z
  • Home

Young Writers Society


16+ Language Mature Content

"Candy" (Based on True Events) - Author's Note, Prologue, and Part One

by aaliyahlaurier


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and mature content.

In "Candy," Donna Haley moves into her aunt's house to get away from the misery and chaos brought on from her alcoholic mother's marriage. She begins attending a support group for unhappy teenagers and meets 'Groupie,' an enthralling young girl who is raising her little sister in a trailer park with neglectful and drug-addicted parents.

The girls bond over their desperate desire to flee from the harshness of reality, but soon Donna realizes that Groupie's methods of coping go beyond harmless escapism and could lead to dangerous consequences. Despite facing difficulties with her own family turmoil and her aunt's disapproval of their friendship, Donna is desperate to guide her best friend towards a safer path in fear of losing the only person who's ever truly cared about her. However, navigating Groupie's erratic and fragile demeanor proves to be a daunting task.

AUTHOR'S NOTE

From the innocent days of childhood to the mature years of adulthood, each of us holds onto our own version of "candy." It could be as simple as a memory or as physical as a cigarette. But no matter our age or circumstances, we all have a thing or two that brings us comfort in times of hardship. Something that allows us to step away from the bitter and complicated realities of real life.

Furthermore, I've always observed two distinct types of adultified children. First, there are those like our Groupie, whose mental and emotional well-being suffer as a consequence. They constantly seek validation and comfort they missed out on during childhood, and are easily swayed by external influences due to low self-esteem. Then there are those like Donna, who become wise beyond their years out of necessity. They naturally assume caretaker roles for others, whether it be their younger siblings, friends, or even their own parents. Amongst other things, the consequences of childhood adultification leave these children vulnerable to unhealthy relationship dynamics as teens and adults.

PROLOGUE

Let's start at the very beginning. I'll be as quick as possible.

It all began when my mother chose to uproot us from our cozy three-bedroom home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where we had lived for seven years. She decided to move us into her husband's cramped one-bedroom apartment in Jersey City, which he had bought without her knowledge. He was always bouncing between living with us and disappearing altogether.

We begged Mom to reconsider the move, fearing it would turn out as poorly as her quick marriage to a man twenty-five years older than her. But our pleas never swayed her—she always believed she knew best, ignoring our input unless she asked for it.

My sister, Nadia, firmly refused to be involved in the move. She didn't help us pack, and Mom didn't insist. I, on the other hand, never had a choice. Mom knew I wasn't one to assert myself, so she made the decision for me.

Ray stood by, holding a fifty-milliliter bottle of Jim Beam, like an unwelcome spectator, as Mom and I packed away our past seven years (and more) into large cardboard boxes. He knew he had won. How could he claim to be "the man of the house" while living in a woman's apartment?

He was a tall man with a rugged handsomeness, falling somewhere between ordinary and striking. His voice, raspy from years of smoking, hinted at his chronic habit. Ray had a tumultuous past, having battled crack addiction and living with bipolar disorder. Despite these struggles, he presented himself with a quiet confidence, often observing from the sidelines with a cigarette in hand.

I never believed Mom when she talked about wanting to leave Elizabeth, even before she married Ray. It reminded me of fifth grade all over again, when she'd been drinking for a week straight and started talking about moving us to West Virginia to live with her mother. I had to sneak onto her computer and delete all the posts she'd made trying to sell our things on Facebook.

Ever since I began middle school, I found myself spending most of my spare moments holed up in my murky bedroom listening to metal music and obsessively immersed myself in provocative films that I knew I shouldn't have been watching. Then, after Mom married Ray, my already solitary world grew even quieter. I told myself I preferred it that way.

When summer break arrived, Nadia swiftly packed her bags and left to stay with her dad in Newark. From early June to late August of 2010, it was just Mom, Ray, and me. Soon enough, it became clear that Mom regretted not heeding the advice of those who warned against her decision. But by then, it was too late. Ray had already secured a job as a truck driver, while she worked as a server. We needed his money.

I despised my new school. The atmosphere at Jefferson Middle School was unlike anything I'd experienced in Elizabeth. The students seemed colder, nastier, and harsher, even at such a young age. Growing up, I'd often heard "jokes" about city dwellers being as tough as New Yorkers. Sadly, I quickly learned that those "jokes" weren't jokes at all.

Being autistic, Tori Kennedy was the only true friend I'd ever had. However, in fifth grade, her parents split, and she moved away. After that, I gradually began to understand that I was not well-liked. Nobody wanted to play or partner with me. I sat alone at lunch because I was deemed "too annoying." My voice, mannerisms, and even my laugh were all considered irritating. Everyone, including my teachers, made sure I knew it.

That was when I started masking, which both complicated and simplified things for me. At my new school in Jersey City, people treated me like a delicate, enigmatic artifact under study for a history project. They asked condescending questions and constantly bothered me when I just wanted to be left alone.

As if things couldn't get any worse, I no longer had my own bedroom. The only bedroom belonged to Mom and Ray. Every night, I would lie on the thin mattress Nadia and I shared in the corner of the living room, surrounded by piles of Ray's clothes and other belongings he took with him on the road.

Their fights became more frequent, and I could no longer ignore them as I once did. My grades started to plummet, and neither of them was understanding about it. School was already challenging, but now that I hated my life, nothing seemed to matter. Everything felt temporary and meaningless.

In October of that same year, Ray inherited his grandfather's seventy-year-old, three-bedroom house in Newark, and we moved there.

The house, once painted white, was now a dull gray, with paint peeling in several places. The windows were old and cracked, and the roof appeared as though it might collapse at any moment. Its exterior matched the dreariness, with overgrown grass and cracked windows. Our first few weeks in the new house were spent cleaning and organizing, trying to bring some life into the eerie space. Mom even joked that it was "perfectly suited" for Halloween.

Empty soda bottles and paper plates spilled out of the trash can, while laundry patiently waited to be folded in its designated room. Unopened mail blanketed the coffee table. Ray, like the rest of us, was disgruntled by the state of the house. The tangible evidence of his grandfather's existence left behind after his passing made the house feel hauntingly incomplete, like a story cut short, despite his old age.

On our fourth week in Newark, Nadia and I started at our new schools. Mine was ninety percent black, while hers was forty-six. I can still feel that sharp twinge in my chest as I walked into my first-period classroom, every eye turning to me questionably, as if I had interrupted some exclusive gathering.

It was my second time being "the new girl" in less than eight months, and it only took three days for me to reclaim my title as "the weird one." Always zoned out. Always there but never truly present, like some sort of phantom.

Every day at lunch, I sat alone with a book and my CD player, which contained a disc I had burned with my favorite songs. Among them were Black Dog by Led Zeppelin, Happy Nation by Ace of Base, She's Dangerous by Tom Tom Club, Candidate by Joy Division, Walking Zero by Sneaker Pimps, and Adrian by Jewel. Six of twenty.

