Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #34


TITLE OF MANUSCRIPT:  And Jakob Flew the Fiend Away
GENRE:  Upper YA Historical fiction, Bildungsroman
WORD COUNT: 120,000

Query:

Jakob DeJonghe can think of nothing but revenge when the Nazis coerce his father into suicide and his little sister mysteriously disappears the day before Yom Kippur.  As conditions in Amsterdam worsen, Jakob is determined to fight back and be the master of his own destiny, just as his heroes the Maccabees did in ancient times.
 
While en route from Westerbork, Jakob finally takes action, jumps from a death train, and breaks his foot.  As he’s limping for his life towards a forest, he’s found by four young resistance fighters and taken to a safe house.  Even though Jakob has been left with a permanent limp, he’s still determined to defend his country and track down the men who killed his father. 
 
His dream comes true when he joins his new friends’ resistance group, but after a chance meeting with a spirited young woman on one of his missions, he starts to feel the slow reawakening of emotions he thought he’d buried.  After being recruited into the Princess Irene Brigade and made a real soldier, Jakob realizes his battle is only half-won.  If he ever wants to survive a world that will never be ordinary again, love and not hate will have to carry him through.  And if he finds his dream girl again, this painful readjustment just might be easier.

First 150 words:

Jakob DeJonghe looked away from a German soldier as he and his mother Luisa headed home from the Waterlooplein market.  Tomorrow, at Yom Kippur services, he planned to pray for these fiends to leave his country.  Five months of occupation were about all he could take.  But in the meantime, Luisa had promised to make a special dessert tonight. Her delicious food always made everything right.

“I can’t wait till our chocolate cake fills my stomach tonight!” Jakob declared as he shifted a heavy bag of groceries to his other arm. “I wish I were still as little as Emilia so I could lick the extra frosting and batter!”

He and Luisa abruptly halted when they heard unfamiliar voices coming from their home and saw 

the back door open.  The only thing Jakob knew for sure was that these definitely weren’t the 

parents of his baby sister Emilia’s playdate, dropping her home early.   

7 comments:

JenfromtheBlock said...

My daughter (12 years old) is particularly drawn to historical fiction dealing with this time period. I think she'd read this for sure. The query nicely conveys that the story would appeal to both boys and girls (thanks to the sympathetic little sister character and the dream girl). The only drawback is the length. (My daughter would balk at so many pages.) Plus, I'd check on the usage of the word "playdate" to see whether or not such a term would be used back then. Otherwise, it sounds great!

Jenna and Ashley said...

Query:
-I'd stop the first sentence after suicide. Let it be powerful.
"Jakob DeJonghe can think of nothing but revenge when the Nazis force his father to commit suicide. When his little sister disappears the day before Yom Kippur." More of an immediate, suspenseful feel. I wasn't sure about the word "coerce" about the suicide.
-Surround "the Maccabees" with commas.
-2nd par. "Determined to take action, Jakob jumps from a death train en route from Westerbork. As he limps on his broken foot toward (not towards) the forest, four young resistant fighters find him and take him to a safe house."
The way you have it now, you use limp twice.
-First sent. of par. 3 too long.
-Work on the punch of the last sentence. Maybe "This painful readjustment just might be easier if he could only find his dream girl again." I'm not sure if that even makes it sound better, but it's lacking, especially starting with And.
-I may have changed your voice too much, but while I was reading, I thought the voice was a little impersonal and not connected with the character's struggle because of all the mature diction. Even though it's upper YA, make it more urgent, more exciting, and you don't have to keep the mature word choice throughout.

First 150:
-Consider on last sent. of first par. "Her delicious food would make everything right." More concise. If he knows it's delicious, he's eaten it before, implying the always.
-Just from the sample, I think you could just classify it as plain YA, not upper. Unless there's like a crazy sex scene, even the mature/graphic nature of the Holocaust is accessible to lower-aged teens. An agent might wonder why you've labeled it upper YA.

I love Holocaust stories. This is a wonderful idea. Good luck!
-Jenna
(Pitch #28)

Meghan Drummond said...

I love your plot, it has so much potential. Historical Young Adult is such a great genre.

Query: I'd review Query structure. You're giving us a great overview of the story, but the hook needs to be a little tighter, and don't forget to summarize. We need to know how many words it is, what genre it is, and the title.

Genre: Is Upper YA a thing? I know New Adult is, and that sounds maybe like what you're going for.

First 150:
I'd agree with others that the voice felt disconnected. I can tell you love your characters, but I'm not sure why I should love them.

Love the concept! Good luck
Meghan
Pitch # 44

Ellie Heller said...

My concern has a little less to do with the pitch, per se, than how out of place chocolate cake seems for this time and place and culture. I'm not sure what Dutch Jews of the time made for their Yom Kippur sweet, but chocolate seems off as most Ashkenazic Jews made/make honey based sweets. If it's not, you might want to say the name of the sweet ~the dutch word~ and have him clarify what it is - I can't wait for the XXX, I love the chocolate... Chocolate Cake just seemed really off to me, sorry.

Also, you *might* want to consider having them get the frosting/decorations/final touch instead of the ingredients because most cooking *which can be done ahead of time* is usually done by this point of preparing for a holiday feast. At least that's how it is in my house for the holidays. :-)

Carrie-Anne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carrie-Anne said...

Thanks for all your comments. My original opening paragraphs were:

Jakob DeJonghe had once a heart full of love and joy for the world, but now he was angry and bitter, and put up an iron wall all around his heart to prevent anyone from reaching him and getting too close to him.

And if those soulless barbarians who’d destroyed his happy home and invaded his country thought this fourteen-year-old boy were going to roll over and let Them get away with it, They had another think coming.

I ended up changing it a little, though I still like the old-fashioned way of slowing introducing a character instead of beginning with action.

It's well-established during the story that Jakob has a bit of a sweet tooth and loves his mother's chocolate cake, particularly the chocolate cake with strawberry filling she bakes every year for his birthday. He even has his later surrogate mother make it for his 17th birthday, shortly before he joins the resistance, and at the orphanage where he works after he's discharged from the army. The only year he doesn't have it is 1945, when he and his comrades are fêted at The Hague during their victory parade.

The story starts on 10 October 1940, and Yom Kippur began the next night. They still would've been able to bake food that night.

I called it upper YA because the character ages from 14 to 20, and is married by the end. There aren't any sex scenes, though there's a tasteful fade to black scene on his wedding night (when they don't do anything that could conceive a child, since he's still in the service and doesn't want to risk creating a half-orphan). I'm having a bit of a dilemma in regards to how to classify some of my historicals with younger characters, since even though they revolve around teenagers, the 1940s version of a teenager was a lot different from today's, particularly in regards to what my European characters go through.

(Deleted and reposted because tasteless and tasteful are not the same word.)

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