Review + Giveaway: First Pages – ALTERATIONS by Stephanie Scott

First Pages is a before-and-after series featuring an early draft of a book’s first page and a short commentary from the author describing how that draft evolved into its published form. I’ve read thousands of first pages, and I started this series to study how authors get it right. It takes a lot of courage for authors to share their first or early draft, so these are a real treat!

In this installment of the series, we look at ALTERATIONS, a contemporary romance by debut author Stephanie Scott (Dec 2016, Bloomsbury Spark).


Summary


ALTERATIONS

by Stephanie Scott
Young Adult / Teen Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Release Date: Dec 2016

If anyone saw the prom boards Amelia Blanco makes on her favorite fashion app, they’d think Ethan Laurenti was her boyfriend. They wouldn’t know that all the plans she’s made for them are just dreams, and that she’s the girl who watches him from the kitchen while her parents cook for his famous family.

When Amelia’s abuelita enrolls her in a month-long fashion internship in NYC, Amelia can’t imagine leaving Miami–and Ethan–for that long. As soon as she gets to New York, however, she finds a bigger world and new possibilities. She meets people her own age who can actually carry on a conversation about stitching and design. Her pin boards become less about prom with Ethan and more about creating her own style. By the time she returns to Miami, Amelia feels like she can accomplish anything, and surprises herself by agreeing to help Ethan’s awkward, Steve-Jobs-wannabe brother, Liam, create his own fashion app.

As Liam and Amelia get closer, Ethan realizes that this newly confident, stylish girl may be the one for him after all . . . even though he has a reality TV star girlfriend he conveniently keeps forgetting about. The “new and improved” Amelia soon finds herself in between two brothers, a whole lot of drama, and choice she never dreamed she’d have to make.


Early Draft of First Page


I’d like to think I wasn’t the crying type, but I’d be lying.

I cried. Dampness saturated my pillow, making the pillowcase even grosser than its already-gross coating of flu germs. My bangs matted against my forehead. I tore my scarf away (even in sickness, I accessorized). The scarf hung limp against the side of the bed. Limp and lame like my life.

My sixteenth birthday, alone. No bonfire on the beach with my bestie Maya and friends from school. No cute boy on my doorstep with daisies like the movies.

No Ethan Laurenti. For as long as I could remember I’d dreamed of being with Ethan Laurenti. Of kissing Ethan Laurenti. Of going to prom with him.
I could hardly blame Maya for choosing a legit Friday night party with Kaylee freaking Emerson over logging more couch time with me while I rode out this flu storm. Except I did blame her. This birthday sucked.

Yesterday’s half-eaten slice of cake stared from my dresser with its frosted polka dots now turned to eyes that mocked me.
“You’re the loser.” I buried my face in the pillow. Maybe I was a loser—I just yelled at cake.

My bedroom door opened. “Amelia.” Only my grandmother, my abuelita, would barge into my room before noon on a Saturday. “Time to get up. The day is wasting.”


Commentary from the author


First pages evolve so much! My first line stayed the same, but just to point out—my entire published-version first page used to be the start of my second scene. So truly, my first page evolved from cutting the original first scene entirely.

In comparing the two selections, we lost a character (RIP Kaylee freaking Emerson) who also disappeared from the book as part of an unnecessary subplot. The revised version keeps the focus on Amelia and why she’s in the state she’s in, with a little more context on what she wants out of life and why she feels like she’s missing out. She still yells at the cake and her grandmother still barges in.


Final Version of First Page


I’d like to think I wasn’t the crying type, but I’d be lying.

I cried. Dampness saturated my pillow, making the pillowcase even grosser than its already-gross coating of end-stage flu germs. My heavy bangs matted against my forehead. Kicking a leg out from beneath the covers, I tore my scarf away (because even in sickness, I accessorized). The scarf hung limp against the side of the bed. Limp and lame like my life.

My sixteenth birthday, alone. No bonfire on the beach with my bestie, Maya, and friends from school. No cute boy on my doorstep holding daisies like in the movies.

No Ethan Laurenti.

For as long as I could remember, I’d dreamed of two things: to become a fashion designer, and to be with Ethan Laurenti. I dreamed, elaborately, of Ethan Laurenti. Of going to prom with him. Of falling in love, slowly and completely. I dreamed of seeing the boy I’d watched grow up realize his true feelings—that his OTP (One True Pairing) had been here all along. (That girl would be me, by the way.) Only the flu struck, just in time for another potentially perfect love declaration moment to pass by.

Yesterday’s half-eaten slice of cake stared at me from atop my dresser. Usually, I loved birthday cake, but now the frosted polka dots arranged across the icing turned to mocking eyes. They focused their confectionery judgment at me, solidifying my loser status.

You’re the loser!” I shot back.

I buried my face in the pillow—I just yelled at cake.

My bedroom door opened. “Amelia.” Only my abuelita would barge into my room before noon on a Saturday. “Time to get up. The day is wasting.”


Review by Colleen (CM McCoy)


Oh the angst of a 16-year-old girl!

Amelia has just spent her 16th birthday in bed with a face full of snot rather than cake, but her day seems about to get much better 🙂

Amelia is a character I’m not sure I like yet, but she’s enough of an entertaining teenage basket-case that I want to find out. She’s either delirious with fever and teen-drama-brain with short bursts of humor poking through, or she’s simply a  vain and overly dramatic crybaby (“even in sickness, I accessorize”). I suspect the former, I suspect I’ll like her, and that suspicion is the element in this first page that makes me want to read on.

This first page does a lot:

  • Readership: YA. This girl just fever-snotted through her 16th birthday.
  • Genre: It’s not so clear in the first page. And honestly, I didn’t notice the heart on the cover until just now. (I know, I’m blind.) With the angst of a 16-year-old girl, the mere fact that she’s thinking about a boy doesn’t scream romance–they ALL think of boys, even the thriller girls. But now that I “see” the heart on the cover, it’s clearly romance.
  • Mood and voice: Here’s where this first page excels. Nothing is over done, and the angsty woe-is-me teen drama mixed with subtle humor rings true to me. This made me laugh:

You’re the loser!” I shot back.

I buried my face in the pillow—I just yelled at cake.

  • Setting:  Not as clear. It threw me off that she calls her gramma abuelita, and I don’t know if she lives with her gran or if maybe gran is just visiting. “Prom” says USA, but I’ve no idea where in the US  this is set–city or farm, east or west.
  • Tell me more” factor: I’m turning the page at this point, but not from suspense. The mood is decidedly disappointed and full of mucus. It’s the voice that’s hooked me–that fun sort of wonder, which plants a seed of curiosity in my head that whispers, “what will come out of this girl’s brain next.” Getting a chuckle out of a first page is magic. I love this opening!

This first page earns 4 North of Normal stars!


Buy the Book


 

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Stephanie Scott writes stories about characters who put their passions first. She is an active member of Romance Writers of America and its online YA chapter YARWA, and a current writing mentor in online pitch contests. She enjoys dance fitness and cat memes, and Pinterest is driving her broke. Born and raised in Kalamazoo where there are no zoos, she’s a Midwest girl at heart. She now lives outside of Chicago with her tech-of-all-trades husband. You can find her chatting about all things books on twitter and instagram.


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