Our Manuscript Assessment reports have five main sections: Story, Narrative, Style, Characterisation and Market Positioning.
Here we illustrate our service with a few samples extracted from each section of our assessment reports. Titles have been excluded for confidentiality reasons.
While a plot with numerous narrative threads and split action or perspectives can be dynamic, fast-paced and effective, it can sometimes work to the author’s detriment. Here, an extraneous narrative thread causes fragmentation of the main plot line and pushes the protagonists apart, where cohesive action and fewer narrative threads would offer a stronger, more progressive plot line.
Removing a full narrative thread and re-writing the main plot line appropriately. May sound drastic, but is sometimes necessary.
The story of (…) is well-developed and cleanly structured. Balancing multiple narratives, it follows a simple core plot line: Young heroines defeat the evil witch and save the land of Faerie. It introduces a strong and varied cast and builds a unique and engaging world. As a sequel, it provides a fresh adventure for the series protagonist and is capable of standing alone without over-dependence on its preceding story. It effectively sets up a sequel to follow without compromising the resolution of its own plot.
There remains a significant choice to be made here, however. While you balance the multiple narratives of the story well and have worked to bring Cassie and Leonora’s characters together more extensively, the story remains somewhat fragmented. When you consider most successful and effective works of middle grade fiction, they tend towards a recognisable model: protagonist/s defeat an evil. This is, of course, what you approach in (…). There is an element of overwhelm and fragmentation here, however. (…) contains three active storylines: that of Leonora, that of Cassie and that of Tarkas and Harawyn. Its compromise and resolution also consists of multiple elements: take back the book and defeat the witch, find the Queen of the Faeries, find the Sidhe, wake Arthur, defeat Morgana with magic, etc. Leonora journeys across Faerie, Cassie infiltrates the castle and Tarkas and Harawyn attempt to rescue her and Morgana’s other prisoners. For a middle grade book this is rather a juggling act of threads, converging plot lines and plot elements and while you handle them well, the question remains whether or not they are necessary. In short: restricting the elements and plot lines present in the book, refining a key quest, a key goal and a core plot is more effective, cohesive and developed than incorporating numerous interwoven elements. With this in mind, I might suggest that you rethink the story a little.
The general feeling the reader receives at present is one of fragmentation, frenetic plot movement and shallow depth in each thread. The number of elements and narrative threads in a short narrative necessarily means that action and obstacles are moved along quickly and are limited in their potential. It also restricts time that might otherwise be given to character development. I would certainly suggest that Tarkas and Harawyn’s plot thread is not necessary. While it offers you the opportunity to introduce new allies for Leonora, it leaves you handling their separate storyline and struggling to develop their characters and give them purpose and clout, alongside another two main protagonists. You need not lose their characters, but they should simply feature less prominently.
I would also suggest that you make Arthur and Avalon the core of the story. King Arthur is the natural antidote to Morgana. As he is human, it makes sense that only a human may wake him from his sleep. Arthur’s role enters the book at a later point, however, where it might be taken as the core goal from much earlier on. This might also allow for Leonora and Cassie to be brought together considerably more. I am aware that you mentioned this suggestion in my previous assessment gave you somewhat of a headache and would necessitate a rewrite of the plot. You are indeed correct: it would. You may not be at all willing to do so and you need not— should you feel it is not right for your own perception of the book, feel free to ignore this further plug. I put it to you, however, that refining and focusing the story, keeping a cohesive narrative that is a little more restricted in its elements and keeps Leonora and Cassie together more than they are not, would result in a more developed, less fragmented story.
For example: Leonora and Cassie learn from the Tobies that they must find Arthur. They assume he must be in Faerie. They summon Merlin to help them cross over and ask her where Arthur is. Merlin tells them he is in Avalon, where the Lady of the Lake sealed him following his final battle. She cannot, however, tell them where Avalon is. Or, she won’t. Leonora and Cassie arrive in Faerie. They seek out Queen Willow together, who tells them that the only person who can help them with Morgana is Arthur, who sleeps in Avalon. Avalon is hidden, but the Sidhe will tell them where to find it. Leonora and Cassie go on a quest to find the Sidhe, but along the way and following a major argument between the two, the gore crows attack and Cassie is taken to the castle. Once there, she infiltrates Morgana’s plans. Meanwhile, Leonora finds the Sidhe, learns of Avalon’s location, journeys there, passes several trials and enters. She finds Arthur and Bedivere, but to her dismay, she finds that in order for Arthur to wake, there must be two ‘wakers’. She needs Cassie. She’ll have to be rescued. But Cassie, working on her own plans, steals the book and Baby and flees. She and Leonora reunite, resolve their differences and return to wake Arthur together. He agrees to help them with Morgana, but he is weak after his long sleep. He uses Excalibur to cut through the magic barrier around the castle that blocks the witches’ power, but after that he is exhausted. The witches’ magic will have to do the hard work, fight the battle and bring Morgana to him. The battle commences as ever, Morgana is brought to Avalon and the story resolved.
