DRAMA FAMILY POLITICAL WAR YOUNG ADULT
There are only two rules at Miss Oliver's School for Girls that lead to automatic expulsion: stealing and allowing a male who is not a family member into a dormitory, The head of school's daughter has broken both.
Sylvia Bickham, the school head's daughter, and her roommate, Elizabeth Cochrane, give money to a homeless man in Fieldington, In the exchange, Sylvia and the homeless man stare at each other. She senses he sees in her something she doesn't know. Now, she needs to know what it is in her that he saw.
Sylvia, expelled for stealing clothes for the homeless man from the school's outdoor adventure program, and later, for sheltering him from a blizzard in the dorm, refuses to regain admission by apologizing. He's an Iraq war vet with PTSD who feels forgiven by her kindness for having killed..
Miss Oliver's School for Girls, in the upscale village of Fieldington, CT, on the CT River.
Based on a True Story
Plot - Premise
Plot - Other Elements
Coming of Age,Philosophical Questions
Mature Audience Themes
Main Character Details
Name: Sylvia Bickham
Age: 18 (High school senior)
Key Traits: Adventurous,Complex,Decisive,Empathetic,Educated,Honorable,Leader,Unapologetic,Strong Moral Code
Additional Character Details
Name: Rachel Bickham, head of school, Sylvia's mother
Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Complex,Decisive,Empathetic,Engaging,Faithful,Flexible,Educated,Leader,Naive,Honorable,Skillful,Visionary,Sophisticated,Strong Moral Code
Additional Character Details
Name: Elizabeth Cochrane, Sylvia's roommate
Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Badass,Aggressive,Clumsy,Complex,Confident,Decisive,Empathetic,Educated,Honorable,Leader,Strong Moral Code,Sophisticated,Sarcastic,Funny,Skillful,Outspoken,Blunt
Additional Character Details
Name: Bob Perrine, Sylvia's father
Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Aggressive,Complex,Confident,Decisive,Faithful,Flexible,Educated,Honorable,Leader,Strong Moral Code,Sophisticated,Visionary,Skillful,Selfless
There are millions of privileged kids who have been convinced by anxious parents and our culture to strive for admission to the "best" colleges. Some parents will even cheat to make it happen. But here comes a story about a kid who wants to know what her purpose is right now, not 4 years later. She finds it by helping a homeless Iraq war vet with PTSD from having mistakenly killed a girl Sylvia's age in battle. Her kindness to him gives him forgiveness. Maybe he won't have to kill himself to escape his agony. If you are looking for a feel good story, forget it. This is a story of a kid leading the grownups to a truth.
Sylvia and Elizabeth are boarding school roommates who give money to a homeless person. The man, Christopher, is an Iraq war vet with PTSD who hopes to atone for his past through Sylvia. Sylvia risks her future to provide shelter and essential needs for Christopher so he can survive the winter. Elizabeth and Sylvia are forced to break the rules in order to show kindness and help others and this kindness gets them into hot water when they are caught by their school.
Authors Writing Style: GOOD
Franchise Potential: GOOD
Accuracy of Book Profile
The development pitch is confronting rather than inviting. By being less righteous and more cooperative in explaining the values the story's themes instill, the pitch could be more welcoming. There is also a disagreement in the summary and the pitch over why Sylvia helps Christopher. The summary says she's trying to discover the vibe between them and the pitch says that she was looking for a purpose. Unifying her motives in the profile will help make it match the inner conflict of the book.
Draw of Story
The kindness and respect that Sylvia and Elizabeth show Christopher despite their young age and privilege is powerful. Sylvia's conviction in standing up for her beliefs despite facing expulsion and an uncertain future is compelling.
Because Elizabeth and Sylvia are clearly in the right, their arguments with the adults don't always land as the adults have no true argument. Christopher, in being portrayed as helpless, is somewhat infantilized at times due to his lack of agency. Showing the empowerment of the girls in helping him is great but he also needs to become empowered to have his own agency from their help.
Use of Special Effects
THE STORY DOES NOT RELY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS
Primary Hook of Story
The hook is the logline that Sylvia only has two rules that she can't steal or have non-relative men over on campus and she has break both in order to help a homeless man. Breaking the rules for the greater good is always a supportable goal.
This could have a medium to large fanbase is the focus is just on Sylvia. If the story is adapted to include both Rachel and Sylvia's lives then it would loose its YA appeal and likely have a smaller audience as a prestige family drama.
While the homeless social issue is commendable, the actual range of emotions of the protagonists (except for Christopher) is unlikely to gain much recognition because they stay pretty level headed and are portraying privileged teenagers and adults.
Similar Films/TV Series
PAY IT FORWARD, AMERICAN SNIPER, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, SHELTER, THE FLORIDA PROJECT, THE BEGUILED,
What’s New About the Story
The empowerment that Sylvia and Elizabeth portray as well as their struggle in doing the right thing despite the rules is unique. The narrative discusses the issue of homelessness but gets trapped in the singular act of the girls and helping Christopher rather than working on ways to solve the issue. The homeless shelter at the school is a very interesting idea and by introducing the apology earlier the story could have room to explore how communities can work together to solve homelessness through the school rather than just that people have to be convinced to help in order for their to be progress eventually.
Sylvia is loyal, caring and brave to stand up for her ideals without going so far as to be a martyr. Elizabeth is sensible and forgiving.
Uniqueness of Story
There is a lot of heart surrounding the issue of homelessness but the actual execution of helping with the issue gets bogged down in bureaucracy over the rule breaking rather than making progress on the issue. Yes Sylvia is able to convince others to use their privilege to aid Christopher but the concept of the school creating a shelter, a great solution, is only presented as a resolution rather than part of the plot.
Film - Indie, Film - Streaming, TV Series - Limited Run / Mini-Series, TV Series - Streaming
WORK IN PROGRESS
While the story has many positive points, it has room for improvement (see possible paths below). If you can't change the story at this point, my suggestion is using your notes as a guide to highlight the best aspects of it when taking the next steps, either putting a pitch page together, a treatment, or a presentation.
Tips for Improvement
Focusing more on what Sylvia and Christopher learn from each other in order to become empowered rather than focus about convincing others the rules are wrong would create stronger emotional investment towards their argument to help the homeless. Rachel's perspective as the headmistress and as the mother of Sylvia as the rule breaker gives her an interesting dilemma but her input does not develop a solution for helping homeless community members. Either minimizing Rachel's focus or integrating her role as more solution focused would make her more helpful to support the theme.