Query - The Beautiful People

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bronwyn1
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Query - The Beautiful People

Post by bronwyn1 » March 11th, 2011, 6:13 pm

Dear God, I've worked so hard on this (and I definitely think these latest efforts are miles above what I originally wrote), but tell me what you think.

The first query is from the villian's POV. She's really not that sympathetic of a character, yet I had a lot of suggestions that told me to write the query from her POV. So this is what I've got:

_______
Seventeen-year-old Magdalena’s best friends have long-time wealth and prestige, but she has something better: their secrets. Old money and a fancy surname can’t mask all their problems. Like puking after meals or hooking up with every guy at the nearby boy’s school. Or falling for a guy who’s so tragically working-class, which in the ever-so-class-conscious city of Santiago, Chile, is an unforgivable sin.

She’s tired of being pushed into the shadows by her more popular friends, who aren’t exactly living up to their families’ sterling reputations. And high society won’t smile upon their transgressions as embellished by Magdalena. There’s nothing wrong with adding more spice to further flavor good gossip. It’s not like these girls aren’t guilty of doing the same exact thing every once in a while.

If Magdalena can’t snag the very societal spotlight she covets, she’ll remain powerless, trapped and muy pathetic. And that’s the last thing her shameless, social-climbing self wants.

_______
But I don't really like this, because this character is such a bitch and would definitely (I imagine) put people (i.e. agents) off--I know she puts me off. So I wrote another draft of this query from the POV of a far more sympathetic character:

______
In Santiago, Chile’s most exclusive enclave, seventeen-year-old Cote commits a capital crime—falling for working-class Salvador.

He’s forbidden, fascinating and oh-so-different from anyone she’s ever known. He’s crazy smart, really funny and a hell of a lot nicer than the more ‘suitable’ yet totally sleazy private school guys that everyone else fawns over. Soon she starts ditching her best friends, who are too busy dealing with their own issues, to hang out with Salvador and become a part of his world of music and social activism. Through him, Cote learns about the darker side of Chile’s rigid class system and how exactly those at the top have gotten there.

When a friend-turned-backstabber starts spreading her secret all throughout the high society grapevine, Cote experiences social exclusion for the first time ever. But she’ll stick with Salvador and with her heart, even if it means sacrificing her popularity and life-long friendships.

____
Which version is better? Or do they both suck?

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by littlebird » March 11th, 2011, 8:39 pm

The best advice I can give you is towrite your query from the POV of your MC. If you have two (like I do) write it from one that encompasses both. Since I'm assuming Cote is your MC, I'll give you edits on that version.
______
In Santiago, Chile’s most exclusive enclave, The word "enclave" really bothers me...maybe you just say societyseventeen-year-old Cote commits a capital crime—falling for working-class Salvador.

He’s forbidden, fascinating and oh-so-different from anyone she’s ever known. He’s crazy smart, really funny and a hell of a lot nicer than the more ‘suitable’ yet totally sleazy private school guys that everyone else fawns over. Soon she starts ditching her best friends, who are too busy dealing with their own issues, to hang out with Salvador and become a part of his world of music and social activism. Through him, Cote learns about the darker side of Chile’s rigid class system and how exactly those at the top have gotten there.
I love this paragraph!
When a friend-turned-backstabber starts spreading her? Cote's? secret all throughout the high society grapevine, Cote experiences social exclusion for the first time ever. But she’ll stick with Salvador and with her heart, even if it means sacrificing her popularity and life-long friendships.This needs to be a "stakes" sentence. Will Cote stay with Salvadir even if it means...that's what agents are looking for, what the MC will lose.

Sounds great! Good luck.

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by bronwyn1 » March 11th, 2011, 9:04 pm

Thanks for your comments littlebird!

The book technically has 4 MCs (who get pretty much equal POV time in the book--the chapters are separated by POV). But I figured 4 MCs is too much for a query, so instead decided to focus on just 1 or 2 (well, in these two attempts, just 1) character.

