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Author Topic: CROSSING OF SHADOW/ YA magical realism  (Read 131 times)
Daisy22
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« on: November 10, 2018, 10:18:58 AM »

(I've received several comments about my voice being too mature for YA, so any guidance would be great as well as general impressions)


I’d dreaded this day for weeks, prayed the war would end and he wouldn’t have to go. But the war hadn’t ended, and the day had still come. The day I had to say goodbye to my big brother Jeremy, for what could be the last time.
“Where the heck am I supposed to park with these dang hippies blocking the road?” Dad huffed from the front seat.
Beside me, Jeremy’s fingers fidgeted with the ripped envelope in his hands. As it was addressed from the U.S. Armed Forces, there’d been no need to open it. The Induction letters were all identical, beginning with their “Greetings from the President of the United States”. Like it was supposed to instill a sense of pride into the draftees. That they should feel honored, as though President Nixon himself had made a personal request.
But the last thing it was was a request. A request was something a person could refuse, and I doubted anyone unlucky enough to receive such a letter was given much of a choice. From what I’d overheard from my Dad’s hushed conversations on the phone, you were given two options when that letter came: join or go to jail. Had Jeremy chose the latter of which, it would have sent our police officer father off the rails.
“It’s all right Ralph.” Mother said from the passenger seat in front of me. She pressed her coral pink lips together in the rearview mirror and smoothed the floral scarf over her hair. “I’m sure there’s parking at Shreveport's across the street.” A thick layer of powder under her eyes concealed the fact she’d been crying all night.
My Dad pulled over, and we all piled out onto the sidewalk. February in Portland, the gutter was pushed beyond capacity by the wet winter. Overflowing into the street, they formed rushing streams of water that cascaded around our boots as we hurried to the sidewalk.
Resist the Draft,” and “End the War,” were brandished at us as we made our way to the front of the bricked building. I averted my gaze, not wanting to meet their disapproving eyes. Jeremy’s hand squeezed mine. It didn’t matter whether I believed the Vietnam War was a lost cause. All that mattered was they’d called Jeremy’s number, and he had nowhere to run. He had to go.
My mother and father pushed us ahead as they elbowed their way through the crowd. Even with drenched clothes and mops of hair, the protestors thrust their signs at us, indifferent of the gloomy weather. Kids from my school passed out small bags containing an assortment of toiletries, soaps, and razors. A family— dressed in wool coats and with plastered on smiles— handed out small leather-bound bibles to the other men reporting to the induction board.
A girl, not much older than my sister Leah, stepped in front of us and waved her arms menacingly at Jeremy. A woodsy onion scent wafted toward me, and I wrinkled my nose.
“Cannon fodder!” the girl shouted. “That’s all you are! Uncle Sam doesn’t give a lick about you. When will you realize the war in ‘Nam is lost?”
I winced at her words, as an ache wormed its way into my chest. What was she saying? Were we really sending my brother thousands of miles away to fight a war we couldn’t win?
My father, seemingly unfazed, glowered at the girl. “He’s a true patriot doing his duty, unlike you.” He hesitated. “You freeloading hippie.” His face had gone as red as Mom’s favorite high heels, and he shoved Jeremy forward, hustling the protester out of the way. 
An ache burrowed its way into my chest. I’d never seen my father so angry. Even when he’d caught Jeremy with a girl in his bedroom last year, he hadn’t so much as raised his voice. As calm as a millpond, he’d asked her to put her clothes on and meet him at the front door. He hadn’t seen me from the bathroom at the end of the hall, but I’d even heard him offer to drive her home.
