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YouAreNotASlave's picture


By YouAreNotASlave in Arrest Us

How It Rates

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Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.


Everyone thinks Philippa killed Kitkat. The authorities are closing in. She has to clear her name—and fast: this time taking the blame means a lot more than just detention.






Word Count: 4991 Without Titles/4998 With Titles

(Have now made a few edits based on feedback)

Hope you enjoy. Feel free to praise and/or rip apart. All feedback appreciated & reciprocated.


Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 26, 2014 - 6:34am

Damn this was good.

What I liked most about it is that it never really went into parody. I completely bought into this world and the gumshoe student that you created out of Philippa.  The story is very similar to what you would find in detective stories, but twisted and changed just enough that it kept me interested through the whole thing.

The only nitpicks I have are about a couple of lines and a styleyou choose.

Philippa paced mildly around the corpse, scratching an imaginary beard.

She cupped it in her hands, sheltering the sweet from an imaginary rain.

I get that you're trying to invoke the imagery of detective stories here, but you're doing that well enough already that these two lines struck me as the only parts that were self parody. They took me out of the story momentarily.

You also seem to choose to cut character's monologues into separate paragraphs at times. This made me have to reread a couple of bits again, especially at the end with the interaction between Phillipa and Fathead.

Overall though, really strong piece.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom June 26, 2014 - 6:41am

Thanks for giving such constructive feedback. Can definitely see the point about the two lines you picked out and I had a lot of trouble with the imaginary rain one, must have re-written it several times. With the monologues I really like a short, punchy sentence style for writing stuff like this and I tried to transfer that onto characters speech, think I need to work on doing that/scrap the idea. 

But yeah, cheers for the feedback, will definitely help the edits!

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 27, 2014 - 2:50pm

Really enjoyed the story.  The opening is very strong, and hooks the readers right from the off.  There was a touch of the movie "Brick" to the style and content of this piece, and that's not a bad thing at all.  I thought Phillipa's character was very well drawn, as were some of the other supporting characters (I was especially impressed with Greta who came alive in a very short space of time).

However, there are some negatives.  Personal style choice here (and at the risk of pulling up a tired topic on this), but I felt that there was an overuse of unnecessary adverbs - 'aggressively' turned up twice for example, and the double adverb use in the line "he said, strongly and flatly" came across as a little cumbersome.  I also agree with Hector's comment above about the paragraph breaks in dialogue that, at times, had a tendency to become confusing as to who was speaking.  There are a couple of words you drop in which I thought could have been replaced with less cumbersome ones ("perplexion" and "uneager" are the ones that jumped out) as, although they aren't strictly incorrect, they are very uncommon in usage and don't really have any poetic power to them to jusify them being used.  For me, as well, the use of "..." instead of stating that there was no reply to a statement didn't really work.

However, these are stylistic points.  In regards to the story, it was a cracker, with a logical unfolding of the plot, and some nice Private Detective fiction touches.  The school setting was a nice touch and the escalation of a cat killing to an abuse story was sensitively handled.

Thumbs up from me and I hope you don't take the critique as too harsh, as overall it was a story I enjoyed very much.

Many thanks for a good read.


YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom June 28, 2014 - 7:12pm

Thanks for the feedback. I kind of had Brick in mind when putting together the story idea, it's one of my favourite noir films and I love the execution/style etc. I wanted to follow in that vein but make the storyline less 'grown-up'; where brick is very much an 'adult' story transposed into a high school I wanted to see what I could do with a detective/noir kinda thing but make it about even smaller kids with criminal problems children might reasonably face. Glad it drew that comparison though and I hope the story is original enough to not be a 'rip-off' so to speak. 

The critique definitely isn't too harsh and is much appreciated; I've rectified the paragraph breaks in the speech as reading it back I was having trouble following it, don't think it's a stylistic choice that works. Regarding the '...' I used it because I find it hard to convey a good enough variety of 'time passed' or 'there was a pause' in a story without making it seem contrived/repetitive. Will definitely think about re-writing or re-working them (especially if I get better at describing time-transitions).

But yeah, thanks, especially glad to hear you enjoyed it!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 29, 2014 - 10:46am

I had the same problem with dialouge breaks as well but it seems you've addressed that already. I agree this is a strong entry. Very entertainigng.

the "..." didn't bother me. I got why you did it. I do wonder if there is a better way, but for your purposes I think it worked.

