Sep 24, 2009

Query- AM I WORTH IT? - young adult- attempt #2

Click here to read the original query.

**Thanks for all your great feedback on the first attempt! I knew I would need those first impressions to see if it needed to be toned down a little. word count is 330, is that too much???

Seventeen-year-old Dan has never been punished for what he did to Hannah last spring while drunk and high at a party. He barely knew Hannah and now her life is ruined and no one will listen to Dan, not the judge or the four shrinks he's seen since that night.They all say the same thing, "It's not your fault." It's up to him to create his own miserable existence – to make sure he's punished, but he's too much of a coward to do what he should.

Instead, he leaves behind his comfortable California life, his high-profile parents, and every ounce of joy, to move to the north suburbs of Chicago, before his senior year. Dan has a brilliant mind and a gift for music. He also has a carefully crafted plan to remain in his unhappy existence – number one on his list: commit social suicide by going from cute, popular jock to most valuable member of the Trivia bowl Team. Only now, for the first time he isn't hiding his good side- he's finding it.

His plan is failing. He's surrounded with people who care for him, maybe even love him. And he can't help thinking about Claire – beautiful, kind, funny and looking at him in a way he doesn't deserve. When she leans in to kiss him, he sees Hannah's face. His mind swims with the memory of that night and he can't breathe.

Dan's slowly walking a plank and buying time in purgatory until the decision is made - either forgive himself or drown. He's knows what he deserves, but everything is off-balance now. He may have someone amazing like Claire trying to pull him from his miserable life sentence, but he can't stop asking, "Am I worth it?"

AM I WORTH IT is a 60,000 word young adult novel telling the story of a boy's ability to emerge from a sea of guilt and come out a better man.


jessjordan said...

I've read on agent and author blogs that you should try to keep your query to around 250 words, but that's just my 2 cents.

I'm not sure what it is about this query, but something doesn't flow right for me. I found your original version to be better written (albeit longer), and I'm not quite sure why. (Sorry, I realize that isn't very helpful.) I think it's because things feel a little cut-and-pasty and, at times, too flowery for a query (e.g., "His mind swims with the memory of that night and he can't breathe.")

In this version, I still get the sense that Dan raped Hannah and now he's feeling very "poor pitiful me and my too-popular life." Without something to make me empathize with him early on, I can't see myself flipping to the sample pages.

jessjordan said...

p.s. I just read some more of the feedback on your first query, and I agree that you should tell us up front what happened to him: He was drugged at a party, he hooked up with Hannah, he thought they both enjoyed it, but when the high wears off, he realizes the truth.

The toned down version didn't tell me, "So, Dan is a good guy and would never hurt a girl, unless it was out of his control," which is something I feel I need to know. Instead I got the impression that Dan was your typical drunk-out-of-his-mind asshat that assaults girls and blames the alcohol. Does that make sense?

Donna Hole said...

I'm kinda liking this query - though I didn't read the first attempt. But I'm also bothered by the "gee the world doesn't see me as a badboy so I have to punish myself" type feel here.

And I really think the point that does the most sabotage is: When she (Claire) leans in to kiss him, he sees Hannah's face. His mind swims with the memory of that night and he can't breathe.

I also think Hannah plays too big a role in the query. Though you only mention her twice, the devastating circumstances sway my sympathies her way. A guy who raped a girl, no matter what the circumstances, can never be seen as a hero in such a short venue.

Try rewriting it leaving Hannah completely out of the query. Leave in that he feels guilt over the incident, but don't make it such a heavy issue.

Focus on Dan's feelings about himself. Perhaps start with what a cool guy he is - everyone's favorite jock, and his celebrity parents have nothing to do with his popularity. Then add the incident that changes his perception of himself and his values, and finish with the pay off - finding himself and true love.

Just some thoughts.

I think you have a really good story here; lots of moral issues that teens can identify with.

I'll probably say this wrong but I hope you read the supportive intent. I really think this is the kind of subject matter that parents and young people both could enjoy, learn a lesson from, and perhaps have a productive conversation over. Without generational attitudes/morals getting in the way.

I hope you find a way to make the query work; to me, its a story well worth publishing in any generation.

Thanks for sharing this. Good luck.