In the above example, most of the original plot elements are retained, but refined and focused into a core quest. This gives the story a harder, more active and specific drive from the beginning, raising narrative tension. The above also offers an explanation for Merlin’s lack of involvement. Why doesn’t Leonora call on Merlin for help when she is an exceptionally powerful wizard who is plenty familiar with Morgana and Arthur? Answer: Merlin wants nothing to do with Arthur and Avalon. She cannot enter Faerie thanks to Morgana’s magic. Perhaps she might turn up at the very end, called by Arthur, to assist in the final battle?
The quest suggested above employs both Leonora and Cassie together in Faerie, until a later split, allowing Cassie and Leonora’s separate storylines some page room but keeping them less prominent than their time together, This also sets up enough space for character relationship development before a disagreement and their separation, leaving the narrative with emotional tension to be resolved at a later reunion. The ‘trials’ that Leonora must pass in Avalon before she reaches Arthur might test aspects of her character and reveal weaknesses that are otherwise absent and should be challenged and overcome. Perhaps they teach her lessons about the importance of collaboration and the value of a challenging peer? That both Cassie and Leonora are necessary to wake Arthur ensures their reunion slightly earlier and gives each protagonist a more developed role in the resolution of the quest. Symbolically, it fortifies their friendship and need for each other far more actively and with greater clout than the single instance of their collaboration during the ‘sleep’ spell. The ‘sleep’ spell moment could absolutely be retained, however and given greater power by their acceptance of each other and their newfound trust and friendship.
The above suggestion requires that you consider the old adage ‘kill your darlings’, and consider cutting and restructuring parts of your book to which you may feel attached. This is true editing, based not on the desire to retain all the things about your book that you love, but based on the knowledge that it may be stronger without some of them! It is not a pleasant process, but often a highly rewarding one. I should also note that true editing requires a full rewrite of the manuscript, rather than additions and patch-worked sections. While you might keep scenes largely unchanged, editing should be a process that results in a good few full redrafts. Often, your initial manuscript loosely nails plot, your second refines it, your third attends to character and your fourth to themes and stylistic development. With that in mind, consider a rewrite to refine plot and character first, then one to work depth into style and thematics.
I strongly believe that by keeping a more focused, clear quest at the core and strongly involving both characters in tandem, keeping their separation a little more minimal, would result in a book with greater narrative tension, depth of character and clarity and drive of plot. In addition, this will shape the story into a more recognisably classic middle grade children’s book (think C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, in which Edmund is briefly separate from his siblings in the Witch’s thrall), which will increase its marketability. The cohesiveness, specificity and drive of a plot is evident from a synopsis. One which shows too many elements or too complex a narrative makeup, will often raise red flags for agents, who will suspect underdevelopment of character and plot element in favour of quantity.
In literary fiction, narrative form is often malleable and subject to experimentation. Theme and metaphor, while prominent in literary fiction, should never take over or obscure your narrative, however. Here, excessive repetition for the sake of emphasis has resulted in a predictable, overly-patterned narrative that disengages the reader.
Less is more.
Narrative voice in (…) is effortlessly strong and consistent throughout the book. Isla’s voice is clear, liquid and specific in its observances. In addition, you make good use of first person perspective to show the reader the pitfalls of the personal interpretation of events and how easy it is for manipulative individuals to unseat a self-assured person. Isla’s voice plays skilfully with self-doubt and self-determination in equal measure in a constant and deeply humanising dance that any reader can recognise in themselves.