I think the secret phone recording thing is a bit overdone, but I guess for a child mystery it works okay, Philippa would be limited to come up with or have the means for a better way to entrap Fathead. But also, he never really says anything incriminating on the tape. And I get that you did that on purpose, but the story sort of ends without any resolution. Does she get blamed for the cat killing or not? Is she going to play the tape to anyone? Would it hold any weight? I guess it's good to have the reader left with questions. Letting them wonder and fill in the blanks. Personally, I prefer a story like this to be wrapped a little neater in the end but that's just a subjective prefrence.

But yeah, it flowed nicely, had great character development and plot, it wasn't over told. Sharp prose. Overall, very well done. Great job! 



YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 11, 2014 - 3:21pm

Thanks for the feedback and kind comments,

Re: wrapping it up it was a solution I had most difficulty thinking through. I knew she'd record the conversation but as you said plotting the subsequent reaction would be a lot harder; I considered it but then word limit got the better of me anyways. I enjoyed giving it an ambiguous ending because I tried to show Philippa was getting increasingly out of her depth: despite her confidence I wanted to ground the fact she was a child at the end. But point well taken, I would have liked to plan out some more intricate resolutions

Thanks again for the comment, really appreciated!


Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 2, 2014 - 3:29am

A hard-boiled American detective noir in an English junior school. Love it. Great imagery, sharp and witty, and the settings were perfect. Nice.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 2, 2014 - 10:40am

Thanks, really glad you enjoyed it!

Erik Carl Son's picture
Erik Carl Son from New England is reading Sunset and Sawdust by Joe Lansdale July 3, 2014 - 9:54am

Damn this is good.
It's like Encyclopedia Brown or Nancy Drew for 2014. I loved it.

My only complaint is the CCTV not reaching the field. It's sort of like cell phones not getting bars in crucial pieces. Just a trope that grinds on me.

However, I love the recording of Fathead. Many a time I've read a story and thought, "Why isn't anyone recording this?" And you did it. I love the confidence it gives Phillipa. Excellent ending to an excellent story.


YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 7, 2014 - 3:40pm

Thanks for the feedback, really gladyou enjoyed it. Re the CCTV i was originally going to say it had been tampered with but I thought that might limit the list of possible suspects too much a little esrlier on than id liked. I justified it to myself as my old schools field had very sparse CCTV, but maybe I can think of a better solution or executiion here. Pleasedyou enjoyed the recording aspect, I wanted to do an older style detective thing, but still integrate modern technology into how the main characters interact, so thanks !


Ray C's picture
Ray C July 4, 2014 - 1:33am

This is one of my two favorite posts here so far.

A graphic opening, hooked me from the start. It is witty, and the sectioned style pays off.

Ray C's picture
Ray C July 4, 2014 - 1:33am

Gave it a thumbs up!

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 7, 2014 - 3:41pm

Cheers, so glad to hear you enjoyed it! 


Chris Irvin's picture
Chris Irvin from Boston is reading Eyeshield 21 Vol.1 July 5, 2014 - 3:06am

Nicely done. Really enjoyed the style and characters you developed throughout the story. While I loved the setting, my only major critique is that I wasn't sure where we were initially or how old the characters were. 

Given the style and slang, I first thought I was reading about a trio of henchmen/criminals and that 'Teacher' was their boss or some kind of higher up. A couple of paragraphs later I figured it out, but I think it might help if you set that straight right away given the way the characters speak/ interact in more of an 'adult' fashion. 

That aside, great stuff and a lot of fun! Thanks for the read. 

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 7, 2014 - 3:43pm

Thanks for the feedback. Im glad you picked up on the confusion over age ad the intention was to create an accumulative realisation in the reader that hey, these are kids in school. I didnt necessarily want to confuse but the details were intended to be a little unclear at least in the first page -- I would still like ot maintain this element but perhaps there is a way to rethink and execute it better. Definitely something to think about, thanks again for feedback


Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. July 5, 2014 - 4:28pm


This was a really great story. I'm definitely loving these kid themed crime stories, so far of the two I've read they're both really fresh and entertaining. I especially liked Phillipa, you did a really great job in creating her. I don't think I have much to add as what few flaws there were in this have been pretty much covered by everyone else (I fall in the camp of being annoyed by the ellipses. Too tech-age for me.) but the one thing that didn't quite sit right that I don't think anyone's mentioned is Fathead's investigation. If a school teacher was even so much as suspected of stalking a student I feel like it would be bigger news. Not front page news or anything but maybe more than one article and maybe the people in the community would know a little more about it. I can see how you wouldn't want it to be a big deal as it helps the story but in reality I'd at least hope something like that would carry more weight in the community. I also sort of wish she'd gotten something a little more intimidating from Fathead. Not a confession or anything but I feel like their encounter could've been a bit more scary. She's a little girl talking to a suspected wannabe molestor (maybe more!) this has the potential to be a really unnerving scene even if you still wanted to play it as subtle and understated as you have. Overall though this is still a really original and well written story. Kudos.


YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 7, 2014 - 3:50pm

Thanks for the critique, That you called ellipses tech age is a compliment for me! Although as said aove maybe i just need to enjiy describing time oassages and pauses more.

Regarding the accusations, I tried to imply thst Gretas mother nor the school truly believed in her, so the accusations carried less weight in the community as a result. Especially as there is no assault and an unprovable instance of harrassment I wanted to convey the difficulty of belief established because of Gretas mother and school being awful around the issue. Further as fathead was kept anonymous and the mother saw no reason to publicise I intended, at least in my head, for that to be the reason its less well known. And if not theres always the cop out of 'kids mighht not know the gossip of grown ups'. Definitely something to think about and i might have liked to do more research on this kind of thing as i am a little unsure on how it might play out irl


regarding the final interaction, point well taken. I was just worried about making him so creepy thst the ending is unambiguous in terms of the culprit being convictable. Ill try to relook at it and buildbetter tension in that scene

Tnks for the extensive feedback!


Lawrence's picture
Lawrence from Dallas, Texas is reading Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King July 8, 2014 - 9:18am


Phillipa was an excellent character. I was glad to see you do something out of the mold. The story I submitted using younger kid in a crime setting as well.

Your story reminded me of the movie, Brick. If you're not familiar I recommend checking it out. Its a noir satire using high school kids. I felt this almost had the same tone with even younger kids which was just great. 

I started to do an LBL for the story but I didn't have much to add. I think there needs to be some room between dialogue, just to let the story flow better. However, the way you set up the transitions worked very well. 

Also, this sentence jumped out at me. - They entered the room to find sixty eyes locked onto them. Silence stifled the air like a bad fart. - Your dialogue and writing is very sharp and witty which made this sentence stick out like a sore thumb. I have no problem with low brow but it seemed to interrupt the flow of the story. 

There are several paragraphs that were missing indentions. I'm not sure if that's a style choice or not. 

Either way, great story and good luck! You get a thumbs up from me. 


YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 8, 2014 - 10:05am

Hey, thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed Philippa, she's one of the characters I had the most fun writing. And I definitely had Brick in mind when writing this, I wanted to do something like that but with younger kids and 'young kid' crime, very happy that its drawn that comparison!

With the bad fart sentence, I wrote that when I was unsure if it was going to be a bit humourous or a more straight detective story but with kids. It turned out being the latter but I kept that in; will definitely reconsider it as its one of the phrases which ive been unsure about throughout. 

And yeah I leave indentations out of paragraphs when they follow a break, usually signifying a scene change or something. 

Thanks again for the feedback, much appreciated! Will get reading on your one, I think the child noir subgenre on arrest us has had quite a few good submissions. 


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 8, 2014 - 3:09pm

Big thumbs up from me. Loved this from start to finish. That opening paragraph is probably the strongest I've seen in the contest so far, and the character of Philippa was a joy. All the kids came across well, and I could damn near picture every single one.

I can't really give you much in the way of critique. If you use the find function to search on 'ly' you might find a few adverbs you can cut. It really worked for me though, and it is one of the most complete stories I've seen here. Best of luck - this should be a strong contender.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 10, 2014 - 1:25pm

Thanks so much for the feedback and kind words. It's a massive boost to hear you enjoyed the story so much, genuinely appreciated. I'll definitely watch out for adverbs in the next edit!

Thanks again,


Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 8, 2014 - 9:54pm

Very well written.  I wouldn't worry about the adverbs too much. They didn't distract me. I suppose what I liked best about this story was how the language created a sense of place without wasting a lot of time on useless description.  I also liked how the kind of people that bug me would be bugged by the opening of the story.  Nice work.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 10, 2014 - 1:32pm

Feedback is much appreciated. I'm glad you picked up the sense of place without much description--that's exactly what I was going for. I want everything I describe to be to do with what's going on in the story, and I'm glad it worked for you. 

