Monday, January 28, 2013

Bouncer Post #76

Genre: YA contemporary
Word Count: 58,000


Seventeen-year-old military brat Jamie Barth relies on her “powers of invisibility” to help her pass through life unnoticed. She’s counting down the days until she can have real friends and the normal life she longs for, unburdened by constant Air Force relocations. However, a move back to her mom’s hometown threatens Jamie’s anonymity and shakes her vision of her future.

In Blue Lake, Maryland, school weirdo Mouse Parker notices Jamie despite her attempts at protective camouflage. Mouse sets to work eroding her defenses, and eventually recruits her to his garage band. First, Jamie finds passion in the form of drumming—a talent she never knew she had. Then, Mouse’s ex-sort-of-girlfriend joins the band and Jamie discovers a whole other kind of passion with Rachel.

Despite her intent to keep life on hold until after graduation, Jamie finds herself falling in love, betraying her first true friend in the process, and becoming visible to an increasing number of people. Over a whirlwind summer of love, loss, and music, Jamie must stand up for herself, figure out whom to trust, and learn how to be a friend.

First 250:

According to Lisa, all I had to do in order to fly under the radar in Blue Lake was: a) shut up, b) play nice, and c) avoid the school weirdo. In other words, nothing I hadn’t already done in five other states. I figured it would be easy to maintain social invisibility for the mere twenty months I planned to be here. But I never expected anything like Mouse Parker.

I’d only been at Blue Lake High about a week when he slid into the seat next to me in Government. Hardly any of the classes here had assigned seating, but everyone returned to the same place each day anyway. Everyone except Mouse. “What are you listening to?” he asked, as we were all getting settled.

I stopped copying down the homework assignment, sighed, and gave him what I hoped was a patient-but-uninterested glance. That particular day, some of his shoulder-length dreads were freshly dyed green. I kind of wondered what his look was about, but not enough to have a conversation with him. “Uh, nothing? We’re not allowed, in class.” I thought about my iPod, imprisoned in my locker till lunch.

“Duh,” he gave a goofy smile and rolled his eyes at me. “But there’s something playing in there,” he tapped his finger on the side of his head. “I can tell.”

“How?” I was mortified. Had I been humming out loud or something embarrassingly visible like that?


  1. Oh, this is excellent! Love the query. Love the subject.

    The only nit-pick I have is the dialog embedded deep in the third paragraph. You probably need to break up the structure so it stands out more.

    Other than that nothing. Seriously love this.

    1. Thanks for breaking the 'cone of silence' w/ enthusiasm *and* constructive crit. Best kind of comment!

  2. Great query. The first 250 hooked me with the voice. Excellent. I also like the way you managed to characterize the MC and the other kid.


  3. I think your query is great. The quotes around “powers of invisibility” are smart, because there’s so much YA paranormal out there that you could create serious confusion if you weren’t clear that these are figurative powers. I also like the way you line things up in the second paragraph: Mouse is a good friend who introduces Jamie to good things, so when it comes to Mouse's ex-girlfriend, Jamie has a huge conflict of interest. The third paragraph ties neatly back into the first.

    I think Ellie has a good point about the buried dialogue. It’s not as hard a fix as it looks, I think. There’s really no reason you can’t directly quote Lisa speaking in that first paragraph instead of paraphrasing, is there?

    Best of luck to you! I’ve seen this sort of book on a lot of agent wish lists...

  4. Ahhh!! I had a detailed comment prepared and then something happened and it disappeared! Aww...that's the worst. I hope that I can remember it all!

    First up: your query.
    I'm left with a whole lot of questions. I don't understand why Jamie, in her senior year, wouldn't want to make friends. The army brats I know are some of the most social people I've ever met, specifically because they've had to start fresh circles so often. Why is she waiting to start her life after graduation? You say that she's in this town for 20 months, and a school year is eight, so what is she planning on doing after graduation that she can't start now?

    Love the same-sex relationship. Awesome.

    Also awesome: your opening paragraph. FULL of voice!

    There's a minor tense problem in your second paragraph with the use of "here." Because it's past tense, I'm not sure that works.

    And, like Ellie and Sallie, I think that dialogue in the third paragraph could be made more obvious.

    Good luck!!

    Jennie (post #74)

  5. You really nailed the high school thing so well! I was the one who wanted to be invisible and just blend in, get by, and get done...I think your book is going to have a huge relatable factor. I love contemporary books in general, and this one sounds great. I don't have anything new to add as far as the critique go, but I wanted to pass on and say that your voice really grabbed me and I adore this. Kudos! Oh and about the query, I think it works fine, it got my attention, but of course, tweak it how you see fit.

