Dear Query Shark:
It's not like Amber Crandall actually wants her little sister dead, but sometimes she thinks that a moment of silence sounds like a pretty good thing--until it actually happens.
This is an excellent first sentence. You might be tempted to "polish it up" by writing it thus: Amber Crandall doesn't actually want her sister dead, but resist resist resist.
The way this sentence is constructed right now, the rawness, is pretty close to perfect for conveying voice.
Late one night during the spring of her senior year, Amber's father returns home unexpectedly from his military tour of duty in Iraq looking like he hasn't taken a strictly paved route home from wherever it was the Marines shipped him.
Here I think we're running into a difference of idiom "Strictly paved route home" isn't the phrase I'd choose but I'd check the address/area code to see if the writer is Canadian or Australian. It wouldn't make me stop reading because I understand what you mean.
While her image-obsessed mother glosses over her father's increasingly erratic behavior, Amber struggles to maintain her customary role as family peacemaker. She definitely doesn't air the family secrets. Only her senile grandmother has the nerve to speak out, and nobody takes Gran seriously.
At this point I'm praying nothing goes wrong in the rest of the letter because I'm very very interested.
But when her father disappears the same night a bomb detonates in their community theater, Amber uncovers evidence of the double life her father kept hidden for over a decade.
And here's the sentence that every single query letter needs: the point at which the action starts. Where the protagonist must choose what to do.
Everything Amber has ever believed about her father, her family, and even her own identity begins to unravel. When the youngest Crandall goes missing, Amber finally speaks up--but it might not be soon enough to save her sister's life.
Notice that the writer has mentioned FIVE characters: Amber, Mum, Dad, Gran, little sister. Normally I'd be all over that as "character soup" but this WORKS. Why? Because the writer does not name the characters...she describes who they are to Amber: Mum, Dad, Gran, sister.
One Last Thread is a young adult novel of approximately 38,000 words that follows Amber's struggle to do the right thing while remaining true to the family she loves in spite of their imperfections--and her own.
Notice that the writer does not need to tell us anything more than "struggle to do the right thing" here. We don't need to know what she has to do, only that it is the right thing. Specificity is good, but it can get you bogged down in detail. This is an elegant way to convey what Amber must do.
(I know you prefer word counts between 50 and 200 thousand, but you also constantly snarl about extraneous information. So... I pared on the side of caution. The far side.)
This is a hilarious line because I DO snarl about paring down, and I was a tad concerned at 38K for a YA novel. Frankly I'd be ok with a novel on the short side of things because it's a lot easier to tell a writer to add scenes and flesh out characters than have them pare things away.
This also SHOWS rather than tells that the writer reads the blog and (more important!) pays attention. At this point I'm totally smitten.
Thank you for your time,
Contact Information redacted
This is as close to a perfect query as we've seen here in a while. You bet I'd request pages. In fact, I AM requesting pages. Send at once.