Tense is used appropriately throughout the book and there are no issues with it slipping. The chronology of the book is not always linear, but moves fluidly back and forth between closely positioned events and the past as and when it becomes relevant to the thought and purpose of the narrator. The effect of this is to create a deeply realistic representation of the orally told story and human train of thought, which is never linear, but branches outward in thematic networks, borrowing, referencing and relaying to serve its purpose. (…) achieves this lightly, with ease and without recourse to clunky movement into flashback and with no confusion for the reader. It is a narrative that flows very well indeed in this respect.
Pace internally in scenes faces no issues, but overall pace suffers a result of the repetitive action. As mentioned above in ‘Structure’ there are some significant problems with this narrative approach. While the initial repetition of Isla’s experiences at the IVF clinic (or running smaller moments of repetition throughout) might be an effective representation of her perpetual and Groundhog Day-like battle of ovulation-collection-fertilisation-implantation-loss-repeat, it becomes, after a while, as monotonous and difficult for the reader as it does for Isla. Certainly, represent the numerous cycles and the seemingly never ending struggle with its painful stages of life and death and its odd dance of beauty and pain, but do so finitely. The reader does not need to bear witness to every cycle undergone in Brisbane. This is the main root of your repetition problem. Little else happens in the book and when it does, the reader latches on, refreshed. It is emotionally draining for the reader as they go through the journey with Isla, but the key difference here is: the reader can and will simply put down the book. Were you to remove some of the cycles of IVF from the book and simply refer to their happening instead, to save time and pace, you would also vastly reduce your word count. Instead, there is a need for varied action. I would encourage you to step away from the cycles of treatment and holistic recuperation, from the loop of hope and despair and explore these themes and emotions and the complexity of the experience in a varied and active manner, rather than one that quickly becomes passive and stagnant. Given that we have also witnessed IVF treatment in (…) and will doubtless see it again in (…), it is important not to over-saturate the books and overwhelm the reader with repetitive action and eternally identical outcomes. As soon as your action becomes predictable, your reader will disengage and a huge chunk of (…) is predictable as the reader becomes over-familiar with its dominant patterns.
Dialogue in (…) is largely very well-written, character specific and well-judged. At times, Isla’s character speaks in a manner perhaps a little too literary and lyrical to be believable as everyday conversation or communication, and I would recommend that you keep a careful eye to make sure that her dialogue doesn’t begin to feel false and crafted. This is important, since not only does crafted dialogue show the writer through the nuts and bolts, but it also makes the character’s words begin to sound false and generates the impression of a person who speaks in a deliberately crafted manner to hide their true intent. This is not true of Isla, but at times her dialogue can feel overly flowery and expressive when human nature dictates she would fall back on simple truth.
Popular fiction often makes use of tropes and caricature to support its commentaries and themes. Often, however, caricature can go too far and result in characters who are tricky to empathise with, have no true character arc and are lacking in depth.
Balancing elements of caricature with depth of character, in order to create believable, realistic individuals who do more than fulfil their traditional role.
Character is one of the areas of (…) most in need of development in order for the book to fulfil its potential. Characters in any novel should possess two crucial things: depth and arcs! The character arc is simpler to achieve. It works using the rule that your protagonist should never end the story unchanged. Instead, over the course of the events in the book, they should grow and change in some way, ending the story a different person, either positively or negatively (but more often positively). The character arc should be plotted alongside the narrative arc, so that you can see how your protagonist will gradually change at each narrative stage. The arc is most essential for your protagonist, but can also be applied in a looser and less involved manner to your secondary characters who surround your protagonist and to your antagonist too. Currently, none of the characters in (…) possess arcs. This is, in part due to the fact that the book is too short to give them sufficient space to develop a full arc. At present, Tom ends the book more or less as he began it. He may have a slightly better connection with his wife and daughter, but his life at school is much the same as Audrey Winterbottom continues to torment him with the delicate Year 7 intake. In the suggested plot adjustment earlier in my report, I made sure to include an arc for Tom, that sees him learn about others and himself by the end of the book. This is the type of character progression that needs plotting and instigating in (…). I would consider, too, whether Audrey changes—what does she learn? How do Peggy and Beatrice change? What do they learn? Do they compromise?
