Wednesday, September 14, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Ms. Johnson-Blalock, 

I am responding to your request for “contemporary, realistic young adult with a strong voice and compelling characters” as well as “books that help you figure out how to do life better”. I believe my novel, THE EDGE OF HAPPINESS, fits this description. 

Annabelle Winters has met happiness, and his name is Peter Jones.

After her mother’s death and her sister, Jane, runs away with a drug addict, sixteen-year-old Annabelle has resorted to a life of isolation and social anxiety. Her number of friends have hit an astounding zero. The only company she has is paper, a pen, and the deep recesses of her creative mind. But then she meets Peter, a Peter Pan-esque man, who invites her into a world full of love, swing dancing, and God. Where happiness reverberates off of rooftops and sings to everyone’s soul, and if only Annabelle could learn to be like him, maybe she could be happy too.

Except now Jane is back. At twenty, she's fallen in love with Peter's brother, an underage Ezra Jude. They decide to run away and burn--travel the world fast and free, no s***s given. If his beloved brother leaves, Annabelle knows Peter’s happiness, the thing she so desperately yearns to have for herself, will die.

Annabelle must warn Peter. But as Jane’s plan gets closer, Annabelle’s anxiety intensifies. She could never tell him. She’s too afraid. Peter may never want to see her again, and he could put Jane in jail. Besides, when Ezra Jude admits that he’s questioning his religion, Annabelle notices hints of darkness in Peter’s light.

Perhaps happiness is not what it seems. 

THE EDGE OF HAPPINESS is a completed 56k word YA contemporary that would appeal to fans of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and THE OUTSIDERS due to its shy, relatable narrator and the dire world which surrounds her. 

I am a communications major at George Mason University. This book stems from many issues I have faced during my life, and my hope is that it will one day help others going through the same.

Thank you for your consideration.



The first time I met Happiness, I was at the park. It was summer, and my day had been filled with the usual ritual: walking downtown, past the little antique shops and old brick buildings, searching for something to spark my imagination. Then, I’d walk to the small grass area dubbed “Hudsonville Grand Park” where I would write. I wrote a lot. Especially during the summer, when the tediousness of high school lectures and mediocre grades and wearing all black, lipstick included, to scare off any form of socialization faded into bright pink workout shorts and time. Time to write. Time to create.

Today’s creation was Blake Metal from the record store down the street. His last name wasn’t really “Metal” but Schwartz. People from our high school just called him Metal because that’s what he listened to. The noise skyrocketed out of his headphones whenever he slept in the back of our chemistry class, shoulder length brown hair falling past his lip ring and onto a bare, pencil-less desk. He was the type of tall, misfit, lanky guy that got stoned every day and claimed to know every good song that was put on a record. “Music elitists,” my sister would call them. 

This morning while I walked by the record store, I saw him opening up the blinds. He had a black eye. Dark green and purple, swollen, it seemed too colorful to have been an accident. He had to have gotten it from a fight.


BRM said...

Hello JLR,

The first three lines of your query are vivid and clear. However, I get a bit lost when we introduce Peter. He is Peter Pan-esque - is this a PP retelling? And is happiness an actual, physical thing in this world that is moving over rooftops? I wouldn't ask if it weren't for the Peter reference; I'm envisioning Peter Pan dancing over the rooftops of London, but don't know if that is what you are going for.

I am excited for the sibling aspect of the story - sounds very interesting, and such a personal conflict. Family vs. love.



Jennifer Johnson-Blalock said...

Thanks so much for the entry, J.L.R.! I love how you started the query off with strong personalization. This is definitely the sort of book I'm looking for. I agree with BRM that you start strong and then things get a bit confusing in the third paragraph--I was also a bit thrown by Peter Pan, who's known less for being happy than for his refusal to grow up. I also questioned the word choice of "resorted" with social anxiety, which isn't a choice but a condition. As you go on, continue to work to clarify the stakes: Why is Annabelle the only one who knows of the plan? What exactly will happen if it gets carried out? Also think about clarifying the role of God and religion in your work--I'm assuming with your comps, this isn't a religious book, but it seems like a prominent theme. Finally, on the subject of comps, use something more current than THE OUTSIDERS.

Tabitha Bird said...

This sounds like an important story to be told and I was drawn to your premise.

I am wondering also about your choice of the words "resorted" since anxiety or any other mental issue is definitely not a choice. So I think the word choice here probably doesn't convey what you are probably meaning. I'm not quite sure what you meant by, "Her friends have hit an astounding zero." Do you mean they aren't doing well either?

Like I said, this book deals with important issues and I am so glad you had the courage to write it. Well done! And all the very best.

J.L.R said...

Thanks everyone for the lovely comments! Each one tells of a problem in my query I had no idea was there. I'll definitely be doing some revising this weekend. And thank you, Ms. Johnson-Blalock, for taking the time to give detailed feedback on my query! This is a truly valuable critique. And of course, thanks to Ms. Van Dolzer for creating this wonderful competition.

I wish you all the best.