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Ace of Hearts

3/29/21 - Ace of Hearts - A Bond of Wildflowers Ch 3 (2548 words)

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Hi, everyone! Sorry for the late submission. No tags on this one I think. I'm back picking up where we left off two weeks ago with a bit of a shorter chapter this time. Edits on the last chapter put more of a focus on W's feelings towards the flower and N as a whole. I also tried to make W more mature in how she thinks about her past relationship and tried to make N and An in particular less annoying. 

 
Usual questions:
1. Where is your engagement (if any) coming from, and is there anything that breaks your engagement? How are your engagement levels overall?
2. How do you feel about the characters this chapter? 
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Hi! No probs on the late submission - it’s good to not be the only one this week!

So, as engagement goes, I’m feeling so-so overall. I’m interested in the plot line about N, the flower, and what is up with that. I’m less interested in An and her politicking. I’m not terribly interested in E, or W’s wallowing in past relationship gloom. It feels like backstory stuff with no direct relevance to the actual plot (which I assume is about N and the flower).

As for the characters - I find N kind of endearing, in an awkward sort of way. I can see why his weirdness might make some readers wary of him, but for me, he comes off as eccentric in a good way. I want to find out more about him, and especially about why he’s interested in W. Where did he get the impression that she’s nice? Does he really just think she’s cute, or is there something else going on? Those are the sort of questions that make me want to read on.

I am also interested in the mom and am.’s relationship. We don’t see much of it but the breadcrumbs you drop are making me want to know more.

And the bad news: if An is supposed to be likeable, there is a problem. The politicking comes across as manipulative. And the fact that she behaves so rudely to E and N makes me dislike her. If I understood both sides of this conflict and felt that everyone had valid points and grievances, I could sympathise with all of them. But I don’t have a handle on this beef, and what I do understand sounds kind of petty. That means I’m going to pick a side, and that pushes An further into the unsympathetic zone. 

And if I dislike An, then that makes me wonder why W is hanging out with her. If W is friends with someone I don’t like, that makes me like W less.

Also - the dialogue feels off in places. It doesn’t sound like teenagers talking naturally. If it were just N I’d put it down to his weirdness, but W and An have this too.

As I go:

pg1 - ‘Seeing him uninterested in me quashes the tiny part of me that still loved him’ - is that how it works? There are loads of people who love people who don’t love them back. Unless what W liked about E was that he liked her?

pg1 - ‘It’s sweet of you to pretend that you care’ - I think you should specify that she’s talking about W’s interest in the books. For a second I thought the mom was implying that W is only pretending to care about the mom!

pg 3/4 - The flower situation is definitely strange, but given that it doesn’t appear threatening, it feels like W and An are overreacting a bit. I mean - it’s a weird boy and a weird flower. What are they so worried about?

pg4 - School gets out at 2:30?! Is that normal in America?

pg4 - ‘I’m not going in blind’ - yeah she is. I think she means she’s not going in alone.

pg4 - ‘tutoring period early ... few minutes early’ repetition of ‘early’

pg5 - I’m wondering why, if W is so focused on the flower mystery, she doesn’t just ask N about it point blank.

pg 7/8 - And I’m wondering, if W dislikes group politics/dynamics so much while An loves them, why are these two friends?

The hook at the end of the chapter doesn’t work well for me. I’m interested in N and the flower and the plot, not An’s social group. So I’m not super hyped to read about W spending time on the coast with characters I don’t know. 

I’m kind of hoping that the point of the coast trip is to find out more about B and what went down between her and N. If that’s where this is headed, you might want to signpost it, because that’s the only reason I can think of to care about the coast trip.

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Overall

There's an arc this time, which is good! I can see some progression to the story, and the plot appeared...kind of randomly but it is there. I still don't like our protagonist. She comes off as very distant, aloof, and superior, and doesn't seem to have flaws so much as indifference and holier-than-thou attitudes. I need some humanity. Some vulnerability. We get that a bit with the parents but not in with the other kids, and we need  that with the other kids to buy into the eventual romance line. I also want more on the flower thing because it keeps being dangled and then we get no movement on it. The B plot in romance runs tandem to the A plot at all times and right now we have lag time, then a hint of A, then more A, and then these like flashes of B. They should both be full steam ahead from chapter one.

