Posted in Nitpicks

Why no tech?

I recently observed in a chapter review of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea that there seems to be very little technology used. If we assume that this book is set in around the same time period it came out, it really should. I can’t recall even the mention of a cellphone used. Violet and Luke relied solely on a landline until their power was shut off.

Its actually kind of rare to find someone who still uses a landline, unless the landline is used for a work purpose, or as a means to another end. It’s not commonplace to use a landline to talk to another person anymore.

While our main character Violet may not have the money for a cellphone, River West, the love interest certainly does. So why doesn’t he have one? A simple disposable line is easy to purchase and doesn’t require a contract. It couldn’t be tracked. So why no tech?

The most complex tech we see is a movie projector that is used during the evening movie screenings in Echo.

It isn’t a big deal, but it did strike me as a bit odd. This book is clearly trying to evoke horror tropes. Trapped in an enclosed place, no cell reception, and the baddie in the house? It’s classic. I do wonder why it wasn’t used. Oh well. Join me next time in my review of DADBS: Chapter Seven.

Posted in Reviews

DADBS: Chapter Six

This chapter is boring as hell. I won’t blame you if you opt out of it. I wish I could. It takes twenty pages to get three small things accomplished in this chapter.

Still with me? Alright then.

We return to find that Violet has returned to the guesthouse. River is inside, talking with Luke and drinking coffee. We’re immediately thrown off the original premise of the trek over, which was to ask River if he had seen Blue in the tunnel as well.

What could distract our oh-so-noble protagonist from her quest? Some fiend lying in wait? A conversation she should not have been privy to?

No. It’s actually a coffee pot.

A moka pot specifically. Violet is surprised that River knows how to use it. Why? I’m not sure. This book was published in 2013. By that time it wasn’t at all uncommon to be linked in on a cellphone or other mobile device all the time. If River didn’t know how to use the moka pot when he arrived, he could simply have looked up how to use it while she was grudgingly babysitting Sunshine.

Violet assumes that River must have spent time in Italy, and surprise surprise, is right. River finally puts the wayward Violet back on the right track and asks about how Sunshine is doing.

“So how’s Sunshine? She alright?”

“Not Really.” I wanted to ask River more about Italy. 

Image result for what gif

Why is Violet our protagonist?? She’s a terrible human being. Her next door neighbor went through a trauma that made her sick with fear, and Violet casually disregards all of that because she wants to hear stories from River. Whom she acknowledges in the very same chapter would probably lie to her about them anyways.

What a catch. You two morons deserve each other.

River denies seeing anything in the tunnel and Luke jumps on the bandwagon, since he is the only one in the chapter thus far who hasn’t had the opportunity to be an asshole, and he feels left out. He says that Sunshine must have gotten spooked and overreacted because she’s a girl.

Violet points out that he wanted to call the police just the previous chapter (and just to remind you, she was the one arguing against, because she’s a horrible friend.) She figures that now would be the time to go to the police. Not, you know, right after it happened.

Luke ignores Violet, as most sane people would, and stretches. We get another of Violet’s snide asides about her brother.

The thick tendons in his arms looked swollen and stiff and stupid. 

A few paragraphs later she voices this out loud. You see, Violet’s “don’t be an asshole” filter never developed properly.

It’s okay to like a certain body type over others. I know that I myself prefer lean muscle, instead of the big bulky bulging muscles the author is telling us Luke has. But that is a matter of personal taste. I have known women who like the body builder look. There is nothing wrong with either, if both are done in a healthy way.

Luke plays sports and regularly lifts weights to keep in shape. There is nothing wrong with his muscles. This is just more of Violet constantly being awful to her brother. No wonder he’s more friendly with a bottle than with his sister.

Luke makes plans to go into town and see his girlfriend. He asks if River will go to a movie that night. The town of Echo plays classic movies in the town square during the summer. Because it is easily the most recognizable of classic films, they are of course going to see Casablanca. 

Violet wants to make a picnic to go. Luke informs them he was planning on stealing booze and making out with his girlfriend. Luke tries to convince River to go with him to the movies. Which to me speaks to Luke’s desperate need for companionship.

“What do you think River? Shouldn’t Violet stay home and let the men play tonight?” 

This line is meant to convey how much of a misogynist Luke is. I don’t read it that way. Since he’ll lose this front of masculinity later on, it seems to me like Luke wants a male friend. Because of his isolation as one of the (formerly) wealthy kids, he has no friends to hang out with or to rely on during his parent’s absence. Luke just wants someone who won’t sneer at his interests the way Violet constantly does. Does it excuse his behavior, no. Is it understandable? I think yes.

