The motor for this novel is Gina’s desire for God, yearning for intimacy with God,  and longing for a sign.  Yet this wonderfully forthright, up-front, articulate character who in her first breath as a character is praying doesn’t seem to have any clear notion of what kind of sign from God she wants, or what that means to her. Nor do we know why she wants it in the first place. We learn almost immediately that her parents aren’t really religious—that is, they go to a church but have no discernible spirituality. Gina, on the other hand, is actually a budding mystic, though she wouldn’t have the first notion of what one is. 

She’s been growing up in a town where the range in religion flavors goes all the way from A to, maybe, G. You’ve got your Baptists and your Pentecostals, your Methodists and suchlike, then there’s the fringe snake-handling congregation, but her town doesn’t have an Episcopal church, no outside influences that might have inspired in Gina a desire for intimacy with God.  Yet this is what she wants–more than anything on earth. Even more than red shoes and red sequins and to wear Fire ‘n Ice lipstick and get kissed on the lips thus rendered appropriately seductive! 

And this isn’t just a passing phase with her, either.  She keeps praying—entertainingly and intensely–through the whole novel.  Nor does any experience that befalls her seem capable of entirely snuffing out this desire for God, though it’s stronger at some points than at others.  It’s a flaw at the core of the story that the desire isn’t always credible.  Part of the problem is its etiology, but part of the problem is that the desire isn’t made real enough throughout. You’ve presented us with a character who is supposed to be in love with God?  Then it’s up to you, her creator, to make us absolutely believe she is. 

Now, unless you want to afflict her with an unhealthy obsession (which I know from our conversations isn’t your intention at all), this can’t ever seem to be a one-way love interest.  You make it two-way in Sewanee (and with an occasional fleeting hint—a crumb, really) but basically, you have Gina waiting for a dad-blamed sign—which she indeed wouldn’t be able to define but shouldn’t be 100% vague—and getting mighty little from the Lover she longs for. NOT FAIR. Not like God, not a’tall. More importantly, not credible. It’s undermining the hell out of your motor. 

Even more important, it keeps the single most important element in your novel from seeming 100% authentic, or from holding up 100% of the way. It has to hold up 100% of the way if this book is to fulfill its wonderfully rich potential. It has to be made totally real and will, as a result, become absolutely, wonderfully comic. (Not unlike God himself in one of his lesser-known attributes) And the only way you can accomplish this, since you’re God in Gina’s universe, is to go into the deepest part of yourself, from which Gina came, and let her experience some courtship. A passionate longing for God is weird, to say the least. It’s not what teenage girls want but it’s what this one wants. Again, your most important task is to make us believe it, make it real the whole way. Make it the most authentic element in this book, not sometimes authentic and sometimes grafted-on.