Query Critique 60

Dear _________________:

Cay Duncan’s parents have dumped her at Brayberton Academy for Troubled Youth to help her “be happy.”  Whether or not she will survive the doctors’ version of happiness, however, has become her greatest fear. This hook sort of hints at some of the dark, really gripping stuff to come. I’d like to see the creepy elements introduced even stronger in the hook, though. I want the feeling that there’s something REALLY wrong at this facility from the beginning.

Instead of spending the end of her summer basking in the glow of hot Norwegian lifeguards, Cay’s parents have enrolled her at Brayberton, where the students are weird and the doctors are weirder. This sentence really only repeats information that we already have. Cay would love to be left alone, to work through her depression and suicide attempt on her own, but Dr. Bleu, the resident psychiatrist, takes pleasure in introducing her to innovative tortures like colorful mystery pills and awkward group therapy sessions.

Right from the start, Cay notices the students behaving strangely.  A quiet alcoholic laughs as she forces rum down her friend’s throat.  A timid boy, terrified of heights, throws himself off a roof, plummeting to his death.  Rather than battling their inner demons, students are embracing them, happily taking their darkest compulsions to the extreme. This is really interesting. Until now, the query sounds a lot like your typical YA that takes place in a mental facility. I’d like to see this darker element mentioned sooner, if at all possible. If you could find a way to work it into your hook, that would be dynamite. Even worse, Dr. Bleu observes the brutal attacks and deranged behavior with interest and, to Cay’s horror, with pride. 

Cay fears she will succumb to the same fate as the others if she doesn’t escape, but with no way to call home and Dr. Bleu watching her every move, it’s impossible to get out.  When the school goes into lockdown and chaos erupts, the life Cay once wanted to end becomes the one thing she must fight to keep.  

I am seeking representation for my 86,000 word young adult suspense novel, Happy.  My first novel, Voices of the Sea, debuted July 22, 2014 through WiDo Publishing.  As a high-school English teacher, I am able to connect with my audience on a daily basis, doing my best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds.  Thank you for your time and consideration. If you’ve haven’t read The Program, you need to. Your book sounds very similar, so it could potentially make a good comp title. Overall, a cool concept though.


R.E. Habilitation


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