Our third First Impressions critique is a MG fantasy called THE TRANSPARENTS, by Vicki Tremper.
Chapter 1: The Sneeze
Sometimes I wish I could disappear like my hero, Houdini. Get myself out of dangerous situations and tight spots. Today is one of those days.
Ms. Lopez’s long, dark hair sways gently as she turns her head from side to side. I’m slumped down so low that my nose practically touches my desk. I try to mentally convince her that I’m not here and to pick someone else.
You do not see me. You will walk right past me. I am not the volunteer you seek.
I avoid her piercing black eyes. Don’t get me wrong. Normally, I like Ms. Lopez’s eyes. Normally, I live to hear her say “Daniel” in that melodious sing-song that could rival any bird. Just not when she’s looking for volunteers.
A sneeze begins to build in my nose, which would be the absolute worst. Ms. Lopez needs to forget my existence. For now. Until she finds her victim—I mean, volunteer. She won’t be able to ignore me if I sneeze. She’ll be alerted to my presence and I might as well stand up now and wave my arms around.
I’m not here. I’m a speck of dust in the corner of your vision. Choose someone else.
I really don’t want to solve the math problem she wrote on the whiteboard. I’m okay at math. Just as I’m okay at English, and okay at Social Studies, and okay at Science. Which is better than being sucky at Gym.
But I don’t like being on the spot. I don’t perform well under pressure.
If only I were more like Houdini. He could escape any situation, thrill a crowd, and stroll into and out of danger without messing a single strand of hair. Okay, there isn’t much hope for my limp hair, but the rest of it sure would make sixth grade easier.
The sneeze tickles my nostrils and forces my eyes closed. It’s coming and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I think this is a really cute beginning that does just what it’s supposed to do! I love how Houdini is Daniel’s hero, but Daniel himself can’t perform under pressure. There’s a pretty good voice here, although once in awhile it wavers – such as in the phrase melodious sing-song, which doesn’t strike me as the words of a sixth grade boy.
There are also a couple places where the narrative could be tightened. The fifth paragraph, for example, could be trimmed to: A sneeze begins to build in my nose, which would be the absolute worst. Ms. Lopez needs to forget my existence until she finds her victim—I mean, volunteer. She won’t be able to ignore me if I sneeze. I might as well stand up and wave my arms around. Watch for places where there is too much repetition. A little bit conveys voice. Too much slows us down.
Since the chapter is titled The Sneeze, I assume Daniel does sneeze, gets called upon, and there follows some inciting incident leading us into the main action of the story. I don’t have anything else to suggest for this lovely first page – although I do want to mention that, by coincidence, I visited the Harry Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA just last week, which is well worth a stop if you are in that area. Along with the tour, they do a magic show for kids in the afternoons and a séance/psychic show for adults at night. (Want to read about my experience at their psychic show?)