In Handbook For Mortals news this week, I visited my local Barnes & Noble, hoping to get a glimpse of the twenty-three-hour #1 New York Times Bestseller in the wild.
I started in Teen Fiction, but I couldn’t find anything between Sáenz and St. Claire:
But obviously, a bestselling YA phenomenon with a major motion picture in the works wouldn’t be on the same shelves as just any old YA. I decided to check the endcap.
That’s when I saw the table full of “must read” books for teens:
Well…maybe it was on the other side?
As I did another perusal of the Teen section, I realized I’d checked in the wrong spot, originally. Clearly, Handbook For Mortals belonged in Teen Fantasy & SciFi. I took a look.
Obviously, what had happened was Handbook For Mortals had sold out completely. I went to the info desk to see if they could tell me where all their copies had gone. The guy there had never heard of the book.
Someone working at Barnes & Noble had never heard of the #1 New York Times Bestselling novel Handbook For Mortals? But what about any publicity being good publicity? This employee had no idea about the controversy making this book so talked about, and said no one had ever come in looking for Handbook For Mortals, at least, not while he was working. He told me he could order it and showed me his computer screen, where about 2,500 copies were available from Ingram warehouses. For a New York Times bestseller, Handbook For Mortals doesn’t seem to have that many extant copies.
Let’s head into this chapter, which is going to actively try to gaslight you before the end.
We start with Lani once again telling us what’s going to happen to her instead of just showing us:
Considering how much I wanted to keep my secrets, well, secret, a few days later I probably brought a little too much attention to myself.
Wait, do you mean you brought more attention to yourself? On top of performing real “magick” on stage in front of sold-out crowds of two thousand people every night?
I didn’t really know what to do and felt I had no choice. I had seen something. I knew someone was going to get hurt. Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut, but I couldn’t really just stand by and not say anything, could I?
Well, I don’t know, Lani. I don’t know anything about the situation because you haven’t bothered to let me, the reader, in on what’s going on.
When I get premonitions and “see things” as you might say, they come in flashes. I don’t ask for them. Sometimes I’m shown things way ahead of time and other times–like this one–only a few minutes before something happens.
Welcome, to Lani’s new talent. There’s been one in every chapter and this is probably not the last. I can’t wait until chapter seventeen when she’s like, “I’ve been on roller skates this entire time.”
She blames “Destiny” for giving her these visions, which are always correct in hindsight.
I always took it at face value that, if I was getting one of these visions or premonitions; it meant I was supposed to help change the situation.
Grammarly marks this sentence as just fine, punctuation wise, but I think Grammarly is drunk. Technically correct or not, the punctuation here looks absolutely bizarre.
After all, my choices always seemed to be able to make a positive change to something that could have been tragic,
After all of this vague talk of how she’s had a vision and will anyone believe her, we see Zade running after Mac. He’s the guy she has to convince about this premonition, and he’s not interested in stopping to talk to her.
I sprinted to get just close enough to reach out and grab the hem of his three-quarter-length sleeve on his black shirt, while shouting, “Hey,” which finally made him stop. I heard a slight ripping siound from his sleeve, which freaked me out, but since there was no visible damage I’m guessing I had only weakened the seams.
I don’t like comparing every bad book to every other bad book because there are different levels of badness. I hesitate to compare this to Fifty Shades of Grey too much because what made that book bad was the mass cultural brainwashing that tried to convince us all that being abused by a violent narcissist was romantic. I also hesitate to suggest this book’s presence in the market is anywhere near the phenomenon Fifty Shades was, which seems to be the new marketing tactic Sarem and Thomas Ian Nicholas are taking. But one thing Handbook For Mortals has in common with Fifty Shades is the tendency to focus on unimportant details during otherwise important pieces of the story. For example, the who’s-going-to-get-the-“iced-water” scene in Fifty Shades of Grey, which shifted the focus away from the action of the story and the tension we were supposed to have been feeling to the false tension created by details that aren’t important at all. We don’t need to hear about whether or not Mac’s needlessly specific shirt sleeve ripped or if the seams just loosened. We need to know about this premonition that’s been clumsily teased out in the beginning of this chapter.
