?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Young Adult Novel (end)

« previous entry | next entry »
Jan. 16th, 2012 | 01:42 pm

10:42. End of first lunch in five minutes. There’ve been actual scientific studies showing that teenagers function better when they stay up late and sleep late, we’re not lazy, we’re on the wrong rhythm, but school starts at 7:16 and most people in first lunch are eating breakfast. Skinny, overcooked fries, rectangles of pizza, browning apple slices. Great start.

Tyler’s in the cafeteria, too. Long sleeves which the weather’s too hot for, we all know why. I don’t like being part of that we, instead of knowing because he told me, or because I was there. I hate that I wasn’t there. I hate that I screwed up that bad, that I didn’t need Jessica or Ashley or Hannah (all currently eating the healthy, filling lunches that girls who don’t have eating disorders and captain sports teams and preside over clubs eat) to nicely express everything that’s wrong with me. To let Tyler know—nicely—that while of course people would understand if he wanted to be my friend, it really should be undertaken as more of a charity project. If you want to capitalize on those good looks, designer boy.

My purse is in my lap, under an inadequate napkin. The strap’s been biting into my shoulder all morning.

I could still go back.

Tyler in my head, “You don’t have to do this.”

But I do.

I take a deep breath and stand up. One foot on the seat of my chair. The other one. And as I look around the cafeteria, everyone starts looking at me. They don’t get quiet, exactly, but the talking starts to be about me. I reach into my purse and pull out the .38. It’s already loaded, skinny silver sharpie on each CCI Blazer round, it’s amazing what you can buy on the internet, a silver sharpie right to your door. See? I haven’t lost my sense of humor.

Six bullets.

Six names.

Fortunately, five of them are seated at the same table.

Someone behind me says, “Is this like, a drama thing?”

I see a cellphone camera come out at the table to my left. AV Club, of course.

I don’t know what to say. My plan stopped here every time. I open my mouth, and what comes out is,

“I’m not a bad person. But you—” I point the gun at the BFF’s Table—“You make me want to be one.”

This is the point in my head where Jessica, Ashley and Hannah break down crying. Where Logan and Cody get the “Sorry we lost the game, Coach” look. But in real life, they just look confused.

And I realize, they don’t know. It’s not a plot. It’s not a plan. It’s just some rich entitled girls in the middle of the beginning of their rich entitled lives. They think I’m in the same strata (strata: a thin layer within any structure, two more SAT points for you, you’re welcome) as their mom’s cleaning lady. Someone you’re surface-nice to and otherwise you never think of. At least that’s about to change.

I take another deep breath and aim.

And then I pull the trigger five times.

After the first bang, people start screaming and hiding under tables. After the fifth bang, I am the only one standing.

There are five neat holes in the center of the second O in FOOD PYRAMID. Five flat slugs in the corkboard and the concrete wall behind it, behind the BFF’s table.

Always have a backup plan.

I step off the chair. A hand is still above the AV Club table, cellphone in it. I nudge the kid below the table with my foot and point the .38 at him. His eyes on the gun, he hands me the cellphone, and I drop it on the floor and fire the last bullet into it.

The one with my name on it.

I don’t have an exit line. The only thing in my mouth is “I’m sorry” and I squeeze my lips together hard because there is no way I am saying it. I drop the empty gun on the floor and peel off my gloves and throw them in the trashcan on the way out.


* * *

Here’s the thing about eyewitnesses. They’re notoriously unreliable. So, when you have 5 smart, motivated, good kids who swear up and down they didn’t see anything, they just heard a noise and got under a table, against 100 kids who can barely frame a coherent thought and include Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in their list of shooters, you don’t get another Columbine. You get a suspended sentence for the community service you were planning to do anyway.

Looks good on a college application.

Tyler and I ended up at the same runaway shelter. As Peer Facilitators. In training, he finally started wearing short sleeves again. When group kids see his scars, they talk more.

All your scars are useful if you use them.

I don’t really know why The BFF’s didn’t tell.

But when I look across the hall at Jessica/Ashley/Hannah, she doesn’t look away any more. She makes a little half-smile. Like we’re not friends, but we know why.

And that’s OK.




whipchick is writing a Young Adult novel. This will be the end. To read the beginning, like http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Young-Adult-Novel/136757303043039 on Facebook.

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {38}

whipchick

ConCrit

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 16th, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
Link

If you'd like to give feedback, I'm delighted to hear it! While I'm happy to hear any comments this sparks in you, I'm especially interested to know:

Does the piece stand alone, even though it's intended to be part of a longer work? If it doesn't for you, what do you think is missing? If it does, any thoughts on what details or clues gave you the whole picture?

