The chapter lengths in this book are all over the place, and this one was really long, so I’ve split it up in two parts so that we don’t have to wait a week without a recap and also so you don’t have to read a recap that’s roughly 14,000 words long.
The chapter starts with a description of how things are run at the theater:
We rehearsed all the time; it’s a huge show that has constant changes, so full rehearsals have always been held weekly. We typically rehearse on weekdays, and usually have to be at the theater by three or four in the afternoon so we can rehearse for a couple of hours before needing to get ready, at six, for the first of the night’s two shows, which stat at seven.
So, their weekly rehearsal happens on weekdays, plural? And are only two hours long? So they can get ready in an hour for the seven o’clock show? Look, I’ve never worked for a Las Vegas magic spectacular, but I’m almost 100% certain that they need more than an hour to get ready for curtain up, especially when getting into places involves climbing up a catwalk and stuff for some of the performers. We’ve already heard about these intricate costumes that require dressers and such, and besides, Lani needs time to dry off after her multiple impressive dives into the pool.
Everyone also needs to have a backup in case they get hurt or need to go to a wedding or get sick or something, so we rehearse not only our own parts but also each of us has to know several other roles so we can shift around and cover for almost anyone–or a combination of anyones.
As far as I know, that’s not actually how professional theater works. There are performers called “swings” who know several roles and can step in at a moment’s notice, and that’s literally their job in the show. There’s no reason for a main performer to have to know other roles, even if they might someday have to go to a wedding. I’m reading this book as I recap it, but I’m going to place money on this information being included so that at some point, Larnie can step in for Sofia or something.
Zarni is on the catwalk with Riley, who is her rigger for all her scenes.
I realized, as I learned the ropes, that he’d probably asked for me when I got hired, since he was relatively new himself and hadn’t been assigned to a main performer yet.
Just in case you hadn’t figured out that Lazar is special, yet.
Riley and I had grown very close, very quickly;
already I loved him like a little brother. I often found myself wishing that he was my little brother. I had never wanted to be an only child, but it’s not like that’s something you got to decide. Therew as just something about him that made me want to protect him, even though it was actually his job to protect me.
So, just so we’re all on the same page, all the guys love Zani, even if only platonically. Every. Single. Guy. Loves. Zani.
Riley gets a call over the headset and tells Lani that the people on the ground are resetting the scene. This gives them time to chat about, what else, Larni having a crush. She asks Riley why Mac won’t date performers, and Riley teases her about liking him.
I blushed and bit my lip.
She insists that she doesn’t have a crush on Mac, she’s just curious about him. Riley is reluctant to tell her, but after an excruciating page, he does:
“The short version is that there was a performer here, Clara Faust. Mac was young and new, and he fell completely in love with her.” I waited for Riley to continue, but he seemed to think he had explained everything, so I realized I needed to push for more information.
“So what happened?” I asked.
“I guess one night she ended up sleeping with him, and he thought they were going to be together, and she just thought that it wasn’t a big deal. She strung him along and really put him through the ringer by the end of it. I’ve heard Clara’s a terrible person–she makes Sofie look like Mother Teresa.”
Well, of course, she’s a terrible person. She’s a woman in this book who isn’t Zanzibar. And note, Riley doesn’t get Sofia’s name right.
“Sounds like the reverse of what normally happens.” I couldn’t imagine a young and naïve Mac madly in love with some girl that was probably a lot like Sofia and Mel.
Note: Riley said Clara was worse than Sofia.
I also couldn’t help but wonder what Mac madly in love looked like. He definitely was a passionate person and I was pretty sure “madly in love,” for him, was intense.
“Madly in love” is intense for anyone. That’s what the “madly” part is there for. As in, “driven mad (insane) by love.” But I want to know how Zand thinks he’s a passionate person. All we’ve seen him do is isolate himself and be kind of lukewarm-friendly to Zard. The only thing he seems passionate about is his job, and really, he needs to be passionate about that since people’s lives are at stake, but he’s not super passionate about it when a performer plunges to their almost-death. Then he’s just like, meh.
I had never been in love with anyone. I had never gotten close enough to anyone to be in love. Like, yes. Crushes, plenty. Love, no.
That’s it. I revoke your right to ever use italics again, Sarem. If I were a witch, I would do a binding spell to stop Lani Sarem from abusing italics ever again.
