Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #21

Dear Melissa Sarver,

Seventeen-year-old Mikaela doesn’t mind if her parents embarrass her or not when she brings over her boyfriend for the first time; she just hopes they don’t kill him.

MY LIFE AND TROUBLES AS A TEENAGE ASSASSIN is a 64,000-word YA thriller novel.

Seventeen-year-old Mikaela used to drink alcohol and do drugs until she met the love of her life, Cory, who helped her change into a better person. Now she just has to protect him from her parents, who work as top-secret assassins that kill in the name of justice. After all, they already killed her bad boy ex for some horrible crime. So when Cory’s brother is found to be guilty of heinous murders and Cory is suspected to be an accessory, Mikaela fears for her new boyfriend’s life. Therefore, she comes up with the insane idea to thrust herself into the unethical family business to protect him. At first she refuses to get blood on her own hands, but eventually she begins to understand why some people don’t deserve to live. Still, she’d better prove Cory is innocent as soon as possible, before she gets in too deep and considers taking up killing as a future career. Then again, maybe Cory isn’t as innocent as she thought he was…

MY LIFE AND TROUBLES AS A TEENAGE ASSASSIN is kind of like a DEXTER novel for teens. One of my short stories was recently an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest, and I have been a finalist in many blog writing contests. I also have a short story published in the WITHOUT TITLE anthology.

The manuscript is complete and available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Please don’t let my parents kill my boyfriend this time, I prayed. I had avoided this moment for as long as I could, but of course, it had to happen.

And I know what you’re thinking. No parent literally kills their daughter’s boyfriend, no matter how many tattoos and piercings he may have. Well, first of all, Cory only has piercings on his ears, and one tattoo on his back, but that’s not the point.

My parents would literally kill my boyfriend.

“Mikaela?” Cory’s voice broke through my thoughts. I could feel his eyes watching me from where he sat in the passenger’s seat.

“Yeah?” I clutched the steering wheel and stared out the windshield, even though I’d already parked the car and cut it off. We had arrived at my gray, suburban two-story house. An ordinary home that made my parents appear normal to the outside world.

“Are you okay? I know you’re nervous about this, but you look pale.”

“I’m not nervous.”

“Riiight. It took us fifteen minutes to get here, and it’s a ten-minute ride from my house to yours. And now look at you. Geez, we’re just having dinner with your parents.”

“It’s not just dinner. It’s a boyfriend-meets-the-parents dinner.” I swallowed.

“Yeah, and everything’s going to be fine. So why do you look scared to go inside your own house?”

If only he knew. “I just have a lot on my mind.”

“Like what?”

Like how you might end up at the bottom of a river, courtesy of my parents.


Sarah Diviney said...

Gosh. This is a hard one to critique. The format of the query is great. I think the main paragraph could be tightened up a bit.

However...this is a hard concept to swallow, mainly because it's YA. Now, i love Dexter, and i'm all about vigilante justice in books and film. lol. My entry in this forum also has to do with "assassin types," so i'm not against the subject. I just feel this is a little dark for teenagers. Perhaps the book isn't quite as dark as you've portrayed it in the query. If not, i'd lighten up the query, especially the lines about "getting blood on her hands," and "some people don't deserve to live."

You use Dexter as an example, but the main reason Dexter kills is because of past trauma(his dark passenger.) He's mentally wired to kill, and chooses to concentrate on bad guys to quench his insatiable need. We viewers accept that. You're character, Mikaela, doesn't have any mental issues or needs. She's decided to kill solely to help her new boyfriend, which seems rather flip--even though she's killing bad guys.

That said, i would definitely read more of the story. It's an interesting idea and the writing is good. I just don't think it's YA. I'm afraid that trying to sell it as YA will doom the manuscript to your hard drive forever.

I look forward to reading other peoples views on this!

Good luck

Lanette said...

The query has a great hook. I don't remember which agent it was, but one said in an interview that she would love a dark, Dexter-ish novel.

As to your first 250, it starts off well, but I think you hit us over the head too much about her fear. As a suggestion, maybe show her fear about introducing her boyfriend to her parents without saying why. That should increase the tension.

Good luck with this. It looks like a fun novel.

Jessica Peterson said...

I think putting the line describing your book after your hook would work better either at the very beginning or at the ending, placed where it is, it took me away from the story and after your hook I wanted to know more.

I think you've got good information in the query but your main paragraph was structured a bit too rigid for me. And I agree with it coming off as really dark. The people not deserving to live line kind of bothered me.

Your 250 was good, but I do agree with the comment above about increasing the tension. Also, in your very first line, when you mention 'this time' it makes me think the parents have already met the boyfriend. It might make things even more exciting if you just say 'this boyfriend'.

Best of luck.

RH #18 said...

Your opening sentence is great and hooked me. But the phrase "used to drink alcohol and do drugs" sounds very distant, like someone who has read about being an alcoholic, but doesn't actually know what being an alcoholic is truly like. Consider something like "Seventeen-year-old Mikaela was caught in a drug-induced downward spiral when Cory, the love of her life, pulled her into the light." Or you know, something less cheesy than "light." :)

I think you just need to read your query out loud and consider each and every word. You have "seventeen-year-old Mikaela" twice. "Therefore" is not necessary. In your 250 words, you use the word "literally" twice. It's just little things like that which will really polish your query if you really break it down and consider it one word at a time.

It sounds like a fun concept and I think it would do great in YA!

Good luck!


Mim said...


First off, the concept is intriguing. I love books like this, so I'd definitely want to read on.

With your query, I'd like move the title and word count down to the third paragraph where you make your comparisons. I think it will flow a bit better. I'd go through the main paragraph and make sure you need each word, some of the descriptions could be tightened up. But I think you do a great job of laying everything out.

The first 250 pull me in. It is all dialogue or internal monologue, you may want to ground us a bit more.

Good luck!

MC #24

Melissa Sarver said...

I think this is a great concept that I'd like to see presented in a bit darker, subtler, more tension-filled way. I wish the title were less obvious. The first paragraph to the query is great, hooked me right away. (The third paragraph doesn't need to tell us again that she's 17.)

Does the character have to be a former bad girl? There seems to be plenty going on in the story and enough action-filled plot without her having been formerly into drugs and alcohol. Be careful not to throw that in there just to make your character or the story seem "edgier."

Who do her parents work as assassins for and why would they go around killing teenagers? I like the idea that Mikaela appears to "join" them but really is out to protect her boyfriend. And I also like the twist that maybe Cory isn't as innocent as she thought.

The sample material: I think a little goes a long way - you don't need to explicitly tell us numerous times that her parents might literally kill her boyfriend. You can be more clever about it, more subtle.

The tone feels very light so I'm concerned that there will be a real disconnect between the tone and the subject matter of her parents murdering people, including possibly her teenage boyfriend. It would be different if her parents were private investigators or con-men but assassins is a whole other level. Maybe the writing needs to be darker to align with the subject.