Earlier this month, I posted about giving a few critiques away in exchange for donations to charity. All three slots for this round have been taken, but you can follow me or Sounding Sea on Twitter to be the first to find out when I do another round! You can also sign up to get email alerts via Sounding Sea here (don’t worry, they’re infrequent!).
This week, I have feedback for writer Suja Sukumar, who generously donated to the White Helmets, a neutral organization rescuing Syrian civilians.
My line notes are in bold and brackets, and I have overall thoughts below.
After being orphaned a decade ago, seventeen-year-old Indian-American Tanvi Nair is determined to put her past behind her [Is her past being orphaned or something else? You may want to substitute something more specific here or skip the “past behind her” part.] and take care of her aunt who suffers from depression. [You might need an adjective here to clarify depression. Plenty of people are depressed and don’t need a caretaker—what is different about her aunt’s depression?] Every [Oops, just “ever!”] since her [Tanvi’s cousin? You may want to use the name instead of the pronoun, otherwise it could be the aunt’s cousin.] cousin, Mimi, ran away five years ago, her aunt has resorted to praying [This could be simply: “her aunt has prayed.”] to every deity in the Hindu pantheon, hoping her daughter would return. Tanvi hopes so, too, though she has no memory of what happened the day Mimi ran away. [Meaning she blacked out or she was too young? You may want to clarify.]
Then one day [This transition makes the plot seem episodic (this happened, then that happened, rather than the character did this, therefore that happened). Is this just an accident, or does the plot pick up here? If the latter, you may want to start your query with Tanvi finding this girl.] Tanvi spots a girl with a scarred face across the street. The girl’s mannerisms and voice is [are] exactly like her missing cousin’s. [So she does remember her cousin, just not the day she disappeared?] She also seems aware of [How so?] Tanvi’s past, like her dad’s murder and her mom’s involvement with dark magic rituals from India. [Ah ha! Tanvi is not just your typical orphan…I think you can still get rid of “dark past” earlier in the query and have it hit here.]
But her attempt to approach the girl is met with hostility. [So then how does she know all of that stuff about the girl? Maybe “approach” is not the right word here?] After getting her to admit she is Mimi, [How? I’m curious about how Tanvi worked her way into the girl’s good graces.] Tanvi tries to take her home, but the girl attacks her with a knife and flees after Tanvi disarms her. Then a local bully at school is found stabbed with that same knife with Tanvi’s fingerprints on it.
Now Tanvi has to convince the police of her innocence. And she has to track Mimi down since no one else believes her cousin is back. But tracking Mimi down will require piecing together the events of the day Mimi vanished, the day that is missing from Tanvi’s memory. Failing to do so could cost Tanvi her sanity, if not her freedom.
HIDE ME AWAY might appeal to readers of Megan Miranda and Gail Giles’s thrillers. I am an Indian immigrant [Is Tanvi also an immigrant or second/third/etc-generation? You may want to clarify. Simply “like Tanvi, I am” would work. I would also consider putting the word count, genre, comps, and a logline at the beginning of the query, and keeping your bio separate, at the end.] settled in Michigan where my 62,000 word psychological thriller is set. I am also a member of SCBWI.