Hi fellow QTers!
I find myself in a conundrum today. I've polished up my MS, and had several betas (both adult and teenage) evaluate it. Teens 11-14 loved it. Betas had lots of great feedback, and the MS is fairly clean now. But today I got input from one beta who feels very strongly that my 47K upper MG novel should actually be a 65K YA. My stomach kinda fell out onto the floor when I read the words. I accept her input, and I can see how her POV differs from the other betas.
The trouble is, I am unsure about what to do now. Undertaking a re-write is fine with me if it is warranted. But part of me feels like the stakes in my novel are more appropriate for MG, and will not stand up to other YA paranormal novels out there. I have no murders, bloodshed, sex, drugs, alcohol, or swearing in THE SIGHT. My MC is a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school, which is borderline, and she seems to have more appeal with younger teens than older ones in my test reads. . . but if it needs to get pushed to YA, I will do the work.
So, if you would, please take a read of this sample. Give me your opinion. I'd appreciate it so much. I need something to push me one way or the other, and that feeling is not coming from within me. If you're interested in editing other things about this, that's okay too, but I'd really love input on the MG vs YA question most
If this sample is too short to tell, I'll post the next chapter too.
My stomach lurches when the quiz lands in front of me—standard operating procedure for my guts—but for some reason, it feels different today, perhaps because it’s the first pop quiz of the year.
“Shoot,” I mutter, my insides turning to water.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at my blotchy red cheeks, but I expected to have a straight-A average at Chester High. Now my freshman streak might be over before it starts, which totally sucks.
“Don’t worry, Katie, I’m sure you’ll do fine,” Brian says, tucking his reading glasses into place through his floppy brown hair, armed and ready to wreck another curve.
“I know I will. I just don’t like surprises.”
“Well, excuse me for doubting your genius,” Brian says, rolling his eyes at me. He means well, really. But the last thing I need is pity from Brian. Friend or not, I want to beat him. Knowing it all may not be my ticket to popularity, but it’s what I’ve always done best.
“You have fifteen minutes,” Mr. Hughes says, “You may begin.”
I check the time on the standard issue clock above the whiteboard, though Mr. Hughes usually gives us a few extra minutes. I’ve heard he goes bungee jumping on the weekend, but I find it hard to imagine him in anything other than the stiff shirts and hideous ties he wears every day. Today we’re greeted by a couple of gleeful dolphins swinging to and fro, cheering the demise of our grades.
I smooth out the paper before me. It’s still warm from the copier and smells like scorched rubber.
“Question 1: What are the two processes of cellular reproduction?”
I draw a total blank. My stomach cramps with renewed ferocity. Usually the feeling evaporates when my brain kicks in. Not so this time. Halfway down the page I spot two familiar words, “mitosis” and “meiosis.” Those are the answers! I can see them now, but for the life of me I cannot recall learning this stuff. Another wave of wooziness hits and I shut my eyes against it, certain I’m going to tip right off of my stool. Suddenly, Mr. Hughes flashes to life in my mind, his lecture on cellular reproduction playing behind my eyes like a movie.
“Mitosis is the most common process of cellular reproduction. In this process, a cell divides into two complete new cells identical to the original. Whereas meiosis results in four cells not identical to the parent cell . . . ”
All of the sudden I can remember the lecture word for word, which makes absolutely no sense. I didn’t remember a thing two minutes ago. But a glance at the clock warns me there’s no time to wonder why. I have to crack this quiz! I tick off the answers one by one, finishing just in time.
Brian shrugs at me as we pass our papers up, sharing a quick exasperated smile. As usual he is apologetic for his unparalleled intelligence. He must think I totally blew it, which I almost did, with blanking out and all. Not to worry, I think, I’m the one who nailed this quiz! I give him a quick thumbs-up to tell him I rocked it, but his expression is perplexed at best.
“OK everyone, eyes to the front!” Mr. Hughes says, returning to the white board. I flip open my notebook to jot down another day’s notes.
