Well, it's time! So here goes....
• Title: The Boyfriend Plague
• Genre: YA Contemporary (upper age bracket)
• Status: finished 4th draft, so getting query ready
• Feedback wanted: overall critique, not line by line. How does the story flow? Is the pacing okay? Do the characters engage and act appropriately?
• Blurb/Query: Things at home are pretty rough for fifteen-year-old Livvie Quinn. After being cancer-free for almost ten years, her older sister, Jules is sick again.
School isn’t much better. One by one her closest friends get boyfriends and have little time for Livvie – except to set her up on a series of disastrous blind dates. Livvie seeks refuge in the art room, a place where her ability to see sounds and taste colors is something to be marveled at, not ridiculed.
Also hiding in the art room is Bianca, object of scorn and derision throughout the school. As a friendship develops between these two outcasts, Livvie realizes why those dates were so horrible. It’s not a boyfriend she needs - it’s Bianca. When their relationship is discovered, Livvie and Bianca are victims of cruelty more intense than even Bianca has experienced before. They are determined to stick together despite the abuse, but when the school authorities get involved and forbid the pair to attend the winter formal,
Livvie must make some tough decisions. With her family making demands on her that she doesn't feel she can follow, and her friends asking her to deny who she is, Livvie must decide to what lengths she is willing to go for the people she cares about.
The first 500 words: I squirmed on the splintery wooden bench. The room was too small and the irregular buzzing that crept over the lopsided swinging doors set my teeth on edge. Each burst sent a cloud of rusty orange scattering through my skull.
“Is this okay, Livvie?” Mel leaned over and pressed a slip of paper onto my knee.
I studied it for a moment, still trying to shake off the burning color my synesthesia had painted the world. “Yeah. It’s perfect.” I grinned at her, but my lips trembled so much I’m sure it was more a grimace.
“What about yours?” Mel turned to Hannah who had her paper crumpled in her fist.
She smoothed it out against the taut fabric of her jeans. “It’s good. I don’t think Mom could tell she hadn’t signed it.”
Mel sighed and glanced down at her own scrap of paper. “At least they’re all different. And how close are they going to look?”
Hannah’s eyes roved the enclosed space, photographs curling on every wall. “It’s a business right? They want to make money. I bet they just ask for these things ‘cos they have to.”
“You’re probably right.” Mel stood up and folded her permission slip back into her pocket. “I wish they’d hurry up though.”
“Me too.” I shifted again, my butt numbing against the hard surface. Coming here had seemed a good idea, but now, after almost half an hour on the wrong side of the doors, the stinging scent of rubbing alcohol drifting across us, I wasn’t so sure.
The swinging doors whapped open and shut, making me jump.
“Okay. You’re up.” The voice was deep and gruff.
We scrambled to our feet, pushing one another as we struggled not to be the first to enter the darkness beyond the doors. I ended up at the front and stepped through, taking a deep breath of air that tasted strangely metallic.
A table draped in white cloth sat beneath a single lamp on a swinging arm. A large man sat in a battered desk chair beside it. He had a lot of hair. On his face, on his head, curling out over the scoop neck of his tank top and covering his thick arms like an animal’s pelt.
“You girls got permission slips?” His eyes were dark brown, like chocolate drops or coffee beans, and they prowled over us.
“Uh… Yes.” Mel dug in her pocket and pulled out her forged document.
Hannah and I handed ours over too, and watched as he peered at the signatures.
He tossed them into a bowl on the table behind him. “Okay. Who’s first?”
I lay on my side on the table, my jeans pulled down to expose my left hip. While the beefy man studied the stylized number 3 we’d chosen, I ran my fingers across the small, raised scar there. In a few minutes that stark white reminder would be masked by a tattoo. I shivered.
“Scared?” Mel looked terrified, her face white, her eyes huge.