Thursday, July 29, 2010

Critique Party #4

Remember - I'm moderating the comments. This is meant to help one another, so be nice.

Our goal is to help each writer make their page stronger.


Falling to Normal
, a contemporary YA novel by Alicia Gregoire.


For years, I had envisioned my juvie release under various scenarios: fanfare, nonexistent diplomatic immunity, and the detention center’s spontaneous combustion to name a few, but never as part of something so routine as scheduling my annual holiday retreat. I sat in Director Lady’s state-approved office with my uncle, Andy, to discuss my two full days away with the LaSalle clan. My mother’s brother had been my guardian for the last four and a half years. Not that he had an opportunity to flex guardian muscle since for the entire duration I was locked up for one life-altering mistake.

That mistake temporarily escaped my mind while I wrapped my head around the fact that that I was – for lack of a better term –no longer a ward of the State.

I looked at Andy, who nodded once. He sat next to me, both of us across from Director Lady’s way-too-cluttered metal desk. He wore what he called “business casual,” which meant khakis and no tie. His dark auburn hair was combed back, but overdue for a haircut; it made his face look gaunter. The director and I were both in jeans – mine the worse for wear. She also had on sandals with no socks. In December. In New England. During a Nor’easter.

Since departure was in my very near future, I forgave the terrible shoe choice.

“I’m done?” The giddiness in my voice ruined the calm I tried to project. Damn.

“In a week. The paperwork needs to be processed and we want you to ease in,” she said. “This is a probation period, Cheyenne. Your therapist has voiced his concerns regarding this move.”

7 comments:

Holly Dodson said...

I really love the start, it immediately gives us a feel for the character and her circumstances.

...it made his face look gaunter...

I'd maybe just say gaunt. Gaunter made me stop and wonder if that was really a word lol

Also, I'd move "The director and I" down to a new paragraph. I only say that because when I got to the sandals with no socks part even though it said she it made me think it was Andy.

...I forgave the terrible shoe choice...

I'd say "I forgave HER terrible shoe choice" Just to make it clear who you're referring to.

The next sentence....doesn't she know she's done? I mean, hasn't she been counting the days down? If not, maybe say so. That way we can understand her more fully.

Very good page...I'm very interested to see where it goes! I absolutely love the voice here...it's definitely something I'd take home from the book store.

Susan said...

Really good passage. Strong opening. Hooked me completely.

I agree with Holly's comments, and I only have one thing to add. For some reason, the first sentence gave me some trouble. I literally had to read it four times...and then I still couldn't pinpoint what was confusing me. Here's what I got.

*WARNING: My explanation sucks...it may just screw up your head... If so, ignore everything I say.

"For years, I had envisioned my juvie release under various scenarios: fanfare, nonexistent diplomatic immunity, and the detention center’s spontaneous combustion to name a few, but never as part of something so routine as scheduling my annual holiday retreat."

The phrase "under various scenarios" was strange. Did the MC imagine different ways as to how the release would happen? Or did she imagine different causes for her release to happen?

In other words, saying "under various scenarious" means the MC imagined the various prompting factors that could lead up to her release. If you say "as various scenarios", then it means the MC imagined the release itself. Because you say "fanfare", I assumed you meant "as"... But then you went on to say two other scenarios that could have been "as" or "under."

Dunno if I'm just confusing you... Sorry.

Otherwise, it's awesome. I would definitely keep reading to find out why she was in juvie, where she's going, and why her uncle is her guardian.

Good job.

LTM said...

Hi, Alicia!

Ooo, I loved the opening... diplomatic immunity, spontaneous combustion--LOL! :o)

I was a bit confused by the next sentence. I like that image, "the LaSalle clan," but maybe U.A.'s family and relationship to MC could be saved for 'graph 3?

just a thought: "...with my uncle Andy who had been my guardian for the last four and a half years. He hadn't really had the opportunity to flex any guardianship muscle, since I'd been locked up the whole time for one life-altering mistake.

Then 'graph 3: Now, rather than spending two full days with my mother's brother, Andy and I were sitting beside each other across from Director Lady's way-too-cluttered metal desk, discussing my release.

I looked at Andy, who nodded once. He wore..."


I have no idea if that's better... feel free to disregard. LOL! :D

"more gaunt" instead of "gaunter." (Or "even more gaunt"?)

This is a great start! Like it~

Amanda said...

Love this opening! The only part I stumbled over was when you said, "that mistake temporarily escaped my mind" just because it was such a quick hit on the mistake, then she's forgetting it. If that makes sense. It might work to say something like. "It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that…" or something? I dunno.

But I love this. The voice is strong and it drew me right in!

Alicia Gregoire said...

These are great guys. I just finished my revisions and plan to requery next month.

Thanks so much!

Erinn said...

Alicia this is much stronger than previous drafts. (I've read several other drafts)

Love it! "She also had on sandals with no socks. In December. In New England. During a Nor’easter."

Your word choice is strong. Although "the giddiness" doesn't fit cheyenne's old character, I don't know how much she's changed in this draft.

Great work! YAY YOU

Sarah Enni said...

Once again I find myself posting my comments late in the evening -- crazy schedule, my bad loves!

Anywho!

The first paragraph moves a little quick. You include a lot of information, and some of it isn't really necessary to know right off the bat-- like the fact that Andy is Cheyenne's mother's brother. That phrase made me trip up while I was still trying to get a handle on where we were.

"Not that he had an opportunity to flex guardian muscle since for the entire duration I was locked up for one life-altering mistake."
Again, this seemed really jam packed to me. It took me three to four read-throughs to understand everything you were saying in once sentence. Don't get me wrong, complex and multi-purpose sentences are great, but maybe not in the first paragraph?

I love the detail about Director Lady's shoe choice. That gave me such a great perspective on Cheyenne's character!

I agree that a 'surprise' release seems strange. Not that I'm familiar with how people get out of juvie? So maybe it's totally normal! No idea.

There's a lot going on, right from the get-go. I can see so many areas for conflict, growth and tension straight out of the gate and that is nothing but a good thing!!

Thanks so much for sharing!