That’s all Lando can get out of Riley, so we jump ahead to the end of the night after the second show is over. Larva hasn’t seen Mac all day. She describes all the possible reasons why that could be in a long, block paragraph that also includes a descriptions of what kind of day jobs people in show business can get and how the crew jokes about them, etc. You know, your boilerplate “Look how much I know about this subject” exposition that will have nothing to do with the story.
I didn’t even see Mac during the break between shows. Sometimes we used that time to get food together, but I made out okay, since I ended up eating with Jackson.
Don’t worry, dear reader! There is absolutely no time at which Lanzo is without male company.
She finally sees Mac in the parking garage as she leaves. He’s walking with Tad.
I pulled on the straps of my backpack nervously as I listened to the sound of my jeans making a swishing noise. I couldn’t put my finger on why all of a sudden I was nervous, but I was. I wonder if I was sensing something was going to happen.
IDK, nothing has really happened so far in this chapter. Why start now?
Jackson appears with two of the other band members, Tom and Mike, who are both super talented to the point that we need a breathless description of their genius and all the multiple instruments they play (which I won’t recount here).
“So, Zade, you still gonna come see our band play tomorrow?” Jackson asked. He had asked me this earlier when we were eating together in the Employee Dining Room, which we cleverly refer to as the “EDR.”
As with so, so many things in this book, I’m sitting here thinking, “Why? Why do we need to know this?” Just like the rehearsal schedule, the many instruments all the musicians mentioned play, the jobs that none of the named characters have, WHY DO WE NEED TO KNOW THE COLLOQUIAL ACRONYM FOR THE DINING ROOM?
He had told me more about the original band that they had, that played their own songs and what they called themselves.
“Oh yeah, Plain White T’s, right?” I hoped I had gotten the name of the band right.
So, let me get this straight, Lani Sarem, author, not Lani Sarem, clear self-insert in this garbage avalanche of a novel. A Grammy-nominated band with a #1 record that went certified platinum is side-gigging as a house band for a Las Vegas magic act? Hey there,
Delilah Lani, we know you used to manage Plain White T’s. Are you going to name drop literally everyone you’ve ever worked with? Do Tom Higgenson and Mike Retando know that they’re fully undisguised characters in your book?
This book might honestly be the most nakedly obvious self-insert fantasy of all time. Imagine writing people you actually know, people who are more successful than you, as struggling in their own field and desperate for your approval and support, just to fulfill some weird fantasy of yours. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I try to make at least one Billy Joel reference per book, if I can work it in. But I try to be just a little more subtle about it. I’m not going to write a book where a fat writer magically becomes a bestseller and meets Billy Joel and then hangs out with him all the time and condescendingly forgets his name.
“A lot of the cast and crew usually go and support them. Riley, Mac, Cam, and I are going for sure.”
I am so hung up on this. I am out to dry. What is happening here? They’re going out to support a mega-popular band? Because they need all the help they can get or something? What even?
Oh, that last quote was said by Tad, if that’s important to you. It shouldn’t be, but just in case. Examine your choices if it is.
I had realized that joking around and giving people a hard time in jest was how to fit in around here, and it was my turn. “Oh, Jackson, I’m sorry. I can’t go if they’re going,” I teased. I caught Mac’s eye and smiled.
Jackson piped in. “Sorry guys, you’re officially un-invited. Pretty girl always wins.”
Oh, Zarni. You didn’t figure out that giving people a hard time was the way to fit in. Your author figured out a way to make Jackson Rathbone think she’s pretty. Also, “piped in?”
Mike made a face and over-exaggerated his voice as he said sarcastically, “Great, that’s probably half our audience.”
Not only does she force Plain White T’s to be in her shitty self-insert fic, she made them less successful than her. You would have to rob one of those plastinated human body exhibits to see more nerve on display.
So what do you guys play?” I asked, not really directing the question at any one of them specifically. I wondered if it was alternative or Americana or–hopefully not–metal, which wasn’t really something I liked listening to. Mike, always trying to be the funny guy, responded again with another sarcastic answer. “Instruments. Duh.”
So, metal, then? Because that’s a joke someone in a metal band would make. They’re basically a mythic race of lovable dorks.
I’m still so completely gummed up in this whole thing where Sarem thought she could turn this into some kind of in-joke about the band she’d managed. This isn’t like throwing your buddy Don’s neighborhood dad band in. This is a legitimate Top 40 act.
Jackson tells Zand that he’ll buy her a drink at the show and gives her a kiss on the cheek.
