So I did some editing on the hook for my query letter. The old one wasn’t inaccurate, exactly, but I think in tone it conveyed Dani as being something of a Bad Girl, and the plot as being a little grimmer than what it really is. Here’s what I have now [edited on 11 October–NPB; and yet again on 13 October–NPB]:
Fifteen year-old Dani is positive she’s in for the most boring summer ever when she goes with her dad to the tiny Arkansas town he grew up in. To her surprise, she soon meets three locals: two boys and a large black bear, who seems to share a mysterious connection with her via a bear claw her late grandfather left her.
As for the boys, she leans towards Eli, passionate and charming, at seventeen already a semi-professional musician and an expert on local Indian lore. Before long she’s strumming and smoking pot with his bluegrass band and joining his buddies on beer-drenched canoeing trips. By the time she notices his quick temper and penchant for settling disputes with his fists, she’s already fallen for him.
The other boy, straight-arrow preacher’s son Austin, is worried about her, as are her Dad and her eccentric Aunt Eunice. Even their help may not be enough to protect Dani when Eli reveals to her a hidden Indian burial site and his plans to perform a ritual there to keep his sick father alive. He needs Dani because he believes her bear claw allows her to harness the site’s spiritual energy. Unfortunately, the ritual also requires a human sacrifice.
Dani must decide whether to turn against Eli, even if it means putting her own life in danger. Worse yet, while dealing with him, the hours are counting down to her slot at the big bluegrass festival she’s been rehearsing for all summer. But neither Dani nor Eli realizes the true purpose of the bear claw, or what its use might bring.