Amy’s a problematic drinker brooding over a fantasy world and her dead mother. Carrie’s overly uptight and spurns Dean’s hopeless advances. Mitch and Renee are deeply in love, but it’s all in jeopardy.
Egad. Five characters in four sentences and 33 words! This is textbook "character soup." Don't do it. The reason you don't want to do this is I don't know where to look or what to remember. It's akin to being introduced to five people in rapid succession, by first names only, at a job interview. Who's important? Who's the intern and who's the guy actually deciding whether you get the job?
The first paragraph needs to be enticing, not the cast of characters.
Suddenly these problems get even more complex, especially considering they’ve tripped into Amy’s fantasy: Ezrantia. Revelations about her mother send Amy into an alcohol fueled downward spiral. Carrie obsesses over home. Dean is heartbroken. Mitch and Renee run from their fears and into a desert.
Oh, and Ezrantia is crumbling worse than a stale loaf of bread for the pigeons.
I'm absolutely and completely lost right now. This is a very bad thing in a query.
And then there's that stupid prophecy. Those things always make life a living hell.
These five teens and their new friends aren’t ready, mentally or physically, for an oncoming battle with a creeping shadow. Despite friendships, politics, magic, a fortuneteller, faeries and alcohol, they all must prepare. But it’s not easy putting emotions aside, especially those concerning your closest friends.
This is set up. What's the actual problem? Who are the antagonists? What's at stake?
You're burying the place that the story starts: the oncoming battle. Everything else you've got here is set up or description. What's the plot?
All their new magic seems meaningless in the face of this beastly shadow because they can’t run from their problems forever. Sometimes they chase after you.
PAPER CROWNS, complete at 69,000 words, is a different type of YA fantasy. I’m an avid reader sick of vampires, elves and dragons. Instead I tossed talking animals, booze and bad attitude into the frying pan and am serving up something new.
"sick of vampires, elves and dragons" I'm sure you are. But your query isn't the place to reveal that. Chances are the agent you're querying is making some pretty nice coin off those books. While we're all looking for fresh and new, we don't have to trash the stuff that made us money last year.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Simple and elegant is really hard to do. All the reviews of the new Steve Jobs biography mention his insistence on clean, simple and intuitive. Query letters are like that too: simply tell us who the main character is, what problem s/he faces, and what's at stake. It's harder than it sounds, of course, but you've still got to do it.
If you have an ensemble cast, you'd have done well to pay attention to QueryShark #199.