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Ace of Hearts

3/8/21 Ace of Hearts - A Bond of Wildflowers Ch 1

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References to sex as a general concept in this chapter but I didn't feel like that alone was worth tagging. If that's a wrong assumption, please let me know. Otherwise, I won't rehash the warning.  
 

Hi, everyone, and thanks for all of your comments last time! We have an entirely new cast of characters this time, so I'll be interested to hear what you think. 

 
questions for after reading:
1. What (if anything) caught your attention/engaged you? Do you expect the story to continue to expand on the points that interested you? 
2. What's your general impression of the characters?
3. Are there enough hints that this will be romance? Or are there too many/are the hints too heavy-handed? 
4. Do you have a good feel of who the love interest will be? If not, does that bother you? 
 
Thanks! :)
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Pg. 2 – The character who goes by ‘amma’ seems to be NB, but I’m pretty sure that ‘amma’ is an inherently gendered word.

Pg. 3 – Blasphemy. Glue sticks are amazing. I’ll take glue sticks and index cards over sticky notes any day.

Pg. 4 – This is very true. Negatives are basically impossible to prove. Very good scientist.

Pg. 4 – But what grade did they get on the AP test?

Pg. 5 – Okay. Now I get why ‘amma’ is called ‘amma’ despite using ‘they’ as a pronoun.

Pg. 6 – I believe the term for considering 4 APs to be low end is ‘#humblebrag’. Also, Physics with Calculus is actually easier than Physics without calculus, assuming you know calculus in the first place.

Pg. 9 – Weird flowers by a heart shaped pond. Glad to see the story picking up. My off-the-cuff guess is faeries, let’s see how I do.

Pg. 12 – I feel like I could use a lot more context for this conversation, because I’m understanding very little of it right now.

 

Overall: I’ll tackle your questions. As far as my attention, it was mostly grabbed by the flowers and very little else. Some of the background setting is interesting but unfortunately I don’t have enough context for what’s going on to be able to tell anything.

Character depictions: W/D – Seems like a classic case of a high intelligence quotient, low emotional quotient. Possibly also an overachiever. Amma seems like a caring motherly figure (as evidenced by the name), but not much in the way of personal characteristics aside from that. A could use a little more fleshing out, especially if she’s going to be a foil to W/D, a good way to do this might have A tossing out an obscure anime that she likes rather than just bashing SAO (which, to be fair, is very easy to bash). I don’t have enough exposure to other characters to make much in the way of judgements.

In terms of the romance aspects, given the heavy attention paid to it early on, there’s evidence that this will be a romance, but given my own personal lack of familiarity with the genre (I’m far more familiar with paranormal than I am with romance) I really couldn’t tell you much else.

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Overall

There's great characters here and some nice emotional resonance. I think there are some out of order events in order to get reader buy-in, and there needs to be a more firmly established overarching plot and motivation. The chapter ends without much reason for anyone to read on to the next chapter. I'd like a slightly stronger hook to move me forward to the next part. Otherwise, it was fun!

For your questions, yes, it's clear this is a romance book and it's pretty clear who the love interest is. I didn't have any issues with that. The characters are already pretty three dimensional. I don't think there were any issues with any of that.

 

As I go

- pg 1: This is all I can hear.

- pg 2: I'm struggling to tell if 'Amma' is a grandparent derivative or a gender neutral parent derivative. I think hanging a lantern on it early would help

- pg 2: is this YA? It's reading like YA

- it's pg 4 before we get the answer to whether Amma is a parent or grandparent

- pg 5: the emotional buy-in happens on page five, when we get the information on 'amma' and the adoption. I'd suggest this come a touch earlier, because all the driving to school stuff was starting to really sag the narrative. I'd be much more likely to enjoy the drive if I had the buy-in first. So maybe a bit or reorganization

- pg 5: grass in Oregon in September? Not native grass. it's all well dead...unless the school is watering the lawn I suppose. Ah, or they could be eastern Oregon I suppose

- pg 7: the dialogue is fine and very appropriate for the age but I'm starting to drift again. I want some hint of plot at this stage, or at least narrative direction

- pg 8: if the flower petals and magic are the plot, I think they should be sprinkled in a lot earlier. Like they could drive past the pond and the MC could think about them early on, or have the mom mention them, etc.

- pg 11: is there a reason you're using the traditionally (US traditional anyway) female spelling of Erin for a male character? Trans coded?

- pg 14: the boyfriend is coming off very mature here and our MC, not so much. Unsure if this was intended or not

- the end of the chapter doesn't really move me to read on. 

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Posted (edited)

Questions:
1. I was interested in the very first couple of pages because of character voice, and I was excited to be in this character's head but then it kinda meandered, which is fine for a YA i think, but meh for me. Perhaps you can cut some stuff out, shorten the drive or the morning conversation. Or bring up the flowers earlier. The flowers seem like they will play a big part, but they are super sidelined right now. I agree with @kais that there should be a better hook.
2. Characters are good! None of them seemed flat. I liked Amma, they seemed laid back but obviously very knowledgeable.
3. Yes, I could see the hints, though, if we're being honest, I was shipping the two boys at first, sitting by the romantic pond and whatnot.
4. It's the manga cover boy, right? ;)

 

Pg 1

-oooh, switching to first person

-first paragraph already got that YA feel to it.

