Jun 1, 2018

QK Round 1: Swimming with the Amoebas VS I Kidnapped the Prom Queen

Entry Nickname: Swimming with the Amoebas
Word Count: 62,000
Genre: YA Horror


Sixteen-year-old Maxine Spielman has no boobs, a fact which may ultimately save her life.

On the first night of summer, wearing a borrowed sundress and bra stuffed with toilet paper, Maxine and her friends break into Splash, the new water park scheduled to open in just two days. After some inept groping, Maxine retreats to the locker room while the others enjoy the water. When Maxine discovers someone else in the room, she can tell that something's not right based on the way he sits, the awkward tilt of his head, and how he doesn't respond when she turns on the lights. Something drips in the otherwise silent room, but it isn't water.

The next day, her friends are dead, killed by something that lives in the water. With nowhere left to turn, Maxine confides in her cute neighbor. But as the death toll increases, Maxine's suspicions grow more outlandish, causing him to dismiss her warnings and agree to take his litter sister to opening day.

To save her town and the boy she's fallen for, Maxine must shut down Splash. And she only has twenty-four hours to do it.

First 250

Whoever came up with the high school end of year survey should be shot. Buried. Dug up and shot again. I mean, you make it through the whole year without suffering any permanent damage to your social standing and WHAM, out comes this survey so you know exactly where you rank at the start of summer. To make matters worse, it has the exact same question about me as last year.

Will Maxine Spielman get boobs this summer?

I pretend to stretch so I can watch the ruffles puff out on my cami. It's the fancy one with the extra ruffles right where it counts. But they don't move much despite my best efforts. Defeated, I lean back on my stool to minimize any skin contact with the gross black surface of the lab bench and turn my attention to Mr. Johnson.

Who needs boobs anyway?

"Come on folks," Mr. Johnson says and raises his arms for quiet. Two large pit stains in the shape of crescent moons darken his shirt. "I know it's the end of the year, but we can't get through sophomore biology without at least one class on the higher vertebrates. Now Aiden, give me one of the defining characteristics of mammals. What produced the milk you had on your cereal this morning?"

"A cow?"

"Yes, Aiden, very funny. But what specifically do cows have that, say, a salamander does not?"

"A mammary gland," he groans.

"That's right! Mammals have mammary glands."



Title: The Takedown
Entry Nickname: I Kidnapped the Prom Queen 4 Spring Break
Word Count: 77,000
Genre: YA Thriller (Ownvoices)


Seventeen-year-old Rylee Gilmore is looking forward to spending spring break lounging lakeside with her best friend, Danni. But Rylee’s plans for a drama free week with her BFF are shot when Danni breaks the news she’s bringing along her current hook up, Jared Anthony—who just so happens to be the boyfriend of reigning Oakdale High mean girl, Sophie Ferguson. Even worse, he’s bringing his cousin, Drake, and any guy who shares DNA with Jared can’t be good.

But a chance meeting with Drake forty-eight hours before their planned trip changes Rylee’s mind, and now she can’t stop thinking about him. Except, Sophie changed her spring break plans, deciding instead to spend a romantic week alone with Jared instead of a Cancun vacay with her girls. Without Jared, Rylee knows her chances of getting to know Drake better could be ruined. Unless she and Danni stop spoiled Sophie from getting her way and plan the ultimate takedown.

Now Sophie is missing and no one has a clue what happened to her. But what started as a stupid prank has become dangerously real, and this takedown could have deadly consequences.

THE TAKEDOWN is best described as MEAN GIRLS meets JAWBREAKER.

First 250:

There are two kinds of seniors who ride the bus during their final year of high school: the poor kids and the losers. My best friend, Danni, and I were both. If you were lucky, at least one friend in your squad had a car, but since Danni was my only friend, we were pretty much limited to public transportation.

“Hey, beyotch,” she said as she made her way down the bus aisle.

“You’re seriously wearing a turtleneck today?” I said. “That’s the second time this week.”

