Friday, November 30, 2012

(45) YA Contemporary: Aussie Outsider

TITLE: Aussie Outsider
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Rory Turner used to be a typical American teen, but now she’s an Aussie outsider, living on a Dr. Pepper can-size island in Australia with her dad. Someone wants her off the island even more than she doesn't want to be there, and if she doesn't find out why, her new home could be six feet under the ground.

When a girl turns sixteen, she has certain expectations about what will happen.

Her bra size will mysteriously increase at least two cup sizes and she’ll shoot up three inches overnight. The guy she’s been crushing over her whole sophomore year will dump his cheerleader girlfriend and ask her out instead. Her numerous friends will throw her a surprise party and the whole school will turn out. Later everyone will remember it as the best party they’ve ever been to.

I never thought I’d be alone at the airport on my sixteenth birthday, handing my passport and one-way ticket to a United Airlines agent for the flight leaving in twenty minutes from Los Angeles to Sydney.

I never thought the only happy birthday I’d hear would be from the surprised agent as he glanced at my passport and back at me. “Sweet sixteen, isn’t it?” he asked as he scanned my passport through the computer.

Sweet? Try anything but.

I used to have a normal life. Well, semi-normal anyway. I had the typical American family: mom, workaholic stepfather, and a stepbrother and stepsister who wouldn’t give me the time of day. I lived in a sprawling house in Redlands, California, with my mom and Ted, the aforementioned workaholic stepfather. I was resentful of his money and upset at my mom for marrying him when I was fourteen.

I used to be a lot of things, but I guess it didn’t matter anymore because that life was so over.


  1. I like the miraculous expectations of turning 16.

    "The guy she’s been crushing over" seemed odd. I always had crushes "on" people.

  2. crushing over works fine with me. My problem is too much backstory...I like the premise, want to get straight into story and discover her past along the way. We see her in airport leaving....suggest you start with her arriving. More compelling.

  3. I think the voice here is good, and the opening pulls me in. Everything works for me except the paragraph that starts, "I used to have...". That's all backstory that you can weave in a more interesting and authentic way later on. Love the "Dr. Pepper-sized island" in your logline! I like the idea of a Texas/Southern girl going up against those witty Aussies...

  4. I like the premise of this a lot, but I wonder if the logline is a little too vague. "Someone wants her off the island" to me sounds like someone wants to kill her. But if she's a typical American teen, I have no idea why someone would want to do this.

    Your voice is great, but I agree that the paragraph beginning with "I used to have a normal life..." is too much info too soon. I want to read more action right away, more nerves from Rory as she's getting on the plane, what she witnesses around her, what she's seeing for the last time as she prepares to move. The backstory can be introduced later.

  5. Cool premise!

    I feel like this could be stronger if you changed your logline to start:

    "When ___ happened, Rory was forced to pack up her typical American life and rough it on the Dr. Pepper can-sized island..."

    Is there a reason the island is Dr. Pepper can-sized? It's quirky and unusual and kind of intrigues me.

  6. I like this premise and I'm interested in a YA set on an Australian island. I would caution away from the backstory paragraphs beginning with "I used to.." This can be worked in other ways as the story progresses. I would get your character doing something and save the reflecting for later, or have some of that come out in dialogue with other characters.

    If you make your logline a more specific, like naming who wants her off the island and why, it will solidify the hook.

  7. I think the logline is a little vague. 'Someone' could be anyone and I think you need to specify who it is to give a sense of threat.

    Not a great fan of the paragraph that started 'I used...'. It's backstory and not needed right up front. This info can be woven in later.

  8. I really like the beginning--very cute and voicy :) I agree with everyone else regarding the "I used to have a normal life" paragraph. That's a whole lotta back story getting thrown at the reader. Try spreading it out throughout the chapter.

  9. I'm not sure about this one, the MC is coming across as whiny (or whingy as they say in Aus). then again, no teenager would be expected to take this situation gracefully. Maybe some over the top melodrama would be more appropriate (my life is over!!!)
    Too much backstory. Save it for a later chapter. Look at her current dilemma.

