PAPER GIRL is a stand-alone, 86,000-word YA contemporary novel with series potential that will appeal to fans ofLittle White Liesand Veronica Mars.
Sixteen-year-old Leona Swick has a nose for news, but the one story she missed might have saved her father’s life.
Leona’s used to landing in hot water as a reporter, but her frequent run-ins with her principal haven’t curbed her hard-hitting journalistic style. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to become an award-winning reporter like her late father when she’s banned from the school newspaper. The good news is that Leona’s already won a dream spot in a competitive summer journalism camp. If she can win, she’ll earn a year-long editor position at a new teen publication and the satisfaction of seeing her principal eat his words.
But when a journalist reveals that her father’s killer could be released from prison because of new questions about the case, Leona’s plans take a hit. The most important story at camp is now personal—the truth about her dad’s death. Convinced that his death was a result of an important story investigation and not a robbery-gone wrong, Leona discovers new evidence. Armed with her dad’s journal, Leona teams up with her infuriating but admittedly charming and handsome archrival to retrace her dad’s footsteps.
To find the truth about her dad, Leona will have to battle fake news and risk her spot in the camp. But giving up on the story means failing her father, his legacy and the reporter she wants to be. As the camp heats up, one fact becomes clear. If Leona can’t beat fake news, she’ll become its next victim.
I’m a former journalist and work at a public relations firm in Boston. I graduated from Kenyon College and later earned an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. I’m a member of Grub Street and SCBWI, and my work has been featured in Embark Literary Journal. I was also selected as a mentee in the 2019 WriteMentor program for this manuscript.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
My dad used to say that a good reporter is like a gardener. Always digging up dirt. Unfortunately, that dirt has me trapped in the principal’s office on the final day of sophomore year when I should be home packing for the best summer of my life.
I sit across from Principal Wharton—or Wart, as we call him—while he aims his droopy, bulldog-style frown at me. He jabs the final edition of the Gabbington Stoolwith his middle finger. It’s the finger with the mole on it, the one that earned him his nickname. He slides our school newspaper across the desk. Beside him, Mr. Bronson, our gym teacher, shoots daggers my way. A Channel 4 Southern Massachusetts news truck is visible through the window behind him. Too bad the other stations grew bored and left.
Wart lifts the paper from the desk. “‘Gabbington’s Great White Males.’” He reads my headline and lets the page fall. “What exactly is a great white male?”
His rhetorical question doesn’t require an answer, but I’m still furious that Wart is more outraged by my story than the actions of the five-member, all male Gabbington High scholarship committee. “Divine inspiration from English class.” I wasn’t a huge fan of Moby Dick, but I do like catchy headlines. “What can I say? Herman Melville is a genius.”
Angry red splotches color Mr. Bronson’s cheeks. “Leona deserves to be kicked off the paper and suspended.”
Wart narrows his eyes and adjusts his tie. “You’ve gone too far this time.”
I lean back in my chair. It squeaks. Normally I wouldn’t be too worried. This isn’t my first, second, or even third visit to Wart’s office. My column draws his ire at least once a semester. “Leona’s Lit,” it’s called. Not lit as in literature, but lit as in on fire. Earlier today, Wart charged through classrooms like a velociraptor, confiscating copies of the Gabbington Stool—because of my story.
“I want to know how you acquired those scholarship applications,” Mr. Bronson demands. “The reviews are confidential, shared only among the committee.”
Journalism rule number one. Never rat out a source. And definitely not in this case, since the source happens to be my best friend—Mia Lively, hacker extraordinaire.
“People reached out because they were concerned about an injustice,” I say.
“Injustice?” Mr. Bronson sputters. “I’ll give you an injustice. That article was completely slanderous.”
“You mean libelous,” I mutter, turning to Wart. “But it’s not. Everything I wrote is true. The scholarship committee is biased against female and minority students.”
Mr. Bronson snatches the paper from Wart’s desk. He ignores the black and white photos of the Gabbington patriarchy and begins reading. “‘When Maggie Hendrix kissed a girl behind the bleachers during gym class, she had no idea it would cost her $20,000. Being a lesbian isn’t a crime, but James Bronson and the Gabbington Public High School Scholarship Committee sure treated it that way. And she’s not alone.’”