For those thirty minutes, no one else existed. Not Ray, not my mother, and not anyone else. Oddly enough, I was okay with that. It made things easier. I wasn't naive; I knew people only befriended me because they felt sorry that I was such a loner, and that wasn't what I wanted. I preferred having no friends to having pity friends.

During our year in that house, Ray kicked us out three times, each instance due to issues related to money or alcohol.

The first time it happened, it was over my mother's tax return check. Ray insisted that she use it to repair the two decrepit cars in our garage. Mom, however, had different ideas; she wanted to use the money to buy a new couch and some basic furnishings for our bedrooms. Ray wasn't willing to compromise.

After leaving the hotel where we had stayed for a week, we moved to a local domestic violence shelter. Mom was depressed, but I was relieved to be away from Ray. Unfortunately, our stay was short-lived; we were asked to leave two weeks later after Mom violated the shelter's "no drinking" policy.

The next morning, Ray grinned with smug satisfaction as he loaded our meager belongings into the trunk. It felt more like a kidnapping than a rescue mission, with two captives reluctantly returning to the very house they had just escaped. Nadia and I sat contemplative in the backseat, both of us leaning our heads on the cold, smudged windows. The sound of Mom's laughter mingling with Ray's felt like rubbing salt on an already raw wound.

On the bright side, the two of us were exempt from all schoolwork, and things were back to normal for a while.

Shortly after that, Nadia decided to live with her father permanently. I didn't blame her; in fact, I considered her lucky. She was absent from my life for four long years, and Ray didn't seem to mind at all. In fact, he forbade any idea of her ever returning home due to her supposed "behavioral issues."

In May, he kicked us for the second time. Luckily, my mom's friend—a kind white woman with three kids—offered her garage as a temporary shelter for us. Despite the summer heat that seemed to seep through the concrete walls, it was the cleanest and most comfortable part of the house. The faint scent of gasoline and old tools lingered in the air, but it was a small price to pay for a roof over our heads.

Ray showed up at her doorstep the following weekend to pick us up. I couldn't believe it. My mother had been secretly talking to him all along, fully aware of how I felt about it.

Once again, we returned to that house, where the illusion of a happy family crumbled with the slightest provocation. They continued to argue over the same three things: money, alcohol, and Nadia. Every time voices escalated and harsh words flew, my hands would automatically start packing my belongings.

In the weeks after my fifteenth birthday, it happened for the last time. With nowhere else to go, Mom and I found ourselves at a dead end. Our friends and family had seen everything that had happened between my mother and Ray since the beginning of their marriage. Unsurprisingly, they were hesitant to intervene.

Mom and Ray had been arguing since five in the morning, and it took a physical turn when Ray tried to retrieve a liquor bottle from Mom's purse to prove she wasn't staying sober. Despite still being tipsy, she lunged at him, as if propelled by a spring, desperately trying to pry the nearly empty bottle of Crown Royal from his grasp. All I could do was scream for them to stop. The fact that he had licensed guns terrified me, and I didn't want the situation to escalate into a Dateline episode.

The neighbor, disturbed by the commotion, called the authorities, who arrived at our doorstep. Mom realized they were there for us, not some other domestic disturbance down the block, and begged Ray to "let it slide this one time." Miraculously, he agreed, despite having pressed charges against her before in retaliation for her doing the same against him. The officers insisted that they "keep their distance from each other for the night" before leaving.

An hour later, Ray's van came to a halt in front of St. Lucy's Emergency Shelter, and my heart sank. I had been dreading it, but I knew it was inevitable. Months earlier, Ray had taken me there to "teach me a lesson about responsibility and saving for the future." All I had with me was my faded navy blue school bag and my beloved stuffed bear, worn down to a faded brown with patches of missing fur, a lost eye, and threadbare seams. Inside the bag, there was a small change of clothes, a sparse assortment of feminine necessities, a toothbrush, my phone charger, my CD player, a small collection of CDs, and my writing supplies.

I knew it wouldn't be "just for the night." After three years, I knew exactly how things would unfold. Each morning would bring a new excuse: no gas money, too tired from work, feeling sick. Days would stretch into weeks, weeks into months, and my mother would keep waiting. If he did come for us, it would be on his terms, not out of necessity. It had been that way from the beginning. Everything was up to him. After all, he was "the man of the house," right?

Listening to my mother beg made me cringe with embarrassment. She smelled of stale cigarettes and cheap perfume, with a hint of sweat and fear underneath. It hadn't always been like this. I used to say that my mother had a certain elegance about her, even in her simplest actions.

"Natasha, you're embarrassing us," Ray said over my mother's hysterical (and honestly pathetic) sobbing. "Get out of the car."

I sat in the backseat of his 2004 Honda Pilot, my arms wrapped tightly around my journal as if it held the key to my survival. The red sweatshirt I wore clashed with my blue flare jeans, but I didn't care. All that mattered was getting away from him. He always tried to portray us as a unit, two people victimized and mistreated by my mother's alcoholism. But I knew the truth—he was the main perpetrator, not a victim like he wanted everyone to believe.

Yes, my mother was a drunken, pathetic mess. But Ray had no excuse. He was simply a monster.

When Mom offered to quit her new office job to become a housewife, as Ray had been pushing her to do since we moved in, I put in my other earbud and turned up the volume on my portable CD player.

I could no longer tolerate her weakness, her readiness to bend and break for a man who didn't deserve her love, especially after she spent years telling me to know my worth. I didn't want to hear any of it.

Realizing, sitting in the backseat, that my mother only cared about how things affected her was the hardest part. My feelings were just white noise to her as long as she and Ray were happy. Trying to discuss it with her felt like fueling an already raging fire.

She was always aware of my misery, but it was easier for her to ignore it.

Seeing the homeless, their weary faces and empty eyes haunting the entrance like ghosts, on top of everything else, only confirmed that this was no ordinary setback. This was rock bottom, and I knew it was time to leave, even if it meant hurting my mother.

Thank God I did. How else would I have met Groupie?

Part One

The car hummed with the soulful twang of steel guitars and country crooners as I sat in the passenger seat of my case manager's 2007 Toyota Camry. Two days before I met Her. I'd already blocked Ray's number on my phone; I knew he'd try to play Dad and worm his way back into my life, with or without my mother. But that wasn't going to happen, no way, no how.

Ray never understood why I went to therapy. He scoffed at the idea of paying someone to listen to my "silly little girl problems." In his mind, Lorelei was just doing her job, and I was wasting her time. I didn't really need therapy; I was just being an over-the-top, angsty teenager.

