Thursday, March 17, 2016

Agent Wish List: Joan Paquette #1

GENRE: YA - Contemporary

Dear Ms. Paquette:

Ivy Ransom’s seventeen-year-old palate has died and gone to heaven when her family trades small-town Wisconsin for a five-month stay in Chennai, India. As an aspiring chef, she leaps at the chance to try new recipes and expand her repertoire of spices.

But staying in heaven requires a hellish compromise—top marks in all her online classes. Not only is her father a teacher, but her mother is a former professor who is dead set on getting her daughter into Harvard. If Ivy can’t keep up her grades, she’ll be back in Wisconsin before she can master the art of the perfect dosa.

Although Ivy would rather explore Chennai than spend hours at her studies, she manages her daunting workload. She even adheres to her mother’s strict no-dating rule, despite her feelings for Raj, an Indian-American expat who’s become her confidante. As their relationship heats up, Ivy struggles to balance cooking lessons, schoolwork, and stolen kisses. For once, she’d like to take control of her life, but defying her parents could put a swift end to her India adventure and crush her romance with Raj.

Complete at 79,000 words, A WORLD AWAY is a young adult contemporary novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy books set in far-flung destinations. The story was inspired by my own experiences, living with my family in South India.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


When it comes to late-night misery, the only thing worse than jet lag is sharing a bed with a squirmy eleven-year-old. I jab Miles with my elbow. “Quit kicking me.”

“I can’t sleep. And I’m thirsty.” He sits up and pushes the covers away. “Do you think it’s okay if I fill my water bottle from the tap?”

“Remember what Dad told us? We can’t drink the tap water here.”

“Could we go buy some? I think I saw vending machines when we were up at the pool.”

Chances are good our parents won’t miss us. They’re crashed out in the bed next to ours, snoring away. But it’s almost midnight and we’re eight thousand miles from home, at a high-rise hotel in India. These aren’t normal conditions.

“Please, Ivy?” Miles says. “Otherwise, I’ll never get back to sleep.”

“Fine. But let’s be quick. If Mom wakes up and sees we’re gone, I’m the one that’ll get in trouble.” The last thing I need is another lecture on responsibility.

I scrawl a note and leave it on my pillow: Went to get water. Back in five. Following Miles into the hall, I ease the door shut behind me.

When we emerge from the elevator onto the roof, hot, smoggy air envelops us. The pool is eerily silent, the light shimmering off the water. From below, the barrage of horns melds into a noisy blur. I wonder if New Delhi is like New York—a city that never sleeps.


  1. I love this intro... and not just because I'm from Wisconsin! I'd definitely want to read more! Great work!

  2. Ooh! I would love to read a book about a teen chef! Throw in India and I am hooked.

    I really thought this sample was great. I have a good sense of Ivy already, I feel grounded in the setting and in her body, there's already tension and some conflict. Yeah, I would keep reading for sure.

    Good luck!

  3. I'm already hooked, it's a great opening, and it establishes Miles and Ivy well. I like that Ivy behaves like she actually likes her brother - good sibling relationships are nice to read! And yeah, I can't wait for the food porn. I don't see anything that really needs addressing in this excerpt, except perhaps that i'd like a bit more of a sense of Ivy's voice.

  4. Reading this has me torn. I love the idea of a book about food--AND set in India, so much the better! I can tell from this opener that there are going to be some great characters and situations unfolding across the coming pages. Yet if I'm honest, this opening didn't quite pull me in narratively-speaking in the way I'd hoped it would. Part of the reason could be that the author is starting with dialogue--that can be a challenge as far as hooking the reader from page one, as we're plunked into a situation and circumstance that we don't yet care about or have enough familiarity with the characters to follow their exchanges. It might be personal taste, also; i tend to be drawn to a richness of voice and narration that is usually in evidence right from the earliest pages. When that's not there, it doesn't by any means point to a bad product. But it does usually mean that it's probably not right for my list.

    Remember, too, how important your first scene is: This should set the tone and feel for your whole book to come, should start asking the central question that will be reflected and asked across the course of your book. There's nothing at all wrong with this opener, but it may be that a more pertinent moment would more accurately launch readers into the story to come.

    On a broader scale, I also had a bit of concern in reading the query. Again, many elements to love in here. What felt lacking for me was a strong overall conflict or story goal. There is the surface one, of course: cooking vs. study, India vs. USA--yet from the perspective of this query, at least, it's hard to see why that is truly essential to our main character. What is stake that will rock her world if she fails at her goal, and is that enough to drive and sustain a full novel? Despite the appealing setting, I also worry that the current conflict feels like something I've seen before in queries and published books. I love the richness of place, but I'm missing its counterpart in richness and newness of storyline. These elements might well be expressed within the actual story, but from the query, it feels like something that could be a lovely read, but that may perhaps lack the necessary tension to keep readers turning the pages.(Side note: The word count is also very long for a contemporary YA, which further leads me to suspect the pacing may flag through the rest of the ms.)

    For these reasons, despite its appealing qualities, I would likely not request to read further at this time.