Aug 21, 2010

YA Query: A Heart-Shaped Hole

Dear ___________,

Annabelle lives in a daze of deception. She has what many would call the perfect life: rich parents who stay out of her way, a wild group of partygoing friends, and the world practically at her fingertips. At the center of it all is her boyfriend, Emmett, the envy of every girl in school. But Annabelle has a horrible secret: her smile is a lie.

Emmett physically and emotionally abuses Annabelle, slowly turning her into a twisted whirlwind of self-hatred and guilt. Stuck with a family too absorbed in their own petty problems, she has no one to turn to. That is, until she meets Brendon while hiding in the bathroom during a party.

Brendon becomes a shoulder for Annabelle to lean on, always eerily able to see right through her shallow illusion of happiness. He challenges her to find self-worth, open her eyes to her boyfriend's faults, and come to terms with her reasons for staying with Emmett. But Brendon has a secret and Annabelle has a past. These two factors become what may ultimately prevent Annabelle from ever feeling genuine happiness again.

A HEART-SHAPED HOLE is a Young Adult novel complete at 30,000 words. I hope you will consider representation of this manuscript.

Best regards,

Angela A


Dominique said...

I see two major flaws in this query:

1) This book seems to follow a storyline that everyone has seen before. You need to show what makes your book different if you want to convince an agent it will sell.

2) 30k is far too short for a YA book. A book that short sounds rather like the plot is not fully developed or involved enough to work for YA.
A good reference for word counts is:

Zee Lemke said...

I'd say if your story is 30k, your story is 30k--digital publishing is opening up room for novellas and such to find readers. There's nothing in what you've said here that makes me feel like the plot wouldn't be fully developed. That said, of course, if you want it out there as a print novel, yeah it probably could be longer.

The general idea you have here is probably workable. I worry that Brendan's secret is something lame--my opinion of the story basically hinges on whether his motivations are complicated and realistic enough. So far, this query hasn't gotten me to trust you about the secret, so I wouldn't read the book because I might get frustrated. I think you could get my trust either the easy way (tell me Brendan's secret--spoilers won't kill a query) or the hard way (write so darn well I HAVE to believe the secret is something cool).

If you're going to try the hard way, take a good look at your word choices in each and every sentence here, checking for precision. "Daze of deception" is either redundant (the deception is dazing her) or not true (she's consciously deceiving people and isn't dazed at all). Emmett himself isn't the envy of every girl in school (unless his eyelashes are to die for or something)--he makes Annabelle their envy.

What can you tell me about Brendan to make me trust that you'll handle his secret well? You might even avoid the word "secret" entirely--I know he has a secret because he's being nice to Annabelle and there's got to be a plot here somewhere. Hint at what it is, perhaps?

Jenny said...

My issue with this is that Annabelle never does anything active. She's passively being abused, and then Brendon rescues her. What does Annabelle do during the book other than showcase Emmett's vileness and Brendon's awesomeness? Otherwise, this feels like Brendon's story, not Annabelle's, which means he should be the focus of the query.