  10. Great humor in the opening paragraphs. I was hooked up until the second-to-last paragraph, and then it started to feel a bit didactic in terms of the backstory. Especially the sentence that starts "I was resentful...". I feel like this is information that could be woven in later in the story, in a more engaging way.

    Great start, though! I'm wondering if this is truly a contemporary? The logline makes it feel more like a thriller. something to consider when querying agents.

    Good luck!

  11. Hmmm.....I'm not sure I agree with some of the others who've said there's too much backstory. I know that this is a rule we're supposed to stick with, but I'm not sure it's a cardinal sin that would prevent me from reading further. In fact, you've completely hooked me with a STELLAR voice and a fantastic MC, and I would absolutely read on.

    About the paragraph that starts "I used to...." I don't have a problem with it. Yes, it's backstory, and yes, you could probably thread that information in elsewhere. But I don't think you need to ditch it altogether. To me, the point of the paragraph is to highlight how normal her life once was. Maybe if you cut down on detail, it would help bring you out of backstory info-dump territory. How about cutting everything after "Redlands, California"? Without all that extra info, you've accomplished the setup you need, and eliminated giving us too much history upfront. I'm sure you'll comment on her resentment at Ted's money later on in the story, so that may be a detail we don't necessarily need to know in the first 250.

    Good luck with this. It sounds like a great premise, and I would definitely read further!

  12. I have problems with this entry. Is there any reason the island has to be "Dr. Pepper can-sized?"

    The first two paragraphs are vague and strike me as philosophizing and far removed from the MC's voice.

    You have a lot of backstory up front. Can't you insert it later?

    I'm sorry I can't be more positive. Although the premise is catchy, the narrative seems so far removed from a definable voice it just doesn't hook me.

    Good luck. Maybe it's just me.

  13. I like a lot about this sample. My one nitpick about the logline, I feel like you’re treading into mystery/thriller territory, and that has me a bit confused. I haven’t read the manuscript, obviously. But maybe think about your genre label?

    I have little to say about your opening paragraphs beyond that you’ve established a great voice, and clearly have a strong command of using language cleverly to make a point. I really enjoyed your transition from “Sweet Sixteen” to “Sweet? Try anything but.”

    Editor me is going to agree with the masses that your backstory can be woven into the story in a different way so that it’s not an infodump. I don’t know if anything comes after “that life was so over” in this chapter. If not, I’d end the chapter after your fifth paragraph, and then get into the action of the story so we understand why she’s off to Australia. Or, alternatively, get there with a line break and then get into your story, feeding us some of Rory’s background as you go.

    Fish out of water tales tend to have resonance. I’s be interested to get to the meat of why Rory’s life of comfort is being left behind, and why someone’s out to make sure she’s snuffed out.

  14. Love this! The logline is great and I would definitely buy this book after reading it.

    Great voice and setup for the story. I really want to know how her new life unravels.

  15. I think you could really pack a punch by starting with the dialogue between the ticket agent and your MC. It would immediately give us a sense of place, and you could wind the back story into details of her either approaching the plane or landing in Sydney.

    Agreed, fish out of water is perfect for this age group, and I anticipate lots of fleshed out detail about her new home. And I hope it's suspense, otherwise, why do they want her off the island?

  16. LOVE the premise. But I'd lose the first two paragraphs. And the last two. The middle, however, shows great voice and sets the premise, but I want to know what happens next! My suggestion is to speed up the time frame. (ie) Twenty-four hours later I'm on some God-forsaken island where the only friendly native is a freaking three-foot long iguana with a dangerously long tongue. (Rough, rough, but just get Rory to the island and establish some conflict...) Have everybody (people, not just lizards) stare at her, glare at her, without coming out and saying she's the outsider. And maybe give a little clue about why she and her dad moved there in the first place. Just my 2 centimes!

  17. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    50 pages.

  18. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    err. 150.

  19. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:11 AM


  20. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:17 AM



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