Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Title: Swimming to Tokyo
Author: Brenda St John Brown
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 68,000

When Zosia Easton’s dad breaks the news he’s selling their house and taking a job in Tokyo, she insists she’s “fine” – just like he expects. Just like she always does. And in some ways, spending a summer in Tokyo before college is fine, especially when her high school crush, Liam Flanagan, is unexpectedly there too.

So what if they barely spoke back in New Jersey. Now they talk about everything as they explore the temples and tangled streets of Tokyo – her dead mother, his sketchy past and their growing feelings for each other. Yet, when Liam is suspected of a crime and even he admits he could have done it, Zosia realizes there’s a lot he hasn’t told her. And if he’s ever going to be more than the guy she spent one amazing summer with in Tokyo, she needs to hear it. Start to finish. Problem is, her father imposes 117 stupid rules to keep her from seeing Liam again. Which is so not fine.

SWIMMING TO TOKYO will appeal to fans of Sara Dessen and Julie Halpern.

The Good: This is a strong pitch overall. We get a sense of the main character and her primary relationships, as well as the premise, the setting, and the conflict. 

Suggestions: I'd prefer a hook in the first sentence, and perhaps we could tighten up the wording a bit. I'd cut the "just like he expects" from the opening and leave it with "just like she always does." Watch the adverbs like "unexpectedly;" in most cases, they can be cut. 

In the second paragraph, there are a couple of sentence fragments like "start to finish." Even though they give a good sense of narrative voice, I'd suggest tying them into the preceding sentence with an em-dash or otherwise making them full sentences, since the pitch readers might be frustrated English majors who'll notice and frown--and you don't want them frowning at your pitch.  

Bottom line: this needs only minor tweaks, and I'd expect this to make the first cut.  Well done! 


Disgruntled Bear (Kate Kaynak) said...

Brenda's one to watch, folks. I've read one of her previous manuscripts, and I know she's one of those who'll get published. In fact, I hope to see her on the NYT bestseller's list someday!

Brenda said...

You're so kind! Thank you! I'm doing revisions to Snare as we speak, too (instead of cleaning my house or exercising) after a long hiatus from it, so we'll see how that goes. :)

Jennifer L. Armentrout said...

I got to read this MS, and I am not a big fan of contemporary novels, but this novel blew me away.

Liam and Zoe are such great, real characters. I know this has nothing to do with the query. But I just wanted to throw that out there.

Erin said...

I agree with Kate's comments. The hook in the first sentence could be a little stronger and I'd remove - just like he expects. I think you have good YA voice and the story sounds really interesting.

My one question is how her crush unexpecidely ends up in Tokyo. Is it coincidental or on-purpose?

Nice job and good luck!

Claire Merle said...

Great to see you on here Brenda, and I love the changes you've made to this since the last time I read. Definitely something I'd want to pick up!

Deniz Bevan said...

I agree with Kate's comments but overall, this pitch definitely has me interested in the novel. I like the title too [g]

Lisa said...

This looks great. Like Erin I found myself questioning how her boyfriend ended up in Tokoyo though. If you could fit that in somewhere I think it would make a big difference.

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