Still, good progress!

 

 

As I go

- life going back to normal is not a very engaging first sentence. In general, you want the opening of each chapter to push the reader to keep reading, and the last bit of a chapter to propel them to the next

- pg 1: It’s sweet of you to pretend that you care, though <-- why is the mom so passive aggressive? Wow!

- pg 2: the chapter is really dragging. We still haven't had any sort of inciting incident or plot progression. In fact I don't really know what the beta plot is (the alpha plot being the romance). But even romance books have a beta plot.

- pg 4: Meet me out by the portables right at 2:30. Have your phone on you and be ready to record. That flower he gave me has been acting strange, and he seems to know <-- this all seems to come from nowhere. Why is meeting someone by portable classrooms even remotely sketchy? Why would you bring someone else? Why would you ever suspect a flower is an issue? There are huge logic leaps in here and it's like the characters decided to make a plot all of a sudden

- pg 4: Time to unravel what they’re up to, one mystery at a time <-- what mystery though? Up until this page it's just been middle grade love triangles. No mystery at all. This is a very sudden pivot that was not foreshadowed

- pg 6: this dance rejection is harsh wow

- pg 6: . I know what it’s like, and I hope your family member’s health gets better. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” A pause. “No, sorry. I know I shouldn’t make this about me, <-- he wasn't making it about himself, though. He was empathizing. 

- pg 7: I still dislike our protagonist. She is just really full of herself. Which, yes, MG/YA protags can be like that, but I haven't seen enough redeeming qualities to outweigh the deep self absorption

- pg 8: with a large number of people from an age demographic not known for our decision-making <-- I don't think any teen thinks this way about themselves

 

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Posted (edited)

I don't have much to say about this cause it was pretty short but I was mostly engaged and read through pretty quick! My interest mostly comes from N and W's interactions and the mystery with the flower. I am desperate for flower plot. N seems like he knows something and i want W to just ask him and then they can go adventure together.
I didn't mind An at first but now she def seems shady and too involved with popularity and i wonder why W and An are even friends. I'm not too excited for the coast party... unless N shows up and some drama happens >:)
 
3 hours ago, RedBlue said:

The hook at the end of the chapter doesn’t work well for me. I’m interested in N and the flower and the plot, not An’s social group. So I’m not super hyped to read about W spending time on the coast with characters I don’t know. 

I’m kind of hoping that the point of the coast trip is to find out more about B and what went down between her and N. If that’s where this is headed, you might want to signpost it, because that’s the only reason I can think of to care about the coast trip.

Agree! The ending was kinda meh. i just want to know more about N.

 
thoughts as i go:

pg 1

"its sweet of you to pretend" hmm... this seems v passive aggressive and not like something a mom would say unless they are meant to seem distant and rude.

Pg 2

“A flower cut from its roots” i like this line

Pg 3

“Barrage slide off his tongue like he normally does” this might be WRS but i dont remember him having this problem

“‘Really.’ A smile creeps on his face.” why does he seem so menacing.

Pg 4

"He is surrounded by oddities" what oddities? i haven't seen any oddities. i think the only odd thing is the hippy community and the flower but i havent really been shown much else.

Pg 5

Aw, N is cute :) i like him

Pg 6

“The only explanation is that he was already rejected several times” i used to think this all the time. relatable lol

“I have no intention of doing any such thing” W is very relatable sometimes

Pg 7

“I’ll bet A was thinking about this offer” so she aint a true friend huh

Pg 8

“Im the weeb” do people irl refer to themselves as weebs? Weeb is considered an insult, no?

last line lacks punch, i want the chapter to pull me into the next one or at least feel more conclusive.

Edited by karamel
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Overall:

As usual, you do characters good and the flow of your writing is easy to read (for the most part.) There are a couple of sentences that could use brushing up, but it's an early draft so they're not major issues yet. My biggest problem with this chapter is the lack of plot progression. In 8 pages it feels like only one element progressed briefly, and that was the relationship between W and N. I feel like you sacrifice too much plot development for the sake of fleshing out W. She doesn't need that much fleshing out each chapter. I'm no authority on balancing plot and character, but I think you could sacrifice some of W's introspection for the sake of the plot development. I have no idea what the action plot is at this point (assuming there is one with the flower and Am and the woods-commune people.) Knowing that there is a fairly villainous character from the prologue makes me think that the plot is lagging.