As the car meandered along the road, I let my aching head sink into the soft leather of the headrest and shut my eyes. I couldn't tell if it was the usual nausea from motion or the persistent unease in my gut, but my head was killing me.

I turned my head slightly to gaze out the car window. As a kid, I loved this part of car rides - seeing all the different houses and imagining the unique tales behind each one. Every home had its own story, just like every person inside did too. It was like taking a quick peek into someone else's world for a moment before moving on to the next snapshot.

"Are you planning on finding another writing club down here?" Lorelei asked. "I just want to say, it's so unfortunate that you finally managed to find one and then this happens. God, the chances." The faint scent of vanilla lingered on her skin, mingled with a hint of lavender from her perfume.

I attempted to infuse my voice with a sparkling effervescence, like champagne bubbles bursting against the roof of my mouth. But beneath the facade, I felt as dull and flat as a deflated balloon.

"Maybe. Now that Ray's gone."

The previous year, Ray was relentless in his nagging for me to "join a club" or find a hobby outside of the house. My biggest fear was exactly what ended up happening; I'd find something perfect for me and then we'd have to pack up and leave again. Mom told me I had "the perfect excuse" since I could just find another club wherever we ended up. I held my ground for as long as possible. And wouldn't you know it, right after I found a local writing club, we became homeless again.

"There might be something at my new school."

Living with autism in a world built for neurotypicals has been a constant struggle. Being surrounded by others who didn't understand during my adolescence made my existence feel like a huge inconvenience, always apologizing for being different and slowing everyone down. I've learned that I work best when left to my own devices, without the need to keep up with everyone else's pace.

"I'd check the local library. This is Jersey, you know. There's something for everyone." Lorelei's accent became more pronounced on the word 'know' and she flicked on her turn signal as we neared a red light. "And it doesn't have to be a writing club. You could always join a reading club, too. You love reading, right?" There is a faint scent of mint on Lorelei's breath as she speaks, the result of chewing gum.

"I write more than I read, though." I allowed a glimmer of hope to seep into my voice. "Ironically."

Lorelei looked over with her chestnut brown eyes and smiled at me encouragingly. "We'll find something, hon."

My hoodie strings were smooth between my cold fingers and soft to the touch, like worn cotton.

Leaving behind the chaos and toxicity of my mother and her seemingly never-ending marriage should have been a relief, but for some reason, it wasn't. I was still burdened by the same emotions that had haunted me before. I believed that simply leaving would miraculously fix everything. Yet, nothing had changed. Why?

*

The sleek, beige car cut through the wind as it raced down the highway, bringing back memories of my childhood. Cars whizzed by in a blur, leaving behind a faint trail of exhaust and the distant wail of sirens.

I could almost hear Aunt Tracy's voice chattering away as she drove us to visit my mom at her rundown apartment in Asbury Park. That was ages ago, when I was just a small child and my aunt still had legal custody over me. Despite the rough neighborhood, Mom always made our visits special with her warm hugs and homemade treats. On the first night, she did, at least. The rest of the weekend would be spent in an alcohol-induced stupor, while I kept Nadia fed with cold Chef Boyardee and occupied with the DVD box set of classic Disney films playing for hours.

The drive used to take exactly fifty minutes, and I'd stare out the window at the trees speeding by, letting my imagination run wild with all sorts of adventures. But those memories are a bit fuzzy now. And even though I really want to remember everything perfectly, I know I'm not the most trustworthy narrator.

Lorelei kept her eyes fixed on the road ahead. Conversation had been sparse during our drive, as she could always sense when I was feeling chatty or not and adjusted accordingly.

I opened my notebook and pulled my sparkly gel pin from its spiral binding. The gentle crinkle of the pages took the place of the protruding silence as I flipped through the notebook, a soft scratching sound accompanying my writing.

November 7th, 2011

I currently feel a little bit nauseous. My head hurts. I have anxiety, and I don't know why just yet. I want to ask you why I still feel this way. I thought this was supposed to make me feel better, but I still have anxiety. And I'm not saying I only left my mother to "feel better," but I thought that would be a part of it, no? It feels like there's just a whole new set of worries.

My therapist at the time, a warm and compassionate Hispanic woman with kind eyes, advised me to take note of every moment that caused me unease in my notebook. She had noticed that I had trouble remembering the details of certain things that I wanted to talk about, and journaling was her suggested solution. And it was working seamlessly, like a well-oiled machine. Every uneasy incident, small or large, was carefully documented and ready for discussion at my next session.

"I remember this highway."

The sun was obscured by a thick blanket of gray clouds, casting a subdued and somber tone over the day.

In our small apartment in Elizabeth, I had taken to hanging a large throw blanket over the window, blocking out all traces of sunlight and creating the perpetual atmosphere of a gloomy day. My mother claimed it was contributing to my moodiness.

"We used to come this way when my aunt would drop me off to visit my mom. I used to get so excited, and talk the whole time about everything we were gonna do." As my words fell from my lips, a creeping realization twisted in my gut like a knife. The blissful memories of the past now seemed like an unattainable dream, fading into the darkness of reality. "I used to sit in the back and daydream..."

I heard the click of the turn signal.

A slight hint of awe tinged Lorelei's voice as she asked, "You mean when you were a kid? That's the cutest damn thing I've ever heard."

The difference in our tones was palpable, as if hers were coated in honey and mine in salt water. It wasn't just reminiscing for me. It was mourning. Things would never be the same again. He ruined everything.

"Yeah," I sighed longingly, leaning my head against the window. "When I was little." My notebook remained open in my lap.

My life was far from perfect before Ray came into it. My mother's battle with alcoholism had plagued our family since I can remember. In fact, she wasn't considered capable of caring for my sister and me until I was seven years old. Even still, if fifteen year old me had to choose between my life before and after Ray, I would have undoubtedly chosen life before.

*

My favorite aunt's warm smile lit up her face as she opened the door, her eyes crinkling at the corners. Her hair was styled in loose curls and framed her face perfectly. She was wearing a soft red sweater, the color complementing her hickory brown complexion.

Her gentle hands reached out to welcome us inside, and I noticed how her North Jersey accent had become more pronounced since the last time I saw her.

"Sweetheart!" She gushed like a child unwrapping the present they wanted the most on Christmas morning. "C'mere!"

Aunt Tracy's warm arms wrapped around me in a loving embrace, and I buried my face in her shoulder, breathing in the familiar scent of her perfume mixed with the comforting aroma of freshly baked cookies. Her presence alone was enough to ease some of the tension that had been bubbling inside me since the morning prior.

Her eyes widened and her smile stretched wide as she caught sight of the book and journal in my hand.

"You readin' again?" She gasped. "What is this?"

