Dear Mr. Tolkein,
Thank you for your submission, “The Hobbit.” Unfortunately, I have to pass. You have the basis of a good story, but I simply could not relate to your main character. He’s much too timid. You should try to make him more confident, more active, more heroic. At the very least, he must be the one to kill the dragon, rather than having that done by a different character we haven’t seen before and barely see again.
You say your book is targeted towards young readers, and the story does suggest middle-grade, but your character is an adult, and an older one at that. Surely you understand that teens will refuse to read books with characters who aren’t teens like themselves. For your book to be suitable for publication you will need to completely revise this character and give him experiences teens can relate to, such as struggles with authority, first love, finding his place in the world, and so forth. This character is much too settled for readers to relate to him in any way.
Also, I noticed the complete absence of female characters. This is unacceptable and will be an impediment to anything but fringe publication. Given that your book is targeted toward the MG/YA audience, I was very surprised that the main character is not a girl, and I encourage you to consider changing that. But we are trying to reach male readers, so having him be male is acceptable, provided you give him a strong female love-interest. Of course, we are also looking for diversity, and giving him a male love-interest instead would provide LGBT appeal.
The Gandalf character doesn’t seem necessary. Young adult books need the adult characters to be secondary. It is unfortunate that Gandalf is the one who kills the trolls in an early scene, when obviously it is Bilbo who should do so. You actually do get it right by having Gandalf leave halfway through, but you don’t really need him at all since you already have Thorin as an authority figure, so you should just lose Gandalf entirely.
The digression with Gollum and riddles and something about a ring just brought the story to a halt. The means by which Bilbo obtains the ring is not compelling; it would be more effective if Gollum were to try to kill Bilbo, forcing Bilbo to kill Gollum and obtain the ring that way. Since we never see Gollum again, it would be far more appropriate in the story for him to die; that’s really the only means of removing antagonists that is appropriate in books for young readers. You seem to imply in your query that there might be some reason Bilbo doesn’t kill Gollum, but I could see no indication spelled out in the chapter. It’s very important that everything be fully explained and not left hanging, as otherwise readers will just become confused and stop reading. All that said, the ring itself doesn’t serve any real purpose, so it might be best to cut the whole sequence and stay with those hilarious dwarves.
But that leads to another concern: the continued over-reliance on adult characters. A book for young adults must always present teen characters as wiser and more capable than adults and, while you do this effectively near the end when Bilbo resolves the conflict between the men and the dwarves, it is much more important that he should be the one rally the troops and lead them into the climactic battle, rather than spending most of it unconscious. It’s unacceptable to have such a specular action sequence but only show it indirectly. You will need to revise the battle to allow multiple scenes of violence because otherwise it will be boring to teen readers.
The dragon is really good, but he’s only in a couple of scenes partway through, and he is dispatched far too easily. You need to bring him in much sooner. Perhaps instead of that scene with the trolls, you can introduce the dragon then. It’s much more visceral than just having the dwarves talk about him the way you have it now. And again, Bilbo must be the one to kill the dragon, preferably as part of the final battle, because killing his enemies is the only way for him to really assert himself as a role model for teens
Please don’t be discouraged by these notes. I’m sure you will find representation; if you apply these suggestions, you will have a good story. Good luck.
Anne A. Gent