To answer your questions:

My engagement comes from the mystery of the flower and N. Look, I don't know much about romance stories, but I'm a bit of a fan of sappy films. My unsolicited perspective is that when I watch a romance, I usually am rooting for certain characters to get together. So far in this story, I'm not rooting for anyone to get together. Maybe it gets to that point later on, but it just feels like I have little to sympathize with these characters in the romance department. I can sympathize with W for her familial issues, but with her last relationship, I'm siding with E. There's nothing stopping any of the characters from getting together besides their own awkwardness and lack of desire. If lack of desire and awkwardness are the only blockades, then it's not very compelling.

I'm just one perspective, probably flawed at that, so take what I say with a tablespoon of salt. Can I say what I think is compelling in romance? 1. Forbidden love. Romeo and Juliet for example. 2. Characters who are down and out but deserve something nice in their life who meet the love of their life but there are obstacles along the way. Notting Hill for example. Uh, that's all I can think of right now. But the bottom line is that we're rooting for the characters getting together because we like them and they deserve happiness and there are a tonne of legitimate obstacles stopping them from being together. In your story, W is not all that likeable and N is alright, but it's just not enough.

That being said, the mystery of the flower and so-forth are very interesting. I would read on for that alone, but there's so little progression of that plot. I don't really know what I'm saying and I wonder if it's at all helpful, but that's my 2-cents.

How do I feel about the characters? I understand them, they make sense, and they're somewhat relatable. W is more fleshed out than anyone else (naturally.) N is more endearing in this chapter, which is good if he's going to be the romantic interest. An is meh, I get why she's there, but she's not really helping. We don't see much of the other characters. Mom is still cool mom status but doesn't really do anything here. I still think that for the sake of the romance genre, W and N (assuming he's the romance) need to be much more likeable.

I hope my criticism doesn't come off as too harsh. I like your writing style, you do a lot of things well, and these are just my opinions. Hope this helps in some way.

As I read:

pg 1 - Wait a second, I thought the reason N and E were sitting with the girls was that there weren't any more available seats anywhere else. Haha jk, it's not important.

"Seeing him uninterested in me quashes the tiny part of me that still loved him." - To join in with what others are saying, I think this could be re-worded for better effect. It's a statement that makes W appear shallow and immature. Which might not be a bad thing depending on what angle you're going for. But even rewording the last couple of words could make W more endearing. Random crappy alternative: ...quashes the tiny part of me that still clung to him. 

“It’s sweet of you to pretend that you care, though.” This doesn't read well. As Kais said, it sounds passive-aggressive.

I think you're still doing a fantastic job of making the characters 3-D, though.

pg 2 - "A flower cut off from its roots gets to thrive past its time, but my mother gets worse by the day without a discernable cause." Great line. But I feel like we're doing a bit too much navel-gazing. It's great for exploring the character dynamics, but in this case, it takes away from the plot moving forward. 

"I’m starting to see why so many people imagine the void of uncertainty as a friendly face."  I don't quite get the relevance of this sentence. If it has to do with W's ritual of worrying about the uncertain, then wouldn't it be a familiar face?

pg 3 - This whole situation is strange, and I’m wondering if I should keep him and the flower close to keep an eye on them or run far, far away. This is difficult to read. Though I have to admit that things seem to be picking up a bit on this page.

pg 4 - Good, things are moving forward. We have a bit of mystery and a sense of progression.

pg 5 - Yes! The romance plot is moving forward, great.

pg 6 - “Cute” and “nice” are two words that I don’t usually get called. More often it’s “good at math,” “doesn’t smile,” and “intimidating.” lol

In this version, N is coming across much more endearing than in the previous chapters. Maybe it's just the natural progression, but good job.

pg 8 - Not a very strong finish to the chapter. But I'll go against the grain and say that I don't have such a poor impression of An. She's not the most likeable character for her personality, but I think it's understandable that she'd be defensive and hostile towards N based on the info that we've been given so far. It's not the most mature quality, but it's not the worst either.

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A pleasant read as usual!

A few things that caught me:

W's dialogue with her mom reads a little formal and stilted for the situation. 

1st sentence after the break is missing a subject. 

2nd sentence after the break: double "early" reads awkwardly. 

