Disney-Hyperion has acquired a four-book sci-fi/fantasy series by Rachel Cohn, whose earlier YA books include Gingerbread and its sequels, and a trio of novels coauthored with David Levithan, among them Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The agreement for world English rights was negotiated by Emily Meehan, Disney Book Group’s executive editor, and Jennifer Rudolph Walsh of William Morris Endeavor. Beta, the inaugural title in the series, will be published in fall 2012, with the three remaining novels appearing each subsequent fall.
The series is set in the bioengineered tropical island paradise of Annex, which is staffed by soul-less clones. Beta stars two teenage girls—one a human girl and the other her clone—who are both stranded in the Annex and fall in love with the same guy. The inspiration for the plot, says Cohn, came from a dream she had about a teenage clone, available for sale at a mall, who was purchased by the wife of a powerful figure. “I kept thinking about this idea, and it evolved into this series, taking many drastic turns along the way,” she says.
Cohn, a self-described “closet sci-fi geek,” observes that the series “is and isn’t” a dramatic departure from her previous fiction. “I feel as though the voice I’m writing in is very much my own, but the setting is different and the stakes are higher,” she says. “Usually I write about the world in front of me, and this is not that. It is a challenge, but I’m very happy and comfortable to be exploring new territory.” Also novel, she says, is writing about a teenage clone “who is experiencing everything for the first time and is an open slate. Usually my characters, though young, tend to be street-wise.”
Emily Meehan, who acquired the series in a preemptive bid, was impressed by what she calls Cohn’s “epic world-building.” “I have long been a big fan of Rachel’s writing and the way her novels are voice- and character-driven,” she says. “This series is much more plot-driven, and right away I knew that that and her well-known contemporary teen voice was the ultimate pairing.”
Meehan also notes, “This series is something very new and different, which is what I’m always looking for. Rachel came up with a unique concept and ran with it.”