Random House Editor Critique - The Family Itch
Congratulations on being chosen for review. The Family Itch is a fun, quirky concept (and a nice title!) with lots going for it and I enjoyed meeting your characters. It’s obviously hard for me to go into too much depth having only read the first few chapters but I hope that my notes below are useful to you as you revisit the manuscript.
As I say this is fun – with the wacky, innovativeness that boys of this age group will find engaging. At the moment, however, I’m not completely sure I get why Dylan thinks that growing potatoes on himself will make him so much money. People don’t pay much for potatoes, do they? Is it because he thinks it will get him some attention for being so unusual? I think we could do with being let into Dylan’s thought-process over this, see his logic. Similarly why does Dylan want to attempt this in the first place? Does he want the money for his family or to be different from them? Again, letting us into his head may help clarify this for readers.
Just a minor suggestion also, it’s worth not setting too many scenes in school with books like this that could be sold to the US and translation markets as obviously the school system differs so much from ours.
As I mention above I think there’s scope for you to allow your readers the chance to get to know your hero in more depth. Without slowing down the pace it would be nice to know how he’s feeling and what he’s thinking so that we can relate to him – or not.
As he stands I’m not totally sure your readers will relate to him. He’s possibly almost a bit too much on the gross side at the moment so that I couldn’t really understand why his friends liked him. I think we could do with seeing the warmth of his personality, the way he interacts with his friends and his sense of humour more to even this out.
I wonder if it would work to have Dylan at odds with his family rather than misguidedly thinking that they are wonderful? It could bring a nice Roald Dahl feel to your work, which would fit well with your quirky premise and voice. Perhaps if you did this it would show Dylan’s motivation for wanting to make money more clearly, wanting to be different to his horrible relations? And it might make Aunt Fleur’s singling out of him clearer too.
Another option might be to have the family – or maybe just one of them – getting involved with Dylan’s scheme too? It could be nice to show some of the family working together.
At the moment you switch between perspectives in your writing. In keeping with the comments I’ve made, I wonder if you should quite clearly stick with Dylan’s point of view to make his voice very strong for the reader. Perhaps you could even consider making it first person so we can really get into Dylan’s head?
There are a few places where I feel you could slow the pace a little and allow us to see what’s going on and hear the dialogue rather than just hear about it. There are such funny incidents here I think you should make the most of them!
I’m not sure that Dylan being referred to in the narrative as Spud quite works if you keep it in the third person. I do think it works brilliantly as a nickname, but perhaps he should stay as Dylan for narrative purposes?
Linda and Andrew
I think there’s real scope to make much more of these characters, to see the little gang interacting more, and to develop each of their characters so they are more distinctive. Having Linda, particularly as a stronger character may be a good thing as you might find you will pick up some girl readers this way.
I think it would be nice to make them each more individual than they are at the moment. For example, surely they wouldn’t all be stupid? Wouldn’t Andrew know what PTO means?(There might be scope to do something else nice with this misunderstanding perhaps, where Dylan happens to have his thumb over it so misses it instead?)
There are some potentially very funny scenes involving Dylan and his friends, like the cow-pat scene and I think these would be even stronger if we were more attached to the little group, and knew and liked them better.
This is a strong idea and the crossed wires it brings as a sub-plot work well. I almost think you could do even more with it, perhaps opening with Dylan getting the letter?
I did just have a technical question, though: if the letter Dylan receives is an official one, surely it would go to his parents?
Overall, I think The Family Itch has the potential to work well for this boy area of the children’s market and I wish you the very best of luck with it. As you can see most of my suggestions are to do with bringing out and developing the things you already have in your story so I do hope they have been of use to you.
Random House Children’s Books
This post was last edited by ProfessionalCritique, 27 Sep 2011, 16:48