-I know I shouldn’t compare works, but this opening feels similar to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Only because it starts with the MC waking up and talking with their mom. I’m sure this is a common thing in YA tho, I just don’t read enough to know for sure. That isn’t to say i am not engaged tho, I definitely am engaged with this story so far!

Pg 2

-the use of "amma" confused me. I looked it up and this term is used in a lot of languages! Seems like it means mother in most of those languages tho.

Pg 5

-“My birt parents” typo, birth

-i like that they use the korean names for each other but i agree that this explanation should come earlier to clear up some confusion.

Pg 6

-“What math class did you think i going” typo, i was going

Pg 7

“And have both meet some” typo, have us both

Pg 8

-“You can be happy without romance in your life” I wish somebody told me this when i was in highschool 

Pg 14

-"I was a stupid kid" he is very self aware for a teenager

-"we can talk about this later" see, they sound like they are dating.

16 hours ago, kais said:

There's great characters here and some nice emotional resonance. I think there are some out of order events in order to get reader buy-in, and there needs to be a more firmly established overarching plot and motivation. The chapter ends without much reason for anyone to read on to the next chapter. I'd like a slightly stronger hook to move me forward to the next part. Otherwise, it was fun!

my thoughts exactly :)

I forgot that I actually did read a YA paranormal romance fairly recently, and it has a good hook. Cemetery Boys! If you haven't read that, it's really good!

Edited by karamel
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I enjoyed reading this a lot! I don't read a lot of YA, but this seemed to fit the genre well. To your questions:

1. Like @kais I thought there was a little too much time spent at the beginning with setting things up, though it was still fun to read. I agree putting the "amma" and gender explanation a little closer to the beginning will help. The magic flowers were the first hints of something else going on, and that also came a little too late in the chapter. By that point I was already thinking more "romance" than "paranormal romance."


2. Very good characters already. 3D, and I already like most of them. This is one of your strengths here.


3. Definitely. Like @karamel, I was shipping the boys at the end, but got a little confused after the conversation. Are they all bi/pan? (That would be great, but I'm thinking not) . I can't tell if N is bi and attracted to both E and W, or if E is just a good friend. Also, N, seems almost suspicious because of all the goody-goody. I'm wondering if that is a further plot point.


4. I assume N, but at this point I wouldn't be surprised if any of the kids got together with any of the others. 

 

I was almost bothered by W's reactions to E in the conversation at the end. I wonder if we don't have quite enough information about their breakup, because E to me sounds like he was trying to help all he could and also tried to make amends, which then puts W in a peevish light for me. But I don't think that's the whole story.

 

I could definitely read this just for the characters...Looking forward to more! (oh, and the prologue is definitely not necessary.)

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "a heavy metal song"
--specificity is always better if possible, so something like "My mom singing heavy metal," or "the heavy metal sounds of XY song by Z" make more impact.

pg 2: "while planning to become an engineer."
--lol...isn't that always the way.

pg 3: +1 for amma! (Edit: I did have the same reaction as the others that the name didn't fit an enby character, so that explanation could come sooner.)

pg 3: "glue sticks"
--lol

pg 4: "And each friend is different enough that I have to make a new process each time."
--I like this kid.

pg 5: The meanings behind the names are a nice touch too, good character building and explanation at the same time.

pg 8: "Those weird flowers"
--Interesting tidbit here. This is enjoyable to read, but a lot of it is concerned with relationships and character rather than plot. Not saying that's bad, and probably fits better for YA. Glad to see some other movement, though.

pg 8: "brings up memories"
--ah, here's some more juicy stuff!

pg 15: I love all this attraction between everyone and I am also very confused about who wants to date who. I am okay with that.
Also, something is DEFINITELY up with N.

pg 16: I'm a little confused with W's reaction to E. Or more, what happened between them seems like a big misunderstanding that was never cleared up. I'm wondering if this is actually meant to be a misunderstanding and E is being truthful, or if there is more here that's not being shown yet.

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Pg 4:

“Scientists hate saying we’re certain…” I find it a little odd that the vaccine reference is their go-to example for this if it’s not related to their field or they don’t have some fighting anti-vaxxers plotline, or it isn’t something they are dealing with regularly in their field. Of course, it may bother me because I tend toward the fantasy genre to avoid reminders of the frustrating and ridiculous things in real life. It’s probably less distracting for people who read more stories in modern real world settings.

Pg 5:

I like the Korean name and title explanation a lot, but also think it would be helpful closer to the front.

Pg 6:

Does the school have enough AP classes available to take more than 4 per year (with the assumption that she’d plan to take more the following year)? Seems like it would have to be a pretty large school to make a large number of AP classes available. Then again, it’s possible that they’re just more accessible than they were when I was in high school.

Also, I’d assume they would expect students to take physics and calc concurrently. Especially at the AP level.  And even more so if the student is planning to go into engineering.

“mostly conceptual” If she’s a math whiz, I’d think she’d be capitalizing on how math-based physics is. 

