Posted in Nitpicks

Professional Fanfiction: Response to critics

An author’s response to critics is most telling to me. A certain amount of hurt is to be expected. I, as a writer, understand that disparaging remarks about your work are hard to hear. After putting so much time, energy and thought into your work it can be hard not to take criticism personally.

Now this is a trait that is not confined merely to the authors of “professional fan fiction” there are plenty of legitimately good authors who still can’t take criticism. (At least not well.) But I write this into my theory because I see many “professional fan fiction” authors who not only refuse to admit faults in their work, they also become nasty when it is pointed out to them. Not all but a lot of them.

Some common responses than an author (and sometimes the fandom) will be some variation of the following.

1. I didn’t write it for you.

2. Don’t like, don’t read.

3. If you read it, you’re obviously a fan.

4. Like you could do any better.

5. You just don’t get it. 

All of these rebuttals are problematic in ways that I’m not sure if the authors realize. I’ll try to elaborate on each.

I didn’t write it for you

Oh? Who did you write if for then? True,  the story may have started off as a personal project, written just for fun, but it ceased to be that when you submitted it for publication.

When a work becomes available for public consumption, it also becomes the subject of public opinion.If it becomes popular enough to receive critical attention, then it will probably have a fanbase that staunchly defends it. Why not pay attention to those people, than to the book snobs like me who pick things apart? Why go looking for affirmation in a place you know you won’t find it?

I don’t think I’m alone in the opinion that published works should be held to a higher standard than say self-published works or fanfiction. Those mediums are expected to be bad. There is a lot of garbage literature pumped through those channels. Publishing companies have been trusted to be the gatekeepers that ensure quality in their products.

So yes, if you put it out there, I am entitled to have an opinion on it, whether you like that opinion or not.

 Don’t like, Don’t read

Authors (and fans) who say this are trying to shut down discussion, passive aggressively putting the blame on the reader. This line of reasoning blames the reader for being dissatisfied, instead of questioning where the book may have failed or offended in some way.

This line of reasoning often goes in tandem with If you read it, you’re a fan. I have read all four Twilight books and the novella. I groan every time I read them. I am allowed to read a book that I may not like, and to continue in the same series. I don’t have to like to read. True, I agree that for most people life is too short to read books you dislike. But there are people like me who read to be challenged. I do not always read for pleasure. Many times I read to test my critical thinking skills and to challenge my own sensibilities as a writer.

These are perfectly valid reasons to read a book, even a book you don’t necessarily like. By reading where other books fail, they can enrich their own experiences by being able to identify what makes other books great.

If you read it, you’re a fan

I personally find this the most ludicrous out of all the excuses I’ve seen. I absolutely do not need to be a fan to read something, or to decide to continue the series. I’ll use Anita Blake as an example. I do not like Anita’s character, I don’t personally care for Hamilton’s writing style, and I find the sheer amount of lovers Anita Blake has on standby absurd. (Seriously, they’re somehow all okay with this??)

Then why do I read it? At first the premise was interesting to me (and some of the world building was pretty good). I can acknowledge a book’s successes without being a fan. For the most part I read Anita Blake because a) I am a masochist. I can’t help but read books I know will hurt me. B) A tiny optimistic part of me hopes the books will improve with time. All indications lead me to believe hell will freeze over before that happens, unfortunately. And C) I am a critic that has an unhealthy obsession with cringe.

When an author insists that if you read their series you must be a fan, they are asserting that just the act of reading or continuing to read something means you must enjoy it. That isn’t necessarily true. It’s a defense that makes the author feel better.

Like you could do any better

Fans of a series are the first to come to an author’s defense with this excuse. this implies that because a person does not have the experience of writing a book, writing within the same genre, or writing period, that they are not allowed to have an opinion.

Just because I do not act, it doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on a movie. Just because I don’t play sports does not mean I can’t have an opinion on a player’s performance. Those who use this as an excuse seek to delegitimatize any criticism lodged against a work.

Should writers and fans take criticism with a grain of salt? Of course. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and most of them stink. But when someone has a well thought out criticism that has some support or credence, authors and fans should acknowledge that, maybe even thank them. They put time and thought into their rebuttal, and that does deserve some respect. And if a subject consistently appears in criticisms, that might be something to consider for future projects.

You just don’t get it

Yeah, and so what if I don’t? Sometimes you’ll have people who completely miss the point.  Just because a reader doesn’t get the point you are trying to make, or take away something you wanted from the work, it doesn’t make them dumb.

We are all individuals and we’ll take different things away from a work. I don’t really get why so many people still defend Twilight and herald it as a great love story. I don’t see it. You could even say I just don’t get it. I don’t have to share the same opinion as the author or fandom to read or talk about a work. Like I said above, I don’t always read to enjoy myself. Sometimes I read to challenge myself.

And sometimes I hate books that most people like. Why? Because I can’t turn my brain off.

And that leads me to my conclusion. What I want most is a discussion. We don’t have to agree.I think Anita Blake is a despicable character who should really be the villain of the series, not the protagonist. But maybe someone else thinks she’s a progressive, sex-positive feminist icon, who kicks ass and takes names. We don’t have to agree, but we certainly can talk.

