Examine Great High-Concept Hooks for Children's Books

Whether you’re writing a kids novel, adult genre novel or screenplay, you’re ahead of the pack if you have a good “hook.”  By that, I mean a story that is easily summarized in one, intriguing sentence (a logline).

Teen writer Jay Asher recently went through the Fall 2009 preview in Publishers Weekly, examining upcoming titles for teens (mostly YA, it appears) and then posted his choices for the most interesting books coming out.  After looking over the list, I immediately noticed that almost ALL these books have an amazing hook.  They’re great ideas for stories – plain and simple.  If you ever wondered what constituted a good hook or high-concept story, read Jay’s picks below (then visit his blog) and you will start to get a sense of how to pique an agent’s and reader’s mind with just a one-sentence logline.

Jay’s suspense novel for teens,
Th1rteen R3asons Why, is
available now.


Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman. A high school underdog’s tarot card readings become strangely accurate.

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce. A teen falls in love with the genie sent to grant her three wishes.

Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix centers on a young TV star who can hear whatever anyone in the world says about her.

DupliKate by Cherry Cheva. An overscheduled teen starts seeing double: suddenly there are two of her.

The Espressologist by Kristina Springer centers on a matchmaking barista who links up her friends based on their coffee orders.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev centers on a girl who lives in a magical theater inhabited by characters from every play ever written.

Ex-mas by Kate Brian. Two teens embark on an unexpected vacation when they learn that their younger siblings have gone off to save Santa.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown. Valerie’s boyfriend opens fire in the school cafeteria, killing students who were on a list she unknowingly helped create.

I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb. A boy discovers it’s easier to make a fortune and dominate the world than convince his classmates to like him.

Legacy by Tom Sniegoski. A teen discovers his deadbeat father is actually a superhero.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey tells of an orphan who is an assistant to a doctor specializing in monster hunting.

Nelly the Monster Sitter by Kes Gray, illus. by Stephen Hanson, introduces a girl who “monster sits” after school.

Powerless by Matthew Cody. A boy learns that his friends are superheroes who mysteriously lose their powers when they turn 13.

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund offers a fantasy about killer unicorns and the teenage girls who must hunt them down.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Sam spends his summers as a human and winters as a wolf.

The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow by Tim Kehoe, illus. by Guy Travis and Mike Wohnoutka. A boy who creates his own toys has a chance encounter with an eccentric toy inventor.

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser. High school students mysteriously disappear after being mentioned in a blog.

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2 thoughts on “Examine Great High-Concept Hooks for Children's Books

  1. Heather

    Thanks for the list. I’m in the film industry and trying to hunt down high concept, non-vampire teen books for tv movies and it feels impossible. This gave me a few leads.