CW: mention of rape tropes
Yes, I’m a lax blogger. It’s been since AUGUST since I posted a Crave recap. But in my defense, I was off finding myself and shit like that.
Hey. People have been giving book deals for less. I was finding myself for free.
Let’s rock and roll on into this chapter, which is a lovely change of pace from reading A Court of Thorns and Roses over on my Patreon. That’s like getting hit in the face with a tennis racket wrapped in barbed wire and rape every time I open the Kindle app on my computer.
SPEAKING OF KINDLES: Massive thank you to Lorne Kates, who is sending me a Kindle to replace mine, which fucking vanished into the ether at some point. Thank you, Lorne, for allowing me to continue my frantic binge of blue alien peenus books without having to stare at a computer or phone screen to do it.
Now, let’s get into this recap!
Since it’s been a long time since we were all together, we last left Grace at the mercy of two guys, Marc and Quinn, and there was some division of thought re: whether they were going to throw her into the snow or, to borrow a quote from ACOTAR, “or worse.” I was of the opinion that, since every single YA book since Twilight seemingly requires the heroine to be nearly gang-raped, that was what happened here. I am pleased to report that I (and anyone who was leaning toward that same opinion), was wrong. They weren’t planning to Or Worse her.
But, we’ll get there.
Grace tries to run from the guys, but Marc grabs her.
He yanks me hard against him—my back to his front—and wraps his arms around me as I start to struggle in earnest.
This only sticks out at me because such a similar scenario just happened in an ACOTAR recap, in which the main character is nearly gang Or Worsed, and is described as fighting with them a little bit before it’s noted that she struggles “in earnest.” To me, that implied that before the “in earnest,” she was just kinda half-heartedly struggling. It’s so weird to see the same phrasing pop up in this scene in Crave. Like, did we have a reason to doubt the veracity of Grace’s struggling?
Why does “struggle in earnest” as a phrase show up so much in everything? Now that I’ve seen it twice, so close together, I’m like…is that a common phrase? Have I read that before? It feels like I’ve read that before. I’m sure I have.
How come it’s never struck me as this weird before? Do I have a disease?
Grace realizes she’s outmatched physically and warns them that she’ll scream.
“Go ahead,” he tells me as he wrestles me toward the front door Quinn is conveniently holding open for him. “No one will care.”
Two things: Okay, so, they were going to just throw her outside, and also, why doesn’t this school have security? Don’t most boarding schools have security at night so kids aren’t sneaking out and shit?
Grace head-butts Marc in the chin, then bites him.
He yelps and jerks, and his forearm slams against my mouth. It hurts, has the metallic taste of blood pooling in my mouth.
I know they’re vampires. You know they’re vampires. I’m excited to see how this accidental blood-drinking thing plays out.
I can’t let them get me out the door; I can’t. I’m dressed in nothing but a hoodie and a pair of fleece pants, and it’s no more than ten degrees out there. With my thin California blood, I won’t last more than fifteen minutes without getting frostbite or hypothermia—if I’m lucky.
So, here’s where I start to take issue with the danger posed by being thrown outside. I’ll mention a fix for this later but for now, I’ve got to correct a few things. First of all, where you’re from doesn’t affect how fast you’ll get hypothermia. If you’re from California and you’re exposed to 10ºF, you’re gonna wish you were dead really fast but you probably won’t be dead any faster than someone born in Norway. She’s wearing a hoodie, fleece pants, and Converse shoes; not gear to go hiking in but it’s not like they’re throwing her out there in her underwear. The real danger would be getting those items wet since unless they’re wool they’re not going to continue providing warmth after they’ve gotten wet. But in ten degrees, unless you’ve been plunged into a body of water or the windchill is considerably lower than ten degrees, chances are you’ve got a good half hour, forty minutes to find a door to get back inside.
So, yeah, this reads as something really dire when I’m looking at and going, “wtf, hoodie, fleece pants, converse…that’s what I wear to brush off my car before I put on real pants to leave the house.”
