Query Critique Numero Tres

Hello! This is last of the query critiques! It has been SO fun seeing these. Thanks so much for everyone tuning in! 

Let's jump in! 

ORIGINAL QUERY

A visit to Santa’s workshop is supposed to be fun, but all Angela gets is a global conspiracy and a lousy candy cane.

Twelve-year-old Angela Xue has believed in Santa her whole life. After all, he’s been one of the most loved public figures in the world ever since he revealed his existence to humanity twenty-two years ago. And who cares if Santa’s probably—okay, definitely—keeping some secrets underneath his red and white hat? You just don’t question the guy handing out free stuff.

But when an off-course tour tram on a school trip to the North Pole leads to a jaunt through a restricted area, Angela begins to question how nice Santa really is. And if seeing live stream of spy cameras and audio bugs hidden in the homes of supposed naughty kids isn't enough to arouse her suspicions, their tour guide also tells them to forget what they saw—and everybody in the class except her mysteriously does two hours later.

And all that’s before Santa’s elite elven hit squad shows up on her doorstep.

Joined by her friends Grace and Jehan, Angela launches an investigation that takes her from the suburbs of Edmonton to the North Pole, into the paths of flying reindeer, sleeping sand, secret bunkers, and magic bullets. But when her dogged search for the truth starts turning into an obsession, destroys her reputation, and gets her friends hurt, Angela must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to bring Santa down. And how bad are Santa’s tactics—spying, lying, and drugging people—really? Because she’s started to use them herself. But one thing is clear—she needs to decide what she really wants before Santa Claus comes to town on Christmas eve, or he’ll decide for her.

THE CANDY CANE CONSPIRACY, complete at 84 thousand words [I know this is high for MG, and I swear I will cut it down before the PW submission deadline], is an upper middle-grade adventure with fantasy and sci-fi elements and some light satirical undertones. It is written in a metafictional journal format with frequent fourth wall breaks, in a similar style as Rick Riordan’s THE KANE CHRONICLES series, but with a journal instead of an audio recording. It has a strong series potential, but can also stand alone. Its magical elements and retake on classic folkloric figures should appeal to fans of THE GUARDIANS OF CHILDHOOD series by William Joyce, it’s blend of science and magic to lovers of ARTEMIS FOWL, while its snarky, spirited protagonist should appeal to Rick Riordan fans. It is my first novel, and an #ownvoices story.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

BREAKING IT DOWN

A visit to Santa’s workshop is supposed to be fun, but all Angela gets is a global conspiracy and a lousy candy cane.        

So this query has a hooky first line and I think it works and sets up the tone for both the query and story.

Twelve-year-old Angela Xue has believed in Santa her whole life. After all, he’s been one of the most loved public figures in the world ever since he revealed his existence to humanity twenty-two years ago. And who cares if Santa’s probably—okay, definitely—keeping some secrets underneath his red and white hat? You just don’t question the guy handing out free stuff.    

This is a great first paragraph. Here's what is working:

  • Intro the main character and age
  • Secondary Character—Santa Claus
  • Setting up the world. The story takes place in a world where Santa Claus is real. 
  • Great voice! 

But when an off-course tour tram on a school trip to the North Pole leads to a jaunt through a restricted area, Angela begins to question how nice Santa really is. And if seeing live stream of spy cameras and audio bugs hidden in the homes of supposed naughty kids isn't enough to arouse her suspicions, their tour guide also tells them to forget what they saw—and everybody in the class except her mysteriously does two hours later.       

This is a great second paragraph. We have school trips and restricted areas which sets up intrigue and tension. Here's what else is working: 

  • Angela is beginning to question Santa—which creates tension since the world believes him to be, well, wonderful. 
  • This paragraph sets up Angela to have agency in the story. What is SHE going to do with the information she has?

The only thing I will say that's tripping me up is the last sentence. It's a long sentence and I think it can be shortened. Aim for some punchy and short lines. They will stand out amongst the longer sentences. 

And all that’s before Santa’s elite elven hit squad shows up on her doorstep.            

