Peer Review by Crescent (United States)

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Hide and Seek: Chapter One

By: Early Pearl

Chapter One
“Willow, why aren’t you dressed yet? We’re leaving in half an hour!” Willow’s mother told her, exasperated. Willow pulled herself up off of the couch reluctantly. She was not looking forward to this trip. She’d been informed 2 months ago that they would be traveling to Des Moines, Iowa to help her aunt with her wedding. Having never really met her aunt, except once at a birthday party for someone else she didn’t really know, she was happy for her, but didn’t really see the point in going to the wedding at all. She didn’t even know her!

     Despite her annoyance, Willow went upstairs to her bedroom and pulled on an unstained t-shirt and a pair of leggings. She brushed back her short, curly brown hair into a ponytail and stuck her feet into a pair of flats. There, she thought, looking at her reflection in the mirror. That should satisfy Mom. “Did you brush your teeth?” her mom called. Oh, come on! She threw her hands in the air and headed to the bathroom.
“Carson, would you stop it!” she said to her twin brother, who was sitting in the backseat of the car next to her. He was making obnoxious noises and poking her in the side every 2 minutes. He looked at her and stuck his tongue out. Why was he like this? They were twins! Yet she was the bookish one who enjoyed reading and school, while he was very, very, very loud and didn’t much like school. How could twins end up so differently? It confused Willow profoundly.

     She leaned against the window and rolled her eyes. “Carson!” she said again. “Carson, leave your sister alone,” her mother said. Carson stopped poking her, but continued to make noises. Willow turned around in her seat and grinned at her 7 month-old sister, Rhiel. Rhiel grinned and waved her tiny hands at Willow. Willow laughed and turned around. She pulled a book out of her backpack and began to read to pass the time.
Before she knew it, it was dark outside and she couldn’t see her pages. She looked up in surprise. Hadn’t they only left the house a little while ago? She glanced at the clock in the front seat. Holy crap, it was 7 o’clock! She turned around to glance at Rhiel again. She was asleep with her head to the side, drooling. Willow put her hand over her mouth to muffle her laughter. It was kind of funny to see a baby sleeping.
Willow turned back around and leaned forward. “Dad, when are we stopping? It’s 7 already and I’m getting hungry.” Her father looked at the clock next to his arm. “Oh, you’re right!” he said. “Honey, are there any good places to eat near here?” he asked his wife. She consulted her phone. “Well, there’s a few fast food places pretty close by, would that work?” Her father considered. “I guess it would, as long as we can get something soft for Rhiel to eat. How far?” “I’ll pull up the directions for you.” Her mother replied. She plugged her phone into the car’s stereo and the voice of the GPS immediately blared through the car. Quickly she reached out and turned it down.

   It was about a 5-minute drive to the nearest Wendy’s, where they pulled into the parking lot. “Alright, Rhiel,” Willow said softly to her sister, unbuckling her car seat. “Are you hungry? Ready for some food?” Rhiel woke up slowly, first opening her eyes and then beginning to wiggle in Willow’s arms. “It’s alright, don’t move too much,” she said to her. She climbed carefully out of the car and handed Rhiel to her mother. “What are we getting to eat?” she asked. “Probably the Four for 4 meals,” her mother responded, gently bouncing Rhiel. Willow nodded. “Sound good.”

     They walked in and discovered that it was almost completely empty. It was just them and the workers, of whom there weren’t very many of. “Go pick some seats, guys,” her father told them. She and Carson headed to the middle of the restaurant and grinned at each other. Despite their extreme differences, there were definitely things that they both did and agreed on; one of them was that they loved to sit right smack in the middle of whatever building they were in.

