A Wish List

I have a list of the kinds of books that I’m looking for here on my blog (About) and instructions on how to send it to me (Query).  But I thought it might be helpful to dig a little deeper and give a more specific idea of what I’m hungry for at this moment.  In this post, I’ll focus on middle grade and YA, saving picture books and chapter books for another day.

I long for a gorgeous, literary novel for middle grade or YA.  In the past couple of years a few books stick with me: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, Chime by Franny Billingsley, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (though this is an older title, I read it recently and fell deeply in love).  One thread of commonality between these books is that though they are all wonderfully written, none of them are short on plot: Things happen.  There are mysteries to solve.  No one’s sitting around luxuriating in doing nothing except come up with some fabulous prose.  So, I’m looking for a stop-me-in-my-tracks-beautiful, character driven novel that doesn’t stint on plot.

I’ve always loved rich, atmospheric historicals that feel immediate.  Here’s a short list of some time periods/places I’m interested in: World War I, Jazz Age, Berlin between the wars, India under British Colonial rule, Japan and/or China in the first half of the twentieth century, Sydney’s first 50 years, Venice, Henry VIII and the Elizabethan period, Spain during the same time.  I’m interested in the moments, and places, where cultures and values have collided and change is happening fast, around people who may or may not want to be caught up in this change.  I’m a sucker too for the romanticism of some historical fiction, and can be swept up into the dresses, the balls, and definitely intrigue.

In YA, I do see quite a bit of snarky humor, especially coming from a teen girls’ point of view.  In MG, there are plenty of goofy boys, and girls who are quirky originals.  There’s nothing wrong with either of these, but I think it’s harder to be original with these sorts of characters, since there are many of them out there.  I’d love to see something, that’s witty, or sly.  Also, I love word play.

Mystery is always top of my wants list.  Many mysteries I see involve a magical element, or a teen that has special powers of some sort.  I’d love something that is less fantastical, and more grounded; perhaps about a teen who works with a PI, breaking her own cases?

I’ve always been a fan of scifi and I’d love to see a real space adventure; think Battlestar Gallactica, which I loved (I do see lots of dystopian, which I’m not as keen on right now).

Much of the contemporary that I see has a romantic element (not that I object to romance); I’d love something that’s about the other parts of a teen’s life; perhaps friendships, which can be so hard to navigate at this time too.  And I’m always a sucker for a good heart-wrenching mother-daughter story.

Of course, the problem with making this list is that it excludes so much.  Often, I think, you don’t know what you’re looking for until you see it, and that’s the wonderful magic of this business – that there is a writer out there, concocting something new and marvelous that I can’t imagine until I read it.  And I’m open to that!  So, if you’re writing something that I haven’t described here, have no fear and send on.

Happy reading and writing to all!


  1. Dear Ms. Hawk,

    I have a burning question that I would like to ask you. Is it acceptable to query an agent before a MG/YA novel is complete?

    Thank you,


  2. Hi Rosie!

    Most agents ask that you query once your project is complete because you really do need to see the project as a whole before deciding to take it on. I can't see how the story arc and character development etc work over the finished book, unless I have it. I think you probably do your book a disservice if you query before it's complete.

    Hope this helps! Susan

    1. Thank you so much for your reply, Ms. Hawk.

      My thoughts on this were that once you're half-way through and you do have an outline and synopsis for your work in progress, it would be much better to have an agent guide you along the way to completion rather than take you through numerous (all necessary, no question about it!) revisions after you're done. Just to help you fine- tune the details, make better choices when in doubt and steer you in the right direction as you go.

      I don't mean to sound lazy or unwilling to revise, but I know agents are seasoned professionals and would realize right away whether they would be interested in that particular manuscript at all.
      It’s tempting to ‘test the waters’ and try to acquire some much needed assurance. But I do see your point.

      Thank you again for taking the time to answer.


  3. What about something very different for the YA readers? A contemporary (21st century) YA novel set mainly in China and the rest in NYC, completed at 74,000 words?

  4. Thanks and please check your e-mail box. Best wishes.


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