With the implementation of character arcs comes greater realism (people don’t stay unchanged by experiences) and with greater realism comes depth of character. Depth of character is what makes your characters unpredictable and well-written rather than ‘predictable’ or ‘overwritten’. This is where there is a need for significant work in (…). Currently, all of your characters function as overblown caricatures rather than characters or people. They hold only the most extreme views about their beliefs, act in a dramatically extreme manner physically and speak in extreme dialogue. Nowhere are they measured or realistic. They feel like outlines and demonstrative figures rather than living, breathing and feeling human beings. A book lives and dies on its characters, since they inhabit and drive the story. If the characters do not feel real and seem to be performing in all they do and say in an unrealistic manner, then the reader feels at odds with them and cannot empathise.
The second issue here is that a book requires a protagonist who is, if not likeable, must at least be active and compelling. The reader has to empathise with the protagonist in order to invest emotionally or humorously in their story and feel compelled to follow their narrative. Not all protagonists are likeable people (some are atrocious or morally questionable people, like Bret Easton Ellis’s Patrick Bateman or Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley), but they must be at least compelling enough to engage with. Tom Tilbrook is not a likeable character. In fact, from the very first scene he becomes a thoroughly dislikable character as he insults his wife’s physical appearance and beauty standards. He continues in the same vein, spouting expletives at school, degrading his students and generally behaving in an unpleasant manner. As a result, the reader does not bond with him, feel sorry for him or believe that someone would indeed behave that way realistically. All these aspects combine to make Tom appear a petulant, selfish and vindictive individual who the reader could not care less about. We don’t feel sorry for him as he toys with the idea of cheating on his wife, or as he belittles his daughter. Nor do we sympathise with his struggles at school as he berates and puts down his students, treating them as a subspecies. I know many teachers long to say some of things Tom says to his students, but the fact they don’t tells you why it is unrealistic! His attitudes towards women overall are poor. Tom Tilbrook is an unpleasant man. Now, this is not entirely an issue, since you can easily begin the book with Tom exactly this way— dislikable, bitter, deliberately cruel and unwilling to listen. His character arc and experiences across the book can then begin to change his outlook and behaviour, ending with a better-adjusted and more open-minded man with a more positive attitude. There is a need for some adjustment here in order to make Tom a more appealing character. Given that the vast majority of your readership is likely to be made up of women (given statistics), I would also make sure Tom isn’t quite so openly cruel to his wife.
The same token applies to all your characters—they are caricatures. Peggy is a caricature of the overly-indulgent false spiritualist who is selfish in their self-care, a nag and shrewish to her husband. Beatrice is a caricature of a ‘woke’ teenager who refuses to listen, takes all arguments to the extreme and is intolerant of all adults. Audrey Winterbottom is a caricature of the ‘dragon’ figure—a powerful woman in management whom men find threatening and often vilify, but who has a tendency to lord it over their ‘underling’ staff. All these are cardboard cut-outs, recognisable and ‘predictable’ figures who behave in predictable ways, as caricatures do. They are ‘overwritten’ by nature and are not believable as people. With this in mind, they need writing in earnest to be given depth beyond their outlines, more balanced and nuanced behaviours and emotions and arcs where possible. Character interactions should be varied in their intensity and there is a definite need for tempering of language in order to make dialogue feel realistic. This is a book that would thrive with deeply realistic characters, making the humour all the stronger and more relatable to the reader.
Finally, I would add that it would be useful to include some female characters who are written in a positive light. Currently, Audrey, Peggy, Beatrice, Susan and even Mary are portrayed negatively, either as battle axes, bullies, opinionated and harsh, unattractive or unintelligent and naive. This is, as you might guess, not an ideal manner in which to present your female characters. While your male counterparts are no better, it is not advisable to portray women in so poor a light throughout. By all means, keep characters of this nature, but ensure that you include female characters who are written in a positive and realistic, balanced manner in order to keep the tone level and avoid seeming unfair or deliberately derogatory in your representation.
There is plenty of opportunity and potential here to write very real and very humorous characters who posses as much depth as they provide comical commentary.
Balancing verisimilitude in prose can be difficult. Stylistically, it can be tricky to avoid putting all your hard-earned research on the page for the reader to see. It is always more effective, however, to actively integrate context and information gradually and naturally, than to passively present it to the reader.
It may sound clichéd, but ‘showing not telling’ remains as relevant today as ever.
The style of (…) is sophisticated and accomplished. Sufficiently literary, it has a clarity and levity unusual in debut historical fiction and thus, the ability and potential of the author is clear.