This is intended as piece for young adult readers (around high school age) and from a high schooler's perspective - does that ring true? If so, what made it so? If not, what were the false notes?

Do you want to know what happened to get the narrator to this point? Or have you spent enough time with her after this much?

Please don't feel obligated, and any comments at all are welcome, as I know everyone's time is tight - I'm so enjoying being part of a writing community!

Thanks :)

Allison

Edited at 2012-01-16 08:37 pm (UTC)

Reply | Thread

carcrash heart

Re: ConCrit

from: genesisdesire
date: Jan. 16th, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
Link

First of all, I came away from this story vaguely unable to breathe. I'm not sure if it's because it left this funny unease in my gut, or because I was so stunned by the honest, real, melancholy voice. Those are great points to start, though.

Much of the voice rings clear. There's the apathy I expect from most teens in the tone, with a word choice that's realistic, and a fun, sort of chunky, defiant grammar style. I dislike the first paragraph, because there is no 'I' sense to it. The language is too heavy, almost parental, so I lost track when it switched to the girl. I don't think most teenagers would mind fries. Or if they do, they can't change it.

Tell me why the sharpie represents her sense of humor. That she'd label the bullets? That she'd get it off Ebay, instead of a store? (Actually, on a second read, the joke is that 'what you can buy off the internet' is the pen, not the gun, but I lost it initially. Is the joke to us, then? Herself? It's a bit murky.)

If he's 'designer boy', what does that make her? I like that we know more about the gun than the purse, but I want a tiny bit more of her. I don't need a big how or why for the story, just a bit more to her. Not motivation, just a better image.

It stands alone beautifully. The best thing that creates a whole picture is the image at the end, of the acknowledgement that a friendship is fractured, and why. Small stories often miss the why, but the initial conflict here propels everything perfectly (goodness me I'm stuck on alliteration today). Atmospherically, and with setting, it's a full picture that the world doesn't need more fleshing out.

(And this is my own issue, but I'll put it here. Someone I love got hurt at Columbine. Now, I do NOT think you are using it just as a metaphor or a knee-jerk drop, but the use confuses me. Why is it that the 5 good smart kids against the 100 dumb ones prevent a Columbine? I read it that they just sat there, rather than hid as soon as they saw the gun. How did that prevent the tragedy? Did it change her choice? I just...guess I really don't like how it was used, and don't get why it was used, and get picky over words having power and association and blah wah wangst. So that's all.)

But for all the above good reasons; breathless. Amazing. You are a stupendous writer.

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

Mars Tokyo

(no subject)

from: marstokyo
date: Jan. 16th, 2012 10:11 pm (UTC)
Link

I think as part (or ending) of a larger work it works fine. In standing alone I really wanted to know what lead the girl to this point. Even so, I could relate to it. Which speaks to how well it's written.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 18th, 2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you - this is super helpful, and I'm glad you enjoyed it, too!

Reply | Parent | Thread

(no subject)

from: iamthesea
date: Jan. 16th, 2012 10:17 pm (UTC)
Link

It had me hooked and I'd love to know what led up to this. [I almost went with a similar plot myself for this funnily enough!]

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 18th, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks - glad to hear it! I'd be interested to see your take if you end up writing it, too!

Reply | Parent | Thread

similiesslip

(no subject)

from: similiesslip
date: Jan. 16th, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC)
Link

I know that this is the kind of book my son would enjoy reading (he reads a lot of YA.)

You asked for comments..I'm just..would this truly happen like this? I guess for me, it might take reading the rest of the book for me to understand why these people would all (all!) agree/decide not to "tell on" someone who considered killing them. It just seems a little unbelievable but maybe the rest of the book explains.

I do really like your point about how those who are entitled are NOT necessarily trying to rub it in your face how much better "they are" then you. I have to remind myself of this.

I would be interested in reading the rest of the book. I do enjoy how you write and I like how you go into the characters thoughts and motivations.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 18th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks - this is terrifically helpful. Yeah, I'll need to sort out in the middle what leads everyone up to the point where they decide to be complicit - thanks for stressing that for me! Glad you liked the writing :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

Jemima Pauler

(no subject)

from: jem0000000
date: Jan. 16th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
Link

Wow.

