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for Always on Your Side

1/29 c1 2lalez
I am not from the US, and school shootings around here are rare, but I attended a conference once where the presenter talked about shooter drills and how lights would be dimmed. (He even demonstrated by dimming the lights in the auditorium we were in)
I still can barely imagine the feelings one must go through, but you evoked an eerie feeling from the start there.
Your MC is caught totally off guard at the beginning of the chapter as well as the end.
You touched upon the very blasé attitude of people if they aren't affected, or if someone died, they deem "unnecessary" (for lack of a better term) in the form of the stepdad. And also on the absolute hysteria that follows at the other end of the spectrum.

Your MC has PTSD, which shines through in her seemingly reliving this shooting in school years later. From the sound of it Brendon was suffering too. He seemed troubled. And my hope/imagination for the rest of the story is that Len (name only found in the description/summary) will find what drove her brother to take this drastic approach. You definitely chose a hard subject to write about, but you gained a reader in me.

As one little thing that is really nitpicky the last line in your chapter is missing punctuation (or was that an artistic choice? It just strikes me as odd.)
1/11 c2 60Ange Amour
It seems that the character has a whole bunch of outside forces that cause him/her to feel overwhelmed. Not only that, but this is the brain of a teenager. The brain of a teenager isn't fully developed. This is why some teens tend to get into trouble. The brain isn't fully developed until the early or mid-20s. The part of the brain that tells you "Even though I feel really good, if I drive while drunk, I'm more than likely to feel the thrill and chill of speeding. I will crash my brand new used car and instantly regret this night for the rest of my life." That is the part that isn't fully developed as a teen. The teenager is feeling guilt and maybe even some trauma of someone close to him/her being killed by gunshot. Anime makes being in a gang look cool, but it isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's dangerous. You're forced into things you really don't want to do. The people close to you end up hurt or killed.
1/11 c1 Ange Amour
Soooo...just curious. What got you to write the story about suicide? I have a close and personal relationship with suicide. I've even had dreams about it. Interestingly enough, someone told me that suicide is dangerous and selfish because it's not that you want to die. You just want to end your suffering regardless of the people you leave behind. It is said somewhere that you go to Hell for suicide. The way I see it, suicide is dangerous and it could either be permanent or leave you scarred for life. Eating disorders, to me, are like slow suicides and self-injury. As someone who works in the medical field and having dealt with these things, I know full well what I'm doing. does that mean I can stop it? Nope. In fact, it is because I know what to do when I self-injure in any way that makes things even more prolonging and dangerous because it is more prolonging. The more prolonged, the more frantic I would get and I would dive deeper and deeper.

I'm interested to read this and see where it goes.
12/30/2022 c6 RandyRob
HiHi, in from the Longer/Advanced Review Game:

Suicide is hard topic to write about. Especially given the backdrop of all the issues with guns and school shootings and whatnot, I will first give you a most sincere "attaboy/girl/you" for the boldness to take on such a hard topic. As someone who's gone through both sides of it, I can say its a subject you can't really describe without having lived through it.

The first thing I noticed is that this story came across as something written from a very deep and very personal place. If this was from your own experience, you have my deepest sympathies. Losing a best friend like that is a kind of pain that no one deserves to go through.

From the jump, we get right into the main event, Len getting that final text message from Brendon was a nice bit of heartbreaking finality. People tend to have this Hollywood view of suicide that someone will always leave a carefully written note about the how and why, but for the majority of people, its fine one day, and the next someone puts a gun to their head, very effective.

There were a few lines I wanted to single out:

[He just lay on the guest bed he'd been sleeping in, facing away from me, picking white paint off the wall and dropping the curled-up paint bits into the crack between the bed and floor. "I don't want to play anymore today, Len," he said softly.

"But I said I'm sorry!" My guilt turned to impatience; what more could he want from me?

"It's okay," he mumbled. "I just thought you were on my side, is all."]

This hit absolutely right home. Sometimes, it's just that simple. What you think is a minor problem can be the thing keeping someone on a knife's edge between life and death. And this exchange was beautifully written. Short and haunting.

[The question keeps me up at night: what could have scared him? What could have scared him so much that he thought a bullet to the head was the best alternative?]

And you never really know, until it's too late. I do hope we get an answer to this question. I'll keep reading this to see what happens.

SPaG wise, nothing really stood out to me, at least nothing I'm not guilty of myself, but I'll pick on this line:

[But now I see how pity and sympathy are different, and perhaps mutually exclusive, things.]