Zade asks Mac if anything was suspicious during safety checks and tries to explain that she has a bad feeling about the rehearsal they’re running. Mac, already predisposed to not wanting to communicate with her, tells Lani that everyone feels like that sometimes and it doesn’t mean anything at all.
I narrowed my eyes. “Well, I get them, and mine are never unfounded, okay?” I huffed a little. Mac looked beyond irritated. I could practically hear what he must have been saying to himself in his head. I’m sure it had something to do with how I had done nothing but complicate his job, how difficult everything had been since the moment I arrived, and how now I was coming to him with some story about a feeling I was having and how I “knew” something was wrong.
“I’m sure it had something to do with every point of conflict I’ve previously described in this book, including the one that’s happening right now.” If she wanted to tell us what Mac was thinking, it would have been easier to just throw one of those triple moon glyphs in and tell us in italics.
Because she’s the plucky self-insert of this piece, Zade doesn’t let up, insisting that something is wrong with the safety check.
Both of his hands reached toward his head and he started rubbing his forehead, which he had scrunched up. His eyes were closed and he had the look of someone who had been suddenly hit with a headache. He took a deep breath in and out as if to try to calm himself. His hands moved from his forehead to his mouth and he looked directly at me as if he was deciding whether he should yell at me some more or push me into the pool. He pulled his hands away from his mouth and pressed his lips together tightly. His hands folded together, close to his face. It almost made him look like he was about to pray. He finally brought himself around enough to speak again. His words came out calmly and clearly since he was standing very close in front of my face. It was even, in a soft tone, the way some people sound when they are on the edge of losing it all together.
The way I sound after having read this description, for example. I aged twelve years in the time it took her to describe someone sliding their hands down their face in frustration.
Mac tells Zade they need to get on with the rehearsal, so she needs to go to her place for the top of the show. Lani knows she can’t tell Mac the entire truth about her vision, so she’s going to have to prevent this nebulous tragedy from happening.
The images I had seen hadn’t been as strong and were fuzzier than they usually were. Normally I got a bit more info from my visions, but this time I really felt like I didn’t know enough to even come up with a good plan.
Okay, but earlier you said you only get “flashes”. Are they those convenient flashes featuring phone numbers and locations like the ones Cordelia gets on Angel?
Lani climbs up to the catwalk, puts on her harness and safety wire, and starts walking out to her position for the illusion.
I closed my eyes so I could try to get a clearer vision of what was about to happen.
Walking on a catwalk high above the stage with her eyes closed in an attempt to avert disaster.
Usually my hints of the future come in random flashes. So, when I try to focus, it gets tricky–like focusing a nice camera for a picture. As you make adjustments, the image gets clearer, but if you try too hard then it gets even fuzzier.
First of all, we already knew your visions come in flashes, because you said, “When I get premonitions and ‘see things’ as you might say, they come in flashes.” Second, that’s not how a camera works if you know what you’re doing.
I couldn’t see how exactly it was going to occurr…at least not well enough to stop it. I just saw enough to know that some part of the equipment was going to malfunction and someone was going to fall.
She’s walking on the catwalk high above the stage with her eyes closed to try and get a clearer vision of how someone is going to tragically fall.
I had the feeling that if I could only see who fell, I could do something.
I frantically started to look around to see if anything looked out of place. Riley and Sofia were standing behind me on the catwalk. I was so preoccuped scanning the equipment and other performers in different areas of the grid, that I didn’t notice Sofia wasn’t wearing her harness.
If she didn’t notice, how could she possibly tell us about it? And I like that she has this premonition about someone falling and, rather than thinking it might be one of the three people who are actually in a place that could be fallen from, she’s looking at everything but them. Oh, but she has a good excuse:
I could hear him arguing with Sofia, but it was all background noise. If I had only stopped to listen to what they were arguing about, I may have figured everything out before it happened. But, since Sofia was always arguing about something with someone, I wasn’t even paying attention.