I don't know what happened, but I don't really need to know. I do know that something the girls did must have contributed to the scars, that she thinks they're partially responsible -- but clearly she can't be that convinced, since it only takes their blank looks for her to realize otherwise. Logan and Cody just seem secondary here; the person she really blames is herself.

It does read real-ish. The narrator feels like a teenager; her voice and the way she tells the story fit right into high school. :)

It is interesting, and I wouldn't mind reading the rest. It feels like something where you start here and then go back to fill it in, possibly while telling the aftermath at the same time; as such, I think it does stand okay on its own. Not that more detail wouldn't be nice, but it reads just fine as it is.

On the food -- cold, limp, blah fries are infinitely preferable over warm, limp, greasy pizza with the oil pooling on the top so thickly that most of us blotted it off with a quarter- or even half-inch wad of napkin before sticking it anywhere near our mouths. All the fries needed were ketchup; and almost nobody bothered with the apples. ;)

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 18th, 2012 07:27 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks - I'm glad you got the hints of what's in (will be in) the rest of the book - nice to know the seeds are there. And I really like that you got she blames herself, because that's a huge plot point for me :)

I'm also so pleased you get the sense that it will go back and forth - the first paragraphs up to "but I do" are actually in the first two pages of the book, and the rest of the book is a flashback.

Oh...cafeteria food....urghhhhhh.....in the USA, we had a few years where President Reagan's administration decided that ketchup and pizza sauce counted as a vegetable...

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

rt_sparrow

(no subject)

from: rt_sparrow
date: Jan. 17th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Link

I found this both captivating and disturbing. It works as a stand alone for me, because until I read your comment I didn't' realize it was part of a bigger work, but I can see that too.

I didn't understand why he wore long sleeves until the later reference. At first I thought he might have track marks or bruises from abuse, and I realize in the end he's probably a cutter.

The AV cell phone was funny, but in this day and age I think there would be many more than the one.

It disturbs me that she got away with it, FWIW.

This - (strata: a thin layer within any structure, two more SAT points for you, you’re welcome) cracked me up. I love your humor.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 18th, 2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks - this is great feedback. And I agree with you - It's disturbing that she gets away with it, and I'm going to have to write really hard to make sure that in the entire rest of the book she's likable and her actions feel justified at the end. Big challenge - I'm working on two books right now with very unlikable narrators :)

Glad you liked the joke - it's a running joke through the book that I discovered when I went back and looked at the beginning again before writing this piece! So thanks, LJIdol :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

A Karmic Sandbox

(no subject)

from: karmasoup
date: Jan. 17th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
Link

I live with a 14 yr old girl in 9th grade, who often finds herself feeling like an outcast. She is somewhere between punk and goth, but NOT emo (she's very particular about this, and does not appreciate the reference). She gets bullied at school, mostly because we live in an area with primarily "belonger" mentality, where being different is accepted, but, being different AND being OKAY with it creates an adverse reaction. She mostly ignores it (though her family does see that it gets to her on occasion), and is known among her peers to be a champion for those not as outspoken and less afraid to speak up against it. I believe she would identify very naturally with this character. I get the impression that the protaganist in this story is older than Chiclet by a couple years, but that makes her your primary target. Kids tend to read just a little past their own perspective. As far as the isolating sense of being not quite the norm, her father was one, I was one, and most of our large social circle have kids who are similar in mannerisms... their parents probably were similar, too... we are all sort of circus folks and outsiders from the Mikes and Jennifers of the world, so, I believe I can give you some constructive feedback here, but I will have to do it in two parts.

First off, the piece does stand alone. It makes plenty of references to things that we have not seen happen, but, the references are so clear, the actual visual imagery is not necessary. If I never had any more of it, I wouldn't feel a sense of loss, because it is a whole work in and of its own right that resolves and satisfies. However, the primary character is relatable and compelling, and, she is obviously at the end of what seems to have been a rather wide development arc, and I would be eager to know where she came from and trace her steps, so, well done in generating teaser angst in the pathos you've built into her in such as short space. As for the clues that give the whole picture, your audience in this community is fairly intelligent, and used to reading between the lines, so a handful of the simple references are enough for us to draw our own conclusions. The more youthful audience you're aiming at, though, is not as well read as we are, and would likely be more enticed to need the details of the larger whole. I believe this would draw them in.

There were some items up front that had me thinking for just a moment this was not going to be my kind of piece, but I was pretty sure you're more or less of the same mind in terms of what does not work for you, so I pushed through a few small glimpses at quick references (I generally do, anyway... I have to hit past my limit fill before I call "enough!"), and was pleased with the results.