"Hippie Forest Commune" this line made me pull back from the MC a bit further.

"I don't think it's relevant information." This sounds more like W than A, but it seems like A is saying it.

Overall my interest waned a bit in this chapter. I'm in it for the flowers more than the romance, but I say that as someone who never reads romance. Any romance, from classic to current, so that doesn't reflect on your writing in the slightest. 

I'm still in it to find out what is going on with N and those flowers!

Thanks for sharing

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Another fun read! I think we all have really the same comments on this though. More flower plot! For me, I still found N kind of creepy at first, but after the dorky invitation to the dance, I like him a lot more than W. As with the others, I have little interest in A and her politics and the beach trip. I'd love it if W somehow chose to go to the dance with N, just as a "let's see."

I also am really wondering why W doesn't just ask A about what happened with the breakup. It sounds more and more like N is innocent, or at least uninformed, and at that point, I'd want to find out the truth, especially when W has both parties alone and can ask questions to find out the truth.

As always, the writing style is very engaging, and I like the general prose, but I think a little fine-tuning on plot will really make this shine.

 

pg 1: "but he never had anything to move on from"
--that seems...unfair. Probably in character for W, but unfair.

pg 1: "Seeing him uninterested in me quashes the tiny part of me that still loved him."
--still sort of have an issue with this whole thing, like E obviously cares deeply at the very least as a friend, so this makes W very unsympathetic.

pg 2: "and in a loving platonic relationship on top of that"
--this part especially seems to go against W's relationship with E. She has a perfect example of different types of relationships, but seems not to realize it in relation to herself.

pg 3: "The fact that this comes after asking about the flower can’t be a coincidence."
--N is still as creepy as heck, and I'm sort of surprised how easily W agrees to him.--okay, there's an explanation for it right after that...

pg 4: "There has to be more to this"
--is W aware of any supernatural or Fey stuff? If so, you could make this a bit more specific.

pg 5: “Yeah, sorry I made you wait so long,” 
--I thought he got there exactly on time?

pg 6: annnd now I'm more sympathetic to N. Lol. Mainly because of W's actions.

pg 7: "No, it’s not them with the health thing."
--isn't it?

pg 7: "Acting super eager to make her happy until the day he betrayed her.”
--can W not just ask A about what happened? Especially in the face of conflicting evidence...

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Thoughts As I Go:

Pg. 1 – Did you mention the types of books that the MC’s mother writes? I don’t remember if you did, though it has been a while since the first chapter.

Pg. 2 – Being asexual and aromantic shouldn’t disqualify a person from experiencing unrequited love. The exact number of different types of love differ based on how you count, but eros is just one kind of love.

Pg. 4 – I would have An’s reaction at this point, too. If not for the fact that I know this is going to be setting up a plot point of the novel. In An’s situation, I’d advise a handy can of Mace. Or a taser.

Pg. 5 – I’d just like to clarify this for my own edification. The poster itself isn’t a cutesy joke?

 

Overall: Surprising basically no one, awkward high school relationships are, in fact, awkward. I’m more engaged with the supernatural elements of this story, so I’m slightly disappointed that the supernatural elements are completely glossed over. I’m also having not having such an easy time identifying with the MC’s motivations right now, somewhat ironic given how much the MC is thinking about every interaction.

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1.     I’d like to see more about the flowers. We get hints at it being significant and that W has questions about it, but she doesn’t make much effort to have those questions answered.  I’m frustrated with the fact that she doesn’t ever question An-‘s opinions of E and N, even when neither of them have given us any reason to trust An’s suspicions. And I’m surprised how much time W spends dwelling on what happened with E.  She seems practical and rational, which makes it hard to be convinced that she hasn’t come to terms better with what happened with E.  I don’t know that I’d expect her to have gotten past it enough to try to renew some sort of friendship with him, but I’d think she would understand his trying to make things work and enjoying the time they spent together even if his feelings aren’t the same as hers.  I’d expect less moping about E and more embarrassment that she didn’t see how things actually were.

That being said, it was good to see things moving forward and I am looking forward to seeing what happens with the beach trip. (or coast trip.  Is there a reason you only refer to it as the coast? 

2.     Feelings are mixed… There were a few things in here that were clashing with my understanding of W’s character, but also a few things that really solidify my initial understanding. So I’m not sure what to make of that.

