Sarah LaPolla

YA: magical realism, contemporary, fantasy, and sci-fi

Knopf Books for Young Readers
Fall 2017

Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now, she spends her days as a magazine editor and her nights writing stories about friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates—you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding lightsabers.

I’m a magazine writer and editor. I also do a lot of copy editing, which comes in handy for line edits and polishing. My critique partners have gone on to get agents and book deals.

I love a fast-paced or intricate plot, but for me voice and characters win. More than anything, voice sells me on a novel. And even the most exciting plot can’t interest me when I don’t like or connect to a character. So I’m mostly hoping to find gorgeous prose, compelling voice, and characters so real I’m not sure they’re fictional. I want a world that transports me and a plot that feels unlike anything I’ve read (or a plot that feels exactly like something I’ve read but in a totally new way).

In terms of our relationship, I’m here to critique your novel, but I’m also a sounding board as you revise. I want you to feel comfortable asking questions (about your novel specifically or publishing in general), tossing around ideas you’re unsure of, and so on.

Genres: Young adult: contemporary, magical realism, fantasy, and some sci-fi. I’m a sucker for romance in all of those genres.

Send my way: I adore books with girls disguised as boys, so if you have one, send it my way! I also love hidden identities (secret princess! secret assassin! secret admirer!), Beauty & the Beast retellings, sweet/innocent boys or awkward/geeky guys, girl assassins, sarcastic protagonists, romance, unreliable narrators, rich settings (think Stolen by Lucy Christopher), smart mysteries (think When I Reach You by Rebecca Stead), hate-to-love romances, strong friendships Not for me: Please, no books with cheating in relationships, womanizing guy love interests, controlling or emotionally abusive love interests, or the bad boy/good girl trope.

I’m not the right fit for: dystopian, anything written in third person present, urban fantasy, sports-centered novels (unless done really well, like Miranda Kenneally’s books), or most paranormal

I love critiquing manuscripts, looking at a story on multiple levels and determining how to take it from good to great, all while keeping the writer’s vision and voice in mind. I love piecing out exactly why something’s not working for me—and being able to suggest ways to improve. My critiques focus on both big-picture issues and sentence-level stuff: plot, characters, dialog, and pacing but also grammar and word choice (though my ideal mentee will already have a strong voice and firm grasp of grammar). I’ll most definitely fangirl over phrases I love, lines I laughed at, and other parts of the book that wreck my heart or turn me to goo. That said, I believe in an honest critique, and I won’t shy away from an in-depth, thorough, and honest critique. My greatest strengths are with atmosphere/setting, character, and dialog. I also do a very thorough copy edit. Mostly I see my style as a mix of honesty and encouragement.


I want to work with someone who’s willing to look critically at their novel, who will be willing to put the work in (and, yes, kill those darlings, if necessary), and who’s willing to make both big and small changes to strengthen their story.

Favorite books: Jellicoe Road, Bone Gap, Six of Crows, These Vicious Masks, The Wrath & the Dawn, Audrey, Wait!, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, The Book Thief, Under a Painted Sky, Chime, Stolen, Finnikin of the Rock, Truthwitch

Favorite TV: Fringe, Lost, Game of Thrones, Supernatural, Stranger Things, Orphan Black, Gilmore Girls, Galavant, Merlin, Veronica Mars

I’m always in the mood for girls disguised as boys, Scarlet Pimpernel retellings, Beauty & the Beast retellings, and body swap novels à la Freaky Friday. I’m currently in the mood for a story about a famous teen pretending to be a normal teen (bonus for dual POV).

I’m looking for atmospheric YA, dry humor, complex characters in shades of gray (like Six of Crows), heists in unexpected settings (Six of Crows again), Victorian or Regency historical YA (especially if there’s a mystery), feel-good/light YA contemporary romance (think: anything by Kasie West), clever characters that outsmart me and everyone else, high-concept plot with literary prose, plot twists that take me by surprise, killer dialog (think Rainbow Rowell), intricate world-building (like The Demon King series or anything by Sarah J. Maas), a narrative twist (like The Kiss of Deception), intricately plotted time travel (like All Our Yesterdays), spies in high fantasy, a “brother’s best friend” romance where the love interest isn’t super confident/popular/in high demand