WRiTE CLUB 2018 - Bout #14


Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE, and remember, the bouts stay open for one week and some of the first weeks are still live.

Here's a refresher of what's going on, in case you forgot how things work here.

Weeks ago the submission window opened for this year's contest where we asked anybody wishing to participate to submit a 500-word writing sample – using a pen name. The sample can be from any genre, flash fiction or something from a larger piece of work, basically, anything goes except that it cannot have been previously published or posted on the internet. All of the rules regarding how to submit can be found here. After the submission period closed, we had fifteen judges (we call them our slush pile readers) read all 181 submissions from 132 writers and once all the ballots were total we narrowed the 181 down to the 30 that will be stepping into the ring over the course of the next three weeks. Today is the first of those bouts.

How this works – two anonymous (pen name only) writing samples step into the ring. Visitors to this blog (that’s you) read both entries and vote for the one that resonates the most with you. We ask that you leave a brief critique for both writers with your vote because that is one of the real values of this contest – FEEDBACK. Please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-F), the voting for each bout will remain open for seven days from the date it is posted to give as many people as possible to have a say. The voting for today’s bout will close on Wednesday, May 9th (noon central time).

It’s that simple. The piece that garnishes the most votes moves on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent. Using a tournament style format, the 30 contestants will be whittled down to just 2, and the winner of that final bout will be announced at the DFW Writers Conference in Hurst TX June 9-10

In case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote. I can do that because, like all of you, I do not know the real names of our contestants either (my wife processes all the submissions).

Oh yeah – for every bout that you vote in, your name (see rule #2 below) will be placed into a hat for a chance for a $40 Barnes and Noble Gift card that will be drawn after the contest concludes.

A few rules –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3)Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will result in that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

That’s enough jibber-jabber…like the man say’s –




In the far corner, we have M.M. Fritz representing the YA Dystopian genre.


The alarms scream, mirroring the dream they interrupted. I groan, rolling over and burrowing further under the worn blanket. Another drill. Haven’t we gotten this down by now? This would be the third in a month. The protocols are in place, everyone at their position in two minutes flat.

Reluctantly, I peek through one sleep-coated eye. Small, cave-like, and ever lit by the red light required in all of our rooms in case of “emergencies” like this, it was more dungeon than bedroom. My uniform is hanging on the wall hook, ready for me to slide into it the moment my feet hit the ground. We sleep in the standard-issue undergarments. To save time.

They will be waiting for me in the hall by now. It is my responsibility to give the command to move into position. I’ve done it perfectly every time before, leaping out of bed at almost the same moment the alarms begin. I’m always the first one in the hall, standing at attention, still as a statue, a slightly annoyed expression on my face at the delay in my team. But today I am tired. The constant training, constant vigilance is wearing on me, and for a fleeting moment I imagine what I would be doing right now if the whole world hadn’t gone to shit.

Sleeping. I would be sleeping. My watch tells me it’s not even 5 a.m. yet. There was no chance you would have seen me up before the sun in my previous life. If it were my choice, I would sleep until at least eight, lazy in bed and read or just mess around on my phone until the hunger got to me. I’d put off writing lesson plans or grading the stack of essays that took up most of my nightstand and dream of being a full-time writer in a small cottage in the Scottish highlands.

But nothing was my choice anymore. I’d given up such a luxury when I’d made my last choice.

The floor is like ice, as it is every morning in this underground bunker. I allow myself one moment to stretch. We are going to fail this drill, and it will be my fault. A tiny pang of guilt clutches my heart then lets go, receding into the exhaustion that prevents me from caring. I even consider crawling back into bed. But I’m up now, so I pull on the stiff uniform and breathe through my mouth as the odorous cloth passes over my face. The chemicals glazing the surface may save me from some of the worst deaths imaginable, but in the meantime I smell like a radioactive skunk.

My helmet is just sliding onto my head when the alarms stop.

I freeze.

Something is wrong.
*********************************************************************************

And in the near corner, we have MarlaWriter representing the YA Contemporary genre.


