Violet spends the first three pages of the chapter missing her parents and her dead grandmother. I’m not saying it’s wrong per se, but it goes on for quite a bit, and it really doesn’t contribute much.
She, Sunshine and Luke find River washing dishes and ask if he would like to go into town and buy groceries. Violet says that Luke treats all women the same (because he’s a misogynist, get it? Complex men don’t exist except for River!) but that he either ingratiates himself to men he respects, or condescends to the ones who intimidate him. Violet’s hate for her brother really gets wearing, because it hardly ever lets up. There is clearly a lot of resentment and as of yet, I see no reason for it within the text.
Luke asks if River lifts weights, and would like to be his spotter. Not too bad, I suppose. But he prefaces it with something stupid.
“I need someone who can drink whiskey without whining.”
First of all, none of them are legal. At all. Not even remotely close to legal drinking age in the U.S. If this were set in the U.K. or somewhere where the drinking laws were different, I wouldn’t have this quibble, but it’s set in the U.S.
I know plenty of people don’t wait until they are old enough to drink, so it’s only a minor thing. However, it’s implied in the later chapters that Luke regularly drinks, and not in a purely social setting. He drinks a lot and drinks to get drunk. Luke is a budding alcoholic. That’s actually kind of sad, when you think about it.
Luke does have some justification for being this way. His mother and father constantly abandon him, his grandmother recently died, and it appears that Violet has hated him from a very young age. He’s doing what he can to cope. It’s been postulated that some people use sex and relationships as a coping mechanism for depression. Violet does nothing at all to help her brother, even though she knows he’s struggling. I don’t see Violet as the victim here.
But let’s not focus on that, River’s making a “joke.”
“Yeah,” River said. “I just plugged in the fridge. I need some food. Hence, I’ll come with you to the grocery store.”
Seriously. It wasn’t funny the first time. It’s not funny now. It’s ridiculous and forced, and just all around terrible writing.
They start to walk to Echo. They could have taken River’s car since, you know, it has a trunk in which to store groceries, but no. We won’t get the plot of this chapter if we’re driving.
Violet actually hasn’t fallen for the “omg I’m so insecure” cliché that Twilight so often does. Violet more or less has made her peace with being the way she is, and that alone makes her a superior character to Bella.
I recognize that the teenage years are the ones where you feel most self-conscious, but it wasn’t really an established part of her character up to this point. So the fact that she gets so insecure around Sunshine, and begins to describe in detail all of her physical features, is a little jarring. And it’s not even done in a way that implies she’s unhappy with Sunshine for being a flirt. It’s just there to juxtapose Violet against another woman.
As they’re walking they pass an old railroad tunnel. I think Tusholke could have gotten away with making it a mine of some sort, because that’s essentially what it is. A railroad tunnel has to emerge somewhere. Violet says this one ends in a cave in. So it could have just as easily been a mine.
What keeps most people out of the tunnel is a rumor about an old lunatic who supposedly lives inside.
“The story’s been going around since we were kids, maybe longer.” I said. “There was man named Blue Hoffman, who went to war and killed people. It made him crazy.”
Clumsy, story, very clumsy. Yes, war can make people unbalanced, but by the time you were born, and maybe even a little before PTSD was becoming better known and was being treated. I hate, hate, hate it when books try to pass of their character’s bad decisions or a villain’s evil as the result of a mental illness. It’s such a cop out and it perpetuates stereotypes about the mentally ill that just aren’t true.
Only a very small percentage of people with mental illness are violent. In most cases the person suffering is much more of a danger to themselves than to anyone else. Most people with PTSD are not violent, and are not a danger to society. But from all the books, tv shows and movies out there spreading this sort of thinking, you’d think that everyone with a mental illness has a pickaxe in their closet they’re just itching to use.
“He came home, and then kids started disappearing. The cops finally went looking for Blue, but by that time, he’d disappeared too. They never found the missing kids. They say Blue lives deep in the tunnel and keeps the missing kids as slaves, and they never see the sun, and they run around like bats in the dark, and they’ve gone practically blind, and they live on raw rat meat, and they’re all mad as the devil.”
Where to begin? Alright, first this is bullshit, as we’ll come to find out soon. Secondly, what the hell was he doing in the caves with the kids? What sort of labor is he having them do? Unless he’s got a labyrinth of caves like Jeb in The Host, then logically wouldn’t you think they’d need to come out? And all the kids plus Blue would have died long before they’d had the chance to go blind. There would have to be a whole hell of a lot of rats to feed an adult human and many children for even a week. And the human body can only live for so long without water. It’s a tunnel, unless it floods regularly with fresh water, all involved would have died of dehydration. I know it’s an urban myth but this book wants us to take it seriously, like it’s somehow plausible.
River asks Sunshine to accompany him in. She does, and Luke and Violet bicker outside the tunnel. Luke says that it’s crazy for Violet to be wearing her grandmother’s clothing. I agree with Violet that it’s not incredibly odd. However her prayers are.
Why is my brother like this Freddie? Why can’t he be nice to me once in a while.
Maybe he is. Freddie’s husky voice flooded my brain. Maybe you’re just too damn busy disliking him to see it.
All hail the great goddess Freddie. May she forever speak reason to our misguided protagonist and criticize her poor life choices.
Yeah, the Freddie voice, or Violet’s subconscious whichever you prefer, gave us some much needed perspective that Violet’s point of view is extremely skewed where her brother is concerned. Hell, where a lot of things are concerned.
Violet mopes, thinking Sunshine might be kissing River inside the tunnel. Then this happens.
Then I heard a scream.
I snapped my head toward the tunnel entrance. Sunshine stood there, at the edge of the sunlight’s reach, face tilted back. She was screaming. She screamed and screamed while I jumped to my feet and ran. I reached her as she hit the ground, skirt up to her waist and sheer black underwear shining against her white thighs.
Do you know what this sounds like? It sounds like Sunshine has been assaulted. But guess what? We’re not going to address that, because Violet believes river can do no wrong. Even after seeing an acquaintance with her skirt hiked to her waist, Violet still never distrusts River’s intentions.
She’s known him for less than one day. She’s known Sunshine for a lot longer. That should count for something at the very least. But no, true to form Violet will hear nothing against River.
Only one of two things could have happened in the tunnel. Either River did this, or Sunshine hiked it herself and is doing this all for attention. Which seems unlikely, considering how genuinely scared she is.
River lifts Sunshine up and she finally able to form a coherent sentence. She says that she saw Blue Hoffman.
Our chapter ends on a cliffhanger, much in the style of Goosebumps. It wasn’t scary then, and it’s not scary now. The only thing that’s even remotely unsettling about this scene is the implications about River.
Tune in next time when I’ll explore the urban legend of Blue Hoffman, and the absurdity of Sunshine’s parents.