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PW #314: Young Adult Contemporary: LISTEN

Friday, 4 November 2016  |  Posted by Nikki Roberti

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Kristin Wright
Mentee Name: Jennifer Camiccia
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Word Count: 73,000


After seventeen-year-old Emmaline’s unstable stepfather drives the family straight off a cliff, her anxiety kills the one thing she can trust – her voice. Worse, the crash destroys her sister’s health. Emmaline must find the courage to sing again for a huge competition’s prize money, or Birdy may never recover.


The digital clock on the car dashboard mesmerizes me, as if knowing the exact minute I die will change anything. Our family drive has darkened and twisted as fast as Hank’s mood.

I imagine my obituary: At 5:43 pm seventeen-year-old Emmaline Frazier’s young life was cut short in a tragic car accident. She is survived by her mother, Justine, and younger sister, Birdy.

Each minute ticks by with a kind of finality.


He hugs the curves, swerving dangerously close to the sheer drop where only a flimsy, metal barrier stands between us and the Pacific Ocean. Each second I survive is a victory against my stepfather. Instead of screaming, I bite the inside of my cheek, pinch the skin along my thighs, and keep my mouth shut.


I consider opening the door and jumping, but Birdy clings to my hand and I can’t leave her alone. I don’t tell her it will be okay, because I may be a crap sister, but I can’t lie to her. My silence is one of self-preservation. I’ve learned it does no good to sob and beg for our lives. It only feeds his instability. Our tears and fear – the anti-lithium.


The back end of our Honda Civic smacks the barrier with a dull thud: our car fishtails into traffic, cars honking, people swearing. Hank occasionally strokes the thick blonde waves of Mom’s hair, smiling at her, seemingly blind to her terror.

He blows her a kiss. “Love you, babe.”

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