See, if Sofia wasn’t such a total bitch all the time, Lani might have been able to save her from her horrible fate.
So, what are they arguing about? Well, I can tell you, because despite Lani not stopping to listen to the argument, we get it all despite the fact that we’re in Lani’s POV and if she’s not listening, we shouldn’t be, either.
“Sofie, you gotta put your harness on. You know the rules. You tryin’ to get me in trouble?” Riley was almost begging her.
Sidebar: I love that every named character in the book comes with an instruction manual on pronunciation, how they got their name, and what they do or don’t like about it, but then Sarem doesn’t even bother making the characters get the bitchy rival’s name right.
She batted her eyes and ran her finger over his chest his own harness. “Riley. It’s really uncomfortable,” she whined.
This is a professional performer in one of the biggest shows on the Vegas strip, complaining that she doesn’t want to wear a safety harness because it’s uncomfortable and apparently believing that she can simper her way out of doing so. I don’t know if I can handle this, guys. The realism is too intense. I’m unable to separate this masterful work of fiction from the scorching truth of reality. But seriously, this is so common with the bitchy rival trope. The evil woman does something transparently foolish so that the heroine can appear to be intelligent or level-headed, no matter how unbelievable the foolish thing is. Sofia has been working on this show for long enough that David Copperfield is ready to retire her illusion, but she either just now decided she doesn’t like safety harnesses or she’s always hated them and they’ve always had to fight with her. The former is ridiculous because she would know how dangerous the act was without a harness. The latter is ridiculous because they would have just fired her for not following safety procedures after multiple warnings.
“So are broken necks,” he said curtly. Broken necks, wait, I heard that.
Well, thanks for joining the rest of us in your own POV, Zadi.
I turned around and saw that Sofia didn’t have her harness on.
After telling us she didn’t have it on and showing us a conversation in which it was mentioned, Lani is just now noticing that Sofia doesn’t have a harness on. I’m really having a hard time finding the words to express how enraged I am at these POV skews. This is not something that should be in a book from an actual publisher. This is not something that people should be paying money for. This is not something that I should have paid money for. I feel like the very concept of justice owes me ten dollars.
Before Zade can warn Sofia and Riley about the premonition, the platform they’re standing on starts to move. You know. The platform. The platform that they’re standing on. The one that we’ve never heard of in descriptions of the stage or even in this scene because up until now they’ve been standing on the catwalk. But now it’s a platform. And it’s not just moving, it’s moving faster than normal and it’s spinning.
“Riley to Automation. Why is the main platform moving? Really fast! Someone hit the damn E stop!”
Now it’s not just “the platform,” it’s “the main platform.” As in, there is more than one suspended platform that moves? And we’ve never heard about it? We had to hear about the fucking farmer’s market, but we can’t know what the damn stage actually looks like? Plus, Riley really buries the lede when it comes to safety here. The first damn thing he needs to say is “hit the damn E stop.”
Of course, Sofia falls, because she’s the evil bitch and she didn’t wear a harness and it’s very important that something bad happen to her so we can see our heroine selflessly and heroically save her ungrateful ass:
I was still harnessed in and, from where I was, I was able to push her body as she was flying past me. She screamed as she accelerated toward the floor from fifty or so feet in the air. Because of my shove, she hit the pool and not the ground. But she slammed into the water on her back–there was a smack and then she sank.
But that’s not all, friends. Zade jumps off after Sofia and dives to the bottom of the pool to bring her up. She’s unconscious and not breathing, so it’s a good time for us to all learn that Zani was a lifeguard at one point. She does CPR on Sofia while the rest of the crew chats or just does something else because a performer not breathing is something just one person needs to handle, right?
A visibly upset Riley had finally reached the ground. Tad and Mac, among others, ran to him and immediately started asking quesitons. Mac spoke first; I knew he needed to find out the details of what just occurrred while they were still fresh in Riley’s mind.
