03 March 2014

Query Ninja: Skinniness is Next to Goddessness

This is the first in what I'm hoping will be a monthly query critique series. Be sure to check out my Query info page if you want more information about what makes a good (and a great) query, and what you can do to make yours shine. 

Today's first victim volunteer is Julia S. (my comments are in the green)

Lacey Steele believes she would “kill to be thin,” until the expression becomes a tragic reality. Maybe more direct? "Until she almost does..."

Fifteen year-old Lacey is faced with the daily torment of her Mother’s disdain and obvious preference for her sister Charity, aka Mother’s clone, insults that would put any feuding rapper to shame by diva extraordinaire, Jamie, and even her supposed best friend Tucker’s decision to not be seen with her in public, and all for one reason.
This sentence is a bit unwieldy. I had to go back over it to figure out where the parts were. I'd suggest either re-organizing it so you have shorter, choppier sentences, or possibly even cutting it to get to the next part, which grabbed my attention faster with its blunt forthrightness.

Lacey is fat.

But she’s over it. [Is she tired of being fat? Or literally, she was fat but isn't any longer? Maybe make it more clear if the book starts when she's fat or if it starts at the point where she's already lost the weight.] After a lucky bout with the stomach flu, Lacey drops fifteen pounds in a flash and reaches celebrity status at Woodlands High. 
The difference between she's fat and the 15-lb weight loss strikes me as odd. When it says "she's fat," I'm picturing someone who's quite large, but 15 lbs wouldn't make that much difference. Or is it that she *thinks* and *feels* fat?  The other thing you might want to tease out a bit more is what causes the celebrity status? It seems like a big jump (from the first paragraph), and you might need a bit more to show whether the status is because the school is really that shallow or if it's more of her perception.
Armed with such a simple solution, Lacey and her friend Ashley slash calories to the point where the rumblings of their stomachs keep them up at night. But even hunger can’t dissuade them when the numbers on the scale drop so fast.

When the bill for her rash actions comes due, trendy thinness isn’t worth the price extracted from Lacey. Can she overcome the fruits her foolish plan leaves her with, guilt and pain?
"the bill for her rash actions comes due" and "fruits of her foolish plan" seem to skirt the issue. HOW do the actions come due? Does someone die (which is your hook, above)? Does someone get sick? And what are the fruits? The celebrity?
 Is it possible to love herself just the way she is? Skinniness is Next to Goddessness? is a 70,000 word YA contemporary stand alone novel with series potential.

Don't forget a brief bio.

1. Think about overall tone. I love the voice of this, but it didn't strike me in tone as issue-driven book, so it was a bit surprising to get to the dark twist at the end. I'm a big believer that your query has to sound like/feel like your book. This has a great light and almost snarky tone ("she's over it," "fifteen pounds in a flash"), but I'm thinking that's not the book you wrote.

2. You start with a great hook- she'd kill to be thin...you'll want that to come full circle in the query. Does she (almost) kill herself or her friends with her plan? It's implied, but not completely clear.

3. I think the other thing that will help make this query really stand out is if you can find a way to tell us who Lacey is. We know she's fat, and we know she likes the perks of celebrity, but who is she, really? That first paragraph about all she deals with, I think, can be the key to this. She's got to be damn strong to deal with all of that heaped on her, but the overall query gives the impression that she's not strong. You may want to give the sense that she's someone to root for, and even the weight loss starts as something the reader might root for...until it takes a more sinister turn.

4. Maybe consider a one-sentence pitch in here somewhere near the end to wrap it all up: "Skinniness is Next to Goddessness is...."
       -an emotional story about how friendships can survive...
       -a dark comedy about the culture that drives girls to diet to death...
       -a [description] about [theme]

Finally, you might want to try to tie in the title a bit more. It's such a cute title, but why "Goddessness"? When I first read it, I wondered if it would have a mythology twist...but it's clear that it doesn't from your query. Maybe bring that word--Goddess--back in somehow. Is Lacey searching for her inner-Goddess? Does she learn that Goddesses come in all shapes and sizes? 

Hope that helps! Good luck in the Query Trenches and be sure to let us know how it goes!!

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