Mutually exclusive suggests that they are, in fact, different. I might have phrased it like this:

[But I can see now that sometimes pity, and sympathy, really aren't the same things]

It's a me thing, but I feel the wordiness threw off the impact just a touch.

Overall, an outstanding piece of work you've got here Pineapple Girl! I really enjoyed reading this, and bravo for taking the chance on it.


12/30/2022 c1 11Story Blue
This is very well-written. It made me feel like it was an actual account of something that happened rather than a fictional story.

I'm only going to review chapter one, if that's okay. The whole story is a bit long, but I'll admit that I am interested and may revisit it at a later time.

Opening-this really made me want to read onwards and find out what was going on. The first sentence is very attention-grabbing, comparing fireworks to gunshots and immediately signaling that perhaps the narrator does not live in a rich neighborhood.

Ending-the ending was unexpected but it also gave us a bit of a Chekov's gun; in this case, the narrator is focused on people getting shot, hurt, or killed, but they were so focused on getting hurt in a mass shooting that they ignored the warning signs that Brendon was going to commit suicide.

Dialogue-the only dialogue I see in the first chapter, not counting the texting, are the jokes made by the narrator's stepdad. It's snappy and a little funny and goes with the theme of the story well, not to mention it's a moderate allusion to current events.

Characters-the characters feel like real people. I could imagine this conversation taking place at someone's dinner table or coffee shop.

Relationships-the relationships are believable.

Writing-the writing is conversational and immersive. It feels kind of like I'm reading the narrator's journal.

Spelling/Grammar-I see no significant errors.

Enjoyment-I'll give this an 8/10 for enjoyment. I did not expect the ending, even though there was a content warning saying that it got darker. It was not unbelievable or too edgy; it was very believable and had an authentic feel.

Plot-the first chapter is very interesting, and now I want to read on. I imagine it's going to be about politics in California and how they need to strengthen gun control laws.

Pace-the story was well paced and flowed just like the entry in someone's diary or words from a conversation.

Techniques-the techniques were executed well.

Other-this was a fantastic first chapter. It really kept my attention and made me want to read on. The first chapter ends with a suicide and now I feel like the plot is even thicker.
12/21/2022 c1 knockmeoffmyfeet
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10/22/2022 c2 19Ckh
First person writing is great because you can really connect with the emotions of the main character if the author hits the right notes. I think you hit the right notes here. The contrast between Len's real thoughts and the façade she puts on shows how emotionally affected by her brother's passing. It also makes her feel more authentic in a human way. Personally, I have some of those back and forths too - or at least the characters I write do.

Good opening, good chapter, good follow-up to chapter 1.
10/21/2022 c1 Ckh
Here's an EF review to break the hiatus. I'm very rusty, so bear with me.

I thought the opening was rather effective. I liked the "Living in Antioch..." sarcastic remark - it feels personal, in a way. People have a way of complaining about the city/country they grew up in. Though gunshots might be a frighteningly real cause of concern. Oh, and I enjoyed your alliteration by the way. It sends the opening a whimsical vibe before juxtaposing it with the dark ending. Very cool. (I just like alliteration tbh)

What else? I generally liked the tone of the protagonist. The way she says "Brendon killed himself on New Year's Eve. A Wednesday" feels detached, but that works for a character trying to cope with loss. Oddly enough, acting detached - acting like you're not human - is strangely human too. Also liked the way you started and ended off with a gunshot. It's this type of connective tissue in writing that appreciate.

Anything else? Cool writing. I liked how inconsistent Brendon's phone messages are. (He spells We are in the first message but say we're in the second. He also omits a full stop in the second message) It's reminiscent of the inconsistent way we text. You could afford to be a little more playful.

Do I have anything else? No, not really. Again, I'm very rusty.
Good chapter as always. Write more. Thanks for writing. Have good dreams. Signing off. I don't know how to reviews now so I'm ending it here-
7/6/2022 c7 3noveltealover
Aaah this chapter! (Lol, I literally only read about a quarter of the story but I'm glad to see a lengthier chapter and this one is my fave so far - and then I leave a shorter review lol xP)

I like gradually learning all these bits and pieces about Brendon. Aww, all the Christmas gifts they got each other. It's sweet but the crushing guilt Len felt and her 'what-ifs' and if she got him the perfect gifts that would've made him change his mind? D:

But now it looks like here's the introduction of the puzzle Brendon had left behind as mentioned in the summary. So, the mystery begins... :O Love these letters he left for her in invisible ink. His short messages are so sweet and heartbreaking to read. :'( The gift card to the Men's Wearhouse so she could buy a suit for the senior ball is my fave bit ahah.

