Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012: Kids' Maximum Shelf: Fated


St. Martin's Griffin: Fated by Alyson Noel

St. Martin's: Fated by Alyson Noel

St. Martin's Griffin: Fated by Alyson Noel

St. Martin's Griffin: Fated by Alyson Noel

Fated: The Soul Seekers, Book One

by Alyson Noel

Alyson Noël (the Immortals series) mines her New Mexico setting and brings to life the land of enchantment in this kickoff to a quartet about Daire Santos, the reluctant heir to an ancient line of shamans.

In a cryptic opening, a murder of crows circles a graveyard where Paloma Santos stands next to a casket, convinced "that her son's sudden death was no accident." The woman also senses in her son's girlfriend an unborn child "whose fate had long been foretold," and whose safety Paloma bears in mind as she removes herself from the funeral, vowing to re-enter the child's life when she turns 16.

Readers meet Paloma's granddaughter in the next chapter, in Marrakesh on her 16th birthday. Daire, who narrates, has accompanied her mother, Jennika, a professional make-up artist, on location for a film. The teen star of the film takes Daire out to celebrate. As they wind through the Moroccan streets, Noël conjures the smells of goat grilling in the open air, exotic oils and jasmine, and the steady pulse of the gnaoua drum that induces Daire's first vision--a disturbing illusion of glowing people, decapitated heads and crows. When Daire awakens, she discovers she's restrained, and a doctor administers something to knock her out for the flight home to the U.S. But the visions return on the plane. Then Jennika receives a call from the long-absent Paloma, who offers to take Daire to her adobe house in Enchantment, New Mexico. Faced with the possibility of institutionalizing her daughter, Jennika decides to take Paloma up on her offer--much to Daire's disgust.

Noël taps into the universal adolescent impulse to resist authority, even though Daire knows she needs the guidance of someone more experienced to navigate the strange things that are happening to her. Her first night at Paloma's, Daire has a dream of two brothers: one kind, one evil, and both magnetic. Her soul recognizes the kind one as her true love but, in a graphic scene, the evil one devours him, to ingest his "sacred, shimmering sphere" of a soul. As the story progresses, this terrifying dream becomes the cornerstone of Daire's experiences in the tiny town of Enchantment. Soon after waking, Daire flees Paloma's house, only to come up against the two brothers from her dream inside a basement bar as she waits for a bus to Albuquerque. When disaster strikes, she finally surrenders to Paloma's path.

Daire's skepticism allows Noël to tap into realms that readers might ordinarily find farfetched. She grounds Daire's experiences in the smells, tastes and touch of the world around her--jasmine trees and the rustle of wind through the leaves, and the way the sun ricochets off a mountain range. At times it feels as though we've stepped into a Georgia O'Keeffe painting. Daire meets others like her, who feel a pull toward both the ethereal and the real, such as Paloma's friend Chay, a veterinarian who embraces both his Native American roots and Western medicine, and who teaches Daire to ride and care for Kachina, a beautiful brown-and-white horse. The magic that pulses through Daire emanates from the land and its creatures, as she becomes one with them.

In Noël's capable hands, Daire straddles the otherworldly elements of her calling as a shaman (including a captivating scene of Daire's vision quest) and the familiar trappings of a "normal" life as a high school student. Unfortunately, Cade Richter, the corrupt brother from Daire's dream and from the bar, attends the same high school--as does Cade's kinder twin, Dace, also from her dream and from her vision quest. Can she trust her instincts about Dace? Or is he as bent on Daire's destruction as Cade seems to be?

Daire's sense of humor balances out her dark visions. Evoking her days on movie sets, she calls the popular crowd the "marquee girls." But, after her vision quest, she also knows she has the upper hand. When she's tempted to "crush" the marquee girls' ringleader, Daire reminds herself that Paloma warned her to use her skill for "the greater good" rather than to protect her ego. The perils of high school often feel as threatening as navigating the Lower-, Upper- and Middleworld that Daire's destiny as a shaman requires of her. Readers will feel the pull of Daire's quest just as forcefully as Daire herself does, and will count the days until the release of Echo, the second installment, this fall. --Jennifer M. Brown

St. Martin's Griffin, $18.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 12-up, 9780312664855

St. Martin's Griffin: Fated by Alyson Noel


Join the Journey of the Soul Seekers

Everyone in the sales, marketing and creative services departments at St. Martin's Press was inspired by the original premise of Fated, Alyson Noël's first entry in the Soul Seekers series, to invent unique and extensive promotional plans for the book. The shamanism, the spirit animals and a New Mexico setting, along with a favorite house author, proved a winning combination for the key people we spoke with at St. Martin’s Press. Here they offer some of the highlights of their campaign.

