We have a special edition of First Impressions today, to help Robin Hall get her new YA contemporary manuscript ready to share. This is the first page of GUTTER GIRL:
I rip open a blue Pixy Stix—the same color as my lucky bowling ball and the streak in my hair—and dump all that sugary tartness on my tongue. Even though my world is going right, I don’t want to mess with our night-before-school wish. V and I have been doing this tradition since sixth grade, and even though it’s lost some of its mystical power, I’ve convinced V we have to do it for senior year—the Pixy Stix, the elementary school swings, even the flying. As the sugar melts, I begin to swing.
“For my senior year,” I yell, pumping my legs harder, “I’m coming as confident Jules, no more Gutter Girl for me.” I swing higher as Veronica cheers.
“It’s back-to-school night,” she projects in her best on-stage voice. “Can Jules make it? There’s nail biting in the stands”—I launch into the air—“and there she goes”—I fumble to the ground—“It’s too close to tell, folks, but there’s no instant replay, so of course her night-before-school wish will, I repeat, will come true. This year will be a new start for the lovely and newly boyfriended Julia Burkman. Monroe High won’t recognize what hit them.” V laughs. “You’ll bowl them down, Jules.”
“Hardy, har har.” I spin in a slow circle, my arms out as if I’ve won Nationals. The twinkling stars are clapping for me, and that the great bowling ball in the sky is granting my wish.
V throws the pack of Pixy Stix at my head. “Enough already. Let’s get this over with before anybody sees us.”
“Like anyone is coming to the elementary playground after sundown besides Zach.”
“I’d like to have this ceremony over before he gets here, thank you very much.”
I fish a Pixy Stix off the ground and chuck it at V.
“Orange. Great, So not my color.”
“It is this year.”
V bites off the end and takes a long pull. “For my senior year,” she yells, moving to a swing, “I’m getting the lead in Antony and Cleopatra.”
“You won’t even have to change your eye makeup.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be commentating?”
I get serious. “Veronica couldn’t be higher, folks. Look at those long legs.” I whistle. “She’s about to jump. If she clears the line, she will not only have the best year ever, but also the lead role in the fall production.”
I have a couple of picky editing points to start with. First, I think people have traditions; I’m not sure if they do traditions. Secondly, I would recommend capitalizing both words in Confident Jules. That way I know it’s a persona she’s hoping for, to wipe out “Gutter Girl.” As it is, when I read it, I thought it was missing a word -- “as confident as Jules” – not realizing Jules was her name. Also, it might be better to give her friend’s name, Veronica, first and call her V thereafter, rather than name her V to start with. (And should it be Vee?) Finally, is the expression “bowl them down” or “bowl them over?”
But the biggest thing I think this page needs is at least a partial explanation for the name Gutter Girl and the bowling references. I know I read a query or a pitch for this story at some point, and I think Jules works in the family bowling alley – although I don’t remember for sure.
We definitely don't want a big long, telling explanation, but I think a sentence slipped into the right spot would do wonders. Perhaps, right after V makes her “bowl them down” joke and Jules responds , “Hardy har har,” she could add, “Like we don’t hear that joke daily at the Burkman Bowling Alley.” Or something to that effect. Readers, what do you think?