CHEMICALS COLLIDE Query Critique

OR

A Tale of OCD Moms, the Contents of a
Kitchen Cabinet, and a Handful of Dudes

Original:

Dear [Agent],

Sixteen-year-old Sara knows the name of every single cleaning product under the kitchen sink. She knows which to use before school and which to use after to ensure each day runs as efficiently as possible. Which isn’t an easy feat when you’re an only child living with your chronically OCD mother. But all of her self-preservation skills don’t tell her how to deal with Harvey, a boy who seems to pop up at the most inopportune moments.

Harvey is polite, intelligent, and even a little charming but Sara doesn’t have time for the Harvey’s of the world. She’s got her arms full with the dreadfully dull Tristan, who her mother adores, and bad boy Speedway racer Logan, who appeases Sara’s desperate need to rebel. In between being the perfect, immaculate daughter at home, and the exact opposite in town, Sara is starting to think that maybe anxiety runs in the family. With her first love and graduation on the line, Sara needs to get her life together before her shaky relationship with her mother collapses completely.

Chemicals Collide is a 75,000 word, young adult novel that delves into the world of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It tells the tale of a girl learning to stand on her own two feet with the help of those who want to build her up, not tear her down. 

Here we go!

Dear [Agent]: (Colon, not comma)

Sixteen-year-old Sara knows the name of every single cleaning product under the kitchen sink. She knows which to use before school and which to use after to ensure each day runs as efficiently as possible. What does this mean? How do the cleaning products ensure the days run efficiently? Which isn’t an easy feat when you’re an only child living with an OCD mother. But all of her self-preservation skills don’t tell her how to deal with Harvey, a boy who seems to pop up at the most inopportune moments. Too much going on in this paragraph.

Harvey is polite, intelligent, and even a little bit charming, but Sara doesn’t have time for the Harvey’s of the world. She’s got her arms full with the dreadfully dull Tristan, who her mother adores, and bad boy Speedway racer Logan, who appeases Sara’s desperate need to rebel. This is becoming character soup. Be careful not to name too many people. So far we have Sara’s mom, Harvey, Tristan and Logan. That’s about three too many people. In between being the perfect, immaculate daughter at home, and the exact opposite in town, Sara is starting to think that maybe anxiety runs in the family. With her first love and graduation on the line, Sara needs to get her life together before her shaky relationship with her mother collapses completely.

CHEMICALS COLLIDE is a 75,000 word, young adult I’m guessing contemporary? novel that delves into the world of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It tells the tale of a girl learning to stand on her own two feet with the help of those who want to build her up, not tear her down. All of this is telling and should show through the query. We already know it centers around OCD.

Here are my thoughts on this query: This started out strong. Sara knowing the contents of the kitchen sink backwards and forwards did hook me—but then I was lost two sentences later. The first paragraph was muddled with too many ideas. The chemicals, the mom, OCD, and then a boy on top of everything else.

I would love to see this query focus more on Sara and how she struggles to deal with her mom and her mom’s disorder. As it is, it just reads like Sara is boy crazy and can’t decide who to date. I am betting this story is much deeper than that. Be careful of adding too many characters to the mix.

Besides that, what is the plot? What is Sara trying to accomplish throughout her story? What does she want and what stands in her way—her mom’s disorder, her anxiety, could she be OCD too? What must she do to overcome that obstacle—go to the doctor, get help for her mom, etc.? What does Sara stand to lose? What are the stakes? I have a feeling that Sara’s stakes are going to be more personal and emotional.

I am getting a sense of your voice through this query, which is great, but I’d also like to see Sara’s personality shine through as well. Does she resent her mom for having OCD? Is she scared she could have it too? So on and so forth.

Great job! I look forward to your revision.

Love, 

The Query Faerie

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