Aww the ending. One day you'll feel ready, Len... :( Can't wait to see how this puzzle unfolds and Len discovering what Brendon left for her at the very end.
7/6/2022 c6 noveltealover
Teachers can play such crucial roles for students in helping them foster interests or find life aspirations when in school. Aw, I can imagine that boost of confidence it must've given Brendon to have his butterfly photograph praised and showcased. I don't doubt Len must've been equally as proud as Brendon on Fine Arts Day.

Hah, we can all agree with Len that hands down that P.E. will always be the worst mandatory subject to take in HS. I liked the transition of the ballroom dancing unit in P.E. to Len being reminded of the song, One Headlight, and its lyrics. I'm listening to the song right now as I'm typing this up and Len couldn't have stated it more perfectly about the lyrics and the theme of the song and resonating with Len's grief and loss of her brother when reading the lyrics :c

[...This place is always such a mess
Sometimes I think I'd like to watch it burn
I'm so alone
Feel just like somebody else
Man, I ain't changed, but I know I ain't the same
But somewhere here in between the city walls of dying dreams
I think her death, it must be killing me...]

I feel like this part of the lyrics also emphasizes the last several sentences regarding Len and her friends and her overall sentiments atm. :o And aw, she can't help but feel like she's bringing everyone's spirits down during the grieving period which she's really treating herself unfairly to think this, as if she ruined everyone's senior year. *frowns* But also at that age, also understandable how some people wouldn't know how to act or behave around a friend who has lost someone dear to them and would maybe avoid bringing up any topics.

Also agree with Len on her last thoughts this chapter about pity and sympathy being mutually exclusive things...
6/23/2022 c41 30Aviantei
Hey there! Now that I’ve gotten through the whole story, I figured I’d drop off a review. Since I read it in chunks, I don’t know if I have any big picture recommendations. However, I did enjoy the pacing of the puzzles spread throughout and the way they inter-disperse through all the other bits of Len’s life. I enjoyed reading this story, so thanks for sharing it!

5/14/2022 c5 3noveltealover
Heyy Aurora! Looks like you've finished posting the story since I've last been on FP... which ugh I've been gone for a long time, but I'm finally here to pick up where I left off. I hope to get back into the groove and start binge reading a bit again and then probably combine chapters at a time in my future reviews! :))

Gosh, the obligatory family reunions that you had to go to as a child. And if you didn't get along with your relatives or family then they were a dread to go through. I like how it's set in the desert in the middle of nowhere which it's clear Brendon hated these family reunions and would rather be anywhere else. But with being in the desert, there's nowhere he could really go to get away from his step-family... Poor Brendon and the peer pressure Adam/relatives put on him to participate in target practice with hunting rifles as a some kind of 'manhood rite of passage' and the step-grandparents owns hunting rifles for the sake of owning rifles? -.-

Hah, Brendon's response to Adam in rather roasting a hot dog than participating in some family tradition of shooting at paper targets is my fave line this chapter. Aww I could just feel Brendon's anxiety and extreme discomfort jump off the page when his relatives all cheered him for picking up the rifle and then his visible flinching when he finally pulled the BB gun trigger. How the adults can be oblivious/not care/choose to pretend not to notice how badly Brendon reacted with just holding the rifle is beyond me. And then their grandpa swapping the rifle for a BB gun instead of just letting him go. But since this seems more like distant relatives since they're a step-family but still... he's only a child. Wow, Len's questions at the end just hit so much harder. :( Especially after we see how shaken Brendon was with handling and being around guns in the past and yet he pushed himself through his fear and hate of guns to handle one and point it at himself...