Um. No…he should probably make sure the not breathing performer who just fell fifty feet receives immediate, life-saving medical attention. Because that’s part of his job.
But rather than tend to Sofia, Tad, Mac, and the other guys rally around poor, shaken Riley, who is still breathing and not in any danger.
Mac grabbed Riley and pulled him closer, shielding Riley’s view of Sofia. When I glanced up, I could see Riley was wide-eyed and scared.
Like, Lani even pauses resuscitation efforts to check on Riley. That’s how little anyone in the world of this book cares about any woman who isn’t Lani.
Riley is finally able to tell Mac that Sofia was about to put her harness on when the platform started to move without warning, and Mac says the system must have glitched out.
Tad had been standing nearby listening and realized that he needed to step in.
Finally! Finally, someone is going to help Sofia, who is literally dying right in front of them!
“Riley. It’s okay. Calm down. It wasn’t your fault. She knows she’s not supposed to be up there without being tied off, and the platform moving wasn’t your fault, either.” Tad smiled and nodded as he put his hand on Riley’s shoulder.
You have got to be fucking kidding me.
Mac looked up. “Yeah, Tad’s right. Go take a smoke break; stop freaking out. I’ll be out there in a bit. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”
SHE ISN’T BREATHING! THAT IS A REAL FUCKING BAD TIME TO ASSUME THAT SOMEONE IS GOING TO BE FINE AND GO FOR A SMOKE BREAK.
Thanks to Lani’s efforts, Sofia does start breathing and coughing up water, and the paramedics come and take her to the hospital. Riley walks off brooding, someone gives Lani a towel, and Tad commends her for her quick thinking and rescue skills. Then, there’s this sentence:
I turned and walked away. I didn’t get very far, though, before I heard Tad and Mac begin to talk about me.
Followed by one of those triple moon goddess symbol things and text all in italics. It starts out seemingly in Mac’s POV, as one dialogue tag reads:
“[…],” Mac said, trying to sound dismissive.
But then two paragraphs later, we get:
I wondered if he was angry at me–or just angry that I had been right.
So, are we still in Zade’s POV? If so, what’s the point of the second break and italics, if we were just going to stay in her POV, anyway?
Regardless of whose POV we’re supposed to be in, Mac and Tad (who both get Sofia’s name wrong when they mention her) argue over Mac’s attitude toward Zade over this whole thing:
Tad laughed again. “Oh. I get it. You like her. Uh-oh. You’re in trouble.”
That is the entire point of this section, by the way. Learning that Mac has a crush on Zade, which we’d already seen coming from about forty-thousand lightyears away.
“What is there to like about her, anyway?” Mac grumbled.
Excuse me, but that’s my line.
“Lots of things, and I don’t need to tell you that. If I wasn’t happily married, I might give you a run for your money on that one.”
Okay, this is so gross. So, so gross. Thomas Ian Nicholas is slated to play Tad in the movie, and a few readers have wondered why he wouldn’t have wanted to play Mac, which is a larger role. Thomas Ian Nicholas is also good friends with Lani Sarem and makes appearances with her to promote the book. Thomas Ian Nicholas is also married to someone who is not Lani Sarem. So, Lani Sarem wrote a book in which the avatar of her married guy friend lusts over her self-insert and says, “If I wasn’t happily married.”
I’m just saying.
“I need a cigarette,” Mac said gruffly. “Go start running checks, see where the glitch is, and try to keep your opinions to yourself.” He stormed off.
I’m sure this will come as a shock to you, dear reader, but Mac wouldn’t have the chance to get a cigarette at this point. In fact, he very likely would not get the chance to get a cigarette until hours after this incident. He’s going to be talking not just to the theater staff, but casino management, as well. He’ll be working with human resources on an incident report, insurance forms, they’re going to have to figure out how and when it will be safe for the show to go on so that the box office can handle ticket refunds… This theater is basically a crisis management drill where the doors are locked and Leslie Knope can’t get to the super important fundraiser party until all of Pawnee is destroyed by the Avian Flu.