Danni glanced down at herself as if she’d forgotten what she was wearing and shrugged. “So?”

“So…it’s like a thousand degrees outside. Aren’t you worried about having a heat stroke in that thing?” I fanned myself with a folder and pushed the damp hair off my forehead. Eighty degrees already and it was just morning. Another Forrest Hills, Texas scorcher. The armpits of my shirt were completely soaked, and I had to sit on my bookbag to keep the back of my thighs from sticking to the vinyl seat. Times like this made me wish more than ever for my own car with the AC on full blast.

“For your information, I’m not hot at all and I happen to like what I’m wearing,” she said.

“If you say so.” I decided not to mention the tiny beads of sweat dotting her hairline. At least the turtleneck covered Danni’s three day old hickey, courtesy of her latest boy-toy, Jared.


  1. Judges, please respond with your feedback and vote here! Good luck!

    1. Wow, you guys! I'm really loving these!


      Holy heck! I almost spit out my diet coke reading that first line of your query. This is a small thing, but if the neighbor is a main character, I think you should name him in the query. Generally speaking, two to three named characters are totally fine. I'm a tad unclear about the person dripping something that's not water and how that fits in, but otherwise, you nailed it.

      The 250 is awesome, too. My only suggestion for taking it to the next level is to add more of her physical reaction to the situation. I.e. more showing than telling. What does it physically feel like to cringe etc.


      Nice premise! As I stated above, try to keep named characters to a minimum in the query. In fact, I don't think you need all five of them in it, just focus on the central conflict, which is a fun weekend turns to hell when Rylee is forced to look for the prom queen etc. What will happen if she doesn't find her? What are the stakes? What else does Rylee want and need?


      Great first line! I think you nailed the YA/teen voice, and I get the immediate tension of Rylee and Danni being outsiders with secrets. Great start!

      This is another tough one, but I think I have to go with the entry that's a little more polished. VICTORY TO SPLASH

    2. Comments for Splash:

      Good things first: your first 250 is gold. The voice is pitch-perfect, the prose flows cleanly throughout, and you've got a terrific setup. I wouldn't change a word of this.

      The query, on the other hand, could use a bit of work. The first line is a great start, though I'd probably replace the comma after "boobs" with an em-dash. Things start to go a bit awry with the last sentence of the second paragraph. That's a really long, roundabout way of saying there's a dead guy in the locker room. Things get more difficult to follow after that. I'm having a hard time seeing why the whole town wouldn't be going absolutely nuts over a bunch of dead kids. I think you need to give some brief explanation as to why Maxine is the only one who seems to realize that something is wrong. Based on your first 250, I'm guessing this whole novel has a bit of tongue-in-cheek to it. If so, you need to bring that out more clearly in the query.

      Comments for Takedown:

      Similar to Splash, I think the first 250 here are pretty solid. You do a nice job of setting up the characters and their social situation, and the voice comes through as authentic. The query, though, is fairly confusing. You throw out a lot of names in a short space, and I had to go back and re-read the first paragraph a couple of times to get them all straight. It's also not clear to me exactly what the plot is. Did Rylee and Danni actually kidnap Sophie just so Rylee could spend time with Drake? Or did she go missing coincidentally? I have no idea, and I need to know, because those are two very different books.

      There are also a few minor polishing issues--"instead" is repeated in the second sentence of the second paragraph, and the last sentence of the second paragraph is a fragment. Those are easy fixes, obviously.

      Bottom line here is that the first 250 for both contestants are great, but Splash has a much cleaner query at this point.

      Victory to Splash.

    3. Discount Wonder WomanJune 2, 2018 at 7:43 AM

      As I was reading this one, I was on the edge of my seat. The first 250 are amazing. The query is good, but could use some polishing, especially in the second paragraph. There's a lot of repetition of words, such as "room" and "water". Just say she finds a dead body!

