Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Ms. Katie Shea,

I’m seeking representation for my contemporary young adult novel, THUMP, complete at 60,000 words. When sixteen-year-old Hailey Scott is diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, she thinks her heart will never be the same, but a chance encounter with drummer Declan changes everything.

Forced to give up her title of cheerleading captain and her brand-new driver’s license, Hailey accepts the fact that she has a life-threatening condition--one that can result in sudden cardiac arrest. So when her music-obsessed best friend, Leah, convinces her to sneak into a club to see Madison Avenue, the hottest new local band, Hailey decides she might as well live it up while she still can. Once there, Hailey crashes into Declan, high school dropout and drummer for Madison Avenue, whose wild but rhythmic beats make Hailey’s heart thump.

Together, Hailey and Declan wreak havoc through the mall, crash the homecoming dance, and search for the perfect snare drum. She keeps her condition a secret, navigating their relationship around her disease and her overprotective mom. As the walls of Hailey’s heart grow weaker, slowly strangling the life from her, she decides to take the risk, and fall in love one last time.

Sure to appeal to Stephanie Perkins’ readers and fans of the movie adaptation of A Walk to Remember, THUMP takes a unique and heart-pounding look at growing up and falling in love while coping with a life-altering illness.

Thank you for your time and consideration. If you are interested, I would be delighted to send you additional sample chapters or my complete manuscript.



I didn’t need a fancy doctor to tell me my heart was broken. It shattered when I found out Bradley was cheating on me. So, the diagnosis was only a matter of time.

That’s why tonight is so important.

“I’m just staying the night at Leah’s.”

“I don’t know…” My mom’s worried--as she should be. If it were up to her, I’d be strapped to a hospital bed, hooked up to a bunch of bleeping machines reporting every single one of my body’s levels and functions.

If my parents knew where I was really going tonight, they’d be mad. Really, really mad. Like murder-me-themselves-instead-of-waiting-for-the-inevitable mad.

“All we’re going to do is watch movies. And make popcorn.” I look at my dad with big, pleading eyes. 'Like good, healthy girls do.'

“Hailey,” he says in that way that makes me feel like I’m five. “I don’t think it’s a good idea right now.” My mom nods in agreement. I open my mouth to say something, but he holds up a hand. “I mean, I think you should take it easy. At least for tonight.”

“I can take it easy at Leah’s house.” I know I’m talking too fast. I’m going to blow this. “I promise, I won’t overexert myself. I’ll lie around all night. We’ll go to bed early. And I’ll--”

There’s a honk in the driveway, and I flash him one more desperate look. 'Please, please just let me have one more night. This night. Tonight.'


Rebecca said...

I really enjoyed both your query and 1st page! You compared your story to Stephanie Perkins and A Walk to Remember, but my first thought was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I love that Hailey is keeping her disease a secret, which immediately makes me want to read your book and find out if everything crumbles around Hailey because of this decision to keep quiet.
Also, your opening paragraph has a very good hook. I love that Hailey is more concerned with a broken heart than an actual doctor's diagnosis. It shows you have a great 16-year-old voice. I think the overall premise is very exciting, and looks like it will have plenty of laughter and tears. I would definitely read this book!
My only critique would be your title. The word Thump makes me think of rabbits, so my first impression was that this was going to be a story about rabbits. This could definitely be just me, but I think something like "My Beating Heart" would be a little more descriptive, but that's just me. Also, I feel like I'm not that great at creating titles, so hopefully other people will have some good ideas for you!
Great job!

Kate Larkindale said...

I think you have a strong premise here and this sounds like a book I'd like to read (although the title doesn't grab me. It sounds a little more like an MG title).

The first page has the perfect teen voice and an easily recognizable situation. I'd read more!

Ninja Girl said...

I just have to say, I LOVE your first sentence. This is a great idea, something I'd definitely be interested in reading :)
Well done,
Ninja Girl

Robbin said...

I, too, LOVED your first sentence. The query was so-so for me. It didn't give me something new, but when I started reading your first page, I was hooked. Nice job! Good luck!

Heather Marie said...