Also, I’m not sure if we are supposed to believe there’s anything to what An- is saying, but at this point I haven’t seen any reason to and am surprised that W puts up with her if she can’t stand teen social hierarchy stuff. 

N comes across as a goofy, extroverted, socially awkward teen, and is the sort of cheery that would drive my cynical, introverted self crazy in real life (I have coached a couple of these kids. I never know what to do with them) but I find quirky and adorable here.

 

Pg 1:

It sort of surprises me that W is still spending so much time worrying about E after this much time has passed.  In the opening chapter, she’d been wondering if she wanted anything to do with a relationship, but since then she’s done a lot of wallowing in what happened with E.   She’s shown as a smart, practical person, and while I would expect a feeling of being hurt and offended to linger, I wouldn’t expect her to  obsess over something she sees as definitely over.  If anything, I’d expect her to throw herself into schoolwork and other activities to distract herself from the feelings that do linger if she’s used to being practical and rational.  But that could be me reading too much of my own experience into the character. (Why deal with feelings when there’s math and physics to be done?)

It also seems odd that if N wants to talk to W, he can’t find a single moment when she’s not with An.

“…best time to express the curiosity that’s always been in me.” The wording of this is a little awkward.

“She talks a bit more…her people.” There’s a lot in this sentence, which is making it hard to process in one go.  If the topic is going to be relevant to your story, clarifying and keeping the length would be helpful.  If it’s not, it might be worth trimming the description a little.

Pg 2:

“A flower cut off…” I like this line.

 “But in this case…”  If she has grown up with a better understanding of loving platonic relationships where most people would expect romantic or sexual ones, I’m surprised that she didn’t recognize that in E’s explanation in chapter 1.  Maybe not at the time, when embarrassment and offense might have cluttered out anything else, but it makes it harder to believe her insistence that he never had any feelings for her.  The feelings just weren’t what she thought they were or wanted them to be.

“…people imagine the void of uncertainty as a friendly face.”  I’m not sure what this is saying.

Pg 4:

An- is acting like N is predatory and threatening.  And while, yeah, she seems to know more about him than W does, I haven’t seen anything from N to suggest that we should trust An’s opinion about him.  He seems extroverted and socially awkward, but I’d expect it to come across as innocent goofiness. 

It is nice to have a feeling of things moving forward more with this, though.

Pg 5:

I don’t get what sort of suspicious they’re expecting.

“Why?”  Hah.

Pg 6:

“if anything comes up.”  -> if anything changes? 

Pg 7:

“Good job, W” …does W actually know what happened or is going on between B and either E or N?  An seems to refer to it all the time in these suspicious terms, but I haven’t seen any suspicious or malicious behavior from E or N anywhere yet, so I obviously don’t trust her distrust of them.  And it seems odd to me that W wouldn’t have gotten the full story from An and seen holes in it by now.

“I’ll bet An- was thinking about this…but made sure I wanted nothing to do with N” so if she sees that An- is being socially manipulative to some extent, why does she hang out with her all the time? Or trust her opinion about E and/or N?

Pg 8:

“…a large number of people from an age demographic not known for our decision-making.”  To challenge Kais’s point above, this is exactly how I approached large group situations in high school. 

Could use a stronger ending.  A trip with B and friends suggests lots of possibility for plot progress and things happening.  Focusing on that is probably going to make the reader want to continue right away more than ending on the vague confusion created by what just happened.

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1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

…a large number of people from an age demographic not known for our decision-making.”  To challenge Kais’s point above, this is exactly how I approached large group situations in high school. 

Agreed - there are plenty of self-aware teens out there. Especially if it’s other teens that they’re wary of. 

Re the void of uncertainty with the friendly face - I thought W was musing about religion there. Thinking about how dealing with tragedies in life can drive some people’s faith. 

On 31/03/2021 at 1:29 AM, julienreel said:

Can I say what I think is compelling in romance? 1. Forbidden love. Romeo and Juliet for example. 2. Characters who are down and out but deserve something nice in their life who meet the love of their life but there are obstacles along the way.

To expand on julienreel’s point - I find romances compelling when I understand why these characters need to be together, and why they can’t be (at least, until it gets resolved). That conflict is where the tension comes from.