Currently, (…) suffers from an overly biographical, report-written style at times. Here, the author summarises action or events, describing or mentioning them minimally. For example, why simply mention forcible-feeding and keep it out of sight, when a strong scene in which it occurs would prove far more shocking and effective? Why relate Keir’s collapse in a letter when the scene should be written and actively portrayed? Why do we not initially witness Sylvia’s reunion with Keir, but have it noted in a letter? This removes all drama and emotion from the event. Consider reading through your manuscript, locating opportunities for the writing of active and exciting scenes, and day writing them. For example: the rush on Parliament, the brutal police treatment and arrests of the women, the squalid prison cells etc. All these scenes should be written actively, not simply mentioned or alluded to as ‘events’. The reader must live the journey of the suffragettes in order to understand it at the emotional level that it deserves.
Scenes would also benefit from a great deal more atmosphere, which is currently lacking. Description should not simply be used to situate the reader in a room, but to create the genuine feeling of reader presence in the scene. The mood, light, sound and essence of the scene must be portrayed in order for the reader to be truly immersed in the story. For example: describe the smell of the mine-shafts, the feeling of the heat in the mills, the overpowering physical experience Sylvia has when she enters the world of these working women. (…) touches so very dutifully and poignantly on the harsh, deprived lives and unheard voices of poor, working people, in an often incredibly moving manner. It would be incredibly beneficial were these scenes made all the more visceral through atmospheric description.
The central rule of ‘showing not telling’ should be observed throughout the text. Put simply, this rule states that emotion and action should be shown to the reader through description, rather than told with easy prose. As mentioned in the previous report, notable ‘telling’ words are often emotive adjectives such as ‘sad’, ‘angry’, ‘anxious’, ‘frightened’ etc. Emotions should be, (and are occasionally within the text already) shown through the character’s behaviour and reactions. Likewise, action can be ‘shown’ rather than reported or explained. For example, (…) tells, where a short scene might show his contemplation and reveal to the reader the root of this envy. Perhaps one of the most effective ways to ensure that your prose isn’t ‘lazy’ in its expression, is to remove as many adverbs as possible. Adverbs are nearly always unnecessary and can be replaced by a strong verb or ‘showing’ description that creates a more stylistically developed piece. Consider, therefore, reading through your manuscript and removing as many ‘telling’ words and adverbs as possible.
There is a tendency throughout the book to deliver large ‘blobs’ of information and historical context in a rather non-narrative style. As previously mentioned, events which do not occur within the story’s timeline should not be included or alluded to. The narrative must be treated as the fictional journey of the protagonist, rather than semi-biographical fiction over which historical account hangs. In this, though not visible in the body of the text and reserved for an index, the high volume of footnotes applied to the manuscript are exceedingly detrimental to narrative and stylistic effect. While it is advisable to include highly necessary footnotes for the sake of historical accuracy and reader information, these should be extremely few and far between. The presence of footnotes distracts and detracts from any immersive effect the story might have. In short, it reminds the reader of the looming historical context and fact, pulling them out of the enjoyment of the narrative. Though (…) is an extremely well-researched book, the benefits of this already show clearly in the detail of the prose and it need not be emphasised by footnoting. The author need not fear the reader questioning historical accuracy, or small details, as this will happen regardless of any attempt at justification, and the reader seeks not to test the author’s knowledge, but to enjoy the story. As mentioned earlier, simply include a handful of crucial footnotes, and add a historical note in the epilogue which addresses any key facts or discrepancies. Key information can be inserted into the prose itself in the natural manner, for which the author has demonstrated clear ability. I would, therefore, thoroughly recommend removing as many footnotes as possible and allowing the book to read as fiction, not as a scholarly biographical work.
Market positioning is not just a matter of considering popular market trends and or constructing a successful pitch. Sometimes, it can even include questioning whether the manuscript itself is aimed at the correct market. Here, a manuscript aimed at a 9-12 audience is better suited to YA.
Developing the manuscript to meet the market.
(…) has the potential to be a highly marketable book. It is clear, of course, that your concept is strong and that there is nothing at all wrong with your pitch, given the successful response rate from agents and full manuscript requests you have received. Topical, clever and above all, a well-plotted and well-written entertaining murder mystery, (…) has a great deal going for it and makes for an attractive sign-up for the right agent.