Reply | Thread

A Karmic Sandbox

(no subject)

from: karmasoup
date: Jan. 17th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
Link

Secondly, I can tell you that one thing that would seem out of place to Chiclet and her ilk is that she and her friends, and people like her would never carry a PURSE. Purses are for young girls who want to look pretty and be color coordinated and properly accessorized. She and her friends carry messenger bags.

Another thing that sort of reads in such a way that would come off as untrue to your intended readers is that these days, many schools are equipped with metal detectors and monitored by security guards. If a gun ever made it though the front door, it would have to be one that was made of separate components and put together by hand after the fact. Chiclet's school does not have metal detectors, but, that's because when she was in preschool, her father researched to find the best district in the entire state, and moved to that area so that his daughter would have the best shot at a decent public education.

Possibly, the BFFs are at a school like hers that does not have a checkpoint at entry, however, even the "good" districts and the private schools usually have someone posted in a cafeteria with more authority and an itch to jump into action than the lunch ladies and checkout girl (even if it's just the football coach). They would have been on her before she had time to draw the weapon. The only thing I can suggest to make that scene plausible, since it comes off as seeming to take a great deal of time, is to indicate, possibly through her inner dialogue, or in whatever fashion makes the most sense to you, that what you've described really takes place in an instant. This would preclude any smattering of masses being overheard talking about her standing on the chair, or making comments about a possible drama stunt (even seemingly spontaneous outburts of action like flash mobs have to get prior approval in today's schools). You could get around this much as you did with the "sorry we lost coach," looks... just make the comments "as if" thoughts from her perspective.

The only other potential misstep is, as far as young teens, too, the reference to Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt is a bit dated for them. I realize MI IV is in theaters right now, and that you'll need something which will stand up to time (as in, big enough that teens would know it years down the road), but, not too many 13 - 16 yr olds are really interested in it now, and probably those to come wouldn't get the reference. Sounds like you're talking about that description being given by action movie nerds, in which case, I would go with Shia Labeouf as Sam Witwicky or Mutt Williams.

All things considered, though, this is a very promising start!

Edited at 2012-01-17 07:08 pm (UTC)

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

basric

(no subject)

from: basric
date: Jan. 18th, 2012 06:04 am (UTC)
Link

WOW, very powerful.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 18th, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks - this one comes from my heart :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

Andrea Blythe

(no subject)

from: blythe025
date: Jan. 19th, 2012 04:39 am (UTC)
Link

Loved this. But that's no surprise.

The tone's spot on, dry and funny, while also being vaguely terrifying.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
Link

Thanks :) That's what I'm going for!

Reply | Parent | Thread

Shadow Wolf Byrd

(no subject)

from: shadowwolf13
date: Jan. 19th, 2012 06:12 am (UTC)
Link

A lot of tension here, very well handled. I want to know more, to know how it got to this point and what happens next. Very nice!

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
Link

Thank you! I'm glad it's stirring your curiosity!

Reply | Parent | Thread

the middle of the road's fine with no cars around

(no subject)

from: noodledays
date: Jan. 19th, 2012 07:25 pm (UTC)
Link

it can stand alone, but it's intriguing enough, I'd love to know more.

and I'd definitely be interested to hear more of what brought her to this point (as well as after), and more about Travis and their relationship too.

Reply | Thread

Jessica Ariel

(no subject)

from: liret
date: Jan. 20th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
Link

I wouldn't have guessed this was part of a longer work if you didn't mention it, so I'd definitely say it stands alone. I really like how the potential for life-changing tragedy is interwoven with unimportant high-school details, like the ridiculous of 10:30 lunch blocks.

I think the only thing that seemed a bit confusing/off to me was the lightness of the narrator's punishment - do the officials not know she was the shooter? I can buy the suspended sentence/community service, especially along with counseling, but even bringing a gun to school by accident would be a mandatory expulsion in all the districts I know. (This all might be something that has context provided earlier in the story, though.)

Reply | Thread

java_fiend

(no subject)

from: java_fiend
date: Jan. 20th, 2012 02:02 am (UTC)
Link

This is a really fantastic piece. It hooks you from the start and keeps you right there, in the moment the entire time. Really well done. I feel like this can work as a stand-alone piece but I also feel like there is *a lot* more to this story to tell if you chose to. I enjoyed this one a lot. Really, really well done.


Also... thanks for the heads up you sent me. You were right about it. :-)

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 22nd, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks very much, and you're welcome :)

Reply | Parent | Thread