Dear #writementor agents,

Please find below a short introduction to my novel, THE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY, and the first page of the novel itself.

Eleven-year-old Casey Grimes is stubbornly friendly, but he’s eternally the new kid at Vintage Woods Middle School. Students look right through him—and they’re not faking. Casey doesn’t know why he’s mostly-invisible, but the nightmare eventually sends him deep into the forest. He scales a colossal oak and discovers a deserted fortress in its branches. The forgotten sentry tree marks the border between his safe, suburban life and a fierce frontier.

Casey and his little sister Gloria infiltrate Sylvan Woods, a secret forest society devoted to ancient, wild things. Sky-high footpaths. Survival sewing. Monster control. Shockingly, people here actually see Casey—but being seen isn’t enough. He wants to belong. Posing as a Sylvan girl’s cousins, he and Gloria enter Trickery School—an academy where classes have surprise endings, battles are as common as breakfast, and magic is so last century. For the first time in his life, Casey makes friends…but kids at Trickery have lost touch with the people they’re sworn to defend. If anyone finds out he’s an imposter, he’ll be blacklisted for life—or worse, thrown in the sewers with the tiger rats.

Keeping his identity hidden—while struggling to prove he fits—is hard enough, but butcher beasts have returned to Sylvan Woods after a hundred years. Trickery is under siege. As the monsters close in, and the fearsome Sylvan Watch hunts Casey down, he and his newfound friends must unearth abandoned magic, buried at the forest’s roots…or be devoured along with everyone else, Sylvans and civilians alike.

THE MOSTLY INVISIBLE BOY is a 70,000-word, adventurous MG fantasy where WILDWOOD meets NEVERWHERE. It’s a stand-alone book with series potential.

My short story, “Leviathan’s Hook,” was published in Midnight Times. I’m a SCBWI critique group member and Pitch Wars alum. I spend much of my time wrangling kids in our hundred-year-old house,


AJ Vanderhorst



Casey Grimes was invisible—at least most of the time.

He stood on the corner under a stop sign, jogging in place as his school bus sped down the street. It slowed to roll through the intersection and Casey sprinted alongside, smacking the door as his backpack bumped his spine. Sound and movement gave him a fighting chance to be seen. For a few seconds, anyway.

“Open up!” he yelled.

The driver squinted through the smudged glass, and Casey banged harder, until the brakes squealed and the accordion doors whooshed open.

“Where’d you come from?” The driver squinted at him.

“Same place I always come from.” Casey jumped into the bus.

The driver shrugged and floored the accelerator.

The other kids on Casey’s route always sat together in the back. He waved, but they kept right on talking, so he took his usual seat by the window, pressing the vinyl with sweaty palms. Don’t give up yet, he told himself. Last day of sixth grade, so make an effort. Things might still change.

But they reached Vintage Woods Middle School, and nothing was different.

Nothing at all.

“This can’t be your first day, right?” A girl asked as Casey opened his locker.

“Of course not,” Casey said. “You’re Lydia, we sit next to each other in—”

But she’d already started talking to someone else. Casey slumped in defeat, but then Manuel walked past—they’d had a five second conversation once, as long as Casey had ever talked to anyone at Vintage Woods—and he whirled.

“Hey Manuel!”

The boy’s gaze paused for a millisecond and slid away as if pulled by a magnet.