“like bro culture” This may or may not matter depending on how much of a role her classmates play in the story, and I’m glad to chalk some of it up to cynicism from W, but this doesn’t really match up with what I remember of upper-level math/science classes.  I mean. Yeah, there’s some of that. But unless it’s a pretty prestigious school that has enough ultra-math-focused students to fill a class with them, I find it a little odd.   My experience had a few people who were actually part of the official math club and did competitive tests, but it was mostly a blend of that with people who happen to be good with numbers but spent extracurricular time on other things (usually track/cross country or band, if not both, if I recall correctly). There will also almost definitely be a few who are on a sort of pre-engineering path because they really like tinkering with things and have some math-sense to go along with liking to work on cars and stuff.

If there’s not a ton of focus on classmates there, it’s not too vital, but if there’s anything in the story that relies on a mathlete bro culture, it might be worth considering.

Pg 7:

“The way school measures…” ain’t that the truth?

Pg 9:

“finding the right car…is worse for my anxiety…” Ugh.  I know this feeling.

Pg 12:

“I told her the opposite…” The wording of this sentence is a little confusing

Pg 13:

I have mixed feelings about how E is coming across.  On one hand, I know a number of teens who are deep thinkers, and I remember even as a teen reading YA, getting frustrated by how simplistically authors portrayed their motivations and concerns.  But he does seem far more self-aware than I’d expect, which seems like a different set of life skills - being able to distance yourself from something that you care deeply about to be able to dig down to what your mind is actually doing… I don’t know. I’m all for self-awareness (especially with the angle of W willfully misunderstanding it), but it seems a little too mature for what, 16 or 17?

I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but I appreciate N’s jumping right into conversation with an adult about things he’s excited about, because it hits the homeschool persona perfectly.  If I had a dime for every time the neighborhood homeschool kids came over while I’m walking the dog to tell me about some cool bird they saw or how they’re doing some random project about ancient Rome, I would have a lot of dimes.

Pg 15:

“fancy professor stuff” seems like an odd way to describe a parent’s work. At least as a teenager

“They have their eyes on E-“ I was a little surprised they weren’t more cautious about leaving E- and W- together to go look at the flowers if they knew about what had happened between them before.

Overall:

I feel like my comments above were sort of all over the place, but I enjoyed this and am excited to see where it goes.  I agree with the thoughts on moving the flowers and the Korean name details earlier.

In general, my own high school experience was not a super fun time, so I generally don’t get super excited for stories set around high school life, and that’s probably going to color a lot of my comments about some of the thought processes and social interactions of the characters. It falls into my reasons for liking to stick with fantasy genres.  There are too many things about high school social structures that frustrate me, and I deal with them enough with the kids I work with, so I don’t usually set out to fill my free time with them.  Just as a general warning, if I seem a little cynical at any point. But I am still enjoying reading, even if it’s not my usual cup of tea. :)

1.      Female pre-engineering protagonist? If there’s any high school narrative I’m interested in following, it’s probably this one. I also like the family dynamics a lot

2.      I like them.  I probably need some extra convincing of E-‘s self-awareness, and I may get tired of discussion of classes and things before too long, but I’m looking forward to see how things unfold.

3.      I think it’s a good fit for what I would expect of a YA romance

4.      I’m assuming it’s our friendly homeschool friend.  Though I do like the fact that it seems like she will probably be working through what happened with E-, and while I’m not convinced that’s something most high schoolers would be willing to do, I’m always up for stories of people working through past misunderstanding or biases.

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Yay!! Someone else writing YA contemporary fantasy / paranormal! I say this then realize I haven't really submitted much of my YA paranormal stuff through here. 

I felt some connection to some of your characters and am looking forward to reading more of this. I felt like it did lag a little when W and A were talking before school, but otherwise, I thought the pacing wasn't bad. The arc or beat didn't quite land for me. I got to the end and I didn't have a firm grasp on what the chapters arc was and where the story was going. If this is romance, I want a stronger sense of who love interest(s) is (are) and at this point, I almost feel like it could be any of the characters. If you hadn't at one point said this was paranormal romance, I might not assume that there would be romance at all based on this chapter.

On 3/8/2021 at 9:48 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
1. What (if anything) caught your attention/engaged you? Do you expect the story to continue to expand on the points that interested you? 
 

There is bacon on the first page. You win Reading Excuses this week!

Bacon = life.

I like that the characters are nerdy

The nonbinary parent

punk rock mom

Broody ex-boyfriend 

Magic flowers!! I assume these are going to be a plot point. 

On 3/8/2021 at 9:48 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
2. What's your general impression of the characters?
 

Believable teens, maybe people I might have tried to or wanted to be friends with back when I was a teen.

W's attitude about school reminded me of myself when I was younger. The following lines were ones I really connected with:

"Yeah, but making friends is way harder than everyone acts like it is. I’ll always understand school material if I put in the time, but friendships can go up and down, left and right, or loop around and around like a rollercoaster as they progress"

"Am I uninterested? What I do know is that everyone says high school relationships don’t matter, and I know my grades do. No point in taking that risk again. Not after how romance went the first time."

