Wednesday, June 5, 2013

QK Round 2: Supergeeker vs. Alien Prep School Conspiracy

Entry Nickname: Supergeeker
Word Count: 60,000 words
Genre: YA Fantasy


Fifteen-year-old Talis Brooks knows she’s a socially irrelevant, puberty challenged dork. The closest she’s ever come to physical activity is being a Mathlete. But when puberty kicks in overnight, Talis doesn’t just go up a cup size, she gains the strength and agility of a superhero. Suddenly she can toss around 250-pound bullies, fight like a ninja and her butt totally fills out her jeans.

Talis has seen enough movies to know she has to keep her powers a secret. But when pretty boy Cole is brutally attacked by band geeks, Talis is the only one who steps up to save him. With her school in danger, and a hooded gang out to get her popular classmates, she forms a secret identity to protect them. Now there’s a blog tracking her every superhero move, the mean girls are out for her blood and she’s stuck in a love triangle with Cole and her superhero alter ego. Plus there’s that whole psychotic gang situation.

As the attacks spiral out of control, Talis must find the mastermind behind them, and figure out how to stop them, before her superhero secret is exposed.

First 250:

I just don’t want to die. Of humiliation. Besides getting straight A’s, that’s pretty much my only goal this year.

Coach Marshall, evil fiend in tiny man shorts, is out to thwart my plans. When he divides us up for volleyball, he puts me with the people voted “Much Cooler Than You.” This is not where I belong.

Marshall busts me sneaking onto my usual court—the one with my asthmatic friend Jane, Weird Cape Billy and the kid wearing a back brace. My people. He waves me over to the last court. “Talis, I told you, you’re over there today.”

“Coach—” I say, but he’s already moved on, yelling at two freshmen beating each other with the soft baseball bats.

Obviously whoever made PE mandatory isn’t an easy bleeder with little to no physical coordination. I put it off until sophomore year, hoping I’d get breasts before having to engage in the horror of group showers. Unfortunately, puberty is eluding me.

I take my time walking over. Standing on the edge of the group, I try to look busy, pretending to read the safety guidelines listed on the wall. I firmly knot my shoes. I pull up my gym shorts, which are always sliding down, even with the top rolled.

When I look up the Trifecta are only a few feet away.


Entry Nickname: Alien Prep School Conspiracy
Word Count: 94,000
Genre: YA Sci-fi


Seventeen year-old Marc Andrews attends an exclusive prep school, but he should be in reform school. He’s stolen a test, blackmailed a teacher, and taken advantage of more girls than he can remember…and that’s just this semester. Then he meets Bethany. Not only hot, she calls him on his usual shit. He respects that. And he’s shocked to realize he genuinely likes her. But after their first date, Marc wakes up in a mental institution. He’s told he killed Bethany after passing out while driving drunk. Marc imagines life can’t get any more messed up…until he discovers the loony bin’s a fake and he’s been kidnapped by aliens.

The aliens can see the future where Marc’s the President who starts World War III. Because he proved himself unable to become a better person, they’ve replaced him to prevent Earth’s destruction. Being an accidental murderer is bad enough, but Marc’s shocked that he attains a Hitler-Stalin level of evil. And with the aliens’ empathy machine, he’s forced to experience his victims’ suffering from the averted future.

Marc’s initially grateful to his captors for preventing him from becoming a monster. That is, until he learns an alien faction, that includes the doppelgänger who replaced him, want Earth for themselves. And they’re conspiring to kick off Armageddon as previously scheduled. Marc can’t let the horrors he’s experienced happen for real. It’s up to him, with help from Bethany (apparently an alien and not dead), to escape, save the planet, and maybe even become a decent human being in the process.

First 250 Words:

When Gil and Lew came to my dorm room with the idea of stealing the physics final, I normally wouldn’t have considered such a dumbass move. It wasn’t that I had any moral objections to cheating or stealing. An “A” in one class, even Jeffrey Taylor’s, just wasn’t worth the risk of getting kicked out of prep school.

But these were special circumstances. I had opportunity, thanks to Gil and Lew. I had motive, thanks to a shitty semester with Mr. Taylor. And I had an ace-in-the-hole, thanks to hooking up with fifteen year-old Heather in Mr. Taylor’s classroom.

It was snowing by the time I reached Maple Street with its tidy cottages. The white stuff powdering the sidewalks and clinging to the branches sweetened the street’s already cloying New England charm and made me want to puke.