    Virginia, #91

  6. Hey Greyson,

    I think you've got an excellent story here. I know YA contemporary is sought after hard, so you've definitely got something here.

    The opening paragraph confused me in your query. You say Jamie is counting down until the day where she can make friends, but she's upset when her mom moves her to a town where she can finally make friends. The two sentences seem to contradict one another.

    One other thing about the query, and I realize this might sound totally idiotic if I'm the only one who just didn't get it, but does Jamie discover she's a lesbian? If not, the reason I point this out is that last line in the second paragraph, "Jamie discovers a whole other kind of passion with Rachel" and the next sentence in the query "Jamie finds herself falling in love"; they're so close together that my mind can't help but make the connection. If she is not a lesbian, I really think this needs to be rewritten because that was my impression (unless everyone else disagrees with me of course). If, on the other hand, Jamie does discover she's a lesbian, then I think this should be made more obvious. If I was an agent and I did not represent GLBT-themed stories, I would want to know this upfront. And I'm sure the same is true for agents that do represent GLBT stories.

    As for the first 250, I like Jamie's tone, but I feel like we're dropped a little too suddenly into the story. I realize most people say you should start right when the action begins, but (assuming you pick the book up without ever reading the query) I don't have a good grip on Jamie before Mouse, who appears to be a wonderfully fun and energetic character, bounces in and now, as a reader, I'm trying to figure Mouse out before I really know Jamie.

    Hope this helps,

    Rhen #75

    1. See, Rhen, what I took from the query is that she didn't want to risk making friends if she was just going to move away, so she was going to grow up, choose a place, STAY there, and then make friends.

  7. Thanks for all the feedback! I really appreciate the support & critique.

    I'm hearing loud & clear that I should make the buried dialogue visually pop out more.

    I promise that you'll know that this is February (of the m/c's junior year) before you hit 500 words, but that detail didn't make the 250 cut.

    I'd love more thoughts about tense. I mentally have the narrator narrating from the following fall (when the book ends), in which case the narration is mostly past tense but she's still in the same location, family, etc. I could revise this perspective, though, if it reads wonky. (I've already switched tense around once, in an earlier revision...)

  8. Hi Greyson -
    Now I have to try to give feedback as great as you gave me. :)

    To begin, I love Mouse. I would absolutely want to hang in his garage. I can see the t-shirts already, "I'm in Mouse's Garage Band." I want one! A few thoughts on your excerpt. The 250 are great, strong voice, great dialogue (yes, separate it out), I how she worries about doing something visible. Who is Lisa? Freshly dyed should be hyphenated. I think this is a great intro to these two characters. Well done!

    One thought on this sentence, "In other words, nothing I hadn’t already done in five other states." Double negatives always get me. Could rephrasing it as this work? "In other words, exactly what I'd done in five other states."

    As for tense, I'm partial to past and I think past works well for your story.


    The first time I read through, I was still thrown by the phrase "powers of invisibility." I was initially confused and wondered if she really did have powers. I absolutely understand what you mean now, but it did give me pause. Perhaps something like, "Seventeen-year-old military brat Jamie Barth wishes invisibility cloaks existed to help her pass through life unnoticed, but she's learned a few tricks to staying unnoticed. She’s counting down the days until she can settle down in college, unburdened by constant Air Force relocations. However, a move back to her mom’s hometown challenges Jamie’s anonymity and shakes her vision of her future." (I added a few other tweaks - keep what you like).

    "protective camouflage" is a little redundant. Just camouflage would do.

    Have I mentioned I love Mouse?

    Can you say "falling in love with Rachel," to avoid confusion. I think another commenter mentioned this, but does Jamie know she is a lesbian before meeting Rachel? Is it even relevant since she doesn't allow herself to get close to people. I'm getting a small sense that her preference for girls comes as a bit of a surprise for her. Not sure if any of that needs to be addressed more directly in the query, I was just curious.
    Sounds like a great story.

    Good luck!
    Amy #73

  9. A rocker story is always fun. This one stands out from other stories like it because of the same sex love interest and the military family. You're in!

  10. Oh, thank you for even more feedback. This has been great open workshop environment.

    Rhen, I appreciate your perspective that the queer content was confusing. I certainly wouldn't send such a query to an agent who clearly didn't want LGBT content. That said, this book is about friendship and risk-taking, not about coming out persay. I don't want to spill too many plot details here, but your questions -- and this includes Amy's useful thoughts as well -- are helpful for me to kick around in my brain.

    I'm tickled to get to go on to the next round, especially in the face of some stiff competition, so thank you too, Bouncer Downton.