop Nasty

Typo alert: You mean faze, not phase

I want more! Now!

Keren David said...

Amy - that would be Humberside. Now I'm dying to know what they are doing there. Not many American expats I'd imagine (and almost definitely no expat schools)
Would love to read more sometime!

Patty said...

Do you mean private school as in the US where a student pays tuition and the institution isn't under state control? Because I believe those are called public schools in Britain.

Great voice. You describe the parents very well. I can picture them quite clearly.

Amy said...

Author again--
Thanks so much for the comments! The encouraging ones are such a boost, and ones with suggestions for improvement help, as well. I appreciate everyone's input.

Sara--Yikes! I have read this section so many times and never caught the faze/phase error. Thanks for your sharp eyes.

Keren--Thanks! So would I call it Humberside, or the Humberside coast? It's important to the story that it's close to the shore, and I don't imagine most of my (young, American) readers would know much British geography. And you're right about few ex-pats/ex-pats schools. Also crucial to the plot . . .

Patty--I struggled to decide whether to call it public or private. I was afraid it would confuse (my again, young, American) readers to call what they see as a private school a public one. But maybe I don't give readers enough credit, and maybe it makes me look sloppy! I'll have to think about that one.

Keren David said...

Amy - they are called private schools in England. Some private schools (the older, grander ones, mostly boarding) are called public schools. But state schools (free, ordinary schools) are never ever called public schools. They might be grammar schools (selective) or comprehensive (take everyone.

I've never heard anyone talking about the Humberside coast. I think you need to separate out the geographic location with the fact that it's by the seaside (something like - it's grim to be here in Humberside, but at least we're near the coast). Dying to read more and find out what they're doing there!

Keren David said...

Me again - just been checking Humberside. Although everyone still calls it Humberside, it was actually abolished as a region a few years ago and it's now called East Yorkshire. So you could talk about the Yorkshire coast (sounds much nicer than Humberside) but not the north-east coast because that's further north. I have a friend from exactly that area, so if you need advice message me via blogger and I can put you in touch.