Friday, November 11, 2016

On The Block #11 - UNEVEN 10:40 AM EST

GENRE: YA Contemporary

An elite gymnast turns her back on the sport after a trusted coach crosses the line. But when Hollie has the opportunity to join the decidedly un-elite team at her new high school, she might just fall in love with gymnastics all over again – and with a boy who has overcome struggles of his own.

What I’m feeling is perfectly normal.

Anxiety, excitement, apprehension, curiosity. According to Incoming: A Heads-Up Guide to Your First Day of High School, these are all natural emotions for a high school noob to experience. But it didn’t specify I would experience them all at once – which I am, though anxiety is the clear ringleader. I drag my palms across my stomach to dry them, not for the first time that morning.

Apart from that, things start to veer off-script. Like the fact that my introduction to public high school is about to kick off in the middle of my junior year.

I glance over at my mother, white-knuckling the steering wheel as she pulls into the drop-off line at North Puget High. It’s the only detail that gives her away. Her face is a brick wall – an expression she’s carried since I made the decision to quit my gymnastics career.

Career. A bizarre word, really, to use for an activity that most girls drop out of before they hit college. We’ve got eighteen years, maybe a few more, for those that are lucky enough to stave off career-ending injuries. Not to mention the cellulite and saddlebags, which spell impending doom in equal measure. Until that happens, every hour, every minute of training is precious. A gift. And a decision to leave the sport is not something that’s taken lightly.

So while my mom’s face might not show it, I know that her overriding emotion is disappointment.


  1. I like this. It feels like one of those stories you want to read slowly to thoroughly absorb every page. I sense a lot of drama and intense emotions ahead, and the fact she's a gymnast is a plus, in my opinion. I'm curious why she had to quit and why she wasn't in public school before now, so good job on the intrigue. Wishing you much success with this!

  2. Your opening pulled me right in. There were a few things I didn't understand, like "cellulite and saddlebags," but that didn't bother me. They just authenticated the voice and made me want to read more of the story.

    The hook didn't hook me. It felt kind of vague, but hooks are hard.

    Wishing you luck!

  3. I love your pitch. Your voice comes through clearly, but "a boy who has overcome struggles of his own." feels flat. I would suggest a more intriguing hook here.

    I really enjoyed your opening paras. Phrases such as "anxiety is the clear ringleader" and "things start to veer off-script." made me smile and clicked nicely.

    I would cut the paragraph starting with "Career". It slows down the pace here with too much explanation and feels like a great chuck of "telling". Have bits and pieces of it strewn in later.

    I would certainly read on, though. The world of gymnastics has always hooked me.

  4. I thouģht the excerpt worked pretty well. I agree about cutting the parg starting with 'career.' It stops the story so you can explain to the reader.

    I thought the logline could use more. It seems if she was molested by a coach, she'd have other issues to deal with other than learning to love gymnastics again, and perhaps that should be mentioned in the logline, as well as the boy's issues. The issues, I think, are what readers will be more interested in. If it reads like the story is about learning to love gymnastics, you may lose readers who aren't particularly interested in gymnastics.

  5. Nice excerpt. The paragraph that started with 'Career' could be trimmed. It wasn't as engaging as the rest of the piece.

  6. Great introduction to the MC and what's going on with her right now. Showing us what she's feeling through the sweaty palms and how she has to dry them is really good. I'd even be drawn in by a little more insight to her physical reactions. Is her stomach upset, heart rate unsteady, nerves jangling?

    The MC's voice comes across as very mature, actually. Her cadence and word choices come across older in my head than a Junior in high school. Then again, as an elite gymnast she would be more disciplined and mature but would she have the speech pattern and vocabulary? Some teens do speak like this (I'll date myself and refer to Dawson's Creek and Gilmore Girls) so it's not a bad thing.

    I liked the paragraph starting with Career. It may go longer than it needs to for the first page though.

    Great insight into her mother and what the MC perceives her mother is thinking/feeling.

  7. There's too much back story here, too carefully presented. Much of this you can back-tell later: all the facts you need to get across is that she's a gymnast starting high school for the first time in the middle of her junior year - and that she's scared as heck and her mother is ? disappointed/unknown/whatever.

    Watch your voice. This doesn't always doesn't sound like a teenager, let alone a nervous one: "We’ve got eighteen years, maybe a few more, for those that are lucky enough to stave off career-ending injuries. Not to mention the cellulite and saddlebags, which spell impending doom in equal measure."

    I'm guessing this is a fascinating book, and that this first page doesn't do it justice. I'd keep reading just to see if the voice gets stronger and what happens after this set-up.

  8. Great premise, and the fact that the girl is a high-level athlete is a good hook. The logline, though, felt like it was missing conflict.

    The excerpt has good voice, which is so hard to nail. I agree with others that the "career" paragraph doesn't belong on the first page - too much backstory. Keep us in the car with her and her mother. Let us feel her emotion and the tension in the car. Keep us in the scene and show us how she's dealing with the situation at present. The backstory can come later.

  9. Nice voice. Others have offered succinct advice regarding eliminating backstory elements and enhancing the tension in the opening. I sense the emotional issues associated with being a pampered, elite athlete who's been tutored in private setting (and the dark abuse we'll learn ore about which triggered the transition) and now, faced public school. Good luck.

  10. So interested in this one. The logline is great, and I'm curious what kind of struggles they've both had that are going to draw them together.

    The opening paragraph feels a bit like it's trying too hard, though. A lot of YA opens with a first-day scenario. Instead of wading through all the anxiety/diagnosis talk, focus more on the interaction between her and her mom. That's when the voice really clicked for me, and when I started to get into this and feel that this story is different. Very nice!