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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions #27

First Impressions #27

Our second First Impressions for the month of November is a YA Fantasy coming to us from Emily Casey entitled THE FAIRY TALE TRAP.
Mom lied. This isn’t anything like home.
My old room wasn’t crowded with packing boxes, or ribbons of peeled-off tape. A full-length mirror leans against the back wall, still wrapped in brown paper. I’ll never unwrap it. Mom knows I hate mirrors. The bare mattress, with its smug little machine-sewn squiggles, mocks me from the corner. I’m unlivable, it says. You’ll never get to sleep.
It looks like a packing store puked all over somebody else’s bedroom. No teenage girl should have to live like this.
I shove another half-unpacked box to the wall, leaving a path in the new carpet. Frustration gets the better of me. I lie flat on my back and press the inside of my elbow over my eyes. I can’t look at this place any more. It’s not a bedroom. It’s a storage closet. Complete with the stinging fumes of fresh paint.
“Mom, I need help!”
I shout as pathetically as I can. Even without looking, I know as soon as Mom steps into the room. My whole body tenses up and the same thought keeps shooting across the room at her: You did this.
“What’s wrong, Ivy?” Mom’s voice sounds run-down. Moving always makes her tired. You’d think she’d learn.
“I can’t find my pictures,” I say without uncovering my eyes. Mom can always tell how upset I am by looking at my eyes, and I really don’t want to talk about it.
“You mean the one of Dad?”
I hate it when she reads my mind.
“It’s probably in one of these boxes.”
My trophies from track and cross-country click together as she rifles through the box labeled ‘MISC’. The box I’ve searched through eight times already.
“I already looked there.” I can’t keep the anger out of my voice. Does she think I haven’t checked it yet? I almost snap at her again, but I manage to keep my mouth shut. I really don’t want to yell at her. I just want my picture.
The shuffling of random objects stops. Mom wipes her hands on her jeans, making a light zipping sound. “He’ll be back in three weeks.”
“Three and a half.” And that’s if he’s not killed or captured. The nightmares can get bad sometimes.
First, I have to say that Ivy reminds me of my own teenage daughter, falling completely apart and dissolving into a puddle of goo over some small frustration. Her tone, her attitude, the way she blames her mother … yup, I’ve lived it!
I love the line: It looks like a packing store puked all over somebody else’s bedroom. I can feel her frustration, and I can picture the scene. Based on the last sentences of this excerpt, I’m guessing her father is a soldier stationed overseas — although this is a fantasy, so it could be something completely different and unexpected. (Especially since Emily’s contribution to my Six Word Summary challenge was: Teenager gets trapped in fairy tale.)
I really have only one point that bothers me, and that’s the second sentence. This isn’t anything like home. Since Ivy’s later statements imply she and her mother have moved frequently (Moving always makes her tired. You’d think she’d learn.), I wonder what she means by home. Does she mean “the last place she lived?” If you move all the time, is any place home? I guess I’m wondering if she’s missing the place she came from, or if she’s sick of starting over in new places. If she moves frequently, perhaps the line should read something like: This place isn’t any more a home than the last place we lived — or the one before that.
Emily, thanks for sharing your first page with us! Marcy Hatch over at Mainewords will also be critiquing this page – and Emily can be found on Twitter.

14 Responses to First Impressions #27

  1. Linda G. says:

    Oh, very nice! Having been a teenage girl, and having raised a teenage girl, I can tell you this rings true. It feel authentic. 🙂

  2. NICE! It DOES sound very “teen” doesn’t it? I like her conflicting feelings of asking her Mom for help but wanting to shout at her.

    I wanted to tighten this section up b/c of it’s wordiness (less would be more): Mom, I need help!”
    I shout as pathetically as I can. Even without looking, I know as soon as Mom steps into the room. My whole body tenses up and the same thought keeps shooting across the room at her: You did this.

    Maybe more like:

    “Mom, I need help!”

    My whole body tenses as she steps in the room.

    You did this (italicized).


  3. This is rare for me, because I’m usually a critique gas-bag, but there isn’t a lot I would change in this. This piece is full of great voice, and has many excellent examples of showing over telling.

    I do like Christina’s suggestion, though, and Dianne’s.

  4. Emily Casey says:

    Wow, I’m so impressed with the critiques. This is really helpful. I have to go run off and make some notes.

    Thank you everyone, especially Dianne!

  5. Emily Casey says:

    I forgot to mention, I have sample chapters of THE FAIRY TALE TRAP posted on my blog:

    Thanks again!

  6. Ooh, the voice totally drew me in along with the situation. What happened? Why did they move and what happened to her dad? Good stuff!

  7. Angela Brown says:

    Thanks so much, Dianne, for stopping by my blog. Following back and glad for it. Others have already commented on how true to teen voice this sample is and I couldn’t agree more.

  8. Kelly Polark says:

    I feel Ivy’s pain. I packed 30 boxes a year ago, and it’s hard to find things! (we never moved either! We thought we’d sell the house, and still haven’t!)
    Nice to meet you, Dianne!

  9. I really like this. There’s some good suggestions here but, even without them, I’d read on.

  10. Jaime Loren says:

    Well done! I agree, the voice is definitely there. I also think you could tighten it, as advised above.

    My only criticism would be to make sure you’re aware of what your character is doing – for example, she was covering her eyes when her mother brushed her hands on her legs. I know you described the sound, but unless she’s Jennifer Garner in Alias, I’d be careful not to describe actions when your character isn’t actually looking. 🙂

    Other than that, you’re off to a good start! 🙂

  11. From start to finish, this is a well written piece. The voice is authentic, as everyone else has already said, and the story prompts several questions, as well as the desire to read on to discover their answers. Great job!

  12. salarsenッ says:

    I think my favorite part is the first line and paragraph. I really love that setup. Nicely done.

  13. I love this. The voice is wonderful and drama is so YA. I definitely would keep reading on.

    As to the reference that bothered you, as a Navy brat, I never gave it a second thought. We moved a lot, though we did stay between 2 and 4 years in places. You either learn to make friend quickly because you don’t have time for the preliminaries or you pull back and don’t make friends because you can’t bear to keep saying goodbye.

    I chose the former.

  14. I felt Ivy’s emotions in this piece. Good set up with hints of who the characters are. The only part that didn’t work for me was the throwing up part. I don’t think of boxes that way, but it could be a personal preference.