Today we are critiquing the first page of a story called “The Wickedest Girl”. I’ll add my comments at the end, and then please give your feedback in the Comments.
The Wickedest Girl
When my brother Nico gave me a Wicked CD for my eleventh birthday, we all knew what he wanted as a graduation present. He had done the same thing four years ago with Matilda, and then we went to the show in July. Now it’s the week before school, and no one had mentioned anything.
I stretch out on my bed and run my hand over my side table until I find the stack of CDs. I have five in all: Wicked, Matilda, Legally Blonde, and two Broadway Christmas albums. I pick up the top CD and read the braille on the cover: Wicked: the Musical. On the back it says: to Olivia who is always defying gravity.
I can’t help smiling. The messages are from Nico, brailled on to a thin sheet of paper that can peel like a sticker. How he managed to get it done—while at college no less—I’ll never ask.
I lean over and press play on my CD player—a machine I only ever use to listen to Wicked since the songs aren’t yet copied on to my iPod. I press the skip button until I reach song eleven, and then flop on my back to listen.
“Something has changed within me/ Something is not the same/ I’m through with playing by the rules/ Of someone else’s game”
I don’t know why I keep listening to this song. It tells me to break rules. It tells me to not listen to grownups. It tells me to defy gravity. And that has never worked for me before.
“With you and I/ Defying gravity / They’ll never bring us down.”
Back in second grade, I had a horrible teacher. Well, she wasn’t exactly horrible, just dry and sour, a person who despised fun and creativity. Back then I was obsessed with Matilda, and had followed her orders to be naughty. My friend Rosa and I had done it together—smeared Mrs. Walsh’s blackboard with glue and dirt and written the worst messages we could think of—but since I was the one under a magnifying lens for being blind, I was the one who took the heat. The general group of teachers that governed my life back then had labeled me mentally delayed and behaviorally unstable. Mamma had managed to clear all of that up before Christmas, but I will never forget it.
Matilda led me astray once, I won’t letting Elphaba do it again. Yet here I am, listening to the song that will influence me the most.
I’m intrigued by the narrator in this story—her physical handicap gives her an immediate obstacle to overcome, and makes me want to learn more about her. I loved the anecdote about the chalkboard, and the way this writer establishes her close relationship with her brother at the top.
I got tripped up by a few issues. I stumbled over change of tenses in the transition between the first and second paragraphs. The switch to the present made it feel as if I’d entered a completely different story. (Disclosure: I’m not a fan of stories written in the present tense, although I understand it is used by many YA authors. I find it a tedious to read a story written in the present tense. I once had a lengthy debate with an aspiring YA author in my critique group about the perils of using the present tense. She decided not to use it).
In the last paragraph, I stumbled over a missing word (be?) in “I won’t letting Elphaba do it again.” I also think it would help bring the reader back to the present if the writer would add a “had” to “Matilda led me astray” in the first sentence of the last paragraph. (I was puzzled by the reference to “Elphaba” in the next line, but I suspect it’s a musical reference that I’m too old and tone deaf to recognize 😁.)
Those nits aside, I do love the character and relationships that are being introduced in this story. The voice is engaging, which is a huge accomplishment by the writer—creating a compelling voice is one of the biggest challenges in writing. I hope to read more of this story at some point in the future. Thanks to today’s courageous writer for submitting this page!
TKZers, please add your feedback about “The Wickedest Girl “ in the Comments. Thanks!