“Ooh, I think someone just asked you out,” Tad teased. I turned bright red and shook my head.
“I think they want people to come see their band,” I suggested.
Tad nodded before he reasoned, “Probably both–but he’s yet to kiss me on the cheek for agreeing to come to a show, I feel gypped now.”
First of all, “gypped” isn’t an okay thing to say. A lot of people don’t know that, so heads up, if you’re one of them. Now you know. It’s probably okay for Lani Sarem to use it, since she’s a “rock n’ roll g—-” according to her author bio and probably is 1/64 Roma. Second, why does every single character in the entire book need to talk about Zardi’s crushes? It’s getting to the point where conversations that aren’t about her crushes feel like they’re just waiting it out until we can get back to talking about her crushes.
He feigned acting sad for a moment and then he glanced at my bike. “Nice crotch rocket. I think you get more awesome every time I see you. You might be the coolest chick I know, next to my wife.”
Get it? Because Tad is Thomas Ian Nicholas, and he’s Lani Sarem’s in real life friend, and he’s married so she has to make sure to mention his wife while the character based on him is effusively praising the character based on her? Get it? It’s to make sure everyone knows that definitely nothing is going on there and his real-life wife shouldn’t feel threatened by the real life Lani’s perfection and beauty. But also, Tad has to be a little in love with Zardon, because otherwise, he’s unlikable.
No, seriously. That’s what makes a character unlikable in these stories: they don’t think the self-insert is wonderful. That’s it. It’s a running theme in most bad, wish-fulfillment fiction: either a character is gaga over the Mary Sue, or they’re evil. If you don’t believe me, find basically any story in any fandom with the pairing “[popular male character] x OC” and report back.
“Thanks, Tad. You have a band you want me to come see too?” I cocked my right eyebrow and glared at him.
Why are you glaring? Facial expressions mean things. Glare has a specific context. It’s annoyance, it’s anger, it’s outrage. Glare is not what you do when you’re making playful fun of someone.
Also, try to glare and raise an eyebrow at the same time. It’s kind of difficult to do.
Tad leaves Mac and Dr. Zaius alone, and Mac tells her that he was planning on riding his bike tonight, too. He invites her to come along.
I felt like I was being fought over, and I had never been fought over before. Maybe I was thinking about it too hard, though. I couldn’t figure out if Mac really liked me or not, and I couldn’t decide if I really liked him. Either way, the ride sounded fun.
Gosh golly gee whiz, I think two boys like me! And in a book where every other woman is a trashy whore all men hate? What are the odds?!
I swung my leg over the seat of my Ducati. I had been riding for years, but the motion of throwing my leg over my bike was still exciting.
Shit, sitting on the washing machine excites me but I don’t write about it.
I rested my right leg on the foot pedal and grabbed the handles.
“I got on my bike.” There, fixed it for you.
They ride out of town, and Zade thinks:
It’s funny how, in Vegas, you can be in a city one moment and a desert wasteland the next.
I don’t know why this strikes me as so funny, other than the fact that you can actually see the desert wasteland from the hotels on the strip. I mean, sure, there are other towns that are Vegas adjacent, but everything is in this one big cluster surrounded by nothing but national parks. That are deserts. This isn’t a nitpick with the book, it’s just funny to think about.
We had been riding for at least a half an hour before the wind had started to pick up some; all of a sudden, it started to rain.
HERE IS THAT CONVENIENT WEATHER YOU ORDERED. You know I looked this up, dear reader. Mac and Zandi managed to go riding on one of the TWENTY-ONE days per YEAR that Vegas gets rain. But the dramatic downpour that Larni describes doesn’t jibe with what any of the locals have said regarding the rain in Las Vegas. Mac describes it as a “freak storm” that won’t last longer than a few minutes, but residents giving travel advice uniformly report that most of the year’s precipitation happens during “monsoon season” in late summer/early fall. During that time, huge downpours like the one that Sarem describes do happen–just not “for a few minutes”. The storms will last for more than an hour and produce an inch or more of rain. The “for a few minutes” rain is mostly five minutes of light drizzle that makes the escalators slippery. The place only gets four inches of rain per year, total. Now, I don’t know what time of year this is (because that context is never given), but I do know that “this absolutely pouring buckets rain will certainly stop in a few minutes” runs contrary to basically anything I have doggedly researched about Las Vegas weather.
I mean, feel free to refute me in the comments, if you live in Las Vegas. I’m just going on like, weather and tourism sites. I’ve been wrong about shit before.