Granted, Grace doesn’t know this. She’s just experienced true cold for the first time, so I’m sure it absolutely feels like she’s fighting for her life. For the reader, though, the stakes could have been raised considerably. What if this scene took place near, idk, some balcony doors? So she thinks they intend to throw her over or they at least pretend they’re going to (which could also lead to her, you know, going over)? That’s just a random thought that could have upped the ante here. I’m sure kids from Florida and Arizona and such read that ten degrees and go, “My god! She’ll freeze instantly!” but kids from Minnesota and Alaska are probably like, “That’s shorts-wearing weather.”
So, yeah. I propose that this scene could have had her in danger that was slightly direr, but at the end of the day, we’re still in a situation where she’s being overpowered by random teen boys, and that’s enough.
Suddenly, the guys go flying into walls, thrown by some unseen force.
I twist to the right, trying to decide my best bet to get away, and that’s when I run straight into a solid wall of muscle.
Shit. There are three of them now?
Look at that. Look at how, unlike in some books, the heroine doesn’t immediately think, “Oh, thank god, the muscles are here to save me!”
It’s as he’s pulling me toward him that I get my first good look at his face and realize that it’s Jaxon.
I don’t know whether I should be relieved or even more afraid.
Yes! Thank you! She doesn’t think, oh wow, he’s so hot and he’s obviously rescuing me. She’s afraid of the guy who acted weird to her earlier and backed her into things. And now’s he’s in the mix with these dudes that are trying to hurt her.
Jaxon puts himself between Grace and her attackers and asks the dudes if they have a problem.
“No problem,” Marc says with a forced chuckle. “We were just getting to know the new girl.”
“Is that what they call attempted murder these days? Getting to know someone?”
Why is this always the exchange that always happens always? Come on, now.
Quinn, who was thrown into a vase just moments before, tells Jaxon that they didn’t intend to hurt her.
He sounds a lot whinier than he did a few minutes ago, when it was just them and me. But he’s not slurring his words or anything, so I guess the vase must not have done him too much damage. “We were just going to toss her outside for a few minutes.”
“Yeah,” Marc adds. “It was just a joke. No big deal.”
It was a dickhole joke to make, and Jaxon isn’t gonna let them slide. He tells him that they “know the rules.”
I’m not sure what rules he’s talking about—or why he sounds like he’s personally in charge of enforcing them—but his words have Quinn and Marc cowering that much more. Not to mention looking a little sick to their stomachs.
I’m not sure why she’s wondering what rules they’re talking about. Schools have rules and I don’t think it’s necessarily unreasonable to expect her to make the connection between “the rules” and normal rules every school has about bullying and physically attacking other students. This is a missed opportunity; wouldn’t it have been hilarious if Grace had thought oh, great, he’s a tattle-tale?
The guys tell Jaxon that they just came back from a run and they didn’t intend for things to go as far as they did. But Jaxon says:
“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to.” He half turns, holds out a hand to me.
I’m gonna need a minute here. I’m not used to male love interests in YA books not immediately treating the heroine like she’s his property. I might have a little lie down to recover from the shock.
I shouldn’t take it. Every ounce of self-defense training I’ve ever had says I should run. That I should take the reprieve he—Jaxon—is offering and make a mad dash for my room.
Grace, I hereby grant you the title of Least Obnoxious Main Character we’ve ever had in the Jealous Haters Book Club.
But there’s a look of such intense rage simmering beneath his obsidian gaze, and I instinctively know he’s turned to offer me his hand in an effort to keep the guys from seeing it. I don’t know why; I just know he doesn’t want them to realize how upset he is. Or maybe it’s that he doesn’t want them figuring out how upset he is on my behalf.
The obsidian eyes thing is really throwing me because how many people are out there with truly black eyes? Not dark, dark brown. Like the irises are completely black? And I’m sorry, but this is a world where the normal pop culture stuff seems to exist, up to and including Harry Styles, so…
I’m sorry, I’m just still bewildered that she hasn’t gone, oh weird, he has totally black demon eyes and he lives in this castle where people run around outside in the cold while wearing just inside clothes, I wonder if he’s a vampire?
