Way back in high school, I was a part of a writing site called inkpop. It was run by HarperCollins (yes, the HarperCollins) and every month, through a system of complicated rankings and voting, the five most popular projects on the website would be sent to editors at HarperCollins.
October 2010 as when The Assassin was a top pick, but there was a month delay between earning your star (which meant you were a top pick) and actually receiving your review.
So, five years ago today, I got that email saying my review was here. I remember basically freaking out, making my mom read the email next to me, hiding behind my hands before I couldn’t take it anymore and read it, too.
Now that it’s been five years and the book is out, I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast what the book was to what the book is now. So, I present to you, the official HarperCollins review. With italicized thoughts from Laura.
You’ve devised a thrilling premise here—the dual lives that Cassie leads, the intrigue of her past, the excitement and daring involved in her profession as a teenage assassin (not to mention that she’s a female assassin!) (haha, not anymore. Yeah, that’s right. Cassie was originally the murderer here)—all of these elements grab the reader immediately. I think Cassie’s spunky personality and bravado are truly appealing—she is a relatable heroine that the reader will root for, especially considering her checkered past, the misfortune of her parents, her calling to become an assassin as her father was before her, and a destiny that could not be denied. None of this is even relevant anymore. Goodness, this has really changed. That she is a seemingly everyday teen with boy troubles, mean girl confrontations, cafeteria showdowns, history projects and homework adds to the allure of her secret life. Cassie was originally in middle school. Yes, a major publishing house read my manuscript about a middle schooled murderer. What were we all thinking? You’ve set this up beautifully and the juxtaposition between Cassie-by-day and her nighttime missions makes for great reading. Why thank you, HarperCollins.
[REDACTED FOR SPOILERS] Her skill in killing, the signature knife through the heart, the suspicions and fame surrounding the identity of The Assassin—all of this allows for action-packed and alluring scenes. Where I would like to see more development is in Cassie’s understanding of her role as assassin—how did she first learn that this was her calling? Was she trained somehow or did it come to her naturally? Does it even matter anymore? She’s too busy being a badass FBI agent now. She has such tremendous confidence in her skills that I think it would help for the reader to better understand how Cassie first learned of and grappled with her fate. It can’t be easy to find out that you were meant to be a killer. Also, in her murder scenes she appears to have no remorse—I understand that each of these intended victims are wrongdoers in some capacity or another, and that she must be professional and detached in order to execute her assassination, but she seems almost too cavalier and relaxed. While I don’t have any plans to make Cassie a killer later on, I really love toying with this idea of a vigilante killer. I think a lot of people see an appeal to it. Also, there seems to be a Robin Hood aspect with respect to her targets—this is interesting, especially in opposition to her evil father and his cruel and unusual work as an assassin. I think this could definitely be developed and fleshed out further.
The romance with Seth Edwards delivers palpable chemistry and sexy banter – boy ain’t even in the book. But he is in the sequel.—the way in which she rejects him in spite of herself allows us to see the vulnerable side of Cassie and helps to round out your heroine. I think you could do further work on Seth—why is it that he’s so intent on charming Cassie? His motives, beyond a basic crush, seem unclear. What is the source of Seth’s feelings, and why is he drawn to Cassie in such an intense way?
I’m eager to see where Cassie’s hunt for Joe will lead her and how the showdown with her criminal father will play out—all these details allow for a climactic denouement and a captivating conclusion. Bravo for crafting a terrific plot and delivering a gripping story arc! So, at this point, I realize that I think maybe 1% of the original plot made it into the actual book.
So, now if you’ve ever wondered why it took me eight years to write a book, remember, I had to get from middle school murderer to FBI agent. I needed to live life to remember that my imagination can get a little too wild.
My, how five years can change so many things.