PW #223: Middle Grade Contemporary: OPERATION: NORMAL

Manuscript Status: 6 Weeks Delivery

Mentors: Dee Romito and Jen Malone
Mentee: Elizabeth Dimit
Category/Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Word Count: 33,000


When ten-year-old Avery Lawson learns she has ADHD, she launches Operation: Normal—a plan to prove she’s (mostly) like every other kid in class. Because if she can’t stop staring at her teacher’s furry eyebrows or resist her unrelenting need to doodle, she’ll never prove she’s more than a diagnosis. RAMONA QUIMBY meets FISH IN A TREE.


Avery Lawson had nine hundred ninety-nine cats. Too bad none of them were real.

Her parents had told her she couldn’t get a live, breathing cat until it didn’t rain in their town of Mount Crescent, Oregon, for a year. Or when she became responsible. Whichever came first.

Avery scowled out the window at the soggy schoolyard, uncapped her blue marker, and prepared to draw her one-thousandth cat. The pleasant squeak of marker on her paper drowned out the annoying scritch-scratch of pencils as the other fifth-graders copied spelling words. Boring words like peaceful and business and vulture.

The squeaking filled her ears as she drew a fluffy tail right over the word cabbage. She added whiskers, but one got so long it wouldn’t fit on the paper. She stopped the marker at the edge of her worksheet. She shouldn’t draw on her desk. Only kindergartners did that.

But the whisker wanted—no, it demanded—to be longer. Clutching the marker, Avery stretched the line to the end of her desk.


“Avery, can you define this for us?” Mr. Silva’s voice poked its way into her ears.

Her head jerked up. What was he talking about?

Avery’s teacher tapped on the word policy, which loomed on the glowing screen. “Are you with us?” he asked.

She stared at her cat-covered paper.

It’d happened again. Avery’s rocket-speed brain had propelled her to Mars while the rest of her class stayed on Earth.


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