Query Hack: Critique #5 – YA Contemporary Fiction

Dear Query Hack,

I’d like to introduce you to DREAMWALKERS, a YA contemporary set in the desert and the world of dreams.

Vivian Hawk has always had the power to control her dreams—just like her Apache father before her. It’s the summer before senior year and Vivi’s just glad she’s going to graduate before her nine-year-old genius brother beats her to it. Her only escape from the boring summer ahead is painting, working in her mother’s New Age shop, and the lucid dreaming that takes Vivi out of her tiny New Mexico town to any place in Dreamland she dares to go.

  • I love the concept (she can control her dreams)! Super cool!

A mysterious hawk feather takes Vivi beyond lucid dreaming as she discovers the electrifying secret of dreamwalking—the power to control other people’s dreams. With that secret comes a dark warning from her father, and the terrifying knowledge of his pivotal role in the Stargate Project, an insidious government mind control program that has now set its sights on her little brother.

  • Where does this mysterious feather come from? Was it a gift? Did she find it somewhere? 
  • How does she discover dreamwalking? Does she have a trainer or did she accidentally stumble upon someone else’s dreams?
  • In general, be careful of vague concepts or stakes in a query. When you said “dark warning,” I immediately wanted to simply know what that warning was. Also, should we know of the father’s role (what the pivotal role was) in the Stargate Project? 

Joined by passionate, fellow-dreamwalker Lucas, Vivi ventures deep into Dreamland in a desperate race to save her brother. But the conspiracy that links Vivi and Lucas is closing in, as a rogue CIA agent threatens Vivi’s life and the lives of everyone she has ever loved. Vivian must unlock the power that will save them all—a power that begins with her father’s quiet words: Walk with me.

  • Is she trying to save her brother from the Stargate Project? What would be the outcome if they get to him first? (More information on the stakes!) In addition, how does going into Dreamland prevent the Stargate Project from getting to her brother first? Are they able to enter Dreamland and control people’s dreams from far away? What is the consequence of controlling people’s dreams? Does that control their mind/thoughts/actions? 
  • Be more specific on the conspiracy bringing Vivi and Lucas together. 
  • How does the CIA factor in? What is their role in this? 
  • Usually, you want to finish your plot summary with an action the protagonist needs to take (which you did) while also addressing these questions: What happens if she achieves her goal/what happens if she fails? 

Fans of Don’t Close Your Eyes by Lisa McMann will enjoy DREAMWALKERS, which combines a unique, multilayered dream world with rules of its own, a CIA program that actually existed, and the all-consuming chemistry of first love.

  • Don’t forget to put book/manuscript titles in ALL CAPS.
  • Great job in this section!

I have published two non-fiction articles and one short story. My essay, “The Secret of Santa,” was featured on The Washington Post site, The Huffington Post, and Today.com. Disguised as a history teacher, I have spent years eavesdropping on my target audience and I have been a guest reviewer for Pamela Thompson’s popular, award-winning YA novels blog, Young Adult Books: What We’re Reading Now.

  • Super cool background! But be careful on your punctuation. I’ve noticed (and fixed) a few errors. 

DREAMWALKERS is complete at 82,000 words. Careful research and Native American readers have helped me tell this story. It is currently a stand-alone novel, but has strong series potential.

Thank you so much for your time and attention. I hope to hear from you soon.

  • Don’t forget to include your metadata!! This is an automatic rejection from some agents if you don’t have this. You could potentially include the word count/age group/genre as: “DREAMWALKERS is a YA contemporary fiction with magical elements from Native American culture, complete at 82,000 words.” (Though, I’m wondering if this would be a thriller?)
  • I might reword your second sentence to: “Careful research and Native American readers have helped me to ensure the accuracy of [HISTORY/MAGIC].”