Congrats to Ryann Jansen, who won a query critique on my new client Krista Van Dolzer’s Mother. Write. Repeat blog. Without further ado, here’s Ryann’s query:
Dear Ms. Unfeasible:
Seventeen-year-old Audrey thinks having a hooker for a mom means her life can’t get any worse. At least, until her mom is murdered and she and her sisters are sent to separate foster homes. Because being torn from her sisters and starting a new school will make her life better. Yeah. Right. To top it all off, she can’t go out with Zach now. Actually, that’s about her only break. She was only going out with the creep to piss her mother off anyway.
The bright side? Audrey’s foster brother, Caleb, isn’t too bad on the eyes and man, can he kiss good. Not that she should be kissing a boy who is supposed to be her brother, but she just can’t resist him. His lips are like crack to a junkie.
Just as Audrey falls in sync with her new life, Zach shows up, ticked that she’s ignoring him. When he starts to act a little psycho, she avoids him. Seriously. Like she has time to deal with a jerk. With the murder investigation and her little sister walking around like a glammed up version of their mom, there’s more than enough drama in her life. No need to add crazy Zach to the mix. It’s bad enough she’s creeped out at night, like someone is watching. And Audrey has no idea that she’s about to do what she’s feared all her life. Follow in her mother’s footsteps.
My Contemporary Young Adult novel, HEARTS DON’T BREAK QUIETLY, is complete at 48,000 words. Thank you for your time and attention.
First of all, GREAT opening line. Notice the word choice: not prostitute or call girl or escort, but “hooker.” That is the word choice of a 17-year-old girl incredibly pissed at her mom. And already, I know so much about her. Then we twist the knife even further – her mom is murdered and she and her sisters are sent to separate foster homes. However, I don’t know that you need the repetition in the next line of “being torn from her sisters”, or the casual “Yeah. Right.” The words don’t add much to the impression I have already formed of Audrey. And I think the next couple of sentences, starting with “To top it all off,” really reduce the tension.
I’ll be frank — I kinda hate the next paragraph. I have no problem with your introducing a new love interest to move the story along, but I sort of cringe at “man, can he kiss good.” I also wonder about your assertion that Caleb is “supposed to be her brother.” To me, that seems like accepting her new circumstances very quickly and very comfortably, which isn’t the impression I got of Audrey from the opening paragraph. If I’m wrong, I want to know why — are her new foster parents super welcoming, like the Huxtables, or some other idyllic tv sitcom family? What’s the story with that?
With the next paragraph, I’m completely thrown for a curve. Zach is back, but Audrey avoids him, and that seems to be the end of it (although it very well may not be, to judge from the drama coming, but he is dropped from the query letter). She’s worried about her little sister, but you’d previously told me they were at separate foster homes — but they are still in contact? How’s that? What about her other sister(s)? I also didn’t get the impression that her mom being a hooker was something that Audrey “feared” becoming, and I’d have loved to see that before you bring it up here, though it seems to be there’s a lot more to the story than just the fear that she’d become a hooker like her mom — I don’t know, I just don’t buy it.
Ultimately, I think there’s a strong opening here, but you lose a potential reader with either possible red herrings or misdirects instead of staying with the core of the story. Readers, what do you think? How would you fix this?