Wednesday, February 1, 2012

first impressions - The 49th Parallel

Our first submission for February comes from PK. This is the first page of her NaNo project, a YA thriller. Be sure to check out Dianne's blog to see what she thought of this. My comments are in purple.

The 49th Parallel

Mom says I'm my father's daughter.
She says I’d be willing to put my well-being on the line for anyone.  She doesn’t mean it in the good way. Dad was a firefighter and made a career out of getting people out of trouble. There’s even a memorial for him, along with the other firefighters who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
            He was a hero. All I am is a dare-taker who can’t even keep herself out of trouble, much less anyone else. That’s what Mom means. It’s what got me here in the most boring town in upper state New York for the summer, working in the public library. It was that, or change bed pans for old people in the retirement home—and I’m not about to work around human defecation all day. Besides, I like books. And I like them even more when my friends back in Manhattan can’t see me reading them. 
            Returning two books back to the cultural arts section, I roll the book cart down the aisle and across the faded brown parquet floor to the American History section. It’s quiet up here tonight, my first night closing alone, and I have to admit this big old place is kind of creepy. (Would they really let some relatively unknown teenage girl with no experience close up at night? Just asking, especially as it seems her work assignment resulted from possible court ordered community service. Or was the choice imposed by someone else? Just asking.)  The third level skirts the transparent railing that surrounds the center staircase to the first level. From up here, you can see all the way down to the atrium floor, where the moonlight from the glass ceiling spills in like silvery rain.
            It’s an impressive building for a suburban library outside Syracuse. Uncle Geoffrey says it was built back in the early 1960s for university students who lived off campus. Pre-internet days, back when libraries were the only place to study. Now it’s more of a landmark than anything else. Still, college kids trickle in for somewhere quiet to read. And it’s definitely quiet.
            At the far end of the American History section I follow the decimal numbers to return a navy blue hardback book that looks like it hasn’t been read in years. It’s heavy and smells like my uncle’s basement: musty and old. The American Revolution is embossed across the front in pale gold. I scan the numbers on the binding again. (like the description here, good use of senses.) It belongs on the very top shelf where I can’t reach without the ladder. Stepping back down the aisle, I snag the nearest shelf ladder and roll it over.
          Glass rattles at the far atrium windows. It startles me, making me freeze in my tracks. Scanning the network of window panes over my head, beyond the shelves, I spy a couple of pigeons fluttering away, off the stone ledge outside. I’m such a dork. I’m from Manhattan—there’s no excuse for me being this jumpy. I’ve seen people mugged at gunpoint inside my very own apartment building, for Pete’s sake! Uh, oh.

This is a good set up. The author has given us a mystery (what sort of dare-taking did she participate in to earn her this assignment?) and dropped our girl in the library, a place with great atmosphere not to mention lots of possibilities. We've also learned she isn't some shy petunia. She's a city girl and she's seen unpleasant things. She's not afraid. Which makes us wonder about that rattling class...which makes me wonder where this is going. What's going to happen?

Now, what do you think of this piece? Does it work for you? Is there a part that doesn't work? Please chime in if you feel so inclined :) 


  1. Thanks so much, Marcy! I appreciate your feedback. Somehow the first line was left off of this snippet, which is why "she" was used instead of "mom."
    No big deal. Thanks again for your help on this!

    1. I've rectified that error. My apologies!

  2. Oh yeah, ‘Mom says I’m my father’s daughter.’ Very important first line and it didn’t make it into this post. Just had to mention on both blogs, I love this beginning, PK. It’s fab and it gave me a bad case of Ooooooo, come on, what’s next?

  3. Already commented on Dianne's blog, but figured I'd pop in here, too. Good catch on the teenager being left alone in that big scary library. I missed that one.

    Again, I love this beginning.

  4. Great beginning to the story; the twist toward the negative of the first line was immediately intriguing. And I love that it's in first person present tense!


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