Slightly different post today, though still book-related – just not a published book! I wanted to post the first properly edited part of the children’s/YA adventure book I’m currently working on. I’m still working out some kinks but hoped that you guys might like to have a read and give me some advice. I’m not afraid of criticism, so don’t hold back!
Also, I’d like to see if this makes people want to read on and find out what happens next, so I decided against a plot summary on here.
The bell was already ringing as Madison slid through puddles, her bag thumping against the side of her leg. Why did she have to miss the bus on the first day back?
She skidded down the corridors until she came to her new form tutor’s room. Her soaked socks had fallen to her ankles. When she stooped to wrench them back up, Madison’s head connected with the door handle. She swore, rubbing it.
‘Good morning,’ said Mr. Lewis, raising his eyebrows as she walked in, keeping her eyes on the floor as she slinked to the back of the room. ‘As I was about to say before Madison kindly decided to turn up, this is – sorry, is this right?’
Madison realised Mr. Lewis was introducing a new girl to the class.
‘Apple,’ said the new girl. There were snickers from the back of the room.
‘Apple,’ Mr. Lewis repeated, furrowing his brow. ‘Right. Well, Apple’s just moved here so she doesn’t know anyone yet, and I’d like someone to be her buddy for a while. Any volunteers?’ Predictably, no one raised their hand. ‘Madison?’
Madison threw up her hands in protest.
‘Go and sit next to Madison,’ Mr. Lewis told Apple. ‘Don’t forget your timetable.’
Madison exhaled through her nose as Apple took the seat next to her. Cassie Sharpe turned to grin at them both, and stuck her middle finger up at Madison. You’re still fat, she mouthed.
Madison quickly looked away and her eyes met Apple’s.
‘Hi,’ she mumbled.
‘Hello,’ Apple whispered back.
It had been hidden when Apple had been at the front of the room, but now that she was sitting next to Madison it was clear that she had an unusual curvature of the spine. Her frumpy, maroon jumper strained to accommodate an oddly shaped, overlarge back.
In universal boredom, the class listened to Mr. Lewis’s rehashed speech about how they were supposed to apply themselves and work even harder this year. Secretly, Madison thought he did actually have a point this time, since this was Year Ten and they were going to be sitting their GCSEs not long from now.
Apple followed Madison to their first two classes of the day. During their morning break, she followed her to the canteen and sat with her there. Madison asked her what her next lesson was. To her dismay, it was English with Mrs. Tyler – the same as Madison.
‘What subjects are you taking?’ she asked.
Apple listed them off and Madison had to stop herself from groaning. They were all the same subjects as hers!
It wasn’t that Madison didn’t like Apple. It was just that she was used to having her own space. Back in Year Seven, Cassie Sharpe had seen to this: no one was allowed to be friends with Madison Cole because Cassie didn’t like her. Three years later, most people didn’t care about getting in with Cassie’s group anymore, but they ignored Madison out of habit.
Also because I’m fat and weird.
‘Thanks for sitting with me, by the way,’ said Apple. ‘I know you probably feel you got lumbered with me.’
‘No, I don’t,’ Madison lied.
‘I brought these sandwiches,’ said Apple, looking down at them, ‘but they’ve gone all soggy. Gross.’
A shadow fell over them. Madison looked up and groaned. Cassie was staring at them.
‘You’re the new girl, right?’ she said to Apple, ignoring Madison except for the two-fingered gesture she flicked at her. ‘You don’t have to sit with her. You can come over to our table if you like. I’m Cassie.’
‘Thank you,’ said Apple, ‘I’m OK here.’
‘Seriously?’ Cassie leant closer to Apple but her whisper carried over to Madison: ‘We know she smells. You can sit with us instead.’
‘Thank you,’ said Apple again, narrowing her eyes. ‘I’m fine here.’
Cassie straightened up, curling her lip as she surveyed Apple.
‘So what’s up with your back?’ she asked at last. ‘Are you disabled or something?’
‘God, Cassie!’ said Madison, disgusted.
‘It’s fine,’ Apple interrupted. ‘Yes, Cassie, I look slightly different from you. Is that something I have to apologise to you for?’ Before Cassie could answer, the bell rang and Apple rose from the table. She was tiny compared to Cassie, but she looked her straight in the eye. ‘Come on, Madison,’ she said. ‘We’ve got English.’