The friend seemed to fit the classic YA friend mold and the boys too. But I think this is a case where the tropes and formula will work in your favor. They are what I expect when I sit down to read a YA novel. There seems to be a good mix of personality types and I am looking forward to seeing how they all interact. 

On 3/8/2021 at 9:48 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
4. Do you have a good feel of who the love interest will be? If not, does that bother you? 
 
On 3/8/2021 at 9:48 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
3. Are there enough hints that this will be romance? Or are there too many/are the hints too heavy-handed? 
 

I couldn't really tell who the LI was and the opening chapter didn't 100% convince me it was romance. 

I felt like from what I read, any of these things could've been possible: 

-It could be she is going to be getting back with the ex but this time knowing what kind of relationship it was going to be instead of going in with false expectations about him feeling the kind of attractions she expected him to. Or there could be a friendship to be built here.

-Homeschool boy could be the LI. He was cute and awkward and I liked that he introduced with pronouns and got along with the parent. But if it is him, his introduction was kind of overshadowed by the ex.

-Or it could be sapphic friends to lovers but they have to figure out they're not straight first (except I'm assuming it's not this because I think you said the mc was straight). 

-There might not actually be any romance and these four kids are all going to become good friends

 

But whichever it turns out to be, I connected with the mc enough that I am on board. 

 

Two random typos that jumped out at me:

p. 5

"birt parents" did you mean birth?

p. 10

"unofficial trial behind " did you mean trail? 

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Posted (edited)

1. What (if anything) caught your attention/engaged you? Do you expect the story to continue to expand on the points that interested you? 

There were definitely points during individual scenes where my attention wandered, more below, but the only specific plot point that I wasn’t interested in was E’s relationship with B and N, which our POV character is not a part of and E seems to be making an effort to ensure she doesn’t get any of it on her, so to speak. I can only assume that this will change down the line but right now I didn’t’ have a good idea of why I should care about it.

A few specific things I’d expect to see more of are: mom’s illness, some resolution of the tension between E and W, the evolution of some sort of relationship between N/W, some sort of magical thing with the pond/flowers. Though it’s worth noting that the latter assumption is as much because of the cut prologue as anything actually in the ms.

2. What's your general impression of the characters?

The dynamic between W and her family is the most interesting so far, and I have a pretty good idea of how it works and they take care of each other, which I like (though I’m hoping that mom doesn’t turn into some variation of a manic pixie dream girl because she definitely seems like she could head in that direction). My impression is that mom may be mostly there to drive interior anguish for W while Am may be more of an active player.

I don’t have particularly strong opinions about any of the other characters yet, none of them stick out for me so far.

3. Are there enough hints that this will be romance? Or are there too many/are the hints too heavy-handed? 

I don’t read much romance so will defer to those who do, but my own two cents: I think I would pick up on the fact that this was romance if I just picked this book off a (mysteriously unlabeled) shelf, but I’m not entirely sure. The hints are there, but insofar as they’re maybe not doing enough I think it’s because they are all coming from sources external to our POV: they’re her friends teasing her about romance, or encouraging her, etc. We’ve got nothing really coming from the protagonist herself aside from the fact that her last relationship didn’t work out. Does she secretly long for another one or even to repair what she had with E? Or is she even absolutely really sure that she definitely doesn’t want romance at all, so that the story can then become about her finding it anyway? I think we need a better sense from W herself about she wants or does not want romantically before we can buy into a romance for her.

4. Do you have a good feel of who the love interest will be? If not, does that bother you? 

I’m guessing N just based on the narrative significance allotted to him, but I’m not getting any particular sense of attraction from W, which I’d expect from a romance (even if she clearly doesn’t realize it or can’t admit it to herself yet). It did cross my mind to wonder if she’s an ace character, which of course is all well and good but in that case I’m not sure about what signifiers are common to signify a romantic arc.

I think answering those questions covers off most of what I wanted to raise! The only other thing I wanted to mention was I think the whole chapter could use a good tightening. I think some scenes just went on a little too long, in others it wasn’t clear what was driving the conflict (the scene with W/An) or why the conflict should matter (the discussion between W/E about B). I also wanted more tension in the scene between W and E particularly: I’m not fully bought into the argument about B, as I mentioned, and if anything I want to know more about what happened between the two of them. But also they had this extremely rational discussion about what was apparently a very painful situation and I just wanted a whole lot more emotion in that scene.

…okay, so maybe that was two things :rolleyes:

As I read:

Is “three months later”? a holdover from the prologue? Otherwise it has no referent since this is chapter 1. Which doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t include it, if it has a purpose that will be come apparent later.

…Are soprano parts terribly common in heavy metal? I guess maybe if it’s melodic metal.

Having a hard time so far pinning down how old or young the narrator is. “First day of school being a big deal” skews younger but the character doesn’t read all that young. With the comment about being an engineer… first year of college?

 Edit: Ah, high school. “Mellow teenager” works, I suppose.

“…plenty to worry about in your own life.” I mean… one’s mother being sick WOULD be something in my own life to worry about. I’m surprised that W doesn’t seem to find that comment upsetting.

