Bianca wants to escape.
She's been uprooted from her small hometown and enrolled at Evernight Academy, an eerie Gothic boarding school where the students are somehow too perfect: smart, sleek, and almost predatory. Bianca knows she doesn't fit in.
Then she meets Lucas. He's not the "Evernight type" either, and he likes it that way. Lucas ignores the rules, stands up to the snobs, and warns Bianca to be careful—even when it comes to caring about him.
"I couldn't stand it if they took it out on you," he tells Bianca, "and eventually they would."
But the connection between Bianca and Lucas can't be denied. Bianca will risk anything to be with Lucas, but dark secrets are fated to tear them apart . . . and to make Bianca question everything she's ever believed.
Grade: B+ //
Rant: Every professional review of this book somehow mentions Stephenie Meyer and/or the Twilight series. Is it just me, or does that annoy anyone else seven ways to Sunday? I get that people want to allude to some of the bestselling series of vampire books ever, but saying "enjoyable (...) for fans of that other vampire series who need something to read while they wait for Breaking Dawn (Meyer, 2008)" (Kirkus) is downright insulting, as it implies that Evernight is no better than a placeholder. This angers me. But hey, I'm one to talk, huh, seeing as I'm about to do the same: The only comparison between the two books I think is appropriate to be made (and the only one I'll ever make) is that while it is Twilight's tagline that says "deeply seductive and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight is a love story with bite", Evernight is the book that fits that bill. I enjoyed Twilight, don't get me wrong, but let's call a spade a spade: Twilight is marketable fluff with a suspense subplot (and that's all it really is -- a subplot). And even so, the suspense is predestined to end in Happily-Ever-After Ville, so, without ever having a doubt of where it's headed, can we really call it suspense? Evernight, methinks, has real suspense "in equal parts" with romance.
Moving on, as this rant is getting too long-winded and distracting attention from the review itself.
Don't let the beginning of this novel get to you. This review (click -- beware of spoilers!) had a spot-on analysis of what was wrong with the first half; it channels my thoughts exactly. Basically, I felt like the beginning went one direction and then when the twist came, it veered another direction completely, and the two parts, together, were incomprehensible. When I discovered midway through the novel that Bianca already knew and accepted that she was a vampire, I was ready to hurl the book across the room. For one, it made no sense in synch with everything I'd learned up to the that point. If you were amidst an alien nation and you were one of the few humans in existence, wouldn't you think to yourself every once in a while, "Hey, I'm human. I live with aliens, but I'm still human. I know this because I don't look like an oversized zygote"? How could she not even think about her diet differences with humans? And for another thing, it was deceitful of Bianca to earn my sympathy through her lonely-girl gripes about not fitting in at Evernight when she was in the majority, species-wise. Added to this is the dragging narrative found in this first portion -- some of which, by this time, I didn't see the point in.
Now, judging by the fact this is earning a B+, something inside the book must've worked, correct?! Right you are. When I hit page 200-something and the catalyst finally appeared, I literally sat up on my bed and my eyes bulged out so much, I thought they'd pop out of my head. From there on out, a dozen little plot developments happened that changed the novel's progression in a way I didn't for a second see coming. For every boring moment in the first half, the second half offered an complex setup, quick pacing, and really, really great discoveries. I won't go too much in detail because I don't want to spoil anyone's reading experience, but I can guarantee you this: The plot? Brilliant. Enigmatic, but balanced, and very well thought-out.
Remember in my criticizing paragraph that I said some of the stuff in the first portion didn't make much sense to me? I meant Lucas's character (he seemed to me like a gratuitous lover-boy type), the sometimes over-the-top romance between Bianca and him, and a lot of details that made no sense whatsoever. It was all a set up. Nearly everything gets explained later on, and you can see the sheer genius behind this carefully strung story. I mean, I still don't get why Bianca knew she was a vampire all along when it would've been a much more groundbreaking move in the overall scheme of things to have her find out along with the reader the reality of the situation, and that's what robbed this book of an A-rating, but everything else?
This book is perfect for people sick of the tried-and-tortured vampires-are-oh-so-sexy books that seem to dominate the YA vamp-lit genre nowadays. I am not kidding when I say the ideas Claudia Gray introduced here are very original and engaging. I'm bashing my head in at the re-scheduling of Stargazer's release because I am desperately in the need to know what happens from here.
Get. This. Book. Ignore the first part, revel in the second part, and then come join the line of people awaiting Stargazer's launch, which is, of course, led by me. I'll bite anyone who tries to cut ahead and I can't guarantee I won't drain you while I'm at it.
Book QnA (with Claudia!)
How did you get the idea for Evernight?
The idea of this scary, strange school came to me first -- the characters to fill it (and the fact that they were vampires) came after. The name of the school I'd actually come up with several years ago as a title for another project, a science-fiction idea that I ultimately decided not to pursue, but the word Evernight stuck with me.
How much of Bianca is really you?
Probably more than I realize, but there are many differences between us -- she's less who I was in high school as someone I would've been best friends with.
What has the fan response been to Evernight so far?
So far it's been great! The book hasn't been out very long yet, but so getting e-mails from readers who enjoyed the book is still quite new (and delightful) for me.
Which character was the most fun to write about?
I'd never asked myself this, so I'm sort of surprised at the answer: Mrs. Bethany, the headmistress of Evernight Academy.
Evernight is part of a quartet of books. We all know that books are often finished way before their publication date. Can you tell us which of the four books you're working on now?
Right now I'm taking a short break between the third book (HOURGLASS) and the fourth (tentative title: AFTERLIFE) to work on some other ideas. I expect to finish the fourth book before the second one, STARGAZER, comes to bookstores; I already know most of what happens and how, so I think the writing will go quickly. (Watch those be famous last words.)
What--if any--changes did Evernight go through from genesis to publication? Anything major?
Once I had the whole idea together, it changed fairly little. I did shorten/compress an adventure Bianca and Lucas have later in the book, and I completely revised the first couple chapters at the last minute; that meeting in the woods didn't exist at all until my very, very final draft. (This meeting is much better!)
How are you liking writing about vampires?
The best part is the vampire fans. People are such passionate readers of this genre, and I really admire their dedication and the fun they have with it.
Monday, June 9, 2008