Great premise, and I love the first paragraph. The first sentence alone really had my attention. I also love your choice to use present tense. It gives the story a sense of urgency, here and now, with her illness. I would love to read this!

Susan said...

I really like your opening paragraph. I also like the idea of how a terminal illness would impact a teenager's choices and willingness to take risks & not always do what is expected.

Suzi said...

Love this line: As the walls of Hailey’s heart grow weaker, slowly strangling the life from her, she decides to take the risk, and fall in love one last time.

Great voice in your 250.

Good luck.

Ryann Kerekes said...

Nicely done! I really like this too!

Cari said...

I think the excerpt is the better half here, too. I can put myself in the scene as the parent. I've not read YA but I am intrigued by the idea of a terminal illness on teenager.

In the query I would start with your second sentence. Except for the word count, the info in the first sentence is implied in the plot, I think. You could include the word count in fourth graf.

Best of luck!

JennaDanielle said...

I love the the first 250 * though I am sorely missing the panther ;) *

Only two tiny nitpicky query things from me:

"slowly strangling the life from her" - The word "strangling" is a little too heavy for me. The rest of that sentence is so sad and sweet the word strangling kind of catches me off guard.
Words I swapped out for strangling were: Draining, siphoning, drawing, sucking
Obviously take my advice with a grain of salt - I just like to back up my opinions with suggestions :)

The title also made me think of Bambi's loveable sidekick BUT once you know you love a title, you LOVE a title.

Once again, I have to back up my opinion with suggestions - bear with me lol

Broken up Beats / Broken Beats ( refers to a drummer playing on the off beats...or something)


Ghost Beat ( Would probably be more appropriate if she fell in know...after she died...if..she dies)

Anyways - that's just my two pennies. I wish I could read the rest! Great job Valerie!

Veronica Bartles said...

I loved your first sentence! Actually, I loved your whole first paragraph :)

My biggest issue is when she says "My mom's worried -- as she should be." Would a teenager struggling to find "normal" in the face of a life-threatening illness really admit that mom *should* be worried?

It might just be my own personal experience talking, but I'd expect her to fight back against any suggestion that she had to be treated diffferently because of her condition, so this line really pulled me out of the story for a moment.

Jodi R. said...

Love the premise, love the voice. LOVE the title! (Whaddup with all the haterz?)

This is an intriguing topic, too. My sister died when she was 15 after several years of being quite ill. Yes she was concerned for her health and had to deal with it (she was sicker than your heroine), but she CRAVED details of what her friends were doing - who was kissing who, who got caught drinking, etc. The normal that seems so dramatic when you're a teen. Anyway - I just thought this rang true - yes, she is essentially dying, but she's too busy living to get too caught up in it.

I also like that it reflects on that teen tendency to think they are invincible - they take so many risks not thinking about consequences. But what if you KNOW something can kill you - do you live in a bubble or do you go for it? Of course her parents want to strap her to a hospital bed!

Overall I think this is great - I do think you could tighten up the query a bit - you want it to pack the punch your sample does so trim, trim, trim, polish, polish, polish!

Congrats - good luck!

Anonymous said...

I am currently reading The Fault in our Stars. This story reminds me of that book. I am interested in reading more.


Ru said...

I love it :)

Katie Shea said...

Great first paragraph. Very interesting story line - I like it. Plus, I am a sucker for love stories. Strong voice and good beginning writing sample. This is certainly something I would like to see more of.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your hook/premise. I'm curious about the specifics of her disease and exactly what she will do to make the most of the time she has. My only hesitation is your comparison to "A Walk to Remember," which makes me predict a sad ending, which freaks me out!

I would definitely keep reading, though.

S. Kyle Davis said...

Congratulations on the win! I can see why Agent Shea picked it.

There were a couple points that could help strengthen it, I think.

First, in the query, something about the line starting "Once there, Hailey crashes..." didn't quite work for me. I get the play on drums, but something about the rhythm (ha!) didn't quite work. I found myself tripping up.

The second thing was the opening of the novel. I like the concept of the broken heart. That's fine. However, it's in past tense. That's the correct tense for the line, but I expect the first line to tell me what tense the rest of the book is. When you move into present tense, I was completely thrown and had to reread for a bit.