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#1 taylorhale

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 02:30 PM

Hey everyone! I'm happy to return any critiques, BUT PLEASE ASK so I know to look for your post!

 

 

Here's my query. I'm kind of worried that it's too vague or something. I don't know! Thanks to everyone in advance :)

 

Updated query:

 

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. She’ll reconnect with her old life, and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water. But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--Olivia’s childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers, and when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass, she learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town.

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother. But the closer Olivia gets to West, the more strange things start happening in her life. There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently for her to find. Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, but without any evidence, everyone thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West believes Olivia, she knows she has to do this herself. She'll find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real.



#2 RosieSkye

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 03:43 PM

Hey everyone! I'm happy to return any critiques, BUT PLEASE ASK so I know to look for your post!

 

 

Here's my query. I'm kind of worried that it's too vague or something. I don't know! Thanks to everyone in advance :)

 

 

The coastal town of Caldwell Beach is famous for its cliffs—and the fatality rate attached to them. Six years after falling to her near-death, sixteen-year-old Olivia returns for the summer with two goals in mind. One: She’ll reconnect with her childhood friends. And Two: She’ll overcome her fear of the water.  (Start with your MC, rather than the town, and include only the most intriguing and essential details here.  Reconnecting with childhood friends isn't particularly gripping, and you don't mention her fear of water again.  Is that essential to your plot?)

 

Finding a mutilated carcass (What kind of animal?) wasn’t part of that plan. It turns out that in the years Olivia has been gone, a serial animal killer has risen in town. But Olivia is determined to enjoy the summer, so she distracts herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother, who proves to be the perfect escape. (I'd introduce West in a different way - you start building suspense in this paragraph, but all the wind goes out of your sails when Olivia tries to ignore things.)

 

Just as Olivia gets closer to West, Caldwell’s animal killer becomes something she can’t ignore. When Olivia feels like she’s being watched, she begins to suspect that the killer is following her. But without any evidence, everyone thinks she's imagining it. Desperate to catch her harasser, Olivia slips into a spiral of obsessive paranoia, until it comes down to not only finding her stalker—but proving that they’re real. (You switch from singular to plural at the end here.  And I'd get a lot more specific about why Olivia thinks the killer is stalking her.  What exactly does he do to freak her out?  Why is she certain it's even the same guy?  And is this tied to her fall six years before?  It feels like if you're going to mention those cliff deaths up front, there should be some kind of arc with them in your query.)

 

 

Good luck!



#3 taylorhale

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 08:28 AM

Thanks so much, RosieSkye! This is what I have now. Still feels kinda rough, and maybe too short. I feel like I've highlighted the main plot, but perhaps it needs more?

 

 

 

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. She’ll reconnect with her old life, and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water. But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--Olivia’s childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers, and when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass, she learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town.

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother. But the closer Olivia gets to West, the more strange things start happening in her life. There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently for her to find. Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, but without any evidence, everyone thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West believes Olivia, she knows she has to do this herself. She'll find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real.



#4 RosieSkye

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 01:31 PM

Thanks so much, RosieSkye! This is what I have now. Still feels kinda rough, and maybe too short. I feel like I've highlighted the main plot, but perhaps it needs more?

 

 

 

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. She’ll reconnect with her old life, and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water.   But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--Olivia’s But she discovers that her childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers, and when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass, she learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town.  (You've included her fear of water again, but it still doesn't come up after this. At best, this feels like extraneous information - at worst, it feels like your query is incomplete.  And since a serial killer is, by definition, someone who murders multiple times, it seems she's making a big assumption after seeing only one carcass.  I'd finesse that a bit.)

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother (For querying purposes you don't need to specify exactly who West is related to (unless this actually is important, and then I'd expand on it.) I'd throw in something more relevant about him - maybe the fact that he's the only local kid who doesn't spend his time tagging graffiti and smoking weed, or something that the two of them have in common.)  But the closer Olivia gets to West, the more strange things start happening in her life. (Does she make this connection herself, or does it ever occur to her that West might have something to do with it?  Keep everything from Olivia's POV.) There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently for her to find. Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, but without any evidence, everyone thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West believes Olivia, she knows she has to do this herself. She'll find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real.  (So what's ultimately at stake for Olivia?  Does she feel like she's in physical danger?  Are the threats escalating?  Does she feel she might be going crazy?  What will happen if she can't find the harasser?)

 

 

Hope this helps!



