Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Query Critique #20: AND EVERYTHING WASN'T

My thoughts are added in redEvery comment is my own opinion. Readers, feel free to leave your own comments below and help a fellow writer out!

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Original Version (with comments):

Dear ____,

16-year-old recluse, Ashter, is assaulted by guilt everywhere and every second of his existence. (I don’t think you need the rest of this sentence. The word “assaulted” clues the reader in that guilt is always hanging around Ashter, whether he likes it or not! Great verb choice, by the way!)

He has constant visions of his dead father (I’d consider saying “memories” instead of visions. It makes it seem like Asher has a special power.), every time he looks into the eyes of his only friend he dreads the fact he saved her from suicide (Why would he dread the fact that he saved her from suicide? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?), and he can hear the pain in others around him through his "hyperacusis" (What is hyperacusis?). Ashter wants nothing more thatn to escape people, his environment, his memories, and even his physical being.

A quick note on this paragraph. First, I would suggest bringing it up to the hook. That way it’s clear that this list are reasons why Ashter is assaulted by guilt.  One thing I wasn’t sure of is if Ashter has super powers or not. It seems so, the way you described him being able to hear the pain in others. But I think you might want to come out and make that a little clearer. Furthermore, I’m not sure why visions of his dead father would make him feel guilty—unless Ashter is the cause of his father’s death. If so, make sure you say so! Rule #1 in queries: no questions until the end! And the only real question an agent should be asking at the end is: how fast can I request this awesome book or how does this story wrap up, I’m dying to know!

After the death of his drug dealer, Ashter finds his relief in the form of through Bacchard, a guilt-ridden, drug-addled teen whose love for his vintage Polaroid is only rivaled by his constant need to remember (Remember what?).
When Ashter moves in with Bacchard and his fellow escapist, Adona, he finds an eternal haven from his former life-- except for threat the trio's unwilling drug dealer, and his strange little sister (This is a little confusing to me. So all three of these teens are on drugs. Why is an unwilling drug dealer a threat? And how does “his” (who is this “his”? Bacchard or Ashter?) strange little sister pose a threat?).

Throughout his chimerical odyssey, Ashter discovers boundless “friendship”, the world of the heroin, and the seemingly unconditional safety of escape. As reality thrashes against Ashter's new life, he descends deeper into mental disarray and into the perfect world he fought for. Will he be able to save his fantasy at all costs, or will he destroy himself trying?

AND EVERYTHING WASN'T, complete at 62,000 words (you round up and no parentheses!) (61,346 words) is a Young Adult Novel (Young Adult Novel isn’t a genre. It’s just a category (like adult or middle grade). Make sure you give the genre. I’m thinking Young Adult Contemporary from your query.) that is heavily psychological. The stream-of- consciousness narrative is comparable to that of WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson (Good comp!).

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

All right! We made it to the end! I have a few suggestions for you that I’m going to break down into a numerical format because it’s easier to read. Ready? Hope so!

1. I already mentioned it inline, but you need to make clear whether Ashter has special powers or not. It will change the entire mood of the query letter if he does.

2. I don’t see much by way of stakes. I see a bit where you mention the “drug dealer” but I’m not sure what threat he really poses to these kids. Try to make it a little clearer.

3. From the tone of your query, it sounds like you are abdicating for drug use in teenagers, that Ashter doesn’t want to (and will never) find freedom from drugs. I’m not huge into the contemporary genre, so don’t quote me. But if this is the case, you might struggle to find the right representation for this book. With the drug problems we have with kids now, agents might not want to lobby a book about teens escaping into drugs and never coming back. On the other hand, if that isn’t your intention and instead the challenge Ashter faces is to confront reality and overcome his guilt (and get off drugs), then I think you might want to make that end-goal a little clearer. It could also be part of the “stakes”!

Thanks for sharing your query with me. I wish you the best of luck!

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