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by Bron » March 11th, 2011, 10:10 pm

Neither of them suck, I think they both have good elements. I agree four MCs is too many for a query, but I think you could merge these two and show aspects of both girls' stories.
bronwyn1 wrote:Dear God, I've worked so hard on this (and I definitely think these latest efforts are miles above what I originally wrote), but tell me what you think.

The first query is from the villian's POV. She's really not that sympathetic of a character, yet I had a lot of suggestions that told me to write the query from her POV. So this is what I've got:

_______
Seventeen-year-old Magdalena’s best friends have long-time wealth and prestige, but she has something better: their secrets.Great beginning. Old money and a fancy surname can’t mask all their problems. Like puking after meals or hooking up with every guy at the nearby boy’s school. Or falling for a guy who’s so tragically working-class, which in the ever-so-class-conscious city of Santiago, Chile, is an unforgivable sin.

She’s tired of being pushed into the shadows by her more popular friends, who aren’t exactly living up to their families’ sterling reputations. And high society won’t smile upon their transgressions as embellished by Magdalena. There’s nothing wrong with adding more spice to further flavor good gossip. It’s not like these girls aren’t guilty of doing the same exact thing every once in a while. This paragraph is a bit vague and long-winded. You take four sentences to tell us that she's going to spread rumours about her friends that aren't strictly true.

If Magdalena can’t snag the very societal spotlight she covets, she’ll remain powerless, trapped and muy pathetic. And that’s the last thing her shameless, social-climbing self wants. What is standing in her way? It sounds like all she has to do is start gossiping and the spotlight is hers. She doesn't seem conflicted at all.

_______
But I don't really like this, because this character is such a bitch and would definitely (I imagine) put people (i.e. agents) off--I know she puts me off. So I wrote another draft of this query from the POV of a far more sympathetic character:

______
In Santiago, Chile’s, most exclusive enclave, seventeen-year-old Cote commits a capital crime—falling for working-class Salvador. Without the comma it sounds like Santiago is an exclusive enclave in Chile.

He’s forbidden, fascinating and oh-so-different from anyone she’s ever known. He’s crazy smart, really funny and a hell of a lot nicer than the more ‘suitable’ yet totally sleazy private school guys that everyone else fawns over. Again, a little long-winded. I'd cut one of these sentences, as they both essentially say the same thing. Soon she starts ditching her best friends, who are too busy dealing with their own issues, to hang out with Salvador and become a part of his world of music and social activism. Through him, Cote learns about the darker side of Chile’s rigid class system and how exactly those at the top have gotten there. Good. This demonstrates what is unique about your book. I don't think there's too many English-language books set in Chile.

When a friend-turned-backstabber starts spreading her secret all throughout the high society grapevine, Cote experiences social exclusion for the first time ever. But she’ll stick with Salvador and with her heart, even if it means sacrificing her popularity and life-long friendships. Littlebird is right, you need some stakes here. Don't just state what happens, tell us Cote's dilemma.

____
Which version is better? Or do they both suck?
Here's how I'd combine them:
Seventeen-year-old Magdalena’s best friends have long-time wealth and prestige, but she has something better: their secrets. Old money and a fancy surname can’t mask all their problems. Like puking after meals or hooking up with every guy at the nearby boy’s school. Or falling for a guy who’s so tragically working-class. Magdalena is tired of being pushed into the shadows by her more popular friends, who aren’t exactly living up to their families’ sterling reputations, and she figures a few rumours - suitably embellished - is just what they need.

Magdalena's friend Cote has committed a capital crime—falling for working-class Salvador .He’s forbidden, fascinating and oh-so-different from anyone she’s ever known. Soon she starts ditching her best friends, who are too busy dealing with their own issues, to hang out with Salvador and become a part of his world of music and social activism. Through him, Cote learns about the darker side of Chile’s rigid class system and how exactly those at the top have gotten there.

I'd add a paragraph about the stakes both girls are facing and what happens if they succeed/fail. Obviously some of the above is in my words, not yours, and it's not perfect but it's one possibility for your query letter. Both girls sound interesting and even Magdalena is somewhat sympathetic - it can't be easy being the poor girl in amongst all her rich, old-moneyed friends. And it doesn't sound like they're being good friends to her anyway, if she's being ditched for working class boys, private school boys and bulimia.

