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Friday, January 3, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier

One year of First Friday reviews is now in the books. A great big thank you to all of the fabulous debut authors who have agreed to participate. Marcy and I are looking for many more reviews to follow.

Welcome to January’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Mindy McGinnis and her novel, Not a Drop to Drink.  I couldn’t put this one down, and when I was called away, the story stayed with me until I was able to once again stick my nose back in the book. We hope you enjoy our answers and encourage you to buy the book.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – In order to be able to better grasp of the feelings and emotions of Lynn, the main character, who lives in a time when water is scarce and humans must take extreme measures to protect what is theirs, I chose to highlight two particular sections of the novel, one in the beginning and one in the end.

Lynn pulled her own rifle into her lap, the cold metal bringing more comfort to her than Mother’s touch ever could. Her finger curled around the trigger, hugging it tight in the life-taking embrace that she’d learned so long ago. She slipped onto her belly beside Mother, watching the sunlight bounce off the twin barrels of their rifles. Waiting was always the worst part, the crack of the rifle a relief.

(This next section came from later on in the novel and shows a contrast in Lynn’s thinking… The fact that she would even remotely consider assisting a stranger.)

Self-reliance had been Mother’s mantra. Nothing was more important than themselves and their belongings. Allowing Lucy into their home had gone against everything she’d learned, but leaving the little girl to die beside the stream went against something that was simply known and had never been taught. She’d shared the thought with Stebbs after they worked on Lucy’s feet. He told her it was her conscience, guiding her to the right decision.

Marcy – Lynn has been taught by her Mother that survival is the most important part of their life. Survival skills have been a part of Lynn’s life for as long as she can remember. If someone comes on her and Mother’s property to take their water, they would shoot to kill. Now Lynn is rethinking how she reacts to trespassers. In this paragraph, Lynn reflects on a boy that she killed because he walked on her property and compares this to another man who came on the property, but she decides to spare his life. This demonstrates how her character is growing and evolving.

She could see what Mother had meant about the dead boy whose boots she’d taken. Even starving, Eli had a sparkle of youth about him, though he lacked the paunchy cheeks of the boy she’d shot. Lynn balanced the two faces in her mind, trying to tack down what exactly made them so different. In the end, she decided Eli was just easier to look at. For the first time since her death, Lynn dreamt of a face other than Mothers.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - For me, this was easy. Lynn had resisted for so long getting close to someone. She’d resisted dropping her guard for fear someone would take over what was rightly hers. And now, when she finally allows that to happen, one of her worst fears results.

Her heart was beating so hard, she almost didn’t hear the footsteps on the roof. Lynn instinctively dropped down, hand clutched protectively around the thermometer. For a moment there was nothing, only the sound of her own blood pumping through her veins. Then she heard it again.
Someone was on her roof.

Marcy – You know I usually go for the chapter ending that is the cliffhanger – like Dave’s above, but this time, I’m picking a chapter ending that captures the innocence of a child. Young Lucy, a child Lynn has taken in, talks Lynn out of shooting a man because he has come on to the property. Lynn has a conversation with the man and ends up helping him. This last line fosters hope.

Lucy tilted her head against the window to watch the stranger go, her breath making a fog against the cold glass, until they could see him no more.

“Good luck, mister,” she said, her words filled with the hope of a child.”

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – Stebbs is my favorite secondary character. He possesses the knowledge of what life was like before hard times hit. Because of that, I believe he’s able to convey to Lynn a sense of humanity that was needed, is needed, to survive.

Stebbs gave Lynn a hard look. “I know you’re just saying what you think your mother would’ve wanted. Seems to me you’re starting to grow a heart on your own, but every now and then you think of her and it kills it dead like the frost to a seedling. You weren’t taught any different, but it used to be that people helped each other.”

“Used to be a lot of things different.”

“But people are still the same,” Stebbs said, and edge on his voice that usually wasn’t there. “And all everyone is trying to do is survive.”

Marcy –  Stebbs is my favorite character. His quiet, gentle soul helps guide Lynn with choices. Besides helping her survive, he teaches her a great deal about life and people.

Dave and I think so much alike. I had also picked the paragraph above, but will choose two different ones instead.

“So I guess I’ll go ahead and tell you – don’t be making the same mistakes she did. Or hell, the ones I did either. Don’t be afraid to care for that little one, and don’t be too proud to let that boy know what you feel. Otherwise you might end up with neither of ‘em.”

“I’m asking you to be more than she was. Be strong, and be good. Be loved, and be thankful for it. No regrets.”

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Dave – I chose this particular section from early on in the novel. I think it gives such insight into how Lynn thought, how she was taught to think by her mother, how she felt she needed to think in order to survive.

Twilight had fallen by the time Lynn had made a binding for her ankle out of Mother’s shirt. She felt like a vulture as she stripped Mother’s body of anything useful - knife, matches, even the hair tie she been using. Nothing should be wasted. Scavenging from bodies was nothing new to Lynn, but taking Mother’s shirt from her as a cold sleet began brought her to her knees. She cried in long, gasping breaths that ripped through her body. Her knees slipped in the blood-soaked mud, and she fell face forward into the muck, where she saw her rifle.

She crawled toward it, wiping it as clean as she could on her shirt…

Marcy – This paragraph gives the reader a deep look inside the main character’s head in the beginning of the story. And for me this line really shows the stark contrast of Lynn’s mindset in the beginning of the novel and then how her character grows and develops as we get deeper into the novel. And now as I’m reading through the post, I see Dave picked this same paragraph for his answer above.

Lynn pulled her own rifle into her lap, the cold metal bringing more comfort to her than Mother’s touch ever could. Her finger curled around the trigger, hugging it tight in the life-taking embrace that she’d learned so long ago. She slipped onto her belly beside Mother, watching the sunlight bounce off the twin barrels of their rifles. Waiting was always the worst part, the crack of the rifle a relief.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave –  I picked this line because it comes at a time when Lynn, who is just learning how to trust people, tries to teach a basic lesson of how to survive living in the country to someone she has just met.

“It’s not like the city out here,” Lynn said. “You’re better off to distrust everyone at first and make them earn it.”

“Then it’s exactly like the city.”

Marcy –  I thought this line was so sweet. Eli is so patient with Lynn. She hasn’t been around people and doesn’t really quite understand how human nature works. Eli asks permission for a kiss. Lynn leans forward and pecks him on the cheek, which was her Mother’s ultimate show of affection. Here is Eli’s response.

“I’m not going to kiss you like your mother. C’mere.”

To read more about Mindy McGinnis’ debut YA novel Not a Drop to Drink please go to:

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