Entry Nickname: Over a Beryl
Title: THE BIRD MARKET
Word Count: 69K
Genre: YA Thriller
Fifteen-year-old Beryl Sisken and her three brothers are prisoners in their own home. Their tyrannical, abusive father operates a shady family business in which Beryl knows she and her brothers will be forced to work once they graduate.Beryl’s father, who the kids refer to as “the bastard,” only allows them to leave the house to attend the private school where he is the biggest donor. The Sisken kids have never been anywhere else – not to a movie theater, a restaurant, or even a grocery store. So, Beryl is shocked when her father sends her on a slew of mysterious errands to the local bird market.
But not as shocked as when her dead brother, B.J., appears in one of the market stalls.
On each trip to the bird market, B.J. gives Beryl cryptic clues to solve his own murder while helping her develop a plan for her and her brothers to escape their terrifying father. Beryl knows that following B.J.’s instructions is dangerous, but that ignoring them would prove far more costly. With the help of B.J.’s two top-secret items and Beryl’s three reluctant brothers, she sets out to free them all from the family business and the accompanying deadly fate.
Complete at 69,000 words, THE BIRD MARKET is a YA thriller with elements of magical realism.
First 250 words:
I was fourteen and a half years old when my brother B.J. died. I was fifteen when I saw him for the last time. Even now, it’s difficult to fathom how a simple errand changed my destiny. If my father had never sent me to the bird market, I would probably be dead right now. That first trip seems like it happened yesterday and a decade ago all at once, as if time expanded and contracted so that I could understand the beauty of how everything fell into place without being crushed by its complexity.
On that brisk March day, birds screeched at ear-piercing decibels and slammed their desperate wings against the cages so hard I was sure their delicate bones would break. The scents of fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables at the farmers’ stalls did nothing to mask the ripe smell of hundreds of caged fowl. The putrid odor assaulted my nose, decimating my appetite. My head pounded and my ears throbbed as I looked side to side and slowly passed each stall. For such a cool day, I was uncomfortably warm as I made my way through the crowd of the Hillendale Bird Market. I unzipped my jacket and pulled at the collar of my t-shirt, hoping the fresh air would dry the sweat soaking through my bra and clinging to my skin.
I realize that, to most people, a live bird market sounds like a storybook destination. But as with most things in life, anticipation and reality never quite intersect.