      And here: "Maxine's suspicions grow more outlandish, causing him to dismiss her warnings and agree to take his litter sister to opening day." -- I'd take the "agree" out. It makes it seem like Maxine agrees with him that he should take his sister, when in fact, she's trying to shut down the park.

      This reminds me a lot of Most Popular Girls in School, and the comps are AMAZING. The query did confuse me with all the names. I got Sophie and Danni mixed up on my first read, so my suggestion is to streamline. We don't need all those names--stick to three, at most. Other than that, your 250 are great.

      Ultimately, however, TAKEDOWN's query confused me, so VICTORY TO SPLASH!!

    4. I love how both of these have sweat-stained armpits. ;)

      Swimming with the Amoebas

      That is a very bold opening! Though I see how the thought carries through in the next paragraph, the bit about groping makes it sound like Maxine is the one groping…? And what is Maxine’s reaction to the locker room creep. Is she afraid, does she run away, etc.? In the second paragraph, definitely name the neighbor, but I’m curious why she has no one else to turn to (especially if it adds to her character).

      Overall I would shift the amount of detail from the first paragraph to the last to make it more balanced. We probably don’t need so much about the set up (sneak into waterpark, meets someone creepy, friends die), but I’d like to know a little more about how she figures out what’s going on and how she plans to shut it down.

      I’d also like to see more on her character arc, how she’s going to change over the story. Starting with the focus on her lack of boobs makes me think this is going to be a story about her growing in self-confidence/her own skin, but your query ends with just external plot. Is there an inner problem that’s holding Maxine back?

      So much voice! This is hilarious, and you made me LOL when it circled back to mammary glands. A+ ;)

      I Kidnapped the Prom Queen 4 Spring Break

      You set up the complicated relationship dynamics very nicely in the first paragraph, though I’d cut the last names. (Sidebar: Rylee Gilmore might be too similar to Rory Gilmore?) I think the second paragraph could be simplified a bit to give you room to expand on the last. Perhaps something like, “[first line] … Rylee and Danni plan the ultimate takedown to get spoiled Sophie out of the way so they can enjoy spring break with the boys. But when Sophie goes missing…” because I’d like to know more about what happens next and what Rylee must do. Are they trying to save her from someone, is she under suspicion, or is the boyfriend? Great comps!!

      Great details that convey how hot it is, like sitting on the book bag. I like how you easily establish the girls’ relationship and social status, but I don’t feel any tension or sense where it’s going at the moment beyond Rylee’s (possible) disapproval of Jared. (Random thought––have you considered writing in present tense? I usually prefer past, but for a thriller, I wonder if it would make it feel more urgent as the story progresses.)

      Ugh, this one was really hard because I would enjoy reading both of them! I’m going to say…


    5. Earthbound MisfitJune 2, 2018 at 2:42 PM


      Query: Amazing first sentence! It immediately cracked me up and made me want to learn more. Overall I'm really intrigued by the story, and think it has a really fun premise with the potential for lots of humor and hijinks. I do think you can make a few minor improvements here and there, though. In particular, I think your final paragraph could go into a little more detail on how Maxine might plan to shut down Splash in just 24 hours—e.g. is it her lack of boobage that's going to be the key somehow? Also, in the second paragraph, I think "litter sister" is supposed to be "little sister"…

      1st 250: Great job on the sense of mortification (felt by all!) when the biology teacher asks about mammary glands. I actually think the first 250 might have more impact if this were the opening moment rather than the end-of-year survey, which confused me. I immediately had all kinds of questions about the survey (which is not a custom familiar to me) and that pulled me out of the story: is this survey a quasi-official tradition? Is it under the radar like a slam book? Does the teacher know about it? Has it just been circulated and the class is looking at it right now? Etc. My opinion is that you could start with the teacher talking, then Maxine reacting and thinking about her boobs, and THEN the survey could be introduced with a bit more room to explain.

