Tuesday, April 3, 2012

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 guinea pig brave volunteer is Melanie Stanford. She blogs over at Daydreamer to Writer, and here's the first page of her work-in-progress, Daze and Knights:

He was supposed to be my knight in shining armor. My prince charming. The guy who would sweep me off my feet and trot me away from my blah life on the back of his white horse.

I glared at Blake Chapman around my locker door, wishing I could yank his shaggy blond hair out by the roots. Never mind that I used to daydream about running my hands through it, curling it around my fingers, and then pulling his face in for a kiss that would change life as I knew it.

Daydreaming about Blake Chapman had been my national pastime for the past three years. His soccer-stud physique and cocky smile were enough to make me woozy. In a good way.

Too bad our date, our one-and-definitely-only date, was just a scam. He didn’t like me. His reason for going out with me in the first place? And I quote,
“Hey, you think your friend Dani would go for me? She’s smokin’ hot.”

When I wouldn’t dish the dirt on Dani, pay for dinner, or give him any (in that order), he dumped me on the side of the road, four blocks from my house. Now he makes me woozy in an I-want-to-vomit kind of way.

When Blake headed down the hallway toward Algebra, I slammed my locker door shut and followed. Staring at the back of his head, I imagined lightening bolts shooting from my eyes and frying that perfectly silky blond hair. I could almost hear the sizzle.


Melanie, you're in for a treat. We have feedback from SEVERAL Spies and Analysts.

Rebecca: Oh, yes! More, more, more please! I’m totally interested, where’s the rest!? I found it very authentic, like the thoughts were from an actual teen. What a great first page, it’s definitely left me intrigued!

Gracie: In my opinion, this is a very good first page. The writing is clean and it's not messy or confusing. The way it was told kept me interested enough to read the entire page. I think it is authentic - I bet that a lot of teen girls would be hooked by this story. However, I don't think I would read on. I feel like there wasn't a reason given for me to read on. I guess the problems presented just didn't interest me enough - so this is mostly just a matter of opinion. So good job! This might just be a typo but "lightning" as in "lightning bolts" isn't spelled with an e ("lightening") - then it would mean something different.

Lissa: That was an interesting first page - it projects a fun mood, something that's a pretty awesome feat because I've read few first pages that have been able to entertain me. The main character's spunk, attitude, and in-control personality grabbed me, because I love reading about characters like her. The writing was very authentic, although I feel like some of the structuring was off a little bit because the flow didn't exactly work with me for some reason. (Maybe less-stunted sentences would help with the flow?) I love contemporaries - and I'm pretty sure this is a contemporary - so I'm definitely interesting in reading more and finding out what happens and what happens next!

Randi: I think the whole knight-in-shining-armor thing is a little bit too cliche'. It's been used in so many books. Finding a fresher analogy would be better. I honestly have seen this beginning quite a few times in books I've read recently. Maybe starting the novel differently would be a better way to go.

Katie: This is a good start to a story. Consider bringing the vocabulary up and use more descriptive words that are unique. For an example “his shaggy blond hair” could be “his shaggy pale hair.” From this first page I think I would read the next five pages to see if it got interesting.

Riv: I love the voice, it's really distinct, with that slightly snarcastic thing going on. I can see the narrator being really entertaining, but...that's it. I see a great main character, a hot jerk, and no plot. I need some beef, something that makes this more than a story about a girl with a pretty best friend. Because that's all I'm seeing.

I might keep reading, just because the narration promises to never leave me bored, but if you don't throw in a fire-breathing dragon or an evil math teacher or something that makes this story unique, I'm going to drop it.

Lexie: On the one hand, I do like it--it's very well-written, and the MC's voice is strong from the start. But on the other hand, I can't say it completely grabs me. Would I read on? Yes, because it's written well and I'm fond of the narration. But nothing in that page really shouts to me that this is anything different. Obviously, though, there's only so much about a plot that can be revealed on the first page, so I'd be interested in seeing where this went.

Maddie: I think this story has potential, but it seems...cliche'd. There are a ton of YA novels floating around with the same basic storyline of "Boys asks out girl to get to girl's friend. Boy dumps girl. Girl gets angry and plots revenge". When I'm in a bookstore looking for a good read, I need to know on the first page what makes one novel different from others like it, or it usually stays on the shelf. Nobody wants to re-read the same plot a thousand times over.

Now, am I saying that I don't love the piece, or the idea behind it? Absolutely not. I thought the author's voice was fresh and witty, without being overly sarcastic like most female antagonists these days. She feels real and authentic, like anyone could relate to her. I don't even know our main character's name, but I already sympathize with her and that's hard to do in the 252 words the author provided us. I am drawn in and I want to know more immediately about her situation. Other than the originality of the idea, I think the author did a fantastic job. Well done!

Erica:I was definitely really intrigued by the first page. That's the kind of ending of a book I absolutely love, and would love to keep reading more. I was pretty instantly drawn in, and was a little bummed when I got to the end of the page and remembered that was all the story I had to read. I feel like the main character is someone to easily relate to, because come on, who hasn't had boy problems at some point?


Hope this helps Melanie! And I hope this feedback is insightful for our readers as well! I know it was for me. Gihugic thank yous to our Spies and Analysts and to Melanie! I know how scary it can be to put your work out there. Thank you for sharing this with all of us!

We'll be doing another call for first pages week in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

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