My attention is wandering by the time we finish the first scene and get into the second. The second scene in particular feels like it’s establishing some things, but not actually moving the story forward, whereas the first one I think just needs tightening up.

The introduction of the heart pond was noticeable in that it didn’t really feel like a natural evolution of the conversation from the earlier bits. Since it seems like the pond is going to be important later (and also since this is, unless I miss my guess, our first introduction of a fantastical element) I wonder the scene and conversation should actually start here, around this point of interest, with some of the other details at the top of the scene slipped in while they react to it.  

“Why is he back in town?” The sudden introduction of a “he” confused me. W’s previous relationship has been danced around, but not mentioned specifically up to this point, so this feels abrupt.

“Just don’t ask me to ID fungi or lichens…” HAH, you very narrowly avoided summoning @kais and invoking their wrath expertise just now.

I’m assuming E is the ex, and given W’s comments about him so far I’d expect him to occupy a LOT more of her attention than he does… although maybe that’s because N (I’m assuming) is the new love interest?

“Do I want to be alone with E?” N showing Am where the flowers are doesn’t necessarily leave the other two characters alone together…

Since we’ve only just met N and E, and B is only referenced a handful of times but doesn’t appear on the screen, and this whole drama appears to be Entirely Not W’s Problem, I’m not really invested in it.

“So she’s just like me…” This goes a bit of the way towards explaining W’s anger, and maybe if it was apparent sooner that this was a painful reminder of W’s own relationship with E, I might be more invested in it.

Edit: Having skimmed the comments, I'll agree with the others that the "amma" explanation needs to come earlier, and so does some hint of supernatural something if that's going to be a part of this book. Otherwise, I'm being primed for a realistic/contemporary story. 

Edited by Silk
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Thoughts as I go:
Pg 1, "it usually comforts me to hear her" Comfort, heavy metal, and soprano are three ideas I generally don't put together! 
Pg 1, "resting up" Mom is either 1) a singer 2) sick or 3) both.
Pg 1, " unholy volumes," RIP her hearing. 
Pg 1, "Hi, mom,” It always weirds me out when parents' names are capitalized when being used as proper nouns.
Pg 2, "ecological modeling" I had to Google this, and I have to say, that seems super cool.
Pg 3, "day-to-day rhythm" I really miss the routine of school myself.
Pg 3, "drafting her new novel" So I was right on the sickness but wrong on being a singer.
Pg 4, "Let us" Us being A and Mom? Or someone else?
Pg 4, "normal parents" I absolutely thought A was a grandparent. I think it was because my brain was thinking abuelita. 
Pg 5, "Beo-Deul" I ended up Googling this. Then Googled what A meant in Korean. Now I know of W's heritage (I presume) but I'd love to see a little more of that hinted. We get Mom's description but not A's.
Pg 5, "my birt parents"
Pg 5, " Korean equivalent" You just fixed that complaint I had earlier, so consider that resolved!
Pg 5, “appa” I can't tell if you wisely or unwisely missed a great opportunity:
Spoiler

Avatar: the Last Airbender - Appa's New Look - Fuzzy Today

Pg 5, " so does Anya." Isn't this W's first day of school? So how does An fit into all of this? Is she related? A friend from before?

Pg 6, "think I am going"

Pg 7, "Fanfic is a work of art." I'm going to toss out Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality as proof.

Pg 7, "both of us meet some"

Pg 8, "flowers with the see-through petals" Hmmm...

Pg 8, "I saw he was dating B" I think a lot of my confusion stems from the fact that I thought this was W's first day at a brand new school, not just the first day of a new year. And I read the part of having gone through this three times as she has moved to new schools three times. I was obviously assuming by using first chapter tropes, and you know what they say about assuming...

Pg 10, "Inaturalist" A naturalist or iNaturalist, because it turns out iNaturalist is a thing.

Pg 10, " ID fungi or lichens" Is this your way of avoiding any fungi sins and having @kais hunt you down? ;)

Pg 11, " I hope you’ll cut him some slack with social codes"  Okay, you just hit the nail on something that gets my blood boiling and I'm going to try very hard not to rant. I was homeschooled for seven years and I hate hate hate the stereotype that homeschoolers don't know social cues or are socially inept or are hermits. Because the vast majority of homeschoolers are educated around a more diverse population than the majority of public school kids because they are not limited by a single age group and grade. I have met more socially inept, narrow-minded, ignorant jerks in public school than I ever did homeschooling. Because homeschooling naturally gathers those who do not fit into the "normal" box. Homeschoolers grow up around everyone from those with low-functioning autism to the kids who graduate college at fourteen and every weird nerd in-between. Introducing themselves with pronouns? Unless you are from some hard-core religious area, most homeschoolers are incredibly open-minded and introducing themselves with pronouns would be absolutely no big deal. 