#5 Surrly

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 03:20 PM


 

 

 

 

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. This is awkward and sounds inappropriate to her age. A sixteen year old girl does not want to pick up where she left off as a ten year old girl. Does this mean she wants to play with Barbies? It's the wrong choice of words She’ll reconnect with her old life Again, here: 40 year olds reconnect with their old lives, sixteen year olds don't reconnect with their ten year old lives. I think I understand what you mean it's just how you're saying it is with an expression reserved for older people. Sounds like she's eager to meet her old friends, see how they've changed, etc. Just write something like that (does she have a best friend she's curious about?), and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water.I like this goal of overcoming her fear. But if it is a goal of hers then 'luck' has nothing to do with it.  But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--Olivia’s childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers, You are making it sound like the whole town has changed when more often the reality is that there have always been reckless vandalizing teens and Olivia was just oblivious to them (as a ten year old). My suggestion to you would be to make it more personal to her. She has this image of what she's coming back to (get specific: she can't wait to go to Bill's ice cream shop, or to play tether ball with Julie (those are stupid examples but hopefully my point is clear)) but her friends have grown up now and become reckless vandals. It's not about the town. It's about Olivia's expectation and the reality and when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass, she learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town. I agree with Rosiesky one animal carcass does not a serial killer make.

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead  drop-dead adds nothing to this but cliche gorgeous brother. But the closer Olivia gets to West, you're hinting that these two are related but I don't know why or the significance.  Does she think he's the culprit? Or involved somehow? Put us in her head here. Right now, I'm thinking: So West is the problem? Then dump him. the more strange things start happening in her life. There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently"conveniently" sounds awkward. They're deliberately placed in her path, which makes it sound more ominous. There's nothing convenient about an animal carcass, unless you're a butcher. Now if she'd stumbled across a vacuum cleaner after her mother told her to vacuum the rug, that would be "convenient" for her to find. Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, you're lowering the stakes here. Someone messing with her head is inconvenient and annoying but it's not worthy of a psychological thriller. Up the stakes. Olivia calls the cops, tells her parents, but no one believes her. Now she's carrying a pocket knife for self-defense . Now she's holing up in her room with the shades drawn, that summer tan fading into a pale ghostly paranoia, . Get specific. but without any evidence, everyone thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West say this out loud, it'll probably plunge you straight into a British accent. "When West doesn't believe her" believes Olivia, she knows she has to do this herself. She'll find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real.

 

So Olivia returns to a beach town that I assume she loved when she was ten. But it also sounds like it's just a vacation place. Is this her old hometown? Is it something she's idealized ever since she left it? It matters because if it's just a beach town she used to visit then the revelations of her friends being different is not that revelatory. In fact, it's kind of expected. So she returns to the beach town to find her friends are now hoodlums and somebody likes to kill squirrels. It's disconcerting but not heading into thriller territory. Then she falls for some boy and someone else starts stalking her. And her stalker may not be real. That's a lot of disconnected information you drop in the end. It starts with a girl wanting to have a great summer at the beach to a girl who may be going crazy because nobody else can see the person stalking her.

 

I think you need more connections to get to that place.

You've written a psychological thriller (according to the subject of this post) but there's little here to hint to either the psychological or the thriller. There's no feeling of danger in this story. There's no hint that she could be hallucinating this even though everyone else seems to think so. Does she wonder if she is hallucinating it?

Who is Olivia?

What does she want?

What obstacles get in her way?

What must she sacrifice?

 

Not sure if she's in any real danger in the story because it's not apparent in the query. I get that the footsteps and knocking is a little scary but it's not enough. I'm assuming you've ratcheted up the tension as the story goes on and you need to include that in here. You need to show us what's at stake for Olivia and how finding out could be life-changing. And if the climax doesn't involve something with her fear of water then you've set me up for disappointment and you should remove that sentence from the query.

 

I could say more but I've probably said too much. I'll check back for any revisions you might have.



#6 taylorhale

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Posted 09 June 2018 - 04:23 PM

RosieSkye and Surrly, thanks for your feedback, it's super helpful! I'm definitely having a hard time articulating what the story is about. I'll take a step back, think about it, and return when I have something (hopefully!) better. :-)



#7 NerdWitch

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Posted 14 June 2018 - 03:35 PM

Thanks so much, RosieSkye! This is what I have now. Still feels kinda rough, and maybe too short. I feel like I've highlighted the main plot, but perhaps it needs more?

 

 

 

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. She’ll reconnect with her old life, and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water. But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--(I would change the formatting here slightly as it doesn't quite make sense to have a hyphen. It's a bit of a run-on sentence) Olivia’s childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers party-goers. It gets worse when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass and learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town.