Alas, no friends for Luke. River refuses to drink with him. Luke says that he needs the alcohol to not fall asleep during a film. Which is stupid if you know the first thing about alcohol. It’s a depressant, and it will make you sleepy if you drink enough.

River says that Casablanca is one of his favorite films, and he’d love to have a picnic with Violet.

Skip ahead a little in time, and they finally get going into town? You know that thing they tried to do two chapters ago?

Violet has to go on some more about coffee. She tells us about the Italian family that runs the pizza place and the coffee shop. Violet constantly refers to coffee as “joe”. There are a couple of different origins for this phrase. The one that most people readily accept is that a “joe” is your average person. A cup of “joe” unites the average people, in their shared experience of drinking the beverage.

Considering Violet’s attitude and affectations thus far, I find this an odd stylistic choice. Violet prides herself on being well-read and sophisticated. She makes a point of talking about how she drank coffee very young, and could be seen sitting alone in the shop reading Wuthering Heights. Its only a minor thing, but it does bug me. Joe is such an average commonplace word for coffee (and usually to describe really bad workplace coffee), it makes little sense for her to use it as a descriptor.

Violet feels a sudden pang for her missing parents, thinking about how she got away with drinking coffee when she shouldn’t have. Since her parents don’t give two hoots about her most days. She prays to Freddie briefly and feels better.

Luke meets up with his girlfriend Maddy, and they have cute little exchance. Violet mutters that Maddy could do better than Luke. It’s scenes like this that make me want to thump Violet on the head. Here’s some classic traits of low-self esteem that Luke exhibits.

He’s a bully.

This is pretty evident in the text. Luke pushes Violet around because he feels like he has no control over his life. His parents are gone, his grandmother is dead, and he cannot pay the bills and keep his sister and himself fed.

He uses alcohol to cope 

As I already said when Luke was introduced in chapter three, he’s sort of a budding alcoholic. He drinks quite a bit.

He’s unfaithful

Luke fools around with Sunshine as much or more than he does with Maddy. We never see or hear that he broke things off with Maddy. For all we know he was still seeing both.

He is influenced by peer pressure

As Violet mentions, Luke has two approaches to men. Intimidation (see the above bullying trait) or hero worship. With River he chooses hero worship. He goes along with whatever River likes, not even becoming angry with River when he discovers that Violet is becoming more physical with him after such a short time.

Luke clearly has low-self esteem. Why? Because his own sister puts him down all the time, even in public, within earshot of others. His only identity is found in the hypermasculine things he still has left to cling to.

So her date with River is interrupted by Daniel Leap, the designated town drunk. Because this story is borrowing its setting from a Stephen King story, it might as well steal its drunk guy as well.

Daniel Leap starts shouting about how the White family are snobs, looking down on everyone else. And how can we argue? This line proceeds his drunken rant.

“Daniel Leap has ruined our view.” I said.

Excuse me? Your view? You went and got a cup of coffee and looked out on the town. You weren’t on a terrace sipping champagne as you watched the sun dip over the Paris skyline. You’re making a much bigger deal out of this than it is. Yes, it’s rude of him to shout, but you can’t just act like he doesn’t have a point. You are snobs.

Violet has to keep River from punching Daniel Leap out. It’s a moot point, since he passed out cold after delivering his plot dictated rant at the protagonist.

So they go to the store. It’s a nitpick, but most small towns would not have this good of a selection of organic produce. Just saying.

Shopping at the Dandelion Co-op made me feel European. Very Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina in Paris (that movie had played a few weeks ago in the park.)

Clumsy. Very Clumsy. This sentence makes me cringe a bit. You just had to name drop another classic movie didn’t you? Even though it bogs down your narration and has no connection to the plot or characters whatsoever.

There are a lot of pages dedicated to showing that River is superior in everything, even shopping. She likes that he “does it like her”. Because anyone who doesn’t fall into the Violet White line of thinking in this book is a fool who will need to be publicly shamed for his ignorance.

They go home. River makes a dish that is actually pretty good (I was hungry while reading the chapter and tried it.) They talk about how there is more to Luke than the anger, drinking and sexism.

Violet and River cuddle up and take a nap on the couch. Despite the fact she has only known him a few hours and there’s no reason she should trust him this implicitly. She doesn’t even know if River West is an alias, she has no idea where he came from or how he has that much money. She’s just impressed that he likes to sniff espresso beans. What more could you ask for in a guy?

