12.16.2006

HH Com 41

Sam’s mom is sad. So sad that Sam, an eleven year old boy, starts to notice. So sad that she lies in bed, tears streaking silently down her face. So sad, in fact, that she tries to take her own life.

Sam does his best to hold his family together after his mother is hospitalized for depression. He knows he’s doing a crappy job. The T.V. dinners are burned, his father just stares into space, and his little brother, already pretty annoying, starts to wet the bed again.

Things at school aren’t much better. His best friend Dan won’t talk to him and his teacher treats him like a baby. Sam finds unexpected friends in Edward, the new nerd in school whose mom stays home and bakes cookies, Jessica, a classmate who is just plain weird, and Sarah, Dan’s fifteen year old sister who is bothnurturing and beautiful.

When Edward, Jess and Sarah’s families begin to experience problems of their own, Sam realizes that no family is perfect. Ultimately, healing and forgiveness can only come from one source: the mom he’s wanted to hate--and tried to forget.

(stop here)
‘At 50,000 words, ‘No One Lives Here’ is a young adult novel that addresses the difficult issues of parental depression and attempted suicide with empathy, sensitivity, and when appropriate, humor. It doesn’t promise a quick fix or unrealistic happy ending; rather, it is a story about the unfolding and ultimately hopeful process of a child’s life.


Quit telling me what it is when you've already shown me rather nicely in the first four paragraphs. You actually had me in the first one, but you're right you need the next three.

Winner.

28 comments:

Writerious said...

The MC is too young for a young adult novel. If he were fifteen or older, it would be a young adult novel.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity: are you cutting the hook at just the hook and saying the rest is query material?

Clarice Snarkling said...

Agreed with writerious. The character's age makes this a middle-grade novel. As does the writing style used in the hook. First paragraph was like morose Dr. Seuss for me, but I liked the rest. I read books like this, and I'd probably grab this one from the library.

michaelgav said...

You seem to write really well -- I loved the cadence of your first paragraph. Just a thought: You're dealing with some explosively emotional material here. I suspect a publisher is going to want the content vetted / verified by a youth counselor or mental health professional (or both)... I don't know if (A) you've done that already, or (B) you are one of those things, but in my experience most professionals are extremely generous of their time and expertise to help you get it right.

HawkOwl said...

At first I thought it wasn't bad except for being a bland treatment on a pretty common situation. Then it went all Care Bears and I hated it. Then you said "young adult" and I thought well, in that case, ok, because the audience would actually not know it's pretty common, and it might be worthwhile. Then I got to the "empathy and sensitivity" part and I was like "god, come off it already, eh?" So no, but it was close.

Anonymous said...

I'm so confused. When I started reading this hook, I thought, "Wow. I've read THIS book about fifty-seven times before."

And then it was a winner. Anyone willing to shed light on that?

Xiqay said...

I read a lot of YA. I agree with writerious that 11 is young for YA. This sounds much more like mid-grade, especially with the hook's opening, which is constructed with simple sentences.

Although I generally like stories with emotional themes and issues, this sounds, well, too depressing, for me to want to read.

Congrats, though, author, on getting a yes from Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

this sounds a lot like an early draft of nick hornby's about a boy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, writerious, which is why TOM SAWYER and HARRY POTTER, among others, blew it.

M. Takhallus. said...

It's a middle reader, 9-13. It's low-concept so it will need some style.

Chumplet said...

My dh went through a similar situation at eleven years old when his father broke his back and his mother didn't know enough English to manage household matters. He had to take over - bill paying, babysitting three younger siblings, and trying to make Kraft Dinner without burning it.

Anonymous said...

You're kidding. I was lost on the "sad...sad...sad..sad.." part. I didn't make it past the first paragraph....the rest ARE good, however - after I saw it was a winner and went back to re-read it.

Anonymous said...

I'm sad just reading this. Who would read sadness and actually relax. Answer: a psychopath.

Mrs. Snark your setting up these poor souls. But, I enjoy your evil humor.

Anonymous said...

Well... the sad, sad, sad repitition almost has some rythm to carry you on -- get rid of the ", in fact," and you've the rhythm right.

If you tack an upbeat ending on it, it could become an afterschool special (if they still exist).

Have a black character in it that "reveals some truth" to the boy, and Oprah will endorse it.

wheelmaker said...

the plot seems overdone to me. Read Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta for a good YA treatment of a similar storyline.

