Author Topic: First Chapter of a YA fantasy novel  (Read 420 times)

Offline Writer_aaron

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First Chapter of a YA fantasy novel
« on: February 24, 2018, 03:16:53 PM »
I'm told the first pages are the most important and am trying to get critiques of the first chapter. What is done write what is done wrong and how I could improve it. Thanks.

Chapter One

To say Tess abhorred math was extreme but accurate. It was like math was some ancient, and evil, definitely evil, ritual they were required to participate in.
Unfortunately for Tess and every other student in the 8 a.m. Algebra I course, Arkham High School was pretty ambivalent to her loathing for math. 
Tess decided that her hatred for slackers was where her issues with math stemmed from. She didn't ask for math to solve her problems, so why did she have to solve math's problems?
Still, it wasn't like she was the only one who had to deal with it. Most of the kids who had entered the classroom had gone to the same middle school as Tess.
She always heard everyone changed between eighth and ninth grade, but so far, everyone appeared the same.
Seth Pitcher was first to class, just like last year. He would be the first student every day for the rest of the year. She beat him only because was Mr. Carpenter's class was her homeroom.
The cliché clique of mean/popular girls entered next, the three alpha queens in the lead. They were the same as last year too, cold centers wrapped in warm and beautiful exteriors. Abigail Saint, Kelly Fitch, and Ashlee Prince managed to keep a gaggle of four other girls in line with constant snips at their insecurities, like watching a pack of wild dogs heard sheep.
Tess didn't have anything against them. They were always polite enough to her face. She knew they definitely made jokes about her behind her back. She was on the girls' soccer team, and never had a boyfriend. In her defense, something about her dad carrying a gun and badge had deterred many would-be boyfriends.
Though since her dad had died two years ago, she guessed that wasn't as much of an excuse anymore. She focused on the next arrivals to the class before old memories she wished would stay buried surfaced.
Jeremy Damon was next to arrive. Tess didn’t like him, and she was sure he hadn’t changed either.  Jeremy was the complete bully package rolled into one. He was big, smart, and worst of all sadistic. He was followed by his second and third in command Logan Kahn and Dereck Little, Compared to Jeremy, his friends were nothing but a bunch of simple minded goons.
A couple more kids entered. The twin Gannett sisters came in wearing practically identical outfits, arguing. The three stoners, Chelsea Cotton, Ethan Whitman and Andy Newman, came in bringing with them the distinctive smell of cigarette smoke.
A small boy peeked in the class and hid again when he spotted sight of Jeremy and his friends. Tess recognized him, Nick Molneux, Jeremy's all-time favorite punching bag, though Tess wondered how much of his torment was actually physical.
Jeremy believed physical violence was below him unless someone wasn't scared of him, then it was perfectly acceptable. Jeremy's dad was the head of the Arkham General Hospital's psychiatric ward, a fact Jeremy liked to remind people of. Jeremy knew more about psychological warfare than most CIA interrogators, and unlike them, little things like the Geneva Convention didn't bother him.
Nick ducked back out of the class. Tess imagined he would wait next to the door until the teacher arrived.
The classroom was almost full. A rush of several more students entered meaning the bell marking the start of class couldn't be far off.
“Good lord, my homeroom is on the opposite side of this school,” Jenna Adcocke said, dropping into the seat next to Tess, out of breath.
“It can't be that bad,” Tess teased, “you've run further.”
Jenna and Tess had played soccer together for as long as she could remember. Neither of them expected to play past high school, but they enjoyed the opportunities it offered.
Jenna enjoyed getting to see the school's star soccer player, Brayden Clay, who she had a crush on since third-grade, practice on the adjacent field during the same time. For Tess, soccer was a bit different.
Tess wasn't on the team for any skills save one: she was the team's enforcer. If someone was playing dirty, she set them straight, which usually involved elbows and misplaced slide tackles. Something about people cheating had always lit Tess’s fuse. She didn't like seeing people cheat the system.
“Ya, that's true, and it's not like we have to carry lots of books,” Jenna said, taking a couple more deep breaths to slow her heart rate.
That was true, Tess hadn't thought about it. Arkham had received a grant to get all the students tablet computers. The systems were locked, but all the school's books, homework, and everything was loaded on them. You could even take notes if you could type on the screen fast enough, which Tess couldn't. She didn't like the feel of the screens over pen and paper. She guessed in some way she was just old school like her dad had been.
Tess saw motion out of the corner of her eye, near the door. She expected to see the tall narrow frame of the teacher she had met during orientation, but the person walking in the door wasn't Mr. Carpenter or anyone Tess recognized.
He was average height and average weight. In fact, everything about him screamed average. His hair was cut in a typical, short style for guys their age. His face was a little on the attractive side, but only slightly. He definitely wouldn't have stood out in a crowd. He dressed in a pair of plain jeans, a plain gray T-shirt, and a pair of sneakers.
The only thing about him that didn't seem normal was the way he furrowed his rust colored eyes and scanned the room. The gaze made him appear like he was judging everyone, one by one. It wasn't an arrogant look, but it was calculating for certain.
Upon seeing the boy, Jeremy nudged Logan and pointed. He whispered something, and the boys laughed.
The boy at the door watched them callously but didn't say anything before crossing the room and taking one of the few remaining seats immediately behind Tess without a word.
The new boy, as people were invariably going to call him, set his elbows on his desk and massaged his temples.