"It's White Oleander by Janet Fitch," I said matter-of-factly, letting her take it from my hands so she could take a look. "It's about this girl. Her mother gets arrested for murder so she ends up tossed around the foster care system. It made me realize how lucky I was. I mean, lucky as in lucky that Nads and I had you to take us in and we didn't end up in the system."

Aunt Tracy flicked through the pages and let out a curious "hm." before handing the book back to me.

"You always been a reader."

My bag remained slung around my shoulder.

Lorelei's perfectly manicured fingers traced the warm cream-colored walls of Aunt Tracy's living room, admiring the shade and envisioning it in her own home.

"This shade is gorgeous, Miss..."

"Hunter. But call me Tracy. And thank you. It was one of the most expensive things I ever did. I'm just glad I still like it. God knows I don't make the money I used to."

They made their way over to the plush, forest green couch, the color contrasting beautifully with the walls. Lorelei sat down on the matching armchair. Aunt Tracy's coffee table was scattered with opened mail and glass drinking cups. She'd never been the cleanest person in the world, but she always tried.

The hardwood floor felt cool and smooth under my bare feet as I wandered around the room, taking in the familiar sights. The walls were adorned with Aunt Tracy's collection of vibrant paintings, some new, some old. I paused in front of a particularly captivating piece that must've been a new one—a swirling mix of blues and purples that seemed to depict a stormy sea. The artist's name, Sarah Hartley, was signed at the bottom in elegant cursive.

I heard the two women prepare to dive into a conversation full of playful banter. Aunt Tracy could always get on with anyone. She said it was a blessing and a curse, in which case, I'd take that curse right off her hands.

Time seemed to stretch and fold in on itself, knotted by the mundane and the uninteresting; old memories of my childhood cat, the possibility of finally finding the perfect friend group at my new school, and how badly I wanted to listen to Kate Bush's Hounds of Love at that moment.

Aunt Tracy's sharp eyes carefully tracked my slow and inattentive back-and-forth pacing around the room.

"You're making me dizzy!" She tried to joke it off.

"Sorry." I attempted to mimic her, trying to hide the embarrassment that was bubbling up inside me.

I took it as a hint to sit still, so I sat next to her on the sofa. My body didn't agree. I started bouncing my leg, tapping my fingers on the table, and fidgeting with the knee of my skinny jeans.

Lorelei's eyes met mine, and I could sense her thoughts without a word being spoken. We had already broached the subject of me restarting my prescription for atomoxetine. I had taken it before, but my forgetfulness interfered with consistent usage.

Regrettably, my aunt still clung to the ignorance that seems to be deeply rooted in the minds of baby boomers. She refused to believe that I had autism, and was always unable to provide any explanation for her disbelief.

I had ADHD and nothing else. God forbid.

As my thoughts wandered, their voices faded into a distant murmur, as if obscured by a heavy mist. I lost sense of the ground beneath me and even my hands in my lap.

Then, an unknown amount of time later..

"Donna?" Aunt Tracy chuckled. "What's wrong with you? You about to fall asleep right here in front of us? Lorelei needs to ask you a few more things before she goes."

Lorelei remained seated in the same spot, her purse resting lightly on her lap and her car keys clutched tightly in her hand. A faint smile played on her lips, as if she anticipated my next words.

I blinked tiredly and sat my head up. "I'm so tired, sorry. I zoned out."

Like always.

"That's quite alright," she went. "Let's talk about when we can see each other again."

*

Aunt Tracy set down a mug of bubbling hot cocoa on the table in front of me, steam rising and dancing in the air above it. The rich, brown liquid swirled around the edges of the mug, tempting me with its warmth and sweetness.

The relentless pitter-patter of rain against the window only grew stronger, accompanied by a haunting whistle of wind. The gray sky loomed overhead, which casted a dreary and cold pall over everything outside. It's the kind of weather that seeps into your bones and makes you yearn for warmth and comfort. And that's exactly what I found myself in - curled up in a thick wool throw blanket at my aunt's kitchen table in her cozy house, like a cocoon of protection. Less than twenty-four hours prior, I was shivering on a hard cot in a frigid shelter. Now, I felt like I'd hit the cosmic jackpot.

"I saw an ad for this 'unhappy teenagers' support group in the newspaper at the grocery store yesterday. I meant to call and see if you wanted to start going." Aunt Tracy's mid-size figure sunk into the chair, the dark wood creaking slightly under her weight. "I guess now that you're here, I should just sign you up."

The marshmallows danced and dissolved into the hot cocoa, creating a creamy, sweet concoction. "It's for teenagers?"

"Just teenagers. You know, the building it's in is actually where the Board of Education used to be? Dumb decision, in my humblest opinion. The new one is smaller and farther away."

Aunt Tracy's suggestion to join a support group for unhappy teenagers didn't offend me. After all, I was exactly that—an unhappy teenager.

Moreover, the idea of joining a support group seemed strangely appealing. I'd never been good at socializing; in every group, I was the outsider, someone others kept at arm's length. Even those I considered friends eventually drifted away. The only person who had ever truly stuck by my side was Tori Kennedy, but she moved to Chicago in fifth grade.

Aunt Tracy then shifted the conversation to enrolling me in school, a topic that had been on my mind for a while. Even before Ray came into the picture, I hadn't found much joy in school, especially after Tori moved away. It felt like a monotonous cycle I could never quite keep up with.

"You might see some of your friends from elementary school," she mentioned. "Like Tori? Remember her?"

How could I forget her?

"Tori's in Chicago," I mumbled gravely. "I didn't have any other friends in elementary school."

She took another sip from her hot cocoa. "Okay, then you'll make new friends. Jesus, Donna, don't be so negative."

That word again. Negative. Always negative, always complaining, always ruining everyone else's goddamn good time.

When we first relocated to Jersey City, there was tension between Mom and me. She avoided spending time with me because she claimed I was "too negative." I didn't mean to be negative. It's a common belief that you can only show anger or frustration to your parents for so long before it's seen as disrespect, or in their words, "having an attitude."

Aunt Tracy noticed my expression of annoyance and attempted to reword her statement.

"Donna," she sighed, placing her mug back down. "You're stronger than you think. Try to make some new friends this year. Try to get out more. Be on your computer less. I don't think all that...," a brief pause, "...dark music you listen to is making things any better for you."

I tried my hardest not to roll my eyes.

The old "just do this one thing and everything will magically change" advice. As if making friends and being more social was as simple as flipping a switch. My Aunt Tracy had good intentions, but she didn't truly understand. Just like everyone else.

"You don't get it," I said, sounding more unconcerned than I actually was. "People don't want to be my friend."

A/N: Lorelei is the case manager, not the therapist, and it won't me unbold Part One :,) 


Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
16 Reviews

Points: 1158
Reviews: 16

Donate
Sun Feb 11, 2024 12:55 am
humblebard1 wrote a review...



