Tuesday, October 2, 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 brave volunteer is Katie Bucklein and here is the first page from her story…
The echoes of heartbeats sang to me as I strode down the long aisle. I could hear them as if they were pounding inside a chest my ear was resting against. On either side of me were thick and carved wooden shelves upon which sat glass jars. These weren’t the fancy styles, the ones that the upper class loved to invest in. Instead they were short and plump, or tall and thin, and the souls inside swirled in a myriad of colors.

The deep bell clanged through the Halls of the Dead again but I paused at the end of the aisle and touched my fingers to one small glass jar in the shape of a pumpkin. The glass was cold, and inside the light pink soul pressed against where my fingers touched. I held my breath and lowered my eyelids, listening to the soft whisper of the soul’s voice inside my head.

Mama,” it whispered. I remembered the mother and father who had brought this jar just a week ago. The woman had given birth to a stillborn baby girl, their first child. I liked to spend a little time each day with the children I knew were in here, touching their jars so they could feel just a bit of warmth, however much I could offer, every so often.

I pulled my hand away and the soul began to swirl inside its jar once again. With a sigh, I quickened my pace through the endless aisles inside Enlet. I knew if I kept the people ringing the bell much longer the King would hear about it and I would have to suffer in some way or form later on.

I passed through the door that separated the middle class from the lower class and sped down another aisle, ignoring the voices that yelled at me, pleaded with me, asked to see their loved ones just one more time. I had to pinch my lips shut when a few voices cried to be set free, to be released to the Angels’ Realm to live in peace. Arriving in Enlet was a horror for some of the deceased. Their families wanted them close; they wanted to be free.

Here’s what our spies and analysts had to say…

LISSA: Oooh, that was eerie! I liked the atmosphere the author created and how easily I could picture everything going on. I also got a decent idea about the main character and their world, but there was sort of a little bit too much world-building all at once, and it was sort of overwhelming. Then again, if I were to pick this book up, I'd probably have some inkling about what the story is about ;) I'd definitely keep reading, but to be honest, I have a very short attention span for paranormal nowadays, and if this is indeed a paranormal as I think it is, the premise would have to be pretty capturing to be able to hold my attention.

GRACIE: Well done. The writing is good and fits with the style of story. However, just about every sentence is a long sentence. It's always good to have a mix of short and long sentences so that story flows better. To be honest, it doesn't really grab me and I probably wouldn't read more, mainly because it's just not the kind of story I'm interested in. But I think it wouldn't hurt to break up the sentences a bit, and then it would flow better and faster.

LENNON: I love it!! It's eerie, it's creepy, and I completely adore it. The authenticity is a bit off, just because it seems a bit mature; but that could be because we don't know the narrator that well yet. I would definitely read more. 

LEXIE: I'm absolutely fascinated by the concept of this one.  Even just the little I could glean from that one page was so intriguing, and I would love to see more of this world and our nameless narrator.  However, I can't say with 100% certainty that I would read on, because I found a lot of the phrasing rather stilted/awkward.  I love the idea behind this one, but I think you might want to run over it and see which words can be changed or removed.  If you aren't completely certain a word should be there, it shouldn't be.

ERICA: My attention is definitely grabbed after reading that first page. It is a bit morbid and very intriguing. It was the last paragraph that really drew me in. Before that while I was interested, there wasn't a sense of I need to read more now. 

RIV: I wasn't immediately hooked. The first page started out very wordy, making me weary (wordy and weary--try saying THAT five times fast) and not so interested. But I was immediately hooked at the mention of souls. And I stayed interested throughout the rest of it.

The first feeling I got was historical. The vibe I was left with was more fantastical though, so I'm thinking, either alternate universe historical (that's actually a good idea. I should steal that...) or medieval high fantasy, though I'm guessing the latter. I'm definitely intrigued, and though the voice gives me the impression that I might get bored of our main character in a while, I am entirely curious and would definitely keep reading.

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 Katie! 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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