Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Ms. Shea:

Every good fairy tale has a princess, a perfect Prince Charming and plenty of magical kisses. 17-year-old Alaina Andersen wants that fairy tale.

Alaina has always felt like a frog, but she knows that the perfect kiss can turn a frog into a princess. She's waiting for her fairy tale--for the white knight to come riding in and sweep her off her feet, the one magic moment that will make life perfect and give her a "happily ever after" ending. When Shane Crawford, the most gorgeous boy in school, kisses her, she thinks she might finally have a chance, but the kiss is a disaster, and Alaina doesn’t feel like she’s changed at all.

Alaina turns to her friend Kendra for guidance. Since seventh grade, when Kendra started telling her about all the mean things the other girls were saying behind her back, Alaina has known Kendra was the only friend she could really trust. But when Shane comes begging for another chance to win her heart, and the “mean girls” turn out to be pretty nice, Alaina begins to think Kendra might be more wicked witch than fairy godmother.

In a twist on the classic fairy tale, KISSING FROGS is a 49,000-word contemporary Young Adult novel about a girl who is already a swan, but allows a manipulative “friend” to convince her she’s an ugly duckling, until she finally has the courage to stand up for herself.



The bell rang, and I jumped up, scurrying out of class before my best friend, Kendra, could catch up with me.

“Hi gorgeous, how was your day?” My second best friend, Jarod, met me at the door and took my books.

I rolled my eyes and glanced back into the classroom. Mr. Finn was talking to Kendra about her grades again. I had at least five minutes.

“There isn’t much to tell,” I stepped into the hallway. “Typical Tuesday. No tests, no big assignments. Pretty boring. What about you?”

I sat on the wobbly old desk Mr. Finn keeps outside his classroom, careful to avoid the pile of graded homework assignments stacked in the corner. Jarod twirled the combination and yanked my locker open. “Well, I’m talking to a knockout with the most beautiful long, blonde hair you’ve ever seen. Overall, it’s been a great day.”

He dropped his backpack on the bottom shelf and handed my flute to me. Turning back to my locker with a scowl, he tore down the list Kendra had taped to the inside of the door.

“How many times do I have to get rid of this?” he demanded. “You don’t need garbage like this cluttering up your space.”

I shrugged. “Kendra says…”

“Kendra’s evil. She is not your friend. What kind of sick, twisted person would make you keep a list of your flaws taped next to your mirror? Who came up with these lies, anyway? You do not have a big nose!”


Susan said...

I always enjoy a modern-day take on fairy tales, and I find stories with themes of empowerment for teenage girls especially appealing, so this story has that going for it.

However, on first glance, the word count jumps out at me as possibly being on the low side for a YA novel. I'm certainly not an expert, though, so others may disagree. In addition, I know that at least some agents feel that opening a novel or even a chapter with a bell ringing (or a phone ringing, or an alarm clock going off) is somewhat of a cliche. Just something to consider, since opening lines are oh-so-important.

Kate Larkindale said...

I'm a huge fan of fairy-tale re-tellings, but the plot of this one seems a little slight to carry a whole novel. That, and the fact the book is only 49K makes me wonder if there is enough substance.

In the sample, some of the dialogue feels a little forced, like it's being used to push a plot point rather than being the way people actually talk.

Good luck!

Mary Vettel said...

I enjoy a fairy tale retelling too but must agree that the dialogue didn't seem real to me. I'd keep reading though. Good luck.

Melinda said...

I agree with the others. I love fairy-tale retellings, but wonder if the plot here is complex enough to sustain a whole book. As written, the query seems to give away the whole story and so I don't feel the need to read on. Maybe there is a way you could tweak the query to leave more of a mystery about Kendra, or give a hint to another twist if there is one.

I would at least cut out manipulative friend from the last paragraph and revise to: ...about a girl who is already a swan, but is convinced she’s an ugly duckling and must gain the courage to stand up for herself.

I like Jarod, but the story starts a little slow. I would cut the first few paragraphs and start with him finding the list in her locker. Also, in the query you said Kendra was the only friend she could trust, so it was jarring to have Jarod referred to as her second best friend.

I love the title.

Leslie said...

I always love stories like this- the good girl or smart girl or non-popular girl getting the cute boy. For me, it doesn't matter if this idea has been done before. It always seems to be different in the hands of a new author.

I agree with a few of the other comments. I was confused about Jarod being her second best friend when it was stated she could only trust Kendra. Also, I'd like to see a little more of an attention-grabbing intro to the story. If there's a subplot involving Jarod's feelings for Alaina, that should be mentioned in the query summary. If not, maybe consider it. That would add an interesting element to the story.

I was interested in the story after reading the query, but honestly the opening didn't hook me as much as I'd hoped. Love the story idea though, and maybe there's something after these first 250 that would draw me in.

I also like the title.

Valerie said...

I enjoyed the 250. I could definitely feel how enchanted Jarod is with Alaina. A lot of her mannerisms are very princess-like (the scurrying, Jared taking her books and opening her locker for her).

I would be interested to see where this goes-- and I am really intrigued by this list and Kendra's manipulation. I'm already championing for Alaina and Jared to end up together!

The only thing I would maybe tweak in your query is to explain this "and Alaina doesn’t feel like she’s changed at all"-- I don't think you need to go into much explanation, maybe just tweak it to show HOW she doesn't feel like she's changed.

Great job and good luck!

Tess Sharpe said...

This is a super cute concept, and a very attention grabbing query.

However, some of the dialogue, especially on Jarod's part, doesn't seem terribly realistic. I see where you're going with this--reaffirming his idea of her beauty counterposed with the list of her flaws that Kendra has put in her locker (which woah, what a super evil thing to do, seriously). But I think this can be done a little more subtly, and have the benefit of establishing these two's relationship.

Veronica Bartles said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone! I'm already working on another revision - hopefully making it better, not just different. :)

Escape Artist said...

Okay, I'm late and I haven't read the above comments, so I'm coming in blind here with only my thoughts.
First off. This felt young to me. It just didn't feel right to me for a seventeen year old.
The word count is also way under what would be expected. Good luck! : )

Anna said...

I love to see fairy tales retold and twisted in unexpected ways. I wonder if maybe you're just starting in the wrong place.

Escape Artist said...

Sorry. I was rushing with my last comment. I didn't tell you that I think this could be a lovely, fun read. I too wondered if you were starting in the wrong place. That beginning point, I find, is the one that needs the most attention. I believe I may have re-written my beginning one thousand times. Okay, I might be pushing it there, but still beginnings are challenging but also fun. They make you twist and turn and look at different angles! : )

Katie Shea said...

Ah, fairly tales - very hot right now. Oh no, the kiss was a disaster? An obvious character-driven novel, interesting premise, but is it strong enough to breakout in the competitive category of contemporary YA?

Veronica Bartles said...

Thank you all so much for your insights! I've spent the last few days reworking and tightening the manuscript, and I think it's gotten SO much stronger from this process! (I'd love to post my new first 250 words here for your opinions, but I don't know if that would be too pushy... so I guess I won't.) Hugs! <3