Query Critique 6

Comments are pink again, but I think it’s a different pink than I used last time. More Pepto Bismoly.


Dear Ms. Nelson,

Seventeen-year-old Jennifer Clark is sure of two things: 1) She’s in love with Kyle Hinkley—despite years of resisting the whole “falling for the nerd-next-door” thing—and 2) Kyle Hinkley is also in love—just not with her. This sounds a LOT like the back cover blurb for Twilight. But I like the way number 2 is phrased. I’m not sure how I feel about the em-dashes.

Kyle’s been infatuated with none other than Lexi Reese—head cheerleader extraordinaire—for the past year I feel like in books and movies I see a lot of this nerdy boy falling for the popular cheerleader he has nothing in common with (Big Bang Theory, anyone?) And I see it very little in real life. Which isn’t to say it can’t be done (I like Big Bang Theory.). He seeks to enlist Jen’s help in his scheme to win Lexi’s affection. If Jen pretends to date him, it will pull Kyle out of the “Undateable” category—a mythical group all nice guys get pushed into. The fact that you refer to the group as mythical suggests the main character doesn’t really believe in it. Maybe add a hint more of her feelings about this plan. Considering she’s not seeing anyone else, Jen can’t exactly say no. I feel like she could say no if she really wanted to. To me it seems more likely that she likes Kyle so the idea of even fake dating him is sort of appealing. So, she tells Kyle he has until New Year’s Eve to get Lexi to fall for him or they’re calling it quits.

However, as New Year’s ticks closer, Jen worries Kyle’s plan might actually be working. After deciding that she can’t just stand by and watch Kyle be taken away from her, Jen goes on the offensive. She divulges all the details of her and Kyle’s fake relationship to Josh Pierce You give the first and last names of all four characters introduced in the query, which seems a little strange to me. I understand with the main character and even Kyle a little, but can’t the others just be Josh and Lexi in the query?, the new guy she’s befriended. Coming up with an idea of his own, Josh offers to help beat Kyle at his own game. Using Josh’s plan Maybe a really short explanation of this plan? Josh is planning to pretend to date Jen?, Jen will either convince Kyle that she’s the one, or risk losing him—the one person she could never live without—forever. This is one of those things that falls into the category of not necessarily bad, but something I see all the time. It’s important to establish the stakes of the conflict, but I see a lot of queries that end with this sort of  “and if they fail, they will lose everything” ending. Also, I’d find it more compelling if I had a better understanding of WHY she couldn’t live without him. Sure she likes him, but I feel like it should be more than that.  No pressure or anything.

[UN]DATEABLE I love this title. is a YA contemporary novel that tackles real-life teen issues, When you say YA contemporary, I assume that it involves tackling real-life teen issues. That’s what YA contemporary is, so it seems a little redundant to add this bit. focusing not only on love, but on budding friendships and coping with loss. It is complete at 88,000 words and would appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen’s JUST LISTEN and Jennifer Echols’ THE BOYS NEXT DOORPut the comparative titles in italics. Thanks for your time and consideration!

Best wishes,



One of the nice things about pitching contemporary is that there isn’t a lot of need to establish a setting. It is a little more difficult in some ways to make more or less ordinary people seem exciting without being over the top dramatic. I recommend reading the back cover blurbs from books by authors like Sarah Dessen or Rainbow Rowell to get an idea of how to find this balance.

On the bright side, YA contemporary is HOT right now. Thank you, John Green.


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