Up close he was a little less average. His eyes were more feminine than most boys’ and were ringed with heavy bags as if he hadn't slept in days. His lips were thin, and drawn tight. He wasn't unattractive, simply not distinctive.
The boy mumbled something crossly to himself. Tess hated when people mumbled. It made them look guilty of something, even if they weren't. She watched his mouth again waiting to see if when he mumbled again if she could read his lips.
Jenna hissed at her. Tess felt her face heat up as she realized she had been staring over her shoulder at him.
I should introduce myself to play it off, she decided.
She spun in her seat, but paused when a pained expression crossed his face. His look of pure annoyance stopped the words in her mouth.
“Please, stop looking at me,” the boy said in a strained voice.
“Oh, sorry,” she said realizing she had been staring again. “I didn't—”
“I don't care. Turn around and quit looking at me.” Tess felt her face heat up again, but this time she was sure she wasn't blushing from embarrassment.
What flew up his shorts? She fought the urge to punch him in the face before slowly spinning forward again.
“Shade, stop it,” the boy hissed.
“What was that?” Tess growled, turning on him.
“Alright, class quiet down,” Mr. Carpenter said entering the room.
The teacher reminded Tess of Abraham Lincoln, with less facial hair and no mole. Jenna liked to joke that Mr. Carpenter was apparently still waiting for his last growth spurt after she saw him at orientation. His clothes didn’t fit him right, hanging loosely from his body.
He made it to his desk at the front corner of the class as the bell rang.
“Alright, everybody,” Mr. Carpenter said, “Welcome to Algebra One. If you aren't supposed to be in Algebra One, please find your way to your correct class now.”
One of Abigail and Kelly's clique gasped, grabbed her things and dashed from the room. A round of laughter erupted, mostly from her friends, and Jeremy's troop.
Mr. Carpenter shook his head. “There's one every year.” He walked over to the board and began. “Algebra is a branch of math, which you must learn to graduate. Through the use...”
He picked up a marker and wrote on the dry-erase board at the front of the class. The students frantically flipped tablet covers off or opened notebooks. Tess followed suit trying to keep up with Mr. Carpenter's brisk pace.
The room grew quiet; quiet enough that Tess could hear murmuring. Jenna glanced over at her then they both glanced back at the boy behind her.
He wasn't taking notes at all. He was sitting there with his head in his hand.
“Shut up,” he whispered again softly. Jenna and Tess met gazes again. Jenna shrugged, deciding to keep her nose out of the one-sided conversation that was going on behind Tess.
Tess wondered if there was a guy muttering in the back of class every year also. She sighed and shook her head.
“I don't care,” The boy whispered.
Why'd the only crazy person in the school have to sit right behind me? Tess thought. But that wasn't fair—maybe the new kid was an absolutely average person, maybe he wasn't crazy at all, maybe he was talking on a Bluetooth or using his tablet to chat with someone. Tess was sure there had to be a different side of his story she wasn't seeing. She needed to learn not to judge.
A cold chill like an icy hand ran up her spine. She shivered, involuntarily dropping her pen on her desk in the process.
“Shade,” The boy hissed, struggling to keep his voice low. She eyed him irately, willing him to shut up. She wasn't the only one—most of the back row was looking at him.
He matched her glare then put his head down in his hand and pretended to watch the teacher. Most of the other students turned back, but Tess watched him a bit longer.
He’s just doing it for attention, she decided spitefully. Tess studied him again, but the boy pretended that she didn't exist, which for some reason irked her more. She wanted him to know that she knew he was merely pretending to be different.
Her dad had always told her not to let annoying people to get a rise out of her because they won when that happened.
She turned around in time to see her pen roll off the desk onto the floor. It rolled away, then made a sharp turn backward.
She peeked at the boy behind her, but he didn’t seem interested in helping her.
Mr. Carpenter was going on about the early Greeks and their contribution to math. He had managed to cover the first millennia and one-half of the board with his small, looping handwriting.
Tess bent to retrieve her pen, quickly, before she fell further behind. She could touch the pen from her seat, but not grab it.
The boy's shadow moved.
Finally, he's going to help. It took him long enough.
The shadow shifted and looked down at the pen. She could plainly make out where the boy's eyes were on the shadow, which was strange. They seemed darker than the rest of the shadow. But that was no stranger then what happened next. The shadow turned from the pen and looked right at her, then it smiled.
   Tess nearly fell out of her seat. She lunged for the pen and recoiled back into her seat in time to pretend like nothing happened by the time the Mr. Carpenter stopped to check on the sound. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, he returned to his lecture.
“In the 18th century . . . “ he continued.
Great, I only missed 18 centuries of notes, Tess thought.
She glanced over her shoulder at the boy to glare at him for startling her, but he sat in the same position, staring angrily at the board as if it were to blame for his insanity.
Her mind burned. His shadow definitely moved. It even smiled. That wasn't right. It had to be her imagination, she firmly decided.
The boy pinched the bridge of his nose, and his pained expression returned, this time more acute.
“In the early to mid-1800s another significant contribution to mathematics and engineering was discovered by Claude-Louis Navier and George Gabriel Stokes.” Mr. Carpenter started drawing a picture of water in a tube on the board. The drawing was atrocious, but Tess could discern the water by the small wave symbols. “The two discovered a series of equations used to determine the flow of fluids and gasses in—”
The teacher never finished the thought, because the boy behind Tess shot to his feet and roared, “Oh, would you shut up!”