I feel like in each chapter, I have to process and take a moment to gather my thoughts haha. Even when chapters are short, there's just like a weight to every word you write making a reader reflect. Anyway, I'm looking forward to catching up on my reading. Hope to be back soon! :)
2/10/2022 c6 17Encore19
Well I like this tidbit you've given me. Brendon hated people being sympathetic towards him. Makes me start wondering why... it could be intense self-hate. Or more likely, he genuinely hated relating to others and did not want any connections, which is why sympathy would upset him. And this could stem from self-hate. Actually... I hope you don't hate my self reflections. I'll try to not let this take away much from the review. In young school life I had some bad social skills, and because I was aware of them I started acting quiet and brooding. Which I'm quite sure made people very curious about me. But the truth was, I was just keeping quiet to hide the fact I'd look like an idiot, socially. But I also already had a friend group at the time who knew I was weird. So Brendon could be doing that. Being antisocial as a defense mechanism because he lacked social skills. Rejecting sympathy because he didn't want to risk anyone relating to him, "seeing" him and having to deal with rejection that would point to that sad truth. And he was so certain that he was adamant in avoiding others. Just a theory, but a highly valid one I would say. Anyway before that one tidbit distracted me, I wanted to say that Len's school friends feeling extremely uncomfortable around her isn't a surprising development at all. The sad thing is, a lot of the less intelligent or emotionally inconsiderate students will really start to resent her over this. They'll project their own guilt and the lack of fun as coming from her and not themselves. This adds perspective onto how much the death of a family member can leak into every aspect of life. Even TV shows and stories, anything that references a family member dying is suddenly so much more personal and not entertainment, and people need to watch their words and try not to f*ck up. I enjoyed the imagery as Len goes through the various memories of her brother around school. I'm getting a clearer picture of the mother as a character, and she certainly does seem angry. But I'm also willing to bet Len was the only one who truly cared about what her brother was feeling when he was alive. In times of crisis people tend to either come together or fall apart, the saying goes. Guess it's still too soon to tell. Anyway above all I've enjoyed the writing style, the realism, the immersiveness.
2/10/2022 c5 Encore19
Well I gotta comment on the ending first. You're asking questions, which means this is in fact becoming a mystery. I figured this could just be a sad tale focused on the aftermath of a dismal but also common story out there. But if we are adding mystery then who knows what could develop. Maybe "no mystery", "some mystery" or this will turn into a huge series of unexpected events leading to a bigger plot. I think that either route you go down you'll be able to do it well. But asking a question like that at the end does bolster my curiosity and makes me want to put on spy glasses to catch any hidden clues. On characters for this chapter I like how you convey how annoying Adam is. He's such a typical masc guy, believing boys need to act manly and that every boy needs that same approach. It's not just gay guys, but plenty of heterosexual men don't take well to that kind of environment/upbringing. Also the young children with family also creates a more colourful cast so far. I enjoyed the tension when Brendon went for the gun. I didn't think he'd shoot anyone there but you never know what could've happened, if he had a proper meltdown he could've threatened them. But Brendon does not seem like he was ever violent, instead he put that inwards. Suicide by gunshot or intentional car accident is apparently how more male suicide victims go whereas with females they tend to go for the self-poison route. As a trend. Something else of note was how Len was so plainly aware of Brendon's distress. Other people are often bastards, aren't they. Brendon was so upset he was shaking, and all people do is encourage him to do what he didn't want to. And even Len being aware that the praise of doing something everyone else does would make him even more uncomfortable shows how clued in she was to him, unlike everyone else who couldn't care less but wanted to focus on their brainless charade. The desert setting of that Arizona in the middle of nowhere was descriptive and cool. I could immerse myself easily and appreciate new settings coming in. Brendon not liking kids makes me wonder if he couldn't tolerate things well, someone easily agitated like that would also be more likely to crack and want to die.
2/10/2022 c4 Encore19
Yeah, this is more than the death of a sibling. This was a sibling who was also a friend. And they had plans to explore the world together, so obviously they were close. So of course this is especially hard for Len. On scene I really liked and felt something when it was something as simple as the yearly photos which got Len to start crying. I could clearly remember a feeling you might be conveying here, or probably are, which is when you're so sad about background stuff even if you've forgotten, that something mundane can set you off and I remember that hollow sorta despair from much younger days as a kid. This chapter is also good because we're getting more characterization of Brendon through his dialogue. Calling classmates inferior microbes he wants nothing to do with is obviously setting him up as a quirky intellectual guy who probably felt misunderstood. And the fact he had graduation with only family, and we know from stories about their mother (who seems terrible, unless their father genuinely would have let them starve and that's why she wanted full custody) and disapproving grandmother and now current arguments with a step-Dad that the family wasn't very good. So this is important to figuring out if there's a story behind "why did Brendon do it?" which could be more intriguing than a simple fact which is admittedly more likely - mental illness, depression, maybe he was abused. On characters I feel that Len is on her way to feeling distinct, we know of her romantic relationship with a girl, how she handles grief, and what she was like as a young child. Brendon is also more distinctive especially after this chapter. I'm sure more is to come and I'm looking forward to it. On relationships I'm liking their sibling relationship cause it's refreshing for siblings to be best friends, but I suppose most of the times that happens in fiction it's cause one is gonna die to make the death more heart-wrenching. You can tell in movies when a character is so nice they're obviously gonna die. Enjoyment is still good as this is still easy to digest in its bite-sized pieces.
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