I stared in disdain at my reflection. The Pepto-Bismol pink confection stared back at me as I tugged one of the many ruffles strangling my gown. The color clashed with the beachy-vibe of the high-ceilinged hotel room. “It looks like a cupcake vomited on me.”
Grandma Rosa stood next to the mirror. At the same time, she chuckled and stared at me sternly. A magnificent feat. She responded in her faint Italian accent, “It’s not so terrible.”
I scowled. “Does she think I’m the same age as Danger?” In a few short hours, Danger would be my stepbrother. I didn’t know whether it would be worse to be stuck with him or his plastic mother for the rest of my life. “I’m thirteen—not five.”
She sighed. “Your father sure knows how to pick ‘em.” Grandmother pursed her lips, realizing her comment not only bashed Erin, soon-to-be Stepzilla, but also my real mother. “What I mean is—”
“Don’t worry about it, Grandma Rosa.” I ignored the dropping-an-anchor down-my-stomach sensation that always followed the mention of my real mother and forced a fake smile. “If this is what she thinks her junior bridesmaid should look like, I can’t wait to see her gown.” I wished I could wear Grandma Rosa’s head-to-toe black, which resembled my usual uniform. The reference to mourning wasn’t lost on me. “What do you think she’ll say when she sees your dress?”
We didn’t have to wait long to find out. Erin, her head a mountain of curling-iron-created curls peeked into the room—without having the courtesy to knock. Her coif contrasted with her t-shirt in jeans. She’d probably wait until the last minute to change into her gown. “Lulu—” Her eyes bugged out in a most cartoon-like way. “Mother Rosa, what on earth… it’s a wedding, not a funeral. You’re changing into something more festive, right?”
Grandma gazed down at her dress, as if noticing it for the first time. She placed her fist on her chest. “In the Old Country this is how widows dress.”
Erin placed her hands on her hips. “You haven’t lived in the ‘Old Country’ since you were a child.”
“I will always be Italian.”
Erin clamped her glossed lips in a grim line, but her angry thoughts flickered in her eyes and across her tanned face.
Having recently adapted a YA manuscript into a MG book, I am very sensitive to voice right now. There are some words and phrases in the first paragraph that strike me as more YA than MG: disdain, confection, beachy-vibe, high-ceilinged. On the other hand, the line It looks like a cupcake vomited on me is perfect!
What do you think of doing something like this with the first paragraph?
I stared in disgust at my reflection in the hotel mirror. Pepto-Bismol pink stared back at me as I tugged one of the many ruffles strangling my gown. “It looks like a cupcake vomited on me.”
Or something like that? Keep in mind that the word stared appears three times in this opening, so you’ll want to change at least one of them.
I wondered next at the narrator’s soon-to-be stepbrother, Danger. Is that his actual name, or just a nickname given to him by the narrator (Lulu, right)? I wonder if you could slip that information in. If it’s his real name, it’s another indication of Stepzilla’s horrible taste. (Love Stepzilla, by the way!) If it’s a nickname, perhaps her grandmother could chuckle at this apt nickname for whatever-his-real-name is in the next paragraph before she speaks. Since Danger is in the title of the book, you will want the reader to grasp right away that it’s the name of a five year old boy, and I think this particular name needs clarification.
The only other thing I would tweak is Lulu’s wish that she could be dressed like her grandmother. I assume she means that she prefers dark clothes, not that she usually dresses like an old Italian widow! But the reference to a uniform threw me, and I think the whole idea could be restated in a punchy, MG-sounding statement.
Readers, do you have any other thoughts? Theresa, thank you for sharing your first page with us. Marcy will have her own feedback on Mainewords, and if you don’t already know Theresa, please visit her at her blog.