Sep 20, 2009

Query - AM I WORTH IT? - young adult

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. 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, terrified and streaked with tears and hears her voice screaming for him to stop, and he can't breathe. His greatest fear is he'll hurt someone else, and he's not getting close enough to find out.

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.

15 comments:

Sam said...

Hello, and good luck to you with your query. It sounds like you've written a very dramatic story.

I suggest changing a few grammar items.

CAPS: I would change "North Suburbs of Chicago" to "north suburbs of Chicago." You only want to capitalize areas that are proper names that you would find on a map or in the phone book.
Same thing with Jock. Just make it jock.

COMMAS: "commit social suicide by going from cute, popular, Jock"
Take out the comma before Jock and make jock lowercase.

RUN-ON SENTENCE: "Only now, for the first time he isn't hiding his good side, he's finding it." Make two sentences, or put a hyphen before "he's finding it." The comma doesn't work.

Again, good luck.

TLH said...

I LOVE THIS!!

This is such a great query letter! Nevermind the grammar stuff, you can work on that, but the substance is beautiful! I have a great sense of your voice, the character's personality, the major plot points, and the dilemma Dan faces.

Love it, just terrific!! We should all do so well!

~Tara

RCWriterGirl said...

I'll agree with the others who said the query worked in terms of voice and clearly laying out the story.

But, I've got to say, on a visceral level, at my gut, the story, as it's laid out here, doesn't work. All I see is rapists tries to redeem himself without being punished.

For me, for a story like this to work. The guy has got to be punished. He's got to have hit some low, like been in jail, and really have repented.

Banishing yourself to Trivia Bowl?! That's hardly hard time. He raped someone for Pete's sake. She screamed out no and he didn't stop. And now he feels guilty so he's going to do Trivia Bowl?!

Perhaps I'm a hardass, but this doesn't cut it for redemption in a rape story. If he wants to do trivia bowl after missing out on life and college after spending a year stint in prison and volunteering by lecturing in schools on the perils of underage drinking, maybe I buy it. But, this is his repentance?

I'm sorry, I just would have no interest in the story of a rapist who repents by becoming a member of Trivia Bowl. Not to mention the fact that he can't even really repent because there are all these people who love him so much. Poor rapist boy. Can't even be lucky enough to wallow in his own misery. Let's all play a tiny violin for him.

I hope this doesn't seem too harsh. But, I felt compelled to lay that out there, as I think this is an issue you might face from agents. I can't see rapist boy as hero for young adult novel. I just can't.

Bane of Anubis said...

I'm with RC on this... Unless it's something lesser than rape -- which, if that's the case, you need to state it, b/c it sure as heck sounds like it.

It's a nice story going from jock to nerd (though perhaps a bit cliched, it's one of those that always will have an audience), but there's not enough redemption in that transformation to overcome something as substantive and damning and horrible as rape.

Madeline said...

I think your voice is really good, and the query reads easily without any awkwardness, but I agree with RCWriterGirl in the sense that I find the plot a littttle questionable.

I mean, if he can vividly remember her face while he was raping her, was he really that drunk/high not to be able to stop? I think you should make it clearer where his sudden morals and substance come from.

Well written though, definitely. And I'm not saying I wouldn't read the book-- controvertial topics are what make things intereting... It would just be strategic to not turn-off a potential agent that's all I'm thinking. Good luck!!

Hollie Sessoms said...

I think your story sounds really interesting, but there were a lot of things that seemed somewhat vague in the query.

Why would a judge not listen to him? I can't imagine that he rapes someone (I'm assuming that's what he did) and then the judge says, "No, I'm not going to punish you for this, I don't care if you want to go to jail." Is it something to do with his high-profile parents? If it is, I would mention that.

Also what is it that he's too much of a coward to do?

I like the way that you ended the query by tying in the title of the novel.

Good Luck!

Laura Martone said...

This query is incredibly compelling and well-structured - I eagerly read to the end... and yet, I found myself feeling the same way that RC and Bane do. It's hard to sympathize with a rapist who tries to repent by moving elsewhere and shedding his "jock" image. The quick mention of "high profile parents" (BTW, there should be a hyphen between "high" and "profile") led me to believe that he CAN'T be punished in a legal sense... but it's hard to sympathize with an MC like that.

Also, I think the query is a bit on the long side - see if you can condense the first three paragraphs into two. I know it's hard, but agents rarely need so much detail the first time around. Good luck!

folksinmt said...

You have many good elements in your query. It did capture me start to finish, which is a very good thing. Just make sure you have a few proof readers to catch the little grammatical things before you send it off.