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by Netti » March 11th, 2011, 10:55 pm

bronwyn1 wrote:Dear God, I've worked so hard on this (and I definitely think these latest efforts are miles above what I originally wrote), but tell me what you think.

The first query is from the villian's POV. She's really not that sympathetic of a character, yet I had a lot of suggestions that told me to write the query from her POV. So this is what I've got:

_______
Seventeen-year-old Magdalena’s best friends have long-time wealth and prestige, but she has something better: their secrets(Great line!). Old money and a fancy surname can’t mask all their problems; like puking after meals or hooking up with every guy at the nearby boy’s school. Or falling for a guy who’s so tragically working-class, which in the ever-so-class-conscious city of Santiago, Chile, is an unforgivable sin.

She’s tired of being pushed into the shadows by her more popular friends, who aren’t exactly living up to their families’ sterling reputations. and high society won’t smile upon their transgressions as embellished by Magdalena. There’s nothing wrong with adding more spice to further flavor good gossip. It’s not like these girls aren’t guilty of doing the same exact thing every once in a while.

If Magdalena can’t snag the very societal spotlight she covets, she’ll remain powerless, trapped and muy pathetic. And that’s the last thing her shameless, social-climbing self wants.

_______
But I don't really like this, because this character is such a bitch and would definitely (I imagine) put people (i.e. agents) off--I know she puts me off. So I wrote another draft of this query from the POV of a far more sympathetic character:

______
In Santiago, Chile’s most exclusive enclave, seventeen-year-old Cote commits a capital crime—falling for working-class Salvador.

He’s forbidden, fascinating and oh-so-different from anyone she’s ever known. He’s crazy smart, really funny and a hell of a lot nicer than the more ‘suitable’ yet totally sleazy private school guys that everyone else fawns over. Soon she starts ditching her best friends, who are too busy dealing with their own issues, to hang out with Salvador and become a part of his world of music and social activism. Through him, Cote learns about the darker side of Chile’s rigid class system and how exactly those at the top have gotten there.

When a friend-turned-backstabber starts spreading her secret all throughout the high society grapevine, Cote experiences social exclusion for the first time ever. But she’ll stick with Salvador and with her heart, even if it means sacrificing her popularity and life-long friendships.

____
Which version is better? Or do they both suck?

I actually don't mind the bitchiness of the first query but think more is explained in the second one and that it's stronger. In the first one it sounded like your mc was lower class, but maybe that was just me. I'd stick with the second one if I were you, it gives a better sense of the plot and what's at stake.
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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by cheekychook » March 11th, 2011, 11:41 pm

Most important---neither of these versions sucks. They're both interesting and have a good flow, but there's a problem---they sound like they're describing two entirely different books.

When an agent reads a query he/she needs to get an idea of what the book is about---each of these queries makes it sound like the book is about the character you're describing, but I gather that's not the case. It can indeed get confusing to intro too many characters in a query (the term most frequently used is "character soup"), but if the book is equally about four characters I think it's necessary to at least indicate that in the query.

Are there two characters who have more dominant pov or are more important to the storyline? (I'm guessing Cote and Magdalena might....) If so, concentrate on them, but at least mention the existence of the others. If all four get equal time in the book, give them equal time in the query (even if it's by description rather than by name---think about describing Harry Potter or Sex and the City without naming all the characters---Harry and his two best friends; Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals the smart one, the man-eater and the goody-two-shoes (these are really poor examples, but I've had a long day and I'm tired)).

Do you have a log line for your book (one sentence that sums up the story)? Even if you don't use it in the query having one in your head can help you summarize what the book is about, and that summary can help dictate what you write in your query. Generally speaking the query should be written from an omniscient pov, so you can include multiple characters without worrying about perspective. And if you can come up with a log line that really captures the story, by all means start your query with it---agents like to get a good picture as fast as possible.

The goal is to tell the agent what to expect in your book, in as accurate and enticing a way as possible (I know, much, much easier said than done---I've got so many query versions I can't even remember them all). What you don't want to do is have an agent read a query then read your pages and say "Hey, wait, I thought this was a book about something entirely different..."