Gratuitous swear words: 6

 

 

Posted in Reviews

DADBS: Chapter Five

We didn’t go to the grocery store.

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Luke thought we should call the cops.

And you didn’t? Violet really is a terrible person. Violet casually disregards Sunshine’s well-being because she likes River. She’s willing to ignore Sunshine in favor of keeping her boy-toy out of trouble. She’s an asshole. No wonder she doesn’t have friends.

Misogynistic, “woman-hating”, boob-groping Luke wants to report the incident to the police. Despite the fact we’re told that he can never consider a girl his friend. Sounds to me like Luke is a much better friend than Violet.

Violet goes over to Sunshine’s house to have a conversation with her. Sunshine tells Violet that she and River had gone into the tunnel and that he grabbed her elbow. She thought he was going to kiss her, and instead she sees a man and child in the corner. They appeared half-blind and having “furry teeth, as if they’d been eating rats.”

That isn’t how eating works. I think the author meant to say that they had fur in-between their teeth, but it is never described that teeth. The teeth themselves are described as furry.

So Sunshine is still sick with fear over the incident. As she goes to throw up again, Violet calls Sunshine’s parents so they can come home and take care of her. That’s the only semi-compassionate thing that Violet does for Sunshine in the entire chapter.Our lovely protagonist, ladies and gentlemen.

Jump a little ahead in time and we meet Sam and Cassandra Black. And from the get-go it is cringey.

“Cassandra and Sam were nothing like their daughter. They were skinny. Skinny like gangly teenage boys, not skinny like older people who exercised or starved themselves.” 

Couldn’t the author have just said they were thin? Usually when people write this sort of thing they give a general description of the character. For example: He was a paunchy, middle-aged man with thinning brown hair. See? It gives you a general mental image of frame, age, and his hair color.

I think that the author was trying to avoid using a cliche line like “thin as a beanpole.” But she goes so out of her way trying to be original that she ends up being absurd. This isn’t the only case of this in the book. I’ll point it out when it comes up, but some of the descriptions and metaphors are so odd it actually pulls me out of the narration. I rock back slightly, make a face and go “What the hell?”

Panther hips for example. It’s just an odd mental image that it is very distracting.

My point here is the author could have compared Sunshine’s parents to anything, so why teenage boys and anorexics?

Yes, teenage boys can shoot up several feet during puberty, and it can make them awkward looking until they fill out. But that isn’t the case for all teenage boys. Why make your comparison something so inconstant?

And there’s the other comparison before. As I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews, I have struggled with an eating disorder for awhile now. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about the illness. Particularly that it’s about weight and vanity. Rarely is the root cause of anorexia wanting to look good in a bikini. In almost all the cases I’ve seen, its an expression of a deep psychological problem. So comparing natural thinness to a severe mental problem ruffles me.

And the absurd comparisons don’t stop there.

Cassie put her hair back in a bun, like a ballet teacher. She wore thick round glasses like Aldous Huxley. 

This is another example of the Twilight theme that is strong in the story. The author and main character make references to classical literature all the time, even when it’s completely unnecessary. If it’s pertinent to the theme I have less a problem with it, but 99% of the time in these stories its not. It’s to show off how cultured our protagonist is.

And stuff like this line bugs the crap out of me. Not only is the author expecting her junior high/high school target audience to not only know who Aldous Huxley is, but also what he wrote and what sort of glasses he wore. 

The author could have easily looked up or made a stab at guessing what sort of glasses Huxley wore. According to a simple google search I did, trying to illustrate the point he wore tortoiseshell glasses. They looked like this:

Image result for tortoiseshell glasses

The author wants to get across that Sunshine’s dad looks scholarly. But it will confuse many readers who have not read Huxley. So far as I can tell he is not required reading in high school (feel free to correct me if you had to read him in high school, but I certainly didn’t, and its not on a lot of school’s lists for required reading.) Huxley’s Brave new World seems to be more of a college lit text if you ask me.

So basically, its kind of stupid to name drop him here, since it pulls attention away from the story, and most people aren’t going to know what the author is talking about.

So Violet tells Sunshine’s parents what happened and we get the real story of Blue Hoffman.

Hoffman was suffering from mental illness. He didn’t kidnap anyone. It was a big misunderstanding and the kids were apparently inspired by reading Tom Sawyer in elementary school. So they went off to live in the wilderness.

