Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bouncer Post #177

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 75,000


“Lotto fever” isn’t just a catchphrase. At least not for eighteen-year-old Mallory Van Pelt. It’s a necessity for her—like air for breathing—as her perfect senior year is disintegrating.

Mallory’s father hasn’t had a job in ages, her brother drags a shadow of misery around the house, and the sister she idolizes has taken off without even a good-bye. The only bright spot left in her life is her boyfriend—that is until she catches his lips attached to another girl’s at the end-of-summer party.

After barely surviving a disastrous first day of school, Mallory lands at a mini mart known for selling more winning lottery tickets than any other store for hundreds of miles. Desperate for a touch of hope, she joins the crowd, deciding that the lottery is the ticket to a better life.

Mallory develops lottery fever as her new plan gifts her with dreams of picture-perfect fantasy lives, ones in which new adventures replace the suffering that surrounds her. However, as she waits for a jackpot win, her real life grows more problematic as her family’s struggles worsen and a shocking revelation ends the friendships that shaped so much of her identity. But buried beneath the rubble of her crumbling senior year is a budding relationship with a new friend Adrian Lopez—the tough yet totally hot transfer student with struggles of his own—who helps Mallory see what true luck really is.

First 250:

Every girl needs a good luck charm, though some of us need them a lot more than others. Mine was a shirt, emerald green with rainbow embroidery along the neckline. I was convinced that magic lived in every thread. It was the shirt I was wearing to the summer league baseball game when my boyfriend Ben asked me out for the first time. I'd also worn it the day I found out I’d finally made the varsity cheerleading squad and the day I’d gotten my first ‘A’ on a pre-calculus test.

It was definitely a lucky shirt, which is why I’d planned on wearing it to the party that night. I saw that hint of green hanging in my closet all week long, but when I reached for it on Saturday night, I discovered I’d been duped by my “Dublin Rocks!” t-shirt. Unluckily for me, my good luck charm was in the laundry room, buried under Monday’s dirty sheets.

I was in a near panic when Sara, Taylor and Nicole—my friends since seventh grade—came to pick me up. They stared at me from the doorway of my bedroom as I stood in only my bra surrounded by the aftermath of a cotton-polyester tornado.

“Geez, is there anything left in your closet?” Sara asked as she immediately darted over to the mirror and began combing her fingers through her long blond hair.

“I have to look perfect for Ben tonight. It’s been a month since he’s seen me!”


  1. Hi there! I love the idea of a young girl obsessing over the lottery. I can relate! ;)
    For the query, I would state right away she wants to win for a "ticket to a better life" as you said in para 3 - otherwise not I'm not understanding why the lotto is a part of this story until much later.
    Also love your first sentence in the 250. I would cut "though some of us..." I think the sentence is much stronger without it.
    Good idea and voice. Best of luck. Amy (#168)

  2. I love this concept! So unique and relatable. Love the phrase "cotton-polyester tornado."

    I agree with Spaced about moving playing the lotto earlier in the query to connect the first and third paragraphs.

    Good luck!

  3. Great hook in the query

  4. Love the query hook, but I think the connection from that to the end of the query needs to be more clear. For some reason, the query feels "choppy" to me. I think maybe because the first para is all about Mallory and the second para is about her family.

    First 250 are good. Considering the generally positive tone of the first 250 and negative (as in foreboding, not "bad") tone of the query, I foresee a big roller coaster drop for the reader coming up. I think that's better than starting with a depressed and beaten Malory. Lets us like her before she hates life.

    Good stuff. Good luck!

    -Brad (#178)

  5. Lori A. Goldstein (@_lagold)February 12, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    I really like your first paragraph and the first line of your second. There is something about the wording of the next sentence that made me have to re-read it to see what you meant. It could be as simple as changing to "I saw that hint of green hanging in my closet all week long, but when I reached for my lucky shirt on Saturday night, I discovered I’d been duped. The green fabric in my hand belonged to an impostor--my “Dublin Rocks!” T-shirt." Or something like that.

    The "I stood in only my bra" could be tighter. I stumbled over it. Could drop the "only".

    I think the query could use some amping up in terms of really tightening her motivations and stakes. There seems to be a lot of backstory, at least I think so based on the way it's written. Maybe you could trim that down and focus in on more of the plot?

    Good luck!

  6. Thanks for all the great comments! I actually do have a revised query incorporating all those suggestions. I won a query critique but it came in after I'd already submitted to this contest.

    Thanks again everyone!

  7. Great concept! The main character and her friends will be fun.
    The last line of the query does a good job sealing the story's theme but it could be tightened up. Maybe something like "But buried beneath the rubble of her crumbling senior year is a budding relationship with a tough yet totally hot transfer student who helps Mallory see what true luck really is." #141

  8. Hello! I'd love to see your revised query. My main comment, which you may have already fixed, is that I'm not getting a strong sense of the stakes. I get that bad things are happening, but what are the direct consequences of her lotto fever?

    Otherwise, I think your hook is fantastic, and I love the voice/style/tone of your 250. I generally don't read YA contemporary, but I would read on!

  9. This is really great. Love the premise, love the writing. I agree that the winning lotto ticket hook should be up front and center, but even so, you totally have me hooked! #146

  10. Great idea. Agree with the sentiment of the others. Seems like your query builds to stakes that never quite show up. A little stronger idea of stakes and I think you'd have agents hooked! Nice work, love your opening. Good luck! #162