After the triple goddess break, we join Lani outside, on a loading dock, where she’s playing Jackson’s guitar and trying to process what just happened.
At first it was just random chords and then I was humming along. Before I knew it, it had turned into a song that I knew all too well. Somehow my mind had wandered into thinking about the lyrics to “That’s Just What You Are,” my favorite Aimee Mann song. Something about the words and what they meant seemed to be really appropriate for what had been going on recently.
I was signing softly to myself when I heard the back door open. Mac walked out onto the dock and fumed as he lit a cigarette. He took a long drag and leaned against the wall. I could only just see him out of the corner of my eye but I pretended that I didn’t hear him or notice he was out there. I just continued to sing.
And then Sarem includes a verse and a chorus of the song’s lyrics, so we can see exactly how perfect the song she has chosen for the moment is. If this were fanfiction, we would call this “songfic” and it wouldn’t be allowed on some sites.
Mac smokes a whole cigarette while Lani sings and tries to act like she doesn’t know he’s there. Then he finally talks to her. And Lani’s response?
“Oh. Hey. I didn’t hear you come out.”
And I swear to god, the only thing I could think of when I read that was:
And then I couldn’t stop laughing for a while.
This is bullshit. I did naht hit her, I did naht. Oh, hi Mac.
“Sounded like that song was about me,” Mac said, sitting down next to me on the edge of the dock and nudging me slightly with his shoulder.
She’s really gonna Moonlighting this whole thing in chapter four?
Okay, okay. That’s really unfair to Moonlighting. And I don’t mean that in a, “ha ha, it’s unfair to compare them because Handbook For Mortals sucks” way, but in a “Moonlighting was a rich and innovative comedy that paved the way for programs like 30 Rock and Scrubs and did not ultimately end due to the early resolution of the sexual chemistry between the main characters but because Maddie would have never married a man she just met,” kind of way. But still. We’re going from “I hate you” to “I love you” so quick that the already boring and overused love triangle device is going to feel even more boring and overused.
Lani tells him that she didn’t write the song, and Mac is like, yeah, Aimee Mann did, and Lani is like, ermergerd, he knows who Aimee Mann is, and then she becomes like, the gatekeeper of alternative folk rock or something:
He knew the song and even who wrote it. I was impressed. “Yeah, she’s one of my favorites. It’s basically her and Ryan Adams. I can’t believe you even know who she is. Wait, do you actually like her?” I guess I figured that even if he knew the song and who Aimee Mann was, he wasn’t really capable of actually liking her. That would have meant we agreed on something.
So, basically, Zade is that possessive nerd who insists that everything they like is so obscure and cool that it’s impossible that anyone could ever know or care about it as much as they do. Which is hilarious because, a) Aimee Mann has been around since the ’80s and b) Mac says he knows about Aimee Mann via Magnolia, which is one of his favorite movies, and Zani thinks:
Magnolia was one of my favorite films, too. It was also why I knew who Aimee Mann was.
HA HA HA HA HA are you kidding me? You’re going to sit there like, “I can’t believe this guy knows about Grammy and Oscar-nominated songwriter Aimee Mann!” like some kind of obscure music connoisseur and then be like, “I know about her because of Magnolia, too?” You’re at the same level, dude!
Mac had previously pointed out that Lani had never answered his question about whether or not the song was about him:
“I don’t believe you asked a question,” I said. “I believe you made a statement. But yes, I may have been loosely thinking about –just the tiniest bit.” I held up my thumb and pointer finger to show how tiny the “bit” was, while grinning as large as I could.
Okay, great, that’s perfect. I’ve totally got the image in my mind.
I made sure to only show the tiniest gap between my two fingers.
No, right, I get you. We can move on.
If I hadn’t known any better I would have thought he was almost being nice to me, flirting, even.
Lani. You were clearly the one initiating the flirting here.
Mac took a deep breath of the evening desert air.
Ah, the crisp, fresh smell of a loading dock on the Vegas Strip.
