Wow. It's Friday, but this damn phone still won't stop ringing. I'll try to get this up as soon as I can.
Anyway, here is Marcy's query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.
The last thing 17-year(-)old Kassandra Dyer I immediately think of Mara Dyer when I read this name. remembers is falling. Hmm. On the one hand, this opening is intriguing, because it's mysterious, but on the other, it's vague. Who is Kass? Where did she fall from? How far was the drop? Mystery is great, but it doesn't really have a place in most queries. The one thing I will always insist on when I critique queries, is Character. Sure, I've seen great queries that break that rule and work, but the best thing to hook a reader into any story, even one barely summarized in a query letter, is to give them a person to care about. Who was Kass before this story started, and why should we care whether she overcomes whatever is thrown at her? When she wakes up in the dark it’s hours later and somehow she has miraculously survived a fall that should’ve killed her. Stranger still is the fact that no one is looking for her. After all, she’s a missing teen. There should be helicopters and flood lights sweeping the desert. Towers Mountain should be crawling with searchers. The rest of this paragraph? Pretty effing awesome. The strange circumstance you've thrown this character into is an excellent hook. Who wouldn't want to find out what the hell happened here?
Kass knows something is terribly wrong, but it isn’t until she reaches the closest town that the diary in her backpack and a newspaper in a diner reveal the truth: The unsolved disappearance of Kassandra Dyer was a big event – em-dashes--don't use them in queries if you can possibly avoid it--one of the most noteworthy events the town of Cave Creek, Arizona has ever seen. But it happened ten years ago – and for Kass, dressed in the same clothes she wore on the day she fell, no time has passed at all. The rest of this is all pretty good too, but I would maybe consider adding the part about it being ten years, to the part about her disappearance being in the newspaper. I assume the article is there that day because it's the tenth anniversary? If so, just be specific and say that. It actually would get the point across much quicker, which is always great in queries.
Now Kass has to figure out what happened; how she fell, where she went and what it will take to get back home – if she can. If she even wants to.
The good news is she’s got somebody on her side. I'm so undecided about this. This being YA, I'm assuming this is a boy her age, so in one sense I want to know a teeny bit about him, like maybe his name, and if he is, in fact, a boy her age. That said, this query is working pretty damn well with all the mystery you've got going, so I really can't decide. The bad news is she’s got someone else on her tail, someone who wants her story and will do whatever it takes to get it. Same goes for the bad guy, but I'm actually more okay with him being a mystery than the friend.
THE UNSOLVED CASE OF KASSANDRA DYER, a crossover YA YA is usually followed by a genre. I get that this is crossover, but as some were curious about yesterday, a crossover between what and what? Mystery and Romance? Sci-Fi and Fantasy? Magical Realism is great, but it's kind of a genre and it kind of isn't. with elements of Magic Realism, is complete at 70,000 words. I have pasted the first x pages per your requirements.
Thank you very much for your time.
Man. This one is hard. One the one hand, it suffers from what I always call most query's biggest problem: vagueness, but on the other: it kind of works, because in spite of the fact that the query kind of lacks what I would normally want to see, it still entices me to want to read the pages. I'm really on the fence about what to tell you to do here.
I think if your pages are good, then this query is going to work fine for agents who allow you to include them in the body of your email letter.
The problem is those agents who don't allow pages in the body. I mean sure, this query is still good enough, and mysterious enough, that some of them will probably ask for partials, because let's face it, this is pretty good. But you don't want pretty good, you want really good. So let's see if we can take this good query, and make it great.
First, I would change your opening sentence. Kass is 17, which is upper YA, so she's going to have a pretty well defined personality long before she falls through this magical realism wormhole, so give some insight into what kind of person she is. Even one or two adjectives can go a long way.
Second, decide whether you want to name or describe anyone else. If the friend is a boy with potential for romance, which would be common for YA, then I think you should consider naming and describing him, but I also don't think you absolutely have to. I can see it working either way.
Thirdly, I would try to reword the second paragraph. It's a little clunky, a little wordy, and could be tightened up for clarity.
Finally, a word about em-dashes. I love em-dashes, I used them all the time in novels. But they don't work very well in query letters. If this was the 90s, and we were still printing and snail mailing our queries in, you'd be fine, but email clients can do funny things to advanced formatting like em-dashes. Try emailing a rich text email from gmail to your work, or from your work to yahoo, and you'll see what I mean.
Now, if you must have em-dashes, do them right. There are no spaces on either side of an em-dash. If you want to represent an em-dash with simple formatting, use a double hyphen, like--this. The double hyphen method is how I would suggest formatting an em-dash in a query, if you can't figure out a way to skip them. But, if you don't want that ugly character in your letter, make sure you use a real em-dash (CTRL+ALT+Minus on the 10-key), not a space--hyphen--space. In MS Word, it looks like this:
Sorry for going off. I'm not sure I've ever explained my aversion to the em-dash in query letters fully before. I hope it helps.
Now, what do you all think? Isn't this query already pretty good? Do you agree with my suggestions? You certainly don't have to!
Happy Friday! May your weekend bring good food and drink, and may all your teams win at sports, unless they're playing against mine.