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1 hour ago, RedBlue said:

Re the void of uncertainty with the friendly face - I thought W was musing about religion there. Thinking about how dealing with tragedies in life can drive some people’s faith. 

I figured it was probably meaning to imply something along those lines, but the concept of imagining uncertainty itself as a friendly face doesn't quite seem to fit religious musing as I understand it.  

Mostly wanted to make sure the wording was correct as written before I charge in with comments about oversimplification of religious belief. :D

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Okay, first round of edits are in (it's late here so I'll go back for more edits later probably and maybe respond to individual comments). Changes here almost entirely focus on reorienting W's character. The main issue I identified from the feedback is that her being very self-confident is causing a lot of issues. It's making her come off as unlikable, it's making the romance seem less engaging since she just seems uninterested, and it makes it unclear as to why she makes illogical decisions. 

So I decided to refocus this chapter around the dynamic of her thinking that she's really bad in social situations. She wants to make social connections, but doesn't know how and worries she'll hurt the people she's close to after how she acted around E. The text is more explicit that she does see something in N, but she rejects him because she knows it will cause tension between her and An and is terrified of losing her only friend since it's so hard for her to make new friends. I strayed away from this in the first draft because I didn't want her to wallow in self-pity or come across as pathetic, but I think it's necessary for her to acknowledge her vulnerabilities more even if it does risk moving into that territory. 

Also, the scene at the beginning is reoriented around her feeling empty with her normal life and recognizing that having no social life is making her obsess over her mom's condition. The ending is changed to focus more on E who will be at the coast and could lead W to more information about N. 

Thanks for your feedback, everyone! :) 

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On 4/2/2021 at 9:15 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

Okay, first round of edits are in (it's late here so I'll go back for more edits later probably and maybe respond to individual comments).

Hey, I'm late to the party (shocker there). Do you want to email me the newest draft? I'd be happy to take a look at it. See if I have the same/different reactions than everyone else. 

Let me know :) 

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@Snakenaps That sounds great! I'll email it to you right away. Thanks! :) 

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Posted (edited)

I know I read this, and I thought I commented on it, but I don't see my comments anywhere? I am assuming that means I either put them in the wrong story, never typed them, or typed them but never hit submit. And I cannot find it on my kindle, which is where I usually read and annotate. I think I actually read it on my phone while my cat was sitting on me. 

I do remember being very engaged while reading it. 

I remember liking W just as much here as in the other chapters. 

I was really surprised at the end when N asked her out, but not surprised she turned him down. I loved that moment.

This whole story reminds me of my high school years, but not in a bad way, surprisingly. I read a lot of YA, but it doesn't usually bring me back to my own memories / feelings about being a teenager nearly as much this does. 

On 4/3/2021 at 0:15 AM, Ace of Hearts said:

Changes here almost entirely focus on reorienting W's character. The main issue I identified from the feedback is that her being very self-confident is causing a lot of issues. It's making her come off as unlikable, it's making the romance seem less engaging since she just seems uninterested, and it makes it unclear as to why she makes illogical decisions. 

Am I the only one that likes her? I had none of these issues. I liked her very much in every chapter. 

Her being uninterested is what made this chapter really work for me. :-/ It sets it apart a little from some other YAs, in a good way. I think it makes more tension, too.

I haven't been reading other people's comments because I've been so swamped. Now I really wish I didn't space on actually typing up my comments. 

I don't recall her doing anything I found illogical. 

On 3/30/2021 at 0:50 PM, kais said:

I still don't like our protagonist.

I love her. I have been rooting for her from page 1. 

On 3/31/2021 at 5:18 PM, aeromancer said:

I’m slightly disappointed that the supernatural elements are completely glossed over.

I would've like a little more about the supernatural too.

On 3/31/2021 at 10:26 AM, Mandamon said:

I'd love it if W somehow chose to go to the dance with N, just as a "let's see."

I would not. Nope. Her indifference to him sort of makes this fresh to me compared to a lot of other YA paranormal romance. It's not a full blown enemies to lovers. It's not a thing we're the female mc is totally falling for the mysterious boy off the bat. It's something different. Something that actually feels realistic. Her aloofness, disinterest, and declining him works for me on so many levels. 

 

So I seem to having a rather different reaction to this story than everyone else... 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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