Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome, 2014!
I’m starting off the year with First Impressions posts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’m also planning to celebrate 4 years of blogging this month with a GIVEAWAY of one of everything I’ve ever published.Come back next Monday to learn more about!
Today, I’m sharing the first page of a YA Contemporary by Christy Hintz, titled 27 DAISIES.
Mom is at the stove. I stop, confused. She doesn’t turn, and for three seconds I wonder who this woman is and what she did with my mother.
“What…what are you doing?” I ask.
She turns and smiles. She actually smiles. “Making spaghetti.”
When I don’t speak or move or breathe because I am afraid of this moment, afraid maybe that if I move I will smash it into a kazillion teardrops, she says, “Doesn’t spaghetti sound marvelous?”
It does. I can’t believe it but it does. I bring my backpack to the room I am using to sleep in and do homework in and hurry back to the kitchen. I take out milk and find French bread on the counter. I slice it up with a bread knife that has never been used and spread butter and sprinkle garlic and find parmesan cheese to grate. Mom hands me a baking sheet, and she is
I look at her again and examine her hair—did she cut it? Her eyelashes are wearing mascara and it is not smudged black underneath her eyes.
I sit and she serves me my food. We don’t pray, but she asks, “How was your day?”
I shrug my right shoulder.
The spaghetti is sweet and peppery and there are pieces of tomato and onion. It tastes like—
“I always loved your dad’s spaghetti sauce. We still have six jars to use. We’ll save them for special occasions.”
I stop mid-bite and wait for the torrent of tears.
She twists noodles around her fork and eats them.
“What’s the occasion tonight?” I ask. It’s been 10 months, 27 days since we’ve really looked at one another, since I’ve seen her smile or talk with this…this spark of life.
Her wide eyes look at me, see me. “I’ve been waking up feeling better, like a black veil has been lifted and the world brightened.” She looks away, at the refrigerator, or somewhere in her mind. There is a brightness to her face. I don’t recognize the emotion. “Someone took the 215 pounds off my shoulders that has been pushing me down.”
My heart hits my stomach and the impact echoes.
Someone took the 215 pounds off my shoulders that has been pushing me down.
Wow, that is quite a line, and it overturned my first impression of what was going on in this scene. I thought the mom was grieving for a husband who’d died. Now I’m wondering if he left her for another woman. (But then again, if that’s what happened, why wouldn’t she throw his homemade spaghetti sauce in the trash, rather than save it for special occasions?)
This first page whets my interest in the mother – who is fully described – and definitely I want to know what happened to leave her in a state of depression, and what snapped her out of it.
However, I don’t feel very connected to the main character, and that’s the biggest thing I think the author needs to work on to improve this page. I’m not suggesting the author start in a different place or make the mother less important. However, I would like to see more internal thoughts from the main character.
Why is she using a room for sleeping and homework, but doesn’t call it her room? Where does she normally expect to find her mother when she comes home? What was on her mind before she entered the house and saw this startling change? How does it affect her? These are just some of the things that might be woven into the existing scene so that readers connect with her better.
Character, Voice, and Conflict. I’ve been told those are the three top things an agent looks for in the opening pages of a YA novel. Conflict is here – some type of dysfunctional family turmoil. There’s a good beginning to Voice. But the Character herself eludes me on this page. Readers, what do you think? What would you like more of (or less of) in this scene?