Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teen First Page Critique!

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 Kelsey Macke. She blogs over at kelseyiswriting, and here's the first page of her work-in-progress, BUT NOT FOR ME.

I'm not the sort of girl who's terribly impressed by fairy tales. Honestly the whole thing kinda pisses me off. I mean, why would a completely gorgeous girl have trouble looking fabulous in a dress, or need help getting a handsome prince to take her to the ball anyway? I, for one, am not fooled. Snow White has the attention of seven little men, not because she's the only one who can reach the top of the book shelf, but because she's hot. The little mermaid got a prince because she had to shut her trap for five whole seconds, and looks fierce in a bikini. And Cinderella? She's a girl who clearly demonstrates to the prince that she's got lots of experience on her knees, and doesn't mind getting dirty.

Seriously.

Princes want hot girls. And hot girls get the fairy tales.

I'm not bitter. Okay... maybe I'm a little bitter. But, I have my reasons. Several of them in fact. Each more tragic and pitiably clich├ęd than the last. The most obvious (and also the most trivial) is that I, Imogen Keegan, am not a hot girl. Hell, I'm not even a pretty girl. At least not according to any human being with eyeballs. Sadly enough, I might have been lovely. If life hadn't dealt me this handful of pain and sadness. But, it did. And as easily as a footprint is wiped from a sandy beach, my grief swept, as a great wave, and stripped me and my life of all of its current and potential beauty. Grief can do that.

Here's what some of our spies and analysts had to say...

LAURA: I love this first page! Imogen is a girl who reminds me a whole lot of myself and I can only hope I'm half as funny as she was in that opening paragraph. Seriously. The writing flows very smoothly and I'm really intrigued to find out more. I would without a doubt continue reading!

LISSA: The first line really grabbed me, and overall the voice was very authentic and realistic. I love the fairy tale jokes, as it would definitely captivate an audience, because face it, we're all a little jealous of the princesses. That being said, I was a little turned off by the Cinderella reference (where she's "on her knees") because I feel like, though it was probably meant to be used as a joke, it's sexist and could be interpreted as slut-shaming. Otherwise, I would definitely keep reading the story because the voicing and humor is lots of fun.

GRACIE: I'll start with the positive. The voice of the character here is really great, and the writing is clean and clear. This is mostly subjective, but I do like it better when books start off with action as opposed to the main character just babbling. I want to see something happen! While the writing and character are good, and fun, nothing really happens. Show, don't tell, right? I just feel like there's too much telling here, just in my opinion. Based on that, I probably wouldn't read more. However, I do feel like it was authentic - I could clearly imagine the main character in my head, and she was a teenager. :D

LYNSAY: I really like this first page. One of the reasons is the diction. The words are presented in a really nice way that deviates from the norm, along with the vocabulary used. I like how it turns from a seemingly light hearted monologue about fairy tales to discussing grief and pain. It switches from trivial to intriguing. In my opinion, this is truly well done.

REBECCA: Um...MORE PLEASE! I’m super interested to see where this goes. My interest is definitely piqued! Well done to the author on a fabulous start to what I’m sure will be an awesome book!

RIV: I love the voice of this first page. It felt real, and we're getting a jaded protagonist who still manages to be entertaining. Those first few lines promise so much, and really raise my expectations of what's to come. Be careful that the next pages live up to these high hopes. My only problem with the opening is the allusion that may turn off teens. It's a bit, uh, mature for a YA book, especially the first page of one.

There's hope for a not-drop-dead-gorgeous character. Or at least hope that she's not a Bella. ("Oh, I'm so ugly. That's why all of the guys's eyes are glued to me when I stumble passed them.") The tell that follows doesn't fit, sadly. "If life hadn't dealt me this handful of pain and sadness." This line just makes me roll my eyes and figure that Imogen is acting like a girl, who has a bad hair day or a huge zit smack in middle of her forehead on Picture Day. Right now, I don't care that Imogen's life is full of pain and sadness, because I don't know WHAT this pain and sadness is. The metaphor of the last line also didn't do it for me. It kind of threw me out of the story, for a second.

This has some real potential. It just needs to be rephrased a bit. Good luck. =D

LENNON: I would definitely read more!! I love the whole fairy tale thing. I loved them as kids but however now I see how ironic and stupid they truly are. It is definitely relate-able and authentic, all girls feel upstaged by someone else's beauty. Fairy Tale princesses are the ideal woman to men, weak-willed, charming, gullible, and attractive. Men like that they could convince a woman of whatever they want to and they would be more attracted to a girl like that than one with an opinion and smart mouth. I have personal experience with this fact.

Hope this helps Kelsey! And I hope this feedback is insightful for our readers as well! I know it was for me. HUGE thank yous to our Spies and Analysts and to Kelsey! 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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