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, the gorgeous brother of her former best friend, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother (this sentence was a mouthful). But the closer Olivia gets to West, the more strange things start happening in her life. There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently for her to find. Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, but without any evidence, everyone thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West believes Olivia, she knows she has to do this herself. She'll find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real.

 

Hope you didn't mind my changes too much, I really love the premise of this and would love to read it. It sounds like you have a unique and interesting novel here. There's a few changes to tweak but I think you've already got a pretty strong query. 

 

I'd love it if you would take a look at mine (the Circuit) :) 


Please help me with my query http://agentquerycon...dystopiasci-fi/
And my synopsis: http://agentquerycon...it/#entry330157


 


#8 perpetual

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Posted 22 June 2018 - 01:58 PM

Thanks so much, RosieSkye! This is what I have now. Still feels kinda rough, and maybe too short. I feel like I've highlighted the main plot, but perhaps it needs more?

 

 

 

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. She’ll reconnect with her old life, and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water. But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--Olivia’s childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers, and when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass, she learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town. I like this paragraph a lot. I think you do a good job of showing Olivia as a bit of an outcast, despite her best efforts, plus eliciting intrigue with the animal killer. The only thing I'm unclear about is where she left off six years ago. Honestly, I'm not even convinced you need. I think you can easily link "when she returns after six years, Olivia is desperate to reconnect with her old life" etc. The fear of water also throws me off because it seems like a random detail and I'm not sure how or what to anchor it to.

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother. But the closer Olivia gets to West, the more strange things start happening in her life. This is massively vague. I recommend either rewriting or better yet, finding a way to just jump right into the list. Also, careful of your wording because as of right now, it seems like these things are happening BECAUSE she's getting closer to West. Is that true? There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently for her to find. Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, This, too, is vague. For proper tension, there needs to be more of an ill-intent or clear-cut risk. (Either in your query or your story, or both. ;)) but without any evidence, everyone Who is this everyone? thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West believes Olivia, she knows she has to do this herself. She'll Really don't need. find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real.

 

I think you have a really good concept here on your hands. I love the thought of returning back to a familiar place and people, but nothing being the same. Plus, which YA reader doesn't love a hint of romance?

 

Surrly has pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of next steps for your query. There's definitely a disconnect from the plot points. I can't see the big picture, how it ties to Olivia, and what the stakes are.

 

Query writing definitely boils down to practice. However, I'd like to add a small lesson I've learned from personal experience: If revision after revision you're finding it hard to grasp a firm hold on the stakes, the problem very likely likes with your manuscript. You may need to go back and flesh out the stakes and the build up there first, before it can fall into place in your query. :)

 

Hope this is helpful!

 

I'd also love your thoughts on my query, which I've linked in my signature.


Query: Click here.

 


#9 kat8

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Posted 04 July 2018 - 02:34 PM

Hey everyone! I'm happy to return any critiques, BUT PLEASE ASK so I know to look for your post!

 

 

Here's my query. I'm kind of worried that it's too vague or something. I don't know! Thanks to everyone in advance :)

 

Updated query:

 

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. She’ll reconnect with her old life, and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water. But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--Olivia’s childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers, and when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass, she learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town.

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother. But the closer Olivia gets to West, the more strange things start happening in her life. There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently for her to find. Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, but without any evidence, everyone thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West believes Olivia, she knows she has to do this herself. She'll find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real.

 

There are a lot of line-by-line edits in the comments, so I'll just give you my general thoughts because sometimes those can be helpful in a different way :)

 

I like how straightforward your query is. There isn't any unnecessary information, and it made reading your query quick and easy.

 

There isn't really a particular sentence or paragraph that I would change, but the query just doesn't grab me. I don't really see the big picture or the stakes. I can tell from the information given that this novel will have a lot of suspense, but I just don't feel it when I'm reading the query. Also, the shift from 'her friends have changed' to 'there's a serial animal killer in town' feels really abrupt.

 

I think part of the problem is that your query says that the stalker is real. At the end of the first paragraph, Olivia learns that there is a killer in town. However, at the end of the second paragraph, it says that her stalker might not be real. But there was no ambiguity at the end of the first paragraph, so we already know that the stalker is real. And aren't dead animal bodies really strong evidence?

 

I would try to make the query more suspenseful, maybe by sprinkling the information about Olivia's stalker throughout the paragraphs. Also, if the issue really is that Olivia is unsure of whether her stalker is real, then I would make the reality of the animal killer a lot more ambiguous, because the way I interpreted the query, it says that the killer is real and is stalking Olivia.

