Monday, March 28, 2016

March Pass Or Pages Entry #1

Welcome to our feedback reveal for Pass Or Pages. In this contest, randomly chosen entries were critiqued by our agent panel. We hope it will give everyone a sense of what is going on in an agent's head as they read queries and first pages. We're so grateful to the members of the agent panel who gave their time to provide feedback on these entries. We'd also like to thank the entrants. It's hard to put yourself out there. Thanks for being brave!

Entry #1: BAD APPLE (52,000 words)


Are you a teen-shaped thorn in the side of society with a trust fund the size of Texas? [PK1] Then welcome to New Day Reformation School in the middle of nowhere Bolivia! Your guide on this journey of unspeakable mental and physical cruelty meant to break you down to an obedient pile of mush is Andreevy. As an added bonus for your parents, in exchange for the ungodly amount of money they pay for you miracle transformation, they will be fed a perfect dose of bullshit to make them think their little trouble maker is right where you need to be. No need to worry about the success rate. Even the stubborn break and the more you resist, the more enjoyment Andreevy gets from your unavoidable and eventual loss of willpower and every cent to which you’re entitled. [CP1][WA1] Take Vance for example, [PK2] he came to the school at 16. Now 17 going on 18, he has led one failed rebellion that cost the life of his friend and even he is has learned never to bet on himself because the school always wins. Not like Kyra, a new student with a fire in her eyes. What fun it will be to snuff out! But wait, her flame seems to reignite Vance - oh double the fun. If they want out any way other than broken and penniless, they’ll have to somehow escape the prison-like fortress, survive a vast foreign wilderness and find the American consulate before Andreevy finds them.[CP2] [PK3]
Carrie's notes:
I like the first two sentences of the opening, but after that, the query starts to be too gimmicky.  Instead, I suggest just outlining your story like you expect it to look on the dust jacket of your book.
[CP2] Find a way to say this plainly.  Although I was intrigued by the opening of the query, the rest of it wouldn't make me want to request additional pages.

Peter's notes:
[PK1] Opening with a rhetorical question is a bit risky, and isn't working here. I read your question and immediately answered: no. I am not that. So immediately, you've put me at a remove from the story you're pitching. The imagery here is also a little overcrowded -- we're teen-shaped thorns, we're in the side of society, we have a trust fund the size of Texas. It's a lot going on in this one sentence.
[PK2] We are over halfway through the query by the time we meet who I assume is our hero, along with Kyra. If Vance is our hero, lead with him -- I won't care about whatever story you're selling unless I care about the characters first.
[PK3] So this is a story of two kids escaping a horrible reform school... get to that faster, and spend a little more time telling the story and delivering the setting through the POV of the characters. I would not have been intrigued enough by this query to read the sample pages. PASS.

Whitley's notes:
[WA1] I'm personally not a fan of queries written in the second person. It tends to put the focus on setting the scene instead of introducing the main character(s) and setting the stakes for them. As it stands, I don't have a good sense of the story or the characters. This large chunk of intro would do better as a single, introductory line before focusing on Vance. Also, you don't want your query to be one large paragraph -- break it up.
[WA2] Based on the query alone, this would be a PASS. The voice and focus of the pitch don't feel in touch with the YA market or audience. This query feels like it's almost from Andreevy's POV, which isn't suited for YA. Keep it in the MC's head space -- I'm assuming that's Vance.


The alarm wails through the PA system. One minute until all students [CP1] need to be lined up in the hall. Vance tucks his stained white t-shirt into his dirty jeans and does up his belt.
“You’re going to be late.” Jackson, a dark kid with bright eyes, folds his arms and leans against the door.

The metal frame of the cot groans against the concrete floor as Vance sits and laces his boots, ignoring his roommate. That’s all Jackson is now, a roommate. His yellow wristband shows the choice he made, just one step away from becoming a whiteband.

He follows Jackson to the hall where students split into two groups. The compliant whitebands and yellowbands are lead to breakfast. Vance marches outside for manual labor with the blues and reds.

Twelve-foot stone walls topped with razor wire surround the massive compound isolated in a valley between rolling hills and jagged mountains.[CP2]  Distant clouds evaporate as does any hope of relief from the heat and humidity of the Bolivian summer. After hours of carrying heavy rocks from farm fields, Vance craves water. His heart thumps against his sternum. Flecks of gold burst in his vision as he heaves a rock into the trailer. The clatter of the rock is dulled by throbs in his ears. As he staggers back to the field, dehydration threatens to take him down.

Two kids dropped already, likely sent to recuperation. They’ll be tied to beds, possibly for days. He doesn’t want to join them.
Carrie's notes:
[CP1] Are they really students if two groups seem to solely do manual labor?  What kind of education do they receive?
[CP2] This sentence is a little too long.
[CP] This definitely has potential, but because I don't really understand what the premise or purpose of the story is, I'm left feeling unsure of whether it matches my interests or not. Pass.


Carrie Pestritto: PASS
Peter Knapp: PASS
Whitley Abell: PASS

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