PW #327: Young Adult Contemporary Speculative Fiction: GAMBIT OF MINDS

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Naomi Hughes

Mentee Name: Sher-May Loh


Category: Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary Speculative Fiction

Word Count: 80,000 words


Seventeen-year-old Jake reads minds to win brutal cage fights, which taught him to trust no one. But when his brother is taken prisoner, he must decide if Ben, a taciturn young spy whose mind he can’t read, is trying to help him out—or sell him out.

And if betraying Ben to the enemy can save his brother, whether Jake will do the same.



Jake spat a bloodied glob of saliva onto the cage floor. He circled the makeshift platform and eyed the Hammerhead, a scowling, ripped hulk a head taller than him. Steel wire fenced them in, rising halfway to the ceiling of the condemned factory in the Bronx.

“They wanna see the Karate Kid in action,” Gavin had told him before the fight. “So make it look good, ya hear?”

Jake got that name after his first few upsets against older opponents. They didn’t know he was only seventeen. Not that anyone would give a shit; these were underground cage fights, after all.

The Hammerhead charged, teeth bared, and Jake read his mind: jab–cross–hook—

As Jake blocked the jab and slipped the cross, something weird set off a sensory tripwire in his brain. Before he could figure it out, the Hammerhead moved behind him and hooked the back of his head, sending him staggering.

“The Karate Kid eats a hook!” Gavin crowed into the mic. “Kiddo mistake, he’s gotta watch himself or he’ll get Hammered!”

Although Jake could read his opponents’ minds, he’d let them get in a few good hits—preferably ones that looked nasty but wouldn’t give a concussion. The hook to the back of the head could’ve snapped his damn spinal cord. It was straight-up illegal in MMA.

But there was only one rule in the cage: stay alive.


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