Entry Nickname: Ticket to Ride
Word Count: 78K
Genre: YA contemporary
Seventeen-year-old Jack wants to escape his narrow-minded Appalachian hometown more than anything. His family’s welfare checks pay for little more than food on the table, his mom’s pastor won’t stop lecturing him about the sinfulness of lust, and the rumors about his sexuality floating around school make him feel unsafe at every turn. The only thing worth looking forward to is the full-ride scholarship with his name on it—his one-way ticket to a better life.
But his plans hadn’t involved falling for Casey, the boy from the trailer park down the road who understands him in ways no one else in their town can. With the countdown to college ticking away, there’s only a limited amount of time to make the most out of their relationship. And unfortunately for Jack, using his scholarship means leaving Casey behind.
Then, right before college starts, the unthinkable happens: his mother tries to commit suicide, blaming her attempt on her son’s sexual orientation. Overwhelmed with guilt, Jack finds his mental state heading in the same direction as his mom’s. It doesn’t help that he hasn’t slept since she kicked him out of her room at the psychiatric clinic, or that Casey hasn’t returned any of his calls since the incident. Now, Jack must learn to balance the life he’s been dealt and the life he wants before he can patch up the situation with his mom and win back the guy he loves.
Jack flicked his head around the instant he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.
What was different? Had the shower curtain moved? He swiped a hand over his face to clear away the flecks of soapy water, then jerked his gaze to each corner of the shower stall. Nothing, nothing, and nothing. There was nothing within reach, except his tiny bottle of shampoo.
Jack turned to the bar above the curtain and saw it: Nothing. No clothes hanging over it, no towel, even though they’d been there just moments before.
He rotated the lever until the water stopped flowing. Surely this couldn’t be happening. His towel must’ve fallen off the curtain rod. His clothes, too. Because there was no way someone had taken them. Right?
Jack placed a hand on the shower curtain, ready to pull it back. Then he noticed the real source of the problem: the noise level in the locker room also fell into the “nothing” category. He heard no talking, no footsteps, no lockers slamming. Had he lost track of time? Had he been so focused on his thoughts—what was he thinking about, again?—that he’d missed when the entire gym class left?
With a turn of his wrist, he peeled back the edge of the shower curtain. His eyes landed on the bare floor, the empty bench, and the vacated shower stalls. The only sound prickling his ears was his own breathing.
Everyone was gone. And they’d taken his clothes on their way out.
Title: Waiting on Delilah
Entry Nickname: Love (Tri) Angle
Word Count: 58,000
Genre: YA Contemporary
Secretly gay and engaged at seventeen, Anya Samuels’ reality is a nightmare. Her Father, a radical TV evangelist, has kept her on a tight leash, and now it’s soon to be a legally binding noose. But despite Anya’s secret preference, her fiancé’s genuine adoration starts to wear on her resolve. Maybe she can live a lie and get a happily ever after.
But just as she’s resigned herself to becoming Mrs. Kaden Carmichael, enter Tara Manalo. Unapologetically vibrant and dynamic, Tara walks into Kingdom Academy and immediately catches Anya’s eye. And when a seemingly shared hurt convinces Anya that “just friends” could be a reality, Tara instantly becomes her priority. But with the wedding fast approaching a choice needs to be made: Tara or Kaden? And will Anya choose, or will the choice be made for her?
I’ve had an itch on my calf for the last fifteen minutes. I leave it alone, knowing better than to even think about scratching it.
“… and we pray that this country’s exceedingly liberal culture and government will not corrupt our children. Amen.”
I lift my head and watch the sea of parishioners straighten back up as my Father descends the steps and retakes his seat.
“Anya,” my head swivels to the right, “it’s time to lead the hymn, dear.”
I stand and match Mother’s mechanical tone with a robotic ascension up the altar steps, taking my position behind the podium.
“Our hymn is number 37: How Great Thou Art.”
The congregation stands, and I go on autopilot as the first note rings out. There are only two hundred and nine days until my eighteenth birthday. Now, eighteen is a big deal no matter who you are, but for me, it’s legitimately a new life. Eighteen means I can finally get away from here, but for now, at a meager seventeen and five-ish months, this gilded hell-hole is my reality. The final chord of the hymn thrums through the organ, and the resounding “Amen” reverberates throughout the sanctuary as I step back from the podium. Taking care not to trip, I walk back to where my family is seated. Mother gives me her signature tight-lipped smile. Jonah just keeps his head down, studying the hymnal like it might have an escape route written on the back. It doesn’t. I’ve checked.