"We've been publishing Alyson Noël for many years, starting with her first novel, Faking Nineteen," said Matthew Shear, executive v-p and publisher of St. Martin's Griffin. "She's always done well. Then she came up with this idea for the Immortals series, and it was a huge success." It launched Noël onto the New York Times bestseller list, and the six-book series has sold millions, according to Shear. "I thought the concept of Soul Seekers was very fresh and different," Shear added. "Even though it had a paranormal piece to it, the shamanism is what makes it different and unique." Fated kicks off the planned four-book Soul Seekers series with a one-day laydown on May 22, 2012.

The cornerstone of the marketing and sales strategy is a two-pronged video campaign, also to debut on May 22. Nancy Trypuc, senior director of creative services, said, "With its Southwestern setting, the Lower-, Upper- and Middleworld, and the shamanism, it's a really cinematic book." So they decided to do a full series trailer--at 60 seconds--as well as a 15-second trailer for each book as it releases. The first, of course, will be for Fated. "The idea is that we'd have one 60-second video that's overarching to show a new world to Alyson's readers," Trypuc explained.

The 15-second spot will be shown on Fox.com, timed for the end of American Idol, and on GameHouse, a casual gaming network. When kids (or adults) download games, they'll see the Fated video. "We'll really be hitting the core audience," Trypuc said. "They get tons of traffic." Gaming has caught on with teen girls, and even Nora Roberts admits that when she's not writing, she's gaming, according to Trypuc.

YouTube, SparkLife and Youthology will feature both the 15- and 60-second versions.

The sales and marketing team at St. Martin's aims to get all of Noël's Immortals fans to migrate to her Soul Seekers series, including the 160,000 fans on Noël's Immortals Facebook page. In January, they gave away ARCs of the novel at the American Library Association conference, then rolled into February with the launch of the Soul Seekers Facebook page, and a mailing of 1,000 ARCs to booksellers, bloggers and influential teens, plus ARC giveaways on Goodreads and Library Thing. "With a book that delivers as good a story as this, an opportunity for people to read the book is the best way to get the word out," Shear said. Now, with a week to go before publication, there are over 300 ratings and more than 150 reviews (4 out of 5 star average) on Goodreads. Noël also created an incredible fan-pleasing new bonus scene that takes Ever, a character from the Immortals, and introduces her to Daire, the narrator of Fated. Bridging the series in a believable and genuine way is a great way to introduce fans to the Soul Seekers. St. Martin's also offered an e-version of selected scenes from Fated, giving readers a big, 50-page sneak peek into the new world.

So far, the sell-in strategy is working. "The numbers are aggressive," said Alison Lazarus, president of sales for Macmillan. "A lot of accounts came in even higher than expected," she noted, then added quickly, "which isn't to say that we were low-balling." Fated is selling in well across all channels: library, bookstore, mass merchandisers, independents and online retailers. For consumers, if you are one of the first 3,000 people to send in proof of a Fated print book, e-book or audiobook preorder, you'll be entered to win a pair of feather earrings inspired by the ones Daire wears in Fated.

"What we're really trying to do with this book is aggregate audience, and bring them into the book in an authentic, engaging way," said Jeff Dodes, executive v-p of marketing and digital strategy. The Soul Seekers Web site will include a lot of cool extras, Dodes said, such as a quiz to determine which spirit animal you are--a big part of the story line in Fated. Details on Noël's upcoming five-city tour are also available on the website. It's also important to build the interest of readers between titles in the series. "Even if you've built an audience, if you let them go fallow for months, you won't have a healthy audience when you go back to re-engage them," he explained. With Echo, the second Soul Seekers book, slated for November, the excitement will only build from here.


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