“I might deserve it–just the tiniest bit.” He mimicked what I had just done and held up his thumb and pointer finger with a similar amount of space between them while curling his lip.
“How thick do you want the peanut butter on this fried banana sandwich, Elvis?”
Mac tells Lani that he’s only been hard on her because he’s invested in the safety of everyone on the show. Like, so heavily invested that he stood by and chatted while one of the performers wasn’t breathing. Like, shit, Mac. Even Lani cared more about your job than you do. But whatever. They clear up the misunderstanding between them and he touches her hand and she thinks:
I wanted him to be an awful T.D. so my feelings could become more justified, but instead I had quickly noticed how good he was at being in charge of the crew.
Again, this guy stood by doing nothing while someone had just drowned. But let me ship him this giant trophy for being the best and most concerned.
Lani goes on to suck Mac’s metaphorical ego-dick in a long paragraph about all the ways he’s so amazing at his job, and I’m skipping it because it’s so boring I can’t even criticize it without yawning.
“Look, as far as my illusion goes…” I felt compelled to bring up the issue that started our problems, but before I could even finish my sentence he cut me off.
“It’s okay,” he said. “As much as it goes against my better judgment, and how I personally feel, I was overruled. I just don’t want anything like what just happened to Sofia to happen to you, too. I don’t know how to help you if I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know the signs of ‘going wrong’ even are.” He spoke with care and concern, instead of with ego and haughtiness. I bit my lip and struggled with how I should respond.
Zande tells Mac that it’s this big family secret she can’t share, and Mac says they can work out a signal for if things are going wrong. Well, he says, “smoke signals” because since this book is already about someone with a “g**** soul” there’s no real need to avoid casually racist colloquialisms.
So, Lani thinks about how there aren’t any stars in Las Vegas because of the light pollution and she misses lightning bugs and stuff while she and Mac sit there in awkward silence.
“I play guitar too. That’s usually what I do on my days off. Play my guitar, see movies, or ride my motorcycle through the desert.” I stared at him.
Contrary to how her action follows the dialogue, it’s Mac saying the thing about the guitar. So, see? A lot of people know how to play guitar. It isn’t that special or rare.
It was like he was describing me. How could two people who had butted heads from the moment they met, be so alike and have so much in common?
Because those things are popular with a lot of people? I mean, how can I love getting drunk on docked pontoon boats but still wanna punch Kid Rock in his stupid little rich boy face? Same difference.
Lani asks what kind of motorcycle Mac has, and it’s a Triumph Daytona. So she rattles off the top speed of his bike and tells him about her two bikes, a Triumph Trophy 250 and a Ducati Streetfighter.
I’m finally figuring out why there are no paperback copies of this book in stores. They’ve all been water-damaged by the internalized misogyny the text is drowning in. So far, most of what we’ve seen of Zade’s passionate hobbies have been things that male characters are impressed by girls knowing. Playing the guitar or riding motorcycles are fairly gender neutral pursuits, but the love interests dig that a chick is capable of doing those things. One could argue that those hobbies are male-dominated in terms of visibility, but that could be said about pretty much anything. If a woman wants to become a doctor, we don’t go, “oh, look out, we’ve got ourselves a little tomboy!” but we still think of doctors as default male. It’s just how it goes for a lot of things. But if a woman says she’s a doctor, we don’t (or at least, shouldn’t) go, “Oh, wow, you’re NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS,” which is exactly the reaction Sarem sets Zatanna up with every time.
And it works, because Mac says:
“Impressive, Magi Girl.”
Zade is like, oh my gosh, he’s smiling and his smile is so great, but she also thinks:
At the same time, I didn’t like being called “Magi Girl” even if it did make him laugh. It has such a stigma, the term Magi actually means something like “wise,” but in the magic world Magi more or less means a magician’s assistant. Mac added his own twist adding girl on the end. I guess it wasn’t really an insult, but I still made a face that showed my dislike for it.