Hey, Aaliyah! As promised, I will now commence the review of the start to your novel, Candy :D


As the Ballad Begins (first impressions)
Your writing is PHENOMENAL! Honestly, much better than a lot of professional authors that I've read, and I felt that it was really easy to draw yourself into the story because your imagery is so vibrant. The book follows Donna, a teenager with a passion for writing and 90's alternative rock, and starts with her moving in with her mum's boyfriend, Ray. Her sister, Nadia, has chosen to stay with her dad for a while, leaving Donna to stay alone with the two, who always break out into fights. She struggles to find friends at school, and wants things back to how they used to be; after moving from shelters to Ray's house in a constant cycle, she moves yet again to a new school, and Nadia has permanently moved in with her dad. Her whole life is a whirlwind of emotions, but things look up when she meets Groupie; in who she can confide.


Little Ale Spills (what you could improve on)
There's not much I think you could do to better this work; you can really tell it has been thought through thoroughly. I think that maybe in the long run, in terms of structures, you could perhaps do with putting in some chapters to split up larger chunks? I appreciate this is already done in some places, but I think it might make reading it a bit easier, from a reader's perspective, to section each idea from the next. Then again, this is your writing- your call!



Enthralling Performance (best bits and lines!)
"Aunt Tracy set down a mug of bubbling hot cocoa on the table in front of me, steam rising and dancing in the air above it. The rich, brown liquid swirled around the edges of the mug, tempting me with its warmth and sweetness."
I thought that this line in particular was a really welcoming break not just from the past events from a reader's perspective but from Donna's- she's been struggling a lot at home, but with Aunt Tracy, she can feel safe, and like a smaller child again.

"Every night, I would lie on the thin mattress Nadia and I shared in the corner of the living room, surrounded by piles of Ray's belongings. Him and Mom were fighting more than ever. I was failing, and they were anything but understanding about it. School was hard enough without the added pressure of a dysfunctional home life. I felt like an alien in my own skin."
The imagery used is very powerful, and manages to put us in Donna's shoes in only a few short sentences; she feels invisible, feels alien to what she used to hold dear, and her mother isn't there for her.

"Ray never understood why I went to therapy. He scoffed at the idea of paying someone to listen to my "silly little girl problems." In his mind, Lorelei was just doing her job and I was wasting her time. According to him, I didn't really need therapy - I was just being an over-the-top, angsty teenager."
Every teenager has been through this feeling; that adults are trying to talk down to them, and make their struggle seem only like it's over-dramatized even though the teen knows full well how bad things are getting; and this is even truer for Donna, who has been going through so much as a younger person. Makes you really empathises with the protagonist, and consider how her life is affecting what should be a journey of self-exploration as she grows up.


Bardic Inspiration (a few parting notes)
Just from the prologue and Part One, I can tell that you are an amazingly talented writer not just in how your write, but in the pure creativity behind your words. I will try my best to keep posted on your updates, and if you want me to review any later work, please let me know!

Best wishes,
-humblebard




aaliyahlaurier says...


i appreciate this more than you'll ever know thank you so much



humblebard1 says...


No worries at all :D



User avatar
907 Reviews

Points: 176
Reviews: 907

Donate
Sat Feb 10, 2024 7:47 pm
vampricone6783 wrote a review...



Hello there, human! I'm reviewing using the YWS S'more Method today!

Shalt we commence with the musically mutated S’more?

Top Graham Cracker - This story, based on true events, is about a girl named Donna who wants to escape the life that she has, and meets a girl named Groupie in the process, who she finds solace in. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst and Donna worries for Groupie’s health…

Slightly Burnt Marshmallow -I think that the introduction and first chapter could be broken up, but if you don’t agree with this, then you don’t have to do it.

Chocolate Bar - I like that Lorelei seems like she genuinely wants to help Donna. People say things, but it’s important to know if they really mean it or if they’re just saying it. At least Donna has writing, music, and Lorelei in her life. I’ll be sure to check out the next chapter when it comes out. I hope that you’re alright now. :>

Closing Graham Cracker -A detailed and compelling look into a girl’s life and how she’s seeking for positive changes. It looks all bleak, but maybe there’s hope at the corners, at the far end.

I wish you a fantastically spooky (not scary) day/night! ^v^




aaliyahlaurier says...


thank you so much :) i definitely will make sure i upload the prologue separately on other sites



vampricone6783 says...


You%u2019re welcome. :>



Random avatar

Points: 2
Reviews: 3

Donate
Sat Feb 10, 2024 6:53 pm
FionaSharp says...



Ohhh my goddd. That was heavy. Hope you're good, lol. That was awesome, though!! If you made a book out of it, I would totally read it. Amazing work.




aaliyahlaurier says...


thank you so much. working on part 2 right now, should be up tomorrow or monday



User avatar
74 Reviews

Points: 4066
Reviews: 74

Donate
Sat Feb 10, 2024 12:46 am
dragonight9 wrote a review...



Hi aaliyah, I like to review as I go then do an overview. I tend to be a bit nit picky when it comes to spelling mistakes so if you would rather me focus on other things in the future just let me know.


As I'm reading through:

I like how you started with the big life event that kickstarted your story, then built the context around that.
I also thought your comment about convincing yourself you preferred isolation was very good. (I also did that when I was growing up)
One small typo "Most of my free time was spent in my murk bedroom" I think you meant to put 'murky'.

"She effortlessly made friends, more than I'd ever had, while I remained eternally invisible."
Dang! It felt like you just quoted 14 year old me here. I also have a younger sibling who naturally made friends when I felt invisible (didn't have the discrimination part but it lets me understand a bit better).
You do a great job giving us the feelings of your time there. (I hope there was some good times too)

I like how you described the house as an unfinished story. I could totally see the connection between the house and the death of Ray's grandfather. Just knowing the previous owner had died might make you feel that way not to mention how it looks.

As I have continued reading, I can feel the pain and other negative emotions that seemed to be the crux of your life at that point. I'm still waiting for the first taste of that 'candy' promised in the title. By the time I got to part one I was already feeling emotionally drained and that made it difficult to continue reading.

If you want to tell an emotional story like this, it needs some hope along the way or to be read in smaller increments if you want readers to enjoy it. But if you are writing this for another reason, then it's fine. I just wanted to let you know how difficult it can be for a reader.
(not saying anything about how difficult it would be to experience it)

"I could no longer tolerate her weakness, her willingness to bend and break for a man who didn't deserve an ounce of her love."
When I read this it reminded me of how you talked about your perspective as kids looking at the relationship during the first move. Asking yourself what a kid would know about love.

