Query Critique #21

Trigger warning: This query focuses on a YA Contemporary that deals with mental health, alcoholism, self-harm, and suicide. 

Submitted Query:

Dear Agent,

Eighteen-year-old Charlie Walker is crumbling to pieces. After her boyfriend dumps her without reason and her best friend unexpectedly walks out of her life, she must grieve the loss of her grandmother alone. Depression threatens to rip her apart, but Charlie is determined to find something to brighten her life.

In hopes of revitalizing a relationship, Charlie consults both her ex-boyfriend and former best friend. But in doing so, she discovers the truth about their strange abandonments. They stem from the weekend at the cabin—a weekend filled with booze, bodies and regret. (Okay, this is where you hook me! I think you need to start your query with this paragraph versus your original. I’d suggest combining the first two paragraphs into one.)

As the lies unravel and the truth about that weekend is revealed, Charlie spirals out of control. (What does she do? Showing us what Charlie does might grab the readers attention and let us know how serious this book really is). But her self-destructive habits can only manage the pain, not heal it. (I’m curious as to what her self-destructive habits are and after reading the entire query and seeing some of the topics you mention such as alcoholism and self-harm, I wonder if that’s what Charlie is doing.) If she can’t learn to cope with her depression in a healthy way, she risks losing not only her identity, (grammarly says no comma) but also her will to live. (I think this next sentence is stronger if you delete the one about her learning to cope). With the help of a witty therapist and a bipolar redhead, Charlie begins the most arduous task of her existence: regaining control of her own life.

(A few thoughts: I love what you’ve got here, but I think you can dig deeper. I want to know more about everything…the therapist and the redhead, the exes, all of it. What happened at the cabin? What’s the deal with booze, bodies, and regret?! It makes me think someone died. Does she realize she doesn’t need her exes to be happy? Also, is her grandmother’s death what brought on her depression or has she always had to deal with it? You never mention her grandmother in the rest of the query and I wonder if it should be or if it’s extra information we don’t need to make room for details we could use more. If you cut the will to live sentence I mentioned above, you could incorporate it at the very end to up the stakes and show us what will happen if she doesn’t regain control of her life.)

BURNING ROSES is a (standalone- always best to let the agent/editor know) young adult contemporary novel complete at 78,000 words. This novel explores topics such as mental health, alcoholism, self-harm, and suicide (insert comma) which will appeal to fans of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES, MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES, and ITS KIND OF A FUNNY STORY. (I NEVER suggest this because I like the novel details to be at the end of the query, but I think you should consider moving it to the top of your query to work as a trigger warning for the agent/editor before they read.)

As an advocate for mental health and promoting awareness and acceptance, I know this had to be a hard topic to focus your novel on, but done well, it’s just what the young adult publishing industry needs.

What Are Your Thoughts?

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