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First Page: Young Adult

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You probably think it's really cool to have a twin. It is, so don't get me wrong. I’m not complaining. It's just that, if I had to have a twin who is perfect, why couldn't I be her identical twin? Then I'd be perfect, too.

Okay, I guess I am complaining.

Here's the thing about twins, in case you don't know. There are two kinds: identical and regular. Identical twins are clones of each other. Regular twins are just siblings who happened to be born on the same day. They can be as alike, or as different, as any other pair of brothers or sisters. They can even be a brother and a sister.

So yes, it is possible for one twin to be sunny and smart and the other twin to be gawky and geeky. It's possible for one twin to be an A student and the other twin to be a C student. It's possible for one twin to be popular and the other twin to be – not. So not.

Entirely possible. And totally unfair.

So far, report card time is the worst. But let's face it, I’m in high school now. Which means that from now on, my grades will be the least of my worries.

You know what I’m talking about.

I’m fairly confident that my parents and teachers thinking I’m a loser is, like, who cares?? Compared to the painful truth that I am a social reject. I mean, if I could have straight A's and never get into trouble and be, like, the angel child, would I rather have that, or a wicked cool boyfriend?

Not that I have a choice, because neither of those scenarios is exactly playing out for me. But sometimes it's useful to frame it that way, mentally. I do that a lot. If I had a choice, would I want A more? Or B? This helps you pick your goals in life. If you're going to go for what you really want, it helps to know what you really want.

Unfortunately, I want it all.

But when push comes to shove, yeah, there are some things I want more than others. The wicked cool boyfriend is at the top of my list. I mean, come on. I’m not that lame.

So once you figure out which you want most, A or B, you play the next mental game: If I can't have B anyway, should I go for A? I know a lot of kids–girls, mostly–who figure that a wicked cool boyfriend is so far from happening, they may as well get straight A's and be the angel child. At least they'll have something to point to. At least their school years won't be a complete waste.

I totally see where they're coming from. I just can't make myself go there.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


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  2. Mia Marlowe
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 06:35:55

    Wow. The author has tapped into so many universals here–sibling rivalry, the tension between academic and social success, and the eternal fear of not measuring up in any category. A winning combination.

    Though the internal dialogue really draws me into her head, I’d also love to see a leap into action or a quick little flash into a real life example of how things have gone for her. Of course, I’m sure that’s coming.

  3. DS
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 07:47:53

    I think too much rumination on one page. Better to let the reader discover some of this as he/she goes along through the start of the action of the story. If the first action is going to revolve around getting a report card then I think it would be better to start with getting the report card and then give more detail about the situation.

    If the author is pitching this toward Jr. High/HS aged kids you might want to listen to some. The language seems a bit dated, but that just may be a regional thing.

  4. LVLMLeah
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 08:05:46

    The good: I was drawn in enough to keep reading it. I feel attracted to this character and want to know where this is going.

    The Bad: I’d stop reading at this page. I get the impression that this character is going to mentally nitpick and express everything going on in her head, which is boring.

    I agree with DS. After “You know what I’m talking about” I’d start some kind of action or dialogue with someone else. Her telling me, the reader, everything is not as interesting as me finding out about who she is and what she thinks and feels through dialogue and action.

  5. mary
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 08:41:05

    There are identical twins and fraternal twins. The use of the word regular in place of fraternal has me wondering if the author is going to dumb down everything.

    Then I read more about this whiny “poor me, my sister is so great and I’m a looser” girl who apparently wants everything but doesn’t actually go after any attainable goal like being good at something. Just having a ‘wicked cool boyfriend’.

    I’ll pass. If you’re going to give me a leading lady like this one I need SOME glimmer of hope or reason to stick around. I’m not staying for a bratty teen with a case of the poor mes.

  6. anonYAauthor
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 09:22:54

    The writing flows well, but it doesn’t work as a first page. Your character is whining when she should be acting. This is page one. Get us out of her head and let us see her doing something.

    Also? Less whining overall would be good. :) This reads as an adult’s stereotypical view of teens–whiny, self-absorbed brats.

    Some of the language, word choices and phrasing also reads like an adult’s view of what a teen sounds like. Eg: “wicked cool” and “I'm fairly confident that my parents and teachers thinking I'm a loser is, like, who cares??”

    You may be trying too hard to get into a teen’s head. Relax. You were that age once and you can tap into it again.

    Good luck!

  7. CreepyKiki
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 09:52:51

    One of the major rules for creative writing is “show, don’t tell”. In this page, we are “told” through the character’s POV all their problems. Because of that, it makes the character less sympathetic and more whiny. If you want us to like the narrator, “show” everyone treating her like a failure and her twin like a success.

    I’d personally get out of first person and try third person POV. It would make it easier to “show” what the character’s going through, instead of having to focus on their thoughts.

  8. hapax
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 10:55:35

    I’d probably not make it past the first sentence.

    Pet peeve: First person narration that keeps on addressing the reader. You know what I mean?

    Aside from that, the slang is dated, the tone condescending and dumbed down, and the protagonist needs a stepladder to get over herself.

  9. TiceB
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 11:01:16

    Disagree with most of the commenters. I think the YA tone of this is spot-on and I would read on to find out about this character. Good work!