 

I hope you found these thoughts helpful! I think if you just tweaked the paragraphs you have a little bit, you could improve it a lot :)

 

I'd also love to hear your thoughts on my query, linked in the signature :)


My query: 27 Club


#10 W.P.

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Posted 08 July 2018 - 07:32 AM

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. She’ll  ((too vague))reconnect with her old life from six years ago , and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water. But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--Olivia’s childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers, and when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass, she learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town. ((great set up. I thought the fear of water was important but then it was never mentioned again. I suggest removing it and focusing on what's important. Also, the first two sentences could be trimmed.))

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother. But the closer Olivia gets to West, the more strange things start happening in her life. There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently for her to find. ((CREEPY!! Great stuff) Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, but without any evidence, everyone thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West believes Olivia ((her)), she knows she has to do this herself. She'll find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real. ((I feel like the set up was really strong, but this ending--specifically the last sentence--didn't deliver. I think we're missing the stakes. We know the conflict: there's a creep stalking her. The goal: find whoever they are. Stakes: ???. What happens if she doesn't find them? What happens if she DOES? what are the consequences? Why should we care and why should we fear? I know it's all implied, but implied doesn't do it. We need it to be very clear so we can be emotionally engaged and want to read the book.))

 

Anyway, what an interesting story! The query definitely made me want to read it, even if the ending did fall a little flat imo. I hope this helps.

 

If you have the time, could you please take a look at my query as well? :)  http://agentquerycon...ntasy/?p=357968



#11 gigigriffis

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 02:55 AM

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. She’ll reconnect with her old life, and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water. [Why does she need to pick up where she left off? Why did she leave? Why is she afraid of water? I think we need a lot more context here.] But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--Olivia’s childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers, and when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass, she learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town. [How would a squirrel carcass tip her off?]

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother. But the closer Olivia gets to West, the more strange things start happening in her life. There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently for her to find. Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, but without any evidence, everyone thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West believes Olivia, she knows she has to do this herself. She'll find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real. [I'm not sure why her friends wouldn't believe her...why is she unreliable in their minds?]

So, when I look at queries I try to answer Janet Reid's five questions (from Query Shark). Here goes...

1. Who is the MC? Olivia - got it!

2. What does she want?
I'm not sure here...does she want things back to normal? And normal from what? What made them abnormal? I need more here.

3. What's standing in her way?
A serial killer and her friends not believing her. Got it. But I'm skeptical - why wouldn't her friends believe her? How does she know there's a serial killer on the loose? Dead animals does not a serial killer make.

4. What choice does she have to make?

No idea.

 

5. What bad thing happens if she chooses A and what bad thing happens if she chooses B?
No idea.

 

To strengthen this query, I'd start by getting really clear on the answers to those questions and then re-write to include them all. Good luck!


Will you take a peek at my query?

 

Sincerely,

 

Gigi Griffis

Copywriter, Content Strategist, & Travel Guide Author

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#12 Joysworld

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Posted 12 July 2018 - 07:32 PM

Hey everyone! I'm happy to return any critiques, BUT PLEASE ASK so I know to look for your post!

 

 

Here's my query. I'm kind of worried that it's too vague or something. I don't know! Thanks to everyone in advance :)

 

Updated query:

 

When sixteen-year-old Olivia returns to Caldwell Beach, she’s determined to pick up where she left off six years ago. She’ll reconnect with her old life, and if she’s lucky, overcome her fear of the water. But things have changed in the once-sleepy town--Olivia’s childhood friends have become reckless, vandalizing partiers, is her friends becoming reckless important? From this letter, it doesn't seem relevant. What does seem relevant is that the once sleepy town now has a seriel animal killer. and when Olivia discovers a mutilated squirrel carcass, she learns that there’s a serial animal killer in town. How does one mutilated squirrel equal a serial animal killer?

 

Freaked out but determined to enjoy the summer, Olivia tries to distract herself with West, her ex-best friend’s drop-dead gorgeous brother. But the closer Olivia gets to West, the more strange things start happening in her life. There’s the footsteps following her home, the tapping on her bedroom window, and the animal bodies left conveniently for her to find. Olivia swears someone is messing with her head, but without any evidence, everyone thinks she’s imagining it. When not even West believes Olivia, she knows she has to do this herself. She'll find whoever is harassing her... if she can prove that the stalker is even real.

Is her finding the mutilated squirrel have anything to do with the stalker? And how is there no evidence when there are animal bodies left for her to find? That's evidence. This is a thriller, but I don't get that feeling when I read this query. Is her life at stake? Is losing West what's at stake? Is it just no one believes her? Does the stalking escalate?

 

 

 

You can find my query in my signature:)







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