Fifteen minutes until my car backs out of the driveway for zero period band practice, and my sister’s door is still closed. I pull a baseball cap over the brown mess I didn’t bother smoothing into a socially acceptable mold of hair gel and guy-style. Grabbing my trumpet and backpack, all I can think about is Mr. Slater giving away my first chair position for being late. He threatened as much last time.
I glance at my watch and lean closer to the wall separating my room from my sister’s. No sounds of zipping backpacks or the off-key humming she likes to do when she’s getting ready. No meds-induced heavy breathing either. Even her service dog is silent.
Sophie sleeps hard. It’s a miracle she wakes up at all after swallowing the mounds of pills she takes every day.
The outdated pictures in the hallway rattle when I close my door harder than I need to. I hardly recognize the cookie-cutter family posing with coordinated smiles and matching Christmas vests like none of them have a care in the world.
I stare at Sophie’s door handle and wonder how many fingerprints smudge its shiny surface. How many times I watched Mom’s hand hover over it, worry lines hidden beneath her smile. I roll my eyes and huff because she’s probably hunkered down under a mound of blankets next to a stretched out yellow lab. But as much as I try to shake the weight off my shoulders, I wonder if this will be the day Sophie doesn’t wake up. I steel my knees in case it is.
I think about What If? I’d be an only child. Again. Both my parents could be at the same performance on the same night listening to me playing a solo I’d earned in jazz band. I search the picture with just me and my parents taken before Sophie was even born. Before the world changed color. The kid sitting in between his parents smiling too big has no clue.
If something were wrong, Nana would’ve alerted. She’s trained to get someone and then lay with Sophie until she stops shaking.  My heart beats one of those thumps where it feels like two at the same time, so I take a deep breath. If Nana needed help, she’d be whining. Probably hasn’t even been taken out yet.
I reach for the handle but then dig my phone from my pocket instead.
I’m leaving in five. And if you want
a ride to school, you better hurry.

Hopefully she reads it. Hopefully she can.
Schrodinger’s sister.
I smirk at my joke but immediately curse myself for being cavalier. Not supposed to make jokes. Rule number 372 when you live with a chronically ill sibling. At least my physics teacher would be proud.

Familiar morning sounds of Mom rustling lunch bags come from the kitchen, and the smell of coffee beckons me to follow. With one last glance, I curse the shiny handle.
*********************************************************************************

Leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point positives as well as detractions.


We’ll be back tomorrow with another bout.  See you then.


51 comments

  1. This is the first match when it's been this hard for me to decide and so I've got to go based solely on genre: M.M. Fritz.

    Fritz writes a slightly tighter narrative, but I like the apprehension that was palpable in Marla Writer's story.

    Just a couple of things in each that distracted me from the stories:

    Marla Writer, I could be wrong, but I don't know of any school district that's cool with kids in hats so it may not be a good solution for messy hair by the time he gets to class. Also, I'm a little confused about whether or not the sister goes to school at all. It sounds like maybe, whatever her condition is, that she's more of a homeschool candidate.

    Fritz, was your MC a school teacher or a professor? If a school teacher, they were up well before 8 a.m. each weekday morning.

    Good match!

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  2. Both great pieces! MarlaWriter wins this one for me because I felt a real sense of tension there. Well done!

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  3. This first phase of the competition is nearly over, Jim, and we’ve been treated to some amazing fights. Here in the ring tonight, it’s M.M. Fritz in the worn, agendered regulation undergarments, and MarlaWriter in the baseball cap — the crowd looks eager for a rumble, Jim, so let’s see what they can do.

    *DING*!

    Both fighters start the bout with “getting up in the morning” openers, Jim, and I don’t need to tell you that most opponents see those coming a mile away. Out of the two it’s Fritz who connects the most solidly, since the alarms at least give his opening a sense of urgency and stakes that MarlaWriter’s “musing about my life while getting ready for school” routine lacks.

    Fritz’ routine carries on with solid Dystopian worldbuilding, but I am a little surprised at the fighting style, which doesn’t really seem to fit with the YA age group announced, with the only character being described as already being an adult (grading papers) before whatever caused the dystopia to happen, and that was clearly some time ago as well.

    MarlaWriter swings and gets their own back through solid immersion in the character, and emotional stakes. But the writing feels like it needs polishing at times (“I search the picture with just me and my parents taken before Sophie was even born.” For what? Maybe search isn’t the right verb here). Also, no teenager uses that many words when writing a text message.

