Thank heavens, it’s May! I’m very proud to present a First Impressions submission from Becca Buss, who just happens to be a former student of mine! This is the first page of her YA suspense novel, Echo:

Sitting in one of the hard plastic chairs in the office was a surreal experience for Olivia. On either side of her were other students involved in the incident in one way or another. On one side was somebody who had witnessed it firsthand. On the other side was the brother of the victim.

Olivia did not want to think of Chase as a victim. She did not want to think about the situation at all, but as she sat there waiting for her parents, listening to the ongoing click-clack of a keyboard behind the receptionist’s desk, the thoughts pushed their way through, invading Olivia’s mind and filling it with unpleasantness.

The girl to her right had her arms and her legs crossed, her right foot shaking to some muted beat that only she could seem to hear. Her gaze never found its way towards Olivia. Chase’s brother, who as far as she knew went by the name of Hunter, was seated to her left, his arms residing over both armrests. His eyes were set on the receptionist’s desk, unmoving, fixed as though he could see through the panel of wood, directly at the secretary who continued to type away at some problem of her own.

Every now and then, Olivia felt his gaze shift, and through the corner of his eyes Hunter stared Olivia down, examining her from head to toe, a fury building inside him with each glance of at the girl beside him.

At first glance, we’ve got three students sitting in the office of a high school, waiting for the repercussions from some “incident.” I made a couple of small edits, removing an unnecessary word and replacing one preposition.

I like the ambivalent use of the word victim: Olivia did not want to think of Chase as a victim.

For a moment, I thought Olivia cared for Chase and couldn’t bear to think of him being hurt, but I quickly changed my mind. I think Olivia may be the real victim, and whatever happened to Chase – he deserved it.

Which brings us to Hunter, who is obviously furious at Olivia. But describing Hunter’s fury deviates from Olivia’s point of view. Olivia might imagine the fury building inside him or feel it radiating off him, but it’s better not to present the emotion from inside Hunter’s head, lest we lose track of our perspective.

I love how the body language of the third student present, the unnamed witness, lets us know just how little she wants to be there. She’s physically disassociated herself from the others, and the author makes that clear in just a few words.

So far, the story has my interest. I want to know what Olivia did to Chase – and why. I want to know what Hunter will do with his building fury.

I don’t think the incident should be described on the first page – I definitely want that suspense drawn out. But Becca might want to consider giving us a hint – a glimpse of a flashback. Not knowing what happened, I can only guess what that might entail – the memory of Chase howling in pain, or possibly Olivia rubbing at a spot of blood on her pants, unhappy to have that little bit of Chase stuck to her. The right, tantalizing glimpse could increase suspense and allow the reader to start building expectations.

Please be sure to check out Marcy Hatch’s critique of Echo at Mainewords, and you can find Becca at her blog, A Page and a Half at a Time.