The second half of August backwib
Could I possibly get caught up today?
I just realized that the first sentence of my last post makes no sense because I changed the title when I saw how long the post was going to be. Oops. Fixing that now.
Oh, The Secret Garden. It’s been a long time. You were never my favorite–that went to A Little Princess–and now, as an adult, I can see why. It’s not even the racism–although there’s racism. There’s your usual, old-book imperialist racism. And yes, the book’s main character is an asshole, as is her eventual bff and probably future husband. But even that didn’t bother me.
What bothered me was the gardening.
I live in CT now, and if there’s one thing people love to talk about here, it’s gardening. It’s like the cult of nature here, and I’m rereading Madeleine L’Engle’s first memoir now, and all I could think of during her introductory paragraphs about the beauty of nature was “YOU LIVE IN CONNECTICUT, DON”T YOU.” She did, indeed.
I wonder if people can just drive by the house. Crosswicks, man. It’d be like going to see the house that inspired Anne of Green Gables.
So anyway, this wasn’t the right book for me right now, being as homesick for Jersey as I am and grouchy about my new state to boot. It’s all birds and Pan-esque characters (without the rape–like Pan Jesus) and kids being assholes even when they’re supposed to be all reformed because, hey, still a class system. (Colin playing at being a rajah is pretty offensive.) I had to slog through it a bit. I appreciate that it’s a book where the main character isn’t perfect in all ways–like A Little Princess–and I actually don’t find Mary very painful to read, except her whole Indians-aren’t-people thing. It’s interesting to watch a neglected child finding love not because someone decides to love her despite herself (like most books), but because she loves something non-human/pet on her own and then realizes that love can be applied elsewhere.
Then I decided to read a BEA book called Wait for You by someone named J. Lynn. This is a pen name for someone else I hadn’t heard of named Jennifer L. Armentrout. This book is in a genre I had never heard of before called “New Adult.”
Like “urban fantasy” before it, “New Adult” is a little awkward in that we often use the word “adult” as a code for sex. But it’s actually more like “Young Adult”–that is, the step afterward. Not high school but college, or the years after high school, at least.
I have decided to spoil the heck out of this book for you because, frankly, I have a lot I want to discuss, and my sticking points were mostly spoilers. So you have been warned.
SPOILER WARNING – SPOILERS BELOW
TRIGGER WARNING AS WELL, WHILE I’M AT IT
Avery Morgansten, which I always want to read as Morganstern, is an attractive girl who has spent four years of her life being treated like shit by everyone she knows and takes it like it’s her due. As I have said before, this has been an ongoing trope in women’s fiction since Bridget Jones changed the landscape: where there is no drama, there is often family drama. But one author’s idea of drama is another’s idea of abuse, and Avery has been terribly, awfully emotionally abused by her parents.
WHO MAKE NO SENSE.
See, here’s the deal: Avery was raped in high school. This is teased through most of the book like we can’t figure it out from page, like, two. As someone who was raped in high school and had a rather distant parent, the way Avery’s parents act makes no sense to me. Maybe this is really how rich people act, but it reads to me like it was written by someone who writes rich people like cardboard cutouts. Avery’s parents are worried about their status–understandable–and take a payout–understandable–in exchange for Avery’s silence. I’m not saying this is what they should’ve done, but I get it.
What makes no sense is how they slut-shame her afterward.
Now, I might even begin to understand it if the book didn’t suggest–and boy do they never say this explicitly–that Avery was anally raped. When I say “suggest,” I mean that Avery tells her super-rich, super-gorgeous, but otherwise well-written boyfriend Cam that she’s still technically a virgin, but… Yeah, that’s kinda it. I mean, those aren’t the exact words, but it’s like we’re supposed to connect the dots. Except that oral rape is rape too. And if you’re on your way to recover, you might want to say what happened to you, you know, as part of the process. Avery doesn’t acknowledge it, out loud or in her first-person narration. But let’s assume that’s really what we (and Cam) are supposed to be realizing. Avery does speak of going to a hospital and having everything confirmed. So this couple’s fifteen year old daughter goes to a party and comes back with a doctor’s confirmation that she’s had anal sex, and they don’t even WONDER? (Also, at the end, Avery refers to herself as “anal” in the narration without any irony. Disconcerting.)
Her parents also refuse to let her get therapy. This makes no sense because 1) confidential and 2) therapy is trendy. It’s the thing to do, for God’s sake!
They also don’t send her away. This makes the least sense of all. She is abused and bullied by her classmates FOR FOUR YEARS, and her parents don’t send her away to minimize the damage. No teacher stands up for her. No friend says “HEY SHE WAS RAPED.” I cannot even grasp this.
And while I am not in any way saying that she doesn’t get to have a life, I do not understand her giving bullies access to her. She says she has a Facebook—why? she also says she literally has no friends–and gets bullying messages on there. So why have the Facebook? Why not create an anon account? She has a cell phone and an email account during the course of the book that get abusive and threatening messages. WHY NOT GET A NEW NUMBER AND A NEW EMAIL ACCOUNT? This is Privacy 101. I know it, and I’m not even from the tech-savvy generation.
And then, of course, her parents treat her like this is a phase and want her to come home. Why? Have they just not noticed the abuse? The threats?
Okay, but it’s also supposed to be a romance. This also has issues. Avery spends about half the book turning hot guy Cam down, but of course it’s just because she’s got defenses and he needs to get past them. Which is pretty much the opposite of consent. Basically, for this rape victim, no means yes, if you ask enough times.
OH MY GOD, REALLY??
So did I enjoy this book? Sooooort of? Except for everything I just mentioned? And how Avery decides to break her non-disclosure agreement without contacting a lawyer? And other things that end with ?
