Here is today's winner of the query critique!
In *"GD", fifteen-year-old Grace thought (“thinks” – Queries are written in present tense.) insomnia was (is) her biggest problem. Until she starts seeing things that can’t possibly be real, like shadow people and an evil doppelganger of her secret crush. (This sentence is a fragment and belongs with the sentence before. To keep it from becoming too long, I suggest putting a period after “real” and then saying “Thinks like shadow people …”) Determined to sleep no matter what the means, Grace accepts a joint from Raf, her close friend—and secret crush. All it takes is one hit for Grace to find herself surrounded by the dead, drowning in their emotions as they suck the life from her. One of the strange things about trying to summarize our manuscripts in a query is that we know what we’re talking about when we references things, and sometimes we don’t realize the reader hasn’t followed along. :) You’ve told us her biggest problem was insomnia UNTIL she starts seeing things. But you follow that with her taking a hit off a joint because she’s determined to get some sleep. It feels off because we’re totally with you on the whole “Grace needs to solve the problem of seeing things that can’t be real!” Also, the other questions that come up for the reader: 1. How does she know she is seeing an evil doppelganger instead of her friend? The doppelganger option isn’t one most people would immediately reach for. 2. Why would smoking a joint bring out the dead? Does it knock her defenses down? We don’t realize she has any in the first place. You can fix all of this with just a little bit of editing. :)
Grace is rescued a little too conveniently by the Grim freaking Reaper. (Why is it convenient? And how bad is her situation right before the Reaper arrives? Really show us she’s desperate and NEEDS rescue. All you need is something like “As the dead souls surrounding Grace slowly consumer her, she __insert emotion or action or need__.” And then follow it w/the Reaper’s arrival.) He whisks her away to a powerful Underworld demon whose plans include using Grace to transport souls. (Why would the demon need Grace to transport souls? Is she specifically qualified for this?) But becoming Death Jr. was never in Grace’s life plan. (lol) She may have been tricked into donning Death’s hoodie, (She was? I think we might need that info earlier.) but that doesn’t mean she has to use it—even if it does have a way of appearing to her at the most inconvenient times. While using the hoodie may promise unimaginable power and a restful night’s sleep, the escape comes at the cost of an innocent soul. Grace wants nothing to do with taking people’s lives—even if it means losing her own. How would she lose her own if she doesn’t use the hoodie? This explanation can be given at the same time you show us when/how she got tricked into taking the hoodie. If this paragraph feels too long once you add in those details, you can break it off before the “But become Death Jr.” sentence.
Overwhelmed, Grace turns to her friends, but her BFF doesn’t believe her and Raf knows more than he’s admitting. Soon Grace can no longer put off using the hood (hoodie) and stealing a soul. You want to end your query with a nice, punchy line that delivers the stakes and makes us wonder if she’ll succeed and what will happen to her if she fails. Something like “If Grace can’t force Raf to come clean and help her turn the tables on the Underworld demon currently ruining her life, she’ll be forced to steal a soul and become a Reaper forever.” Or whatever is actually true for your book.
"GD" is a young adult paranormal novel complete at 70,000 words. My previous manuscript (*redacted*) won the 2010 Sourcebooks Fire YALitChat writing contest. I am also an active member of YALitChat.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my novel. Great job! You’re just a few tweaks away from having a polished query ready to send. Best of luck to you!
Kindle and Nook.