Normally, I strictly adhere to the three paragraph rule but I think having the above sentence on its own works. 

Joined by her friends Grace and Jehan, Angela launches an investigation that takes her from the suburbs of Edmonton to the North Pole, into the paths of flying reindeer, sleeping sand, secret bunkers, and magic bullets. But when her dogged search for the truth starts turning into an obsession, destroys her reputation, and gets her friends hurt, Angela must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to bring Santa down. And how bad are Santa’s tactics—spying, lying, and drugging people—really? Because she’s started to use them herself. But one thing is clear—she needs to decide what she really wants before Santa Claus comes to town on Christmas eve, or he’ll decide for her.      

There is some great details in the above sentence and it's clear this is an adventurous story! As I'm reading, I'm intrigued by the premise and the writer does a great job of giving enough details for the reader to connect with the main character and the plot of the story. 

Since this query is for Middle Grade, I would strongly recommend tightening up the sentences since most tend to run long. There is enough here to break up the longer sentences to create stand out lines. 

I also LOVE that the main character's arc will have to address all the tactics she's using against Santa. This sets up internal tension and a deep character change. There's stuff happening around the character and stuff happening internally, too. Perfect. 

THE CANDY CANE CONSPIRACY, complete at 84 thousand words, is an upper middle-grade adventure with fantasy and sci-fi elements and some light satirical undertones. It is written in a metafictional journal format with frequent fourth wall breaks, in a similar style as Rick Riordan’s THE KANE CHRONICLES series, but with a journal instead of an audio recording. It has a strong series potential, but can also stand alone. Its magical elements and retake on classic folkloric figures should appeal to fans of THE GUARDIANS OF CHILDHOOD series by William Joyce, it’s blend of science and magic to lovers of ARTEMIS FOWL, while its snarky, spirited protagonist should appeal to Rick Riordan fans. It is my first novel, and an #ownvoices story.        

Bio section: Holy word count! For MG this is a bit high. Here's a great source on word count! The next thing I'd say is to take out any advertising you're doing on behalf of the book. The writing should speak for itself. Just state the genre, and leave it at that! Lastly, no need to mention this is your first novel. 

EDITED QUERY

First paragraph: 

A visit to Santa’s workshop is supposed to be fun, but all Angela gets is a global conspiracy and a lousy candy cane. 

Twelve-year-old Angela Xue has believed in Santa her whole life. After all, he’s been one of the most loved public figures in the world ever since he revealed his existence to humanity twenty-two years ago. And who cares if Santa’s probably—okay, definitely—keeping some secrets underneath his red and white hat? You just don’t question the guy handing out free stuff.       

Second Paragraph:

But when an off-course tour tram on a school trip to the North Pole leads to a jaunt through a restricted area, Angela begins to question how nice Santa really is. Her suspicions are aroused when she sees live stream of spy cameras and audio bugs hidden in the homes of supposed naughty kids. Their tour guide tells them to forget what they saw. Everybody in the class—except her—mysteriously does two hours later.

And all that’s before Santa’s elite elven hit squad shows up on her doorstep.     

Third Paragraph: 

Joined by her friends Grace and Jehan, Angela launches an investigation that takes her from the suburbs of Edmonton to the North Pole. Her dogged search for the truth turns into an obsession, destroying her reputation, and putting her friends in danger. Angela must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to bring Santa down. And how bad are Santa’s tactics—spying, lying, and drugging people—really? Because she’s started to use them herself. But one thing is clear—she needs to decide what she really wants before Santa Claus comes to town on Christmas eve, or he’ll decide for her.     

Bio:

THE CANDY CANE CONSPIRACY, is an 84,000 upper Middle Grade Fantasy. It was written to stand alone with series potential and will appeal to fans of William Joyce's THE GUARDIANS OF CHILDHOOD, ARTEMIS FOWL, and Rick Riordan fans. 

OK! That's it for the query critiques! I hope this series has been helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below or give me a shout out on twitter! Thanks!