    At the end of the round, both fighters leave their routine open-ended, but it’s Fritz who seems to have the strongest dynamic to carry them into further rounds. One point to M. M. Fritz!

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    1. I just chaperoned a weekend long field trip with 140 high school students (all teens). I can tell you first hand TEENS do in fact text that much. Lots of them. Some of them write short novels to each other with their texts. Many of them did nothing but text for the entire six hour bus ride (including requests to the chaperones that commanded the entire screen of our phone they were so long).

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  4. M.M. Fritz: You've got some nice descriptive language in your opening sentences; I get a real sense of anxiety. But at some point, the lack of grounding adversely affects the narrative. I don't know who "they" are, where "I" am (I'm thinking spacecraft or exoplanet until the last para's "underground bunker" but I still don't know if this is Earth or elsewhere.) When words are limited, every single one has to count. And for me, the ending falls flat. Of course something's wrong; no need to tell us. (If s/he was a former teacher, 5 am would be no big deal.)

    MarlaWriter: This piece earned top scores in my slush, and I'm happy to see it here. "Dense" isn't usually a compliment, but this is dense writing. In the first paragraph you've given some strong clues as to who, when, where, what's going on and why, without being "telly" or giving the story away too early. And you keep the streak going, dropping hints; building mood. Good stuff. I love this voice and I'm eager to read more.

    Today's vote to MarlaWriter

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  5. Some similar elements here with conflict, morning scene, a major change in life for the MC, and an MC alone. Both do a fantastic job setting their respective scenes and defining their main character, so I needed to dig deeper.
    I love Dystopian. Read it. Write it. Love it. While the writing is solid for MM, the whole scene feels a bit "been there, done that." The opening didn't grab me in terms of both wording and waking up to an alarm. At the end, we're told something is wrong. There's a bit too much telling for me. The floor is like ice -here's a great opportunity to pop in a short piece of action with the MC's feet touching the ground and a subsequent reaction. That's what put Marla ahead for me. Her piece showed the reader something might be wrong, building tension with the silence and service animal.

    Again, this pairing is another great match up, but the uses of action and details puts MarlaWriter into the ballet box for me. MarlaWriter gets my vote.

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  6. Both were interesting but I prefer more realistic to dystopian which is why my votes goes to Marla Writer.

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  7. My vote goes for MarlaWriter. Great writing, good tension until Mom comes home (made me wonder why he's stressin'...his mom can give his sister a ride...I'm sure any parent isn't going to want their golden son to lose his position in band...it takes money to get them there). But overall I got a great sense of the character, his predicament, his voice. I can't say I'd read it because I'm not a fan of reading about high schoolers (didn't care for it when I was there, don't want to read about it now) but if I was, I'd read this book.

    Just wanted to point out for MM, I was really confused by the genre YA dystopia. If this girl had writing lessons and had a stack of essays to grade in her "old" life, and dreams of a cottage in the highlands, she must be older than what I understand YA characters to be. That being said, even though I didn't vote for this story I'd definitely read it so thumbs up.

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  8. I think both these entries do a good job with showing two worlds--the world before and the world as it is now. Something has changed, and I felt invested in each story.

    I'm going with MarlaWriter because it feels like a slightly better use of the 500 words (though the line about gel and guy style grates on me). Fritz felt a little repetitive for this situation.

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  9. Both these stories kept me interested until the very end. Both were well written and I wanted to know more. While MarlaWriter put up a great piece, M.M. Fritz left me with a greater desire to read more, so my vote goes to M.M. Fritz

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  10. Excellent entries again. They have some overt similarities (a narrator getting ready in the morning, with a building sense of something wrong). What made the difference for me is that M.M.Fritz did a lot of telling me about the narrator's experiences, describing the room, the undergarments, and so on. MarlaWriter brought me more into the MC's experiences as they were felt at the moment. The sense of a problem started stronger in MarlaWriter's story, with the MC already worried about being late, while in M.M.Fritz's story it starts with just baseline grumbling about an unnecessary alarm. Then MarlaWriter tightened the screws little by little; the sister takes a lot of meds, has a service dog, might not wake up some day. Each tidbit of information makes the stakes more important, physically and emotionally. For M.M.Fritz there's a sudden jump from annoying useless alarm to something unspecified is wrong. It's not grounded in any real sense of what the threat might be, and honestly, given that this is the opening of a story, it's not a surprise to the reader.

