Friday, February 27, 2015


79,600 words
YA Contemporary


Sometimes a kid’s only hope for saving himself is to become his parents’ shrink.

Or so fifteen-year-old Cam Hanson would like you to think. Never mind that he spent last summer under the care of a psychiatrist, or as Cam calls him, the “effing witch doctor mind specialist.” He’d rather you pay more attention to his attempt to turn his life around, to become more observant, more professional.

When his family’s surprise inheritance of a grand old home dredges up troubling memories from his parents’ childhoods, Cam decides his life’s purpose is to be their therapist. Learning from and then cleverly supplanting a sketchy hired hypnotist, he fends off his meddling siblings and pushes his parents to the brink. But in forcing a confrontation with their traumatic pasts, is Cam trying to help them heal or is he being driven by the unsettling truth behind his desire to reinvent himself?

First Page:

So before we get started and get carried away and all that, let’s be clear about something:

Cam Hanson has not run away from home. 

Okay, technically, he has, but really, the more sophisticated and professional explanation (out of respect for your intelligence) is that Cam Hanson has taken a brief sabbatical from home. More specifically, a brief sabbatical from his role as hands-on, day-to-day leader of his family and his parents’ only hope at healing their deep-seated psychic wounds.

Nice résumé for someone alive only fifteen years ten months.

Another important point in need of clarification: This temporary suspension of familial duties and Cam’s subsequent departure to an undisclosed location with his notebooks and pens and his memories to write out what you’re reading now, this chronicle of what really happened to the Hansons in those ten months following the day he turned fifteen, is not Cam’s doing by choice, but rather his best option out of several less attractive ones due to the unfortunate, inexcusable actions and belief systems of certain nefarious individuals, all of which will be exposed, and rightfully so, in said chronicle.

But that’s not where the story begins.

Cam’s parents didn’t become his patients overnight and a jealous world didn’t try and tear down the edifice of his achievements in one day. We start where it all really started for Cam Hanson: that particularly anxious evening in February, when, among other fortuitous events, he received a vision from the future.


  1. There's just something about the pitch that makes it get muddled in my brain and I have to think hard to understand it. Might be because I've read through a lot of them lately. But I love your first 250 words.

  2. Hi Krista, thanks for your feedback, I appreciate you taking the time to read my stuff.

  3. I love the idea. A kid being his parents' shrink, that's hilarious, scary, mind bugging, believable.
    The pitch is really inspiring and well done. I wouldn't change a word.

    Concerning the first page, I am not sure I agree with the way you started the story. For MG, it could work. For YA, it is very unusual and might sound too telling. Also, third person is unusual nowadays in YA. And how is the MC going to migrate from a journal to real life? I mean, when you get to the story itself, will you change POV?
    This being said, the voice engaged me right away. The first page gave me a lot to think about and that's a good sign.

    SUGGESTIONS: I would remove "and all that" in the first page because it weakens the sentence, IMO. You want the voice to stay confident, not dismissing.
    Even though it does sound funny, I suggest you change "his role as hands-on, day-to-day leader of his family and his parents’ only hope at healing their deep-seated psychic wounds" because it actually sounds muddled. You want your voice to sound precise and in control, not delirious. It's an authoritative voice, a voice that knows what it's doing, not a voice with a casual tone. You want to let your reader know right away precisely what your MC does for his/her parents.
    I also think the sentences are way too long and it is sometimes hard to figure out what you are saying. It does create a funny effect, but since it is the first page it helps to know exactly what is going on.
    I do like the way you ended the page and that made me want to know more. And I love the sentence "Nice résumé for someone alive only fifteen years ten months."

    FINALLY, Even though the voice sounds a little bit stilted for a 15 year-old, and maybe too old, it is dynamic and really intriguing because the idea for the story is totally original and true. I know a few kids who can say they are the psy of their parents when parents can be really messed up and need confidants and they choose their kids as confidants when they really should not.
    So, I'm sure this story will strike a string and people will want to read more.

    1. Hi Sussu,

      Wow, thank you for all of the feedback, I appreciate you taking the time. You've given me a lot to chew on here. Let me just say that this book from beginning to end is written by Cam Hanson in a faux third person POV. He's attempting to show his objectivity but it's quickly apparent how unreliable he is. Thanks again for all the comments.

  4. Pitch: This is original and full of voice.

    250: I think Sussu has some good points: this opening is very interesting and has a strong hook, but it reads somewhat like MG and has elements of a pitch rather than getting us right into the story. Still, I would want to read more. Good luck! (#7)

    1. Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for reading and for the feedback. I appreciate your thoughts. Good luck as well!

  5. Pitch: Hmmm, I could be biased. The story structure here seems fine. It's a wrap-around technique with an unreliable narrator, same as my entry. I think the most jarring thing in the pitch is that it switches from 3rd person to 2nd person back to 3rd person. I recommend keeping the first sentence with the following paragraph and changing that paragraph to 3rd person so it fits and flows with the rest. Only other thing is that "driven by the unsettling truth behind his desire" can be simplified to "driven by his unsettling desire".

    +1: I confess, I also thought it read like an upper MG, but that can also translate to a younger YA, like for grades 7-9. Voice reminds me of Josh Lieb's I AM A GENIUS OF UNSPEAKABLE EVIL AND I WANT TO BE YOUR CLASS PRESIDENT. I like the complicated sentences. They are rightfully different given the character's twisted mind, and appropriate for his character's genius, the story structure, and the unreliable narrative. I do question why the MC refers to himself in 3rd person in his journal, though. I wonder if the story would be even more accessible and entertaining if the journal entries were written in first person.
    Highly entertaining, nonetheless. Very well done.
    (#14 OSN)

    1. Hi Melissa, thanks for your feedback, really appreciate your thoughts. And great to hear there's another unreliable narrator lurking in this contest.


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