Queries are also frequently compared to back-of-the-book blurbs. Try reading some book cover for multi-character books to see how it's handled. As long as you can completely explain how the characters relate and clearly differentiate them you can probably get away with mentioning all four without having it get confusing.

Your writing/description is very strong and the story sounds intriguing---you just need to get the complete picture across more clearly. Based on these versions, I have no doubt you can accomplish that. Best of luck to you.
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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by bronwyn1 » March 12th, 2011, 1:53 pm

Ahh, you guys are all so awesome! I've been thinking about for a while how to combine all the MCs into a query that doesn't read like character soup (as well as combining the good elements from both queries posted above). And so, this is what I got:

All her life, Magdalena has desperately wanted entry into Santiago, Chile’s powerful subculture of old money. She’s the only one in her friend group who doesn’t have a good surname and a fancy lineage. So when opportunity presents itself to bring these girls down, she takes it.

See, her friends have problems that range from the mild (like hooking up with a few too many guys), to the medium (like occasionally puking after meals) and to the absolutely appalling (like crushing on a guy who’s so tragically working class). Love that crosses socio-economic lines may seem like nothing, but in Chile’s rigid, class-based society, it’s a formula for instant scandal and shame. And that’s exactly what she wants.

It’ll be hard to balance her smear operation with the fact that she still needs the friendship of one of these girls. Or at least the illusion of it, because of the gorgeous older brother she has. But Magdalena doesn’t know if she can stand being pushed into the shadows any longer. And she knows that once she ends these other girls, she’ll finally snag the spotlight she so deserves.

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by fishfood » March 12th, 2011, 3:12 pm

cheekychook wrote:Most important---neither of these versions sucks. They're both interesting and have a good flow, but there's a problem---they sound like they're describing two entirely different books.

When an agent reads a query he/she needs to get an idea of what the book is about---each of these queries makes it sound like the book is about the character you're describing, but I gather that's not the case. It can indeed get confusing to intro too many characters in a query (the term most frequently used is "character soup"), but if the book is equally about four characters I think it's necessary to at least indicate that in the query.

Are there two characters who have more dominant pov or are more important to the storyline? (I'm guessing Cote and Magdalena might....) If so, concentrate on them, but at least mention the existence of the others. If all four get equal time in the book, give them equal time in the query (even if it's by description rather than by name---think about describing Harry Potter or Sex and the City without naming all the characters---Harry and his two best friends; Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals the smart one, the man-eater and the goody-two-shoes (these are really poor examples, but I've had a long day and I'm tired)).

Do you have a log line for your book (one sentence that sums up the story)? Even if you don't use it in the query having one in your head can help you summarize what the book is about, and that summary can help dictate what you write in your query. Generally speaking the query should be written from an omniscient pov, so you can include multiple characters without worrying about perspective. And if you can come up with a log line that really captures the story, by all means start your query with it---agents like to get a good picture as fast as possible.

The goal is to tell the agent what to expect in your book, in as accurate and enticing a way as possible (I know, much, much easier said than done---I've got so many query versions I can't even remember them all). What you don't want to do is have an agent read a query then read your pages and say "Hey, wait, I thought this was a book about something entirely different..."Queries are also frequently compared to back-of-the-book blurbs. Try reading some book cover for multi-character books to see how it's handled. As long as you can completely explain how the characters relate and clearly differentiate them you can probably get away with mentioning all four without having it get confusing.