    My vote is for MarlaWriter.

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  11. MarlaWriter takes my vote with this one. :)

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  12. MarlaWriter gets my vote. I like the writing of both pieces, and that each poses a question, prompting me to read on. It was MarlaWriter's emotional gut punch that got me, bringing the fate of another unique, cared-about individual in play. M.M.Fritz was all about himself/herself.

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  13. Wow! Great submissions from both. My vote goes to MariaWriter

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  14. Both stories were outstanding in their own way, but:

    M.M. Fritz - Alarms are going off. Although the musing and backstory held my interest, I'd rather see the MC doing something, even if it's moving in slow motion, as opposed to lying there until three-quarters of the way through. Also, too many incongruities took me out of the story--this is YA, yet the MC planned lessons and graded essays, which means he/she was a teacher of some sort, and was never up before sunrise? My daughter teaches HS English and is up well before the sun all school year. By the end, I did want to read more.

    MarlaWriter - Excellent balance of something going on, setting, tight history/background, MC's feelings and how conflicted he is. I want to read more to learn about the family dynamic and how a teen guy would handle this situation.

    My vote: MarlaWriter

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  15. Both pretty strong entries today. M.M. Fritz gets my vote. I would love to read that book!

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  16. Even though "M.M. Fritz" left a good hook at the end, the story didn't hold my attention. "MarlaWriter" had me hanging on to each word and wanting to know more.

    My vote for today is MarlaWriter.

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  17. My vote goes to MarlaWriter

    M.M. Fritz: While I understand you starting at this point in the story, I would consider putting it in a more active place. Starting from waking up is cliche, and the fact that your character spends a lot of time telling us about her character is fine because you get the story rolling by the end. But I want that same level of excitement that I felt at the end to be rippling throughout. I need want to follow your character before I get to know them. You have it the other way around, in my opinion.

    MarlaWriter: Deftly wrtitten. Some parts seemed out of place, but the starts to stories are always awkward things. The few paragraphs before the end could use some TLC, but I'd love to read this whole story.

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  18. My vote goes to MM Fritz,, but boy, what a tough decision.

    Picking a couple of nits on MarlaWriter's piece, I thought the second sentence was awkward, and the service dog's name of Nana was too cliche (see: JM Barrie's Peter Pan).

    But both pieces were excellent.

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  19. Good voice for both these snippets. Awesome character and world building, excellent flow and intensity.

    Fritz: I like how waking to "yet another drill" sets up action. I know some people say never start with waking or dreaming (I agree with not dreaming) but to me, "waking" to something active is like racing away from the food table, or getting up from the desk when the bell rings. I like that this start instantly conveys a sense of urgency. You've built a strong, experienced character with an engaging past, plus set up the (skills?) necessary to make a hero. It is just a tad wordy on reflection - I would have liked a little more physical action during the introspection that would show the gender of the MC. The clothing and accessories would also show some of what could be faced outside in the corridor. Well done with the world and character building.

    Marla: An effective use of getting up on a normal day. I think you did well remaining active, even with the introspection. I learned a lot about this character, the setting, the past that influence the present, and what this all could mean for the future. I was totally engaged, and I'm not a YA fan. Excellent opening.

    This is a hard voting choice for me. I would likely be more drawn to Fritz's story content, but Marla did make more effective use of integrating backstory, character, and world building. I'll give my vote to Marla.

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  20. Both were really great - gonna go with MarlaWriter on this one.

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  21. I'm going with MarlaWriter. The tension about getting to practice was real as was the struggle about living with a disabled sibling. The MM Fritz story got better toward the end, but did not hold my interest at first. So, I vote for Marla.

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  22. Both pieces start with info dumps. We could be shown much of this as the stories progress. As for the waking up at the beginning I could care less. I just want a good story.

    In Fritz's piece I love the premise but find it somewhat unbelievable. It's set up that the MC is a trained soldier and then they hang out in bed for what seems like forever. The writing is good however. If this is the beginning of the story I would like to know MC basics.

    Marla's story has the same issue. Good set up and good story, but we get way too many words which takes me away from the tension [which is excellent]. Also, the name Nana kinda only works for Peter Pan.

    This was a very tough choice.

