Here’s a first look at the cover art for Origin, a debut YA novel by 22-year-old Jessica Khoury, which Penguin’s Razorbill imprint will release in September with an announced print run of 250,000 copies. The story centers on a teen living in a laboratory hidden in the Amazon rainforest who discovers she is genetically engineered to be immortal. Razorbill senior editor Laura Arnold brokered the preempted deal for world rights with Lucy Carson of the Friedrich Agency.
“We haven’t preempted anything in a long time – perhaps a year – but this book is remarkable,” says Ben Schrank, Razorbill president and publisher. “The novel is a cautionary tale about not messing with Mother Nature, and it’s very cinematic. Though it has a similar cautionary tone, there is nothing apocalyptic or dystopian about the novel – it really does seem that it could be happening now. But what is most remarkable is that readers become completely enveloped in the story. This is a book that everyone in-house wanted to get behind immediately.”
Born and raised in the small town of Toccoa, Ga., Khoury was homeschooled from fourth grade through high school, and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Toccoa Falls College. “I know it’s a cliché, but that Jessica has a maturity beyond her years really is true,” says Schrank. “Her novel has classic elements, but it is entirely hers – she wasn’t listening to the market, this story just came to her. We don’t see this kind of book very often, and it’s kind of a dream for a publisher.”
Schrank says that he and his colleagues are thrilled with Origin’s cover, designed by associate art director Greg Stadnyk. “Often when we’re coming up with a cover, there are a lot of people involved and, with so many voices, sometimes you can really miss,” he notes. “But this was done entirely by Greg, and he got it on the first try. There’s a lush Amazonian feel to the cover, and the image of the glowing girl – and the negative space – are amazing. Everyone who has seen it has been caught up in it immediately.”