I just got an email from my most recent writing instructor. And it totally made me... emotional.
These are the last few paragraphs:
Your writing is very clean and so real! It surprised me in class when you said you'd had another YA manuscript passed on by a bunch of agents--I can't imagine reading your writing and not at least wanting to take you on as client, even if that specific book you were submitting had problems in itself.
I think the one remaining challenge for you here is still plot and hook--really working out the concrete beats in a way where readers feel a clear sense of story thrust, of Seth having a purpose, something he's pushing toward or being pushed toward. The writing is so strong that it's easy to get lost in these scenes, but looking at them as a whole I do want to caution you that I think once you have everything down on paper, you'll want to go back over this and give thought to some of that annoying (yet true) formulaic approach to story--the whole three act structure bit, and setting up a clear conflict that we then watch become increasingly complicated before the character can resolve.
I have utter faith that you can do this, though, and want to reiterate that the thing that can't be learned, in my opinion, is the basic talent for writing that you have--plot and structure come with time and practice, and CAN be learned.
I would love to keep in touch, and I'd love for you to give me a head's up when you've finished this book, if you feel comfortable with that, so that I can see if there's any way I could help you get it placed at the right house. You really have this in you, I promise! :)