  10. okbutok
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 11:28:49

    Like this.

    Far removed from teenage angst, too old. As a reader I’m not offended by tell, sometimes the tell is more genuine than the show in fake or pointless dialogues.

    So, she is ruminating, I did a lot of that in highshool. Nobody to talk to except my diary. For a story aimed at young readers, I think this would work.

    Needs some work with vocabulary and a little editing. Otherwise, go for it.

  11. Lori S.
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 11:36:24

    I really like the voice, and the writing flows well. BUT…

    You lost me when you referred to fraternal twins as “regular.” Also, fraternal twins aren’t necessarily born on the same day. If you’re going to give a monologue style lecture on twins, make sure to get the details right.

  12. Jane O
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 12:02:14

    I am way in the wrong age group for this, so I don’t know if it helps for me to say I liked it. I like the ruminating start that gives me a chance to meet the character, and it actually sounds like a particular person’s voice. That isn’t easy to do, so congratulations.

    As for the complaints about regular vs. fraternal twins, I once taught twins who introduced themselves as regular twins, not identical, so that didn’t bother me at all.

    Good luck.

  13. Elizabeth
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 12:25:22

    I liked it up until “You know what I mean?” Then my eyes started to glaze over. I wasn’t bothered by the use of “regular twins.” The narrator isn’t interested in giving us a scientific lecture; she’s being a whiny teenager girl who wishes she were special.

    That being said, I’d want to know the plot of the book before I read further. If the plot is “whiny girl wishes she were as special as her twin,” meh. If the external conflict of the story caught my interest, I’d be happy to read it told by this voice.

  14. Moth
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 14:22:20

    I feel like all the info about twins at the beginning is a bit of an infodump. I also felt like the voice was a bit uneven at times. One minute the narrator is throwing out “like” all over the place and such and the next she is using phrases like this:

    “neither of those scenarios is exactly playing out for me. But sometimes it's useful to frame it that way, mentally.”

    Which seemed much more sophisticated and articulate than the narrator had been previous to that moment.

  15. wendy
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 15:21:20

    @ Moth

    The quote you use is one reason I think this piece is strong. I have often heard (too much bus travel) youngsters saying ‘like,you know’ and then suddenly spouting quite sophisticated concepts.

    I would love to read this book.

  16. Karen
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 17:05:05

    I don’t know what to say except that I’m speechless (and not in a good way). Encouraging girls to think that getting a cool boyfriend at HS is the only thing that matters is not only the biggest lie but also discourages girls from potentially reaching their career goal. No doubt you keep on comparing her to her twin as the story progresses and generally make her feel like a sore loser. No doubt she probably keeps on doing more and more crazy antics to “best” her twin. *sighs* Will elaborate on that later as I’m really sleepy at the moment.

  17. EGS
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 17:40:38

    Yeah, my eyes began to glaze over when you started explaining the difference between identical and fraternal twins. A lot of telling, and also a lot of assumptions about what the reader thinks. I guess I don’t like being told what I should be thinking. So beware of the narrator speaking directly to the reader. It can work well (a la Jane Eyre) but can also be pretty awkward.

  18. Miss Moppet
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 22:15:45

    My first impression was that this was much stronger than unpublished work usually is, but by the bottom of the page, you lost me. I like it up to ‘Unfortunately, I want it all.’ I like the voice (can’t comment on the language) and I liked that you’d set up such an ambitious protagonist. But then her being so focused on the boyfriend issue put me off, and also I wanted her to stop ruminating and allow the story to move on. So I’m with those who say keep the first few paragraphs but then switch to some dialogue or action.
    There are many readers who don’t like the first person, but there are also many bestselling books written from that POV, so I would stick with it and work on making it better if it feels like the right way to tell the story.
    Thanks for posting this! I enjoyed reading it. Best of luck with your book.

  19. Sao
    Oct 03, 2010 @ 13:06:58

    I really liked the voice, but by the end of the page I was less so.

    She says she’s a social reject and not as smart as her sister, but now she says she wants both the cool boyfriend and the grades. I’d have been right on board if she had any sense of why she is a social reject and how to change this, of why her races haven’t been great, but as it stands, it seems like she thinks not having good grades is the reason she has a chance at tthe cool bf.

    I don’t buy it.

    I’d be on board if I had a hint about what she was planning to do to reach her goals.

  20. Kristi Cook
    Oct 04, 2010 @ 15:19:41

    Well, I read a boatload of YA (and write it), and this worked for me–though I’d end this passage with the line “Unfortunately, I want it all.” The stuff after that seems repetitive and unnecessary to me.

    It’s fairly common to start off a YA with ‘ruminations’ like this rather than action, to put readers right into the heads of the main character, and I think you’ve done that well with this opening.

    Also, I’m not at all worried about the main character coming off whiny here at the beginning. Many YAs start off with POV characters who are unlikable at first, but gradually change throughout the course of the book (Lauren Oliver’s BEFORE I FALL is a great example of this!).

    I’d definitely want to read on–I think you’ve got a great “voice” here! (though yeah, I’d probably change ‘regular’ twins to ‘fraternal’).

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