Madison eyed her warily as they made their way towards the classroom.
‘She will get you, you know,’ she told her.
‘Cassie! She’ll get the boys to put spiders down the back of your shirt. Or she’ll get her big sister to beat you up. Or one time she actually planted vodka in someone’s bag! They got suspended!’
Apple waved her concerns away.
‘I’ll be fine,’ she said. ‘I’m not scared of spiders, anyway-’
She let out a gasp as someone grabbed them both and shoved them into a nearby supply cupboard.
Madison yelled as her shoulder connected with the wall. She whirled around just in time to see Cassie laughing at her before everything went dark and the lock clicked.
‘Let us out!’ she shouted, punching the door. ‘God, I hate you so much!’
‘Who do you think you are?’ cried Apple, hammering on the door with her tiny fists. ‘Do you know who you’re dealing with?’
Madison didn’t know what Apple meant by that, but judging by the fading laughter, Cassie and her friends couldn’t hear them anyway. Apple pummelled the door harder until Madison had to drag her away. Finally, she found a light switch, and she saw that Apple’s eyes had filled with hurt, angry tears.
‘Don’t be upset,’ she said, sighing and sitting on the floor amid boxes of whiteboard markers and erasers. ‘She’s just a bitch.’
‘Why would they do that?’
‘It’s just what they’re like.’ Madison felt her shoulder twinge from where it had hit the wall earlier. As she winced and rubbed it, Apple asked, ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Nothing,’ said Madison. ‘Think there’s a bruise coming.’ She twisted her arm around so that she could press her fingertips to it, and sure enough, she felt the beginnings of a bruise.
‘Did Cassie do that?’
‘Why?’ Apple looked furious. ‘Why would she want to hurt you like that? Why would she lock us in here when we’ve done nothing wrong?’
Madison shrugged, still massaging her shoulder.
‘I dunno,’ she said. ‘She hates me. Everyone hates me.’
‘Why?’ cried Apple. For some reason, she jumped to her feet, clenching her fists at her sides. ‘Why would she hate you?’
‘What’s up with you?’ asked Madison, baffled. ‘You’ve only known me five minutes.’
Apple scowled. It looked all wrong on her peachy-cheeked face.
‘I know you well enough,’ she said, ‘and anyone could see that that girl has just got it in for you. What a b-’ She faltered, going pink. ‘I mean, what a horrible person.’
In spite of herself, Madison laughed. Apple was such a goody-two-shoes. Her sister Chloe would love her.
‘Do you want to come over for dinner tonight?’ she asked, surprising herself. ‘If we ever get out of here, I mean.’ She gestured at the cupboard around them.
‘I’d love to!’ she said, then frowned as Madison hissed through her teeth, her hand jumping to her injured shoulder. ‘Let me have a look.’
‘It’ll be fine in a bit,’ said Madison, but Apple came to examine it all the same.
As the other girl reached forward, Madison yelled in shock: it felt like Apple had scalded her. The heat worsened, contained only to the area that Apple was moving her hands over, until Madison thought she would pass out from the pain – then, as abruptly as it had started, it stopped.
‘Better?’ asked Apple.
Madison stared at her, and slowly moved her hand to squeeze her shoulder. She cried out in shock. It no longer felt bruised: in fact, the whole area felt nimbler somehow, as if she had just walked out of Chloe’s yoga studio.
Madison gaped at Apple.
‘How did you do that?’
‘I know first aid.’
‘That wasn’t first aid! That was more like… like magic!’ Madison poked, awe-struck, at the miraculously healed skin. Was it her imagination, or had Apple’s cheeks flushed at the word ‘magic’?
Here’s a few things I’m unsure about at the moment:
- How old the characters should be. I’ve put them at about 14, but do you think they’re acting too old/too young?
- Cassie. I’m worried she’s a caricature. Do you feel like you’ve seen this character before? Similarly, is the teacher using slightly cliched language?
- How do the beginning paragraphs sound? Too much detail/not enough?
- If you’re into YA/fantasy, does it make you want to read on?
I’d be so grateful to hear your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by!