|Hi J.L. O'Dell
I am happy to be reviewing you on behalf of "PDG Rockin' Reviewers' Group" .
This is the second of your Coconut Snowball reviews.
Please remember these are only my opinions, and any advice given is with the sole intention of being helpful.
My first thoughts: I loved this story the first time I read it for the "Second Time Around Contest" . Once again, you have really moved me with your writing. When I first saw the title, I expected the focus of the story to be on a happy, people-packed party. Maybe, even a party where a bunch of kids make a lot of mess. But I couldn't have been more wrong, and I'm so happy about that.
Plot: This is a story of friendship and loss and remembering those who are no longer with us. I love the whole premise of the story, with the two best friends born on the same day and year, both blonde, inseparable. Only, cancer did separate them; permanently. So, Jackie's family has moved to a new town so Jackie can start again and make new friends. At the same time, on her sixteenth birthday, Jackie won't forget Taylor. I love the ending, where they release the balloons for Taylor. It's a really symbolic act that helps people who are grieving. When my Dad first died, Mum and I released balloons on his birthday every year. I think that's, in part, why this story appealed to me so much. I could really see this taking place.
There is something I'm not entirely sure about with the plot. You begin by describing Jackie as being popular and you say, "Everyone liked the new girl." But, right after this, you say, "... everyone at her school thought she was also just a little strange." You say she didn't feel like fitting in with anyone. These two aspects of her character contradict each other. Additionally, she doesn't invite anyone to her birthday party, which suggests she has no friends. It's just a little inconsistency.
Characters: I feel for Jackie. To experience bereavement at such a young age, and of someone she is so close to, must be difficult. I love how she knows her own mind, though. She doesn't care whether she is popular or not because she knows there are more important things to life than being popular.
Grammar: "'I know Mom.'" There should be a comma before Mom. Also, "Jackie’s mother thought maybe there was something that they could do together like maybe going to a movie in town." I would take out the second maybe.
What I liked: The balloons when they are released at the end. I love how Jackie thinks they can symbolise the sixteen candles on Taylor's birthday cake.
Suggestions: Just one point ... Where Jackie doesn't want to make a speech. You show her saying, "'No speeches, Dad.'" Then, we see her loving her birthday cake, and then you write about how she doesn't want to give a speech. It seems a little muddled, to me. I would move the part where she loves her cake to after the paragraph where you describe how difficult the birthday is for Jackie and the reasons why she doesn't want to give a speech.
This is a great story. I really enjoyed reading it, and I like how it went in a completely different direction to the one I expected. It's written with warmth, and I really felt for Jackie. Nice work.
Most importantly, keep writing!