Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Ms. Shea,

Sometimes you have to freeze everyone out to avoid getting burned.

Sydney’s had seven foster families in seven years. Almost everybody in her life has let her down, including her crack addicted mother. Sydney refuses to get close to anyone, pushing away those who attempt to befriend her. Now she is moving on to her next family, the Claytons. She knows immediately that she won’t fit in with their extravagant life and their spoiled daughter Brooke.

Sydney resents the snobby kids at her new school, especially Brooke’s boyfriend Corbin. Sydney thinks Corbin is just like all the other overprivileged kids; but he’s hot and she can’t help being attracted to him, even as she hates him. When Sydney finds Brooke and another girl naked on the floor, she learns that Corbin is helping keep their secret in exchange for Brooke’s help. Sydney’s frozen exterior begins to thaw when Corbin admits he can hardly read or write--the reason why Brooke is helping him.

Corbin likes Sydney, but Brooke refuses to let him go because she is terrified that everyone will discover she’s gay. But even if Brooke breaks up with Corbin, Sydney doubts it will ever work with him. He’s the popular, rich kid and she’s the daughter of a crack whore. And really…if her own mom had given up on life, had given up on Sydney, how could anyone else ever truly love her?

FROSTY is a contemporary young adult novel, complete at 51,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.



My ears tingled from the biting wind and swirling snow, but I stayed outside to smoke. The caseworker thought I was nuts, but I liked the cold. It numbed me…relaxed me. Besides, I couldn’t smoke inside--those were the rules.

After finishing a second cigarette, my nerves were calm. Jim pulled up in a dark Mercedes. Cool--none of my former foster families were wealthy. I met him and Lana a week ago, but not their daughter Brooke. This time the caseworker suggested placing me in a family with a teenage girl. As if me and Brooke would be close friends, and my senior year would be the best ever. I was smart enough to know that would never happen. My goal was to get through these last six months with the Claytons, and I’d be on my own.

The light spilled out of Jim’s car, and he opened his mouth to say something. Instead, he shook his head and laid his hand on my shoulder, guiding me inside.

“Good evening, Sydney,” he said once we reached the door.

Um, not really, Jim. Kind of crappy outside. Didn’t you notice the blizzard?

We sat down to do some paperwork, and Jim wrinkled up his nose. He must not be a smoker. I checked out the bare gray room as the caseworker shuffled through a stack of papers. Why did these meetings always take place in dark and dreary rooms? Didn’t they have enough light bulbs around here?


Jodi R. said...

I really like this. I think you could tighten up the query a tinch and make it even better.

Not being able to read doesn't seem to be that big a deal - I mean, it's a big deal, but why wouldn't a rich kid's parents get that fixed up? It doesn't seem something to be "terrified" of being found out about. (They're at a rich school, not an academic school, right?) If there's more to it than that, perhaps you should hint at that in the query? Also, being found out as gay has likely been done a fair bit - why would it matter to Brooke after the initial shock?

I love the voice in the sample - you draw us in and set up her world very efficiently. I always get a bit of a thrill from teens who smoke out in the open too - I used to smoke and wouldn't smoke in front of my dad - ever! (Even in my 30s!) It shows me that she's in charge of her life, such as it is, and she's a bit of a badass.

I'm curious to read what people have to say about one thing - the story is told by Sydney, but then when she "says" something in her head its in italics. Should it be? It made me pause with a bit of confusion...

Thanks for this - love it!

Kate Larkindale said...

The query gives us a lot of information about the characters, but not a whole lot of plot. I'm not sure I can equate the problems of a girl whose grown up with a crackwhore to a wealthy boy who can't read (and surely his parents would have paid for someone to help him with that).

I think you should focus more on Sydney than the supporting characters.

Suzi said...

@ Jodi: I don't know the rule, but this is why I use the italics. If it's a thought that she could/would say out loud, but she didn't for whatever reason, then I italicize. So it's like she's thinking her thought to Jim, but doesn't say it. Hope that makes sense. Maybe someone else would know the rules about this.

Valerie said...

I LOVE the first line of your query: "Sometimes you have to freeze everyone out to avoid getting burned." In fact, it's so strong that I think it should be the first line of your MS. It would flow in nicely with the biting wind and swirling snow, and then the burning cigarette in her hand.

The story sounds really interesting and has an edgy feel to it. I love the pages. The voice was strong and I could feel Sydney's bitterness and resentment, making her feel very relatable and like a character I want to champion for.

You might need to establish Jim a little more though. Maybe find an interesting way for Sydney to call him her new foster father-- but in a way that has bite! :)

There was one part of your query that tripped me up, but I think you can fix it with some tightening. In the last para of your query, I think here you should take the focus off the details of Brooke's relationship and flip this around to emphasize the conflict: "Sydney’s frozen exterior begins to thaw when Corbin admits he can hardly read or write, and that Brooke is helping tutor him in exchange for bearding as her boyfriend to mask her own secret relationship"

Also, watch your adjectives-- see if you can find some really poppy ones for "spoiled" and "overprivledged". Rule of mine: if you can use a really strong verb, then kill the adjective altogether.

And I would cut this sentence: "He’s the popular, rich kid and she’s the daughter of a crack whore." because you've done such a great job SHOWING us this difference between them already in your query! :)

Great job! The pages are strong--the query just needs a little tweaking. Good luck!

Leslie said...

I like the query. It peaked my interest enough to want to read the sample included. The last summary paragraph also tripped me up a bit, though. I also liked the story idea. Unlikely romance and the character with the tough exterior are always great in YA lit.

I like the voice and writing. But there were two issues that caused me to hesitate about diving into this story:

I had no problem with Corbin not knowing how to read. Rich kids often have the same home problems (parents not involved, ignoring them) that underprivileged kids have. So I can see that a parent might not know this. The only part I had a little problem with is that he was seeking Brooke's help. It seems more realistic that he'd try to struggle through until someone reached out to him. I'm a teacher, and rarely do teens seek out help like this on their own, especially boys. Usually they try to hide it and ignore the problem.

Another hesitation is that I can't understand why a wealthy family would have a foster kid. When I read "Sydney's had seven foster families in seven years" I immediately thought of White Oleander. It seemed unrealistic to me that a wealthy family would foster a child- usually it seems a big motivation is the money it brings in. But then I thought of The O.C. I wondered if this was a Ryan Atwood situation. If so, maybe that's made clear later? Or maybe you could give a reason for this wealthy family deciding to foster a child. That would help me.

With those two things cleared up, I'm eager to read more.

Again, though, great letter and I loved the writing style.

Good luck.

Jodi R. said...

I totally get the italics, Suzi. While it makes sense to do it that way, it did make me pause, so I thought I'd mention it... Good luck!

Katie Shea said...

A little long to get to the point. However, this is definitely in my interest. I love stories about hardship, especially when it comes to family. The query needs to be tightened. The writing is decent, but I don't think the premise is strong enough in order for me to move forward.