So a week after the now infamous "critique of doom," I have to say, she was right. The new rewrite clears up the one huge problem I was having trouble with--making the reader CARE about Ben before the action starts.
And my beloved 'waking up in a hospital not knowing how he got there' start WAS cliched. Yes, I thought of it as "Homage to Zelazny," but, really, I'm no Zelazny.
So I think my first 2 pages are stronger now. The current plan? I'm going to wait for the last couple agents from the current round of subs to reply, and then, if it's all 'no' I'm going to pull back for a while and do ANOTHER rewrite.
Then I have a list of about 5 more agents who handle commercial MG (as opposed to claiming to handle it but have never had any kids books...) and if they say no, I'll give up on the agent route for now and try editors....
Because the experience of friends has taught me that if you can't have a really good agent, you might as well have no agent. And I can always get an agent for book 2, or 3, or somewhere down the line.
(Before you tell me there are more MG agents than I would think--yes, I know. But most don't want action/adventure/sci fi stuff. They want coming-of-age stuff and lyrical stuff. Not so many explosions and helicopters and superheroes........ so I COULD submit to those other agents, but I'd probably just be wasting everyone's time.......)