I did like that you ended the prologue on a hopeful note. It really helped me want to continue reading, giving me both a little hope and curiosity.

"I couldn't tell if it was the usual nausea from motion or the persistent unease in my gut, but my head was killing me."
I loved the description here. It seems like a small line but it tells me a lot after what seems like a time-skip.

Wow! After what I just wrote you go and give me such a delicious description of both tone and attitude in response to Lorelei's initial question. I was also intrigued by how you described her. Not only was the primary descriptor a smell, but you also spread it out over a few lines. I like your style!

"I believed that simply leaving would miraculously fix everything. Yet, nothing had changed."
You summed it all up pretty well here. Not only is this very relatable but it also clarifies the feeling in that moment.

"...hers were coated in honey and mine in salt water."
I just can't help pointing out how amazing your descriptions are. I really want to read a story where you can describe a bright and joyful scene with them. (not that the scene makes them any less amazing!)

Ah! And then you go and describe Ant Tracy! That was wonderful.
It always amazes me (and makes me so glad) when people can look outside themselves and be grateful for what they have. (not being in foster care)

I won't quote it this time but your descriptions of how your mind wandered after entering the house, and the storm contrasting the hot chocolate were great.

"That word again. Negative."
As soon as I read this I closed my eyes and sighed while a deep part of me cringed. "Here we go." I thought.
This is exactly the kind of thing that shows a person's lack of understanding (at least that's how you feel in the moment). I had a similar issue because of falling asleep in class (which I later found out was due to my ADD).

I like how you recognised the good intentions behind the advice. That said it can be very frustrating, especially when they try to just 'fix it'.
Often what we need is not more solutions to try, but rather someone to comfort and support us without judgement while we figure it out.
It seems like Aunt Tracy did that at least a little for you and I'm so glad you had someone like her.


Overall thoughts:

Man, that was a heavy read.
I ended up really enjoying the latter half but that prologue was rough. It still needed to be said though to provide context. I was just hoping for something like what you mentioned about driving with Aunt Tracy and imagining other people's lives. A few moments like that would have made it a lot easier to read.

I also now realise what you meant by 'candy' at the start. My initial assumption was that the 'candy' would be moments, feelings, or objects and that you would highlight them as you went.

Sorry if my comments were a bit overly personal at times. I still hope they were helpful in one way or another.

Your grammar and spelling were great! I'm so glad that I didn't have to pause to make note of errors almost at all. Though your descriptions stopped me in my tracks a few times ;)


Last thoughts:

I love that you wrote this story and I can tell you are an amazing writer.
However I am a little too empathetic and tend to take on others burdens without meaning to. I really felt for you throughout this story and I can't help but feel saddened by it.
So if you plan to write a story, whether fantasy or reality, that is focused on positivity, I'd love to read more of your work. But this one is a bit much for me.

Thanks for inviting me to read it! Have a wonderful day/night.

Dragonight9




aaliyahlaurier says...


I love this review! Thank you so much. Readers can expect a bit of that candy in Part 3 ;) I%u2019m already halfway through Part 2. Also, here%u2019s a brief summary of the story:

%u201C Donna Haley moves into her aunt's house to get away from the misery and chaos brought on from her alcoholic mother's marriage. She begins attending a support group for unhappy teenagers and meets 'Groupie,' an enthralling young girl who is raising her little sister in a trailer park with neglectful and drug-addicted parents.

The girls bond over their desperate desire to flee from the harshness of reality, but soon Donna realizes that Groupie's methods of coping go beyond harmless escapism and could lead to dangerous consequences. Despite facing difficulties with her own family turmoil and her aunt's disapproval of their friendship, Donna is desperate to guide her best friend towards a safer path in fear of losing the only person who's ever truly cared about her. However, navigating Groupie's erratic and fragile demeanor proves to be a daunting task.%u201D

It is a narrative, but I wrote the summary in third person %uD83E%uDD79



User avatar
10 Reviews

Points: 531
Reviews: 10

Donate
Fri Feb 09, 2024 8:53 pm
1TryingBird wrote a review...



HELLO AALIYAH!


T. BIRD here, since this is 2 parts (prologue and part 1) I will be doing 2 different reviews… I have alot of notes from the prologue alone...


I will be using R33SES GOLD AND BOLD review template.

Image


Thoughts:
Image
Insane. That is a word I would use for the prologue. The amount of emotion and detail alone is enough. My blood boils reading the prologue, the characters (even you, whos name isn’t mentioned in the prologue, adding more to the fact that you literally are invisible) and every single line.

Image

Spoiler! :
JAW DROP:
The amount of time and energy that you clearly put into this, is awe-inspiring (I am planning my first book rn, and you literally took all the fear and anxiety right out of me). Thanks for that. The prologue alone is enough to make a brother cry.


YIN AND YANG:
But, I didn’t take notes for nothing. A story needs balance, too much or too little of anything can make the story go downhill. You put alot of detail into the prologue alone, but there were still some mistakes. Like, I noticed you like to use “like” alot to describe something. Which you dont really need. | When writing, it is generally better to use more specific and descriptive words instead of the word “like”. Some alternatives to consider include “such as”, “including”, “for example”, “as an illustration”, or simply listing the examples without any introductory phrase. Additionally, using similes and metaphors can add color and nuance to your writing. It’s important to vary your language and avoid repetition to make your writing more engaging and effective. Quora, Usman Qadir
    for instance:
  1. ”Still tipsy, she lunged at him like she had been propelled by a spring-loaded mechanism, desperately trying to pry the nearly empty bottle of Crown Royal from his unrelenting grasp.”
    can be changed to:
  2. Still tipsy, she lunged at him as if she had been propelled by a spring-loaded mechanism, desperately trying to pry the nearly empty bottle of Crown Royal from his unrelenting grasp.
  3. ”But something about it felt hauntingly incomplete, like a story cut short without an ending.”
    can be changed to:
  4. But something about it felt hauntingly incomplete, akin to a story cut short without an ending.

But there are way more words to put instead of like, just do your research.

Image


PROSE AND RHETORIC:
- a look at the writing style, grammar, rhetoric and verbiage -

Image

Spoiler! :
STYLE AND FLOW:
The prose is amazing so nothing to put on that, and the grammar could use some improvement, (I will link recommendations at the end)

Image

DESCRIPTIONS:
As I said, your use of decription is key to a story, not just using “like this or that”, use the senses: sight, smell, touch, sound, taste.

Image


ACCURACY AND CREDIBILITY:
- notes on the completion and believability of the piece -

Image

Spoiler! :
True or False?:
It says this is based on a true story, and if so, I feel incredibly bad for you or whoever this is about. The mom and Ray seem like total assholes, excuse my language.