      Prom Queen:

      Query: Definitely an exciting thriller premise here, with a lot of potential for trouble for the main character! I did find myself a little confused about who was who, though, in the first couple of paragraphs, and had to go back and re-read to remind myself who Sophie was and keep everyone straight. For me, the confusion happens at the moment of the switch back to Sophie and Jared (2nd sentence of 2nd paragraph), after we've been introduced to the Rylee and Drake situation.

      This might be more of a personal preference, but I don't know if the comps in the final line are necessary. Instead, I'd suggest adding a few more distinctive details in the third paragraph to really suck the reader in—perhaps hinting a bit more at the "deadly consequences"!

      1st 250: Smoothly written, with some great sensory details to set the scene of summer in Texas. I don't have a strong sense of the narrator yet, though, in part because some of the information provided here raises questions for me. She and Danni are described in reference to some classic teen-stereotype labels—poor, losers, etc.—and yet they are still on the cheer squad, which makes me wonder how they got there (and stayed there) in a school where social status is so clearly a factor. Presumably this gets explained, but there might be a different and more effective way to begin the story. I think a lot of people might be tripped up by the seeming incongruity of having characters who are losers and cheerleaders at the same time.

      Two intriguing premises, two good YA hooks, but ultimately…

      Victory to Amoebas!

    6. I LOVE YA Horror and am so thrilled to see it so well represented here. This is going to be a tough situation!

      Swimming with the Amoebas
      I basically loved so much about this. I loved the first sentence of the query and am totally here for this whole plot. As a former waterpark employee, I am here to say SHUT SPLASH DOWN. I think it's a really cool twist that the fact that Maxine stuffs her bra is what saves her life. For me, the query was extremely strong and I personally wouldn't make many changes. On the 250, I think the writing is excellent. I'm a little on the fence as to whether or not I can totally buy that first paragraph. If this is a contemporary book, I'm struggling to understand if a school would let a survey like that go out. I think it's one thing to have a character be insecure about her own body, but another to make it a point of public speculation. Like there's a basic difference between a girl who wants boobs and someone being told to want boobs. And my biggest concern is that I think what you have is good and that could be a potential turn off.

      I Kidnapped The Prom Queen
      I'm really intrigued by this but I kind of wonder of the query isn't doing the best job in telling me what this story is about. Like a couple others have mentioned, there are a lot of named characters here, and it's almost reading like a description of what I assume is the book's inciting incident rather than a description of the story. Based on what's going on here, I'd assume that the major elements are that Rylee and Danni plan a takedown prank for mean girl, Sophie. She goes missing and then a thrilling sequence of events happen. The bottom line for me is that if this is a thriller, we need to know what the thrilling action is going to consist of whereas what we have right now is a lot more about the characters and their love interests. I really liked the first 250 and thought they did a great job of introducing us to the characters and this world.

      Tough decision, but victory to Swimming with the Amoebas!

    7. Mrs. Will HerondaleJune 4, 2018 at 1:51 PM

      Swimming With the Amoebas

      Query: I love the first line so much! Honestly, this query is awesome as is, but a little more info would take care of some things that weren’t clear and give the reader a little more grounding.

      A few questions I had when reading: Who does the inept groping? I know you mean she was groped, but the sentence could actually read that she did the inept groping. Maybe change “retreats” to “escapes” or “hides”? Likewise, “something that lives in the water” is unclear. Since this is horror, is it a monster that kills them or bacteria? I know it’s bacteria, or I’m assuming it is because of your nickname entry, but if I read that on the book jacket it wouldn’t be clear. And why does she have nowhere to turn but her neighbor? Do the authorities not believe her? Can she not admit that they broke in because she’d be in trouble? Also, how does the death toll increase? I thought all the friends were dead by the next day and the water park hasn’t opened yet?

      I love the last few lines and overall, this query is killer! Pun intended. But if you could flesh it out with a few more clarifying details, it would be perfect.