Any magicians want to weigh in on this? Is “Magi” really a common derivative term? I tried to google it, but you people are so god damn secretive. Also, would it be insulting to be compared to a magician’s assistant, considering how integral they are to some acts?
Because we haven’t had a discussion about names yet in this chapter, it’s time to learn even more backstory on Zade’s:
“Zade is short for my full name–Scheherazade Holder. […]”
We’ve had to learn how to properly pronounce it Zade as in “laid” and not Zahd as in “odd,” but your name is Scheherazade? How the fuck are you pronouncing Scheherazade to arrive at the pronunciation of Zade? ScheherazAIDE? I’ve never heard it pronounced that way in my entire life.
Of course, I’ve never thought of One Thousand And One Nights as being a particularly romantic tale, either, but Zade does. She tells Mac about how the king killed a new girl every night, but Scheherazade kept telling stories to keep him from killing her:
“[…] After 1,001 nights he was madly in love with her and decided to keep her. And they lived happily ever after.” I looked over at him. He was still listening intently. “Do you know it?”
Yeah, Mac. Do you know one of the most famous collections of folklore of all time, you illiterate pleb?
“It’s from Arabian Nights.
No, it is Arabian Nights. It’s the fucking framework for the whole entire thing.
But isn’t that kind of harsh for a kid’s story though? My mom read me Green Eggs and Ham.” I wasn’t sure if he was making fun of me or not with his last comment. I didn’t think it was a harsh story. I thought it was romantic and sweet.
It’s literally about a dude who marries a new virgin every day so he can fuck her and kill her before she cheats on him, and then like, one of them outsmarted him by writing really good cliffhangers on the fly. That’s not romantic. That’s a Stephen King novel. But it was Zade’s parents’ favorite story, hence her name. Oh, and her middle name? Because it’s super important for us to know that?
“Esther. She was another queen. She only saved her entire race,” I said matter-of-factly.
Imagine having a witch baby with a magician whose last name is Spellman and when it’s born, you don’t name it Sabrina, but Scheherazade Esther Holder. I named my daughter Wednesday Addams, and even I think Zade’s name is stupid.
Let’s talk about Mac’s name, now! Again, we’re getting a two-for-one on names when the author couldn’t even bother to get Sofia’s name right throughout the chapter. Don’t forget that as you learn that Mac is short for MacGyver, the nickname given to him by the other theater people because he was good at fixing things. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because fixing things wasn’t what MacGyver was famous for. Building impossibly complicated shit out of whatever was on hand is what he was famous for. But whatever. Zade asks Mac what his real name is, and he says she has to “earn the right to know,” then like a paragraph later tells her it’s Clark.
Settle down, Lani.
“Wait your parents named you ‘Clark Kent’? As in Superman, Clark Kent?”
SchehereZADE Esther is somehow better?
Their conversation gets interrupted by Tad radioing Mac to come back because they figured out what the problem with the platform is. Before he leaves, he tells Zade that his favorite song by Aimee Man is “Red Vines”.
I grabbed my guitar and started strumming “Red Vines.”
You grabbed Jackson’s guitar, but okay. Also, this is super subtle.
I couldn’t have been out on the dock alone for more than a few seconds when Jackson came out to the dock as well.
“Found you. I came looking for you to see how you were. By the way that was incredible. You never cease to amaze me.”
Dude, you’ve known her for like, a few days. Everyone in this book needs to get some soothing chamomile tea and calm the fuck down.
I blushed at the generous compliment. “Thanks.” I will never be good at accepting compliments but I need to learn how to say something better than thanks. That’s always such a lame answer.
No, that’s a perfectly acceptable answer, and more people need to realize that instead of looking for a way to downplay the compliment or change the subject because we’re uncomfortable with praise due to societal conditioning.
“Have you heard anything? She okay?” I heard myself asking.
Mac’s conversation had temproarily made me forget what happened with Sofia.
- You didn’t hear yourself saying it. You said it.
- You forgot about her because she’s not you.
Jackson hung his head. “She’ll never recover. Permanently damaged.”