Image

Bright? Dark? Clear?
Your use of first person is enough to help us (readers) experience the book, because there is a sort of relatability to it, so keep it up. And make sure, again, to use immense detail and precise descriptions.

Image


THE DEEPER MEANING:
- an insight into the impact your work creates on my mind and my emotions as I seek meaning and purpose in the words -

Image

Spoiler! :
IMPACT:
The prologue hit me deeply, mainly because I am mixed (white/black), but also because my mother was drug addicted, which innevitably led to her OD, hours after my birth. The story and characters I can already tell I am going to like.

Image

EXPERIENCE:
The prologue allowed me enough thinking ground to find out a few things, mainly that a lot of people take a lot of things for granted, and that just because someone doesn’t speak much, doesn’t mean they don’t see or hear much.

Image

CLIP IT!
Overall, great beginning to a great story, please, keep up the fine work!

Image


I highly reccomend this to all introverts and non-social people out there, lol.
-T. Bird

Image


The story, as much as I didn’t relate to, really opened my eyes, and allowed me to be even more mindful than I have become. I have started growing as a person, and this work pushed me even higher.


- Tyler


Image

Thank You




User avatar
10 Reviews

Points: 531
Reviews: 10

Donate
Fri Feb 09, 2024 8:51 pm
View Likes
1TryingBird says...



Since this is 2 parts, ill only review the prologue, I will wait until the next part is done to review both that one and part




User avatar
30 Reviews

Points: 4067
Reviews: 30

Donate
Thu Feb 08, 2024 11:49 pm
View Likes
avianwings47 wrote a review...



Hello, fellow author! I saw your work in the Green Room and thought I'd stop by! Today, I’ll be using the Review Monster! (Don’t worry, he’s actually very friendly!) This review template is inspired by the wonderful YWS S'more Method! Let’s take a look, shall we?

The Glowing Eyes: First Impressions!
This piece captured me from the start. I don't read a lot of realistic stories or pieces, but I really enjoyed reading the first chapter of this one! It had beautiful imagery, wonderful characters, and a complex conflict to keep me engaged. I felt like I could sympathize with the protagonist because of the meticulously detailed writing! Your words were well-thought through and organized, allowing for a very enjoyable read.

The Fluffy Fur: Things I Loved!
The first thing I noticed about this piece was, "Wow, this is really long!" (Not a bad thing) The second thing I noticed was, "Oh my goodness the imagery in this chapter is beautiful!" I feel like this became especially prevalent as the story went on. The way you described things painted such a clear picture in my mind. From simple details like dialogue tags, to more complex like rooms and houses, I was always able to imagine every scene. This is a great thing in narrative writing, (I assume this is a narrative, or at least partially narrative?) especially when things can start to feel like a list of events, and I didn't spot any moments that felt like that!

Another thing I love is the inner thoughts of the main character. Through her eyes, we get a unique perspective to tell this story. She is quick to recognize harmful and manipulative behavior from Ray, even when her mother doesn't. She has a desire to improve her life, and is struggling to figure out just how to do that. This really drew me into the piece and made me want to continue reading. An interesting, well-developed character that the readers can relate to is possibly the most powerful aspect of writing a good story.


The Roar: Favorite Lines!
Honestly, I could probably just paste the entire chapter into this section, but I'll stick to two lines, just for the sake of consiceness. :D

We spent the first few weeks in our new house cleaning and organizing, desperately trying to breathe life into such an eerie space. The scene before us was like a snapshot frozen in time. The trash can overflowed with discarded remnants, laundry waited patiently to be folded in its designated room, and unopened mail adorned the coffee table. It was as if the occupant had simply stepped out for a quick errand, leaving behind tangible evidence of their existence. But something about it felt hauntingly incomplete, like a story cut short without an ending.

I love all of your descriptions, but this was the first one that caught my eye. Giving tiny details to indicate if the space is messy or tidy is just as important as describing the actual room itself. With this description, we get more of a feel for the room, rather than an exact picture of where everything is placed. I find descriptions like yours to be much more appealing, as they typically use figurative language and allow the reader to piece together how the space feels overall. I also specifically love the last line of this description; I thought it was a lovely simile.

"It's White Oleander by Janet Fitch," I said matter-of-factly, letting her take it from my hands so she could take a look. "It's about this girl. Her mother gets arrested for murder so she ends up tossed around the foster care system. It made me realize how lucky I was. I mean, lucky as in lucky that Nads and I had you to take us in and we didn't end up in the system."

Now, as a fellow writer, I always like to believe any piece of information given to the audience has importance. So, to read this line, I really wanted to pause and think about this. And, honestly, it sort of feels like Donna might be invalidating her own feelings. Yes, other people may have "worse" situations than her, but that doesn't make her situation lucky. Nothing about it is lucky. I'm glad she is seeing the positive side, but I'm also worried that this may cause future problems for her. I'm curious to find out.
And, of course, this line could have honestly just been a small detail you decided to add, but it stood out to me, so I thought I would share. :D

The Sharp, Yellow Teeth: A Bit of Advice!
In a piece as long as this, I didn't notice any jarring errors or plot holes that distracted from the story. At all. That being said, I have a few minor critiques. And of course, be mindful that these are just my interpretations, so take and leave what you please!

The first thing I'll mention is from the prologue. There were multiple places where you described houses, using phrases similar to "one-bedroom house." (Just replace the "one" with any given number.) However, there were a few places where the hyphen was left out, so make sure to include it in all those spots!

However, my mother had other plans - she wanted to use the funds to get a new couch and some basic furnishings for our bedrooms. We didn't even have the cash for an entire day before we were suddenly living in a hotel.

In the paragraph in which this quote is from, I found myself slightly confused. It felt like we made a huge jump from Donna's mother getting paid, to them getting kicked out. And I was left wondering why. Did Ray and Donna's mother fight about the money? Did her mother spend the money, and Ray got angry afterwards? I think there are multiple ways you could add clarity to this scene, and it's entirely up to you whether you change something, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

The drive used to take exactly fifty minutes, and I'd stare out the window at the trees speeding by, letting my imagination run wild with all sorts of adventures. But those memories are a bit fuzzy now. And even though I really want to remember everything perfectly, I know I'm not the most trustworthy narrator.

One last tiny note here is verb tense. You switch from past tense to present tense. Used effectively, this can be fine, but it left me confused as to when the "now" was. Is it years from now, as Donna is writing out this scene. (I've seen a few books written like this.) Or is the "now" the current moment that the audience is reading?

Other than that, I didn't notice anything else!

Stomping Away: Closing Thoughts!
Overall, this was an enjoyable and informational first chapter. I felt you kept the piece balanced with context and description, while also moving the story forward. There wasn't so much background information that it was boring, but there was also enough for me to easily follow the story without confusion. Your descriptions and elegant writing style gave the piece a captivating flair that kept me engaged. Donna's thoughts and feelings kept the piece authentic and original. So, with that being said, this was an incredible first chapter to a story that I would love to continue reading!

