Entry Nickname: SunnysideUp
Title: If I Promise You the Sun
Word count: 89,000
Genre: YA Contemporary Thriller


Sixteen-year-old Eve Thomas doesn’t mind that she can’t leave Nova Vita, an Amish-like religious community that rejects most technology and has perfected solar power. Except for the compulsions and tics linked to her photographic memory, life in her mountain home is paradise.

But when her little brother shows signs of a genetic disorder the cult won’t treat, she questions everything she’s been taught. As she searches frantically for a cure, Eve has no idea that someone is watching her, an eighteen-year-old boy named Mana Aquino. A migrant worker from the garbage slums of Manila, Mana is determined to kill the cult’s leader—the bishop who used his sister as a human sacrifice and treats all laborers like slaves. He just can’t seem to get anywhere near his prey, not even by sleeping with the wife of the bishop’s right-hand man.

After Mana learns about Eve’s memory, he offers to sneak medicine to her brother, if she’ll serve as his human camera, gathering information that could ruin the bishop. If Eve accepts, she’ll commit a crime that will destroy the only home she’s ever known. If she says no, her beloved brother’s as good as dead.

I hold an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University, am a member of SCBWI, and have published several reviews of children’s books in The New York Times.

First 250 words:

Mama and I use all our muscle to pin my sister in the kitchen chair so medics can find a vein and fill a vial with her blood. Every child in Nova Vita is being tested for an illness so rare it has no name, and each one who tests positive will die. The Bishop agreed to let researchers study us, as long as they don’t interfere with our beliefs. This year, we’ll know ahead of time who we’re going to lose.

“Let me go!” Theresa shouts, her arms and legs flailing.

Restraining a furious six-year-old is no easy task. I gasp for breath as her bare foot wallops my gut. Miraculously, once the needle’s in, she stops resisting—her limbs relax and her hazel eyes widen. The thin red stream shooting up into the glass is beautiful. After we release her, I grunt and tap the back of the chair four times. Not because I want to, but because I can’t stop myself.

About two children fall ill in each of our four settlements every year. It can take months for them to die, as muscle control, then eyesight, then breathing fail. When you turn thirteen, your parents finally explain that there’s no cure, maybe not even outside of Nova Vita. The cause may be genetic, which means it’s in God’s hands. The Book of Healing reminds us that illness is part of Nature and Nature doesn’t make mistakes.

Sarah’s next. Nearly nine, she’d rather live in a chicken coop than let anyone see she’s scared.