7/21/2017 UPDATE: revised version below. I have gone Completely Off The Rails. Check it out!
In the bullring a whole life hangs on a single moment—the great black head following the red cape to one side as the sword comes down from the other—but when the bull looks away from the cape and toward the man holding it, everything comes crashing down.
The echoes can last for generations.
Claudia Peterson—sixteen, sarcastic, and self-assured—doesn’t know much about her family history, but she still feels its weight on her shoulders. And it’s heavier every day now that her grandfather, a one-time famous bullfighter, is dying. His illness is dredging up a whole lifetime of pain for her mother, and Claudia doesn’t know what to do.
If Claudia were looking for someone to share her problems with—which she’s not—she would never choose Ben Tweed, the awkward boy whose mother works at the hospice where Claudia’s grandfather is a patient.
Ben’s life is decidedly less than spectacular. He’s a disappointment to his mother, an inconvenience to his father, and an embarrassment to himself. He always swore he’d kill himself before the end of high school, but after a classmate actually does it, he realizes suicide was only a fantasy.
As Ben and Claudia keep crossing paths, they gradually discover that sometimes a total stranger is the best person to tell the truth to—and to show you the truths, both good and bad, about yourself.
When their paths converge one last time at Claudia’s grandfather’s bedside, it lacks the drama of the bullring—no bloodied sand, no cheering crowd, no life balanced on the tip of a sword.
All that hangs on the moment is a choice:
For Claudia, to lower her defenses and reach out.
For Ben, to stand up for himself, and live without apology.
But those choices have their echoes, too.
ENOUGH is a 100,000-word contemporary/historical YA novel about fractured families, reluctant friendships, and just how fragile happiness can be. Ben and Claudia’s story is set in the 1990s in an American suburb, and switches between their points of view. Interleaved with it are episodes from the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s regime, told from the perspectives of Claudia’s grandfather and mother.
Ben Tweed is a fifteen-year-old screwup with a dad he hardly sees, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. His one comfort was his plan to kill himself before the end of high school, but when a girl from his class does just that, he has to face facts: suicide was nothing but a fantasy.
Claudia Peterson is a no-nonsense overachiever with a snappy comeback for nearly every situation. Not much fazes her, but her grandfather is dying, and it turns out the messiness of grief and her family’s complicated past are way outside her comfort zone.
When Ben and Claudia meet at the hospice where his mother works, it isn’t exactly friendship at first sight. But as their paths cross and cross again, they begin to tell each other the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.
For Ben, Claudia is a window into another world: sure, she has problems of her own, but she also has an enviable surplus of self-assurance, and—what Ben envies most of all—a family that’s truly there for her.
For Claudia, hanging out with Ben is just an excuse not to visit her grandfather—at first, anyway. But when Ben ends up in trouble with the law after a prank gone wrong, Claudia realizes she does care about him. And caring means dropping her too-cool-for-school act and doing whatever she can to help.
Ben has to stand up to his parents and learn to stop being sorry for who he is. Claudia has to stop pushing people away and find the courage to make her own place in the family story. It’s the sort of thing that no one else can do for them—but at least they won’t have to do it alone.
ENOUGH is a 100,000-word contemporary/historical YA novel about fractured families and reluctant friendships. The main story is set in the 1990s and follows Ben and Claudia, switching between their points of view. Interleaved with it are episodes from the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s regime, told from the perspectives of Claudia’s grandfather and mother.
This time I just decided to embrace the dual POV thing and alternate and give more context in the final paragraph. I kept getting responses that said I should switch to one or the other, but the story is really evenly divided between them, and none of my attempts felt right.
I haven't really solved the What Are The Big Stakes question (see my comments in post #21, haha) -- trying to figure out if there's a way to build a query that more honestly echoes the feel of the book. Like, instead of "I want to read it to see what happens!" something that makes you go "because I'm interested in the characters, I want to read it to see how it all unfolds!"
On the other hand, I did add a bit about Ben getting into trouble with the law, which is more... plotty, but actually doesn't happen until maybe 4/5 of the way through the book. So that may be misleading.
Here's my current query draft. I'd appreciate any feedback.
My main concerns are: - it's kinda long - tricky to introduce two protagonists quickly and not have it all feel like background - the mention of historical stuff at the end feels a bit shoehorned in, but leaving it out entirely would be pretty misleading
* * *
Ben Tweed just had a life-changing revelation: he isn’t really going to kill himself. The trouble is, it doesn’t actually change a thing—he’s still a fifteen-year-old screwup with exactly one friend, a dad he doesn’t see much, a mom who can’t stand him, and a dog that looks and smells like an old mop. The only difference is now there’s no way out.
When his loyalty to his best friend Robert gets him into trouble—the serious kind, with the right to remain silent—Ben has to face the fact that his parents are never going to be on his side. If he’s stuck being alive, there’s got to be a better way to do it than this.
Claudia Peterson is an overachieving smartass who doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or at all. She’s unimpressed with her new town, her new school, and her new classmates. She can usually tolerate her parents, but her grandfather—who she barely knows—is dying, and it’s turning her mother into someone Claudia doesn't recognize.
After Claudia’s extended family arrives from Spain to visit her grandfather her home starts to feel like hostile territory, crowded with old hurts and grudges from a past she doesn’t understand. She knows she should try and be there for her mother, but all she really wants is for things to go back to the way they were.
When Ben and Claudia meet at the hospice where his mother is working and her grandfather is dying, it’s not exactly friendship at first sight. But as their paths cross and cross again, they begin to tell one another the things they can’t seem to say to anyone else.
Every story has another story tangled in its roots. This one starts with the Spanish Civil War, fights its way through the bullring, crosses the Atlantic, and lands in the American suburbs in 1998, where two teenagers try on selves until they find the ones that fit—for now.
ENOUGH is a 100,000-word novel. It is my first.
Thank you for your time and consideration.