Is it just me who would immediately jump to that conclusion having seen the mysterious, scarred dude with the fully black eyes throwing these strong dudes around like rag dolls?
Either way, he saved me tonight, and I owe him. I hold his gaze, telling him with a look that I’ll keep his secret.
I like that this implies that she might say something like, “check out this loser! He has feelings!” if he hadn’t just saved her.
And then I do what he is silently asking and step forward. I don’t take his hand—that’s a little too much after what he said and did earlier—but I move forward, knowing that Jaxon won’t let Marc or Quinn do anything else to me.
IS THAT AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT A MALE LOVE INTEREST ISN’T ABSOLVED OF PAST SHITTY BEHAVIOR JUST BECAUSE HE DID THE DECENT THING AND STEPPED IN TO HELP SOMEONE WHO WAS HELPLESS?!
I might legitimately pass out.
Some of you have mentioned in the comments that I’m gonna hate this book because it’s just as bad as Twilight in terms of creepiness and abusive hero-ness. Maybe my standards are fundamentally broken and tossed down the basement stairs by an uncaring universe in which young women are told that men express their love through violence and intimidation, but so far I’m seeing those tropes addressed with little things like that excerpt above.
It’s god damn refreshing, but also intensely frustrating; it shows that so many books could be measurably improved by the addition of just a few words.
“We’re sorry, Grace.” Marc speaks first. “That was totally uncool of us. We didn’t mean to scare you.”
Wow, what a huge misunderstanding. How could you have possibly known that cornering and grabbing Grace, then refusing to let her go while she fought you, would have been a scary experience for her?
And Grace is on the same page as I am:
I don’t say anything, because I’m sure as hell not going to tell them what they did to me was okay. And I’m not brave enough to tell them to go to hell, even with Jaxon acting as my shield. So I do the only thing I can do. I stare stonily at them and will their farce of an apology to be over so I can finally go back to my room.
IS THAT A FEMALE CHARACTER ACKNOWLEDGING THAT SHE’S NOT BRAVE?! I mean, I’m not saying Grace isn’t brave. It’s pretty fucking brave to get up and keep living every day after everything she’s going through. But if this were any of the other heroines we’ve read about, she would whimper and cling to the male love interest, then snap, “go to hell!” with a trembling voice and later the reader would be told how very, very brave she is.
But then Quinn uses a really weird excuse.
“The moon is doing its thing, so…”
Jesus fucking Christ, they’re werewolves, aren’t they? This is a vampires vs. werewolves book but they’re all in a magic school, isn’t it?
That’s the best they’ve got? The moon is doing its thing? I have no idea what that means, and honestly, I don’t care.
Okay, no, no, no, Grace. You were doing so well. This should set off a least an alarm jingle bell. Who blames shit on the moon?
Jaxon tells the guys it isn’t over, and they’re afraid enough of him to take off.
For long seconds, he doesn’t say anything, just looks me over from head to toe, his dark eyes cataloging every inch of me. Not going to lie. It makes me a little uncomfortable. Not in the same way that Quinn and Marc made me uncomfortable, like they were looking for a weakness to exploit. It’s more a wow, did it suddenly get hot in here and why oh why am I wearing my oldest, most raggedy pair of pajama bottoms kind of uncomfortable.
Thank you, Dearest Author, for indicating that it’s a different kind of uncomfortable. Maybe that’s the issue I’ve been having with books for the past ten years: authors just aren’t taking the time to specify that there’s uncomfortable due to danger and uncomfortable due to obvious attraction that one can’t figure out how to respond to. One of those things is not like the other, but boy has the trend been to ignore that and confuse fear and intimidation with instant arousal. Grace even thinks that she’s not sure how she feels about that difference, but at least she acknowledges that there is a difference.
“I’m fine,” I answer, even though I’m not sure it’s true. What kind of place is this where people try to shove you outside to die as a prank?
The vampire vs. werewolf academy of hodge-podge and pastiche.