      First 250: Voice right up front. Well done. I don’t have any criticism for the writing—it’s stellar. The only thing that came to mind while reading is the high school end of year survey. At my high school, that was an official survey where people voted on titles that appeared in the year book—best hair, most likely to succeed, etc. I’m assuming, considering the question about Maxine’s boobs which is so cringe-worthy, that this is a mean students-only thing. You could clarify that right off the bat, but again, that’s just a nit-picky detail. Also, is this a small town? If it’s a big suburban high school, her lack of boobs would not stand out in a crowd of 3-4k. But honestly, I don’t really care if that’s accurate because I’d read it anyway!

      I Kidnapped the Prom Queen 4 Spring Break

      Query: First thought: Rylee Gilmore is too close to Rory Gilmore. Just an opinion!

      This sounds like a fun premise, but the query was a little hard to follow. There were a lot of names and it was hard to keep straight who’s coming, now who’s not coming, and who’s dating who, etc. I’m wondering if there’s a way to get to the premise of kidnapping Sophie a little quicker, and then give us more info on what happens from that point on, as the rest is mostly set-up. Actually, now that I’m re-reading it, I’m realizing that the query doesn’t actually say they kidnapped Sophie, I just got that from your entry nickname.

      Could you start the query like—“Reigning Oakdale High mean girl Sophie Ferguson always gets her way, and all the boys, until Rylee Gilmore and her best friend Danni decide to do something about it.” Then tells us about their prank gone bad, or how they kidnap her and everything takes a turn for the worse, and then what’s at stake? Sophie’s life? Them getting in trouble? Their relationships with the boys? Be specific!

      First 250: I think the voice on this 250 great. It read like two friends who really know each other, and it felt real. I’d keep reading!

      I’m really sad these are paired against each other because I love them both. Both had really strong First 250s, so I’m going to vote for the one with the stronger query.


  2. SPLASH:
    Great premise! I got a little chill up my spine reading the 1st paragraph of the query. That said, it feels out of place to have spent nearly 4 lines on the body in the locker room and then have no further mention of it.

    “after some inept groping” tripped me up as there hadn’t been any mention of coupling up

    2nd para – think about rephrasing “The next day, her friends are dead” to “The next day, her friends start dying” because when I first read “The next day” I took it to mean that she finds out the next day her friends are dead, like they died while she was in the locker room

    Also – consider adding the cute neighbor’s name and use the name instead of “him” in the sentence w/ “causing him to dismiss her warnings” because strangely enough, when I read that, I thought him referred to Maxine and I was like wait a minute, isn’t Maxine a girl?

    The stakes are well stated. Good job on the hook.

    In your 1st 250 words – my only suggestion is to hyphenate end-of-year; otherwise it’s excellent – you packed a lot of info about the MC into very few words without it coming off as backstory or boring description & that’s great writing.


    Your Q has great bones & the premise of your book sounds fun. Here are few things that jumped out at me as well as some suggestions:

    Unless there’s a special reason to include characters’ last names in queries, I’ve heard it’s unconventional to do so as it can be distracting, especially when introducing as many as 3 characters.

    Hyphenate drama-free & hook-up; remove “with her BFF” because it’s repetitive of what’s in 1st sentence; also consider removing “just so”

    Maybe end the 1st paragraph with the part about Rylee meeting Drake. Example: Even worse, he’s bringing his cousin, Drake. Rylee figures any guy who shares DNA with Jared can’t be good, but a chance meeting with Drake just forty-eight hours before the trip has her second-guessing that snap judgment.

    2nd paragraph suggestion: For Rylee, the idea of hanging out with Drake goes from being a pain to a perk, but a change in Sophie’s own spring break plans threaten sabotage. She decides to trade her Cancun vacay with her girls for a romantic week alone with Jared. Without Jared at the lake, there’ll be no Drake either.

    To keep the 3rd paragraph from having Sophie’s disappearance come out of left field, start it with the part about Rylee & Danni planning a takedown. Example: To get their plans back on track, Rylee and Danni cook up the ultimate takedown to stop spoiled Sophie from getting her way. But then Sophie goes missing without a clue. What started as a stupid prank becomes dangerously real, and this takedown could have deadly consequences.