Pg 11, "Or maybe that was part of the “going out into the real world” training." Homeschoolers have waaaaaaaaay more real-world training that public school kids. I was taught percentages by actually calculating discounts and coupons in grocery stores. So much of my education revolved around the real world because Mom had to teach us while managing the household. Half of my education was field trips to historical landmarks, to factories, to farms, to shadowing working business people. We ran so many fundraisers and learned business models by actually using them. So much community service. *I'm* the one who knows how to cook, how to balance a budget, how to set up an apartment for living with internet and electricity. *I'm* the one that my public school friends come to for advice on how to live in the "real world." Do you know how many people I met in the dorms who didn't know how to do laundry or boil water???

I'm not mad at you. I'm furious with the stereotypes I perpetually run into. 

Pg 12, "which is more than they normally like to do with other people my age." See this is a sign of a homeschooler. Homeschoolers are interested in a wide degree of topics and absolutely would be a fantastic listener without going, "Ugh, I have to listen to W's parent instead of talking with people my age. Bor-ing!" Having N immediately jump into this conversation without reserve is excellent.
 
Pg 12, " the two of you are hanging out like this?" N and E? I'm slightly confused by this conversation. I mean, I thought N + E might be a romance. 
 
1. What (if anything) caught your attention/engaged you? Do you expect the story to continue to expand on the points that interested you?
I was definitely intrigued by the flowers. I found this easy to follow, although admittedly it was hard for me to focus on the second part because my adrenaline was high from ranting (sorry).  
 
2. What's your general impression of the characters?
Mom = I want to hang out with.
A = I definitely want to hang out with.
W = I like her so far.
An = Alright
E = Dirtbag, I don't like how he plays with other people's feelings
N = sus
B = Is she going to be blond and snooty?
 
3. Are there enough hints that this will be romance? Or are there too many/are the hints too heavy-handed? 
I think this definitely promises romance with a splash of magic. 
 
4. Do you have a good feel of who the love interest will be? If not, does that bother you? 
I really suck at this, so no. It doesn't bother me. I wouldn't expect the love interest to be very obvious for several chapters. If I actually thought I knew the love interest right now, I would assume they are going to betray W within the next two chapters and becoming the inciting incident.
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17 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

Pg 11, " I hope you’ll cut him some slack with social codes"  Okay, you just hit the nail on something that gets my blood boiling and I'm going to try very hard not to rant. I was homeschooled for seven years and I hate hate hate the stereotype that homeschoolers don't know social cues or are socially inept or are hermits. Because the vast majority of homeschoolers are educated around a more diverse population than the majority of public school kids because they are not limited by a single age group and grade. I have met more socially inept, narrow-minded, ignorant jerks in public school than I ever did homeschooling. Because homeschooling naturally gathers those who do not fit into the "normal" box. Homeschoolers grow up around everyone from those with low-functioning autism to the kids who graduate college at fourteen and every weird nerd in-between. Introducing themselves with pronouns? Unless you are from some hard-core religious area, most homeschoolers are incredibly open-minded and introducing themselves with pronouns would be absolutely no big deal. 

Pg 11, "Or maybe that was part of the “going out into the real world” training." Homeschoolers have waaaaaaaaay more real-world training that public school kids. I was taught percentages by actually calculating discounts and coupons in grocery stores. So much of my education revolved around the real world because Mom had to teach us while managing the household. Half of my education was field trips to historical landmarks, to factories, to farms, to shadowing working business people. We ran so many fundraisers and learned business models by actually using them. So much community service. *I'm* the one who knows how to cook, how to balance a budget, how to set up an apartment for living with internet and electricity. *I'm* the one that my public school friends come to for advice on how to live in the "real world." Do you know how many people I met in the dorms who didn't know how to do laundry or boil water???

I'm not mad at you. I'm furious with the stereotypes I perpetually run into.

This is something I'm really glad you commented on because after I sent out this chapter I was worried this was an issue. I was basing this off other stereotypes I'd heard in high school but I never really put much stock into them myself and after sending it out was wondering if those stereotypes are harmful/annoying/unproductive to be putting into narratives. If you hadn't commented I probably would have thought this was okay to run as is, so thanks a lot. I'm going to shift the focus more towards him growing up in a very isolated community with different social codes since "homeschooled" really isn't a precise term here. It wasn't meant to be precise since N is hiding a bit about his past but it's clear that the story's not doing itself any favors by dragging homeschooling into it. 

17 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

Pg 10, " ID fungi or lichens" Is this your way of avoiding any fungi sins and having @kais hunt you down? ;)

 

23 hours ago, Silk said:

“Just don’t ask me to ID fungi or lichens…” HAH, you very narrowly avoided summoning @kais and invoking their wrath expertise just now.

Haha this comes from me talking to another ecology person in undergrad and them being like "oh you should take mycology it's super intense and you'll be able to identify any local fungi down to the species level since the prof really pushes you," and I was like "Thanks but no thanks I wanna coast in my last year." And now I'm (kinda) working with microfungi so it came back to bite me a little. 

On 3/8/2021 at 7:55 PM, aeromancer said:

Pg. 4 – But what grade did they get on the AP test?

I like to imagine W is like me and got good scores on most of them but is really irked by getting a 3 on AP Lang. It still kinda bothers me to this day when I know that it absolutely should not. 

