YA Contemporary First Page Critique

It’s FRIDAY, and that means a new first page critique! Want me to look at your first page? Fill up this FORM.

Today’s page is my FAVORITE genre to write, YA Contemporary. This author has a completed manuscript they’ve been querying without success.

There are a lot of reasons querying might fail - the query itself might be poorly written and not include enough information about the character’s goals, motivations, and stakes. The first pages might fall flat. Or, it could simply be agents aren’t connecting with the pages, which is a catchall phrase they use when something may be well-written but doesn’t stand out. When you query, you’ll know you’re on the right track when you get about a 50% request rate from agents. This isn’t a hard rule, but if agents request pages, you know something is working. After all, it only takes one agent to say yes.

Let’s get to the page!

First Page 1.png

I really like the description in this first paragraph. It’s a bit muddy to weed through, but the visual it packs is great! I recommend breaking the sentences up a bit for impact and readability, and start with a more active voice. In the first sentence “Dushane didn’t have to tell me…” feels passive and slow. We want the first sentence to draw us right into the action.

What’s missing for me here is the WHY. Why are these boys lost? Why are they in the boonies? Where are they going? It feels like a missed opportunity not to tell the reader right away.

First Page 2.png

You’ll notice I moved around the text a bit here. When Jason says “Fuck off, dude,” we don’t know why. I wasn’t sure if Dushane was goading him because he wasn’t being helpful or making fun of him because he doesn’t have a phone. So, by moving the explanation up, it’s clear right away. I also like Jason’s voice and how he bitterly describes his predicament about his phone. It quickly makes me assume a few things about his character, such as, his parents aren’t going to buy him a phone, he has to do it himself and he’s bitter about it.

One thing that’s not clear is if or why Jason thinks Dushane forgot. An extra line or two would clear this up. Is Dushane just oblivious, or is there another reason? Perhaps his parents are rich and he never thinks about stuff like money or not having something. I can’t know what it means unless you tell me.

There is a lot of potential in this first page, but I think some revisions would really make it shine.

I hope the author finds these comments helpful and that you’ve identified some things to shine up in your own writing.

Until next week,