    Suggestions for your 1st 250 words:
    Use of the word seniors along with “final year of high school” feels redundant. Possible rewording: Two kinds of students ride the bus during their final year of high school: poor kids and losers.

    Yay, Texas! I love the descriptions of the heat and the clothes.

  4. (I’m a fellow Kombatant leaving feedback.)


    Water park + Monstrous creature on a killing spree. YES! Now, I’m pretty sure Maxine discovered a dead mutilated body at the end of the second paragraph—but what does she do after that? Consider adding a brief transition and clarifying why it takes a whole day for the “water creature” (or whatever it is) to kill her friends too. Also, why does Maxine confide in her neighbor out of all people? Beyond that, the stakes are clear, and I want to read this. Good job!!

    Starting out with Maxine’s boob trouble here too? Funny but not funny at the same time, the poor thing. Her small size isn’t even a problem, but other people are making her feel that way. Shame! Still, I like her voice and the youthful tone. It gives me a clear first impression of Maxine and her school life.

    As for Mr. Johnson and Aiden’s interaction, I think it would be funnier if Aiden didn’t give in so quickly. Also, the paragraph in which Mr. Johnson first speaks sounds as if it has tidbits for the readers. What I mean is, it sounds like you want readers to know Maxine is a sophomore, and this is a biology class, and there’s a boy named Aiden. I think you could smooth that out a little more. Here’s one possibility that may or may not fit with your vision:

    "Come on, folks." Mr. Johnson raises his arms for silence. Two large pit stains in the shape of crescent moons darken his shirt. "You’re telling me, you’re all about to finish sophomore biology and none of you know the defining characteristic of mammals?” He jabs a finger in the air. “Yes, Aiden, I’m pointing at you. What produced the milk you had with your cereal this morning?"


    Another great query. You make it very clear what kind of ride this story will be, and your readers better hold on tight. I agree with the suggestion to limit the names in your query, but at the same time, it only tripped me up in the second paragraph when you rementioned Sophie. I wanted an adjective like “Except, Meanie Sophie changed her [...]” so I could continue to flow with the sentence and not have to pause at all; but that could just be me.

    Now, emotionally speaking, I felt for Rylee, but the more I read, the more I became frustrated. Sophie probably deserves the title of Mean Girl, but Rylee’s willing to condone someone (even Sophie) being cheated on in order to get to know another guy? And then Rylee and Danni make moves to get rid of Sophie? The audacity! *laughing in shock* But, hey, even if they might frustrate me, I still want to read this story because I’m sure Rylee and Danni are going to add a lot of tension and feels to this thriller! Your comp titles seem very spot on with MEAN GIRLS meets JAWBREAKER. “This is high school, Detective Cruz. What is a friend, anyway?” [quote from the movie].

    First 250:
    I felt your descriptions, and I could hear your characters. Really good job with that. I’m already tsking at Danni, but thou shalt not judge! None of us are perfect, and I want to know how all of this ends for each character. The only suggestion I can add as a possibility is changing the dialogue tag in the third paragraph (the “I said”) into a short action tag, so we readers can see more of Rylee.

    Oh! Which part is an #Ownvoice? Sorry if I overlooked it.


  5. These both sound amazing! Re. SPLASH: The phrase "after some inept groping" tripped me up as well. I wanted to know who or what she was groping. Also, until I read other people's comments I didn't realize the person in the locker room was supposed to be dead; I thought he was the bad guy.

  6. SPLASH: Query – Opening line is awesome! Great hook. The stakes in your query are very clear, and my only suggestion would be to possibly consider actually saying someone in the locker room is dead. Initially I pictured some sort of monster, but maybe that’s just me 
    250 – Your writing is sharp, engaging, and funny. I don’t have any feedback, except to say this is definitely a book I’d read. GOOD JOB!

