Consider asking rhetorically what's working and not working in the query.
I see several areas for consideration. Since the target audience is middle grade, how might rewording the query appeal to their curiosity? Both simplfying and narrowing the central theme, extended subtext, and dramatic conflict might do the job.
Theme-wise and extended subtext, I immediately drew parallels between nuclear war, the Cold War, and the Doomsday Clock, which is currently set at six minutes to midnight and kind of in a lull for the time being between the end of the Cold War, upstart rogue nation nuclear proliferation, and improving global relations pending breakdowns at any moment. A timely situation I think. What's the underlying meaning of the novel that's accessible to middle graders?
Frankly, I like the nuclear parallels, for their power to help middle graders understand what it's about. I think that's working wonderfully if that's an intended meaning.
I didn't see a central dramatic conflict as clearly as I like. Dramatic conflict to me means a diametric opposition of antagonism forces related to stakes and outcomes. Rell's ambitions, desires, seem to me to be wanting to retreat from the limelight, step out of overshadowing his brother, step away from his da's ambitions for him, and bring his new-found talent under control. Opposing his desires are everyone else's desires for using and abusing him and his talents for their own ends.
Related to dramatic conflict, I'm not sure of what's privately and publicly most at stake for Rell. Life or death I see. Sanity or insanity maybe. Accpetance or rejection is a given. Compromise or surrender maybe. Triumph or catastophe for him and his cherished people, perhaps.
I sense somewhat from the query what a central dramatic conflict might be, that Rell wants things to be on his own terms yet everyone else wants him to function under their conflicting terms. However, the stakes and outcome potentials for that potential dramatic conflict aren't clear enough in the query for me to appreciate that it is that or what's at stake to raise my curiosity like I like.
Kind of working there for me if in the sense Rell's dramatic conflict is acceptance or rejection of his terms, and the storyline then, so to speak, might be Rell negotiates a compromise accommodation outcome that fits his desires. Though that might be a little on the low concept difficulty accessing side for middle graders, perhaps.
[Edited somwehat substantively in order to revise voice attitude attributes and missing thoughts, and to wish also, regretfully belatedly, my congratulations and best wishes.]
Hey, small congrat. That's is what I call a nice consolation price.
And don't forget, as has been discussed around these parts, when they say they want another one they mean it.
You wouldn't be the first writer to have his-her first book rejected but at the same time told they want another one and they end up buying that second or third one.
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