Now that I’ve changed course slightly in the direction of my career, I think it’s time to do a review of and tribute to my favorite book and author from my tenure at Tate Publishing. A lot of bad books crossed my desk at that company, along with a fair amount of mediocre-to-decent books. And I also saw a small, select few really good books.
One of those really good ones was Arson, by Estevan Vega. Estevan was an editor’s dream author. He was enthusiastic and cooperative from the start. He was ambitious and driven, going to all ends of the earth to get big-name endorsements for his book. Some he got, and some he didn’t, but nonetheless, his effort did not go unnoticed. Before I even began the edit on his book, I expected to enjoy it not only because he was so excited about it (because bad authors get excited about their books too) but also because he was humble about it.
During our introductory phone conversation, he didn’t brag to me about his writing abilities, like some authors do. He didn’t tell me the long, hard road he’d been down to get to publishing, like some authors do, as if somehow hard work means they deserve to be published (in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t; only good work deserves publishing). He didn’t even tell me that this was his third book to get published. (Of course, I did already know it was his third because I had googled him before I called him.)
When I asked Estevan to tell me about himself, he mentioned that he was still in college, that he spends most of his time writing, and that his dad was the one who first encouraged him to pursue writing. That was it. He was straightforward, honest, and humble. The thing that endeared me most to Estevan was that he was respectful of me as his editor right from the very beginning. He immediately seemed to understand the relationship we would have and also seemed to be looking forward to it. He appropriately communicated his expectations of me, which were not unreasonable, and I reiterated my role in the process.
After hanging up the phone with Estevan, I couldn’t wait to get started on the edit of Arson (even though we did have one major disagreement right from the beginning – the title). Estevan originally had a different title, and I liked it a lot more than the one that got finalized. I presented my arguments for the other title logically and respectfully, and he appropriately considered them and then went with his gut. Which is fine, since it’s his book and not mine. It took him a full month to give me the final decision on the title, and because he carefully weighed all the options and opposing arguments before he made up his mind, I cannot fault him for going against my advice.
And as for the book as a whole? Estevan didn’t have to brag about his ability. His talent spoke for itself.
From the first line of Arson, I was hooked. The book is a psychological thriller, a supernatural coming-of-age story that employs masterful character development, fast-paced and natural dialogue, and plot surprises to keep the reader interested until the very end. The most intriguing thing, for me, was that the title of the book is the main character’s name.
Arson is a teenager who is “different.” He has the ability to create fire with his mind, but like most teenagers, all he wants is to be normal. He lives on the edge of a small town with his grandparents, and the reader gets the feeling they’ve moved there as a result of a tragic accident in their past; it’s hinted at but not confirmed that the accident may have been Arson’s fault. Lonely, isolated, and trying to survive adolescence, Arson spends his summer days working at an ice cream shop and his evenings alternately avoiding the wrath of his bipolar grandmother or keeping her company and assuring her of his love.
Before long, a new family moves into the abandoned house next door, and Arson’s curiosity about the girl his age who always wears a mask eventually gets the better of him. In true teenage fashion, Arson and Emery plunge headlong into a complicated, emotionally charged, and, at times, infuriating relationship, while each tries to keep hidden the skeletons threatening to burst out of closets behind them. Even though they aren’t sure they can trust each other, they enter a unique friendship that will lead them down paths of no return, forcing a deeper bond than perhaps they feel ready to commit to.
I wish I could tell you more because there’s so much packed into the plot, the development, and the backdrop. But part of the fun of the book is that it confuses you just enough to keep you hooked (kind of like the show Lost), so I don’t want to ruin anything.
But the book is definitely one that deserves (and may even require) a second read. The themes are dark, the emotions are perfectly captured and portrayed, and the story is compelling. And what’s more, it doesn’t end the way you thought it would. What more could you want in a book? This one is definitely worth buying and having on your shelf. And the best news is, Estevan is working on the sequel, so if you fall irrevocably in love with Arson’s character (as I did), you won’t have seen the end of him just yet. (The only downfall is that I probably won’t edit the rest of the series, so the books will be lacking in editorial quality, for sure! ;) I’m mostly kidding.)
Interested parties and intelligent readers can purchase Estevan Vega’s Arson directly from the publisher, or beginning May 4, it will be on Amazon.