by Roger Zotti
When Estevan Vega was 15, he wrote his first book. Now, in his third work, Arson (Tate Publishing), he says he hoped to accomplish “something that was really personal. I was writing it during my parents’ divorce – which had a huge impact on me. And I wanted to write a story really relatable to kids close to my age – I was 17 when I started writing it. I wanted to capture that teen spirit and the pain I was going through.”
As for its theme, Estevan says, “It’s becoming who you are and taking off your mask. I feel a lot of people wear masks every day. The story tries to expose people for who they are.” The main character, Arson Gable, possesses a strange and terrible power. The mask he wears is that he wants to become like everyone else. “But he can’t do that,” Estevan says. “Then there’s Emery, who actually wears a mask. So you have the figurative and the literal.”
Because he tried to make his characters believable – which he did – Estevan hopes readers take away from the book, “The same experience that I or maybe they felt about something that happened to them in their past. I wanted a certain ‘relatability’ with this book that I don’t think I captured in my previous books.”
Originally, the book was Arson’s and his tormented grandmother’s story. But, Estevan explains, “I wrestled with the idea of making it more personal. Obviously, I didn’t want it to be like, ‘Oh, this is my sob story.’ Eventually, Emery moves in and she and her family add a whole new dynamic. Yes, it was unexpected, adding Emery and her family and seeing where they would go.”
Though Arson is an intense book, there’s a change of pace with the entrance of the dying Abraham Finch, whom we meet at Middlesex Hospital where Emery and Arson volunteer. Estevan splendidly describes the old man as having “coffee-colored skin … loosely draped around sagging muscles and brittle bones.”
The dialogue between Abraham and the teens is humorous, sagacious and believable. In fact, some of Estevan’s best writing – and my favorite scenes – involve Abraham. It’s during their conversations with him that – for a few moments – Emery and Arson step away from the terror of their own lives and learn about the suffering of someone who has lived long and observed and experienced much. To the teens Abraham says, “…I’ve seen some things in my day … Spent too much time being modest and not enough time saying it like it is.” Later, when Arson says, “I’m sorry, Mr. Finch. This world can be pretty cruel,” Abraham replies, But … this messed-up place got a soul. It ain’t perfect, but it needs saving, just like I did, just like you do.”
Estevan Vega is a young, gifted writer who gets better with every book. Aimed at both young and adult readers, Arson is a well-crafted fast-paced, highly enthralling page-turner … Learn more by visiting www.estevanvega.com.