Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are You Hooked? #5

TITLE: WHALE
GENRE: Contemporary YA

Sixteen year old Adele has the singing voice of an angel and the broken heart of a girl who hates herself.

I stare into my closet full of clothes. I reach up, ruffle the tags and wince. So many clothes and I've never worn 99% of them.

My mom calls from the kitchen, "Dell, let's go! You're breakfast is sitting here!"

"Crap," I say and just grab my usual jeans and t-shirt. I sprawl across my bed and suck it in so my zipper goes up. The motion is memorized, as in my hands could do it if the rest of me was sound asleep. But even sleeping can't stop my pain. Some mornings I just lie in bed and let the dark pain sit on me. Holding me down. It's bottomless, heavy pain. So deep I swear it's in my skin.

I hate myself.

I'm a big girl. You know the kind of fat girl when people say, "But she has such a pretty face."

Yeah, that's not me.

I'm fat and what you might call man'ish looking. Well, that's what Taryn Anderson said to me in sixth grade. She said I was man'ish looking. She said this while looking right at me; she didn't even have the decency to say it about me. No, she said it right to me.

My eyes are close together and my hair - which is brown - is in between curly and frizzy which equals the worst hair possible. My nose is wide in the wrong places and my lips, well, my lips don't exist. At all.

13 comments:

  1. This is such a sad one. I don't know that I can, as a reader, love a character that hates herself so much. I need a reason to like her, and I don't have one yet. The narrator is very cruel to herself, which is something we all are from time to time, yet I'm not seeing that she'll let up from the established tone. I'd need a glimmer of hope from her in order to read on.

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  2. I'm not sure about this one. I can live with a character who dislikes her looks but I am not sure I can relate to her pain in the way she wants us to. It sounds like she's in pain because she's overweight but I think she's probably in pain because of how her weight has changed/affected her life. I'm not sure if I'm being clear. It's almost like she is too in touch with her flaws and yet too vague about them at the same time.

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  3. I guess my problem with reading on here is that I'm not sure I want to spend that much time with an mc who hates herself. The voice is okay, but not strong/unique enough to make Adele more likable.

    And it all feels very telling, like looking in the mirror to describe yourself. Examples would be better, something happening in school, where we could at least see her redeeming qualities.

    When she sings, does she feel like a different person? Maybe the stark contrast between that "fantasy" and the reality of school (or some similar scenario) would work better to show the reader what a day in the life is like for Adele.

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  4. Two things stuck out to start with - a fat girl with a lovely voice called Adele immediately made me think of the pop star, so I think another name would be better. And there is no such word as man'ish, it's mannish.

    Apart from that, I don't mind that she hates the way she looks, it makes her sympathetic. But I admit I don't like this beginning, as Tere says, looking in the mirror, too much telling etc. Not hooked, sorry.

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  5. All I think when I read this is it's so sad. My daughter reads scads of YA - she's in 10th grade - and I do not think this would appeal to her, which doesn't mean it wouldn't appeal to other teens. I think that to grab the attention of teenagers they might need a modicum of hope interjected into the opening. I don't mean snark (no pun intended) or making light of Adele's situation or her feelings, but an acknowledgment (even a tender foreshadowing) of better things to come would make me want to turn the page and see what becomes of the main character. Right now I'd assume the book is too sad and not want to read more. Sorry. Good luck with it!!!

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  6. I'm so glad you are writing this. Although of course everybody should try to stay healthy if they can, beyond that looks are made too important in our society. I think you have a great opportunity here and would read on. Hooked.

    I liked your logline, because it shows how she'll dig out to self worth through her singing. Last night on Amercan Idol, a very talented and very big girl got knocked off the show. She made it pretty far, but I wondered how much of the judges stock in presentation and animation (of spirit) influenced their decision. I digress, best of luck.

    BTW: your MC has a strong voice.

    I just read the comments above. if you want to punch it up, consider her singing down the steps to her mother when she temporarily pulls away from her misery to give her mother hope or love.

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  7. I agree with the comments above - this starts off too sad for me to want to continue. Plus, the description of her pain felt like it was too much (telling). Consider having her sigh, or groan, or ball her hand into a fist, or wipe away a tear, rather than have her describe her pain to me.

    You might want to consider beginning with her humming or singing, and letting us feel her joy and freedom in that act, before introducing us to her pain.

    I agree with Locksley - you MC has an amazingly strong voice.

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  8. I agree with most of what's been said. I want to feel sympathetic about the MC before I hear about how she hates herself, because if she hates herself why are we going to like her?

    Also, a tiny thing, how can you not wear 99% of your clothes? That felt dramatic to me...or something. It kind of bugged me at the beginning of the novel like that.

    However, I do like your voice. I might keep reading, might not. I can't say I'm hooked, but I do like the 'voice of an angel' in your premise.

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  9. I agree with everyone else. We need to see the good and triumphant about her before you pile on all the hidden pain and anguish.

    Perhaps start with a scene where she is singing, maybe at a school function or in glee club and the audience is clapping or a teacher is saying how wonderful her voice is, and then she overhears someone say "too bad she's as big as a barn" or, "Poor thing, she doesn't even have a pretty face like most fat people."

    In a scenario like those, we get to see what's good about her and like her, then we immediately feel her pain when we hear those ugly comments with her. You get instant empathy. And the showing of it will be much stronger than your MC telling it to us.

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  10. I agree with Cheryl and Locksley. Your writing is beautiful. I would keep reading. I have a feeling there is an overbearing mother in this story. (I'm pretty sure Mommy Dearest was a sales hit for its time.)

    I would want her to find happiness within herself and for herself ultimately.

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  11. This feels....too direct. Too upfront about her issues. I think it's good that you know these things as the author, but most of us, especially teenagers, just kind of circle around our problems.

    I also didn't feel that anything was happening here. In spite of the lovely prose, this scene is stagnant.

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  12. so you notice how all of the girls who commented on your MC is too "aware" of her problems/issues likely don't relate to being being chubby, let alone obese.

    hate to tell you girls, but some fat girls are really down on themselves, and i think many would relate to someone who feels this way about themselves. (even when i was freaking skinny, thought i was fat, so there was no hope for me!lol)

    however, it's almost to "telling" versus showing to me.

    maybe showing examples. i can think of plenty:
    swimming class in gym, the whole bathing suit thing is a big crisis; barely able to breath when she bends over to tie her shoes, or worse yet, putting her foot on her knee because she can't bend over anymore; people saying things about her etc...

    but i can understand needing some glimmer of hope to move towards, if you're going to keep an audience hooked.

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