On 3/8/2021 at 8:56 PM, kais said:

- pg 5: the emotional buy-in happens on page five, when we get the information on 'amma' and the adoption. I'd suggest this come a touch earlier, because all the driving to school stuff was starting to really sag the narrative. I'd be much more likely to enjoy the drive if I had the buy-in first. So maybe a bit or reorganization

Really helps to hear that this is the emotional buy-in, since I was trying to make it about the sick mom. My worry about this is that the adoption isn't a major focus of the story, even though W and her parent do continue to have interactions. Do you think that will be a problem? 

On 3/8/2021 at 8:56 PM, kais said:

- pg 11: is there a reason you're using the traditionally (US traditional anyway) female spelling of Erin for a male character? Trans coded?

I picture E as cis and not trans coded and I was wondering if the name would make people pause. Mostly just wanted to give him a bit of a weird name, though it might have been subconsciously me trying to make him more effeminate. I do that a lot with my male characters being AM nonbinary. 

On 3/9/2021 at 1:30 PM, karamel said:

3. Yes, I could see the hints, though, if we're being honest, I was shipping the two boys at first, sitting by the romantic pond and whatnot.

Oh, I hadn't considered that. Maybe I can play off this... regardless, it's good to know. 

On 3/9/2021 at 2:54 PM, Mandamon said:

I was shipping the boys at the end, but got a little confused after the conversation. Are they all bi/pan? (That would be great, but I'm thinking not) . I can't tell if N is bi and attracted to both E and W, or if E is just a good friend. Also, N, seems almost suspicious because of all the goody-goody. I'm wondering if that is a further plot point.

If you're curious, N is bi but E and W aren't. N is just trying to be a good friend to E since they both know E isn't interested in guys. They are pretty emotionally close though and I do want to break down the idea that emotional intimacy has to come from romance. 

On 3/9/2021 at 7:10 PM, C_Vallion said:

“like bro culture” This may or may not matter depending on how much of a role her classmates play in the story, and I’m glad to chalk some of it up to cynicism from W, but this doesn’t really match up with what I remember of upper-level math/science classes.  I mean. Yeah, there’s some of that. But unless it’s a pretty prestigious school that has enough ultra-math-focused students to fill a class with them, I find it a little odd.   My experience had a few people who were actually part of the official math club and did competitive tests, but it was mostly a blend of that with people who happen to be good with numbers but spent extracurricular time on other things (usually track/cross country or band, if not both, if I recall correctly). There will also almost definitely be a few who are on a sort of pre-engineering path because they really like tinkering with things and have some math-sense to go along with liking to work on cars and stuff.

Heh this was based off my experiences in hs but my school was also pretty engineering-intensive so it might not be the normal. Most of my social group took these math tests it felt like. Someone I knew talked about investigating everyone who got 36 on the ACT (I think there were like six my year from what he told me? I wasn't one of them). Though this does make me think I should be clearer about how these people are perfectly pleasant; they just get quite competitive when together.

On 3/10/2021 at 0:15 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

Believable teens, maybe people I might have tried to or wanted to be friends with back when I was a teen.

W's attitude about school reminded me of myself when I was younger. The following lines were ones I really connected with:

"Yeah, but making friends is way harder than everyone acts like it is. I’ll always understand school material if I put in the time, but friendships can go up and down, left and right, or loop around and around like a rollercoaster as they progress"

"Am I uninterested? What I do know is that everyone says high school relationships don’t matter, and I know my grades do. No point in taking that risk again. Not after how romance went the first time."

The friend seemed to fit the classic YA friend mold and the boys too. But I think this is a case where the tropes and formula will work in your favor. They are what I expect when I sit down to read a YA novel. There seems to be a good mix of personality types and I am looking forward to seeing how they all interact. 

Glad to hear this. It's really great having someone with more familiarity with YA reading my work. :) 

23 hours ago, Silk said:

I’m not getting any particular sense of attraction from W, which I’d expect from a romance (even if she clearly doesn’t realize it or can’t admit it to herself yet). It did cross my mind to wonder if she’s an ace character, which of course is all well and good but in that case I’m not sure about what signifiers are common to signify a romantic arc.

I let out a big ol sigh when I read this, haha. That's me being ace; W is supposed to be straight. Conveying attraction without being super corny seems hard enough as it is but when I don't feel it myself... I'll take another look at this. I think I might go for he catches W's attention but she doesn't totally internalize it as attraction yet. 

23 hours ago, Silk said:

the only specific plot point that I wasn’t interested in was E’s relationship with B and N, which our POV character is not a part of and E seems to be making an effort to ensure she doesn’t get any of it on her, so to speak. I can only assume that this will change down the line but right now I didn’t’ have a good idea of why I should care about it.

Good to hear this! I think W's idea is that she's trying to criticize him without coming off as being immature about her own relationship with him, which is the real problem. I'll see if I can tie the two together.

Thanks for your responses, everyone! I'll update later with what I changed based on general feedback if you're interested but I wanted to respond to at least one individual comment from each person since I really value everyone's input!

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

My worry about this is that the adoption isn't a major focus of the story, even though W and her parent do continue to have interactions. Do you think that will be a problem? 