Debate me. Convince me you’re right.

Denouncing any critics as stupid, uninspired closet fans, or telling them they have no right to an opinion is petty. I believe any writer worth their salt can at least admit to making mistakes. Usually that is all it takes to mollify critics and/or disgruntled fans. Telling people they have no right to an opinion is petty, and frankly not the way to convince anyone you’re a good writer.

Take criticism. Learn from it, grow from it. Create something better next time.

 

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Posted in Recommended Titles

Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure: A Stroke of Midnight

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Alright this one I do feel a little bit guilty about. Normally I don’t feel too badly about my guilty pleasures. Normally when I examine them critically I can find some element there that makes it worth the read.

This one…well I really am kind of ashamed of how much I liked it the first time I read it.

So back up several years when I was a sixteen year old Mary Sue. My family was planning to visit relatives in another state and I went to the library, seeking reading material to keep me entertained on the road. I found this in the audiobook section.

The cover art intrigued me (poor innocent thing I was, I didn’t recognize the glaring red flags that should have alerted me to the fact it was a “romance” novel). The blurb on the back sounded interesting as well. So I put the CD  in my Walkman and listened to it on the road.

Boy was I surprised. If I’d heard of this author before I would have known about the frequent sexual escapades of the main characters. I would have also known that all the interesting bits would be at the beginning and not be mentioned again until the end.

I did like two of the many love interests, and the magical lore was interesting enough to compel me to finish the book. All in all I found it sort of inoffensive on first reading.

Then I moved onto her other series, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter and it was jarring. I disliked Anita intensely upon first reading and my contempt just grew with every successive book.

Most people read the Meredith Gentry series after Anita, since it was published after that series had been started. I had the opposite experience, and moving from this book to The Anita Blake series was a really rude awakening to Hamilton’s worst tropes.

They are there in this one too, which is why I feel sort of icky admitting I have some nostalgia for this book.

All in all the only justification I have for it at this point is that the Meredith Gentry series is more honest about what it is. It’s smut. Fantasy-themed erotica, with a plot to bookend all the sex. Meredith’s character seemed a lot less obnoxious than Anita’s (in this book at least). I would have to read the rest of the series to give a more complete analysis on Meredith’s character.

And yes, you can jump into this series at any point. It isn’t like some novels where skipping a few will completely baffle you. The book will give you the needed info through exposition whilst the characters gear up for another orgy.

So I guess in conclusion, I wouldn’t actually recommend this one unless you’re morbidly curious. And if you do read it, don’t take it with you to your grandparent’s house. You won’t be able to look your grandma in the eye over breakfast, trust me.

Posted in Uncategorized

DADBS: Chapter Seven

Seven chapters in and I am already so done with this book. Ugh. Twenty-Seven more of these babies to go. This book suffers from what I like to call “Anita Blake Syndrome” in which the book begins with an interesting premise and then promptly abandons it until the last three chapters to do pointless nonsense. I don’t want the pointless filler, give me the plot!

So we left off with Violet taking a nap in River’s arms, which she has no reason to do at this point. She doesn’t know him, she doesn’t have any reason to trust him, and she has no idea what his intentions are. She doesn’t even do what most renters would do and run a background check on him.

It doesn’t really make sense with Violet’s character thus far. She’s not a paragon of responsibility to be sure, but she does seem to have a brain in her skull. Her sudden and inexplicable infatuation with River is just frustrating.

Twilight has its fingerprints all over this work, so far as the tropes go. And a main character who is otherwise shown to be reasonably mature for their age as well as intelligent doing incredibly brainless things for or with a man they just met annoys the hell out of me. It’s not consistent with Violet’s character to take to someone instantly. She’s anti-social, snobbish, pretentious and doesn’t get along well with others.

Violet has River pack their picnic basket and goes over to talk to Sunshine. To see if she’s okay after her traumatic incident, you might be thinking. No, it’s to see if she wants to attend the movie. Sunshine asks if Luke will be there, and Violet tells her that he’ll be trying to grope Maddy, so not to get her hopes up about any kissy kissy during the movie.

There’s some pointless banter about what exactly “second base” is anymore. It really depends on the day whether I can find this odd description amusing or just sigh at its absurdity.

Sunshine asks what she’s found out about River. Violet demonstrates once again that she’s willing to make incredibly poor decisions because of River.

“I haven’t asked to see his ID, and I won’t, because it’ll sound stupid now. And he’s terrible at answering questions, so I know almost less than I did before.”

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No, no, no! That is not a valid excuse. Now I could make the excuse that you’re seventeen and have no real world experience, but since the book tries to paint you as a mature and very adult, that’s not gonna fly. Even in routine transactions like apartment rentals, most people will request a background check. Why? Because no one wants Norman Bates living in their rental property!

Even dismissing the possibility of violence towards yourself and Luke, which you obviously do, a background check or at least proof of identity covers you in terms of liability. Did you make him pay a deposit if he broke anything? No. If he runs off and leaves your guesthouse trashed, that damage is on you. Because you think it’s “stupid” to ask for his ID.

