Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #47

Genre: YA Contemporary with a twist
Word Count: 60k


Sixteen-year-old Stevie Ryan has her hopes set on making the U.S. Winter Olympic snowboarding team. When her Achilles tendon tears during a competition, her dreams are crushed. Now she’s stuck spending the summer in a leg brace in Chicago. Frustrated and away from her life and friends, Stevie learns to make do in the neighborhood and stumbles onto a vintage cinema called The Desiree.

There she meets the owner’s eccentric (which is a euphemism for agoraphobic insomniac) grandson, Knox Trotter, and he’s way different than the local boys back home. Knox’s oddities are what allure her—with his quirky film lines and love of vintage fashion. Besides running the theatre himself one day, Knox wants one thing: to learn the truth of what happened in the theatre on the night he was born, when his parents disappeared. The answers seem to be tied to the theatre, but The Desiree is barely hanging on financially. If it closes down, Knox may never achieve his goal. If there’s one thing Stevie understands, it’s the pain of unreached goals. The closer she gets to Knox, the more his mission becomes her own, but they have to hurry, before The Desiree shuts its doors forever. If that happens, not only will Stevie lose the guy she’s falling for,  but the secrets the theatre holds will remain a mystery forever—secrets that will have Stevie questioning everything she ever understood about the universe.

In the vein of K-Pax meets Benny and Joon, The Desiree is a romantic tale with a sci-fi twist. I’m a member of SCBWI and The full manuscript is available at your request.  

First 250:

Straddled behind the driver, Stevie Ryan gripped the snowmobile’s side handles as they cruised up the mountainside, her face turned toward the morning sun. Fresh powder from last night’s snowfall shimmered on the surrounding peaks. The sky was cloudless. Conditions were crucial, and so far, everything about today was ideal. Stevie shifted in her seat, antsy with adrenaline, ready to carve the snow-packed surface of the half-pipe and claim another title. Closing her eyes, she inhaled evergreen air so deeply that her nostrils tingled. Find your place, Find your Zen. She refocused on the horizon and tucked her earbuds under her snowcap, cranking her favorite Coldplay song until the music swelled in her ears. God, I love it here.

As the half-pipe came into view, the taut muscles in Stevie’s legs flexed. Today would make it all worth it—all the sweets she’d given up, and partying with friends; all those weekends she’d risen at daybreak, while every other sixteen year old in America was sleeping in. Her hard work was about to pay off. If the mountains and snow were her church, then snowboarding to her tunes was her religion. Her mom said it was because Inuit blood coursed through Stevie’s veins, and with it, a great respect for the snow. That, mixed with her dad’s sheer Irish stubbornness, gave her a competitor’s advantage, or so her parents liked to boast.


  1. I love the MC! I want to see how she handles losing her life long dream. Great back story on her in the query. Only question I have is why does she have to go to Chicago? For rehab? It didn't sound like that's where she's from since she won't be around her friends. Not a big deal, just curious.

    I am assuming this is a format issue, but I got a little confused at the change in POV with "God I love it here." But maybe that's in italics and more obvious that there is not a change in POV at all.

    I like the start. I felt right there with Stevie, excited about getting on the snow. You do a great job of showing who she is without a lot of back story. Bravo.

    I really like Stevie and would definitely read on. I am also intrigued by Knox and can't wait to meet him. Good luck!

  2. Some nice tension here and I think the voice is good. From the query I was definitely thinking contemporary, romance-ish plot so the sci-fi twist threw me slightly (even though I knew it was coming). I was also a little confused with the POV so maybe rework that bit. Overall though good job!

  3. I like this a lot! The Benny and Joon comparison made it even more interesting - I'm dying to see the interaction between the love interest and the MC. Agree with the POV switch - can easily be fixed by placing the line in italics. Otherwise I think this is really strong, and I'm intrigued by the sci-fi twist. I'd read on!

  4. So usually I hate reading queries--mostly because they're not my forte so I find them difficult to critique--but yours was really well-written! You conveyed the story well without throwing in unnecessary details, and the concept sounds really awesome. I agree with the others--I really like the MC and I can't wait to meet Knox! And I was thinking this before I even got to the first 250, so you did well with your characterization :).

    I think you chose well with the start of your story, and I'm interested to see where the sci-fi twist will come in. Good luck with this!

  5. Fun voice! very well-written! My only thing about this is the query- I want you to show where the scifi comes in! Hook us with that, because the Desiree sounds like such an awesome, awesome setting, and throwing scifi in could just make it that much better!

  6. I really liked this a lot!! I'm curious to know what the sci-fi twist is and, as much as I instantly liked Stevie's character, I'm even more intrigued by Knox. (cool names, btw) I have no "critique" to give because I thought you did everything spot on. Good luck with this!!

    Mine is 29 if you want to check it out. I hope you do well in the contest (I really think you will!)

  7. I thought this was great - descriptive and concise at the same time! My only advice would be to change this line in your query to: "There she meets the owner’s eccentric (read: agoraphobic insomniac) grandson..."
    It's still funny without having to spell out that it's a euphemism to your reader. Good luck!

  8. I am sneaking in to comment on an entry that isn't "mine", but hope I won't be shot for trespassing.

    If there’s one thing Stevie understands, it’s the pain of unreached goals.

    I really enjoyed this entire query. It - and this line in partiuclar - does a fabulous job of conveying character and motivation. From a few paragraphs, I feel like I understand Stevie and what makes her tick.

    My only nit to pick is with your comp titles; I'd drop them. Comps can work against you if your reader isn't familiar with them (or doesn't like them). I think yours are a bit on the obscure end, at least for me.