More name dropping literature. Should I start keeping a counter of that too? And this won’t be the last time that the author name drops Mark Twain’s work.

“They ran off into the woods and lived off berries and peanut butter sandwiches. Eight days later they showed up, hungry and dirty and surprised at all the fuss.”

Story time. Alright, my soon to be ex-brother in law was quite convinced he was a country boy, despite not having lived in a town less than 23,000, while my family had lived in many areas where animals outnumbered people, and the nearest neighbor was a mile or two away.

So he and his friends organized a camping trip. In the middle of September, just as the weather was beginning to turn. They were convinced they were going to fish and hunt and live off the land, and would return home victorious and well-fed.

Not the case. First of all, they’d picked terrible weather conditions in which to camp. The nights were bitterly cold. It is easy to forget how cold nights can be when you are usually ensconced in a house. It is also easy to forget how dark nights are away from city lights.

They ended up curled two in a sleeping bag, trying to keep warm. They hadn’t brought flashlights, and their phones died after they used the flashlight app for a couple of hours. Between them they caught three or four fish to feed five guys. The little fish were hardly satisfying for just one person to eat, let alone five. They returned home cold and tired and desperately wanting pizza.

That is why I call bullshit on the entire kids out in the wilderness story. Grown men with something to prove only stayed out for three days. Children accustomed to the care of their parents with no idea how to deal with the elements would probably have come home much sooner than eight days.

Putting aside that a lot of berries are poisonous and would have made the kids sick, they couldn’t have lived on just peanut butter sandwiches. Even if each kid took the peanut butter and whole loaf of bread from home, (alerting their parents to the fact that something was up) it wouldn’t have lasted a week or more. Most kids don’t have the kind of forethought it takes to survive more than few days away from home. I remember when I was a lot younger and tried to run away, I took only a soda and some crackers with me.

These kids should have been dirty, dehydrated and possibly sick when they returned home. After eating berries and possibly sating their thirst with unpurified water or saltwater from the sea they should have been very, very sick.

Violet argues that Sunshine must have seen something and Cassandra gives her a cucumber sandwich. Cassandra apparently grew up in England, so of course, we must rely heavily on our stereotypes here.

She grew up in England, and thought that cucumber sandwiches and tea solved problems, which they sort of did, sometimes. 

Sigh. You could have just typed “fish and chips and save the queen.” and it would have been just as nuanced an analysis of how her origin shapes her worldview.

Sunshine’s dad asks if River saw Blue, and Violet, like a dumbass forgot to ask. She begins to doubt Sunshine’s story, because she’s an awful person and River is of course the only thing that matters to Violet.

Sunshine’s dad tries to laugh it off. Cassandra doesn’t take it seriously either.

“We all see things sometimes. When I was your age I was so in love with Wuthering Heights I convinced myself that Heathcliff really existed. I still lived in Cambridge then. I took a bus stop to Yorkshire and set out to find him.I walked for twenty miles across the moors, following what I thought was Heathcliff’s shadow, stretching across the heather, calling me to him. I ended up in a pub hours later, tired, cold and embarrassed.” 

Sounds like a trek Bella Swan would undertake, if she wouldn’t fall on her face during it.

I think this is supposed to endear us to Cassandra, but it just makes me feel sorry for Sunshine.

Don’t get me wrong on this point. I’m a huge geek, I think escapist fantasy has its place. But I’ve always disliked the personality type who can’t distinguish between fiction and reality. Its good to develop attachments to characters. That’s the mark of good writing. But at the end of the day, they’re still just fictional characters. No matter if its a tv show or a book that sort of delusion isn’t cute or whimsical. It’s unhealthy. I’ve actually met girls like this and they bug the crap out of me.

Secondly, assuming she walks a thirty minute mile, which is about average, she couldn’t have walked twenty miles in one day. Thirdly, I’m sure the land belonged to someone. So wasn’t she trespassing?

So anyways, Sunshine is understandably pissed that no one takes her seriously. Violet leaves to talk to River. Because why the hell wouldn’t you leave  a traumatized friend to moon over a man you barely know? Makes perfect sense. Way to go Violet.

Posted in Nitpicks

YA Paranormal Romance Tropes that annoy me

I’ve talked about how I don’t particularly care for YA paranormal romance in the past. Largely because many of them use Twilight’s formula to reach their target demographic. So I’ll outline some of my least favorite tropes in the genre, and detail why I think they should stop.

Insta-Love: Now I know that fiction is just that, a fiction. It’s not meant to be real. It’s supposed to give you a nice little escapist fantasy and be a pleasant way to fill your time.

