PW #221: YA Magical Realism: A PALE, DARK SUMMER

Pitchwars Badge (Square YA)
Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Lisa Maxwell
Mentee Name: Pasha Westbrook
Category: YA
Genre: Magic Realism
Word Count: 65,000


In a town too small to exist on an Arizona map, sixteen-year-old Summer can’t free herself from her brother’s tragic death. Then Levi comes along—a beautiful, schizophrenic boy who claims he can heal her past. But Levi’s secrets may undo them both.


We came to Ashwood to remember.

Though I’d rather forget.

Why remember something that panics my blood? Makes me pour in tear-drenched sweat and ache for minutes I can’t get back?

I’d rather climb trees.

Sap sticks to my feet, and leaves cling to my cotton dress. I scale the tallest tree. Hot branches. My limbs long. I scale it fast. At the shivering top, the wind moves through my skin, and I see it all: Our field of shimmering wheat, Dad’s numb hands working madman-style, and Mom bending like a tree to water as she plucks weeds from the sacred spot that consumes her life now that we’re here, consumes all our lives. Her hair is short, her pale neck long.

A sorrowing swan.

I grab my acrylics, kept in a bag strung to a branch, and paint the image imprinted in my eyes, quickly, before the summer heat melts my brain. Eight, nine, ten strokes of the brush upon the heated bark, and I now have a long-necked bird—no wings, no beak—covered in shadow. I blend white into gold into red for the sunburned sky, and I sign my name to it, wispy-yellow: Summer.

Later, I walk past Mom, careful not to disturb her. Can my brother see her as I can—our mom—the empty shell? The thought is brief, one I quickly choke. She doesn’t say hello, and I don’t blame her. Coming back to this town has reignited her grief.

My fault, my fault, my fault speeds through my brain.


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