At present, (…) numbers some 47,000 words, falling neatly into the average range for middle grade fiction, which tends to be between 40-70,000 words, though the trend has been upwards in recent years. At almost 50,000 words, however, any prospective agent will be given the impression of a tightly plotted and well-rounded book of a suitable level of development, with room for additions if necessary. This is an excellent position to be in, since it is always easier to edit up than it is down.
You have, however, experienced some issues with your pitching to agents recently. One of the key issues, I believe, may be causing some of the commercial uncertainty around the book, is it’s intended age group. I understand that it is your wish to write for children between 11-13 years of age, for whom you believe your message is crucial. I would agree that your content and themes are well-positioned to strike a chord with this age group. I would question, however, whether pitching to the middle grade market is the best choice.
Middle grade is typically split (in terms of publication and on-shelf marketing) into the 5-8 and 9-12 age groups. As I am sure you know, upper middle grade tends towards dealing with heavier themes and stories. On the whole, however, very little 9-12 fiction is published which lands at the upper end of this bracket, towards the pre-teen, early secondary school group. Instead, the majority of it is pitched at a ‘safe’ level that would suit readers of 9-10 and even those a little younger. The primary reasons for this are: a) The book will have a wider reach within its market if it caters towards the centre of the age-group, and b) As a general rule, children will always ‘read up’ in age, but not down. This means that 9-12 becomes accessible to the top-end readers of the 5-8 market too. The problem you are therefore faced with is that while the 9-12 market appears to be the right pitch for a book intended for 11-13 year-old readers, it is actually better suited to 8-10 year-old readers.
With this in mind, if you want to appeal to an audience of 11-13 year old readers, you should actually be pitching to YA, not to middle grade. This has several advantages. It allows you greater leeway with the darker and heavier aspects of the book (death, sex, eating disorders, addiction etc.) which are better suited to an older audience and not hugely suitable topics for some middle grade kids who will be younger than your intended audience. It also gives you some leeway with character age if necessary to address plausibility issues (more on this below), since there is a vast difference between a 13 year-old protagonist and a 14 year-old protagonist in terms of maturity, behaviour and freedoms. Finally, and most crucially for marketing purposes, it actually targets a distinct gap in the market. Just as much of 9-12 fiction caters to children at the young end of its label, plenty of YA tends to cater to 14 year-olds upwards, scooping up younger readers as it goes. There is exceptionally little YA fiction that caters for the low end of the market, those aged between 11-13 years old. While this age group will read up to older YA, it is arguably just as important that they see themselves and their own age group represented in fiction. This is something you very much have on your side.
Pitching (…) as young YA, therefore, and deliberately so, may be the answer to some of your problems. This would be best aimed at agents who handle both middle grade and YA markets and can recognise the value of a book that bridges the two age-groups and can be successful with ‘older’ middle grade readers and ‘younger’ YA readers.
This may also shed some light on the agent comment that identified voice as ‘solid middle grade’ rather than upper middle grade. I would agree with this and would certainly recommend developing your voice and style to suit the age group you wish to reach. Until now, I also believe that pitching to middle grade has held your stylistic development back, since you were aiming for so specific a market with a less developed voice. As a result, the more mature content doesn’t quite gel with the younger narrative voice and creates a slightly mismatched book that appears to be middle grade in tone, but wants to be older in content and message. Put simply—you’ve written a YA story in a middle grade voice, which is one of the things causing the ‘misses’ in terms of your intended audience. More on how to address this below in the ‘Narrative’ and ‘Style’ sections.
The book certainly requires some work where issues with plausibility, convenience and contrived action are concerned. Editing in obstacles, making Aly’s journey less simple and working to think ‘If I was 13, what problems would I face trying to do this?’, will help you here. Your main plot is very well conceived, but it needs knitting together believably before it can really work 100%.
If you would like to take a look at other titles popular with younger YA readers, to get a feel for the style and voice, I recommend Karen M. McManus’s One of Us is Lying, Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Five Survive, Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson’s The Agathas and Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung’s graphic novel series Snot Girl— a different recommendation, I know, but all about social media, murder, false impressions and dangerous influences. The protagonists in all these titles are older than 13, but are voraciously read by young readers of 11 upwards.