Look, just because it’s good doesn’t mean it isn’t derivative as hell. But as I’ve stated before, that’s not the author’s fault. This feels very much like the other “ideas” the publisher of this book has and presents to authors. Like, “Roswell, but make it Twilight.” I can very much see this being a case of, “You know what would be cool? If we smashed all the popular vampire YA of the ’00s and early ’10s together.
Thank god, she god a competent writer to do it. This time.
Jaxon asks Grace if she’s okay and she’s like, yeah, and he’s like, eh…doesn’t seem like it. He promises that the guys won’t bother her again, and she thanks him for helping her.
His brows go up and, if possible, his eyes go even darker in the dim light. “Is that what you think I did?”
IDK, is it possible? Because I can’t imagine something getting much darker than BLACK.
He shakes his head, gives a little laugh that has my heart stuttering in my chest. “You have no idea, do you?”
“No idea of what?”
“That I just made you a pawn in a game you can’t begin to understand.”
Maybe Entangled should have put a chess piece on the cover of the book. Oh, shit, I think someone else already did that.
I…hope chess doesn’t figure prominently in this book as a metaphor. I mean, they met over a chessboard, now he’s talking about her being a pawn. I used to think that was a pretty good analogy that we’ve all been walking around making all these years, but then the pandemic happened and I couldn’t go to therapy and I had a lot of time on my hands, and let’s just say now I understand why that saying makes no sense and utterly devalues the role of the pawn in a strong middle game.
And no, I haven’t watched The Queen’s Gambit yet so everyone who knows I’m into chess can stop haranguing me about it. I wanna play chess, not watch other people playing chess.
Unless it’s a FIDE tournament.
I don’t want to watch fictional people playing chess.
Where was I?
“You think this is a game?” I ask, incredulous.
“I know exactly what this is. Do you?”
She doesn’t. Be a pal and show her your fangs so we can all get on the same page here.
There’s some more looking at her and “brooding silence” before Jaxon notes that Grace is bleeding. She thinks it’s from getting hit in the cheek while struggling with Marc.
“Not there.” He lifts his hand to my mouth and gently—so gently I can barely feel him—brushes his thumb across my lower lip. “Here.” He holds his thumb up, and in the dim light, I can just see the smear of blood glistening on his skin.
“Oh, gross!” I reach to wipe away the blood. “Let me—”
He laughs, cutting me off. Then brings his thumb to his lips and—holding my gaze with his own—sticks his thumb in his mouth and slowly sucks off the blood.
This is gonna be a suuuuuuuuuuuper weird move if he turns out to not be a vampire.
It’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen, and I don’t even know why.
Possibly because vampire movies just don’t exist in the world this book inhabits? Or should that make it more off-putting?
Maybe it’s the way his eyes heat up the second he tastes my blood.
Maybe it’s the little noise he makes as he swallows.
Or maybe it’s the fact that that swipe of his thumb across my lips, followed by that lift of it to his own lips feels more intimate than any kiss I’ve ever shared with another boy.
How much blood is on his hand that he has to swallow it?
But three cheers, again, for Grace not being this totally inexperienced little wallflower.
Jaxon goes full Cullen and tells Grace she should go to her room right. now.
“And I strongly suggest that after midnight, you stay in your room where you belong.”
“Stay in my—” I bristle at what he’s implying. “Are you saying I’m responsible for what happened tonight?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I’m not. They should both have better control.”
GRACE. COME. ON.
This kid with fully black eyes, who can throw people across rooms, just made a sexy noise while tasting your blood. You just talked to two dudes who were like LOL the moon is making us violent. Please. I beg of you. Please connect some motherfucking dots here.
It’s a weird way of saying they shouldn’t go around trying to murder people, and I start to ask him about it.
You’re right, Grace. It’s a very weird way of putting it. Just like all-black eyes and tasting blood and blaming shit on the moon is very weird.
I mean, I blame shit on the moon all the time. But I’ve worked in nursing homes and hospitals. That shit is REAL there.
“But I warned you before that you need to be careful here. This isn’t like your old high school.”
“How do you know what my old high school was like?”
