Wednesday, March 6, 2013

first impressions - Die to Live Another Day

Our final first impression of the month comes from Joy Dawn Johnson - clicking on her picture will take you straight to her website. This is the first page of her MG fantasy DIE TO LIVE ANOTHER DAY. My comments will be in purple and don't forget to go visit Dianne and see what she thought.


The shadow slid under the door and across the Berber carpet. That was where it usually appeared. Sometimes it drifted from behind the lamp, or snuck in through the window, but only on occasion.
The bedroom door whipped open. Her tiny feet scurried across the carpet and the shadow returned as her companion.(This is confusing to me. Is this still the same shadow that came in the window? Is it Bonny's shadow returning to her?)  A sniffling nose, a quick tug of covers, a soft plea.
There would be no sleep for Parker Ward tonight. Bonny was running from monsters.
“They’re not real.” Parker stroked his little sister’s hair as she curled up beside him.
She answered with tears. They dripped onto his arm, where she’d laid her head. I don't think you need the comma between arm and where.
Parker tilted her chin up and wiped her cheeks with the soft edge of his blanket. “Let’s look under your bed. You’ll see there’s nothing there.”
She burrowed closer to him. They weren’t going anywhere.
Her nightmares began a few years ago, around the time he’d seen the first bruise. Welts on her arms and legs, deep scratches on her shoulder—he’d begged, bribed, but she never told who was hurting her. He couldn’t force her. So he kept a spare blanket draped over his footboard—the one thing he could do for her. Their mother pretended the problem didn’t exist, something that came naturally since that was also her disposition toward Parker. She could never accept anyone hurting her precious Bonny, so she didn’t see it. So mom thinks Parker is a problem which she ignores but thinks Bonny is precious and yet doesn't notice someone is possibly abusing her daughter? This doesn't make sense to me. What about teachers? Or doesn't Bonny go to school yet? If this is set in present day then I would find it hard to believe that Bonny's 'abuse' wouldn't be noticed by someone, especially if it's been going on for a few years. Also, why doesn't Parker tell an adult? If I'd seen that on one of my younger siblings I would've said something to someone. Of course, there may be an explanation and we're just not privy to it yet...
He tucked her head under his chin. Another moment of looking into her teary eyes would break him. He would have taken her place. Why wouldn’t she talk to him? Yes, indeed, why not?
Bonny seemed perfectly fine during the day. Perfectly fine, not perfectly normal. Unusual, eccentric, (these don't strike me as words an MG boy would use) one cookie short of a full box—all reasonable descriptions for his little sister, especially when she wasn’t running from monsters. Parker never understood how anyone could be scared of things that didn’t exist. I have a feeling he's going to find out...

First off let me just say I do not read a lot of MG and am probably not the best critter of said genre. I hope my readers who enjoy MG will chime in with their comments. That said I was a little confused by the shadow and the omniscient narrator who sees it followed by the much more narrow POV of Parker. It might be tricky pulling off two points of views like this. I did like how protective Parker is of his little sister and I was definitely curious about who - or what - is hurting Bonny and I would read on to find out. 
Now, what did you guys think of Joy's first page? Any suggestions for her? Thoughts on how she can make it better?



  1. Love her first paragraph. Love her voice. Agree with your points though.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  2. oooh, Joy is a true joy to look at! Let us all stare at her pic for ten minutes... or so..... :)

    1. Ahem, you're supposed to be looking at her writing sample, Dez.

  3. I definitely enjoyed the first paragraph. It has voice and would totally draw an MGer into that world.

  4. Sounds like it's going to be a very creepy story. I think I used to have nightmares like that myself as a kid.

    And Dezzy is just crazy sometimes. :P

  5. Hi Joy!
    First, I loved some of your prose, like:
    “They’re not real.” Parker stroked his little sister’s hair as she curled up beside him.
    She answered with tears. They dripped onto his arm, where she’d laid her head.
    Another moment of looking into her teary eyes would break him.


    The idea of Parker as protector is appealing, and the mystery of what's hurting Bonny is a good hook, but overall, I think the first page would confuse MG readers. Even I'm confused about whether the "shadow" is a supernatural entity or you're just personalizing a natural object. And I don't understand Mom's disposition toward Parker. Does she think he might be hurting Bonnie?

    Last, is technique. I feel there are some non-MG-friendly words/phrases, like: Berber, on occasion (which is redundant with "sometimes" anyway), plea, footboard, disposition, eccentric, and reasonable descriptions. And the narrative jumps around from action to thoughts to different backstories and explanations. I'm also concerned about the title, which seems kinda harsh for MG -- or at least I'd be worried about it if I were a parent. I think the narrative structure needs to be simplified, and I wouldn't introduce so many issues on the first page (like the Mom thing).

    Good luck!

  6. I like it. Sounds scary. I like the shadow intro. Are we going to find that the mother is neglectful or absentee? Otherwise, her denial and avoidance might be too much. If my child had welts and deep scratches, I'd be very concerned and would be pushing it to find out why (did, in fact, when my son was being bullied in preschool). Then again, a MG aged reader might not think that way, so maybe it wouldn't be a problem?

    Parker sounds like a wonderful brother, but if this has been going on for years, you'd think he'd come around or actually go check her room or something. That's a long time frame for mom and brother to be letting it happen. You'd think they'd be out there actively seeking, not just asking. Talking to teachers. Wondering about the other person. Not letting her out of their sight.

    I enjoy the writing style, though, and the story sounds intriguing.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  7. Ooh, Marcy caught some MG boy voice inconsistency that I missed. I don't think "unusual" is that bad, but "eccentric" will probably give a lot of readers pause.

  8. I already commented over at Dianne's. I think Shannon has a point about it being scary. The title could be a negative for MG too now that I think about it. Just a thought. Like I said over at Dianne's...I love the vibe of the opening. Keep up the good work.

  9. I know you can't judge a book by its... title... but this title does't sound very MG to me. It sounds more like the title of something I would read.

    I like the ominous sense associated with the shadow, and the hints of something sinister going on, but have to agree that a brother as caring and protective as Parker would have done something more than simply hold her and soothe her fears. Most big brothers reserve sole rights to tormenting their little sisters.

    The mother? Sounds to me like she's burying her head in the sand and doesn't want to acknowledge the existence of any problems with either of her children.

    Good start, Joy!

  10. I had an issue in exactly the same spot you did. A deeper understanding is necessary, in my opinion. :)

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