YA Contemporary First Page Critique

Hooray for Friday and another first page critique! If you’d like a chance for me to critique your first page, you can fill up this FORM. I’ve had a steady stream of submissions to choose from so far, so keep up the good work!

This week’s first page comes from a YA contemporary novel that has been rewritten several times. Let’s take a look!

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From the very first line, the author draws me into the story. Not only is the first line eye catching, it also sets up expectations for the reader. First, I wonder how Bertha’s death is going to affect the main character. Who is Bertha? Secondly, I wonder if our character is going to miss her psychiatrist appointment and what the repercussions of that will be. I know I’ll keep reading because now I want to find out the answers to the questions the author has created.

The second paragraph is an excellent example of how to insert backstory effectively. The author isn’t “info dumping” but giving us information we need to know to understand the main character’s predicament, even though we don’t yet know (or what) Bertha is. It’s clear from the backstory that Bertha is an integral participant in the main character’s life, and her death is going to have dire consequences.

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The description in this first page is wonderful! I instantly feel “safe” in the author’s hands - they know what they’re doing! Look at all the information we get from this single short paragraph, but at no point does it feel like an info dump. It’s also very voice-driven, giving us a little insight into our character’s (and secondary character’s) personality.

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Because of the way the submissions come to me, I read this page before going back to see what genre it was listed as. At no point did I think this was a YA first page. The voice is too old, the situations too far from YA. My main concern is that this is actually an adult novel. I’m not sure if it was mislabeled, or if perhaps the author is writing in the murky middle area that NA (New Adult) tried to unsuccessfully fill. Perhaps the characters live somewhere where the age limit for adulthood was lowered. Given that the characters are already out of high school, living in an apartment, and seem to be of drinking age, I don’t think this is actually YA. I encourage the author to take a look at the genre she’s chosen well before she queries!

Aside from my concerns about genre, this submission is excellent. I would keep reading in a heartbeat.

Thanks for letting me take a look! I hope my comments are helpful!

Until next week,