HH Com 180

The return of Joy's absentee father, just in time for her graduation, leaves Joy with a man in her life she would rather be gone. Meanwhile, the boy she wants back has disappeared again.

The first time Finn disappeared was sophomore year. Three years later, Joy pretends she's gotten used to it, but every time Finn decides to check out for an hour (or a day), her stomach turns itself inside out as she imagines all of the dire situations he could have gotten himself into. To everyone else, he is the All-American boy: soccer star, student council president, and straight A student. But to Joy he reveals the part of him that longs for the sunless days of Alaska, that likens himself to the blue of a drowned salamander. By the time they reach senior year, Joy is starting to feel a nagging discomfort in their relationship: she still loves him as unrequitedly as always, but she cannot deny the way the relationship isolates her. When he makes a clumsy pass at her, she, for the first time, pulls away from him. All this time she's wondered how she could survive without him, but now she wonders if he can survive without her: if Finn doesn't have her to reveal himself to, where will that sadness lead him?

ARGH!!!!! I hate hate hate hate novels for the YA audience the imply a girl should be the emotional anchor for a boy. "he loves me I have to...fill in the blank". No. No. No. That girl needs to kick that boy in the moleskin journal I'm sure he carries around and turn out for the rugby team.

You've mentioned the father in the first paragraph. He's never mentioned again. That's a no-no in a hook.

You've described a change in her feelings but no plot, and NO sense of crisis.


cm allison said...

At first I thought perhaps that Finn LITERALLY checked out, as in disappears to another dimension or time, but then realized you were talking of depression (and Alaska is not always sunless, come summer, it's never dark). Then all I wanted to do was tell him to see a doctor, and her to get a life. Hopefully the world has evolved past the point of "the only reason for a woman is to save her man". I doubt I would want any daughter of mine reading something that said so.
Sorry, pass on this one.
(Now, if Finn really was disappearing into another dimension, I'd be interested....)

Writerious said...

So, like, does Joy have a, you know, like a life?

Seriously, it sounds like Joy doesn't have to be in the book at all. The book is all about her blue salamander boyfriend.

Tell his story without Joy, and maybe you'll have something.

Kiki said...

I'm with Miss Snark on this one.
I don't want to read about a girl whose sole purpose in life is to be the rock to a guy's wild life.
c an't she be wild and flawed and, you know, interesting in her own right?

I want the heroine to be someone I want to be friends with, or, even better, someone I'd want to be.
I don't want to be the person who's in a one-sided relationship. I want to be the one who gets out, kicks some major butt and gets the much cooler guy!

As far as the hook itself goes, it's not punchy enough. I thought the first paragraph had promise as a setup, but unfortunately, it died before it learned to fly.

I Said said...

I must be ornery tonight. She's loved him forever but he now makes a pass at her?

And this: "But to Joy he reveals the part of him that longs for the sunless days of Alaska, that likens himself to the blue of a drowned salamander." That ain't a pretty picture, and she really should be rid of him rather than have to "see" him this way.

Maybe it's just that the author is too young. Or that I'm too old.

Virginia Miss said...

You've mentioned the father in the first paragraph. He's never mentioned again. That's a no-no in a hook. You've described a change in her feelings but no plot, and NO sense of crisis

I'm learning SO much from this crapometer go-round.

Author: I did not like "that likens himself to the blue of a drowned salamander."

HawkOwl said...

Yeah. I hope that in a surprising plot twist, she comes to terms with her intense codependency and realizes that Finn "disappears" because he's trying to get away from her constant nagging and have a life, and he's actually been the one keeping her looking somewhat sane all along, not the other way around.

If you're actually trying to say that Joy is normal and well-adjusted and admirably devoted, I can't think of a comment that won't get moderated. But do Google "codependent" if you get a chance.

Anonymous said...

This will never work for YA because MS is right: it's a poor example for girls (and boys, actually). I wouldn't let my kid read it. I'm sure the other Irish dance moms in my subdivision would band together and jiggy up the school library until administration ripped your book from it's tender shelf. Irish dance moms are nice, but they mean business (COM #139).

Sorry, but YA fiction about teens without backbones is over-the-top icky.

A Paperback Writer said...

The return of Joy's absentee father, just in time for her graduation, leaves Joy with a man in her life she would rather be gone.

Wow. Misplaced modifier all the way. As it reads now, you've got it that she would rather her life be gone. Of course, I might be suicidal too, if I wrapped my whole identity around a guy.

Madeline F said...

...Drowned salamanders are blue? I figured they'd be about the same color as they were in life, which is usually brown or black. If they can drown at all, being amphibians.

Which is to say, your metaphor is distracting.

As for the hook, I'm thinking if the disappearances are from Finn running drugs or going to an alternate universe or something, that could be interesting... So it looks like a case of hiding too much of what makes the book go.

xiqay said...

Despite all of the problems that Miss Snark points out, there's a poignancy in your writing that feels real to me.

Don't give up. Good luck.

xiqay said...

Okay, I'm adding another comment, now that I've read all the ones already given.

There is a world of girls who do have lives that revolve around boyfriends. There are boys who have exterior lives that look happy and friendly and good and interior lives that are filled with depression and fears.

In relationships, people try to work out how to support each other and get loved and support back.

That's what this novel sounds like it's about to me--a young girl experiencing for the first time the tricky aspects of this equation.

The fact that she screws up at times and is all giving and not receiving makes it more real and urgent that she learn how to take care of herself.

The fact that taking care of herself can cut off support from the boy is one of those co-dependency issues that makes co-dependency a real problem in society.

I think there's a lot of room for this novel to be good, to tell a story that will resonate with lots of teens.

I agree it needs to show in the end the MFC learning to take care of her needs first and letting go of the boyfriend so he can also grow and get real help.

But I'm tired of the literary police that require all characters to have spunk and be strong from the get-go.

We do need a reason to like her, though, and the author will have to come up with something motivating there.

So again, good luck.

aries said...

Maybe what the author was going for was Joy wanted to escape from the turmoil going on in her own life, hence the mention of the absentee father, and focuses all her energy on Finn. Displacement is an interesting concept and not addressed enough in YA novels. But this hook doesn't work because it talks way too much about Finn when Joy is the main character. To steal MS's fav word this crapometer round: focus.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting the sense that this is the prince turned frog that she is going to try to turn into a prince again. I'd like to see what changed him in the first place, and hopefully she's not some constant, she has to evolve and conquer some personal demon too. Love stories like this are tough to write. I need to sympathize with him and empathize....you get the gist.

blue_author said...

Thanks for the suggestions/support. What I was going for was something like xiqay said. I wanted to do something different than a typical girl in love with her best friend story, so I said, "How can this be more interesting?" Finn having this sort of two-sided life is what I came up with. But, I do take the criticism of a girl existing only as a support for the guy seriously. She doesn't read as spineless, but still, I wouldn't want to read about a woman my age subordinating herself, so why would a teen? Luckily this is a WIP, so now I have lots to think about and work on.

HawkOwl said...

You don't have to be spineless to be codependent, you know.

batgirl said...

For what it's worth, the manga (Japanese comic books) that are becoming more popular have both kick-ass girl characters and some that define themselves by others. The series Backstage Prince has a girl character who subordinates herself entirely to a sullen obnoxious actor whom nobody else can put up with.
Though these may play to a younger audience than your book.