Friday, September 6, 2013

First Impressions - The Mighty Milo.

Our second First Impression of the month comes from Bob Sweet. Here is the first page of his YA novel, THE MIGHTY MILO. My comments will be in purple and if you want to see what Dianne Salerni had to say about this first page, head on over to her blog, In High Spirits. We also have one slot left for this month if anyone is interested in having their first page critiqued. Go on, be brave!

My parents left yesterday to save the world and still haven’t returned.
A catfight in the alley behind the apartment woke me up an hour ago, about 5 a.m. With all that snarling and banging trashcans, they must have been lions. Or at least leopards.

When the cats finished, silence enveloped me. But it shouldn’t have. I think this reads better without this bit - but, there may be a good reason to keep it that I don't know about yet.
I rolled out of bed and opened the door, where a dark hallway swallowed me.
No light, no movement. Like a ghost town. No Dad singing in the shower, no clinking plates with Mom pumping iron in the gym.
Never, in all of my 14 years, have I awakened to a dark, empty apartment. I rubbed my arms, cold inside and out.
I walked from room to room, calling out, “Hello? Mom? Dad?” Turning on the lights didn’t help much. “Mom? Dad?”
I rubbed my eyes, trying to remember. Did they say anything at dinner? No. Am I missing something? Nope. Nothing but my parents, the superheroes Big Mouth and Medusa.
My phone. They must have left a message.
I ran back to the bedroom for my Moto X. And found the text Mom sent just after 2 a.m. “Dad n I workin late. dk when return. Will text l8r.”
Warmth flooded me, and my body relaxed.
For about a second. Then breath fled from my lungs, and my shoulders stiffened.
That message isn’t good news. 
My mother, Carrie Minor, works as a beautician. But hair never keeps her out late. My father is Maximus Minor, the food critic. His job doesn’t keep him up at night, either – unless a chef serves bad shellfish. This is a little confusing. Are the parents superheroes or regular joes? If those are their day jobs I might say so to be clear.
If superheroes tell you they don’t know when they’ll get back from work, worry.
How long I sat there worrying, I can’t say.
“We were made to be courageous …”
The bass line burst into my ears like a gunman kicking down a door.
That song and a dozen more like it were my parents’ brilliant idea. Ever since they discovered I don’t have superpowers, they’ve worked hard to convince me I can still be a hero. So every morning I wake up to a song on my phone designed to, as Mom likes to say, empower me.
But I don’t need empowerment because I do have superpowers. I just can’t tell my parents – or anyone else – about them. All the encouraging songs in the world won’t change that fact. Ooh, interesting. He has a secret! 

There's a lot of great stuff here; superhero parents who are suddenly MIA (and just exactly does that mean, saving the world? I want details!), their son who secretly possesses some power of his own, and the mystery therein. The only suggestion I might make is to try to work in a name and/or an age (maybe mention what year he's in?), and a little more characterization. Are there any mannerisms he has that might show us how he's feeling? How worried is he? This is the sort of stuff that will really make the reader feel for the main character. 

Now, what do you guys think? Have any suggestions for Bob?


  1. Wasn't sure if they were superheros or not either. And I'm assuming he's fourteen?

  2. Lots of intriguing elements here and a definite voice to the protagonist~ good work!

  3. He had me at the first line......

  4. I'm assuming he's between fourteen and sixteen, and I figured that his parents were superheroes with regular jobs to hide their identities.
    I really liked the simile about the gunman kicking down the door, and I like that he looks for his parents. However, I'm also wondering how big this apartment is when there is a weight room.
    I like the last part about his secret abilities and how that leaves us wanting more.
    I agree that unless the catfight is a warning of something to come that it needs to be toned down a bit, or changed.
    I like voice of the protagonist, I like that he cares about his parents, but I would like to know just a bit more about him. Is his room messy or neat when he gets up? Does he have to push long bangs out of his eyes, or does he rub the stubble of short hair on his head as a way of waking himself up? These are little ways that we could "see" him through his actions, and I think just one or two things like that could helps us know him a bit better.

    This is a great first page, because I would definitely like to read more!

  5. I already commented at Dianne's, but after reading the comments here, would like to add an additional thought. I agree with the idea of dropping the whole part about the cats fighting. I kinda like the humor there, but if it doesn't serve any hidden meaning for the rest of the story, it only serves to slow things down with unnecessary information.

    I love the first sentence as a "grabber", but would the whole piece be stronger if it were moved? Then you'd have the young man rolling out of bed and demonstrating his initial concern over his parents' absence. After mentioning their day jobs, THEN it could be revealed that their day jobs aren't keeping them out late. It's their OTHER jobs, as superheroes... which leads to the frightening realization that his parents left to save the world and haven't returned.

    Again, I really like this beginning, and I would definitely keep reading.

  6. Unless they mean something, it reads much better without the cats. There is some nice voice here although there were a couple of spots I thought might speak too "old," such as the words, awakened, and empowered. I get that his super hero parents have day jobs. It's intriguing. I feel like there might have been a movie with this theme about fifteen years ago???

  7. I love the hook at the end of this. But because I'm confused about the superhero designation being real, or just the way the family likes to refer to themselves, I'm lost on what genre this really is, and that needs to be clear out of the gate for the reader.

    Liked the voice of this too. Very promising start. :)

  8. yep, it's a delightful opening sentence for sure!
    My only advice to Bob would be not to use this author picture anymore.... it just isn't good for the business. Lose the tie, the moustaches and change the glasses, and you will look delightful at a book cover.

  9. Thank you everyone for stopping by and offering your suggestions. I appreciate it and I'll bet Bob does, too :)

  10. As long as the MC's name is Milo, this book is golden.

  11. I like the premise and I love that he has a secret. It definitely makes me want to read more. However, I feel like you could tighten this scene without losing any of the important stuff. For example he says, "How long I sat there worrying, I can't say." BUT, above (in the crossed-out cat fight scene) he gives an exact time, and then the line after this one, his alarm (song) goes off which would also be an exact time. So why have that time pass? Why not let him discover that they are missing and just move forward to whatever happens next? Maybe just really consider what is needed and what isn't. You'll know best. And good luck! It definitely has a fun voice. :)

  12. I like the voice and the super secret. It's reading like an MG with a lot of fun in store for the MC. The only thing that confused me was the line Marcy marked about the parent's job.


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