Given the phenomenal global success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, there’s a mad rush from publishers and publicists to find “the next Stephenie Meyer”.
Which is ironic, because it was only a year ago Meyer was being touted as “the next JK Rowling”.
I’m pretty sure authors themselves cringe at such comparisons, but in the current glut of urban fantasy, paranormal adventure and YA escapism hitting our shelves, they’re unavoidable.
Once author being compared to Meyer is Claudia Gray (the pseudonym of New York-based writer Amy Vincent). She’s currently two books into a planned four-book series about a gothic boarding school and the strange goings on there.
The Evernight series is told in the first person through the eyes of Bianca, a shy newcomer to the school who falls for fellow outsider Lucas.
For the first hundred or so pages, Evernight seemed to be heading into familiar Twilight territory. But then there was a very neat twist I hadn’t seen coming (having not gone out of my way to read too much about the series beforehand), which took the story in a new and interesting direction.
Without giving too much away, the series features vampires, vampire hunters and (in the second book, Stargazer), ghosts. It’s a kind of Twilight, Supernatural and Buffy hybrid, with a bit of Hogwarts thrown in for good measure.
Evernight introduces the main characters, establishes the mythology and sets the lines between the warring vampires and vampire hunters – which Gray then nicely blurs, ensuring the reader is never quite sure who's "good" and who's not.
Stargazer then ups the ante with more tension and twists as Bianca and Lucas try to make their relationship work, and new elements are added to increase the sense of mystery and menace. It’s these twists and turns, and the relative complexities of the relationships between a number of characters, that makes this series more than just another teen vampire love story. That, and the fact Gray is a good storyteller.
So … is she the next Meyer?
We’ve talked before on this blog about why Meyer’s novels have struck such a chord with readers. The appeal is undeniably the intense relationship between Bella and Edward, particularly the idea of a powerful, sexy vampire denying his very nature to love and protect the human he craves.
While the Bianca-Lucas romance drives the Evernight story, it’s as much a suspenseful gothic mystery as it is a love story. The relationships aren’t always healthy, and truth is never black or white, which makes the story all the more interesting.
Gray’s author bio refers to her lifelong interest in old houses, classic movies, vintage style and history, and she nicely weaves these elements into her narrative.
It’s not fair to compare Gray to Meyer. Gray is an unashamed fan of vampire stories – particularly those not mired in horror – and Everynight and Stargazer pay homage to that.
These YA books are fast-paced and suspenseful, and while there’s not the underlying sexiness of the Bella-Edward dynamic, there are plenty of hot and heavy moments with Bianca and Lucas (with their own complications, of course).
I have one last observation on the YA/vampire/paranormal trend, which I’ll save for another post – and then, I promise, I’ll write about something other than vampires for a while!