“I don’t,” he says with a smirk. “But I can guarantee it’s nothing like Katmere Academy.”
Grace argues with him that he can’t possibly know that, but come on. Come on, Grace. He knows your last school wasn’t a boarding school in a castle carved into the side of an Alaskan mountain.
Remember earlier, when they first met, and Jaxon backed Grace up against the table and got way too close to her and made her feel weird and uncomfortable? A very similar thing happens again, except:
And just like earlier, I know it should make me uncomfortable. But it doesn’t. It just makes me burn. And this time, when my knees shake, it has nothing to do with fear.
Do you know why I buy the “he’s so sexy and dangerous and looming over me and it’s getting me horny” here and not earlier in the book?
Because here, it’s earned.
She knows he’s not really going to hurt her. Not because she sees his scar and knows, somehow, that deep, deep down, he’s just a coal-black dove with a beautifully broken wing for her to mend. This time, she knows he’s not going to hurt her because he not only intervened to prevent her from being harmed but did so without portraying her as his property. He outright demanded Marc and Quinn treat her with respect when he told them not to apologize to him, but to her.
If he had been like, “No one touches her, she’s mine!” or something? I’d be furious and trying to summon the upper body strength to chuck this computer through a window (I am desperately out of shape). Or, if she had the thought that oh, he rescued her but maybe he’s more dangerous than they are and she’s so frightened of him, etc. But through this entire exchange, the author is very careful to avoid confusing “dangerous and scary” with “sexy and sexier.”
For a second, just a second, I think he’s going to kiss me. But then he leans in farther, past my mouth, until his lips are all but pressed up against my ear. And I get the strange sense that he’s smelling me just like Marc and Quinn had, although it has an entirely different effect on me.
Again, this is earned. It’s not like the books I’ve angrily DNFed, the ones where the difference between the violence of the bad guys and the violence of the good guy are different just because the author makes the heroine state it outright. It makes sense for Grace to think, hey, this is much different, because we know that Jaxon isn’t going to hurt her and we also know that he hasn’t made some grandiose claim over her like when The Doctor steps up to the alien bad guy and is all, “Earth is protected…BY ME,” and I’m like, look, you….don’t speak for all of us, because you had the chance to kill Hitler and instead you threw him in a cupboard. Get back into space and have some adventures, but don’t pretend we’re dating.
What I’m saying is, Jaxon managed to save her without scaring her more than the scary he rescued her from, without speaking on her behalf or suggesting that if they mess with her, they’re messing with him because she’s his property.
Jaxon and Grace have this body-pressed-against-each-other moment and then:
“You need to go,” he repeats, voice even lower, rougher than before.
“Now?” I demand, incredulous.
“Right now.” He nods to the staircase, and somehow I find myself moving toward it, though I never make a conscious decision to do so. “Go straight to your room and lock the door.”
Ooh, is she being compelled through some kind of thrall? Thrall is like, my favorite vampire power.
Even if it does make consent kinda dubious. But it also means you’d really, really have to trust a vampire to be around one. And what’s more romantic than trust?
“I thought you said I don’t have to worry about Marc or Quinn anymore?” I ask over my shoulder.
“Well then, why do I need to—?” I break off when I realize that I’m talking to myself. Because again, Jaxon is gone.
Not a huge fan of the “stay away if you know what’s good for you” dynamic of girl-meets-creature romances, but what are you gonna do, right? It’s gotta be in there. They’re monsters. You can’t fully pull their teeth.
The chapter ends with Grace wondering when she’ll see Jaxon again, which isn’t the strongest hook but how else are you going to end a chapter with this much relationship establishment right at the end of it?
A lot of you have warned me that I’m going to eventually hate this book. And that’s fair; I’m only 13% in (I know, I know, I gotta get more frequent with the recaps!). And I’m not buying the marketing Entangled did to make this “the feminist Twilight” this early in the game. But so far, I really do enjoy this and the writing is so much better than some of the other, more popular paranormal romance YA that’s currently shitting on the shelves out there. God, I’m so glad we’re hanging with Grace now, instead of Rory.