Monday, March 26, 2012

Surprise Agent Invasion #17

Title: Institutionalized
Genre: Young Adult
Word Count: 87,000


Sixteen year-old Sara Peterson has one night of rebelliousness in her carefully planned life by attending the spring dance against her father’s permission. She stumbles home drunk and tries to sneak back in through her sister’s window only to discover something truly horrific. To keep her from revealing what she’s seen, her parents lock her away in a psychiatric hospital and convince the staff that she’s an out of control alcoholic runaway. Inside the walls of Whispering Sands Psychiatric Facility, Sara finds herself surrounded by violent, suicidal patients, and bombarded with questions about her feelings. The only thing no one is hearing is that she doesn’t belong there; she’s not crazy.

Sara keeps everything inside, telling no one the truth about what she saw. She can’t come to terms with the worst betrayal, that of her sister Sam. She and Sam have always been close. Sam has been the core of her life, her confidant; she trusted her with everything. Now, there is no one she can trust to help her out of this mess.

Hope comes in the form of the baddest bitch on the unit. McKayla tells Sara if she ever wants to get out, she has to stop following the rules and start breaking them. She will help her work the system and she will be out in no time. In exchange, all McKayla asks is Sara for help her with a few favors.

Sara finds sanctuary in the company of Matt. He’s the only one inside who seems to genuinely care about her and to want nothing from her. Sara struggles with the abrupt and often violent changes in her new reality and how to convince someone – anyone – that she’s not crazy.

First 250:

That last rum and Coke was a big mistake. I gripped the aluminum ladder. The world swirled around me. I burped and the sickly sweet smell made me gag. Mom would be so proud. I giggled, letting loose with one hand and swaying a little.

“Damn it, Sara, hold on with both hands up there,” Dylan called from below.

“Shhh,” I held a finger up to my lips and looked down at my date. “I got this.” I adjusted the plastic crown that had slid to the side of my head. I smoothed down the fly-away toile of the dress I borrowed from my sister Sam, and straightened my shoulders. I started climbing. Man, is this thing wobbly. I started giggling again. I tried to choke it off, but ended up snorting instead. That only made me laugh harder.

“C’mon! You’re gonna wake up your parents.”

I sighed. Dylan was getting tiresome. He’d been awesome at the Spring Fling dance. He’d told me that I was beautiful and the kissing – oh, my God. I could’ve done that all night. My heel slipped on the metal rung.

“Ahhh!” I hugged the cold metal. It felt soothing on my cheek. Everything was spinning.

“Shit!” Dylan said. “Are you all right?”

“Mmm, hmm.” I clung to the flimsy ladder, still swaying. “Gimme a minute.” Looking up, I could see I was halfway there. My sister’s light was on. She had called me about two hours ago freaking out. I don’t know why.


  1. I liked your opening page. I thought the writing was quite convincing, and it's a great scene with her climbing up the ladder drunk. What a place to open!

    But I was a little lost about how her parents got her comitted to an asylum and what was going on. If they said she was a runaway alcoholic, she'd go to rehab, not this type of facility. Then she's fighting to convince people she's not crazy. What's going on? Is she acting crazy? It's also pretty hard to keep someone locked up who is acting perfectly normal. I didn't find this part of the plot convincing. A hospital might hold you briefly or examine you, but if nothing was conclusive, they would release you pretty quickly.

    I hope my comments make sense. I recommend revising the query to make all this clearer. Good luck!

  2. I'm with Gina on the pitch copy, but perhaps it's all very clear in the manuscript? I'd like to have a look at the first five chapters. Please send them via email attachment as a Word file to alison (at) therightsfactory (dot) com. Thanks!!

  3. I'm also with Gina on the pitch copy. And I think what she sees would have a lot of power in terms of swaying me to request. Is she stumbling in on a murder?

  4. Like the others said above, the pitch is slightly unclear, but you definitely have my attention anyway. I'd love to see the first 50 pages of your manuscript. Please send to, attached as a Word document (.doc), and include my name and Agent Invasion in the subject line. Really looking forward to hearing from you!
    All my best,
    Taylor Martindale
    Full Circle Literary