Friday, April 1, 2016

March Pass or Pages Entry #5

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!



Living with a parent who breaks down over a good meal gone wrong, or imagines he’s king of the world when life’s falling apart, [CP1] tends to make bringing friends home impossible.

Sixteen-year-old kickboxer [CP2] Lani keeps her home-life behind closed doors [CP3] and keeps [CP4] her peers at arm’s length. Until the day one of her [CP5] dad’s bipolar meltdowns has them moving across country in a surprise road trip-turned-relocation. What Lani thought was only a family vacay now has her leaving her only friend/boyfriend 2700 miles away. Alone, and afraid to let anyone new into her complicated life, Lani steals her mom's [CP6] Xanax to get by. But the moment she steps onto the hot Florida sand she knows it'll take more than a handful of stolen pills to calm her nerves.

Lani knows it’s time to quit and admit she has a problem. [CP7] However, with her dad considering going back on his bipolar meds, well, it's easier to keep lying about everything. Especially when lying gets her the one thing she’s always wanted. A girl best friend.[WA1]

Casey: a black, pink-haired, surfer girl is everything Lani could ever want in a friend, and the answer to Lani's brother's [CP8][WA2] heart. But when her new BFF and bro get harassed because of their interracial relationship it’s time for Lani to show their bully her roundhouse kick. In retribution, he finds her while she’s surfing and threatens her life. Lani must keep her wits, and head, above water before his threat becomes reality. Right when it seems like she’s going under for good, the one person she’s waited her whole life for shows up to help out. And that might finally give Lani the guts she needs to tell the truth. [CP9][PK1]

THE EVASION THEORY is a 57,000 word diverse contemporary. Featuring the love-hate sibling relationship in I’ll Give You The Sun meets the complicated home life of living with a mental disease in Made You Up and Silver Linings Playbook.
Carrie's notes:
[CP1] The wording here is a little confusing. Take the time to expand on this a touch more.
[CP2] Nowhere else in the query is kickboxing brought up, either as a way for Lani to deal with her dad or otherwise. I would delete it here if it's not integral or show me that it's a focus of the story.
[CP3] replace with "private"
[CP4] delete "keeps"
[CP5] replace with "But when one of her"
[CP6] Her mom? Does her mom go along with her dad's random decisions/bipolar meltdowns? Or does her Xanax remove her from everything?
[CP7] Because Florida is more of a problem than Xanax can take care of? I'm confused here. And what does quitting Xanax have to do with lying about everything?
[CP8] She has a brother??
[CP9] This story takes a very unexpected turn. I thought this was going to be about dealing with her father's mental illness and perhaps having him admitted to a hospital after learning she can't take care of him, but now this seems like more of a book about diversity issues and bullying. I'm not sure what the focus of the story is.

Peter's notes:
[PK1] PASS. This query isn't quite grabbing me. It feels a little unfocused: it's about living with a parent with mental illness, dealing with a new drug addiction, moving across the country, having a new friendship with her brother's new girlfriend (a relationship that itself results in bullying), dealing with a threat to her life, etc. The query needs to find a bit more focus so that we have a stronger sense of what this book, at its heart, is tackling -- which doesn't mean it can't have other threads, but we don't necessarily need them all in the query itself.

Whitley's notes:
[WA1] awkward wording
[WA2] Odd wording, and feels out of place since this is the only time the brother is mentioned other than the "sibling relationship." If it's important enough to garner a comp title, I'd want to see it more prevalent in the query itself.


Jab. Jab. Breathe.

Front kick. Uppercut, repeat.

Sidekick. Elbow strike. Duck and swipe. Breathe.

My opponent falls to the ground with a thud. It doesn’t surprise me. Unfortunately, Brad busted my lip before I could knock him down. Blood trickles down my chin; secretly, I love it. Little drops of life splatter on the padded blue floor beneath me and every plop makes my stomach tighten in happiness. Superheroes got [WA1] nothing on me—then again, they probably don’t fill with the exhilaration I do when my opponents drop.

There’s one who does, though; he and I have the same burning drive. Just like dad. [CP1] Out of the corner of my eye, he crosses my vision. [CP2] Sammy’s maniacal grin shines in the dim gym glow. The first of many taunts to remind me tonight’s my turn to do the dishes.

Whoever bleeds first does the dishes. Usually, he’s the one with dishpan hands.

Breaking eye contact with Sammy [WA2], I focus on Brad. He’s lying on the ground holding his knee in pain, but he grabs my hand when I help him up. His grasp is warm and sweaty. Weak.

“Sorry, bro, didn’t mean to take you out like that.” I did, but I still gotta pretend I’m apologetic.

“Sure, Lani, and I’m the queen. It’s all good. Looks like I got a few nice ones in before you dropped me. Need a Band-Aid?”

“Eat me.” I bump his fist and laugh. No hard feelings.
Carrie's notes:
[CP1] Delete from "Little drops..." to "Just like dad."
[CP2] Delete "he crosses my vision"
[CP] The writing in the sample is good, and I'm on the lookout for diverse YA, but because of the issues I had with the query, I'm not really clear about the path this story is going to take. I'd like to see a synopsis and the first 50 pages of it to see how things unfold. Please email them to me at carrie (at) prospectagency (dot) com, with the subject OPERATION AWESOME and the query pasted in the body of the email. Thanks!

Whitley's notes:
[WA1] Based on her voice and vocabulary in the rest of the sample, I would think Lani would say "have" here, not "got." At least when it's narration, not dialogue.
[WA2] Wait, is Sammy the brother? Or Brad? Or both? I kept going back through the query and sample trying to pinpoint who was who, which made it hard to really get into the writing.


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

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