Have you ever known something was going to be big before it happens?
That was the feeling I had when reserving These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong months before it came out. While talk about the book online was a consistent hum, for the longest time I was one of only three reserves, and I could not help but wonder who else was in on this not-so-secret secret.
Then late November came along, and These Violent Delights was released – and appeared on the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list. All the local papers wanted to tell everyone who this local success story was. In a matter of days the reserve list doubled, then tripled. One thing quickly became apparent to everyone who had not seen this coming. We needed more than the three copies we originally had!
So what’s the big deal?
Let’s first start with the book. These Violent Delights is a young adult historical fantasy novel that is also a reimagining of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. To break it down, it’s Romeo and Juliet + gangs in 1920s Shanghai + monsters = These Violent Delights. Juliet is now Juliette Cai, heir to the Scarlet Gang, while Romeo has become Roma Montagov, heir to rivals the White Flowers.
Gong wrote These Violent Delights in May 2018. That’s not a typo: she started and finished her first draft in the same month, while back in Auckland for the summer break of the University of Pennsylvania. Thanks to a year’s worth of notes and the eight novels she had previously written throughout her teens Gong was able to do what most NaNoWriMo participants can only dream of doing.
With a completed manuscript in hand, Gong went in search of an agent. She found one. Together they worked on making Gong’s manuscript the best it could be before submitting to publishers. After four months of submissions, the offer came through. And then another. There were enough editors and publishers interested that the book went to auction, where they all competed to be the one that got to publish the book. A sort of Publishing Games, if you will, only much much much less violent.
Long story short, the deal was announced in February 2019 and just over a year and a half later the book hit shelves and number three on the NYT bestseller list. Right between The Hate U Give and Once Of Us Is Lying. At twenty-one, with a book she had written when she was nineteen, Chloe Gong was now one of 2020s youngest bestsellers. Plus it’s the rare example of a book for teens that was written by a teen; a funny thing as when submitting Gong was often told that These Violent Delights was more adult than young adult. It goes to show that if you have a great idea and are willing to put in the hard work as well as take the leap you too can achieve great things.
If you’re interested in reading These Violent Delights, make sure you reserve a copy today as the queue is still quite impressive. Don’t forget to mark your calendars as its sequel, Our Violent Ends, is due for release November 16, 2021.
And if you think you think you have got it in you to be the next teen bestseller from New Zealand, check out Chloe Gong’s blog post about being a youth in publishing. Her website is also full of links to articles about and interviews with Gong, while her twitter feed is full of very excellent memes.
Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.