The Beta Club: Annual (Literary Fiction) - Come Critique!


It's Beta Club time again!  Today we tackle literary fiction.  This genre is admittedly not my specialty, so I'm counting on you guys to give great input for the writer.  Also, you'll notice I'm now putting in a new section for the featured author.  I'm going to list when the author is seeking beta readers/crit partners for the work and will provide their email address link.  If you read an excerpt and are interested in being a beta reader for the person, please email them directly from the link to let them know.

For newbies:  If you haven't been here on beta club day yet, don't be afraid to jump in with your comments.  All feedback is welcome as long as it's constructive.  And if anyone has an itch to be critiqued, the rules for submitting to the Beta Club are under the "Free Critiques" heading at the top of the page.


Alright, please read through the author's excerpt, then provide your feedback in the comments.  My detailed critique is below.
Author: Katie Loud (go check out her site)
Title: Annual
Genre: Literary Fiction


Christian McKenzie was sixteen years old the last time he used a time clock to punch out of work.
            His sneakers left green smudges on the cement floor of the main storage building at Peter Neal Landscaping as he walked toward the back office to turn in his timecard.  He tapped the buff-colored rectangle measuring out a forty-hour workweek against his khaki shorts in the innate way that musicians do.  Christian was surprised to see Pete Neal himself, owner of the landscaping business that had employed him for two summers now, sitting behind the desk in his tiny office. 
            “Why you still here?” Pete asked, standing and hitching up his fatigue pants.  Although his pants were always falling down, his t-shirts were never without oval sweat stains at the armpits, and his few remaining teeth were gray and rotting, Christian liked him.  Pete had always been fair.
            “I wanted to finish that stone wall for you, sir.  It’s my last day.”
            Pete nodded.  “Yeah, Pentinicci already reminded me.”
            “He still here?”
            “Hell, no.  He was gone soon’s his eight hours was up.”  Pete grumbled a bit more before saying what he’d been leading up to.  “I told him job’s here for him next summer, same as I’m saying to you.”
            “Thank you, Mr. Neal.  I’ll be needing a job next summer between graduation and college, and you’ve been good to me.”
            “You’re a good worker, McKenzie.”  Pete held out a calloused hand, and Christian shook it gratefully. 
            “I’ll, uh, see you around, I’m sure.”  Christian was uncomfortable.  Pete’s company did the extensive landscaping at his parents’ mansion, a fact that both of them were a little embarrassed about and which neither of them mentioned.  “And I will be back next year, sir.”
            But he wasn’t.  The trajectory of his life changed forever that evening when his girlfriend told him she was pregnant.

            Christian checked the time as he walked to his red Saab convertible.  He wouldn’t be able to go home and shower before soccer practice, and that bothered him a bit.  Most of his teammates found it absolutely hysterical that Christian and to a slightly lesser degree his best friend Roy Pentinicci labored in the hot sun for forty hours a week all summer.  Although their teasing on the rare days he showed up with green ankles didn’t really bother Christian, the sense of bewilderment in their eyes did. 
            His father was one of the wealthiest men in the country.  There wasn’t a reason in the world for him to slave away mowing lawns, weeding gardens, erecting stone walls, accompanying balding, sweaty men with bad grammar.
            But then, Christian had always been something of an enigma to his peers, a fact that bothered him not in the least.  They wondered where his drive to excel came from, of course, why he worked his ass off to earn straight As at the prestigious Stephens Academy, what made him attend intensive extra baseball practices when he was already one of the best high school pitchers in the northeast.  It seemed unfair, of course, that Brian McKenzie’s son should be brilliant, talented in numerous areas, and model-handsome, but Christian was just too likable a guy to hold it against him.
            So people asked Roy, who was not quite as likable and not technically a McKenzie, why on earth the two of them worked for a landscaper instead of just pushing paper at one of Mr. McKenzie’s many offices.  Roy had been taken in by Brian and Belinda McKenzie when his famously dysfunctional family imploded in the fall of his freshman year.  They were his legal guardians, but they were not his parents.  He explained that his Porsche was a strings-attached present for his sixteenth birthday, the strings being that he pay his car insurance with money he earned.  As a three-season athlete and an honors student, this was impossible to accomplish during the school year.  Hence, a summer job was necessary.   That Brian McKenzie had made the same arrangement with his own son (and bought him a far less ostentatious car) when Christian turned sixteen a year later was what confused, almost frustrated people.  What was the point?
Below is my critique, click on FULL SCREEN, then once the document opens, RIGHT CLICK to zoom so you can see the comments.


Alright, so what do you think?  Are you hooked?  What did the author do well?  What things could be improved?  Thanks ahead of time for offering your feedback!

*Also Katie is looking for beta readers, so if you are interested in exchanging work with her, email her!

*Today's Theme Song*
"Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" - Good Charlotte
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)