    THE TAKEDOWN: Query – Your query is great, but you introduce quite a few names in a few short paragraphs. I realize it’s probably necessary, but I found myself reading back a second time just to make sure I had a grip on who everyone was. Otherwise I think it’s a cool premise.
    250 – Writing is great. Terrific intro’s to the characters, and a realistic depiction of teenage life. GOOD JOB!

  7. Yay, YA Horror!

    SPLASH: Your query has an awesome opening line; I laughed out loud. I love your premise. I have to admit, though, that if teenagers were getting killed at a waterpark before it even opened, surely Maxine wouldn’t have to work very hard to shut it down — people in the town would be freaking the eff out. Why is it up to Maxine to shut Splash down?

    Your opening has an awesome voice. Well done!

    TAKEDOWN: This takes me back to the Lois Duncan stories I read when I was supposed to be studying back in high school. Love it!

    I think your second paragraph needs tightening up. I’d try something along the lines of “A chance meeting with Drake before their planned trip changes Rylee’s mind, and now she can’t stop thinking about him. But then Sophie changes her spring break plans, deciding on a romantic week with Jared instead of a Cancun vacay with her girls. Without Jared, Rylee’s chances of getting to know Drake better could be ruined. So she and Danni plan the ultimate takedown to stop spoiled Sophie from getting her way.”

    I also think your last paragraph needs to be more specific: why are things getting dangerous and deadly, and what choices does Sophie herself face?

    Great, voicey opening — it really drew me in.

    Good luck! You both need to get these published so I can read them!

    1. Aaaand of course I meant "what choices does Rylee herself face" instead of Sophie. Sorry! *facepalm*

  8. Swimming with the amoebas

    You have some great lines here. You do a wonderful job of utilizing every word, which is really hard to do. If I had to point out any issues that made me hesitate, I suppose it’s only that the voice feels a little young for YA. If it’s horror, I want to be freaked out even by the query. The imagery of the guy in the locker room was nicely creepy, though. Remember, though, you know your book infinitely better than anyone else and only you can say what tone your query should have. So feel free to ignore me.
    My only other raised eyebrow was from the fact that the survey mentioned her boobs. I mean – funny, yes! But would the faculty in charge of the survey REALLY allow this?
    Overall, great job! I enjoyed reading this query!

    Kidnapped Prom Queen:

    I’m just jumping right into the 250 to say that I loved the first line and I loved that you so quickly and succinctly made me feel how at-ease these two girls are with each other.
    The query is also good, but I’d like to feel a little more tension. Maybe the details of who’s vacationing with whom can be minimized a bit to make room for more about Sophie’s disappearance.
    What I do like about the query is that it leaves me not really sure if these girls are the good guys or not. Maybe there’s NO good guys. Danni is messing around with some other girl’s boyfriend and this prank sounds none-too-friendly. But somehow I still kind of like them. (Very Mean Girls. Well done!)

  9. Hey both! Great job getting this far—that means your story and pitch are really strong already. I’ll do my best to make constructive comments, but if they don’t resonate with you then feel free to ignore.

    1) SPLASH.
    OMG, I love the first line of your query :P This is a super fun take on the horror genre that I know I’d eat up like it was candy floss—gone in seconds.

    Query: So first off, you absolutely need the word count on there. I know you probably took it out because it’s in the competition headings, but just making sure you actual query has it in (& you’ll want it in there for the next rounds too). Besides that, it’s just small smoothing out issues like—I assume the groping led to Maxine’s toilet tissue being discovered, so she retreats to readjust / hide in embarrassment. You just need to clarify this. After her scare in changing rooms, I assume she runs off & never goes in the water? You just need to say this explicitly. Does she do any investigating to come to her outlandish conclusions? I want to get a feel for the journey she goes on.

    First 250: Have I mentioned that I am actually in love with Maxine? She’s aces. Maybe if you can work in something to make it obvious it’s a horror (like she’s slowly opening the year book / survey—I’m British so it’s a bit of an alien concept to me—her heart is pounding, she sees what she has dreaded & screams then you reveal that it’s the result of the survey that’s got her all worked up). But, honestly, that’s just a suggestion. I totally love Splash & want to read the whole thing.

