This is the prelude to my novel aimed mostly at the older end of the YA market. It is also intended to be an exposé much like Pat Conroy's The Water is Wide. Would you continue reading this book at the bookstore?

Home Means Nevada

Ashton stands up holding a poster board sized copy of the answer key directly behind Señora Faye, who is absorbed in her reading of section D, the oral section of this examination. His obnoxious smile stands out as the centerpiece of the scene as he lets out an occasional fiendish laugh.

All the Spanish vocabulary being tested are cognates, words that are practically the same in English and Spanish. Realism and realismo. Hotel and hotel. It doesn’t matter what I write on the test anyway. Ashton grades it. He’s the student aide. He gives me a 100 on everything.

“Necisito repitar?” Senora Faye asks.

I drone off, as the memory begins to fade. It seems unreal. But somehow it pulls me back in.

“Necisito repitar?” she asks again, like I didn’t hear her the first time.

I look at her and then at Ashton. He’s moved from the corner of the room to right behind Señora Faye as he happily waves the answer key in circles above her head, demonically laughing. She’s too stupid to turn around. I like to think that at least. Maybe she’s known all along he’s right behind her the whole time. She just chooses to ignore him because she doesn’t care at all.

This is the dream I keep having anyway, in some way or another at least. It keeps haunting me.

The beach was beautiful that summer, anyway. Everything I had seen in the last two years just melted together I suppose. I’d go out and bake in the sun a bit. Maybe go into the water—sometimes surf—but more often I’d just go out and float in the water for I while. I’d be out there for hours if I felt like it really. And all the while, the scene kept flooding back into my mind.

The water was cold though that year, and I’d wake up suddenly after floating for so long to find myself shivering far out from the beach. Then I’d start floating again, and Ashton and Señora Faye would come right back.

John was here with me just for the summer, and then he’d be back for his home back east. We were third cousins twice removed or something silly like that, and I’d seem him only once before that summer. He’d swim with me in the morning sometimes but mostly we’d just aimlessly lie down at the beach doing nothing, tan maybe. He knew some girls out here, and he’d bring me out to go meet them sometimes. It was fun really. He’d come in the middle of the night always and manage to wake me up no matter how quiet he was. I’d forget all about Señora Faye and Ashton and everything that had happened for the past two years as I’d tried to get out of him where he’d been that particular night. I’d bug him about it, but he’d be all-elusive about it for a while and then would just doze off. But gee though, it was real nice to have a fresh face around after everything.

John and I’d take my younger brother every now and then to the tide pool, you know just to look at the crabs and stuff. He’d run off and catch them, and we’d try our best to make sure he didn’t jump off too big a rock or something. And the tides kept going back and forth as the sun kept going up and down. I’d close my eyes and forget the last few years, only to be reminded again of everything by Ashton’s face.

Ashley told me it’d be like this, for a while at least. That the days would just roll together for a while. The thing was, she said, that I’d gotten so used to being at school, so absorbed in it all, that I’d have difficulty accepting anything had ever ended. She’d said it’d be good for me to get away from everything for a while. It would all be just a dream at first, yes, entirely unbelievable—but one that I’d eventually wake up from too.

It wasn’t just my story alone that I thought about. I thought of the stories of so many others I knew, and, really I guess, it all was the same story anyway. Just different but interconnected perversions of the same problem. And all of it came back to that scene of Ashton and Señora Faye in the end.

In a way, I supposed I missed everyone. Ashley’s advice or just her voice would flood into my head every so often, filling it when Ashton did not. As if it mattered now. And Ashton, god how that kid worked his ass off. All for nothing. Only to burn out and go insane.

I don’t know why I started writing really.


I almost stopped reading after the first few paragraphs, but determined to suffer through the whole thing. For an exposé, it doesn't expose much, does it? No clue who any of the characters are, just a bunch of names. No clue who the narrator is, not a name or even a gender. I suspect he's male, but who knows? I don't know why he started writing either. I wish he hadn't.

So no, I would not continue. It was a struggle to read and a relief to stop to tell you the truth.

If I were you, I'd switch to third person. This is a textbook example of the common problem most beginners have with first person. The narrator yammers about himself or nothing in particular with zero advancement of any kind of story. Try again.

I know that's a tough critique to accept. Nobody wants to see that kind of opinion about their writing. But the fact remains: you must tell some kind of story, else what's the point of writing? Your query, your prelude (which you should eliminate and just start at Chapter 1), your book...ALL of them must tell a story that makes some kind of sense to the reader. Nobody wants to read a bunch of blather. Readers like a plot and conflict. Give it to them.