I slipped to the back of Mr. Taylor’s small Cape Cod. Gil was waiting for me.

“Door’s locked.” His breath was visible in the cold.

“I’ll open it,” I said.

Gil gave me a classic Gilbert and Lewis vacant look. The two of them might as well have been brothers, both with Nordic good looks, several inches over six feet…and not too bright.

I took out my tension wrench and wide-tipped pick.

Gil’s jaw went slack. “I’ve seen this shit on TV, Marc. You’re going to pick it?”

“Yeah, if you shut up and let me concentrate for a minute.”

The doorknob turned loosely in my hand. Broken, so, I’d only the deadbolt to deal with.


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes

    1. Victory to SUPERGEEKER. I adore the voice, plain and simple.

    2. Victory to Supergeeker
      Alien Prep School - I enjoyed your writing in the 250. Unfortunately your MC didn't draw me in as much as your opponent's did.
      Supergeeker - you are a funny one, and I liked humor combined with the superhero element. The second paragraph of your query needs some clarification.

    3. Victory to Supergeeker

      Love both of these. It was a hard choice, but I based it on the voice in the first 250. Good luck to you both.

    4. I love voice in Supergeeker, even though the first 250 sounds like stuff I've seen before. Though funny, it's kind of typical high school action.

      Alien Prep School is more unique, but the opening page didn't capture me nearly as well. I think it's the kind of story that would grow on me. An anti-hero appeals to me.

      Victory to Alien Prep School!

    5. Victory to Supergeeker

    6. Victory to Alien Prep School. Query felt stronger to me. 250 needs tightening, but the voice is there, and the premise is fun :)

    7. Victory to Supergeeker

      Both great premises!

    8. Victory to Supergeeker

      Fantastic and fun concepts both, with good queries. Supergeekers amazing voice and man-shorts comment clinched it for me in the 250.

    9. Victory to Supergeeker

    10. Victory to Supergeeker

      I'm a sucker for superpowers, ;)

  2. Victory to SUPERGEEKER! The voice matched in both query and opening.

    Alien Prep-- it took me longer to connect with your voice in your first 250 than it did with your opponents. You've got a great concept. I think why I didn't connect was the concept of a "bad boy" picking a lock just seemed a bit cliche'. Can you open with a different bad boy behavior? Or a different aspect of him altogether?

  3. SUPERGEEK: Love the concept of overnight puberty kicking in with super powers. I’m already wondering why t happened (like in a good way). Chance? Superbug bite? Family legacy? I’m intrigued. Thank you for mentioning pop culture as a reference for the MC (hate it when MC’s are all, “What’s a vampire?” AS IF we don’t all know). We'll have to high five later.

    Couple questions: First Cole is attacked by band geeks and then a hooded gang is out to get popular peeps. Are they the same gang? Different? It would be weird if their identities were secret AFTER being identified as band geeks. Also, I’m not sure how Talis kept her superhero identity secret when saving Cole the first time. A small bit of clarity would make this query gold!

    BETTER LIVES: I commented on your submission in Round 1, so not much to add. I still love the insertion of aliens. YA sci-fi FTW! From the query and first 250 words, I personally don’t find Marc sympathetic as an MC – but I think that info is just missing. Even if he is a “bad boy” what aspects of his person / personality are readers going to identify with and provide reason to root for him? If this is a redemption story, what is the glimmer of hope present in Marc from page 1?

    Good luck both of you! This is a fun match up. Best wishes.

  4. Super Geeker
    Love the voice! I do need some context on why the band geeks are attacking. I love the premise but I need to know the STAKES involved. Why can’t her superhero secret be exposed? Up the ante for us.
    Again, love the voice in the 250 but I don’t love the first line. And I LOVE “Trifecta.” In high school, we had a Trifecta! And a group universally called the Clique. Loving it!

    Alien Prep School
    A lot going on in the first paragraph of the query. It started out very Cruel Intentions and ended up…unique.
    You have a lot going on here. He is a troublemaker, he is kidnapped, he is forced to feel empathy by a machine, and then he must save the earth. I feel like he needs to take some action in the query. A lot is HAPPENING to him but he isn’t acting of his own accord much. But I love how you slip Bethany in at the end. Masterful.
    I’m not sure the 250 starts in the right place but I’d keep reading.

    Good job and good luck to you both!

