dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

Happy December, everyone! Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes from Christine Danek. It’s a YA Paranormal titled DREAM THIEVES.
The eyes I sketch on my notebook send chills up my spine. Those eyes are the only thing I remember from my sleepless nights. I glance down at my mangled arm. The hideous bruise and cuts are souvenirs from last night. I rub my elbow and pain shoots up to my shoulder. Thanks to my ex-boyfriend, Graham, these nightmares have invaded my life for the past three months.  
I wince as I pull my hair up in a loose knot and crack the window. Everything is quiet except for a lone cricket and an owl. It seems a little warm for May, but it means school’s almost over. My bed creaks as I sit on the edge. A large stack of papers topped with a yellow Post-It stare back me from my nightstand.

Sadie,
Go through these applications and think about a major. We need to visit more schools when I return. Your father and I want to see what you got on your English exam. I set up a tutoring session on Saturday at 1:00. Keep in mind, if your grades and attitude don’t improve, there’s a spot at a boarding school for you next year.
Mom

I pick up the large pile of college applications and drop them on the floor, rustling up a ton of hidden dust. The pressure to pick a major is annoying. I have no idea what I want to do. Of course, my brother knew he wanted to be a doctor, like my dad, since he was five. Of course he got into Yale for undergrad. Of course he got accepted to USC for medical school. He’s the child that paved the way and I’m the pothole growing in the middle. 
This weekend was for me to breathe. No parents to drill into my head how worthless I am. Nothing like adding more pressure–a study session with probably some nerd. Crap. And the threat of boarding school. Double crap. My relaxing weekend has turned into anxiety hell.
For me, the narrative clicked into place with the note from Sadie’s mother and Sadie’s reflection on her “perfect child” brother.  I loved the line about him paving the way and Sadie being a pothole. (Although – I think the note is a little long to be on a post-it unless her mom has very tiny handwriting.)
The first paragraph tells me too many things at once – and too little about each thing.  Sketching eyes on her notebook. Disturbing dreams. A mangled arm. An ex-boyfriend who’s apparently responsible – although I’m not sure if he’s responsible for the dreams or for hurting her arm. 
My suggestion would be to start with Sadie discovering her mother’s instructions on how she is to spend the weekend she thought she had all to herself.  Then weave in some of those details from the first paragraph. Her arm hurts when she reaches for the stack of papers.  Underneath the stack of college applications, Sadie sees the eyes she sketched on a notebook from the last time she had a sleepless night.  Bring Graham in when you have an opening to do so, but I’m not sure you want to link him to the dreams yet. 
Readers, your thoughts? Christine, thank you for sharing your first page with us!
You can find Christine at her blog, Christine’s Journey, and don’t forget to check out Marcy Hatch’s critique of this same page on Mainewords.