I nearly dropped the guitar. “What?”
Jackson grinned. “Her ego.”
You’re really making jokes when this person almost died? Like, she fell fifty feet and wasn’t breathing. Oh, and every night that the show doesn’t go on because they’re investigating this serious accident or whatever, that’s a night you’re not working. But yuck it up.
He tells Lani that Sofia just had to have a few stitches and she has a bruised butt, but other than that she’s fine. But her ego, however, will never recover from having her life saved by Lani.
I started thinking about how Sofia had freaked out and pushed me away as I was saving her life–and her instant blame for it even being my fault.
I NEED A FUCKING MINUTE.
What Lani just described? Never happened. This is what happened, as per the very same chapter we are in, that I am quoting word-for-word right now:
Sofia began to cough and spit up water. I turned her over on her side. “Sofia, you’re going to be okay. Just keep breathing.” I held her as she coughed. I know when someone is close to death it helps them to feel comfort from another person–even someone they may not really like. I could already feel that everything was going to be okay.
When the paramedics showed up with stretchers and took over, I was happy to be able to step out of the way.
Leaving aside how weird it is that they needed stretchers plural for one person, ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY NOT A WORD OF THAT SAYS A DAMN THING ABOUT SOFIA PUSHING LANI AWAY OR BLAMING HER FOR THE ACCIDENT. NONE OF IT AT ALL. THE FACT THAT IT ISN’T IN THE BOOK AND WE’RE JUST EXPECTED TO GO, “OH, OKAY, I GUESS THIS IS WHAT I WILL BELIEVE HAPPENED NOW BECAUSE YOU TOLD ME,” IS INFURIATING AND AMATEURISH.
It was kind of funny that Lani Sarem’s own apparent hatred of other women made her chronically fuck up the name of one of her own characters in a book where every character’s name is painstakingly explained to the reader, but it’s not fucking funny at all that she and John Jacob Dinglehopper thought YA readers were going to embrace this. There are valid criticisms to be leveled at various books, authors, and attitudes in YA genres, but some of the best books out right now are YA. That Sarem and Nicholas thought they could just slap this bullshit together and be worshipped by readers insults the intelligence of every YA reader and author who have ever lived on this Earth.
YOU HAD TIME TO EDIT THIS, LANI. YOU HAD TIME TO GO BACK AND CHANGE HOW THE SCENE WENT DOWN. YOU DIDN’T. YOU DIDN’T BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T CARE. YOU’RE JUST LOOKING TO GET INTO A MOVIE. THE BIGGEST MOVIE YOU’VE EVER BEEN IN WAS PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 AND YOU THINK THAT BY SLAPPING THIS INSULTING BULLSHIT TOGETHER THAT YOU DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO READ THROUGH ONCE BEFORE PUBLICATION YOU’RE GOING TO BECOME A MOVIE STAR?
Bad writing makes me hulk the fuck out anyway, but when it’s shoddily manufactured as part of a hamfisted con, it makes me even more furious. You really thought, Lani and Tom, you really thought that this is the level of quality required to make a YA hit? You really thought that this is the amount of hard work and attention to detail that people put into these novels? You really thought this book deserved to dethrone The Hate U Give?
You’re trash people, shitty con artists, bad actors, and abysmal writers. Your movie is only going to get made if you record it in your garage and we’re all laughing at you.
Jackson tells Lani not to worry, Sofia will get over her ego problem, but Zandi isn’t too sure. Then Jackson helps Lani stand up.
I smiled back at him. I wondered what he was thinking, but he decided to share the thoughts behind the smile. “You’re pretty amazing, you know that?” I chuckled nervously and blushed. I started biting my lower lip and shifted my feet.
The dialogue tags are fucked up there, but fuck it. This book is trash, anyway. Everything is a lie.
Jackson grinned before adding, “You really are.”
That’s it. That’s how the chapter ends. With yet another person telling Zandar multiple times that she’s like, soooo amazing. I guarantee that theme won’t get old by the middle of the book.