PW #355: Young Adult Mystery (Own Voices): A TASTE OF DARKNESS

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor: Stephanie Scott
Mentee: Sarena and Sasha Nanua
Category/Genre: Young Adult Mystery (Own Voices)
Word Count: 67,000


When seventeen-year-old Tessa Gill is chosen to compete in Bite Size—the televised teen cooking competition—she’s set on fighting for a scholarship her family could never afford. As the competition begins, she discovers cryptic letters written by her late chef grandfather hidden throughout the culinary institute. Tessa must now uncover the truth behind the letters before the competition eliminates her. WILLY WONKA meets Chopped.


The day the bad news broke out in my family’s bungalow, I was cooking Grandpapa’s favourite curry.

Swirling smoke rose from the pot, bringing with it the aromatic smells of spices I wished I could stuff in my pockets and carry everywhere: paprika, cumin, turmeric, and coriander. The kitchen transported me to another place, another world, where I could create anything I desired. Wanted.

But I’d never told anyone that. Never told anyone how one of my greatest wishes was to escape Harkwood, a poor excuse for a town—and my inevitable future at Harkwood College, an even poorer excuse for a university. Not to Ma or Papa, though they had figured out as much. Not to my three remaining grandparents, who shared our bungalow and spent their days snoring and sleeping, knitting and reading.

A yelp pierced the air. “Tessa!” my five-year-old brother Rishi shouted, running by me with arms outstretched like a plane’s wings. I dropped the spoon to the counter with a clatter, curry splashing onto the business school brochures I’d brushed aside this morning.

Something like a frog’s dying croak sounded from the driveway. I skipped over the paisley-patterned rug that swallowed the living room floor and squinted through the window. Someone was pulling up in a beaten grey 2003 Civic, engine groaning.

Only one person I knew owned that car. But Papa was never home early. Unless something had happened….



Author: Heather Cashman

With a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, the lab reports always lacked the fantastical element Heather's imagination demands. Hypotheses turned into taglines and novels, so she's going back to college for a Creative Writing degree. Her novels range from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Speculative Fiction, she dabbles in picture books, and is currently seeking representation. ~Member SCBWI

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  1. i’ve been waiting to get to read this! I’d love to take a look at the full manuscript. Please send it as a word attachment to querycaitie (at) lizadawson (dot) com with your query in the email, with the PitchWars request in the subject.

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  2. I’m intrigued! Could you send me the official query in the body of an email, the first 50 pages in an attached Word doc, and “Pitch Wars Request” in the subject line to laura(at)triadaus(dot)com? Thanks!

    –Laura Crockett, TriadaUS Literary Agency

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  3. Yes! I’d love to read this. Can you please send me the full query (pasted in the email) and attach the 1st 3 chapters? Send to with the subject line “Pitch Wars: A Taste of Darkness.” Thank you!

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  4. I love books with cooking and food, and add in a good mystery – you’ve got me hooked! Please send the full manuscript as a Word document with “YA: (title)” as the subject line to amy (at) aplusbworks (dot) com. Thank you!

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