Romance novels have been doing it for years. A man and a woman meet. They share an automatic connection. Usually this comes in the form of a shared secret, a past fling, or just chemistry that sparks between the two. Most adult romance novels are geared towards baiting the reader, keeping them in the narrative until they get to what they came for- the smut.

Well with rare exceptions, most YA fare follows the same path, but sans the sex. The target demographic may or may not be sexually active yet, so most books play it safe and keep it clean, only flirting with the idea of intimate relations.

And unlike most romance novels, our protagonists don’t know each other. They meet and try to build a relationship from the ground up. Coming from experience, that’s hard to do. It takes a long getting-to-know you period. It takes discussion and hard work and a lot of time learning about the other person. YA paranormal romance tends to relegate the process to a few chapters. In particularly bad cases it may only be a few lines, or may not take place at all.

Its patently ridiculous to have your characters declaring their undying love for one another, when most of the time they don’t even know what the other person’s favorite color is.

In my opinion this happens because the authors don’t want to spend the time fleshing the characters and relationships out, they want to get down to the good stuff. Which are the scenes where their characters get physical (which in romance novels would be the sex, but in this case is probably steamy forbidden makeout sessions) and say romantic things to one another (aka vomiting purple prose all over the place.)

Insta-love is the result. The characters are attracted to each other despite the circumstances under which they meet (which are usually unfavorable.) They fall for one another despite one or both being a complete basket case. They have no conceivable reason to like each other or face down life-threatening odds together, but that’s what they do anyways. It’s plot contrivance at its laziest.

Bad Parenting (aka Village, you fail at raising that child): Parents are rarely in the picture in YA romance. Sometimes in the case of Twilight they are distant or played off as stupid. Sometimes they up and leave, as they do in Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Sometimes they follow the Disney route and the protagonist is an outright orphan.

Whichever route the author chooses, the result is the same. Our protagonist (usually female) is alone in the world. Most often he or she is portrayed as mature and responsible for their age, because of their circumstance.

The love interest swoops in to “take care” of the protagonist, soothing their daddy/mommy issues in the process.

No one comes off as a good person when this trope is used. In DADBS the parents are so neglectful their children have no working electricity and are struggling to buy food for themselves. You sort of hate the parents.

In  Twilight I feel horrible for Charlie swan who is trying to be a good parent, and is constantly shat on Bella. As much as she tries to narrate that he’s somehow too stupid or weak to understand her life, I feel for the guy. In this case our protagonist comes off as an utterly selfish asshole, who just doesn’t want her dad butting in. It’s petty.

Either way, someone is an asshole. Why can’t we just have good parents in YA romances?

And onto my second bit. Especially in paranormal stories there has to be a bit of obliviousness. Otherwise the masquerade would be broken and there would be bigger consequences to deal with.

However the amount of obliviousness that takes place in YA paranormal romance is staggering. Almost no one takes notice of things that are incredibly obvious. Abuse is overlooked. Neglect is overlooked. Rape is overlooked. Its just sort of sickening.

In my most recent review DADBS there is a staggering amount of neglect going on. Child protective services really should have stepped in in their case, since they can’t afford to feed themselves. Another kid in the narrative lives in absolute squalor, with a father who regularly feeds his addiction rather than his kid. This shit would not fly in the real world, and I don’t see why it should in the fictional world. If you’re going to bring it up, don’t use it as a means to tug on our heartstrings and make us feel sorry for a character. Use it to do move that character forward, or make a difference in the story.

This trope is so common it kind of sickens me. It’s plot dictated stupidity, so that the character looks that much better when they manage to struggle on alone, so desperately alone!

The Love Triangle: It’s annoying. It’s  pointless, since the main character has to chose someone in the end, and shipping wars are ugly. Just stop doing it, please.

The Blank Slate: So often in YA paranormal romance the main character is given as little defining traits as possible in order to make it easy to step into their shoes. Which is fine if  you are writing a Choose your own adventure story, but not if you’re writing an actual novel. I cannot empathize with the character’s struggle when I have no clue what motivates them. And no, jumping the main love interest’s bones does not count as motivation in my book.

Author insert: Along the same lines as the blank slate, many main characters are obvious author avatars, sometimes spouting verbatim what the author thinks and feels on a certain subject. It’s annoying and usually pretty cringey.

It is fine if the author wants to put an insert of themselves in as a secondary or tertiary character. If you want to root for your main characters from the sidelines by all means do so, but please do not make your obvious self-insert the main character.

