About My Query: BABY STEPS

February 1st, 2013 • Kate

flip-flop weatherHappy Friday! Time for another About My Query post, this time from MVA. Let’s go!

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,

When Brooklyn Hart finds out that her father has knocked up twenty-three year old Nicole, she doesn’t think things can get any worse. That is, until her mother invites Nicole to move in with them — and she says yes! Mrs. Hart says nothing has to change, but meanwhile she’s busy pulling out old maternity clothes for Nicole and helping her pick out cribs. Brooklyn refuses to welcome Nicole into their family and can barely even look at her father, who promises that this was a one-time indiscretion. The only one as weirded out by this whole situation as Brooklyn is Mr. Rogers, the family cat. Used to Mrs. Hart’s undivided attention, he retaliates with a hunger strike.

In an effort to escape the awkwardness at home, Brooklyn spends more time working at Kilburn Clothing Company, a preppy clothing line famous for its dark, cologne-reeking stores and nearly pornographic ads. Brooklyn finds refuge in the routine and even budding romance as she begins to fall for real-life Kilburn model, Tyler Stratton. The only trick will be learning to trust Tyler after her father’s recent betrayal.

My debut contemporary YA novel, BABY STEPS, follows Brooklyn’s trials and tribulations as she struggles to accept Nicole and redefine her idea of family. Upon your request, I am prepared to send the full manuscript, which is complete at 60,000 words. BABY STEPS will appeal to readers who enjoy the works of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti and the mix of family drama, personal growth, and young romance that they never fail to deliver.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,
MVA

This starts off great — “knocked up” is a great indicator of Brooklyn’s voice — but immediately leads to a question: who is Nicole? Her father’s girlfriend? Fiance? Random chickie on the street? With the next sentence, I want to know even more, although some of my questions are answered as we move on. “One-time indiscretion”, indeed. (Although, does that get a hyphen? Grammar gods out there?)

So the family stuff is good, but I’m less invested (possibly because there’s no immediate drama) in Brooklyn’s job. Does she actually work on one of the stores, or in corporate headquarters? The second would seem a more likely place for her to meet a model, since it might also be easier to her to just put in more hours, without going through attempting to get more scheduled at a mall store akin to Abercrombie & Fitch. I used to work at a Gap — it’s not all that easy to just get more hours. As for Tyler, I want to more more about his relationship with Brooklyn. Does he give her reasons to not trust him, or is she just gun-shy because of her father?

Moving on to the final paragraph, I’m again looking for some kind of drama. Does the story take us to the birth? Does something happen to Mr. Rogers, the hunger-striking cat (nice!)? What reason do we have to read this story at this time? I’m not saying you have to give away your ending, but I can speak from experience that contemporary YA without a major hook — without that further plot interest — are a tough sell. Basically, I think this needs one more beat.

Readers, what do you think? If you saw this on the jacket of a book in a store, would you pick it up? And if not, how would you fix it?

Photo above my Flickr user viveee, used under a Creative Commons license.
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5 Responses to “About My Query: BABY STEPS”

  1. Shannon Says:

    The only problem I had was one you mentioned–that I don't understand why it would be hard to trust Tyler. The rest I had no problem with.
    And I do think one-time gets a hyphen because it is a two-word modifier (like "two-word" ahem).

  2. Lexa Cain Says:

    I don't read much Contemp, but I really like this. Perhaps it's tougher to sell a genre novel with a soft hook, but I don't think readers expect anything earth-shatteringly new in a Contemp novel. (But what do I know? I'm not an agent or even a pubbed novelist – so you'd better listen to Daphne!)

  3. Deserae McG Says:

    Though I like this a lot, the question on my mind the entire time I read this was WHY on God’sgreen Earth does Mrs. Hart want Nicole to move in. WHY. When Daphne said she fet “less invested” in the family stuff even though it’s good, I completely agreed, but I know for me, personally, it was because I thought this element was missing.

    Your tone and style is amazing and your word choice impeccable so perhaps if we either knew who Nicole was (as Daphne suggested) or knew the circumstance that led to Mrs. Hart’s kindness (as I’m suggesting) THEN we could see a little more of the picture. We could decide what kind of person Nicole is versus Brooklyn, make judgments (read:guesses) about how well “THAT” kind of living situation is going to go, etc. We just need a line maybe. Or two.

    Also, when I read this, I didn’t immediately get a sense of young adult. Only Nicole’s age was mentioned and Brooklyn seemed mature to me so perhaps slipping in her age wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

    Best of luck to you! This sounds good and to answer Daphne’s question, I would definitely be interested in reading something like this. I’d just want to know exactly what kind of drama I was getting into.

  4. callen Says:

    I think your soft hook of the pregnancy in the first few sentences is good– I definitely did a "yikes!" and had to read on– but it sounds like the pregnancy and Nicole moving in is actually backstory for the novel so I agree with Daphne that I need a bigger hint as to the plot of the book.
    I also would like to know more about Brooklyn, since you mention a theme of the book is her personal growth. I feel like I have a better idea of her mother as a character than of Brooklyn. Yes, we know she's upset with her family, but were things perfect before that? Who is she at the starting point of this book? I'm drawn to the creative angle of the story, but in a contemporary YA, I want to be drawn to the character even more.

  5. Aaron Says:

    I find myself with two questions. The first, rather minor: how did Brooklyn meet Tyler? Second, and far more importantly, why does Mrs. Hart welcome Nicole into the house? I can think of a few different possibilities, but would want to know the author's take on it up front (at least, if I were the one being queried – maybe not as a reader of the published book). Having a couple word description of who Nicole is (beyond her age) would be nice, too.

    Beyond that, I could certainly see myself reading it, as long as the quality of writing is good and things don't get too implausible.