Saturday, August 1, 2009

Critique Session #6

YA Science Fiction
Abby Annis

Dear Ms. Revis,

On your blog, you expressed an interest in queries to critique, so I'm hoping my novel, EMBROL, will appeal to you.

Every teenage girl likes to think she’s the center of the universe. Eighteen-year-old Olivia Ryan is about to find out she really is.

Just six more months of the torture better known as high school, and Olivia can finally choose how she lives her life. But after her mother’s sudden death, her only concern is getting through each day.

When Jack Ellis—the infuriatingly gorgeous boy responsible for the car accident that took her mother’s life—declares she’s an alien from the planet Hielos and the only hope for saving the universe, Olivia’s convinced he’s crazy. Despite desperately wanting to hate him and ignore the unearthly pull she feels to him, her mother’s journal confirms his claims.

Olivia fights to resume her normal, boring life, but the appearance of a rogue Hielosian, bent on world domination, forces her to embrace her alien powers. To protect Earth, the universe, and everyone she loves, Olivia must learn to trust Jack and accept she can be the superhero the world needs her to be.

EMBROL is a work of young adult science fiction, complete at 88,000 words.

I am a worker bee at a magical place full of plants and flowers, and I derive creativity from my surroundings. If you are interested, I’d be happy to forward the complete manuscript to you. Per your submission guidelines, I have included the first 250 words in the body of this email.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Abby Annis

First 250 Words:

Boring. Monotonous. Mind-numbing. There isn’t a word strong enough to describe my classes. With only two weeks until winter break, everything was a review for finals. Herr Davis droned on forever about the importance of the German language in history. I rested my head against my palm and struggled to keep my eyes open.


I turned to the boy sitting next to me in the passenger seat. His golden hair hung in curly layers to just below his ears, and his eyes were the palest blue I’d ever seen. My lips turned up at his perfect face. He smiled back at me.

I opened my mouth to ask him who he was, but my subconscious whispered I already knew the answer. If I could just remember.

“Olivia. I’m sorry.” Pain flashed in his eyes.

“Why--” I choked on my words as a truck slammed into his side of the car, triggering an alarm.

My eyes flew open, and I lifted my head, wiping the corner of my mouth. I glanced around at the other students as they filed out of the room. No one appeared to notice me slobbering all over my desk. Stupid dream.

I gathered my things and walked outside, stopping a few feet from my locker. Trevor and Mark stood there, wearing ridiculous grins. Do they have to do this every year? I sighed. Might as well get it over with.


beth said...

One thing that made me hesitate in the query is the line about how Jack is responsible for the death of Olivia's mother. When I first read that line, my immediate reaction was very negative, and I was going to suggest you tone it down.

Then, I realized that part of Olivia's struggle is learning to rely on, trust, and maybe even forgive/love this guy who killed her mother--and that is very gripping. So much so that I wonder if this query would be even better if you emphasized that more. While your current tagline is good, what about something that deals with Olivia/Jack. Something like: Olivia never expected to forgive Jack after he was involved in a car crash that killed her mother, but when she discovers her mother's secret and a hidden power, she learns... I don't know, that started to get long... but that *might* make for a stronger hook.

The line that really jumped out at me as good was "If I could just remember." That really made the creepiness/reality of the dream sequence stand out in my mind.

The dream also served to bring in some tension and action, especially hard to do in a boring class. I hope, however, that with the introduction of Trevor and Mark, something is going to happen soon. Despite the exciting dream, it did feel as if the opener was a tad slow--but if Trevor and Mark have some shenanigans planned, I'm all for it!

Silver said...

I enjoyed reading this. It caught my attention and i love the way you were able to hold that attention till the end.

Tantalizing Treats

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I love this concept but think you may have started in the wrong place. The first graph could be any teen angst, and I'm wary of starting stories with dreams. It can confuse the reader, and right now there is a popular series built around dreaming, so that could make an agent think it's that story again.
I think your story about the alien boy is compelling and you should hop to that right away.
In the query, I would normally not suggest opening with the generalized line that teenage girls think they are the center of the universe, but I LOVE it combined with the following line.
I think you could lose the third graph and jump to Jack Ellis. But, as Beth said, it reads in a way that puts him in a bad light. Just tweak it so we are torn between liking him (must be more than his looks) and believing he might be responsible for the accident. This is unclear to me, anyway. Does she know he did something? Does she guess? If he killed her mother through recklessness or intent, it's hard to believe she could feel anything positive about him. It could cause your readers to dislike her as well as him, so be careful how you present this.
I'm not sure how anyone would try to resume a normal life after finding out they are an alien. Would she not be trying to understand why she is here, what she is, why her mother had to die, what her role might be?
Hope I didn't overwhelm you with questions and suggestions. I really like the core of your story.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hey Abby, I just want to add that I am no expert and someone else may have a totally different take on my comments on dreams, etc. So please take my suggestions with a grain of salt. As always, the story is yours and you alone know where you want it to go. I really want to know where your characters end up!

Abby said...

Thanks all for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate the feedback. :)

Beth--You rock for doing this! Thanks for letting me participate. :D

Tricia--No worries. :) I'm grateful for all feedback. Thanks!

Mim said...

The story sounds interesting, but one thing that bothered me was her desire to return to her *boring life* -- I get what you mean, but I might choose a different phrase instead of boring.

Overall I really like the concept that she is an alien and has to fight off stuff is actually really cool. I may want to see some example of that in the first page as well. It doesn't have to be a lot, just a hint that the strangeness is there.

I think it may be a little risky to start with Boring. Monotonous and Mind numbing. I understand the picture that you are setting up, but I'm not sure that I'd want to read something with that kind of start.

I really like your concept. It sounds fun, and the story has the opportunity for real depth. Thanks for sharing.

Abby said...

Mim--I've really been struggling with my opening, but your comments have given me what I hope is a fantastic idea. Yea! I'm off to see if I can make it work. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hey, sorry this came in really late, but I just havent had time.

The beginning didn't really hook me. It sounded boring. And I felt that the dream sequence felt a bit out of place, like it came to early. Perhaps, you should put the dream sequence at the very beginning?

The end of the 250 words hooked me, but I don't think I'd read on.

Good luck.