You can see my Professional Fan Fiction essays if you want me to break that down in more detail.

Abusive Relationships: More often than not, the relationship portrayed as “ideal” in YA paranormal romance has all the hallmarks of an abusive relationship. Isolation, manipulation, constant put downs, snide remarks, guilt trips, moodiness and ultimatums.

Sounds like the typical male protagonist of a YA paranormal romance, doesn’t it? The fact that so many women claim to want this “ideal man” scares me. It normalizes this sort of abuse. Instead of painting the guy (sometimes girl, but rarely. Usually she is the controlled party) as the asshole he is, the narrative portrays his interference as sexy or in her best interest.

Not much else I can say. I just want more likable male protagonists in romance.  And less whiny female leads.

Good setup, bad execution: This is actually the reason I started this this blog. I find so much potential in YA novels. Good characters are in there, usually in the supporting cast. The world-building and fantasy elements are usually very good as well. So why do they bomb so often?

Well it because of  what I like to call the luvs. The setup is often shoved to the background in order for the main characters to have romantic asides. The actually interesting bits are forgone for the least interesting bits of the story, which is usually a budding romance between our main leads.

I see so much wasted potential in YA paranormal romance, and romance in general. I wanted to riff on stories sure, but I also wanted to point out how disappointing it is that they don’t live up to what they could have been. Some stories would never be great, but they could have been fun. Other stories could have been fantastic with a few more rewrites, and less plot stupidity.

It frustrates me more than a book that fails utterly. At least then it can become so awful it is entertaining. In books like these, its mostly just hard to sit through because I can see it had promise.

So those are a few things I hate to see in YA paranormal romance. If I think of or encounter more, I’ll be sure to write them down, but that’s all for now.

 

Posted in Nitpicks

The Gratuitous Swearing Counter

Anyone who has been reading my reviews of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (DADBS for short) will have noticed I’ve placed a little counter at the bottom of each review, mentioning how many swear words I found in the chapter. Let me explain my reasoning behind this, since I’ve not actually done this for other books.

I don’t have any real problem with swearing. If you’ve been on a high school or college campus you’re probably familiar with people who swear constantly. When I was at university, it was background noise to everything I did. People tend to use swear words like I used salt, as if it added flavor to the conversation.

Whether its in real life, or in a book, if you want to use swear words you can. There are some situations in which swearing is cathartic, or can help a person manage stress.

However, I will say this. Swearing often actually takes away some of the punch of the words. Think about it. Curse words tend to offend and off-put people for a reason. In my opinion its all about context.

Say for example you have a middle aged single mother who is quite adamant about keeping her speech clean in front of her young children. She has a lot on her plate but does her best to make sure her kids are provided for and happy. Put her in a situation where she is laid off unexpectedly and is faced with the prospect of trying to take care of bills and the house payment on her own. She is half tearful, and she pounds her desk. “Damn it, damn it, damn it!” She says, her voice choked.

You feel the emotion, you sympathize with her breakdown here because you feel something and the cursing serves the purpose of illustrating just how stressful the situation is. The context is what counts.

Now say you have a character like Violet White, from DADBS. She’s a social misfit in her high school. She likes reading books, painting , and keeping to herself. She’s a food and coffee snob. She has never dated, and has maybe one friend.

She also swears like a sailor. In my opinion it was really unnecessary. I’d say over half of the swear words aren’t even in the dialogue. They end up scattered in the narration. It adds nothing, and in my opinion is sort of doesn’t make sense with Violet’s characterization.

Now I’m willing to forgive it in the last several chapters, because its the climax, with a big fight. In this high-stress situation, swearing seems to make sense. But its lost all of its punch in my opinion, since there are usually a lot of curse words in the narrative anyways.

I harp on it in this book, because of all the bad books I’ve read, this hasn’t been as big a problem. Most swear words I’ve encountered are usually aimed at someone. In romance novels the word “bitch” is particularly popular when directed at a rival for the main character’s affections. And most of them are in dialogue. The character is saying these words, and they add something. They aren’t trapped in the narration.

If I come across this phenomenon again in other books, I’ll be sure to insert a counter down below. I have a feeling I might need it for the Dark Hunter series. Not looking forward to those.

So those are my reasons why I dislike the swearing in this book. I don’t think its strictly necessary, and it adds little to the overall story.

 

Posted in Reviews

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned.

