Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teen First Page Critiques

It's time for our Teen First Page Critique, a monthly feature here at YA Confidential that lets you get feedback on your manuscript from your target audience: real teen readers.

This month's brave volunteer is Rosalyn Eves. She's a mother to two young children, teaches composition at a local university, and blogs at Thinking Through Our Fingers.

Here is the first page of her current work-in-progress, Being the Queen:

As a superpower, invisibility is way overrated, I thought, dodging a pair of eighth-grade boys in the under-lit, over-crowded hallway. Neither of them so much as glanced at me. You could get stampeded to death and no one would even notice.

Not that I had a superpower or anything (I wish!). I was just trying to survive getting to my first assembly of the year.

I squeezed past a group of girls who’d stopped to chat in the middle of the hallway. I was just congratulating myself on getting past that hurdle when, seemingly out of nowhere, a herd of teenage boys steamrollered down the hallway. The group of girls fell apart like bowling pins. One of the girls backed straight into me. I tried to get out of the way, but it was too late.

Off balance, I tripped over my own feet. Then I fell head-first into a bank of lockers. Something hard—a handle? A knob?—caught my forehead as I went down.

The girl who’d knocked into me turned around. Kayleigh. It figured. Because, of course, Kayleigh was at the top of my do-not-run-into list. Kayleigh’s blue eyes boring into me were just more proof that I didn’t have a superpower. Because if I really could turn invisible, you’d better believe I would have done it then.

“You should watch where you’re going, Sabrina. Someone could totally get hurt!”

Right, I thought, because that totally didn’t hurt. I wanted to roll my eyes, but my head was still ringing.

So what did our teens have to say?

Lynsey: I liked this first page. I think it really painted the hallway scene well. I love the bowling pin analogy! I would read more, mostly because I'm curious as to why this girl was avoiding the other girl.  Obviously she was previously aware of her. How?  Why isn't she just another face in the hallway? That's what it left me wondering, so I thought that was done well.

Katie: I don’t think you need to italicize her thoughts since it’s in the first person, and I found some of the writing unclear (at first she says she has a superpower and then she doesn’t, why wasn’t she able to catch herself as she was falling?). I would not continue reading. In your first page you need to do foreshowing, and right now there is none.

Laura: My initial thought was definitely, “What an interesting opening line!” It does a good job in expressing Sabrina’s feeling of alienation and prepares you for what will happen next. However, her invisibility did seem a little exaggerated. Picturing her dodging eight-graders and squeezing past a chattering group of girls is great, but I kind of felt like the scene with the crowd of boys that sent her head-diving into a bank of lockers was adding something that didn’t really need to be added. Like someone escaping the path of a crocodile, only to be ambushed by a great white shark, if you know what I mean. Overall, the stand-out was definitely Sabrina’s dry, witty sense of humor. I loved that! And I can definitely see her developing into a really authentic and likable character. I would love to read more. Good job!

Thanks so much, Rosalyn, for putting yourself out there and letting our teens critique your page. And thanks to our Teen Spies for their insights!

Remember, the Teen Spies do a first-page critique every month, so keep your eye out for our next call for pages!


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