Twenty-four year old English teacher Pete Nicely has been waiting for a student like Charlie Novela.
This kid is immediately sharp and sarcastic. He’s amused by his classmates’ attempts to intimidate him. And he even knows how to scan the back covers of books as if shopping in a bookstore.
But in the Zero-Tolerance aftermath of the Columbine massacre, Charlie goes too far.
“If things get too bad,” Charlie says, “I’ll put on a trench coat and take care of things.”
Now Pete has two choices. He can follow new school policy and report Charlie, possibly branding the boy as a psychopath. Or he can try to help Charlie himself.
But he has to do something.
WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME is a 69,000-word novel about good intentions gone wrong.
Thank you for your time,
holy moly, you REALLY fixed this.
I'm not sure we've seen this degree of turn around since good ol #148's first and second efforts.
What I like: there's a compelling, energetic voice.
There's an interesting problem.
What I really like: you sucked up a real sharkstorm of critique and made this a whole lot better.
What I don't like but's easily fixed: the names of the characters Nicely and Novela.
I think this works now.
I'd read the first three pages with a query, and if that voice holds up AND it doesn't start with dreaming/driving/showering or some other static formulaic thing, I'd keep reading.
Dear Query Shark:
At twenty-four, Pete Nicely is the youngest teacher in an inner-city school that loses a fifth of its faculty every year.
Yet despite daily dealings with apathetic students and useless administrators, Pete still thinks he might be able to save the world and impress Riley Merritt—social studies teacher and the only
registered Communist he’s ever pleasured himself to.
And here's where you abruptly lose me. There may indeed have been a wave of zero-tolerance hysteria after the Columbine shootings, but most of the people who read this query are going to sympathize with it. People aren't rational about the idea of their kids getting shot in school. Do you want them to be?
You need the reference to post-Columbine, but you need a more measured tone.
When the Columbine massacre led to zero-tolerance policies at high schools all over the country, everything changes. Not the most elegant of sentences, but see what I'm getting at here?
Now all Pete, and his mom, can think about is murder. One wrong word and he’s sure guerrilla warfare will break out in his classroom.
I lose all sympathy for Pete here. He sounds like the hysterical one now. One of the most common thing you hear from people after these kinds of events is "I never thought this could happen here" not "we were just one wrong word away from guerrilla warfare."
Only Riley manages to make any sense. “Don’t fret, Nicely. They’ll chew you up if you fret. Just try to save one or two in each class, if you can. And don’t worry, nobody is counting.”
Coming after the reference to Columbine, it looks at first blush as though Riley is suggesting Nicely save one or two kids from a massacre. I'm hoping that's not what you meant.
Pete is on the verge of his daily nervous breakdown when Charlie Novela interrupts his sixth period. Charlie is immediately sharp, sensitive—and gay. All qualities that will make his life difficult if not impossible in a school dominated by a football team that’s led the league in gaybashing for nine straight seasons.
Basically, Charlie is doomed. And if Pete can save him, then he can save anyone. Even Riley would agree.
However, Pete’s slightly heroic plans are crushed when Charlie quickly confesses some slightly homicidal feelings. Now Pete has a choice he’s not prepared to make. Either he destroys Charlie’s trust and turns the kid in, or he risks the lives of every human being on campus,
including his own.
This is a false choice. If Charlie is confessing normal teenage feelings, no one is in danger. The only reason Pete would ever be in trouble is if Charlie actually DID something...why does Pete think he would?
WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME!? is a 69,000-word novel about the constant humiliations that can make high school a very dangerous place.
You're asking us to buy into the idea that constant humiliation makes people murderous. I'm not sure that's true other than on television. Constant humiliation makes people litigious, or makes them drop out of school.
(and in a nice touch, you spelled your name wrong which makes me laugh only because I'm always hitting the wrong key when I sign my emails too)
The tone is off here. If you're looking for a serious exploration of the high wire act faced by people who are legally required to report things they hear, you can't also have flippant things like "daily nervous breakdown." You're also relying on a very dated trope: gaybashing football team, sensitive student. I'm sure a lot of that still exists in real life, but novels have moved passed that. This story doesn't need it, because what's interesting is the burden placed on teachers after the post-Columbine zero-tolerance policies. And those apply to any student. You don't need tired old tropes. Make up some new ones.