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 J Larkin. Here is the first page of her story, LORELEI, ONCE
I don’t remember what the weather was like on the last day of my life. I don’t remember what I was wearing, or if I was running to something or from something. It was so long ago, it may as well have never happened. Today, though, I couldn’t stop the thoughts about that forgotten time from swimming around in my head.
I kicked away from the trunk of the tree that grew through the pond, pushing myself in a slow line through the stems of the red lilies. My robes—gray and flowing, just like those of my brothers and sisters who shared the pond—floated behind and around and above me. The scarlet strands of my hair, which should have fallen away and dissolved decades ago, drifted across my vision. I came to a stop and settled on the silty floor of the pond. Just above me was the man who had arrived three months ago.
Tangled in the lily roots, his fingers remained frozen in a desperate, claw-like grasp. His skin was puffy and his clothes were starting to mold. Humans last a while once they’ve come to rest in our pond, but he was nearing that ripe moment when our mother, Saictast, would emerge from the cavern beneath us and claim his corpse. We didn’t know what she did with the humans who succumbed to our call. Maybe she feasted on them, like the little fish that darted about between the leaves of our lilies. Maybe she collected them and strung them up to decorate her home. We’d never seen it. We’d never know.
I reached up to brush my hand against the human’s face. It was a fine face, as far as humans go, but marred by a single crescent scar from his left lip to his left ear. His hair, once a brilliant chestnut color, was faded by the damp. He swayed in the water, and his head drooped so that I could no longer see his expression. Something foreign nudged around behind my ribs. Something that reminded me of breathing, which I couldn’t remember ever doing.
I noticed the change nearly one mortal year before. A man, one different from our current guest, had stumbled his way through the forest and found our pond. My brothers and sisters swarmed together, peeping up at him between the red flowers, giggling and beckoning and parting their lips to call for him to join us. I was among them, crooking my fingers at the man and laughing, and it was just as it has always been, so far as I can remember.
Tearing at his tunic and licking his lips, the man stumbled into the water. We drifted a little farther out. He’d have to swim in after us if he wanted to play.
Here’s what some our spies and analysts had to say…
LISSA: I really liked this first page, and I think I'd end up really enjoying this book. It sounds seriously creepy, and the mythology seems very thought out and unique, which is always a good sign. I love this character's voice, and the way that all the events are being unraveled -- the tone I got from this first page is that this book is bound to tell a mysterious, chilling story. I'd definitely read more!
LENNON: I really liked the beginning of what is sure to be a great story. It did grab me, very quickly. That first line caught my attention the second I read it. It is extremely authentic. I would definitely read more.
ERICA: This definitely grabbed me! I am so intrigued and I definitely want to know more. I love the foundation of the story already established with just that first page. From what I have read, this sounds like a book that would be right up my alley!
REBECCA: It definitely is interesting and I'm really intrigued to find out what this story is actually about. Whilst it is eerie and unique, it hasn’t fully grabbed my attention. I’m not sure if I would continue as it doesn’t really feel like the kind of book I’d probably read more.
MADDIE: Does it grab me? Does it grab me?? When the h-e-double hockey sticks can I read more? The voice was very spooky and dark-sounding, which is something that I love to hear in a main character. The idea sounded fresh without being too out there. So, yes, I felt it was authentic. Very much so.
And I would definitely read more, as I so eloquently stated above. I'm trying to think of anything I could critique about the piece, but all I can think about is the beautiful image the author painted in my head about our setting. Spooky water, tangled lily roots, floating robes. And I'm seeing mermaids, for some reason.
This would most definitely be at the top of my 'to-read' list if I'd come across it on GoodReads!!
Hope this helps! And I hope this feedback is insightful for our readers as well! HUGE thank yous to our SPIES and ANALYSTS and to J. Larkin! 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 in a few weeks. Stay tuned!
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