Word Count: 73,000
Genre: YA Contemporary
Cat Tierney, high school senior, has always done The Right Thing. She makes straight A’s, edits the school paper, and stays home on Friday nights to babysit her mother, who suffers from an unpredictable neurological disease. Sure, Cat would like a social life, but she’s not willing to fight with her overprotective father to get one. Until she meets Adam Jordan.
Adam shows up in journalism mid-year and offers to take pictures for the paper. He wows Cat with his photography skill, explains physics until it makes sense, and comes to the rescue when her car refuses to start. Cat finally has a boyfriend who appreciates her mind and makes her laugh, but many things threaten to force her away from Adam, including his father, who drinks too much.
As graduation approaches, Cat’s problems multiply. Her mom’s health deteriorates, her dad tightens his grip, and Adam pressures Cat to stand up for herself. Cat must choose between what she thinks is right and what she knows she wants, and with either choice, she risks losing someone important to her. In the end, she realizes she has a better option than abandoning her family or losing the boy she loves, but it will require all of her strength to pull it off.
Most seniors from Keene County High School didn’t stay home on Friday nights to babysit their moms, but I did.
I was chopping tomatoes in the kitchen, helping Billie finish dinner. Dad hired her to take care of Mom during the day, but she also liked to cook for us, a definite bonus. Billie’s cooking tasted almost as good as Mom’s used to. Almost.
Dad called my cell around five o’clock; I didn’t want to answer. When I did, he started talking before I could finish saying “hello.”
“Catherine,” he said. “I’m in the ICU waiting to get some lab results on one of my patients. This could be a long night.”
I held the paring knife in midair. “You’re not coming home.”
“I’m afraid not for awhile.”
“But I wanted to go to the football game tonight.” Deep down, I knew that Dad’s patient was more important than a football game. But why did these crises always happen when I had plans?
“I’m sorry. You need to stay home.”
I glanced at Mom, sitting in her wheelchair in the family room, head dropping to one side. She couldn’t help that she was sick, that she needed me.
“Fine,” I said.
“Thanks hon. Gotta go.”
The line went dead. I shoved my phone into my pocket.
“Dr. Tierney working late?” Billie asked.
“Yes,” I said, chopping tomatoes more violently than normal.
“Well, at least dinner’s almost made. Don’t cut your fingers.”
Entry Nickname: A Burning Dilemma
Title: Burn, Baby
Word count: 62K
Genre: YA Contemporary
The fates must have been laughing their asses off the day Ziggy's crack-head mom poured gas all over his big sister and lit her on fire. Layla's tragedy gave him the life he'd always wished for, and too much guilt to ever enjoy it.
His mom got thirty to life for attempted murder and now the brother and sister are living with a crazy but cool uncle in the suburbs, far away from the public housing apartments where they grew up. They’re going to a private high school and Ziggy's driving his own car and excelling in kickboxing. Unfortunately, his once kind, smart sister now hates everything, but mostly him, for saving her.
Until she connects with her poetry teacher, who falls in love with her angry words, and slowly draws her out from her prison of scars.
Ziggy beats the crap out of Mr. Osterman for loving his sister, almost earning himself expulsion. Sure, the guy’s young, just out of college, but it’s wrong for a teacher to go after a student. Layla hates Ziggy even more for chasing off the only man who sees her true beauty, not the scarred monster staring back in her mirror. After Layla tries to kill herself, Mr. Osterman resigns, but he defiantly vows to stay in touch with her until she graduates from college.
Part of Ziggy wants to go after him, scare him off for good, but another part of him wonders if he should let time play this one out. If Osterman loves her enough to wait all those years, maybe he’s what Layla needs to find her way back to happiness.
I Wish You Were Dead
By Layla Neilson
What did you expect when you opened up my note?
Did you think I would forgive?
Sixteen years of brute neglect, wiped clean because you wrote?
Words I refused to read, in one moment torn to shreds
They meant nothing, you old bleating goat
How about this, Mom; I wish you were dead
The terror of that night, which eventually destroyed us all in some ways, all started for the sole reason that my sister had the tragic misfortune of growing up beautiful.
Mom obsessed over Layla’s grace, afraid my sister might steal the johns who fed her drug habit. Her obsession turned to paranoia, the paranoia into psychosis, until one Thursday night in March, she sprayed her child with gasoline and lit a match.
Lightning streaked across the Tampa sky, illuminating the cockroaches that feasted on the kitchen counter. Thunder cracked, slow and building until vibrations shuddered the small living room of our crap apartment, where I sat cross legged on the couch. Layla sprawled beside me, reading a book while I watched some dumbass reality show.
Aside from a couple of mattresses in the bedrooms, that was the extent of our furniture. The Goodwill couch which doubled as my bed, and a junk TV on a milk crate. I held a box of Lucky Charms where Layla could reach, enjoying our family sit-down dinner.
“What’re you reading?” I asked during a commercial.
The rain messed up the picture, so I fiddled with the rabbit ears, only making things worse.