PW #221: YA Magical Realism: A PALE, DARK SUMMER

Pitchwars Badge (Square YA)
Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Lisa Maxwell
Mentee Name: Pasha Westbrook
Category: YA
Genre: Magic Realism
Word Count: 65,000


In a town too small to exist on an Arizona map, sixteen-year-old Summer can’t free herself from her brother’s tragic death. Then Levi comes along—a beautiful, schizophrenic boy who claims he can heal her past. But Levi’s secrets may undo them both.


We came to Ashwood to remember.

Though I’d rather forget.

Why remember something that panics my blood? Makes me pour in tear-drenched sweat and ache for minutes I can’t get back?

I’d rather climb trees.

Sap sticks to my feet, and leaves cling to my cotton dress. I scale the tallest tree. Hot branches. My limbs long. I scale it fast. At the shivering top, the wind moves through my skin, and I see it all: Our field of shimmering wheat, Dad’s numb hands working madman-style, and Mom bending like a tree to water as she plucks weeds from the sacred spot that consumes her life now that we’re here, consumes all our lives. Her hair is short, her pale neck long.

A sorrowing swan.

I grab my acrylics, kept in a bag strung to a branch, and paint the image imprinted in my eyes, quickly, before the summer heat melts my brain. Eight, nine, ten strokes of the brush upon the heated bark, and I now have a long-necked bird—no wings, no beak—covered in shadow. I blend white into gold into red for the sunburned sky, and I sign my name to it, wispy-yellow: Summer.

Later, I walk past Mom, careful not to disturb her. Can my brother see her as I can—our mom—the empty shell? The thought is brief, one I quickly choke. She doesn’t say hello, and I don’t blame her. Coming back to this town has reignited her grief.

My fault, my fault, my fault speeds through my brain.


Author: Brenda Drake

New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1), Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2), Touching Fate (Fated Series #1), and Cursing Fate (Fated Series #2) available now, creator of #PitchWars, #PitchMadness, and #PitMad, fueled by coffee and Goldfish crackers (but not together), and represented by Peter Knapp with The Park Literary Group. @brendadrake

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  1. I love the atmospheric writing here. Please send the full manuscript as a Microsoft word doc, along with your query letter (pasted in the body of the message), to brent (at) Put “Pitch Wars request” in the subject line.

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  2. I would love to take a look at this! Please send over the first 100 pages as an attached doc to Put in the subject line Pitch Wars Request. I can’t wait to dive in!

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  3. This is just gorgeous–rare to see such lovely writing from the very beginning. Could I see the full, please, as a PDF, sent to with Pitch Wars and the title in the subject line? I would also love to see the query!

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  4. Wow, beautifully written! I’d love to see more. Please email me your query with “Pitch Wars Request” included in the subject line and the first 50 pages attached as a word doc. Thanks!

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  5. I’d love to read more of this! Please send the first 50 pages attached as a word document to:



    Rena Rossner

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  6. This writing is gorgeous. I’d like to see more! Please send a query + the full MS to leon@lperkinsagency (with Pitch Wars in the subject line), along with a one-sentence description of your book.

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  7. Hi, Pasha- Beautiful writing. I’d love to see more! Please send the first 100 pages to as a Word doc, and be sure to put Pitch Wars in the subject line. Thanks!

    Melissa Nasson, Esq.
    Associate Agent
    Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC

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  8. I dig the premise our hero. The writing is spot on. Please send a query plus the full ms and synopsis attached as .doc or .docx files to lane(at)theseymouragency(dot)com!

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  9. Sounds really interesting! Please send the first 25 pages, query and synopsis to chquery[at]mcintoshandotis[dot]com and put “Pitch Wars request” in the subject line.

    Christa Heschke
    McIntosh & Otis, Inc.

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  10. I loved this! It is EXACTLY the type of book I’d read.

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