Not to mention that it’s extremely sketchy that he showed up with a wad of cash and you aren’t even remotely curious how he got it.

She and River go to the movie. She comments in her inner monologue that she is left alone by most of the kids from school.

Everyone knew that our parents had been gone for a long time, but they didn’t know whether to be envious of our freedom or make fun of us for having weird artistic-parent problems. So people left us alone. I guess they thought we were snobs, like Daniel Leap. 

Because you are snobs. But that’s beside the point. I wouldn’t be torn between envy and the urge to tease, I’d be clamoring to get child protective services on the phone. You are minors, you can’t legally be on your own. If your parents have left you alone for a long time and the whole town knows it, then someone should have done something about it.

We don’t even have the indication that their parents left someone there to check in on them. They could have asked Sunshine’s parents, since they live nearby. Nope. There is no one there to see that the kids have electricity, running water, or food in the house.

I have a hard time believing that the whole town is seething with resentment at the White family. Enough that they’d let two underage children starve and live in squalor.

River sits down to watch the movie with Violet, only to get up a short while later and wander off. When she catches sight of him again, he’s playing with a couple of kids from town.

She makes sure to point out an auburn haired kid, who will feature prominently in the story, despite his character not contributing a lot in the grand scheme of things.

Violet thinks that this is just so charming. Even though he’s completely blown off the picnic and the movie they’d planned to see. She’s totally okay with this interruption because it gives the author a chance to indulge in some Norman Rockwell style whimsy.

Violet’s mood takes a dip when they return to their picnic and she spies Luke with Maddy.

I spotted Luke making out with Maddy off to the side underneath an oak tree. He had a flask in one hand and was groping her back with the other. 

‘Oh Luke, you are such a disappointment.’ I thought. And then realized that it was a stupid thing to say, even in my head. 

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At least you can admit that it’s stupid. This blatant condescension is sickening. Luke has been dating Maddy. It’s completely consensual on both of their parts. I don’t see how it is any of Violet’s  concern what he does or doesn’t do with his girlfriend.

And you’re a hypocrite, because in a few chapters you’re going to be getting physical with River. A man you barely know.  I’m not trying to be judgey here. It is a woman’s choice what she chooses to do sexually, but I’m trying to point out there is a double standard here. Violet can make out with River who she just met today, but Luke shouldn’t make out with girlfriend? What the hell is up with that?

It goes back to that weird vibe I get from Violet about sexuality. It seems to make her extremely squeamish about anyone else expressing sexuality, but not about her own. It’s just odd to me. If you are able to talk about and express your own, you should be able to accept the fact that others have the same drive.

So River slips her a twenty that he folded into the shape of an elephant. River says that she should take it, so she can pay for groceries in future.

We get some brief exposition about why she hasn’t crushed on any of the boys in her class. Why? Puberty. She talks about how some boys get gangly and others bulk up before they can fill out. So she’s not only pretentious, she’s also kind of shallow. Heaven forbid you look past the appearance to the personality inside.

River was different from those boys. River made my insides slither and slide in that good way. River was something entirely new. 

Because River is hot.

Gratuitous swear words: 2. It’s an all time low. Don’t worry, it’ll go up again in later chapters.

 

 

Posted in Recommended Titles

Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure: The Demonica Series

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Alright welcome to my new segment, blogger’s guilty pleasure. Unlike my recommended page, where I can make justifications for why a book is good, this page is specifically addressing books I know aren’t all that great. Something about these books  just appealed to me, despite my better judgement.

First up, a romance/erotica. See? I don’t hate the entire romance genre…just 90 percent of it. The Demonica series has several reasons for escaping my vitriolic reviews. First and most importantly is that I read it before I became a hardcore critic, so there is a bit of nostalgia on my part. I read these books in the summer of 2012, during my freshman year of college. Later that year I would go through an intensive writing course, which would  completely alter the way I thought of writing and criticism.

I have only read the first three books in the series. They detail the tales of three brothers( Eidolon, Shade, and Wraith), and the adventures they go through trying to find or protect their mates. The stories are fairly standard, as far as romance novels go. Ripped torsos on the cover? Check. Sexual references in the title? Check. Hackneyed cliched plots? Check.

What saves it from my poisoned pen? It’s world building actually. I find the world Larissa Ione paints very complex and fascinating. The premise of Underground General Hospital was not one I had seen before, and was a really interesting backdrop to the standard drama.

I like lore as much if not more than plot. If a book has interesting lore, I can sometimes forgive it’s faults. (It’s one of the reasons I don’t have The Host while I dislike a lot of Twilight.) 

I really liked how complex and thought out the world was. I have reread all three, and the world is still really good. Are there some groan-worthy one liners in this book? Yes. Are there some cheesy, unnecessary romance tropes in there? Without a doubt. Would I recommend it? To a person over the age of sixteen, probably.

I really have no excuse. This series have a lot of the horrible romance tropes, and would despise in another book. The only reason I can think of to account for the difference is that the characters are at least semi-interesting.

I won’t go into too much detail here, since I want you to check it out for yourself. You can buy the ebooks fairly cheaply here. Tell me what you thought of it in the comments below. I’d love to hear your opinions.

 

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. 

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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.