     Several minutes later, their parents came back with Rhiel and 3 trays of food. “Here, Mom, let me take Rhiel for a minute,” Willow said, holding her arms out. “Thank you, Willow,” her mother said, gratefully handing the baby over to her older daughter. Then she began to dole out the food amongst her family. “Chicken sandwich, fries, nuggets and a drink to Carson,” her mother said, handing the items to Willow’s brother. “And Willow gets a burger, fries, nuggets, and a frosty.” “You can just set the stuff on the table, Mom.” Willow said. Her mother did so, then picked up a small package of chicken nuggets for Rhiel. “Do you want to feed her, Willow?” her mother asked, smiling. “No thanks, you can take her,” Willow laughed. One time when Rhiel was about 4 months old, Willow had tried to feed her sister, and she’d ended up with a shirt covered in spit-up and baby formula.

     They ate their food, discussing the most ridiculous things that had happened on the ride there. Of course, Willow had missed most of them, as she was reading her book almost the entire time. Apparently Carson had told some weird jokes and Rhiel had gotten a horrible case of hiccups that cracked them all up. “I can’t believe you were totally oblivious, Willow! It was so funny!” Carson said jubilantly. Willow rolled her eyes. Carson’s idea of funny was different from hers. But honestly, she could see why Rhiel hiccupping would be funny. Such a tiny baby making such a loud noise was a comical thing to behold.

     Willow finished her food and went to throw her trash away. But as she reached the trash can, she noticed a strange, tall man with a shaved head standing outside the window looking in. He seemed fixated on her. Chills ran up and down her spine and she walked back to her table, putting the man out of her mind.

Message to Readers

I'm writing this for NaNoWriMo this year! :D I'm in DESPERATE need of a title. I've literally been referring to it as "Creepy Vacation Packages", for reasons that are later explained. Any feedback is welcome! :D Thanks for reading, and hope you like it! :D

Peer Review

1. Good grammar. You don't know HOW MANY things I've read where the author doesn't understand conventions. When I see something online that is polished, I am immediately drawn to it and appreciate the author's efforts.
2. The introduction paragraph brings a source of conflict to the story right away. ("She didn't even know her!")

You do a good job with adding Willow's personality in the narrative's diction. This is something I struggle with as a writer, so I'm awed that you can do this.

What I know so far: Willow gets lost in books easily, and she doesn't want to go to this wedding.
What might be interesting to know: Willow's sense of style (which can be shown at the dressing-up-for-wedding part), deeper into Willow's relationship with Carson/Rhiel (or if the relationship isn't deep, make that clear, so the reader isn't left wondering), more on the parents (do they ever argue with the kids? Do they ever argue with each other?—these can be great sources of conflict)

The "spit-up and baby formula" part needs to have more. I expected it to go a little more in depth about what exactly happened at that time.

Actually, there is a scene that should be condensed. The car scene with the GPS—there is a lot of unnecessary detail there. Is all that dialogue necessary? And those dialogue tags? What about the motions they make? (I already address some of that in my comments.)

Your story takes place 1) at a house, 2) in a car, and 3) at Wendy's. The family is traveling to Iowa, but I don't know where they're traveling from, which means I don't know what to expect time-wise with this car traveling.

Setting is something that needs a little more work. Maybe a tiny detail somewhere about the car?
This is simply an exposition, so I won't get nitpicky with setting. Just remember, as you continue writing, that you can meld a detail in with action or dialogue. This way, you don't infodump, and you don't forget that readers really don't know where they are unless you give them these details to remind them!

I think this should be the place where I go, "AY I FINISHED," and slouch in my chair and start using emojis. :D

Great job on the novel you have here. As a novel writer myself who has had several beta readers in the past few years, I can say that there are certain things that beta readers just don't know. For one, they don't usually tell you whether they'd keep reading or not. This is probably because they view beta reading as an assignment that they HAVE to finish (otherwise they'd feel guilty). So I will tell you this: I would keep reading this novel. Second of all, you have potential. I see it in your grammar, and I see it in your diction and syntax. Third of all, you manage plot, action, and back story well, which is something many people can't do. Good job.

Hey, thumbs up to you for participating in NaNoWriMo. I am as well this year, so I hope we can both win! :D

Reviewer Comments

Note: Look at the highlights carefully! There are some overlaps, where I highlighted two different parts that include some of the same phrases. The highlight mark there is slightly darker than normal.