But how else was he supposed to feel today? The day he’d say goodbye to his only son. The day we all said goodbye. What if this was the last time? The terrible thought caused a pain in my ribs to twist, sinking deeper inside me with every step I took.
As we sidled inside the building with the other families huddled against us, a thick cloud of cigarette smoke billowed out around us.
Once inside, my nostrils filled with the familiar smell of oiled leather and mint Aqua Velva aftershave. I slid a glance over to my Mom and Dad beside me. Their faces were drawn, and as grey as my father’s police uniform. It was as if they’d already witnessed Jeremy’s death. My rapidly dwindling hope wavered inside me. Was the war really as lost as everyone said it was? I couldn’t, wouldn’t allow myself to think that way. I had to believe there was a chance Jeremy would make it back to us.
A ragged sob tore through the murmured voices. Ahead of us, a girl from my sister’s class cried as she placed her arms around the neck of a boy Jeremy’s age. When she pulled away, her cheeks were wet with tears. An inky mascara ran in streaks down her face.
My throat tightened. The intensity of emotions in such a small space was stifling, and my pulse quickened for fear they’d suffocate me. My eyes flicked to the door, unsure how much longer I could stand to be in here. The line was long. Maybe I had time to wait outside, breathe in some fresh air until they called Jeremy in. I turned to leave, but a hand on my shoulder stopped me.
“Rachel,” Jeremy said, his voice soft.
His hands gently squeezed my shoulders. Unwilling to meet his gaze, I stared down at my waterlogged shoes. I didn’t want him to speak, didn’t want to hear the words he’d say because there would be only one way it would end.
He would leave.
The air in the room had turned warm, and the room swayed beneath me.
“Rachel,” he said again.
My eyes rose to meet his, eyes that mimicked the color of my own, brown with flecks of gold and green.
“I need you to take care of something for me while I’m gone, okay?” he said, and reached behind his neck and pulled his necklace over his head. He held out the leather cord. It was a silver peace sign, with amber sunstone beads woven into the strap.
“I can’t take this with me so you’ll have to hold it for me till I get it back.”
My scalp prickled as I tried to understand what he was saying. That necklace was his favorite, probably because of how much it annoyed our father when he wore it. I squirmed under his expectant gaze and opened my mouth to protest, but before I could, he reached down and took my right hand. He unfolded my clenched fists and placed the necklace on my palm. My eyes followed his movements, and I curled my fingers over it.
I peered up at him, and his face was blurred from my tears. “Jeremy, I can’t.”
He smiled and shook his head. “Oh Rachel, why must you always be so afraid? It’s only a necklace, not a death sentence. I’ll be back before you know it, I just want you to hang on to it for me until then okay?”
My eyes burned into his.“Please, Jeremy,” I pleaded. “I don’t want you to go.” A wave of desperation surged through me, and I spun on my heel, glaring at our father.
“Please Dad, can’t you do something? You work for the police department, there must be a way you can ask for a deferment? The war can’t go on much longer, and if you only—”
My father held up a hand, cutting me off. His face remained blank, lips pressed into a thin line. A hard weight tugged at me, threatening to pull me into the world crumbling around me. I already knew the answer.
“We’ve been over this, Rachel,” he said. “Jeremy must do his patriotic duty like any other American.”
Jeremy’s hand on my elbow drew my attention away, and I noticed the smile had faded from his face. “I’m sure if there was a way, Dad would have figured it out. My number’s up. There’s nothing I can do.” He leaned over and brushed the back of his hand lightly against my cheek. A familiar gesture, it steadied my racing heart.
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kaperton
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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2018, 07:57:38 PM »