Thansk again


madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 9, 2014 - 2:58am


Kitkat is a pleasure to read, great imagination, style and substance. Very nostalgic. BIG THUMBS UP! If you write anymore tales with little miss lollipop, give me a shout, love to read more adventures.

All the best and happy writing!


YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 10, 2014 - 1:33pm

Really appreciate the feedback, thanks. Glad to hear you enjoyed Philippa, I'll let you know if I use her again, she's one of the characters I'm most proud of!



Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures July 9, 2014 - 1:09pm

I'm going to repeat another reviewer and say "Damn, this was good!" - this got me right away and once I realized it was little kids I was totally enamoured of the story. Everyone else has addressed any real issues I had with the story so I can simply say, great job, you have a real knack for dialogue and I adored Philippa's character. 

GREAT job and good luck!

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 10, 2014 - 1:37pm

Thanks so much for the kind words and feedback, really appreciated!


Turtlethumbs's picture
Turtlethumbs July 10, 2014 - 3:05pm

Ugh, I just wrote a long thing then my browser went weird. What I get for using a secondary browser at work instead of doing my work. Well there you go.

Overall: great story! Upvote for sure. Some language was a little too poetic for me "the crowd grew flesh" I think it was, but that's just style so no biggy. And everyone else seemed to like it. Love how it was kids, how the girl was basically a detective. Very clever.

The reason the browser went weird is partly because I was trying to copy and paste the link to my story for your optional reading pleasure, but it caused problems. So if you're interested, story's called Born Again Packaging -- so feel free to check it out! Or whatever.

Thanks again for a great read.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 11, 2014 - 3:24pm

Thanks so much for the feedback; I'm gonna take the poetic language as a compliment because I was trying to do that sort of thing: I wanted to do sparse descriptions that were a bit flowery. I'm glad you enjoyed it; likewise I enjoyed born again packaging --- really entertaining



Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 11, 2014 - 3:12pm

Howdy Tom,

No wonder this one's been on that front page of Hot Stories for so long.  There's something about using a worn set of tropes in an unsoiled environment that freshens up the air a bit.  As has been said above, Brick definitely comes to mind when starting this tale.  But where Brick failed for me (dialogue that was overly poetic and felt unnatural) this story shined.  These kids were talking a little bit above their age, but it never bothered me.  There was always some nice little detail to bring it all back down to earth like Piercey's green Ben 10 plastic watch.

I don't have much for you in the way of notes as a lot of the things I noticed have been mentioned above.  The one thing that I can't stop thinking about though is the "sweet-eating wall-leaner" at Greta's school.  Not that it's a bad thing, but I just keep wondering what your intention was with him.  Was he just a red herring?  Or was there something more to him?

Anyway it was a positive rating from me.  Hope to see more from you in the future.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 11, 2014 - 3:28pm

Hey, thanks for the feedback. Yeah, I've been reading a lot of Raymond Chandler lately and I wanted to transpose that style onto a new setting. Very much had Brick in mind as a point of reference, and in general the sort of neo-noir style of classic detective interactions in nu environments. Really glad you found it worked better than Brick in places, really appreciate that comment!

Re: the sweet-eating wall-leaner, I was originally going to add a few more scenes in where Philippa does a bit more sleuthing re him; he was intended as a red herring from the beginning but she was going o chase him up; however by the end I was hacking at scenes and couldn't really develop that strand. 

Thanks very much for the rating -- really enjoyed your story too!


Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 12, 2014 - 5:07pm

Impressive story. Your tone is consistent throughout and you never break character. Your characters always come back to being kids even when dealing with adult situations. I think it can be hard sometimes to write in a real badass kid character and maintain continuity. You really nailed it.

There's so many funny moments in this, I especially liked " A plan formed in her head as fast as a one piece jigsaw". The sharp one liners are effective in moving the story along quickly, making it an exciting read. Your breaks are all very well executed; each "chapter" ending at an appropriate time. It seems that you have mastered writing an ending as each break ends in such a powerful tone.

I love Philippa's character. She seems like a kid that's watched one too many noirs; such a cool character. She's quicker and wittier than any ten year old I ever knew, but of course that's why her character is so exceptional.

