Entries

A TASTE OF DARKNESS (YA Mystery)

Title:

A Taste of Darkness

Author:

Sarena and Sasha Nanua

Genre:

YA Mystery

Word Count:

67,000 words

Query:

For seventeen-year-old Indian-American Tessa Gill, Bite Size—an international culinary competition for teens—is the opportunity of a lifetime. Even after the closure of her late grandfather’s restaurant, Tessa continues to embrace his passion for food. Now she’ll have the chance to compete at the Hark Culinary Institute—the same place she would often visit with her grandfather as a child. The prize: one million dollars and a culinary scholarship Tessa could never otherwise afford.

With her family rooting for her in their meagre bungalow, Tessa is determined to win. But when she arrives, she realizes that several competitors have been professionally trained in the culinary arts their whole lives; and, like Tessa, they will do anything to win. Each day at the institute brings a new discovery: a competitor with an explosive family secret; budding relationship rumours; and most surprising of all, letters tucked deep inside the institute, addressed to Tessa herself—from her late grandfather.

Now Tessa must uncover a part of her grandfather’s past she’s never known, while balancing the elite competition and the even fiercer competitors. But Tessa has no room for error. And if she loses, her only chance at becoming a real chef, and changing her family’s future, will be lost.

A TASTE OF DARKNESS, inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Food Network’s Chopped, is a YA mystery complete at 67,000 words. We are twin sisters who are currently studying English at the University of Toronto. We are also the authors of the self-published series The Pendant Trilogy and blog about YA and MG books at The Writing Duo. We both identify as Punjabi (Sikh).

First 300 words:

Tessa Gill stood on the brink of a human stampede, furiously scouring through her frayed coin purse. The merchant before her looked dull, his apron and shoes speckled with corn flour. He huffed, as if tired of his own business, and crossed his arms over his broad chest.

“Look, lady, I can’t keep waiting for ya. Either gimme the money, or scram.” Before Tessa could respond, he gestured for the next person in line to come forward.

“No, wait, I have it,” Tessa said, scrambling through her purse still. Behind her she heard pellets of shouts and swearing, bodies pressing in on her. She was at the front of the crowd, standing before the merchant’s booth. The merchant, an old man nicknamed Pot because of his full belly, sold spare vegetables, herbs, and any other food he could get his hands on. Tessa looked back at the rattled throng of Harkwood residents, each face fuming more than the last.

Livid looks. Discontented sighs. Exasperated grumbles.

Besides the children, everyone in Harkwood had the same eyes: tired, worn, filled with fragile nothings. Like cobwebs, gaping with the promise to be better, stronger, then simply unspooling.

Wispy clouds assembled overhead. It was approaching Saturday evening, and the square overflowed with people. Tessa might have missed the rush had she arrived an hour earlier.

“What’s the hold up? Come on!” someone shouted.

Don’t these people have any patience?

Tessa turned back around, her hands trembling in her purse as she fished out the rusted coins.

Discounts were few in Harkwood. The lights of New York City dwindled from afar, yet Harkwood remained a poor, pitiable town. It was as if all the dust and hopelessness of New York had condensed into one solid town that had become Tessa’s home.

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