(I've received several comments about my voice being too mature for YA, so any guidance would be great as well as general impressions)


I’d dreaded this day for weeks, prayed the war would end and he wouldn’t have to go. But the war hadn’t ended, and the day had still come. The day I had to say goodbye to my big brother Jeremy, for what could be the last time.
“Where the heck am I supposed to park with these dang hippies blocking the road?” Dad huffed from the front seat.
Beside me, Jeremy’s fingers fidgeted with the ripped envelope in his hands. As it was addressed from the U.S. Armed Forces, there’d been no need to open it. The Induction letters were all identical, beginning with their “Greetings from the President of the United States”. Like it was supposed to instill a sense of pride into the draftees. That they should feel honored, as though President Nixon himself had made a personal request.
But the last thing it was was a request. A request was something a person could refuse, and I doubted anyone unlucky enough to receive such a letter was given much of a choice. From what I’d overheard from my Dad’s hushed conversations on the phone, you were given two options when that letter came: join or go to jail. Had Jeremy chosen the latter of which, it would have sent our police officer father off the rails.
It’s all right, Ralph.,” Mother said from the passenger seat in front of me. She pressed her coral pink lips together in the rearview mirror and smoothed the floral scarf over her hair. “I’m sure there’s parking at Shreveport's across the street.” A thick layer of powder under her eyes concealed the fact she’d been crying all night.
My Dad pulled over, and we all piled out onto the sidewalk. February in Portland, the gutter was pushed beyond capacity by the wet winter. Overflowing into the street, they [what's they? If you mean the gutters, make it plural in the previous sentence.] formed rushing streams of water that cascaded around our boots as we hurried to the sidewalk.
Resist the Draft,” and “End the War,” were brandished at us as we made our way to the front of the bricked building. I averted my gaze, not wanting to meet their disapproving eyes. Jeremy’s hand squeezed mine. It didn’t matter whether I believed the Vietnam War was a lost cause. All that mattered was they’d called Jeremy’s number, and he had nowhere to run. He had to go.
My mother and father pushed us ahead as they elbowed their way through the crowd. Even with drenched clothes and mops of hair, the protesters thrust their signs at us, indifferent of to the gloomy weather. Kids from my school passed out small bags containing an assortment of toiletries, soaps, and razors. A family— [no space]dressed in wool coats and with plastered on smiles— handed out small leather-bound bibles to the other men reporting to the induction board.
A girl, not much older than my sister Leah, stepped in front of us and waved her arms menacingly at Jeremy. A woodsy onion scent wafted toward me, and I wrinkled my nose.
“Cannon fodder!” the girl shouted. “That’s all you are! Uncle Sam doesn’t give a lick about you. [If you've researched this, ignore me, but I would have said that the phrase "give a lick about" was way earlier than the 60's.] When will you realize the war in ‘Nam is lost?”
I winced at her words, as an ache wormed its way into my chest. What was she saying? Were we really sending my brother thousands of miles away to fight a war we couldn’t win? [A few paragraphs ago you said, "It doesn't matter whether I ]the Vietnam War was a lost cause," which implies that she does think it's a lost cause, so it doesn't fit that she would be surprised by what the protester is saying.]
My father, seemingly unfazed, glowered at the girl. “He’s a true patriot doing his duty, unlike you.” He hesitated. “You freeloading hippie.” His face had gone as red as Mom’s favorite high heels, and he shoved Jeremy forward, hustling the protester out of the way. 
An ache burrowed its way into my chest. [You used almost the same phrase two paragraphs ago.] I’d never seen my father so angry. Even when he’d caught Jeremy with a girl in his bedroom last year, he hadn’t so much as raised his voice. As calm as a millpond, he’d asked her to put her clothes on and meet him at the front door. He hadn’t seen me from the bathroom at the end of the hall, but I’d even heard him offer to drive her home.
But how else was he supposed to feel today? The day he’d say goodbye to his only son. The day we all said goodbye. What if this was the last time? The terrible thought caused a pain in my ribs to twist, sinking deeper inside me with every step I took.
As we sidled inside the building with the other families huddled against us, a thick cloud of cigarette smoke billowed out around us.
Once inside, my nostrils filled with the familiar smell of oiled leather and mint Aqua Velva aftershave. I slid a glance over to my Mom and Dad beside me. Their faces were drawn, and as grey as my father’s police uniform. It was as if they’d already witnessed Jeremy’s death. My rapidly dwindling hope wavered inside me. Was the war really as lost as everyone said it was? I couldn’t, wouldn’t allow myself to think that way. I had to believe there was a chance Jeremy would make it back to us.
