Seventh grader Scott Winters doesn't know he has superpowers, but it sure would explain a few things. Like why there's a strange girl following him around, handing him blank business cards and picking fights with his bullies. Or why some telekinetic villain suddenly wants him dead
The villain attacks Scott at the school dance. He throws tables and speakers while shouting about how Scott ruined his life. Scott has trouble refuting this claim, because he has no idea who the man is. Fortunately, Scott's new stalker, Rachel Hunter, is secretly a junior superhero working for the FBI. She and her handlers force the villain to flee.
Now safe but thoroughly confused, Scott falls face-first into the hidden world of superpowers. He soon discovers his own powers: Immunity to other superpowers and the ability to suppress them temporarily through physical contact. Scott is ecstatic at the prospect of becoming a superhero, but trying to touch a man who can throw furniture at you from fifty yards away is as dangerous as it sounds. The FBI tell Scott to stay back and let the real heroes work. Scott begrudgingly complies, until one of those real heroes tries to kill him.
With Rachel's help, Scott manages to suppress his attacker's super strength. This somehow causes sudden amnesia. The assailant has no idea where she is or why she attacked Scott. The FBI soon discovers that the telekinetic man was also an unwitting pawn. The real villain is still out there, possessing people like a ghost. Only Scott's unique suppression ability can free the victims. So when the villain's next vessel is none other than Rachel, Scott knows its his turn to be the hero. All he has to do is save the girl... assuming she doesn't kill him first.
How to Save the Girl is the 69,000-word account of Scott's first summer as a superhero. Written by a physicist whose only superpowers are math-related, the work carries a comedic, kid-in-way-over-his-head tone inspired by the early Percy Jackson novels and Stuart Gibbs' Spy School series. [The work also features a schizophrenic deuteragonist with her own character arc.]
Thank you for your consideration,
If I acquired middle grade fiction, I'd read this.
Question: The query focuses largely on an act 1 subplot involving the MC's female best friend and ignores the main romance interest, whose plot doesn't rev up until late in act 2 (not good for a query). My one page synopsis (not included) is the exact opposite. It ignores the best friend entirely so it can focus on the main romance interest, whose plot structure largely parallels the main plot with the villains. I know you might not be able to answer without the synopsis, but will agents have a problem with this? I'm afraid it will feel too disconnected or misleading.
Dear Query Shark:
Seventh grader Scott Winters doesn't know he has super powers. He just knows he has problems. A bear in his school, a classmate with amnesia, a random rat infestation. Crazy things tend to happen around Scott, and he always gets the blame. So when seven of his classmates mysteriously fall into a lion habitat, Scott knows he's in trouble again. What he doesn't know is that someone just tried to kill him.
This lead paragraph is 72 words, or about 25% of your query. The ONLY information you need here is the first and last sentence.
The paragraph is well-written, and it's pretty funny, BUT it makes me think the book is about Scott getting his friends out of trouble. You don't want me to think the book is one thing when it's really something else.
Seventh grader Scott Winters doesn't know he has super powers.
Meanwhile, Scott's best friend is also in danger. Schvärtzmurgel Hoffman is three parts tomboy, two parts snark. Just don't try using her first name — she'll punch you. Schizophrenia and a terrible fashion sense earn her plenty of ridicule at school, but Hoffman's real trouble lies at home. Scott finds her with a black eye the next day. Her mother's hitting her again.
Wait. Schizophrenia? Where did that come from? And equating a debilitating mental illness with terrible fashion sense is both tone deaf and weird.
In addition, this paragraph does not relate in any way to the first paragraph. You left me wondering who's trying to kill Scott in paragraph one. Paragraph two should be something about that, not this odd curveball.
Scott already tried contacting the authorities about Hoffman's situation, but they don't believe him. Somehow Hoffman's mother always convinces the other adults that nothing's wrong. Scott settles for inviting Hoffman over as often as possible, but even this plan is jeopardized when another attempt is made on Scott's life. This time the villain reveals himself — a tall man with telekinetic abilities.
Ok so now we have the villain. You'll have to cut out all the stuff about Miss Hoffman (notice you've told us what NOT to call her, but not what her preferred name is) cause it doesn't relate AT ALL to what you've said is the main plot: someone trying to kill Scott.
Running for their lives, Scott and Hoffman are thrust into the hidden world of superpowers. Scott soon discovers his own unique power, immunity to other superpowers and the ability to suppress them temporarily. He also meets three empowered FBI agents. They take Scott and Hoffman into protective custody, which shines a spotlight on Hoffman's home life.
At this point I'm too confused to read on. What is "the hidden world of superpowers?" Where did the FBI come from?
Scott doesn't have high hopes, but the superpowered branch of the FBI is better equipped than the local authorities. They identify Hoffman's mom as a psychic, able to manipulate the thoughts of others. It's such a dangerous power that the FBI asks Scott for help. His ability to suppress superpowers is ideal for shutting down psychics, but the telekinetic man is still at large. Scott now faces a difficult choice. Keep hiding for his own safety, or risk another attack to protect his friend.
If Hoffman's mom is a key part of the plot, you can still leave out all the abuse stuff in your query. A query needs to be sleek, not stuffed.
Written by a physicist who picked up creative writing as a way to stay sane in graduate school, HOW TO SAVE THE GIRL
Doesn't make light of child abuse? Why on earth would I even think you'd do that? Don't defend yourself against accusations that haven't been made.
I don't care why you want to be a writer.
I hope there is more than scattered humor cause this is a middle grade book about superpowers. Funny is the ONLY way its going to work.
Right now this query is over stuffed. Focus on the MAIN plot.
I'm totally put off by the idea there's a romance in a middle grade novel but that's probably cause I'm thinking of romance novels. Middle grade novels are read by 4th-6th graders. I'm absolutely sure that a strong romantic element is out of place here. Boys and girls being friends is about the max on this kind of thing.
That the plot doesn't rev up until "late in Act 2" is a HUGE problem, in that when I request a full manuscript, the plot better be revved up and running by the end of Act 1 and preferably a lot sooner.
If not, I stop reading.
Middle grade readers aren't going to sit around and wait for the good stuff either.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
To answer your question: a query that doesn't match the synopsis IS confusing. The fact that they don't means you have a problem WITH THE BOOK.
This means, before you revise the query, make sure the plot of your book is front and center in the very first pages.
Then revise your query.
I also suspect you would benefit from reading more middle grade books. Your librarian can help you with that. She's superpowered that way.