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

First Impressions: EVERGREEN

ChristyOur second submission for First Impressions is a YA Contemporary manuscript titled EVERGREEN by Christy Hintz. Here is the first page:


Everything looks perfect.  Strings of red lights drape across the ceiling and dangle from the center of the gymnasium, cloaking all the dancers in crimson.

Everything sounds perfect.  The music is upbeat, the bass a perfect volume, not that crass loud overbearing beat that makes everyone’s ears bleed and heart hurt.  Not like last week’s prom at East High–which naturally I crashed to be sure I didn’t overlook any details.  Nope, my prom is nothing like that.  Everyone is laughing and having a good time.  I circulate, smiling at my classmates, nodding at their dress and accessory choices.  The food table is topped off.  The chaperons are keeping their distance.

I approach a girl standing at the foot of the bleachers. I tap her bare, brown shoulder.  “Where have you been?”

She’s wearing a strapless, short black dress, one electric blue heel and one emerald green heel.  Her nails are each painted a different color of the rainbow, and today her eyes are a natural brown.  A thick strand of her black hair matches the electric blue shoe.

“Bathroom.”  She turns toward me.  “I sat on the seat and everything.”

“Ew.”  I fumble through my purse.

“What are you looking for?”

“Sanitizer.” I hand her a bottle.

She doesn’t take it, but asks, “And what, pray tell, shall I do with it?”

I steer her toward the hall.  “Spread it on the back of your thighs.”

She ducks out from under my hands and moves back toward the dance floor, laughing.  “You really are crazy.  Remind me again why I love you.”

“Why wouldn’t you?”  I put the sanitizer under her nose for one last try.

She shakes her head and I return it to my purse with a huff.

“I promise to wear sweats to sleep in later.  My germ-covered legs won’t touch anything in your house.”

“What about our toilet seats?” I watch as a girl in a mermaid dress takes the last water bottle from the refreshment table.

“Man.  I’ll shower when I get there. Okay?”

“Fine.” I gesture to the transformed gymnasium. “It’s all fantastic, right?”


Ms. Fulton, the only teacher not charmed by my straight A+ average and over-abundance of extra-curriculars is glaring at me from ten feet away like something’s gone amok.  All the other teachers patted my back and congratulated me on successfully orchestrating the prom-week festivities, parade, and dance.  Not her.


Since I kept scrolling uselessly down to the blank end of the page when I first read this submission, I guess it’s obvious that I would turn the page if there was more to read! I want to know what Ms. Fulton’s problem with the narrator is, although I can guess it might be her sexual orientation.

Our narrator gives us a strong sense of character. She’s competent, organized, energetic, and finicky about details and germs. I like her! It doesn’t bother me that we don’t know her name yet because her character is so strong.

It did bother me that she didn’t identify her date by name. The teacher got a name, and so did the neighboring school. Why not the girlfriend — if for no other reason than to avoid having two unnamed girls in this scene.

The line “I sat on the seat and everything” dragged me out of the story. It seemed like such a strange thing to say at that moment, even if the girl is transgender (which is the only reason I can think of for her to make that statement). And then there was the thought of putting sanitizer on her legs. (Oh, the burn!) By the time we got to sweatpants and germ-covered thighs, I was completely pulled away from the prom thinking about other people’s bathroom habits.  It’s just my opinion, and maybe it didn’t bother anyone else, but I wonder if there’s a way to steer the conversation so that we see evidence of their humor and fondness for one another while keeping our attention on the event of the evening, the prom.

Christy, thanks for sharing your page with us! Readers, do you have any other comments for her? Don’t forget to check out feedback from Krystalyn and Marcy, and you can find Christy at her writing blog, Erica and Christy.




14 Responses to First Impressions: EVERGREEN

  1. salarsen says:

    OMGosh! I haven’t seen Christy forever. YAY! So glad to see her here. Miss Erica, too. I think Dianne said it all. I’d totally read more. Just wanted to add that I like this MC. 🙂

  2. Hilary says:

    Hi Dianne – love Christy’s photo … while the story may well reflect life at the school and prom – but the thought of the hygiene … isn’t easy … but I’m sure there’s a lot more in the story .. cheers Hilary

  3. Lexa Cain says:

    I left my comments at Marcy’s, but was fascinated by Dianne’s take. I never got a hint of gayness. I assumed the girls were just friends. I didn’t pick up on any transgender stuff either. I had very close BFFs in high school. Forty years later and we still occasionally send Christmas cards. No BFs were ever that close with me or them. Boys come and go and never rate a Christmas card. Isn’t it interesting how one’s life can affect how one sees a book? Have a great week, Dianne and Christy! 🙂

  4. Tiana Smith says:

    Interesting. I didn’t pick up any transgender vibes, but I can see how you might have. So I guess I would just say to clarify a bit more either way. I just thought it was a germ thing.

  5. I’ve already left my thoughts at Marcy’s place, but I wanted to give you a wave, Dianne! Been missing your face/posts while away.

  6. Christy says:

    Thanks for posting my first page and for the critique! The feedback definitely gave me a lesson on reader perspective and the need for clarity. I appreciate your time and comments. Good to see you again Sheri and Crystal! 🙂 Christy

  7. Chuck Robertson says:

    “Everything looks perfect” trapped my attention as a hook line. I think it’s because it leaves me wanting to know what’s perfect. After that, I did get turned away from all the talk of bathrooms and cleanliness. I now see the purpose, the character was transgender, but I didn’t get it at the time. Maybe you could throttle back on the bathroom talk and clarify more the friend’s transgender.

    The narrator herself was great. I think you got into her head well and showed an authentic character from the start.

  8. Christy says:

    (I’m embarrassed to clarify here, but maybe I should??? My MC is a (girl)perfectionist and an over-achiever, a little OCD with germs and cleanliness, being in control. She’s straight. The girl whose shoulder she taps is her straight, non-transgender, best friend who knows how the MC feels about germs, so she’s teasing her. In the next page the reader learns the teacher isn’t a fan of the MC because she tries to be a one-woman show, not a team player.) Thanks for your input!!

    • Lexa Cain says:

      I KNEW it! I’m so glad you clarified. I wasn’t starting to think I was really obtuse not to get the hints others thought were there. 🙂

      • Lexa Cain says:

        Correction: I *was* starting to think….

        I can’t type today to save my life. Every single comment on FB this morning has “Edited” on it so I could fix all the typos!

  9. The mismatched shoes were an interesting touch. Really adds character to the character!

  10. I thought it was a guy at first and then just girls who were friends. That’s how I would want to read it anyway.

  11. I already left a comment at Marcie’s place, but I’m glad I came here to see Christie’s clarification about the relationship between the two girls. The OCD part I got, but I really thought they were in a romantic relationship. The fact that they’re best friends should be made more evident, so others don’t make the same mistaken assumption I did.

    Still, a good start, and the writing itself is very smooth and natural.

  12. Christy says:

    Thank you! I will definitely be making some clarifications in my revisions. So glad I submitted to get some first impressions!