A ragged sob tore through the murmured voices. Ahead of us, a girl from my sister’s class cried as she placed her arms around the neck of a boy Jeremy’s age. When she pulled away, her cheeks were wet with tears. An inky mascara ran in streaks down her face.
My throat tightened. The intensity of emotions in such a small space was stifling, and my pulse quickened for fear they’d suffocate me. My eyes flicked to the door, unsure how much longer I could stand to be in here. The line was long. Maybe I had time to wait outside, breathe in some fresh air until they called Jeremy in. I turned to leave, but a hand on my shoulder stopped me.
“Rachel,” Jeremy said, his voice soft.
His hands gently squeezed my shoulders. Unwilling to meet his gaze, I stared down at my waterlogged shoes. I didn’t want him to speak, didn’t want to hear the words he’d say because there would be only one way it would end.
He would leave.
The air in the room had turned warm, and the room swayed beneath me.
“Rachel,” he said again.
My eyes rose to meet his, eyes that mimicked the color of my own, brown with flecks of gold and green.
“I need you to take care of something for me while I’m gone, okay?” he said, and reached behind his neck and pulled his necklace over his head. He held out the leather cord. It was a silver peace sign, with amber sunstone beads woven into the strap.
“I can’t take this with me, so you’ll have to hold it for me till I get it back.”
My scalp prickled as I tried to understand what he was saying. That necklace was his favorite, probably because of how much it annoyed our father when he wore it. I squirmed under his expectant gaze and opened my mouth to protest, but before I could, he reached down and took my right hand. He unfolded my clenched fists and placed the necklace on my palm. My eyes followed his movements, and I curled my fingers over it. [I might be being picky here, but the placing of an object in someone's clenched fist is a pretty big cliche. I remember my friends and I making fun of it back in high school.]
I peered up at him, and his face was blurred from my tears. “Jeremy, I can’t.”
He smiled and shook his head. “Oh Rachel, why must you always be so afraid? [This strikes me as a formal way of talking. "why do you always have to be so afraid?" sounds better] It’s only a necklace, not a death sentence. I’ll be back before you know it,. I just want you to hang on to it for me until then okay?”
My eyes burned into his.“Please, Jeremy,” I pleaded. “I don’t want you to go.” A wave of desperation surged through me, and I spun on my heel, glaring at our father.
“Please Dad, can’t you do something? You work for the police department, there must be a way you can ask for a deferment? The war can’t go on much longer, and if you only—”
My father held up a hand, cutting me off. His face remained blank, lips pressed into a thin line. A hard weight tugged at me, threatening to pull me into the world crumbling around me. I already knew the answer.
“We’ve been over this, Rachel,” he said. “Jeremy must do his patriotic duty like any other American.”
Jeremy’s hand on my elbow drew my attention away, and I noticed the smile had faded from his face. “I’m sure if there was a way, Dad would have figured it out. My number’s up. There’s nothing I can do.” He leaned over and brushed the back of his hand lightly against my cheek. [This seems a teensy bit weird for a brother to do to a sister. I have 3 brothers and can't imagine any of them touching my cheek with his hand.] A familiar gesture, it steadied my racing heart.


Sorry--I know you didn't ask for grammar/punctuation edits, but I couldn't resist. My general feelings are that I like this, and don't think it's too mature for YA. My only complaint is that there are too many phrases about her intense feeling. This is obviously a moment of intense emotion, but sometimes less is more. It just feels weighed down to me with so many descriptions of her feelings. 
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Daisy22
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2018, 11:26:38 AM »

Thank you so much for all the comments! I'm glad to hear it doesn't seem too adult, and its funny you mention "too many feelings" because the feedback I've had by two agents was there wasn't enough emotion.  bow What do ya do.  lol
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kaperton
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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2018, 11:38:10 AM »

Thank you so much for all the comments! I'm glad to hear it doesn't seem too adult, and its funny you mention "too many feelings" because the feedback I've had by two agents was there wasn't enough emotion.  bow What do ya do.  lol

That's so funny! Maybe it's just my personal preference. I guess I've always been a fan of the narrator who seems slightly on the cold side, and you come to see the emotions underneath.
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