Monday, June 9, 2014

Calling All Critiques #4: Query - The Problem With Hearts

Thank you to everyone who has shared their queries or book blurbs. Hopefully our comments will be useful.

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The Problem With Hearts

by Maggie W
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

The closest thing to a make-out Nadine Harper’s ever had was with her breathing tube. And that wasn’t much of a turn on. Her lack of sex appeal might be due to her chest scar that runs to her belly button, or it could be her stank-face attitude. Either way, she has none, and she wants that to change. Fortunately, she has a guardian angel to help with that. He may be her grandfather, but Pa knows the game of life better than she does. He did die from the same heart condition that’s killing her, after all.

When James Backer makes her G-rated life a little more noteworthy, Nadine will need all the help she can get. His onyx eyes, disheveled hair and leather jacket lure her in, but it’s his heart she ends up vying for. The problem is he’s not so willing to give it to her.

While deciphering his mixed signals and fearing her own last breath, Nadine's turmoil doesn’t help with her already breaking heart. With its failure looming and using the guidance from Pa, she must decide between the pain of putting it back on the line or dying with a life worth leaving behind.

I am a graduate of Purdue University with a Bachelor’s in English Literature. I am also a relative of a hypo-plastic left heart syndrome survivor, like Nadine. In this YA Contemporary Romance, The Problem with Hearts (complete at 64,000 words), I convey the difficulties of a bed ridden heart-warrior refusing to let a disease define her.

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3 comments:

dawnall said...

Not a romance reader except in the YA genre so you got my attention. I like the premise and Nadine sounds fun. I like James and Nadine's descriptions. One thing that seems obvious but because of the character's situation isn't is when you say, "...it’s his heart she ends up vying for. The problem is he’s not so willing to give it to her." My first thought, he's going to die and she'll get his heart. I backed up a step and said, no, that can't be right. So, you might tweak those lines. I know it should be plain but because this girl literally needs a heart...
And I have a question. You don't mention any paranormal elements in your genre but we have a grandad as a guardian angel. I'm just curious if that's more in Nadine's head that he guides her or if the book has paranormal elements. It just made me wonder.

Brian Basham said...

I'm not much of a romance reader myself, but the description here makes the story sound more interesting than a straight romance story. I like the concept, but there are a few sentences that feel like they could be tightened up or need to be reworded. The main one that bothers me is "she must decide between the pain of putting it back on the line or dying with a life worth leaving behind." With the way things are worded elsewhere it sounds like you are saying she has to decide if she wants to pursue the guy or if she wants to pursue the guy. I found it to be a bit confusing.

anneuro said...

Apologies for the lateness of this critique but for some reason it didn't upload. I hope you still find my comments useful.

This query works well to present an excellent premise. I hope to provide some feedback that might make it even better. (Please note that I do not read any other comments before posting mine.)

Strong hook! Leading with “Her breathing tube” would be an even more attention-/throat-grabbing opening. “Kiss” or “French kiss” (or “tongue down her throat”) seems more direct and fitting than “make-out.” I favor introduce Nadine’s diagnosis here rather than tacking it on at the end (although keep your personal reference to it in the last paragraph and just delete the phrase “like Nadine” there). Hypoplastic need not be hyphenated (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a physician.)

Try to capture more of the tone of the narrative and speak to your YA audience. When you introduced James, I initially thought you were referring back to Pa. A signifier, such as “high-school hottie” or another rewording might clarify and avoid this confusion. “[O]nyx eyes, disheveled hair and leather jacket” seem overwrought for a query. It’s enough to know that he’s good-looking. Last names (Nadine’s and James’s) can be omitted. Otherwise, the specific details you provide are a boon to your query. (In the third paragraph, it would help for clarity to specify “James’s,” rather than “his.”)

Tighten sentences wherever possible. The phrases “And fearing her last breath” and “with its failure looming” could be deleted, as you make the stakes for Nadine clear in the next sentence. “[U]sing the guidance from Pa” might be reworded into its own sentence, closing out the paragraph to end on a hopeful note: “Luckily…

Your last sentence could also be streamlined: E.g., “In this YA Contemporary Romance, The Problem with Hearts (complete at 64,000 words), a teenage cardiac patient turns heart-warrior, refusing to let a disease define her.”

Your MS sounds compelling—and topical, so it may be fruitful to include a comp. Your story calls to mind John Green’s bestseller “The Fault in Our Stars.” If this comparison is apt, you may wish to incorporate it, especially given the success of his book and the recently-released movie. Agents will undoubtedly be on the hunt for something like it…Good luck!