Alright this will be a bit of a deviation from my usual form, going chapter to chapter reviewing what I like and didn’t like. For one, I can’t even do that since this is a play and I don’t feel qualified to pick apart a medium I’m that unfamiliar with. However, I will tell you my impressions and give you my overall recommendation.

When I heard there was a new Harry Potter book I was very excited. Harry Potter was one of the quintessential books in my childhood. I fell in love with the story, the characters and the world. In my opinion the series is still one of the best I have read.

Do I like the play format? Well no. It makes reading it a bit awkward. Overall I think this book would have been better if Rowling had written a novelization of the play. It doesn’t feel like Rowling’s narrative voice at all, and that bugs the crap out of me. A lot of the characters are almost caricatures of themselves. The pacing was all over the place. The story felt a bit like a convoluted fan fiction.

So with that I’m about to enter spoiler territory. Turn back now if you haven’t read the story.

Still with me? Great.

Alright, we pick up where we left off at the end of Deathly Hallows. Harry is seeing his son off to Hogwarts, and Albus is worried that he’ll be sorted into Slytherin.

He and Rose board the train and they enter a compartment where Scorpius Malfoy is sitting alone. Through Rose we get some clumsy exposition.

And we come upon my first complaint about this book. Everyone hates Scorpius because there is a rumor flying around that he is the son of Voldemort.

What??

Why would someone think that? First of all it’s canon that a person born under the influence of a love potion cannot love. While it’s true that it isn’t necessary for someone to love a person to get them pregnant, even the timing is off. The rumor is that Astoria was taken back in time and impregnated by Voldemort because Malfoy’s father wanted to extend the family line past his son. That seems like a drastic way to deal with infertility. They could have adopted. They could have used some other magical means surely.

But no, we need to get this tragic backstory in somehow. If you can call it tragic. It’s actually really laughable. It sounds like a crazy story you’d see in a wizard tabloid, written by a disgraced Rita Seeker.

This shouldn’t have any real weight. The only people who should take this to heart are the kids raised by Luna Lovegood.

So Scorpius and Albus become friends. Scorpius is tickled pink that someone likes him for a change. Scorpius and Albus are decently written and I honestly really like the characterization of Scorpius. I was afraid he’d be obnoxious, like a first year Draco dialed up to eleven. Instead he’s a cinnamon roll. It was a pleasant surprise actually.

Albus is sorted into Slytherin. Of course he is, we have to have our angst somehow. Not that this is a bad choice, story wise but it would have been so much better to explore via a book, instead of a visual storytelling medium like a play.

What changes does this bring for Albus? What are the inner workings of Slytherin house like? I always got the impression that they were a tight knit group. Everyone else wrote them off, so they took care of their own. It seems like that could have come into play when Albus was bullied.

Because yes, he is bullied. Albus is constantly compared to his father (unavoidable I expect) and no one ever stops to think that he’s not an extension of Harry. James wasn’t given this treatment, why was Albus expected to be Harry Potter 2.0?

So Albus sucks at Quiddich, he’s an average student, and he’s not in Gryffindor. Yes, he might get teased a bit, but you’d expect that this sort of stuff would calm down after about a year.

No, it actually extends all the way into his fourth year. Fourth year. We fast forward through four years of magical education and focus solely on the bullying. What a waste. Half of the fun of Harry Potter was the world, not to mention the character building. I understand it’s a script, and adaptations need to be made (which makes me really really want a novelization of this so I can get some of the world I was missing, because it doesn’t appear in this play.) However, forgoing even a hint of that so we can get the “nobody understands me” cliche sucks.

So the plot gets rolling when Harry’s office seizes an illegal time turner from Theodore Nott’s home. (Really, shouldn’t he be in Azkaban for life? Or dead?) Amos Diggory turns up and tries to convince Harry to go back in time and save Cedric. Harry rightly tells him no.

We’re introduced to Delphi Diggory, whom Albus takes a liking to. He gets the bright idea to steal the time turner from the ministry in order to go back and save Cedric Diggory. Hermione (who is the Minister for Magic in this story) has it in her office. I can believe that Hermione could become the Minister in all honesty, but when I pictured her involvement in politics it was always about the rights of magical creatures.

They first have to escape the train and face down the trolley witch. Who turns out to be some sort of Terminator like thing. No, I am not even kidding. She comes after them with spikes and pumpkin pasty grenades. It was freaking hilarious. I wish we could have seen that fight play out.

They manage to get into the ministry via Polyjuice Potion (which the play forgets is an extremely difficult potion to brew, and takes two months to make. So how did they manage it that day? Unless Albus keeps flask of the stuff just for the hell of it.)

