April’s MG/YA Winner

We are pleased to present the winner of the first run of the Middle Grade/Young Adult category in our OUT OF THE SLUSH PILE, Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest. Last month we debated the issue of story vs. technique, and story took the prize. This month boiled down to a question of marketability. Of the two best entries, which was more likely to sell? Based on the current offerings in the YA market, the judges chose Pineapples in Peril by Cheryl Linn Martin, of Washougal, Washington. The writer is competent and sets her story in an unusual tropical setting, which adds an interest of its own. Though the plot is not extremely compelling, it does push the story forward. As one judge put it, “Flavorful middle grade mystery has an audience. Pineapples… has my vote.” We therefore present to you the first chapter of this month’s winning entry:

Pineapples in Peril
by Cheryl Linn Martin Ekahi (One) I leapt off the porch, dodged between two palms, and powered through the rows of pineapples. The perfect getaway. But a quick peek over my shoulder proved I was not in the safety zone yet. My brother, Kimo, bounded out of the house and across the sand, sprays of the grit billowing up behind him. Oh man, he’d seen me! I’d been so careful, but the little twit must have been hiding somewhere, watching. I used the anger to propel me faster. The Hawaiian sun blazed down on my bare arms and legs. Trying to ignore the heat, I blasted through the spiky leaves, eyes set on the road just beyond the pineapple field. Strands of hair escaped my flopping, dark brown ponytail and stuck to my glossed lips. The small backpack, strung loosely on my shoulders, slapped with each pounding step. Sucking in a major breath of fruity air, I stretched each stride further and increased my lead. But how long would I have to run before my little brother would give up the chase? He seemed to have made it his life’s mission to irritate and frustrate me. Why couldn’t he just leave me alone? This was my stuff—my life—not his. Determined to leave him far behind, I pushed harder, ignoring the pain in my chest and the burning in my throat. “You’re in big trouble, Leilani!” Kimo’s ten-year-old, high-pitched squeal barely reached my ears. He always told Mom I was mean to him. Why did he want to tag along with me and my friends anyway? I wanted to yell back, to tell him Mom would side with me, but was too busy trying to breathe. I hoped I could continue at this pace and not pass out. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Kimo retreating. I smiled and faced forward, pleased I had won the battle. Suddenly I spotted a rock resting in the middle of my path. Jump, Leilani! Too late. My flip-flop caught on the stone, bulleting me forward. I face-planted between rows of prickly fruit and into dirt mixed with remains of molding, smashed pineapples. I groaned and rolled to the side. “Ouuuuch!” Everything hurt, especially my face and arms. I opened one eye and wiped a hand across my cheeks. Bits of sandy soil and squished pineapple fell to the ground. The taste of fruit and dirt hung on my lips. Spitting, I tried to rid my mouth of the foul gunk. Great. I probably looked like a zombie, fresh from the grave. I moved, but pain shot through my left arm. “Owie, owie, owie!” Grabbing my wrist, I prayed the horrible aching would stop. Oh, no! Maybe I broke the stupid thing. Perfect way to start eighth grade. Leilani Akamai in a cast—no surfing, no snorkeling, no wakeboarding. I winced and held my left wrist against my body. Hoisting myself into a sitting position with my good arm, I noticed my flip-flops. One rested upside down under a pineapple plant, the other hung on the edge of the evil rock. I scooted on my behind and reached for them. The flip-flops were still out of range, so I inched a little more until I could grab them and slip my toes in. This was all Kimo’s fault. I pushed against the ground with my good arm and leveraged myself into a standing position. Sorry, God. But my little brother is super annoying. Mom always reminded me Kimo was a special blessing. Ha! I’d never seen any proof. [click here to continue reading]