    I vote for Marla for better flow of story.

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. I'm a sucker for good dystopia and M.M. Fritz is off to a great start. But then so is MarlaWriter. I first posted that I couldn't vote because I couldn't contribute to one beating the other. But I've thought about it more, and for the tight, professional writing, I'm going for M.M. Fritz.

    The last thing I would call either of these stories is an info dump. They both show character emotion in the midst of moral dilemmas. Great drama right off the bat. I think MarlaWriter needed more tightening up -- the end was a bit repetitive first, then confusing with the joke. And I agree that Nana doesn't work for the dog name here. I kept looking for Grandma.

    So, after a battle with myself about not voting at all, I'm going with M.M. Fritz. But both of you did great and I would love to read more of both of them.

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  25. Wow - are these bouts getting harder, or what? I liked them both. My vote goes to M.M. Fritz because it left me wanting to read more.

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  26. Oooh, I enjoyed both and this is going to be a hard one.

    M.M.Fritz
    Nice writing, nicely rising tension, excellent description using multiple senses. It really put me in the bunker. In fact I think you could cut "underground bunker" in the last para, because it's superfluous. I would however include a few more action beats amongst all the internal monologue, because otherwise they take way too long to get out of bed. Good hook at the end there, I want to read more.

    MarlaWriter
    It feels a bit too much like "Wonder" when they cover the sister's pov. Nicely written, I really felt the wavering outside the bedroom door. I was definitely engaged. I would like to read more.

    These are both good. MarlaWriter has more of an emotional pull, whereas MM Fritz is a call to action. How to choose...

    Overall I'm going to go with MM Fritz, mainly because of that hook at the end, I definitely want to know what has happened. MarlaWriter appealed more in writing style, but I'd need more of a hook, and an indication of why this story is different from, say, Wonder, to read on.

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  27. MarlaWriter for the win. I like this story first, because it has a dog in the plot. Second because of Schrodinger's sister and rule 372.

    M.M. Fritz - even a young TA would seem to be too old for this to be a YA piece unless s/he is a Doogie Howser peer, which you don't mention. I liked this.

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  28. Both stories have a nice sense of urgency and immediately pending doom. In M.M. Fritz this self-referential sentence reads a bit strangely. "I peek through one sleep-coated eye." I do want to know the rest of MarlaWriter as there is suspense and a likable character, even with his acknowledged faults. However, for tighter writing my vote goes to M.M. Fritz.

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  29. Marla gets my vote today factor. I want to know what happens next :)

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  30. My vote goes to M.M.Fritz.
    MarlaWriter didn't thoroughly gel for me because I didn't have enough context and world built around this story. I don't know whether the narrator is supposed to be responsible, or whether they're worried, or what exactly their goal was. I did like the characterization of the MC and the style of their thoughts.
    With MM Fritz I'd like to know a little more about what the consequences and what they have to be ready for, why they're fighting, and what the MC gave up to be part of it. Other than that, I really like the way this story all wove together and the questions it left me asking.

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  31. Fritz has a great and ending line but just the world going to shit without a hint of how was not enough for me to continue.
    I vote for MarlaWriter because the intro to the issue that sister could die at any moment is well done.

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  32. M M Fritz vs MarlaWriter.

    Read both a couple of times. M M Fritz offered death as s forgone conclusion. Not the character we are introduced to, but enough to hit close to home.

    MarlaWritet offers up struggle. Humor darkly thrown in to keep it from being depressing.

    Marla would offer up an emotional al response. Vote fir Marla.

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  33. Marla gets my vote.

    Both pieces had some wrinkles to iron out (I won't go into detail, because others have already mentioned things I noticed), but ultimately, for me, the pacing in MM Fritz was too slow to draw me in, while Marla offered a nice balance of action and internal conflict.

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  34. Voting for Marla for eliciting an emotional response. Thank you to both authors for sharing!

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  35. M.M. Fritz ... Good story. I can imagine spending a whole book with this character. Nice hook at the end, too. I enjoyed it very much. It seems like it would fit in with the books I usually enjoy.

    MarlaWriter... Are you kidding me!! Damn I want to read more of this story. It's nothing at all like what I normally read. But there's a reason in every freaking paragraph to make me want to read more.

    Can I have them both? I really want both. If I were at a bookstore, I'd buy both. Gees.

