Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Query Critique: Exciting YA Sci Fi

Welcome Nightstanders! Today we're doing our first query critique. Thank you to this brave soul who is (probably unwittingly) going first!

Dear [agent]:

Tara is changing. I like this for a first line! Simple, effective, and also probably something that would play equally as well on the back cover. CRUCIAL. She's fairly certain that most sixteen year-old girls can't shoot lightning from their hands, and her newfound abilities are attracting a lot of unwanted attention. But Grammar Nerd says you shouldn't start a sentence with "but". as she finds herself on the run from a pair of government scientists I'd like a descriptor here--hot government scientists? Teenage? Evil? Sadistic? Brilliant?, Tara and her friends figure out quickly the real danger she faces is not from them - it's not from humans at all.

The Sentinels are a race of sentient androids, A.I. I wouldn't abbrieviate AI--it makes me stop reading for a second who have passed themselves off among passed themselves off AS mankind, or hidden AMONG mankind? mankind for over a hundred years. But now these feasibly immortal androids are beginning to die I'm confused by the idea of "feasibly immortal" and that they're now dying, and Tara’s power may be the only thing standing between them and total extinction. The bigger problem? Many of the surviving Sentinels have become corrupted, reprogrammed somehow to serve an enigmatic master known only as Mother, who’s intent on harnessing Tara's strange abilities as a weapon. OOOH I LOVE!

Her refusal to cooperate could condemn an entire race to death not to sound callous, but why would she care if the aliens live or die?– and put the people she loves in grave danger in the meantime. But as she learns more about her own origins, Tara realizes the Sentinels’ survival may come at a price she's not willing to pay. Okay, I want to read it!

T.A.R.A. is a YA science fiction novel, complete at 75,000 words great word count! and similar thematically to both K.A. Applegate's Animorphs series and Ronald Moore's reimagined Battlestar Galactica. Some agents LOVE comparisons like this--but you're also risking it being meaningless. I think it's personally safer to talk about YOUR themes rather than comparing to someone else's.

I have included the first [five pages and synopsis] in accordance with your guidelines. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. YAY! You checked the guidelines.

Best Regards,


This sounds like a fun, action packed story and you've done a really great job of presenting that gripping, "back cover copy" style synopsis that makes me want to flip to the opening pages. However, I would like to hear a line about the emotional conflicts of the book--is Tara in love with an alien? Fighting against that outsider feeling? Lonely because she's always on the run?

Otherwise, GREAT JOB!


AC Gaughen is the author of Scarlet, a retelling of the Robin Hood legend that reimagines Will Scarlet as a butt-kicking girl. Check it out February 14th, 2012 from Bloomsbury|Walker. Or just come visit her website. Or come stalk her on Twitter.


  1. Wow, thank you SO much, AC! (I hope it's okay for me to out myself!) You also picked up on a few things I was less certain of - the comparisons and some punctuation, specifically. This is super helpful and I'm so glad you liked it!

  2. I'm with AC - the part about Mother is so cool! This sounds fantastic.