I know I'm not the one who was tagged here, but if you frame it similarly to  how you already have it and move it up, I don't think it's going to read as setup for a focus on adoption. It's more about grounding us in W's relationships with her family and giving us a connection we can invest in, which it does--but I agree with the others who say it should come sooner.

Edited by Silk
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12 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

but my school was also pretty engineering-intensive so it might not be the normal

Yeah. I'm guessing that would make a big difference. And if that's what the class is, it definitely fits.  There was a little more of that within the pre-engineering social circle at my school as opposed to the general nerd social circle (I only did competitive testing stuff one year and decided it wasn't my idea of a fun time for pretty much those reasons). 

12 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I'm going to shift the focus more towards him growing up in a very isolated community with different social codes since "homeschooled" really isn't a precise term here.

The prologue and the "there are magical creatures in this world" had made me wonder if this might be the case, since I assumed N has ties to our magical creatures, and "homeschooling" to hide adolescent magical creatures or until people in the magical creature community can properly know how to keep secret things secret seems like it would be a different category altogether.   Otherwise I would have probably had a bit more ranting about the homeschool stereotype as well.  Approaching it as something closer to "he's from a super tiny town in the middle of nowhere" might be a safer bet to avoid missteps.  Especially in the covid-era when there's already a big wrench thrown into the understanding of what actual "homeschooling" means.

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Okay, the edits are in! Main changes include bringing the mention of the flowers and the explanation about W's birth name and what she calls her parent up (to page 3), trying to fix the problematic homeschool stereotype by putting more focus on a small, disconnected community instead, and having more internality for W when she talks with E so that it (hopefully) conveys more of why she's acting the way she is. 

Lots of small edits from the LBLs as well.

Thanks for your help, everyone! :) 

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On 3/11/2021 at 4:09 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

This is something I'm really glad you commented on because after I sent out this chapter I was worried this was an issue. I was basing this off other stereotypes I'd heard in high school but I never really put much stock into them myself and after sending it out was wondering if those stereotypes are harmful/annoying/unproductive to be putting into narratives. If you hadn't commented I probably would have thought this was okay to run as is, so thanks a lot. I'm going to shift the focus more towards him growing up in a very isolated community with different social codes since "homeschooled" really isn't a precise term here. It wasn't meant to be precise since N is hiding a bit about his past but it's clear that the story's not doing itself any favors by dragging homeschooling into it.

Luckily for you, I tend to be very blunt and honest on this forum. There's three things I have strong opinions towards: horses, model horses, and homeschooling. If you mess up on one of those three, I will loudly let you know. If you ever need help with anything in regards to homeschooling, message me. Door's always open.

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1. The things that stood out the most to me were the heart-shaped flower pond thingy and the argument that W has with E at the end. I definitely expect the story to expand on these points. I'm probably not the best one to offer critique because I don't usually read romance, even though I'm a sucker for sappy movies. That being said, I found my attention wandering a lot as I read this. 

2: I think you did a great job with the characters. They're definitely fleshed out, which is something I struggle with so props for that. W puts their effort into academics and therefore lacks social/emotional skills; it's a tradeoff. A is a bit enigmatic to me, I didn't really get the sense that they were W's parent until it was stated. I think it would help, as others said, to hang a lantern on who they are in relation to W earlier on. I liked the mom a lot, almost reminds me of Winona Ryder from stranger things. I thought E came across as mature and misunderstood and An is the one I'm suspicious of. N seems strange to me. I think it's great that you have all these characters that come across as distinct, I might have to hit you up for some lessons lol.

3: I mean, the fact that you told us it was going to be a romance from the onset definitely geared my mind into looking at it like a romance, and there is enough mention of relationships and boys and whatnot that yeah, it's pretty obvious.

4: I don't know if the love interest is super obvious at this point, I think it would be 1 of 2 people, but you could easily throw us for a twist as well.

Overall, I found a lot of the details mentioned slow down the story for me. It's probably because I don't read this genre. There was enough conflict at the end that it held my attention and made me want to read on, but if I picked this book up in a store, I would probably put it down after the first couple of pages because it's a YA romance haha, which is what you're going for so nothing against your writing.

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Late as usual, sorry!

Does it feel like romance?

Based on the relaxed  pacing, focus on interpersonal relationships, and the included history of the ex I would assume this was either romance or drama. From this chapter, I wouldn't have assumed there were any paranormal elements to come, but that's not really my genre.  Since the only motivation/ future action the MC speaks about is finding a new boyfriend, I would assume that's going to be the main through line. 

Characters: 

I like the mom, but I feel like she's going to die or nearly die based on the set up. This makes me reflexively draw back from her character.

The MC seems fine, but read to me as a bit 'superior' based on how they interacted with their friend. That can be done really well, but as a reader I need something to justify or balance it. 

Am: Didn't really stand out to me personality wise. They have interesting things about them per narration, but their dialogue and mannerisms didn't really grab me. 

The red head feels like he is being set up to be a big interesting character. He's the most interesting hook so far to me. 

I see from the other critiques that the flowers were a bigger thing that I caught on my own reading. That might be from my lack of experience in this genre. My bad.

Thanks for sharing

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