Mac and Zander see a conveniently abandoned store with an overhang of some kind, and they huddle with their bikes beneath it to wait out the rain so that Mac can do his bad boy impression.
He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket and lit one. He leaned against the door of the store, which looked like it had been closed for a few years at least. He inhaled deeply and exhaled the smoke carefully away from my face.
“Thanks for inviting me riding,” I said, staring at him.
He kind of looked like a modern-day James Dean in his black leather jacket.
“Sure, no problem. Figured it would be nice to have a little company for a change. I usually ride alone,” he admitted with a shrug.
IDK what my original point was, but somehow this excerpt ended with me looking at pictures of dead bodies on the internet. Probably to cheer myself up.
Anyway. We get it. Mac is a bad boy. A stand-offish loner. A deep, cigarette smoking, crotch rocket poet.
I was suddenly aware that we were standing very close together and that I was at a loss for anything better to say. My breath grew deeper and I could feel myself inching closer to Mac as I looked up into his face. I wasn’t sure what I expected to find, but I found myself looking deep into his eyes. It was funny that a few months earlier we couldn’t stand being in the same room standing twenty feet away from each other and yet there we were, huddling together only inches apart, in the rain. I was standing so close to him I could almost feel his heartbeat.
I mean, are they standing close to each other? I couldn’t tell. I think I need more description of their proximity so I can really tell whether or not they’re standing close to each other. It’s only stated four times in five consecutive sentences. They could be miles apart, for all we know.
Mac must have noticed that I was shivering, because he took both his hands and started to rub my shoulders to warm me up. He seemed to thrive in the crisp air; I could tell that he wasn’t cold at all.
Well, he’s got your closeness to keep him warm. And the cigarette.
He unzipped his jacket and opened it so I could huddle inside. He wrapped his arms around me, and I felt safe and warm–or at least warmer–being so close to him wrapped in his jacket and arms. It was oddly comforting.
Now, I’ve seen (and accidentally perpetrated) word rep in a single sentence before. But I am hard pressed to think of a worse example of repetition in a single sentence as “He wrapped his arms around me […] wrapped in his jacket and arms.”
All of a sudden he pulled me in even closer, I hadn’t realized there was any space left between us but there was just a small amount and with that eliminated, he kissed me. I don’t think I knew what was happening at first. I almost tried to fight it but the fight went out of me rather quickly as his pushed his tongue past my lips. He was an incredibly good kisser and, for a moment, I got lost in just that–but then thoughts started running through my head.
I highly doubt that, but let’s continue on, anyway. Is anyone as grossed out as I am by the description of this kiss? The fight went out of her because he forced his tongue into her mouth, but he’s a good kisser? All I can think of is someone just sticking their tongue out and plugging it into someone’s mouth like an electrical socket, but we’re supposed to be like, oh, swoon, how sexy and hot that is. Especially after he just got done smoking a cigarette. I would rather kiss someone who just puked than kiss someone who just smoked, and I used to smoke.
Mac pulled just far enough from my face to speak. “I knew you were trouble the moment I saw you.”
SO SHAME ON MAC NOW.
He tells her his rule about not getting involved with performers, and of course the conversation just drags fucking torturously out, covering why he has rules, how every romantic relationship is bound to go bad, but how he’s been fighting his feelings for Zerd for a while. He even references REO Speedwagon, I shit you not.
He smiled and looked deep into my eyes, I could feel my face flush. He kissed me again, this time more passionately.
More passionately than badly described tongue intercourse?
A part of me wanted to stop it. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea. But before I could really think about it, I was wrapped up in being kissed and forgot about everything else.
Here’s another common staple of these types of Not Like Other Girls™ self-insert stories. The self-insert character must be conflicted as to whether or not sexual contact is wanted. If she just genuinely enjoyed being kissed without any reservation, she’d be, you guessed it, a slut. And since only evil women are sluts (and our self-insert can’t be evil), the self-insert must have some objection or reservations when it comes to the rightness of sex or kissing or hand holding or flirting or whatever else the author has condemned other female characters for.
The convenient rain also conveniently slows the moment they’ve had this romantic make out interlude. They decide they should head out before it picks back up again.
“So, REO Speedwagon, you like playing with fire now?” I asked. He laughed, looked me straight in the eyes, grabbed my hips, and kissed me hard once more.
When he pulled away he asked one more question: “Got any matches?”
I, too, would like some matches.
Part two is coming next week.