I agree with the other comments about the plot. The first part of the query made me ask a lot of questions. He knew he did it and no one would listen? A personal confession would hold more weight with any judge than influential parents. The judge would be committing career death if dismissed a confession.

It's so hard to boil an entire novel down to a few paragraphs, and hopeful all that readers are noticing here are some missing elements or things that aren't explained well. I don't know how it happens in the novel, but if it is in the same chronological order as the query, you may have a problem. What would be better would be to have a novel that drops little hints about what happened that night. He is haunted by something bad that he did, but the reader doesn't know what until they have had a chance to fall in love with the mc. Then the horror of his actions will be a softer blow.

Good luck to you. Your writing shows a lot of promise.

Julie said...

Hi this is my query and I thought I would clarify because what happened to him is given away on page 30 so it's not a huge secret.

This girl Hannah liked him - she slipped him candy that was LSD - which he's never willing taken drugs. But he was drunk and underage

He haliucinated and remembers she enjoyed being with him. But then two days later the real memory comes to him and he turns himself in right away. He talks to her and she won't tell anyone so he tells his parents and hers. He won't lie in court but because she gave him drugs with out his consent he gets away with it.

He's a very good guy and now he's really messed up. He has panic attacks daily, it's haunting him constantly. He realizes maybe 60 or 70 pages in he's not going to hurt anyone but he still doesn't think he deserves to be happy.

If anyone can think f a better way to explain I would love some help. It's a difficult situation and really the only person that can help him is the girl he hurt- which is essentially what happens. She's recovered from the event and he didn't? Does that help and is there a better way to say it?

Sorry this is so long!

Rick Daley said...

Julie,

I think you have a fresh story. The query is a little long, but a lot of the reponse here was quite positive. It's a kind of story that can challenge young adults without condescending them. I think this one will hinge as much on the sample pages, if the MS is tight, this is bound to get some interest. And if you made some modest improvements to the query, even better yet. Nice effort so far!

Julie said...

Folksinmt,

I think you're right that maybe I just need to not say what happened. That was my original plan but I wasn't sure if it show enough conflict? Based on everyone's response I think it will.

I know if I picked up a book and read the inside cover and it started saying the MC was a rapist I would put it back down. Readers will definitely like him as a person- he's better than good.

But he's also suicidal and depressed as well as plagued with anxiety attacks.

Julie said...

RCWriterGirl,

Not too harsh at all. I love your honesty! It's very helpful and exactly what I had been worried about in the query. In the novel I think people will root for Dan but I need them to root for him in the query as well otherwise they will scared or reject :)

RCWriterGirl said...

Well, this changes everything. You've got to get into the query, upfront that he was drugged against his will when we committed this violent act. That's a crucial piece of information. It turns your protagonist from villain to hero (OK, perhaps hero is a bit much, but it certainly makes him sympathetic).

I think you've got to lay that out of front. Something along the lines of: Seventeen-year-old Dan didn't know someone slipped LSD in his drink at the party. He did know he had a great time and hooked up with a very loose Hannah. Or did he? After the drugs wear off, Dan realizes he was hallucinating much of the night. The memories of what really happened return slowly. Hannah wasn't loose or willing. she said no. And her screams now haunt his every waking moment....

That's not great an maybe too long, but it gives us a sense that Dan is not a rapist (normally). we need to to know that rape is the antithesis of Dan. Rape is something that happened when Dan wasn't in his right mind. I think that's the only way this query works in terms of getting someone to feel real empathy toward this character and want to spend a few hundred pages with him.

Good luck, Julie.

folksinmt said...

Wow Rc, I think you nailed it. But now--the real challenge, Julie--is to take her words and make them your own! Your query made it sound like he was a spoiled party boy. Much better to know that he would have never taken LSD and rape is something so entirely against his nature. I think you also need to add in the part about the anxiety attacks and such. That will add some drama to the going nerd bit. This sounds like an interesting story. Good luck with those query revisions...don't pull out too much hair!

Julie said...

I agree with the Wow, When I read RC's idea I was like "Dang that's good!" but now I'm torn because I sent a revision to Rick already and I went with the toned down version where I don't really say what happened exactly.


The story starts out with him having already moved so the night at the party doesn't happen in the book. In fact he's two months into his senior year.

I'm not sure if I should go with RC's approach or the mysterious approach???

The Trivia bowl thing seemed to annoy a lot of people. He only joined the trivia bowl team so his nice Uncle that he lives with (also a teacher at the school) doesn't worry about him being depressed and issolated.

It would be his prefrence to not do anything involving other kids. Is the mention of trivia bowl so distracting I should leave it out altogether?