Your writing/description is very strong and the story sounds intriguing---you just need to get the complete picture across more clearly. Based on these versions, I have no doubt you can accomplish that. Best of luck to you.
I'm going to somewhat disagree here and comment on what I've bolded. I've been told you just need to get the agent to want to read pages. If they don't like the book, they probably wouldn't have liked the query that told the "real" version of the book anyway. I think what's most important is that the voice of your query matches the overall voice of your book regardless of which character's pov you're telling it from. I think that's the point you were trying to get across anyway. :)

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by cheekychook » March 13th, 2011, 1:09 pm

fishfood wrote:
cheekychook wrote:What you don't want to do is have an agent read a query then read your pages and say "Hey, wait, I thought this was a book about something entirely different..."
I'm going to somewhat disagree here and comment on what I've bolded. I've been told you just need to get the agent to want to read pages. If they don't like the book, they probably wouldn't have liked the query that told the "real" version of the book anyway. I think what's most important is that the voice of your query matches the overall voice of your book regardless of which character's pov you're telling it from. I think that's the point you were trying to get across anyway. :)
Sorry, but I'm going to stand firm with my original advice. Obviously you want to hook the agents with your query, and get them to want to read your book, but the query still has to accurately indicate what will be found in the actual pages, and not just the voice.

The query is often read by an assistant, not the actual agent, and regardless of who reads it that person needs to learn what the story is about and who the characters are. The majority of submission guidelines call for sending in pages (anywhere from 5-50) along with the query, so there's a really good chance that the reader will go straight from the query to those pages. If there's a big disconnect that's not a good thing.

Of course if the writing is stellar they may keep reading, or even request more, but they'll still wonder why the query indicated one thing and the pages are totally different. Why take that chance? Agents have enough reasons to say "no". It's always in your best interest to represent your book in the most enticing, exciting, and precise a manner as possible. Good writing can get you just so far. A good query increases your odds of getting your further, and faster. Let the query represent the book---the writing, the characters, the plot, the tone, the voice, the hook---the best it possibly can.
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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by wilderness » March 13th, 2011, 9:29 pm

bronwyn1 wrote: Which version is better?
I like the first one better. Yes, Magdalena is scheming but she is interesting! Cote's story makes it sound like the book is a romance, which I don't think this book primarily is (you didn't include the genre and word count, which would help clarify). In terms of previous commenters and how to handle multiple POV : I've often read-- from agents--that following one character in the query is recommended because it is just plain difficult to explain the story otherwise. I do think it would help to mention with your genre that this story is a multiple POV following Magdalena and her high society friends...so agents won't be confused when the read the opening pages. Hope that helps!

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by brandileigh2003 » March 14th, 2011, 6:13 pm

I like the version from Cole.
I also like the second paragraph alot.
Your first sentence doesn't draw me in though.

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by bronwyn1 » March 22nd, 2011, 12:17 am

Okay, so I've taken some time off and this is what I came up with. Also I was inspired by the lates QS post on how to handle query letters for multi-POV novels.

I chose to do it from Cote's POV, since the other POV made this book sound way more shallow than (I hope) it is.

In Santiago, Chile’s most exclusive enclave, seventeen-year-old Cote commits a capital crime—falling for working-class Salvador.

He’s forbidden, fascinating and oh-so-different from anyone she’s ever known. Soon she starts ditching her best friends, who are all too busy dealing with their own issues, to hang out with Salvador. She becomes a part of his world of music and social activism and through him, learns about the darker side of Chile’s upper class, like its support for and occasional collaboration with the former military dictatorship.

But when a friend-turned-backstabber starts spreading her secret as an act of petty revenge, Cote experiences social exclusion for the first time ever. But she’ll stick with Salvador and with her heart, even if it means sacrificing her popularity and life-long friendships.

THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE is a 47,000 word young adult novel that is told from the alternating points of view of Cote and her friends.

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by clamjaphry » March 22nd, 2011, 4:53 pm

Hi Bronwyn,

It's neat to see a book set in Chile! Here are my two cents:
bronwyn1 wrote: In Santiago, Chile’s most exclusive enclave like some other commenters, I was thrown off by the way you refer to the city of Santiago as an "exclusive enclave". is the whole city exclusive? could you pinpoint a specific neighborhood?, seventeen-year-old Cote commits a capital crime—falling for working-class Salvador. another problem with calling Santiago an "enclave" is that this implies that Salvador lives elsewhere—does he live in another town?