I was attempting to think of any advice I could offer and thought maybe the confrontation with "fathead" was a little quick, but after going over that piece again I think that everything was very tight and did exactly what a conclusion should do. I honestly can't think of anything you could do to improve this in my opinion. Great work and best of luck.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 20, 2014 - 4:50pm

Thanks so much for the feedback, so glad you enjoyed it and thought the tone and structure were on point, it was originally going to be a bit of a parody but I ended up writing it serious and glad I stuck with it. Re: quickness I do agree, I wrote and intended to write several more scenes -- one of which included Philippa at home that showed she only had access to her dad's old collection of Raymond Chandlers, stuff like that -- but word count got the better of me. I enjoyed having the limitations of 5k words tho cuz I don't think it would have been as tightt as you described.

Thanks so much again for the feedback and taking the time to read, really appreciated


kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 16, 2014 - 3:21pm

Hard for me to come up with a criticism for this other than I wish it could've been longer (damn word count restrictions). Reminded me more of Veronica Mars than Brick. I liked the cinematic trick of her pulling out the lollipops and then cutting to the four kids sitting around the table with lollipops in their mouths. Would happily read more of Philippa's adventures. 

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 20, 2014 - 4:52pm

Thanks for the feedback, really glad you enjoyed it. I do tend to write prose as if it were cinematic in my head with scene and angle changes, so I'm v. happy I got that comparison. Feedback's much appreciated, cheers


Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 18, 2014 - 12:04pm

That was excellent, one of my favourites on here so far! You gave such a clear image of the characters and the setting without any effort. It reminded me a little of the movie "Brick" in the school-yard detective feel, but still was strikingly original enough to be its own thing entirely.
A few things I thought were a little awkwardly phrased, but I chalk them up as personal preference and not worth changing.
Fantastic stuff. 

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 20, 2014 - 4:54pm

Thanks so much for the feedback, likewise I found your story super vivid and immersive. Brick inspired schoolyard detective was exactly what I was going for, thanks for comparing. Re: awkward phrasing I've read it back a few times and there are definitely a few more edits I'll be making after the comp!



Zack McCormack's picture
Zack McCormack from Indianapolis, IN is reading Empire of the Sun July 20, 2014 - 7:11pm

Killer story, I truly enjoyed it. I feel like most of the sentiments I had after reading it have been echoed by people in the above comments so I won't go on and on. Having written a story that involved kids, I struggled a little with trying to write from a child's perspective so I appreciate the work you've accomplished here. There were a few things that I found a little strangley worded but nothing that I would really recommend changing. 

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk July 21, 2014 - 2:59pm

Hi there,

really enjoyed this one. Not much to add in terms of things that need improving as it"s areally stong story. Really liked the ending. I got that feel that maybe she would be taken serouisly or maybe not, works great

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 24, 2014 - 2:51pm

What a surprise! I liked this a lot, tying in the conventional detective with such an unconventional setting and players. Could use a little cleaning up, I think the others have hit on all the trouble spots so there's no use rehashing it here. 

Thumbs up from me, well done!

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 27, 2014 - 9:25am

I really enjoyed this story. It's tightly written and you have the tone and sound of a hardboiled detective story down really well. One of the stumbling points for some might be getting past the stylistic choice of having little kids as articulate as adults, but I thought you handled that well and that it works. 

My only possible suggestion might be to not have Phillipa win so cleanly. Even though she can prove her innocence maybe still having some lingering conflict or unintended consequnce might give it more of a noirish ending. 

It's a fun story the way it is. Good luck with it. 

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck July 27, 2014 - 4:34pm

Really enjoyed this.  The grown-up tone of the kids worked well.  It took a little getting used to, at first, but I quickly embraced it, and once I did, got really into it.

The only point of critique I have is the last section, beginning with "In the playground, she watched...".  It didn't really add much, and, to me, acted as sort of an uncessary epilogue.  I think finishing the story with, "'Whatever, Fathead,' she said, strolling out of the classroom." leaves it on a good note, with the conclusion of the main conflict still lingering in the readers' mind.  Also, the scene in Fathead's classroom resolves everything well because of the installation of the dramatic irony, with the recording device.  Providing the image of the police at the school, though written very well, sort of resolves the irony and takes away from the full effect, while cutting that part out and ending in Fathead's classroom will let the story end with tension, closure, and cunning.