They go back in time, but the time turner has a defect. It can only take you years into the past for five minutes, and it might injure you. They dress as Durmstrang students and interfere with the first task, taking Cedric’s wand. They have a brief conversation with Hermione which has disastrous consequences.

When they return Hermione is the DADA teacher, a bitter woman scorned and a milder version of Snape. Ron married someone else and his children with Hermione cease  to exist.

We come to the next thing I dislike. Harry and Albus have a huge disconnect in his book. Harry doesn’t act like a good father at all. Albus has a huge chip on his shoulder and refuses to listen to his father at all. It’s bad all around. In this alternate time line Harry decides the thing that’s hurting Albus is his only friend Scorpius and bullies the headmistress into stalking them both. It’s so OOC it pulled me out of the narrative.

After weeks apart, Albus and Scorpius reconcile. They try to change time again and this time it actually erases Albus completely. Harry Potter was killed in the Battle of Hogwarts and Voldemort rules the world. Umbridge (the cow) runs Hogwarts. Scorpius tries to figure out why this future came to be. Apparently when they humiliated Cedric during the second task, it made him an angry and bitter person who turned into a Death Eater.

Never ever in a million years would Cedric have become a Death Eater! He’s not Snape, who was treated like crap his entire life and felt a pull to the dark side as a way to gain some of his own back. He was raised in a loving family, he had a lot of friends, he was a very noble guy. Basically its like pantsing guy in public and then having him transform into a super villain. It doesn’t happen like that!

So in this new reality the only ones fighting Voldemort are Hermione, Ron, and Snape. (I somehow seriously doubt that. There would be a resistance, or at least protest. No one with morals can exist in Voldemort’s idea of a perfect world.)

They undo what they’ve done, and things go back to the way they were. They decide to destroy the time turner. Only wait, something is wrong.

When I first met Delphi, she sort of struck me as the self-insert character in a fanfic. She’s got a weird name, even by Harry Potter standards, we’ve had no mention of her relation to Diggory up to that point. I was afraid it was going to get cringey and involve a love triangle. It does get cringey but thankfully no love triangle. (Unless you think that Scorpious is crushing on Albus, which there is evidence for.)

Delphi is Voldemort’s daughter.

Yeah, we officially entered into fanfic territory.

Delphi takes them back in time to try and fulfill a new prophecy. Yeah we get to the third act and there’s a new prophecy. Wasn’t this something that should have been mentioned before? I mean we spent an entire book on that alone in the HP series. Moving on. That plan doesn’t work out and she takes them further back in time, to the day Voldemort is coming to kill Harry’s Parents. She smashes the time turner and leaves them suspended in time.

They assume she’s going to kill Harry before Voldemort can, thus he is never killed. Through a series of incredible coincidences, they manage to get Harry and the rest back in time, and stop Delphi’s actual plan.

They return to the future, and Harry has a heart to heart with his son, and all is resolved.

Okay, overall thoughts. If you’re expecting this to be a continuation, you’ll be disappointed. This book has some of Rowling’s humor but none of her characters. Her narrative voice and a large part of her world are gone or modified too much. If you are reading it to get another Harry Potter story, you’ll be disappointed. The story is underwhelming and sometimes confusing.

The few things that I liked were fleshing out Scorpius and Draco. We get a few surprisingly heartfelt moments with Draco, and Scorpius is adorable.

Terminator Trolley Lady. Enough said.

Some of the jokes were funny, and some of the ideas were sort of interesting. Mostly though, I feel like the playwright was trying to capitalize on fan’s nostalgia by giving us a highlights reel of all the great parts of Harry Potter.

I didn’t want Harry Potter. I wanted Albus and Scorpius and their new adventures. Bringing back Voldemort as the big bad was a mistake, in my opinion. Especially since he isn’t as big a bad as you’d think. Delphi is not foreshadowed enough to build adequate tension. She doesn’t really feel right as a villain here.

I am not offended by this edition. It does not ruin my childhood or make me want to pull my hair out in fury. It is slightly disappointing, but nothing more than that.

This has been done before, and unfortunately it was sort of done better.

As it is, I’d watch this over the play. The play doesn’t push its comedy far enough to make it a parody, nor does it make the dark stuff dark enough to actually be scary. It is thoroughly middling.

So for that I give it a very average score. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gets a five out of ten. Nice try, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I’m hoping Rowling will Retcon this and start a series about Albus and Scorpius with an original baddie.