He’s forbidden, fascinating and oh-so-different from anyone she’s ever known I'm sort of craving more unique details here—why is he so fascinating?. Soon she starts ditching her best friends, who are all too busy dealing with their own issues vague., to hang out with Salvador. She becomes a part of his world of music and social activism and through him, learns about the darker side of Chile’s upper class. with what result? does it make Cote question her family/worldview? what action does she take as a result of this revelation?

But when a friend-turned-backstabber starts spreading her secret as an act of petty revenge, Cote experiences social exclusion for the first time ever. But you have two "buts" in a row here :)she’ll stick with Salvador and with her heart, even if it means sacrificing her popularity and life-long friendships.

THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE is a 47,000 word young adult novel that is told from the alternating points of view of Cote and her friends.
I think you're on the right track, but there's a few rough edges to smooth out.

Good luck—I'm in query letter hell too right now and I feel your pain :)

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by fishfood » March 22nd, 2011, 5:35 pm

I'd LOVE to read this! I hope you get some requests, my comments are in red:
bronwyn1 wrote:Okay, so I've taken some time off and this is what I came up with. Also I was inspired by the lates QS post on how to handle query letters for multi-POV novels.

I chose to do it from Cote's POV, since the other POV made this book sound way more shallow than (I hope) it is.

In Santiago, Chile’s most exclusive enclave (agree with above poster's comment about use of "enclave"), seventeen-year-old Cote commits a capital crime—falling for working-class Salvador.

He’s forbidden, fascinating and oh-so-different from anyone she’s ever known. I'd recommend showing us how he's different and fascinating. Maybe move the sentence below to the beginning. Soon she starts ditching her best friends, who are all too busy dealing with their own issues, to hang out with Salvador. She becomes a part of his world of music and social activism and through him, learns about the darker side of Chile’s upper class, like its support for and occasional collaboration with the former military dictatorship. Run on sentence. I'd break it up.

So maybe the paragraph could look something like this:
Entranced by his piano melodies and enlightened by his zeal for social justice, Cote ditches her best friends to immerse herself in Salvador's world of color and passion. (I know, corny example, but hopefully it describes what I was suggesting.) In doing so, she also learns the dark side of Chile's upper class. A web of deceptive greed supported by the former military dictatorship.


Butwhen a friend-turned-backstabber starts spreading her secret as an act of petty revenge, Cote experiences social exclusion for the first time ever. But she’ll stick with Salvador and with her heart (kind of awkward wording, maybe just keep "stick with her heart" since it implies Salvador is her "heart"), even if it means sacrificing her popularity and life-long friendships. This last sentence sort of made me go "meh." I didn't DO anything for me. What's at stake here? If it's only sacrificing her popularity and life-long friendships, who really cares, she seems pretty shallow to me if that's the only sacrifice she has to make for love. Do either of them risk death fighting for justice, does she risk alienation from her family and a life of poverty?
THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE is a 47,000 word young adult novel that is told from the alternating points of view of Cote and her friends.
For some reason when I was reading this query the movie "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" kept popping into my mind! ;) Which is a good thing, 'cause I like that movie!

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Re: Query - The Beautiful People

Post by wilderness » March 25th, 2011, 2:19 am

bronwyn1 wrote:
In Santiago, Chile’s most exclusive enclave, seventeen-year-old Cote commits a capital crime—falling for working-class Salvador.

He’s forbidden, fascinating and oh-so-different from anyone she’s ever known. Soon she starts ditching her best friends, who are all too busy dealing with their own issues, to hang out with Salvador. She becomes a part of his world of music and social activism and through him, learns about the darker side of Chile’s upper class, like its support for and occasional collaboration with the former military dictatorship.

But when a friend-turned-backstabber starts spreading her secret as an act of petty revenge, Cote experiences social exclusion for the first time ever. But she’ll stick with Salvador and with her heart, even if it means sacrificing her popularity and life-long friendships.

THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE is a 47,000 word young adult novel that is told from the alternating points of view of Cote and her friends.
You've got a clear conflict here, so that's good. But I think it feels a little pat as is. Flesh out some of the problems a bit. Right now the main conflict - popularity versus love -- seems too obvious of a choice, too black and white. Maybe go into more detail about what Cote did to make the backstabber spread her secret. Good luck!

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