Title: East of Maplewood
Entry Nickname: I Wish I Was White
Word Count: 80K
Genre: YA (OWNVoices)
On a beautiful day in upper-middle-class Sparta NJ, Adam Hollander, the only black kid in a predominantly white school, just kissed his biggest crush. Kissing the mayor’s daughter may make him a little nervous, but it’s hands-down the best day of his life. That is until Adam’s father, a white teacher, is accused of molesting one of his students, and the perfect day becomes a nightmare for the Hollander family.
Flash-forward two years. Adam, now sixteen, has relocated with his family to the extremely poor, urban neighborhood of Irvington, where interacting with other black teens at his school for the first time triggers an identity crisis. As a heavy-metal-loving, film connoisseur and self-proclaimed “Oreo,” Adam knows he doesn’t fit in with the profane, gang-sign-throwing kids in his new town. He wants nothing more than to go back to living a normal, happy life—meaning a life amongst white people, which is where he feels a sense of belonging. But that’s not in the cards.
When he meets some kids in a journalism club who actually look like him and have similar interests, things start to look up for Adam. His new friends help him through a rough transition, showing him that color doesn’t define a person. It’s a part, but not the whole. But when word of his dad’s prior accusation finds its way to Adam’s new school, his father suffers a mental breakdown. Still reeling from being railroaded for a crime he claims he didn’t commit, he threatens to shoot up the school, and Adam’s world is rocked once again. Hurting for his dad yet terrified of what might happen, Adam must stop him from carrying out a mass shooting before dozens of people are slaughtered—including his new friends.
“Aren’t you worried about her dad finding out?” my best friend, Anthony, asks me. I’m sitting beside him on his bed while he plays The Evil Within on his X-Box One. He gets a new game every week and shrugs it off like it’s nothing. “You know he’s racist, right?”
You see, this is why I wish I was white. Then Anthony wouldn’t say dumb shit like this to me on a regular basis.
“Who told you that?” I ask.
Anthony’s eyes remain locked on the game, so he can’t see me biting my nails.
“Well, her dad’s a Republican, and my dad says that Republicans hate black people.”
“That’s not true. My mom’s a Republican, and she’s black, so…”
“Your mom’s a Republican?” Anthony nearly drops his controller and his eyes go wide like I just said my mom is Emperor Palpatine or something. “I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
“Alright, fine,” Anthony says. “It doesn’t mean anything. But spill. How’d you kiss Jessica on the stairs today? You get tongue?”
Just my luck Anthony turns his head at the exact moment that I’m blushing. But this is one of the few instances where I like being black. He probably can’t even tell. When he blushes, his whole face turns raspberry red, and he even looks like a raspberry with all that facial hair. “I gave her my Christmas present.”
“Annnndd she kind of looked at me like—I imitate Jessica’s expression, squinting through imaginary strands of hair.
Title: This Is No Courtyard
Entry Nickname: Peace Pays What War Wins
Word count: 76K
Genre: YA Historical
Vuk is fourteen when the Nazis invade Yugoslavia. Unwilling to see his homeland turn into a fascist state, Vuk joins the local Partisan group along with his older brother, Pedja. While hiding out in a hay barn, their unit is betrayed, and the brothers are arrested and sent to Banjica concentration camp.
After weeks of brutal interrogations, Vuk and Pedja are transferred to the north of Norway to build railways and roads for the German occupiers. When they learn they will be shipped to different work camps, the brothers vow to escape and meet up in neutral Sweden.
Before Vuk can make good on his last promise to his brother, two other prisoners flee his camp, and the Nazis’ reprisals are swift and brutal: thirty-nine men are picked at random and mowed down with machine guns, while Vuk and the other prisoners are forced to watch.
As the Norwegian winter sets in, the conditions in camp worsen. Work on the road is hard, food is scarce, and the prisoners only have the clothes they came in. Emaciated and scared out of his mind, Vuk realizes if he’s to survive and ever meet his brother again, he has to escape. But running means sending dozens of his comrades to certain death.
THIS IS NO COURTYARD is a 76,000-word YA historical based on narrations from Yugoslavian Partisans who managed to escape the Norwegian death camps and some of the people who helped them.
Northern Norway, summer 1946
The man strolls down the dirt road in no particular hurry, and I wonder who died to put that smile on his face. It is chilly tonight, but the sky is clear. The sun sets the fjord on fire and highlights the gold in the bastard’s hair. He’s casually dressed in a brown airman jacket and loose-fitted trousers that billow in the breeze. One of his hands clutches a sixpence-hat, swinging gaily in cadence with his steps. The other is tucked into his trouser pocket. I don’t know if he’s armed, but who cares? He’s been drinking, and that will work in my favor.
I’m well-hidden among the trees lining the road. Their mid-summer foliage tangles together, creating a dense wall of green. When he passes, I follow. The rustle of the wind masks the sound of my steps. Still he senses me and turns.
Peering into the thicket, he sways ever so slightly, but he keeps both feet on the ground. My heart speeds up. This is it. I would recognize him anywhere. The slim nose, the smug mouth, and those eyes like the northern fjords. He’s handsome in that Scandinavian way. Fair, lean, tall. Clean cut features that would make a woman look pretty as well. A cliché of a man, if ever there was one, but what’s not to like?