Monday, June 15, 2009

First Pages: MG / Manna Bend

I didn’t want to sit in the front seat of our car – that’s where Mum always sat – but Dad was begging.
‘Please, Sasha,’ he said. His voice caught and he cleared his throat. ‘We promised. A new start.’
His face was so creased with sadness that I couldn’t say no. I forced my foot and then my leg into the car, and slid onto the dusty blue seat, yanking at the seatbelt. My hatred for Mum burned through me all over again.
Hmm. Interesting.
‘Bye, house,’ Nicky said, waving out the back window at the familiar cream weatherboard we’d lived in all our lives. I refused to look back.
All the way to Manna Bend,
(Sorry to interrupt, but: mum? manna bend? is this Australia?)
I hunched down in the seat and listened to my iPod. Nicky sat in the back seat, clutching his box of magic tricks, staring out the window. Every now and then he’d go, ‘Wow’ and point, but it was only something dumb like a cow or a sheep. I hated how enthusiastic he was, and knew it was mean, but meanness seemed to have replaced blood in my veins.
I'm... cautiously hopeful.
The removal van followed us like a lame dog that was scared it’d get lost before we made it to our new house. New old house. I’d already seen a photo of it, and it was beyond renovation. It needed demolition.
'Manna Bend hasn’t had a policeman for six months,’ Dad had told us. ‘This is a golden opportunity to put the dirty, nasty city behind us and make a new life.’ I’d blocked him out – I didn’t want to leave the city. But I’d lost my vote when I’d got into trouble and ended up in the Children’s Court. If moving to the back of nowhere and becoming a country cop would make Dad happy again, I’d have to give it a try. I owed him that.
‘Here we are,’ Dad announced, trying to sound cheerful. ‘Looking good, kids.’ A big sign flashed past that said 'Manna Bend.'
‘Watch out!’ I screeched, my feet digging into the floor.
No immediate issues, and I'm interested to read more. (Goodness, have I had too much wine? I would want to have a look at the manuscript at the office next morning, in the clearer light of my hangover.)
(Yes, Australian, hence the Mum and the cop, rather than Mom and sheriff.)
Aha! I was right!


Chris Eldin said...

Author, I am in love with your writing.

Anonymous said...

I'd read it and I don't even like MG. It has that same airy-type feeling, a surreal feeling that, for me, Jellicoe Road also had.

Good luck!

MelissaPEA said...

I love the imagery--his voice caught, creased with sadness, meanness replaced blood in my veins, the lame dog. It's beautifully written. My only slight comment is that in the sentence, "When I got into trouble and ended up in the Children's Court," I'd omit "I got into trouble." I think trouble is implied, if the narrator landed in Children's Court. But I'm just nitpicking here. Great job, and good luck!

Yat-Yee said...

It's so difficult to find that line between showing us a young person who's not pleased with his/her lot in life without presenting him/her as a whiny kid. For me, you have found the balance. This is a kid I'm willing to tag along.

Buffra said...

I like this. I like the MC's voice (I agree with Yat-Yee about the balance) and I like the uniquely Australian bits.

I want to know what happens next. (And more about what happened before too!)

Nancy Coffelt said...

Yes, that Australian voice adds some nice personality to this. I'd definitely keep reading. The only thing I saw that made me pause was where she describes her brother behind her waving out the back window but in the next bit stresses that she refuses to look back.

Sheila said...

Great voice, great story questions, and an interesting main character would all have me wanting to read more.

But there were some POV slips, in my opinion. I drive an ipod wearing teenager, so these popped out at me.

First, like Nancy said, she's slumped in her seat listening to her ipod, and at the same time describing in great detail what her brother is doing in the back seat - clutching his box, looking out the window, saying "wow" when he saw a car (how can she hear him, if she's wearing the ipod? How can she hear her father?) And it seemed like a very short trip to Manna Bend.

But those are just nit-picky, really minor things. Well done.

Emily Kokie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Kokie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Kokie said...

[sorry for the delete and repost - really, really bad typo :} ]

This has a nice voice, and the main character has depth - anger, sadness, can get into trouble... And you pack a lot of character building into the page, so I would definitely read on.

A few things I'd comment on if you were in my crit group:

I wasn't crazy about the fist line, but I did love "My hatred for Mum burned through me all over again." That's where you snagged my interest.

I wondered how she could hear her little brother in the back seat if she had her iPod on.

I loved her sentiment in the sentence, "I hated how enthusiastic he was, and knew it was mean, but meanness seemed to have replaced blood in my veins..." but I wanted a different word for "enthusiastic" - of course I couldn't come up with a suggestion, but it felt...formal for the sentence. But that's a nitpick.

I also wasn't crazy about the "stray dog" analogy, but overall, the first page worked.

And I agree that in addition to having a strong voice regardless of location, the fact that it is set in Australia did add interest for me.

good luck.