Vendetta is the debut novel of Catherine Doyle, a 24-year-old author from the West of Ireland who has got the publishing world on both sides of the Atlantic very excited.
She has a degree in psychology, a master's in literature and publishing, and her book is being published this month by Chicken House in the UK and Scholastic in the US, with much talk of a movie in the air. It's inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and modern Mafia culture, and is the first in a Young Adult trilogy.
The novel tells the story of Persephone, better known as Sophie Gracewell, a teenager living outside Chicago, whose normal life, prior to the events of the story, has been disrupted by her father's imprisonment.
Although she and her mother are attempting to live as normally as possible, everything changes during the summer after the arrival of a family of five boys (who all happen to be Italian and very attractive) to her neighbourhood. As she becomes closer to one of them, Nic, she unearths a whole array of secrets and cover-ups that will force her to make a choice between him and her family.
At times, it felt as if the novel took a little while to get going - much of the earlier part of the book relies on a misunderstanding, one that it takes the characters, a little implausibly, 140 pages to clear up. Thankfully, once it gets started, the storyline becomes enjoyably exciting. The pace is perfect, as one event sets off another in a rapid and dynamic chain reaction.
It's not until substantially later on in the book that we find out why Sophie's father is in prison, and thankfully, the author is able to give us information on the events that happened before the story begins in such a way that doesn't get us bogged down in backstory. There is quite a shocking twist involving one of the characters - whose true colours aren't shown until the very end - a twist which I didn't see coming.
However, the characters in general are a bit dull and somewhat lacking in vitality. No one really seems to be given his or her own voice, and every scene, and every piece of dialogue, seems to be there for the sole purpose of advancing the story. We get very little sense of them as individuals. This was disappointing, because the characters are far from simple - no one is either good or bad, and many have interesting and unexpected backstories.
Unfortunately, Sophie and Nic in particular are quite bland and colourless, and their relationship isn't really given the space to develop into one that we particularly care about. At times it seemed as if their initial meeting and getting to know each other was rushed for the sake of the plot - a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet. If that is the case, then it's definitely a shame, because the plot is certainly exciting enough to stand on its own without Sophie and Nic's Twilight-style forbidden romance carrying it forward. In fact, the denouement would have been a lot more compelling if only we knew more about these characters to care about them.
This book, which isn't very long and can easily be read in a day, is the first instalment of what should be a strong trilogy. Certainly, it feels as if a lot of time here was given over to setting the story up for the next part of the saga. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - perhaps, now that we are familiar with her characters, Doyle will be able to develop them a little more, changing them from characters we read about because their lives are dramatic and exciting into characters we read about because we care what they're doing and what's happening to them.
Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709350