I read queries like a book flap, looking for simplicity and punch. Do I want to keep reading? Am I confused? And most of all, do I want to read this book?! :)
We all know each query should start with a "hook," then flesh it out--detailing the conflict--and end with a bang. You want the agent to think "I want to read more" when s/he finishes the query.
So without further ado, here's the query (and thank you Chris! :D) My comments are in blue.
Dear Mr./Ms. Agent: (always personalize, so good start :D)
We live in a society that is infatuated with and glorifies sex. It is plastered on magazines, dominates the book shelves (50 Shades), and writhes all over the television screen. We’ve turned something God gave us as a precious gift into something that that omit extra "that" is freely given away with no strings attached. While this phenomenon isn’t new, its acceptability is growing exponentially, and it is distorting relationships and wreaking havoc on the self worth of the under thirty generations. This intro paragraph presents a well-written stance on shifting societal mores, but tells me nothing about the book. No character is mentioned, no inciting incident. No hook.
Sex was something the main character need a character name and age to orient reader in Life in the Happy House was desperately looking forward to in my my? late teens, but something he was withholding until the right person came along to marry. Then he met Amy, a girl who challenged everything he knew to be real, including his faith in God. He lived in a home with six gung-ho weirdo Christian boys who were dumpster diving, head-banging, homeless befriending, and counter-culture-ly weaving God into the lives of people all over Eugene, Oregon (a notoriously Godless city). They were also annoying the heck out of the straight laced, pastor’s kid, is the MC a pastor's kid? Still don't have a name for there MC...and wondering if this is fiction or an autobiography who just wanted to go to school, be involved in a normal church, and live a happy, carefree life.
Because of these factors, my character is constantly being pushed too typo and fro by forces he can’t control. A girl who pushes him to his logical and emotional limits, a home that frustrates him with eccentricities, and a morality code that doesn’t seem as important as it did when he was younger and more idealistic. As life greys, the character strays, and “it” finally happens. it? it what?
The spiral of life, a near fatal accident, innocence lost, and disillusionment with reality leave the character lost and hopeless. Very general. Need specific conflict and stakes. Yet God finds him in his brokenness and speaks to him. And despite the sin, the failed relationships, the destroyed ministry, the guilt and shame, none of it matters to a God who forgives and loves. And for the first time in his life, the character realizes his worth to the world, to himself, to his friends, to his future spouse, and to his God.
Life in the Happy House is this is where you put your word count and genre about redemption and maturing in our relationship with God. How young idealism can be destroyed by one mistake, and how to overcome our realized deficiencies. It also is an amazingly human and Christian portrayal of intimacy, and what we expect vs. what God has given. The story is not afraid to step outside what is considered “safe” in Christian crowds, by daring to challenge what we know about God, and how we look at “sinners.” Anyone who is a virgin or didn’t necessarily want or enjoy their first sexual experience will find/see themselves, and see how one person, overcame his lost innocence in a gut wrenching, but often hilarious way with help from God.
Here add a line: "Thank you for your time and consideration." or whatever feels right to you. :)
Your writing is lovely. Truly lovely. But a query is what gets the agent's attention, and as yours is written, I'm concerned you may have a form rejection on your hands (which has nothing to do with your novel; it's about how you're presenting it in the query.)
First, this query is long. Over 500 words. Generally queries run around 300 words, with the guts being about 250 (according to Janet Reid of QueryShark fame. :D)
Second, you need the name and age of the MC. A name personalizes the character and helps the agent get invested. You want to make the agent (and reader) care about what happens to (for the purpose of this crit, let's call your MC "Joe") Joe. Plus, the agent needs to know where this book would be shelved, and Joe's age will help them figure out where it fits. Likewise, you need genre and word-count. Is is inspirational fiction? YA? (Doesn't feel like YA to me FWIW).
Third, after reading this query, I wasn't sure if Joe's story is fiction or auto-biographical. Fiction can be based on a true story, but it must read like fiction with an appropriate pace. If it's fiction, you need to clearly state the hook (the inciting incident), set up the conflict Joe faces, and give the reader stakes. What happens if Joe makes choice A? What will he lose/gain? Same for option B. Writing in present tense helps the sense of urgency. :) Also, if it is a memoir rather than fiction, the query can still be punchy. (See Jeanette Walls memoir, THE GLASS CASTLE. Amazing.) You have words to pare, so use that to your advantage. :)
Chris, I hope this helps. I really feel you have a story here; use the query to pull it out for the reader/agent. :) You can do this! Feel free to email me with any follow up questions. :)
Readers, any other thoughts to help Chris?