Monday, March 1, 2021

Are You Hooked? #2

TITLE: Trial and Error
GENRE: YA Contemporary

My mother’s maiden name is Jordan, though that never used to matter. Her life before us felt like a page in a history book – longer than a footnote but shorter than a chapter. The four of us, the Wexlers… that was my family. The Jordan family was a fiction, a hazy glimpse of my mother’s past that never breached state lines to creep into our lives in New York.

But here, now, in tiny Mayfair, Texas, the fact that my mother is a Jordan, and by association, so are her kids, is a really big deal. “She’s a Jordan,” the checkout girl whispered to the grocery bagger. “That’s Jessica’s girl,” my grandparents’ neighbor told the mail carrier, pointing straight at me. “The one that…” I waited for the rest, but it ended with a shrug and a disappointed, “Well. You know.”

I did know, though I pretended I didn’t. I’m the prodigal daughter of the Mayfair royal family, the accidental interloper into this sea of blonde hair and long legs. My dark curls, loud laugh, and curvy five-foot-two frame stand out. And, according to everyone in this town, not in a good way. “Real shame she didn’t get her momma’s looks,” I overheard the mayor lament to my grandmother at the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast. I kept the polite smile plastered on my face while I secretly plotted his demise and pushed my leaden pancakes around my plate, drowning them in a puddle of syrup.


  1. The premise is interesting but it's very telly and backstorish. I think I'd be more pulled in if it started with her discomfort at being pointed at in the moment.

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  2. You've spent a lot of time telling us the same thing in different ways: Jessica's an outsider. But you're not showing us how Jessica feels about it. Instead of listing all the ways she knows she's an outsider and the other backstory details, put us in a scene with Jessica that shows us how she's being treated and how she deals with it and feels about it. Put us in her shoes. That will make a reader want to find out why people treat her that way.

  3. I would keep reading this. I like the hint of secrets and all the things the main character might not know about her mother's past. That little bit of intrigue pulls me further in and makes me want to turn the page to find out why her mother was so cut off from her family for all the MC's life and why they've gone back now.

    I'd suggest cutting "loud laugh" from the line about her standing out and not in a good way. Everything else is about appearance, plus nothing in the story so far suggests she's had much reason to laugh since she moved to Mayfair.

    I loved her silently plotting the mayor's demise, and the mention of "leaden pancakes" brought back clear memories of eating heavy, probably cold pancakes at just such a breakfast (although I've never been to Texas). Excellent job. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I adore your third paragraph! I both understood and felt for the main character. Nice touch of sad humor as well. I am not opposed to what may feel like tell in the first paragraph but I do wonder if maybe that info could come a bit later to give a stronger dive in. Take us straight to her uncomfortable with people pointing and her knowing why. But I need to know why now! So yes. I am hooked. Best of luck with this manuscript.

  5. This is an intriguing beginning and I'd definitely read on. Very well written and you have a strong voice. It did feel like there's more backstory than necessary, which slows the pace, but to be honest, I'm okay with that. You still bring out curiosity in your reader, which is always a good thing. Best of luck with this!

  6. While I felt like there may have been a little too much backstory, your voice is strong and I enjoyed the excerpt. I'd keep reading. :-)
    Best of luck!

  7. This one worked for me. Strong voice. I could quibble about the wording and some of the punctuation and transitions in a few places, but that's being picky. Overall I quite liked it.

  8. Yeah, I'd read on a bit further. Some people are saying that it's a bit 'telly', but in my opinion, 'telling' *can* be fine, if it's done well, and comes in the right dosage. I'd expect your pages to clarify quickly into an immediate scene -- if you continued with pure backstory for more than another 250 words or so you'll likely run into problems, but I'd certainly read on to find out.

  9. I'm intrigued and would definitely read on to see why the MC stands out... although I have my guesses. You do a nice job of presenting tension, and you have some beautiful lines of prose "glimpse that never breached state lines." You could improve the beginning by giving more action or dialogue to reveal things about the story or the characters, instead of telling the reader everything. Could you use a real time interaction with one of the people pointing and interiority to reveal the situation instead of telling it all in a summary? Great start and good luck with this project!

  10. I am intrigued but the first paragraph was too informational for me and required a reread. I think you could start this with the second paragraph. "In tiny Mayfair..."

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