Ask Daphne! About My Query XXVII

October 23rd, 2009 • Kate

valentine-patent-bow-pumpValentino pumps (perfect for Valentine’s Day, so long as it’s not too cold and/or snowing) for A.L.S., who’s sharing her query with us today. The usual rules apply: be constructive, use good manners, remember to wash your hands and face, and bring enough to share with the whole class. Ready?

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,

Sometimes there’s nothing scarier than the truth.

Sixteen-year-old Thia Tromboli is a perfectionist who has an obsession with Valentine’s Day. Because it’s the day her father left their family four years ago, Thia has a compulsion to make every Valentine’s Day better than the last.

But this Valentine’s Day, everything starts out wrong and only gets worse. It begins with a rumor circulating the school hallways that Thia’s mom was seen kissing a married man after a PTA meeting. What makes it more complex is that the married man in question is the father of the boy Thia has a crush on, the boy she’s determined to land as a boyfriend. Today.

She has less than twenty-four hours to get to the truth behind the rumor before Valentine’s Day is over and all her well-laid plans are ruined. As she pieces the facts together and has to face the truth about her mother and the men in her mother’s life, she uncovers a sinister side to one of her mother’s admirers. Once the secret is out, Thia only has two choices: run or die.

V-Day is a 58,000-word YA contemporary novel.

I graduated with a BA in Writing (emphasis on Children’s Literature) with a minor in Publishing and Printing Arts. I’ve been a member of SCBWI since 2006.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

A. L. S.

Actually, this is pretty strong! I like where it’s going and what it tells me about the story — the only thing I’m uncertain about is the detour into a darker plot that comes with Thia’s discovery of “a sinister side to one of her mother’s admirers.” I feel like this lines takes the query from a description of a cute, funny YA novel to more of a thriller — which can be fine, if that’s what this is, but maybe it can be seeded sooner.

Maybe I just have a soft spot for Valentine’s Day stories. What do you guys think? What would you change or improve?

Filed Under: About My Query, Ask Daphne!

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7 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query XXVII”

  1. Emma Says:

    I like this one too! I agree with Daphne that the real plot should come in sooner, but it does sound very intriguing. My biggest issue is that sentence "As she pieces the facts together and has to face the truth about her mother and the men in her mother’s life, she uncovers a sinister side to one of her mother’s admirers." a little too repetitive. Besides that, I love it!

  2. Susan Says:

    I like it a lot! If it helps, here are some thoughts as they hit me–

    I wanted a *touch* more in the "because her dad left, she has a compulsion" bit to show me why she is really obsessed to the point of it driving the whole plot. She's a perfectionist–got it. Like a clinically diagnosed OCD case? Because lots of people's Dads leave the family and they don't go nutty over the date. Is Thia doing this for herself, for mom, to prove they're both lovable, to simply erase the bad memory or what?

    Next–I did wonder what sort of H.S. kids spend time spreading rumors about who somebody's mom kisses after a PTA meeting, but hey–maybe this is one of those school districts where everybody goes to PTA or the kids have not much else to talk about. OR the boy is quite popular and also angry about the incident? I'd add just a word or two here to help me believe that such a rumor would be spread around for longer than an hour.

    I'm not quite sure I'm totally feeling the "she has only X hours until V-Day is over" pressure–seems a little less compelling to me than it must to Thia–but then we get this dark twist that explains the first line about the scary truth. And suddenly it seems more like a thriller. So that IS compelling. Possibly she has only X hours before she or mom or both die? Can we get a smidge more detail about it? Right now I am at a loss for what to imagine. Is mom a super spy, a prostitute, a drug lord?

    Also, run or die? Those are really her only choices? So telling, hiding, fighting back, blogging about it, etc. are all out? Is she being chased by a grizzly? Because that's what "run or die" brings to mind. That or she's at a track meet with a homicidal coach.

    Really, though, I like it a bit! Hope some of my silly thoughts here can inspire a tiny bit more clarity.

  3. Krista G. Says:

    I agree with the others that this query is pretty good already. My one problem has to do with the disconnect between the first two summary paragraphs and the last.

    I'm thinking this is going to be a reasonably lighthearted read about a kid trying to make the most out of having dingbats for parents, but then we discover that one of Thia's mother's admirers has a sinister side and now she has to run or die. I guess the first line sort of hints at that, but maybe you could beef it up a bit, give me a clue that we have a thriller coming so that I'm reading to find out what that thrill will be.

    Unless this isn't a thriller – in which case, the final summary paragraph is probably a bit over the top.

    Good luck with this.

  4. Stina Says:

    Since I have read the book, I can honestly say that the thriller element has to be added earlier in the query, especially considering Kate's comments about it being cute and funny. This is an example of how a query can easily be misleading even though the writer hadn't meant it to be. Makes me wonder how often that happens.

  5. dust Says:

    The "run or die" element seems like a 90-degree turn. I agree it needs to be set up earlier – but you had me at 24 hours. I like characters who are a bit nutty about things.

  6. Anna Says:

    I'm wondering how old she's supposed to be. She can't be much older than 15 or so and still think she can "land" a boyfriend by the end of one day by means of a sinister plan. I also agree with what's others have said, that the switch from cutesy to sinister is unexpected and not so smooth in this draft of the query.

    On a marketability point, I don't think I'd pick up this book based on the first two paragraphs. This would have to be very young YA if it's just about boys and a holiday that high school girls are pretty much done with unless they have a boyfriend already. I'm wondering if there's a psychological element here, with the part about her dad leaving: is it a kind of compulsion, like something she has to work through? That would be much more compelling and believable than it just being a quirk or Thia thinking Valentine's Day really had something to do with her dad.

    The bit about the "sinister side" is also much more intriguing than just another story about a girl who thinks she needs a boyfriend by the end of Valentine's Day. If Thia is really the driven perfectionist you describe her as, she'll know Valentine's Day is a corporate holiday that says nothing about love or her personally.

    Overall, interesting premise, but I'm wondering how well it all works together.

  7. Karen Says:

    Based on Stina's comments I'd like to have the sinister/mystery part up front. I'm curious as to whether the Valentines Day elements will have a balanced tie-in. I don't really get it now, but from the query, I'd definitely want to read the book and it was the dangerous part that sparked my interest.