Last Resort by Kate Buchanan
Getting himself a spot on the plane was just the first step. Now Tav , an eighteen-year-old from Toronto, has a mystery to solve. He must figure out what really happened to his older sister, Sophia, more than three years ago. She disappeared deep in the wilds of northern Canada, but Tav knows there’s more to the story than what his parents have told him.
Along with eleven other teenagers, he’s bound for a two week stay in a remote, forested area, with nothing but a few supplies and an eager guide. But when both the guide and the supplies go missing, the so-called camping trip turns into a fight for survival. As the teens battle mother nature and the wilderness, Tav is faced with a dilemma – use his survival skills to aid his fellow campers, or abandon them and hunt for clues about his missing sister. When he begins to discover strange messages carved into the rocks around camp, Tav must revisit what he thought he knew. It soon becomes clear that nothing is as it seems and not all of the campers are who they appear to be, himself included.
At the sardonically named ‘Last Resort’, Tav learns a crucial lesson – that sometimes searching for someone else is the only way to find yourself.
The Book Doctors: I really like this modern day Call of the Wild, with the murder mystery folded in. So our hero’s fighting several different things at the same time: Mother Nature, his own limitations, his fellow campers, and the difficulties of piecing together the facts of his sister’s disappearance. I also like that it’s in the wilds of northern Canada. I’d like you to show us more of that in this pitch. Convince us of your skills in taking us to this world that is so beautiful and dangerous.
I think this pitch opens in the wrong place. I think we need to see our hero react to the news of his sister’s disappearance. We need to understand how strong their relationship is and how emotionally devastated he is, because this is in many ways what drives the story. So instead of just giving us a bunch of backstory, show us a scene where our hero is devastated and maybe vows someday to go find her. And, of course, he feels lied to by his parents.
Also, I’d like you to show me what he looks like. It’d be helpful if I had a picture of him in my head, easier for me to engage with him emotionally. And sometimes this is all just too general. Just to tell us that the teens are battling the wilderness, that’s not very exciting or dramatic. Give us the specifics, the details, the scary life-and-death details of how they could die. And honestly, I don’t really read books to see people learning crucial lessons. That last line seems like a bit of a cliché. I want to see what the ultimate stakes are. What happens if our hero fails? Your story does not build to a fiery climax and leave us hanging off the edge of the cliff by our fingernails.