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering, Hawkowl, in the immortal words of Nicholas Cage: Did you get a job here?

Writerious said...

Yes, writerious, which is why TOM SAWYER and HARRY POTTER, among others, blew it.

Huh?

Harry Potter isn't YA. Neither is Tom Sawyer.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there is a YA book very, very similar to this story. I wish I could remember the title.

The protagonist was a girl in middle school. It was a really popular book too--I think it may have won some award. Ahh. I wish I could remember the title. I read it two years ago though.

You really need to look for that book and make sure you've done something different. Based on my memory, I'm not sure you have.

Good luck.

A-non-in-a-million

Anonymous said...

I really wish people would realize that the age of the protagonist has nothing to do with the writing level of the story, or who would be interested in reading it.

Yes, it's easier to sell a novel with a fifteen year old hero to fifteen year olds. But quite frankly, it's the writing style, length, and sentence structure that say more about the book's "level."

I'm 26 years old, and I read books about anyone from the age of eight-ten on up to senior citizen. The age of the main character doesn't characterize the book. It usually does, but there's always space for exceptions.

I think that the book sounds interesting, and yes there are probably similar books out there, but similar doesn't mean the same. If you think about it, half the books in the world could be put into a handful of categories if you want to try.

Half the time when I write something, I let people read it and they tell me it's "just like" some random other book or film I've never heard of, let alone read. Then when I DO find somebody whose read it, they tell me that the plot is similar on the surface but it's completly different.

Yes, it's good to do something different. But if we say it has to be completly different from everything ever written, we're in trouble because we wouldn't be able to publish any more books.
-Yomiko

skybluepinkrose said...

This is a middle grade novel.

Katharine Swartz said...

This IS a middle grade novel, and I made a mistake in saying it was young adult. Thanks for the comments--I'm sure something similar has done before--I don't find that a particular deterrent. What hasn't been done before, in some way or style? It is interesting to read people's different opinions, anyway.

Anonymous said...

The Watsons Go to Birmingham is YA, and the MC is what, 10? 11?

Ski said...

I also liked this. I'd bet the characters you've created are likable too. Kids forced into being adults but wanting to remain kids is emotionally powerful. Good Luck to you.

Rgds..........Ski

Virginia Miss said...

Kudos to the author. Nicely written. I agree this is mid grade.
Good luck with publication.

batgirl said...

Anon-in-a-million, maybe you're thinking of The Bear's House, by Marilyn Sachs?

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, please could you explain a little more why this is a "yes"? I don't mean any offence to the author, as I do think this reads well and that the novel is probably excellent, but you've condemned other hooks for their lack of plot when they had more than is outlined here.

Katharine Swartz said...

Why this is a "yes"? I don't mean any offence to the author, as I do think this reads well and that the novel is probably excellent, but you've condemned other hooks for their lack of plot when they had more than is outlined here.


I'm going to be arrogant and answer that when it is my own hook--simply because it's a good question and I doubt whether Miss Snark has the time to come back here and read the comments.

A lot of the hooks posted gave plot outlines that were too detailed without actually explaining what the main conflict and resolution were. So the reader gets a play by play outline without really being able to state definitively what the book is about.

Hooks are meant to be short, clear, and state who the main character is, what the problem/conflict is, and how it is resolved. That's it. If you can convey the tone of your novel in your writing, that is definitely a big plus.

In my hook, I tried to state those three: Sam is the MC, his problem is his world falls apart when his mother is hospitalised, the resolution is he needs to find answers with his mom, not other people. I'm not saying my hook was the perfect example of a good hook--far from it, as I can read for myself from various comments :). It isn't how how much information you put in your hook, though--it's putting in the right information.

jamiehall said...

anonymous said:
Miss Snark, please could you explain a little more why this is a "yes"? I don't mean any offence to the author, as I do think this reads well and that the novel is probably excellent, but you've condemned other hooks for their lack of plot when they had more than is outlined here.

The difference I see is that the amount of plot in this hook is coherent. Many of the rejected hooks were about several separate plot threads with no obvious connection, or they left loose ends dangling (the wrong sorts of questions leaping to the hook reader's mind, not the right kind). It is possible to list a lot of plot points and still be tremendously vague about the main plot arc.