VESPER (Deviants #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins
Available January 25th
Received via Star Book Tours for review
Emily has always been more of a reserved teenage girl, not overly popular or noticed by boys, and she's more than fine with spending the evening doing nothing but reading a good book. With the death of a fellow classmate sharing her moniker, however, Emily is divested of her boring, introverted life, and introduced to a world of danger, death, and the supernatural.
Not long after her classmate's death, Emily finds herself in short-lived but gut-wrenching pain every night around the same time. When she shakes it off, a new Emily has taken her place, one who wants to have fun, be popular, and most of all, find the source of an utterly addicting masculine scent.
Because this new Emily doesn't share her daytime counterpart's sense of self-preservation, she soon becomes the target of a serial killer who seems to be choosing teenagers at random, but as Emily comes to learn, is very precise in picking his victims. Knowing there are other people out there like her gives both versions of Emily the confidence to turn the hunter into the hunted, but when the smoke of her chase clears she finds she still has far more questions than answers.
Vesper is a story that leaves us in a state of suspended indecision, our emotions in constant flux as we mentally debate the merits and drawbacks of what we've just read. It's not a book that's easy to categorize or assign a label such as "good" or "bad", and this sense of being undefinable stems mostly from a complete and utter lack of knowledge despite having read clean through cover to cover. Mr. Sampson has written a novel with overwhelming potential and the potent promise for future substance, yet the story we are given lacks that which it promises so strongly. Reading Emily's story is like reading a three-hundred page prologue where interesting events are set in motion and we're taunted with the barest whispers of information, but just as we are getting excited to delve into the richness we know is just waiting for us to savor, we find ourselves on the final page, having been given a shell of a story and denied the filling we so crave.
Emily herself is as difficult to decipher as the story of which she is narrator. She starts out as the quiet, somewhat geeky, easy-to-overlook teenager with whom we can easily see ourselves eventually connecting, but with the fall of night she becomes a girl plagued by none of the inhibitions that hamper daytime Emily's social life. She quickly sheds the sweetness and innocence we've come to appreciate and embraces her latent "popular girl" behavior, thereby rendering her a complete stranger we're not sure we really want to know. She has few redeeming qualities while in this altered state of being, and any explanation for either this version of Emily or the full werewolf version of Emily remains a complete mystery. All we know with any amount of certainty is that sometime in the vicinity of eight o'clock in the evening Emily short circuits and transforms, maintaining an awareness of her daytime persona, but ultimately not caring what effect her shenanigans will have on her as long as she's having fun now.
A great deal of nighttime Emily's "fun" centers around the alluring draw of a certain musky scent her werewolf-self identifies as belonging to her mate. The search for a mate would have been a perfectly acceptable storyline if we were just provided a few of the why's for this particular behavior. We are given no explanation for her search, and once she finds the one she's been so inexplicably drawn to, we have no idea whether or not he is equally drawn to her, thus negating any potential for a romance that would have helped us understand this animalistic pull. While we are provided a hint as to the reason for Emily's physical changes, the lack of information regarding all other aspects of the story becomes increasingly frustrating, leaving us blinking in disbelief upon reaching the conclusion, shocked by the fact that we've read a full length novel but have learned virtually nothing about either the characters or the trials they face.
Periodically, Emily's narration is interrupted by the transcripts of an interview between her (though she's identified as Vesper 1) and an older gentleman who knows her secret, a deviation from the story that doesn't seem all that necessary until the end. Between the last page of the story itself and the final page of the transcript, a significant group of occurrences seem to have taken place, resulting in an Emily who is now far more informed and knowledgeable about her condition and what it means, yet we as readers remain outsiders–an unfortunate circumstance that cements our detachment from this story as the interest that was undeniably piqued is whispered away in a haze of confusion. Vesper is certainly full of potential, perhaps potential that will be mercifully tapped into in coming books, but it reads as a lengthy introduction to future events as opposed to a stand alone first installment.