My rejection pile is a mile high from agents, but I struck a bit of luck with Harper Collins. I used their online slushpile and was selected for review, and ended up with a pretty nice outcome (they read my partial and requested a full).
Here is what an editor from a Harper Collins imprint saw that agents do not
THE FOREVER GIRL
I was really drawn in by the writing from the first instance. The voice is clear and easy-to-read; it’s rare to see such natural flow and tempo from a debut author. I absolutely flew through the chapters that I had, which is a great sign. It’s obvious that the author has really done her research when it comes to the Wiccan religion. I was intrigued by the rituals that Sophia performs in trying to self-medicate the buzzing in her head. Also, in Sophia I believe we have a really strong – albeit misunderstood! – heroine. The relationships that Rebecca creates between Sophia and her parents and friends are compelling, and you want to find out more about this girl with such a mysterious life.
The setting is vivid, although I found myself wondering where we were in America – hardly a big issue in the grand scheme of things! What I did worry about, however, was how realistic the town comes across from an international perspective. While I know that there are cases in America where prejudice against Wiccans is rampant (especially when it comes to officially recognising the religion), in terms of whether people would alienate a young girl and/or refuse to interact with her (such as the family who refuse to be served by her) seems a bit of a stretch. This is heightened by the fact that Sophia doesn’t flaunt her beliefs in any way. I realise that most of the conflict of the novel is predicated on this prejudice, but I think there needs to be a stronger reason why the town rejects her. Are there rumours flying around that she was involved in a strange event in the town? Was she seen casting a spell at the same time as a lot of people got sick? Is her witchcraft blamed for her grandfather’s death? Did a satanic symbol appear graffitied on a wall that is blamed on her? You need something that anchors Sophia’s alienation in something deeper than her fairly innocuous religious beliefs.
But even taking that conflict at face value, what I would suggest to make this proposal even stronger is to create some more dramatic moments in the first few chapters. While I was reading, I kept hoping that something would happen – there are hints of events but nothing that really catapults the plot forward.
Also, to be considered for (imprints name) I would be looking for a stronger supernatural element earlier on in the story – in the early chapters, I didn’t get much of a supernatural vibe. There are hints of it (with the animals with funny eyes, for example), but not quite enough to hook in our picky readers in this difficult market.
The urban fantasy genre is very crowded at the moment, and it’s difficult to find a standout voice and idea. That being said, I think there is a lot of potential in FOREVER GIRL, and therefore I would be happy for Rebecca to send me the full manuscript at her convenience.
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Wish me luck! I know without it having been worked on with an agent, it probably isn't yet exactly where it needs to be, but I'd even be happy with a revise and resubmit request once they finish reading the full.