This week saw the debut of Vesper, the constantly surprising, un-put-down-able first entry in Jeff Sampson’s thrilling new paranormal teen trilogy, Deviants, from HarperCollins Children’s Books/Balzer + Bray. It’s got a sexy cover, a spiffy design, and the stewardship of a great editor. A happy ending all around.
But this novel has had a long route to publication, and so its appearance on bookshelves is especially sweet. In a much different form—as a novel entitled, I believe, Wildeside—it was purchased for the Mirrorstone imprint of Wizards of the Coast. It was revised, edited, and scheduled. But before it could be published, Mirrorstone was folded and WotC became again focused on Dungeons & Dragons. (Roll those polyhedral dice, Nina!)
Then Jeff found a new agent, and the novel was again revised and edited. And then it sold at auction and was again revised and edited. During those years it went from being called Wildeside to The Savage Files to The Vesper Files to The Life and Death of Emily Cooke, until at last it was retitled Vesper, and Jeff again revised to more seamlessly work the title origin into the text, and now it is there, in stores, waiting for you to go and buy it for the teen in your life (or for yourself—go on, it’s okay).
I’ve already written about this novel on Goodreads, where I described it as “a kind of mix of Westerfeld and Heroes (when it was good) and Veronica Mars, but entirely its own beast.” And then I got all philosophical-like. To wit:
“Of late, the teen genre paranormal romances announce themselves as such, with the single element the author is playing with brayed about on the cover. Bored by Wolves! or Fairy Tail or Angel Boy or what-have-you. Such books are all about cashing in by being as obvious as possible. Want paranormal romance? Here’s a vampire angel zombie you can really love! You know you’re reaching the nadir of a trend when mere labeling is enough to make a book a success.”
“Which is one of the most refreshing things about Vesper. There are genre elements in here, but they’re not the ones you expect, and they’re not being used in a manner you’ll expect. Sampson has bigger aims than mere sort-of-boy-meets-sort-of-girl, and one of the novel’s many joys is just how often you realize that you don’t quite know what in tarnation is going on.”
“And the book is written with a crispness that is increasingly rare in this genre—Sampson isn’t one to linger forever on a boy’s steely gaze, the line of his jaw, his rock hard head (er, abs), etc.—those sorts of calculatedly gooey details that basically make so much of today’s teen paranormal romance come off as soft porn for thirteen-year-olds. Instead, he’s got a story to tell. And it’s a doozy of a page-turner. The only disappointment is that when it is over we realize it is only the first entrant in a story that is much larger.”
Congratulations, Jeff, from all of us here at Upstart Crow Lit. It’s nice to at last see Emily Dub out in the world, fighting the good fight and winning over readers coast to coast.