By 5th Period the air outside is suffocating. It’s not the typical New England weather this time of year, and all of Chester looks like it’s wilting, fading to brown before our eyes. Ms. Thomas sequesters us in the sweaty weight room to “work out” because it’s supposedly air-conditioned. If it is, the AC’s must be as worn out as the ancient weight lifting machines.
The multipurpose building, home to the lovely weight room, is down a sloping sidewalk behind the main building. It used to be a cafeteria ages ago before the new extensions were built. Shop class is here, and driver’s Ed. It’s a foreign land populated with mostly older, odder students, those interested in fixing up junkers or pumping iron. Neither is exactly my crowd.
We settle down on the heavy blue mats lining the floor. They’re gummy to the touch. The tan cinderblock walls glisten faintly with moisture. Gross! I need a shower just looking at them!
“Girls, look smart! In rows, 5 to a row! It’s time to burn!” Ms. Thomas says, inserting a video into a dusty old tape player and pressing buttons to will it to life.
The words “Buns of Steel II” flash across the TV screen in huge neon block letters. A skinny woman bounds into view, radiating energy. She sports fluorescent leg warmers and the biggest bangs I’ve ever seen. With each exuberant step, she pops so far off the ground that her sky-high bangs shoot clear out of the frame.
“Hi, I’m Marsha Macro! Get ready to sweat ladies, it’s time to put your behinds in gear, tone those glutes, and earn your Buns of Steel!” she chirps gleefully into the camera, arriving in front of several smiling girls in leotards up to their armpits.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” a girl complains loudly from the mat next to me.
On my other side, Tammy is already giggling. I roll my eyes in her direction and flop into line, mimicking the boisterous Ms. Macro to the best of my ability. Right arm forward, left leg up. Left arm forward, right leg up. And reverse. Again. And, again! Wow, my butt is really killing me! Maybe there are such a things as “Buns of Steel.”
I turn over and from two rows down Hilary Russell fixes an icy stare on me. A tremor shoots through my gut. What’s her problem, I think, what did I do to her? When she notices me noticing her, she quickly masks the cool stare with a very broad and very fake smile.
Once upon a time Hil and I were tight. In elementary school we picked each other first for kickball. We had sleepovers. We even shared one of those BFF necklaces, each proudly displaying half of the little golden heart that declared we were “best friends forever.” In 5th grade she tried perming her dirty blonde hair. I told her it looked great, even though it stuck out around her head like a fuzzy helmet. Hilary liked to be first, and preferably best, at everything.
She tortured our goofball teacher all year long because she could, erasing letters on the board to spell bad words, sticking signs to her chair, stealing her photocopies. Ms. Willis knew it was Hil, but she never could catch her in the act, until the day Hil snuck in her sister’s cigarettes, the ultimate challenge that would leave us all in awe. Ms. Willis caught us looking at them, and when she asked whose they were, I told the truth. When Hil came back from suspension, I was dead to her. That summer she moved away, off to attend a different middle school, and she stopped returning my calls. Now that we’re both at Chester, it looks like Hilary cares I exist, in an I-still-wish-you-were-dead kind of way.
Whatever. Back to the buns! I lift my knee high in the air and the door to the weigh room bursts open. A dozen loud male voices instantly overwhelm Miss Macro’s perky prompts.
“Hey!” Girls cry out, but I’m frozen in surprise.
“Whoa! What the—“ the boy in front says as Ms. Thomas plants her compact figure directly in his path.
“What do you think you are doing young man? Do you think it is funny to interrupt my class?” she barks, stabbing her finger at him with each syllable.
“Ms. . . . uh, Ms. Thomas? We uh—oof!” he says, flustered. The guys behind him push his back, shouting for him to move his slow behind.
Chatter erupts and Miss Macro is completely forgotten. My gym shirt is caught awkwardly in the ever so flattering elastic waistband of my gym shorts and I yank it out to get myself back in order—well, in as much order as you can achieve wearing standard issue PE clothes.
When my eyes lift I am staring straight into Chad Walker’s brilliant blue eyes, his face framed in the doorway behind Ms. Thomas and the dark-haired dude. For the first time in high school, my brother’s best friend is looking right at me. He’s notices me! And I’m on all fours with my leg lifted sky high, like a dog about to pee on a bush!