It’s not that Lynn isn’t a good writer. And there were some really good things–Cam is very charming (and when I say a jock-type is charming, that’s saying a lot, since I heart the geeks), and the sex scenes are progressive in both senses of the word. It’s nice to see a book where people can have orgasms in other ways, together. OH WAIT, but there’s never a discussion of bodily fluid. There’s all sorts of touching and mouth-to-bits yet we never get word one of the messiness that is the reality of sex. That’s quite the let-down for an otherwise realistic look at sex.
So, stamp of approval? No. Will people love this book? Yes. People that aren’t me.
Ultimate Spidey’s numbering system confuses the heck out of me. So when I read the whole Death of Peter Parker thing, I thought I was reading in order, except then there was Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man, and I was confused about how he fit in there, and then it seemed to be 1-255, then 1-12, then 256-whatever. I’m making those numbers up, but I was on Wikipedia for two days before I figured out the reading order.
And even then, I felt kinda off.
I read The World According to Peter Parker and the first three Miles trades. I LOVE Peter: I love Miles. I am good with this. I like when things progress (although I hate when awesome characters die cuz it makes me cry). I thought Peter was already dead when I read World According to… and I don’t even know. But the end result is that Ultimate Spider-Man–Peter or Miles or whoever–is still one of my favorite series, and I’m happy to be getting caught up again. Some people cannot handle change in comics; I can handle thoughtful change.
(Fuck The New 52, is what I’m saying.)
As always, Bendis and Spidey: highly recommended.
Cynthia Voigt has always been one of my all-time favorite YA authors.
Maybe you can tell cuz I can’t shut my mouth long enough to get my picture taken. I look like a fish. Just like in all my wedding photos.
She is a wonderful, funny woman, as I found out from this brief meeting and her discussion later with Kate DiCamillo about children’s and YA fiction and series, and their new books.
For some reason, after all I heard, I thought Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things took place on a boat, but it does not. And that was pretty much the only disappointing thing about the book, because I like boat mysteries.
This is the story of Max, a kid who is old enough in his time period to almost, but not quite, be an adult. It’s a strange age–he’s quite young, especially to us, who don’t think of thirteen being the age when you get a job and start being a man or whatever–but it’s made stranger by his incredibly theatrical, somewhat neglectful, parents. Who disappear.
Max is left living next door to his grandmother, who’s having problems letting him grow up–or maybe she’s being completely responsible and Max is being unrealistic. It’s tough to know. Max is very tall, and while he doesn’t think of himself as an actor, he takes on many roles as he tries to figure out what’s going on with his parents and how to make a living so his grandmother will get off his back. And he can, you know, eat.
What the book ends up being is a series of mysteries that other, lesser, authors would separate into their multiple books, while Voigt ties them all together–sometimes obviously, but I think this is just a way to get kids to feel good about themselves. Like Max, they can figure stuff out quickly or slowly, without it being all handed to them. If I made a connection quicker than Max, I didn’t dislike him for it–after all, he’s twelve. If things tie together TOO well, hey, it’s fiction. Entertaining fiction.
The only thing that confused me was the date versus the money. It seemed like Max was making fairly modern amounts of cash versus how long ago he is supposed to be obtaining this money. Or he’s Canadian. IDK.
The Book of Lost Things would be a good rec for a kid who’s looking for mysteries but doesn’t need them to be slick. Being a little younger than Max’s age might be a good idea–nine- and ten-year-olds who want more chapters from their books, most likely. And girls will like Max’s pushy “assistant” Pia, even if boys will be more likely to find her as annoying as Max does. MAYBE does.
Argh, I’m almost up to 2K again!
Kyle Baker’s Plastic Man: Rubber Bandits is very very funny, but seems like a continuity nightmare. While the book is all slapstick, Plas is still seen as someone who’s in the Justice League and has to do Justice League-y things. Wasn’t crazy about his girlfriend being quite the harpy, but the whole thing is so retro it’s hard to get angry over. It’s fun and silly, and I like Baker so I gave it a thumb’s-up.
Atomic Robo Volume 1: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientests of Tesladyne introduces (I guess, if it’s the first one you’ve read) us to Atomic Robo: a Tesla-created sentient robot. I want to love Atomic Robo, I really do. And sometimes I do. And then…sometimes I don’t. I think my problem is that Atomic Robo looks and acts like a Hellboy character, but without that darkness that Hellboy balances so well with its humor. So people die and it’s goofy, but I expect it to be more serious–or at least black humor. Nope. Goofy. I don’t know why I can’t get my brain around it. The story jumps in time through Robo’s illustrious career, and I found it difficult to notice or care about the secondary characters because of it. But it’s funny, and the art is good, and if I can get over the Hellboy thing I would really enjoy it. Instead, I just…enjoyed it.
Okay, one more, and then I’ll discuss Oryx & Crake and Year of the Flood separately because I thought I had before but it turns out I’ve only made brief mentions in the past. They deserve their own post, anyway.
I finally finished Robotech: Genesis, after years of having it just sitting on my shelf, first chapter or so read. The problem isn’t the book–it’s a fun read, or it is for me as a fan of the show–it’s that it’s a retelling of said show, and I’ve seen the first episode a million times from showing it to people and loving it and all that. I just had to get past the part where I remembered the show 100% clearly into the things that I only sort-of remember. I had expected the book to get a little more into the characters’ heads, but it’s mostly a 1:1 translation of what you see on the screen. It’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t make me want to rush out and get the rest, you know? I’d rather just watch the show.
The author’s name is, I believe, a pen name for some of the people involved in the show.
And no, I don’t need you to tell me that Macross is better. Nyah.
TA-DA! August, barring the Atwood. The new Atwood book went from a warehouse in NJ to MA and I guess is on its way back to CT? GET OVER HERE!