    MarlaWriter gets the vote for the diversity angle.

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  36. Tough call, but I'm voting MM Fritz.

    Fritz, I'm putting my vote here on the basis of what's on the page. However, and I don't read YA (so take my thinking with caution), this sounds like a LOT of other stories that have already hit the market. So you need to figure out what makes your story DIFFERENT. And it can't just be the writing. You need the story. So far, it isn't there, but it's too early to judge that. You'll have to be the judge. Do the remaining pages separate you from the market? Make sure they do.

    Marla, I'm impressed with the writing, but I have two things I think would improve the piece. You, of course, can differ with either or both. It's your story. I wanted something to happen or at least a clue that something was going to happen, but all the clues lead to the thought that nothing different is happening. If I'm your protagonist, or your reader, seems like everything on this day is as normal as any other day. Which is great for the family, but not so great for a reader. Second, naming the dog Nana might be a bit too clever unless you introduce her differently. As it is, I assume Nana is an actual Nana until I quickly find out it's a dog. Great writing, and there might be a great story there, but it's starting too slow for the likes of this contest.

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  37. I've gotta go with MarlaWriter. The intro just gripped me and you can feel the tension in the brother-sister relationship.

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  38. MM Fritz, my vote is going to go with you. I am worried about the age of your protagonist, given that this is labeled as YA. Usually for YA, the character is about 2 years older than the target reader. I still liked the story and am curious to read on.

    MarlaWriter, your story was good. I just connected more with the other story.

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  39. I'm going to go with MarlaWriter here. Even though I think the language needed to be tightened a little, I enjoyed the tension.

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  40. Both of these are great. My vote goes to MM Fritz.

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  41. My vote goes to Marla.
    MM: Great start that took a little too long to get past the start. (I know it’s really hard with this word count limit!) Maybe a few hints about what exactly they do on the drills would have helped to round it out. I like how you described the chemical smell of the uniform.
    Marla: Gripping with its sense of both everyday life and a sense of impending doom. The only quibble I have (and I could just be thick) is I thought the MC was a girl at first for the way the hair was described. It probably wouldn’t even have phased me if I had gotten to keep reading.
    Congratulations to both writers!
    1221bookworm
    Fantasywordcraft.wordpress.com

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  42. Vote: MarlaWriter

    M.M. Fritz painted a picture, but it had two key flaws for me. 1 - It started with waking up. That's a cliche that is generally frowned upon in writing. 2 - The character doesn't feel YA, so the genre feels off.

    MarlaWriter's character comes across as unlikable to a degree, but overall the writing was stronger.

    Both are writing in present-tense, which I tend not to like, but that's a personal preference.

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  43. Wow. Difficult choice but M.M. Fritz gets the vote because I want to see what happens next.

    Even though Fritz began the story with the classic turnoff of a character waking up, I got a good grounding in the setting. Unfortunately, as others have stated, there is too much of an info dump and my mind wandered until the very end. If you can pretty much eliminate everything between the waking up and the uh oh something's wrong that, for me, would be a better way to get things moving. You can always weave the backstory as you go along.

    I couldn't really get into MarlaWriter and couldn't connect with the character. There are great descriptions but I don't feel his anxiety that he might be late, which could cause him to lose his first chair position in the band (or orchestra). Also, I'm not quite sure what he actually thinks of his sister. Love? Ambivalent? Hate? Toleration until he can finish school and get out? It's all unknown.
    When the service dog was introduced as Nana I at first thought this was referring to Grandma. I would suggest that you find another name for the dog.

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  44. My vote is for MarlaWriter because I couldn't find anything negative to critique. For M.M. Fritz, there is too much intro to try to get suspense going but I haven't found out much of what is happening except that it's a drill. I would suggest putting some more specifics of what is happening in this world and distributing some of this back in later.

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  45. My vote goes to MarlaWriter. I liked how they presented the back story for the MC.

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  46. Both stories were great but M.M. Fritz made me uncomfortable. i wasn't sure how to feel about the MC and her situation. I didn't know whether to be angry with her for the way she was reacting to her sister's illness or to be empathetic. I also didn't know how I should feel about the ill sister and how she managed her illness. So my vote is for M.M. Fritz for stirring a strong emotional reaction!

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