    Ha! Love the sass of this query & opening. The voice is brilliant & you can just tell this is going to be an edge-of-your-seat read that’ll manage to have you loving every hair-raising minute of it.

    Query: This is one query where I’d really like a pitch-type opening paragraph—to tightly put across the amazing plot arc right off the bat, so it leaves the agent begging for more. It’s a bit of a slow-burn opener as is—it could be any generic teen romance, which is the complete opposite of what it is. Don’t give the agent any excuse to pass it over. Grab them by the throat & keep them hooked the whole way through.

    First 250: Oh man. I love the voice, I love the descriptions, I love the characters, I love the set up. Like I said for Splash above, maybe you could drop in a thriller hint right off the bat (describe the sweat in a way that makes you think there’s something tense happening, but it’s just Rylee worrying about pit stains showing). But it’s really only a suggestion—slow burn thrillers that slowly crank up the tension are aces. GREAT JOB! Would love to read the whole thing.

    THIS IS DEFINITELY THE STRONGEST MATCH-UP I’VE COME ACROSS SO FAR!! I can’t believe one of you has to knock the other one out!! THIS IS BRUTAL, PEOPLE!!

  10. SPLASH
    Your query has a (pardon the pun) killer opening line. I can feel the urgency building as Maxine gets more and more desperate to prove there's something sinister at work. I was a bit confused as to how her suspicions "cause" her neighbor to take his little sister to Splash. I think the phrasing there could be improved. I'm guessing it's more that he stops believing her, his little sister happens to ask, and he says yes. Just that in-between step isn't clear.

    First 250
    I'm guessing the survey is not an official survey of any kind. You don't mention how it's distributed. Assuming this is a contemporary setting, I'm guessing it was something e-mailed to all the students. So maybe she can be putting her phone away in disgust after reading it or something like that to make it a bit more clear. Other than that nitpick, I think this is a pretty solid opening. I would read on.

    I confess, I'm not the best at keeping track of multiple characters. So the first paragraph of this query left me really confused. There are five different characters named and by the time you mention Drake, I'd blanked on how Jared was related to everyone else. Is there any way you can lose a character from the query? Or at least refer to someone strictly by their relationship to someone else? (For example, call Sophie Drake's girlfriend?) I like the stakes at the end, and it sounds really exciting. But it took me a couple reads to sort things out.

    First 250 words
    The voice of this is great. I get a great feel for Rylee, her relationship with Danni, and her general outlook on life. I can pretty much imagine myself on that bus in the heat. It does seem odd to me Danni is wearing a turtleneck, though. She could hide a hickey with a neck scarf or something like that. I'm wondering if she's hiding something else. Overall, a solid start. Best of luck!

  11. SPLASH:

    Hilarious opening! I love the no boobs topic followed by mammary glands. This tells me from the start that it's a campy horror. I'm not getting much of a sense of the neighbor except that he's cute and maybe not the brightest if he's ignoring legit warnings (however outlandish) and walking his little sister right into a death trap. Does he have redeemable characteristics? Or is he the classic good-looking, low-substance love interest? There's part of me that wants to know how in the world she's going to stop this (strengths, skills, etc.), especially with only 24 hours...then again, that's what will make me want to read the book.

    Good luck! :)

  12. The Takedown:

    OMG! You literally had me laughing out loud with your first 250. I really like your MC and her relationship with her BFF. I'm still chuckling :) The query starts off strong, and you do a good job introducing the cousin and the potential for a love interest for the MC. I'm not sure if the takedown the two girls are planning is sinister or clever, but the last paragraph leads me to believe there IS something sinister afoot, and it's out of their hands. Unless they inadvertently caused it? The query leaves me with a lot of questions that make me want to read more. Consider if there are any juicy details/specifics that you're holding back but would add to the picture. I'm excited to read the revised version! PM me on Twitter with any questions in the meantime :)