if it’s too difficult for grown-ups, write for children

Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXII

puccipurpleFashion Week is underway in NYC as we speak, and so I expect more images of gorgeous shoes (like these Pucci heels) to start popping up soon on my internet searches. Swoon! But we’re way late on today’s About My Query post, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

Dear Daphne,

Shy Lizzie Thompson has grown up believing she killed her mom on the day she was born, and not the diagnosed medical condition her mother suffered from. Her dad worked tirelessly to give her everything she needed, so when the day came for her to give back, by going on an innocent date with the boss’s son, college guy Nathan, she willingly agreed. How was she supposed to know the boy would violently beat and rape her on the night of her seventeenth birthday?

Good thing Josh Rayburn was spying on Lizzie, his crush; otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to incapacitate her attacker, take her home to his house, and heal her wounds. Through Josh’s undying support and protection, an unbreakable bond of trust forms. Just as Lizzie realizes the conscience altering love between them, Josh is arrested for assaulting her attacker. The rich slime actually twisted the story and claimed he was the one trying to save Lizzie!

Now it’s up to Lizzie to find her voice and tell the truth about what happened, despite the deep emotional pain it will cause her father. She must battle against the gossiping towns’ people and police, who are in the pocket of Nathan’s wealthy father. Not to mention Nathan’s longtime buddy, Officer Dunston who will have her killed before the truth comes out.

My YA romance, THE FLOWER GARDEN, is complete at 86,000 words. I am prepared to send a partial or full manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration of my novel.

Sincerely,
Melanie

First line — do you mean “despite that she’s been told her mother had a diagnosed medical condition,” or that the fact of the medical condition was kept from her? It’s a big difference, and totally changes what I think about Lizzie. I also don’t love the sense that Lizzie only goes out with Nathan as a way of paying back her father — not because that may not be what she does or why, but because the way it’s worded, it seems as if that’s the first and only thing she’s done to pay her father back for raising her alone. And I’m sure that’s not the case. I want to picture their family relationship like Veronica and Keith in Veronica Mars, and well, when you bring in rape and a wealthy father who bankrolls the police force, the Veronica Mars comparison seems particularly apt.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Veronica Mars, but I want to make sure this is different enough to appeal to those agents and editors, like me, who are also big fans, and want something to hang the comparison on without it seeming like a rip-off.

And that may be Josh’s role in this — although the language you use to describe his actions around Lizzie do keep me guessing if maybe she’s not seeing things clearly. “Conscience altering love” is a wee bit heavy handed, and it would be a really interesting twist if “the rich slime” isn’t entirely the bad guy here. If that’s so, I think you need to hint a bit more that Josh isn’t quite the knight in shining armor the emotionally bruised Lizzie thinks he is. If not — if it is as straightforward as it seems on the surface — I think you need to lighten up on the relationship that develops between Josh and Lizzie.

Moving on to Lizzie having to “tell the truth” despite the pain it will cause her father — do you mean going public, or telling him what happened in the first place? Again, I want that Veronica Mars-esque connection between father and daughter, and I hate the idea of Lizzie keeping a secret like her rape by her father’s boss’ son from her dad. Hate.

Nitpicky: how many towns are we talking about? Or is that a misplaced apostrophe in the penultimate paragraph?

I’m also really jolted by the idea that teenage Nathan is longtime buddies with a cop that’s prepared to kill Lizzie. That’s huge, and really ups the stakes in a YA novel. It may be something that develops more naturally in the book, but in the short form of a query, it’s almost too much.

On the whole, though, I like this, and I’d be interested in reading more. I’d definitely look at the sample pages if this came across my desk — although the title gives me a bit of pause. But titles can easily be changed.

What do you think, my wise and wonderful readers?

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