  5. I commented on both of these in the last round. I can only say that if I were judging, my vote would go to SUPERGEEKER on purely sentimental grounds (Yay, Mathletes!). It's probably good I'm not a judge, as they are both excellent.

  6. SUPERGEEKER! Oh, man, you sold me on your humor! Very funny first 250 and the query sounds interesting. Tough times in high school PE is something I still remember well (and hated). Very likable protagonist already established. Hard to nit-pick, really.

    ALIEN PREP SCHOOL! Outstanding premise. But your protagonist almost comes across as...slightly unlikable? Okay, I know, you really can't judge from the first 250 words, and teens are a highly cynical and bitter bunch, so maybe it's an unfair criticism. But other than that, very well done.

    In another post, I was lamenting the lack of "fun" YA entries. Here they are!

  7. Supergeeker: Holy COW I'd read the crap out of this book! I know we've all heard that the kid getting secret powers and has to learn to control them storyline is overdone, but with a voice like that... who cares? It's awesome! The first line of the query is brilliant and the first 250 is flawless in my opinion. My only suggestion would be to allow the query to hint at Talis wondering where her powers came from so an agent doesn't feel like he/she missed something.

    Alien Prep School: Just as the others have said, the premise is outstanding! That being said I think you could trim the query so it leaves us wondering more. Unanswered questions can be a very bad thing in a query but I think this premise could use more mystery. Perhaps don't tell us why he's been kidnapped by aliens and hint at their nefarious plan instead. That way we know who the villains are, the stakes are set, and the MC's arc is established.

    Good luck to both of you!

  8. Supergeeker - Love, love the first 250. Your query makes me chuckle but I think it'd be even better with a hint as to why the geeks are rising up. Something to do with her new powers? I'd previously expected that change to be specific to her. Still love this, just need that bit of why.

    Alien Prep School - Love the concept, but I agree that there is too much information, almost reaching synopsis level in the query. Leave us wanting more - cuz we will!

  9. Victory to ALIEN PREP SCHOOL on the strength of the query.

    Query: The motivation behind the “attacked by band geeks” and “that whole psychotic gang situation” would have to be explained for me to buy in to this premise. I do like the girl superhero thing.

    Story: I like the voice, and am curious as what the Trifecta is.

    Good Query: Unique premise. Well-written. I really hope it doesn’t devolve into a whole Christmas Carol kind of thing, though.

    Story: The first paragraph kinda stopped me. Your query implies (or maybe I just inferred) that he’s already “stolen a test, blackmailed a teacher, and taken advantage of more girls than he can remember,” so I wondered why the test-stealing this time would this give him pause. The snow description is great! But then the story kind of slips into a “he said, then (the other) he said” situation. Tighten to make it pop, not sag.

  10. Supergeeker: Really nice job! I don’t have much to say about this one, except the paragraph in the 250 about putting PE off until Sophomore year confused me, and I had to reread it. I think it’s because in my school, PE is mandatory all four years.

    Alien Prep School Conspiracy: Also very nice job! I feel your query could use some more tightening. Most of the first paragraph can be removed—I don’t think you even need to mention Bethany, but certainly not the details about how she calls him on his shit and he respects that and likes her. I think you could do away with the specific examples of his crimes/bad deeds. Maybe just say he’s a delinquent? The meat of the story is what happens at the loony bin so I’d get there as fast as possible. In the first 250, I’d watch out for the protag’s likability. I don’t mind if he’s a delinquent, but he needs some aspect of him that’s admirable, even in the first 250, to keep the reader engaged and want to root for him. As is, I don’t want to root for him. He seems rude to me.

    Good luck to both entries! Great stuff all around!

  11. Supergeeker: Your query is fab, and your first 250 made me laugh out loud. (Yes, I have definitely been there.) The one thing I would change is that I don't understand why "Of humiliation" gets its own sentence at the start of your 250--that felt jarring and unnatural to me. Otherwise, very nicely done!

    Alien Prep School: The only nitpick I have with your query is that the tense is off in "Marc’s shocked that he attains a Hitler-Stalin level of evil"--it should be either "might attain," "will attain," or "would have attained." I love this premise!

  12. I love the premise for Supergeeker. I wish I got superpowers when I hit puberty! The first paragraph in your query was great, although I think you can lose the last line in the second paragraph because it feels redundant.

    Alien prep school: The premise is cool but I was thrown off by the amount of swearing. One in the query and 2 in the first 250 seems like a lot, especially for YA.