Keep writing! -Avian




aaliyahlaurier says...


thank you so much for all of this.

1) yes, what ended up happening was they got into a fight which resulted in them being kicked out <3

2) "now" represents the present day/current moment that the audience is reading

thank you so so so much for your review.



User avatar
121 Reviews

Points: 32306
Reviews: 121

Donate
Thu Feb 08, 2024 10:09 pm
View Likes
PKMichelle wrote a review...



Hello friend!
I saw the comment you left on my wall, and I'm really glad to be here checking out this piece!

Sidenote: Before we get started with the review, I would like to say that I broke each section of my template into two parts, one for the prologue and one for part one, because this is a longer story and I think it would be more organized that way. But in the future, I would definitely recommend chapters like these in two separate parts for reader convenience.


Per my interpretation, this was a really great starting point for a novel! It had a lot of juicy information, and the conflict was very well presented!

PROLOGUE

Donna, the main character, lives with her mother and younger sister, but that is quick to end when they move back in with Ray, a very abusive and manipulative man. Donna has to move schools a couple times and is constantly in and out of comfortable living conditions because her mom is unstable and keeps coming back to her abuser. The prologue ends with Donna going to some sort of emergency shelter, causing her mom to bargain with Ray to try and keep her out of it. But that's simply not enough. It is at this point that Donna begins to plot her escape.

PART ONE

Part One starts with Donna in the car with her therapist, Lorelei, traveling to her Aunt Tracy's place. In the car, Donna reminisces about her past and contemplates what the future may hold. It's not until she gets to her aunt's house that she feels a true breath of release, but nonetheless, there is still a large amount of anxiety hiding underneath. All three of them sit and talk until eventually Aunt Tracy brings up a support group as well as school. The thought of school puts Donna on edge, but her aunt just tells her to brush it off, unaware of how difficult that actually is. This irks Donna a tad bit, but that's where Part One ends.

ALTOGETHER

The prologue and Part One were really great starts for this novel, and they make me very excited for what's to come!


If I could offer any sort of advice, there would be some things for each section of the opening part of this novel.

PROLOGUE

In the prologue, I find two sentences with two different things I would like to point out. The sentences in question are:

We begged and pleaded with her to stay, but she was resolutely determined to leave. We were just a couple of naive kids, what did we know about love?


These sentences are kind of ambiguous in the sense that, when I first read them, I had no idea who was leaving. I had to reread them a couple times and use some context clues to figure out it was the mom, and that got a little frustrating, so I think making that a little more obvious would be very helpful for the reader.

The other problem with these sentences is that there is a run-on sentence. In the second sentence, where the comma is, there should actually be a semi-colon to differentiate the sentences and make the text look more like:

We begged and pleaded with her to stay, but she was resolutely determined to leave. We were just a couple of naive kids; what did we know about love?


These two things will help clear up any confusion!

PART ONE

In Part One, I didn't find anything grammatically or structurally wrong, nor was I confused by anything! You did a great job there!

But I would like to mention once again that this was a very long intro, and some readers might be inclined to just glance past it for that very reason. So, I think shortening the next parts up or just posting one part at a time could help a lot!

ALTOGETHER

Obviously, everything mentioned here is just a suggestion, and it's always up to the writer, so please take this criticism lightly and know that I mean nothing negative by it—only trying to provide a somewhat useful critique.


If I had to pick my favorite part, there would be quite a few in this adventure of an introduction!

PROLOGUE

There were a couple things that really stood out to me in the prologue that I really want to highlight here!

The first thing that I really liked in the prologue was when Donna was explaining how difficult school was for her and her parents weren't very understanding. You said,

School was hard enough without the added pressure of a dysfunctional home life. I felt like an alien in my own skin.


This did a great job of truly painting the full picture of how alone she actually is in her life and how hard she has to work for others when she, herself, is being neglected. This part is what genuinely sets up the rest of the story and prepares us for her escape, and it does it in a way that a reader can relate to, so kudos to you for that!

The other thing that I genuinely enjoyed about the prologue was how you showed how disconnected Donna is. One part in particular is when she was talking about how she didn't want to try to make friends at her new school, and you said,

I didn't want to be molded into some idealized version of myself, like an abstract art project they couldn't get quite right.


This did an absolutely stellar job of painting a picture of what it is like for many people with autism. This showed why she struggles so much to fit in, and it's done in a way that's understandable to all readers, even those without autism. I really liked this touch, so good job there!

PART ONE

There were a few things that caught my eye and grabbed my attention in Part One, and now we're going to talk about them!

The first thing that popped out at me was the subtle fourth wall break when Donna was trying to remember what she imagined on car rides. You said,

And even though I really want to remember everything perfectly, I know I'm not the most trustworthy narrator.


I always love it when stories do things like this, and I was really happy to see it here! I just felt like mentioning it because I love it so much!

Another thing that seemed to leap out at me while I was reading occurred when Donna mentioned the fact that Aunt Tracy doesn't believe in autism, even though her own niece has it. You said,

Despite all evidence to the contrary, she refused to believe that I was autistic, and was always unable to provide a coherent explanation for her disbelief.


I really appreciate that you added this in because it does a wonderful job showing that even though Aunt Tracy's kind of the hero and savior in this part, she still has flaws and looks down on Donna's troubles. It makes her seem more human and gives her a hateable characteristic, which every character needs, so good job with hers!

The final thing that I really enjoyed about this story was the end! It was perfect and basically summarized a lot of what Donna has gone through so far in this novel. You said,

"You don't get it," I exhaled, carefully moving my mug of hot cocoa aside. "It's not that simple. I've tried. Making friends, being social—it's like an alien language to me. People don't want to be my friends. I don't fit in, Aunt Tracy. I never have."


This reinforces the idea of Donna's struggles and the fact that, even though she got away from her mom, there are still a lot of things she has to face. It sets up a lot of great conflict for future chapters and provides a great base for the entire novel, so phenomenal job here!

ALTOGETHER

These two parts, the prologue and Part One, had so many great things going on in them, but these are just a few that really stood out to me!


Overall, you did a great job with this, and I legitimately look forward to the next parts! Also, I understand this story is based on true events, so I'm really sorry for whatever you or someone you know went through!

Other than that, you did awesome, and I hope you post the next part soon!

Thank you for taking the time to write and post this, and I hope this review is of some use to you!


Goodbye for now! I hope you have a magnificent day (or night) wherever you are!




aaliyahlaurier says...


Thank you so so much. I cannot thank you enough for all of your advice.




So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookcase on the wall.
— Roald Dahl